In this paper I will be concerned with the question as to whether expressivist theories of meaning can coherently be combined with deflationist theories of truth. After outlining what I take expressivism to be and what I take deflationism about truth to be, I’ll explain why I don’t take the general version of this question to be very hard, and why the answer is ‘yes’. Having settled that, I’ll move on to what I take to be a more pressing and (...) interesting version of the question, arising from a prima facie tension between deflationism about truth and the motivations underlying expressivism for what I take to be two of its most promising applications: to indicative conditionals and epistemicmodals. Here I’ll argue that the challenge is substantive, but that there is no conceptual obstacle to its being met, provided that one’s expressivism takes the right form. (shrink)
In “EpistemicModals,” Seth Yalcin argues that what explains the deficiency of sentences containing epistemicmodals of the form ‘p and it might be that not-p’ is that sentences of this sort are strictly contradictory, and thus are not instances of a Moore-paradox as has been previous suggested. Benjamin Schnieder, however, argues in his Yalcin’s explanation of these sentences’ deficiency turns out to be insufficiently general, as it cannot account for less complex but still defective sentences, (...) such as ‘Suppose it might be raining.’ Consequently, Schnieder proposes his own, expressivist treatment of epistemicmodals which he thinks can explain the deficiency of both the original sentence type as well as more complex cases of embedded sentences containing epistemicmodals. In this study, I argue that although Schnieder is right to draw our attention to the explanatory failure of Yalcin’s account, we aren’t forced to adopt Schnieder’s expressivist account of epistemicmodals. I defend instead a contextualist-friendly alternative which explains the deficiencies of all the relevant sentence types, while avoiding both the defects of Yalcin’s account and the intuitive costs of expressivism. (shrink)
This paper presents and discusses a range of counterexamples to the common view that quantifiers cannot take scope over epistemicmodals. Some of the counterexamples raise problems for ‘force modifier’ theories of epistemicmodals. Some of the counterexamples raise problems for Robert Stalnaker’s theory of counterfactuals, according to which a special kind of epistemic modal must be able to scope over a whole counterfactual. Finally, some of the counterexamples suggest that David Lewis must countenance ‘would’ (...) counterfactuals in which a covert ‘would’ scopes over the whole consequent of the counterfactual, including an overt ‘might.’. (shrink)
It is widely acknowledged that epistemicmodals admit of inter-subjective flexibility. This paper introduces intra-subjective flexibility for epistemicmodals and draws on this flexibility to argue that fallibilism is consistent with the standard account of epistemicmodals.
On Kratzer’s canonical account, modal expressions (like “might” and “must”) are represented semantically as quantifiers over possibilities. Such expressions are themselves neutral; they make a single contribution to determining the propositions expressed across a wide range of uses. What modulates the modality of the proposition expressed—as bouletic, epistemic, deontic, etc.—is context.2 This ain’t the canon for nothing. Its power lies in its ability to figure in a simple and highly unified explanation of a fairly wide range of language use. (...) Recently, though, the canon’s neat story has come under attack. The challenge cases involve the epistemic use of a modal sentence for which no single resolution of the contextual parameter appears capable of accommodating all our intuitions.3 According to these revisionaries, such cases show that the canonical story needs to be amended in some way that makes multiple bodies of information relevant to the assessment of such statements. Here I show that how the right canonical, flexibly contextualist account of modals can accommodate the full range of challenge cases. The key will be to extend Kratzer’s formal semantic account with an account of how context selects values for a modal’s.. (shrink)
By “epistemicmodals,” I mean epistemic uses of modal words: adverbs like “necessarily,” “possibly,” and “probably,” adjectives like “necessary,” “possible,” and “probable,” and auxiliaries like “might,” “may,” “must,” and “could.” It is hard to say exactly what makes a word modal, or what makes a use of a modal epistemic, without begging the questions that will be our concern below, but some examples should get the idea across. If I say “Goldbach’s conjecture might be true, and (...) it might be false,” I am not endorsing the Cartesian view that God could have made the truths of arithmetic come out differently. I make the claim not because I believe in the metaphysical contingency of mathematics, but because I know that Goldbach’s conjecture has not yet been proved or refuted. Similarly, if I say “Joe can’t be running,” I am not saying that Joe’s constitution prohibits him from running, or that Joe is essentially a non-runner, or that Joe isn’t allowed to run. My basis for making the claim may be nothing more than that I see Joe’s running shoes hanging on a hook. (shrink)
I think that there are good reasons to adopt a relativist semantics for epistemic modal claims such as ``the treasure might be under the palm tree'', according to which such utterances determine a truth value relative to something finer-grained than just a world (or a <world, time> pair). Anyone who is inclined to relativise truth to more than just worlds and times faces a problem about assertion. It's easy to be puzzled about just what purpose would be served by (...) assertions of this kind, and how to understand what we'd be up to in our use of sentences like ``the treasure might be under the palm tree'', if they have such peculiar truth conditions. After providing a very quick argument to motivate a relativist view of epistemicmodals, I bring out and attempt to resolve this problem in making sense of the role of assertions with relativist truth conditions. Solving this problem should be helpful in two ways: first, it eliminates an apparently forceful objection to relativism, and second, spelling out the relativist account of assertion and communication will help to make clear just what the relativist position is, exactly, and why it's interesting. (shrink)
Seth Yalcin has pointed out some puzzling facts about the behaviour of epistemicmodals in certain embedded contexts. For example, conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and it might not be raining, …’ sound unacceptable, unlike conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and I don’t know it, …’. These facts pose a prima facie problem for an orthodox treatment of epistemicmodals, according to which they express propositions about the knowledge of some contextually specified (...) individual or group. This paper develops an explanation of the puzzling facts about embedding within an orthodox framework, using broadly Gricean resources. (shrink)
I develop a new argument for an expressivist account of epistemicmodals, which starts from a puzzle about epistemicmodals which Seth Yalcin recently presented. I reject Yalcin's own solution to the puzzle, and give a better explanation based on expressivism concerning epistemicmodals. I also address two alleged problems for expressivism: do embeddings of epistemicmodals pose a serious threat to expressivism, and how can expressivism account for disagreements about statements containing (...)epistemicmodals? (shrink)
A very simple contextualist treatment of a sentence containing an epistemic modal, e.g. a might be F, is that it is true iff for all the contextually salient community knows, a is F. It is widely agreed that the simple theory will not work in some cases, but the counterexamples produced so far seem amenable to a more complicated contextualist theory. We argue, however, that no contextualist theory can capture the evaluations speakers naturally make of sentences containing epistemic (...)modals. If we want to respect these evaluations, our best option is a relativist theory of epistemicmodals. On a relativist theory, an utterance of a might be F can be true relative to one context of evaluation and false relative to another. We argue that such a theory does better than any rival approach at capturing all the behaviour of epistemicmodals. (shrink)
Predicates of personal taste (fun, tasty) and epistemicmodals (might, must) share a similar analytical difficulty in determining whose taste or knowledge is being expressed. Accordingly, they have parallel behavior in attitude reports and in a certain kind of disagreement. On the other hand, they differ in how freely they can be linked to a contextually salient individual, with epistemicmodals being much more restricted in this respect. I propose an account of both classes using Lasersohn’s (...) (Linguistics and Philosophy 28: 643–686, 2005) “judge” parameter, at the same time arguing for crucial changes to Lasersohn’s view in order to allow the extension to epistemicmodals and address empirical problems faced by his account. (shrink)
Recently, Yalcin (Epistemicmodals. Mind, 116 , 983–1026, 2007) put forward a novel account of epistemicmodals. It is based on the observation that sentences of the form ‘ & Might ’ do not embed under ‘suppose’ and ‘if’. Yalcin concludes that such sentences must be contradictory and develops a notion of informational consequence which validates this idea. I will show that informational consequence is inadequate as an account of the logic of epistemicmodals: (...) it cannot deal with reasoning from uncertain premises. Finally, I offer an alternative way of explaining the relevant linguistic data. (shrink)
In assessing the veridicality of utterances, we normally seem to assess the satisfaction of conditions that the speaker had been concerned to get right in making the utterance. However, the debate about assessor-relativism about epistemicmodals, predicates of taste, gradable adjectives and conditionals has been largely driven by cases in which seemingly felicitous assessments of utterances are insensitive to aspects of the context of utterance that were highly relevant to the speaker’s choice of words. In this paper, we (...) offer an explanation of why certain locutions invite insensitive assessments, focusing primarily on ’tasty’ and ’might’. We spell out some reasons why felicitous insensitive assessments are puzzling and argue briefly that recent attempts to accommodate such assessments (including attempts by John MacFarlane, Kai von Fintel and Anthony Gillies) all fail to provide more than hints at a solution to the puzzle. In the main part of the paper, we develop an account of felicitous insensitive assessments by identifying a number of pragmatic factors that influence the felicity of assessments. Before closing, we argue that the role of these factors extend beyond cases considered in the debate about assessor-relativism and fit comfortably with standard contextualist analyses of the relevant locutions. (shrink)
Epistemic modal operators give rise to something very like, but also very unlike, Moore's paradox. I set out the puzzling phenomena, explain why a standard relational semantics for these operators cannot handle them, and recommend an alternative semantics. A pragmatics appropriate to the semantics is developed and interactions between the semantics, the pragmatics, and the definition of consequence are investigated. The semantics is then extended to probability operators. Some problems and prospects for probabilistic representations of content and context are (...) explored. (shrink)
Imagine that Ann, asked to name her favorite treat, answers: 1. Licorice is tasty Imagine that Ben, having hidden some licorice in the cupboard, whispers to Ann: 2. There might be licorice in the cupboard. What if any role is played by perspective—whom the licorice is tasty to, whose evidence allows for licorice in the cupboard—in the semantics of such sentences?
I defend a contextualist account of bare epistemic modal claims against recent objections. I argue that in uttering a sentence of the form ‘It might be that p,’ a speaker is performing two speech acts. First, she is (directly) asserting that in view of the knowledge possessed by some relevant group, it might be that p. The content of this first speech act is accounted for by the contextualist view. But the speaker's utterance also generates an indirect speech act (...) that consists in a weak suggestive that p. Since this second speech act is typically the main point of a bare epistemic modal utterance, our (negative or positive) responses to the utterance actually target this second speech act. I show how this two-speech-act account can explain the data recently adduced against contextualism. (shrink)
There is a lot that we don’t know. That means that there are a lot of possibilities that are, epistemically speaking, open. For instance, we don’t know whether it rained in Seattle yesterday. So, for us at least, there is an epistemic possibility where it rained in Seattle yesterday, and one where it did not. It’s tempting to give a very simple analysis of epistemic possibility: • A possibility is an epistemic possibility if we do not know (...) that it does not obtain. But this is problematic for a few reasons. One issue, one that we’ll come back to, concerns the first two words. The analysis appears to quantify over possibilities. But what are they? As we said, that will become a large issue pretty soon, so let’s set it aside for now. A more immediate problem is that it isn’t clear what it is to have de re attitudes towards possibilities, such that we know a particular possibility does or doesn’t obtain. Let’s try rephrasing our analysis so that it avoids this complication. (shrink)
A paper by Schulz (Philos Stud 149:367–386, 2010) describes how the suppositional view of indicative conditionals can be supplemented with a derived view of epistemicmodals. In a recent criticism of this paper, Willer (Philos Stud 153:365–375, 2011) argues that the resulting account of conditionals and epistemicmodals cannot do justice to the validity of certain inference patterns involving modalised conditionals. In the present response, I analyse Willer’s argument, identify an implicit presupposition which can plausibly be (...) denied and show that accepting it would blur the difference between plain assumptions and their epistemic necessitations. (shrink)
The similarities between the philosophical debates surrounding assessment sensitivity and moral luck run so deep that one can easily adapt almost any argument from one debate, change some terms, adapt the examples, and end up with an argument relevant to the other. This article takes Brian Rosebury's strategy for resisting moral luck in “Moral Responsibility and ‘Moral Luck' ” (1995) and turns it into a strategy for resisting assessment sensitivity. The article shows that one of Bernard Williams's examples motivating moral (...) luck is very similar to one of the examples John MacFarlane uses to motivate the assessment sensitivity of epistemicmodals, and in particular the assessment sensitivity of the auxiliary verb “might.” This means that, if Rosebury is right and we do not actually need moral luck to explain Williams's example, we may not need assessment sensitivity to account for the semantic behaviour of the epistemic modal verb “might” either. (shrink)
Invariantism about ‘might’ says that ‘might’ semantically expresses the same modal property in every context. This paper presents and defends a version of invariantism. According to it, ‘might’ semantically expresses the same weak modal property in every context. However, speakers who utter sentences containing ‘might’ typically assert propositions concerning stronger types of modality, including epistemic modality. This theory can explain the phenomena that motivate contextualist theories of epistemic uses of ‘might’, and can be defended from objections of the (...) sort that relativists mount against contextualist theories. (shrink)
This paper argues that a priori justification is, in principle, compatible with naturalism—if the a priori is understood in a way that is free of the inessential properties that, historically, have been associated with the concept. I argue that empirical indefeasibility is essential to the primary notion of the a priori; however, the indefeasibility requirement should be interpreted in such a way that we can be fallibilist about apriori-justified claims. This fallibilist notion of the a priori accords with the naturalist’s (...) commitment to scientific methodology in that it allows for apriori-justified claims to be sensitive to further conceptual developments and the expansion of evidence. The fallibilist apriorist allows that an a priori claim is revisable in only a purely epistemic sense. This modal claim is weaker than what is required for a revisability thesis to establish empiricism, so fallibilist apriorism represents a distinct position. (shrink)
I want to discuss a puzzle about the semantics of epistemicmodals, like “It might be the case that” as it occurs in “It might be the case that Goldbach’s conjecture is false.”1 I’ll argue that the puzzle cannot be adequately explained on standard accounts of the semantics of epistemicmodals, and that a proper solution requires relativizing utterance truth to a context of assessment, a semantic device whose utility and coherence I have defended elsewhere for (...) future contingents (MacFarlane.. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with the acquisition of certain aspects of the meaning of epistemic modal verbs. Epistemicmodals encode the probability, predictability or certainty of the proposition embedded under the modal verb. The sentences in (1) are examples of epistemic modality1.
A dynamic semantics for epistemically modalized sentences is an attractive alternative to the orthodox view that our best theory of meaning ascribes to such sentences truth-conditions relative to what is known. This essay demonstrates that a dynamic theory about might and must offers elegant explanations of a range of puzzling observations about epistemicmodals. The first part of the story offers a unifying treatment of disputes about epistemic modality and disputes about matters of fact while at the (...) same time avoiding the complexities of alternative theories. The second part of the story extends the basic framework to cover some complicated data about retraction and the interaction between epistemic modality and tense. A comparison between the suggestion made in this essay and current versions of the orthodoxy is provided. (shrink)
In this paper I argue for a doctrine I call ?infallibilism?, which I stipulate to mean that If S knows that p, then the epistemic probability of p for S is 1. Some fallibilists will claim that this doctrine should be rejected because it leads to scepticism. Though it's not obvious that infallibilism does lead to scepticism, I argue that we should be willing to accept it even if it does. Infallibilism should be preferred because it has greater explanatory (...) power than fallibilism. In particular, I argue that an infallibilist can easily explain why assertions of ?p, but possibly not-p? (where the ?possibly? is read as referring to epistemic possibility) is infelicitous in terms of the knowledge rule of assertion. But a fallibilist cannot. Furthermore, an infallibilist can explain the infelicity of utterances of ?p, but I don't know that p? and ?p might be true, but I'm not willing to say that for all I know, p is true?, and why when a speaker thinks p is epistemically possible for her, she will agree (if asked) that for all she knows, p is true. The simplest explanation of these facts entails infallibilism. Fallibilists have tried and failed to explain the infelicity of ?p, but I don't know that p?, but have not even attempted to explain the last two facts. I close by considering two facts that seem to pose a problem for infallibilism, and argue that they don't. (shrink)
This paper argues that just as full beliefs can constitute knowledge, so can properties of your credence distribution. The resulting notion of probabilistic knowledge helps us give a natural account of knowledge ascriptions embedding language of subjective uncertainty, and a simple diagnosis of probabilistic analogs of Gettier cases. Just like propositional knowledge, probabilistic knowledge is factive, safe, and sensitive. And it helps us build knowledge-based norms of action without accepting implausible semantic assumptions or endorsing the claim that knowledge is interest-relative.
This paper defends a counterexample to Modus Tollens, and uses it to draw some conclusions about the logic and semantics of indicative conditionals and probability operators in natural language. Along the way we investigate some of the interactions of these expressions with 'knows', and we call into question the thesis that all knowledge ascriptions have truth-conditions.
Contextualism about ‘might’ says that the property that ‘might’ expresses varies from context to context. I argue against contextualism. I focus on problems that contextualism apparently has with attitude ascriptions in which ‘might’ appears in an embedded ‘that’-clause. I argue that contextualists can deal rather easily with many of these problems, but I also argue that serious difficulties remain with collective and quantified says-that ascriptions. Herman Cappelen and John Hawthorne atempt to deal with these remaining problems, but I argue that (...) their attempt fails. (shrink)
When I tell you that it’s raining, I describe a way the world is—viz., rainy. I say something whose truth turns on how things are with the weather in the world. Likewise when I tell you that the weatherman thinks that it’s raining. Here the truth of what I say turns on how things are with the weatherman’s state of mind in the world. Likewise when I tell you that I think that it’s raining. Here the truth of what I (...) say turns on how things are with my state of mind in the world. (shrink)
Within the linguistics literature it is often claimed that epistemic modality, unlike other kinds of modality, does not contribute to truth-conditional content. In this paper I challenge this view. I reanalyze a variety of arguments which have been used in support of the non-truth-conditional view and show that they can be handled on an alternative analysis of epistemic modality. # 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
way on the information available in the contexts in which they are used, it’s not surprising that there is a minor but growing industry of work in semantics and the philosophy of language concerned with the precise nature of the context-dependency of epistemically modalized sentences. Take, for instance, an epistemic might-claim like..
way on the information available in the contexts in which they are used, it’s not surprising that there is a minor but growing industry of work in semantics and the philosophy of language concerned with the precise nature of the context-dependency of epistemically modalized sentences. Take, for instance, an epistemic might-claim like..
Relativism offers a nifty way of accommodating most of our intuitions about epistemicmodals, predicates of personal taste, color expressions, future contingents, and conditionals. But in spite of its manifest merits relativism is squarely at odds with epistemic value monism: the view that truth is the highest epistemic goal. I will call the argument from relativism to epistemic value pluralism the trivial argument for epistemic value pluralism. After formulating the argument, I will look at (...) three possible ways to refute it. I will then argue that two of these are unsuccessful, and defend the third, which involves denying that there are any genuinely relative truths. (shrink)
Epistemic closure has been a central issue in epistemology over the last forty years. According to versions of the relevant alternatives and subjunctivist theories of knowledge, epistemic closure can fail: an agent who knows some propositions can fail to know a logical consequence of those propositions, even if the agent explicitly believes the consequence (having “competently deduced” it from the known propositions). In this sense, the claim that epistemic closure can fail must be distinguished from the fact (...) that agents do not always believe, let alone know, the consequences of what they know—a fact that raises the “problem of logical omniscience” that has been central in epistemic logic. -/- This paper, part I of II, is a study of epistemic closure from the perspective of epistemic logic. First, I introduce models for epistemic logic, based on Lewis’s models for counterfactuals, that correspond closely to the pictures of the relevant alternatives and subjunctivist theories of knowledge in epistemology. Second, I give an exact characterization of the closure properties of knowledge according to these theories, as formalized. Finally, I consider the relation between closure and higher-order knowledge. The philosophical repercussions of these results and results from part II, which prompt a reassessment of the issue of closure in epistemology, are discussed further in companion papers. -/- As a contribution to modal logic, this paper demonstrates an alternative approach to proving modal completeness theorems, without the standard canonical model construction. By “modal decomposition” I obtain completeness and other results for two non-normal modal logics with respect to new semantics. One of these logics, dubbed the logic of ranked relevant alternatives, appears not to have been previously identified in the modal logic literature. More broadly, the paper presents epistemology as a rich area for logical study. (shrink)
Michael Huemer (2007) has articulated a provocative account of the concept of "epistemic possibility" which he hopes will explicate the explanatory value of the concept while also lending support to a broader anti-skeptical strategy. While I think his account has a number of advantages, many of which Huemer himself identifies, there are also significant disadvantages which should prompt us to seek an alternative. In this paper I describe an alternative which builds on some of the better features of Huemer's (...) account, while avoiding its shortcomings. After having explained why this alternative avoids the problems I attribute to Huemer's position, I will conclude by presenting some independent considerations in favor of my account, which recommends that epistemic possibility claims be subjected to the same evidentialist standards to which belief and assertion are usually held accountable. (shrink)
In ‘EpistemicModals’ (2007), Seth Yalcin proposes Stalnaker-style semantics for epistemic possibility. He is inspired by John MacFarlane’s ingenious defence of relativism, in which claims of epistemic possibility are made rigidly from the perspective of the assessor’s actual stock of information (rather than from the speaker’s knowledge base or that of his audience or community). The innovations of MacFarlane and Yalcin independently reinforce the modal collapse espoused by Jaakko Hintikka in his 1962 epistemic logic (which (...) relied on the implausible KK principle and heavy idealizations). I respond to this new challenge with fresh objections to the underlying S4 equivalence: p p . I also propose counter-analyses of the intriguing data which Yalcin cites in support of his new semantics. A key collateral motivation for this defence of irredundant iterations is to ward off a threat to higher order vagueness. (shrink)
Anti-materialist thought experiments as, e.g., zombie arguments, have posed some of the most vexing problems for materialist accounts of phenomenal consciousness. I doubt, however, that arguments of this kind can refute the core thesis of materialism. Although I do not question that there is something very special about an adequate explanation of phenomenal consciousness, and although I accept the epistemic irreducibility of phenomenal consciousness, I deny that modal arguments reach far enough to establish essentialism about consciousness. I will draw (...) upon a relativistic conception of modal space and suggest to strictly separate between varieties of metaphysical possibility - depending on which world is considered as actual, and depending on accessibility relations. It is shown that the modal argument cannot endanger the reductive explanation of the mind-brain relation if one distinguishes carefully between possibility according to primary intensions (epistemic possibility) and possibility according to secondary intensions (meta-physical possibility). Modal arguments are strong enough to make an epistemological point but not an ontological one. (shrink)
This article concerns a new constraint on the interaction of quantifier phrases and epistemicmodals. It is argued that QPs cannot bind their traces across an epistemic modal, though it is shown that scoping mechanisms of a differentnature are permitted to cross epistemicmodals. The nature and source of this constraint are investigated.
Syntactic logics do not suffer from the problems of logical omniscience but are often thought to lack interesting properties relating to epistemic notions. By focusing on the case of rule-based agents, I develop a framework for modelling resource-bounded agents and show that the resulting models have a number of interesting properties.
Imperatives may be interpreted with many subvarieties of directive force, for example as orders, invitations, or pieces of advice. I argue that the range of meanings that imperatives can convey should be identiﬁed with the variety of interpretations that are possible for non-dynamic root modals (what I call ‘priority modals’), including deontic, bouletic, and teleological readings. This paper presents an analysis of the relationship between imperatives and priority modals in discourse which asserts that, just as declaratives contribute (...) to the Common Ground and thus provide information relevant to the interpretation of epistemicmodals in subsequent discourse, imperatives contribute to another component of the discourse context, the addressee’s To-Do List, which serves as a contextual resource for the interpretation of priority modals. This analysis predicts that the interpretation of imperatives and modals in discourse is constrained in surprising ways; these predictions are borne out. (shrink)
A successful theory of the language of subjective uncertainty would meet several important constraints. First, it would explain how use of the language of subjective uncertainty aﬀects addressees’ states of subjective uncertainty. Second, it would explain how such use affects what possibilities are treated as live for purposes of conversation. Third, it would accommodate 'quantifying in' to the scope of epistemicmodals. Fourth, it would explain the norms governing the language of subjective uncertainty, and the diﬀerences between them (...) and the norms governing the language of subjective certainty. Neither truth conditional nor traditional force modfier theories of the language of subjective uncertainty look adequate to the task of satisfying all four of these constraints. (shrink)
Consider the claim that openmindedness is an epistemic virtue, the claim that true belief is epistemically valuable, and the claim that one epistemically ought to cleave to one’s evidence. These are examples of what I’ll call “epistemic discourse.” In this paper I’ll propose and defend a view called “conventionalism about epistemic discourse.” In particular, I’ll argue that conventionalism is superior to its main rival, expressivism about epistemic discourse. Expressivism and conventionalism both jibe with anti-realism about (...) class='Hi'>epistemic normativity, which is motivated by appeal to philosophical naturalism (§1). Conventionalism says that epistemic discourse describes how things stands relative to a conventional set of “epistemic” values; such discourse is akin to normative discourse relative to the conventional rules of a club (§2). I defend conventionalism by appeal to a “reverse open question argument,” which says, pace expressivism, that epistemic discourse leaves the relevant normative questions open (§3). (shrink)
This is a study in the meaning of natural language probability operators, sentential operators such as probably and likely. We ask what sort of formal structure is required to model the logic and semantics of these operators. Along the way we investigate their deep connections to indicative conditionals and epistemicmodals, probe their scalar structure, observe their sensitivity to contex- tually salient contrasts, and explore some of their scopal idiosyncrasies.
The presence of luck in our cognitive as in our moral lives shows that the quality of our intellectual character may not be entirely up to us as individuals, and that our motivation and even our ability to desire the truth, like our moral goodness, can be fragile. This paper uses epistemologists'responses to the problem of “epistemic luck” as a sounding board and locates the source of some of their deepest disagreements in divergent, value-charged “interests in explanation,” which epistemologists (...) bring with them to discussions of knowledge and justification. In so doing, I delineate both the commonalities and key differences between those authors I describe as virtue reliabilists and those I describe as virtue responsibilists. (shrink)
This paper discusses the possibility of modelling inductive inference (Gold 1967) in dynamic epistemic logic (see e.g. van Ditmarsch et al. 2007). The general purpose is to propose a semantic basis for designing a modal logic for learning in the limit. First, we analyze a variety of epistemological notions involved in identification in the limit and match it with traditional epistemic and doxastic logic approaches. Then, we provide a comparison of learning by erasing (Lange et al. 1996) and (...) iterated epistemic update (Baltag and Moss 2004) as analyzed in dynamic epistemic logic. We show that finite identification can be modelled in dynamic epistemic logic, and that the elimination process of learning by erasing can be seen as iterated belief-revision modelled in dynamic doxastic logic. Finally, we propose viewing hypothesis spaces as temporal frames and discuss possible advantages of that perspective. (shrink)
I describe /mindset semantics/, a semantical framework built around a conception of entailment as preservation of /support/ (implicit acceptance undergirded by competence) together with a /classical modal/ semantics for declarative sentences---with the central application of showing how a language could integrate discourse that is expressive with discourse that is informative (namely, of solving the 'Frege-Geach problem'). (The approach owes much to the work of Veltman and Yalcin, and, less proximally, of Stalnaker.) I provide a range of philosophical, technical, and pedagogical (...) arguments for mindset semantics. And I apply mindset semantics to as wide a range of phenomena as I have been able to think of (some more familiar, others less familiar): epistemicmodals, avowals of belief, avowals of what it's like, /ascriptions/ of all these, 'looks'-sentences, avowals of presumption, avowals of subjective credence and statements of objective chance, indicative and subjunctive conditionals, conditional probability, deontic modals, questions, avowals of wonderment, metaphysical modals, metaphysical indeterminacy, avowals and ascriptions of knowledge, 'ought'-claims, and avowals of various practical positions (intending, trying, needing). (shrink)
Prominent instances of anti-luck epistemology, in particular sensitivity and safety accounts of knowledge, introduce a modal condition on the pertinent belief in terms of closeness or similarity of possible worlds. Very roughly speaking, a belief must continue to be true in close possibilities in order to qualify as knowledge. Such closeness-accounts derive much support from their (alleged) ability to eliminate standard instances of epistemic luck as they appear in prominent Gettier-type examples. The article argues that there are new Gettier-type (...) examples which are grounded in “distant” epistemic luck. It is demonstrated that sensitivity and safety theories cannot handle such examples. (shrink)
People increasingly form beliefs based on information gained from automatically filtered Internet sources such as search engines. However, the workings of such sources are often opaque, preventing subjects from knowing whether the information provided is biased or incomplete. Users’ reliance on Internet technologies whose modes of operation are concealed from them raises serious concerns about the justificatory status of the beliefs they end up forming. Yet it is unclear how to address these concerns within standard theories of knowledge and justification. (...) To shed light on the problem, we introduce a novel conceptual framework that clarifies the relations between justified belief, epistemic responsibility, action, and the technological resources available to a subject. We argue that justified belief is subject to certain epistemic responsibilities that accompany the subject’s particular decision-taking circumstances, and that one typical responsibility is to ascertain, so far as one can, whether the information upon which the judgment will rest is biased or incomplete. What this responsibility comprises is partly determined by the inquiry-enabling technologies available to the subject. We argue that a subject’s beliefs that are formed based on Internet-filtered information are less justified than they would be if she either knew how filtering worked or relied on additional sources, and that the subject may have the epistemic responsibility to take measures to enhance the justificatory status of such beliefs.. (shrink)
In this paper I defend a pure proceduralist conception of legitimacy that applies to epistemic democracy. This conception, which I call pure epistemic proceduralism, does not depend on procedure-independent standards for good outcomes and relies on a proceduralist epistemology. It identifies a democratic decision as legitimate if it is the outcome of a process that satisfies certain conditions of political and epistemic fairness. My argument starts with a rejection of instrumentalism – the view that political equality is (...) only instrumentally valuable. I reject instrumentalism on two grounds: (i) because it fails to respect reasonable value pluralism and to recognize the constitutive role of democratic procedures for legitimacy in pluralist societies, and (ii) because it neglects the constructive function of democratic decision-making. I then consider two alternatives to pure epistemic proceduralism: David Estlund's version of epistemic proceduralism and a Deweyan account of epistemic democracy. I argue that only pure epistemic proceduralism can make good on both shortcomings of instrumentalism, whereas each of the other two approaches only makes good on one and neglects the other. (shrink)
Contemporary epistemology of peer disagreement has largely focused on our immediate normative response to prima facie instances of disagreement. Whereas some philosophers demand that we should withhold judgment (or moderate our credences) in such cases, others argue that, unless new evidence becomes available, disagreement at best gives us reason to demote our interlocutor from his peer status. But what makes someone an epistemic peer in the first place? This question has not received the attention it deserves. I begin by (...) surveying different notions of ‘epistemic peer’ that have been peddled in the contemporary literature, arguing that they tend to build normative assumptions about the correct response to disagreement into the notion of peerhood. Instead, I argue, epistemic peerhood needs to be taken seriously in its own right. Importantly, for epistemic agents to count as peers, they should exhibit a comparable degree of reflective awareness of the character and limitations of their own knowledge. (shrink)
In this paper I present a criticism of Sarah Moss‘ recent proposal to use scoring rules as a means of reaching epistemic compromise in disagreements between epistemic peers that have encountered conflict. The problem I have with Moss‘ proposal is twofold. Firstly, it appears to involve a double counting of epistemic value. Secondly, it isn‘t clear whether the notion of epistemic value that Moss appeals to actually involves the type of value that would be acceptable and (...) unproblematic to regard as epistemic. (shrink)
A well-known open problem in epistemic logic is to give a syntactic characterization of the successful formulas. Semantically, a formula is successful if and only if for any pointed model where it is true, it remains true after deleting all points where the formula was false. The classic example of a formula that is not successful in this sense is the “Moore sentence” p ∧ ¬BOXp, read as “p is true but you do not know p.” Not only is (...) the Moore sentence unsuccessful, it is self-refuting, for it never remains true as described. We show that in logics of knowledge and belief for a single agent (extended by S5), Moorean phenomena are the source of all self-refutation; moreover, in logics for an introspective agent (extending KD45), Moorean phenomena are the source of all unsuccessfulness as well. This is a distinctive feature of such logics, for with a non-introspective agent or multiple agents, non-Moorean unsuccessful formulas appear. We also consider how successful and self-refuting formulas relate to the Cartesian and learnable formulas, which have been discussed in connection with Fitch’s “paradox of knowability.” We show that the Cartesian formulas are exactly the formulas that are not eventually self-refuting and that not all learnable formulas are successful. In an appendix, we give syntactic characterizations of the successful and the self-refuting formulas. (shrink)
Abstract Suppose you know that someone is your epistemic peer regarding some topic. You admit that you cannot think of any relevant epistemic advantage you have over her when it comes to that topic; you admit that she is just as likely as you to get P?s truth-value right. Alternatively, you might know that she is your epistemic superior regarding the topic. And then after learning this about her you find out that she disagrees with you about (...) P. In those situations it appears that the confidence with which one holds one?s belief should be significantly reduced. My primary goal in this essay is to present and reflect upon a set of cases of disagreement that have not been discussed in the literature but are vital to consider. I argue that in the new cases one is reasonable in not lowering one?s confidence in the belief. Then I articulate and defend an ambitious principle, the Disagreement Principle, meant to answer the question ?Under what conditions am I epistemically blameworthy in retaining my belief with the same level of confidence after I have discovered recognized peers or superiors who disagree with me?? (shrink)
Do epistemic intuitions tell us anything about knowledge? Stich has argued that we respond to cases according to our contingent cultural programming, and not in a manner that tends to reveal anything significant about knowledge itself. I’ve argued that a cross-culturally universal capacity for mindreading produces the intuitive sense that the subject of a case has or lacks knowledge. This paper responds to Stich’s charge that mindreading is cross-culturally varied in a way that will strip epistemic intuitions of (...) their evidential value. I argue that existing work on cross-cultural variation in mindreading favors my position over Stich’s. (shrink)
William Alston’s argument against the deontological conception of epistemic justification is a classic—and much debated—piece of contemporary epistemology. At the heart of Alston’s argument, however, lies a very simple mistake which, surprisingly, appears to have gone unnoticed in the vast literature now devoted to the argument. After having shown why some of the standard responses to Alston’s argument don’t work, we elucidate the mistake and offer a hypothesis as to why it has escaped attention.
This paper contributes to an increasing literature strengthening the connection between epistemic logic and epistemology (Van Benthem, Hendricks). I give a survey of the most important applications of epistemic logic in epistemology. I show how it is used in the history of philosophy (Steiner's reconstruction of Descartes' sceptical argument), in solutions to Moore's paradox (Hintikka), in discussions about the relation between knowledge and belief (Lenzen) and in an alleged refutation of verificationism (Fitch) and I examine an early argument (...) about the (im)possibility of epistemic logic (Hocutt). Subsequently, I deal with interpretive questions about epistemic logic that, although implicitly, already appeared in the first section. I contend that a conception of epistemic logic as a theory of knowledge assertions is incoherent, and I argue that it does not make sense to adopt a normative interpretation of epistemic logic. Finally, I show ways to extend epistemic logic with other branches of philosophical logic so as to make it useful for some epistemological questions. Conditional logics and logics of public announcement are used to understand causal theories of knowledge and versions of reliabilism. Temporal logic helps understand some dynamic aspects of knowledge as well as the verificationist thesis. (shrink)
Expressivist views of an area of discourse encourage us to ask not about the nature of the relevant kinds of values but rather about the nature of the relevant kind of evaluations. Their answer to the latter question typically claims some interesting disanalogy between those kinds of evaluations and descriptions of the world. It does so in hope of providing traction against naturalism-inspired ontological and epistemological worries threatening more ‘realist’ positions. This is a familiar position regarding ethical discourse; however, some (...) authors (e.g. Field, Heller, Gibbard, Blackburn, Chrisman) have recently defended a similar view regarding epistemic discourse. Others (especially Kvanvig, Cuneo, and Lynch) have argued that epistemic expressivism faces special problems, not necessarily attaching to expressivism about other areas. Their arguments differ in interesting ways, but the common strategy is an attempt to show that the very sort of meta-epistemological theorizing needed to articulate and establish epistemic expressivism involves the epistemic expressivist in some sort of internal incoherence or self-defeat. That is, they think that articulating or defending the position requires implicit commitment to the negation of one of the positions core tenets. This paper responds to those arguments on behalf of epistemic expressivism, suggesting that they each misunderstand what is crucial to epistemic expressivism. By responding to these arguments, we hope to achieve more clarity about what epistemic expressivism is and why one might want to endorse it in a meta-epistemology. (shrink)
The internalism/externalism debate is of interest in epistemology since it addresses one of the most fundamental questions in the discipline: what is the basic nature of knowledge and epistemic justification? It is generally held that if a positive epistemic status obtains, this is not a brute fact. Rather if a belief is, for example, justified, it is justified in virtue of some further condition(s) obtaining. What has been called epistemic internalism holds, as the label suggests, is that (...) all the relevant factors that determine justification must be “internal” (in a sense that needs to be specified). Epistemic externalism is the denial of internalism. Epistemic internalism about justification is the subject of this article. <br> After introducing the central intuitive considerations that have tended to motivate internalism, this paper will explore different ways of construing the internalist position (or family of positions). In addition to classical formulations, more recent formulations will be discussed, concluding with a discussion of an emerging position known as “Epistemological Disjunctivism”, which its advocates claim preserves the most important features of more traditional forms of internalism, while avoiding their difficulties. Epistemological Disjunctivism is particularly worthy of attention since if true, it promises to bridge internalist and externalist epistemologies, bringing a rapprochement to two sides of what may otherwise appear a deep and intractable debate about the fundamental nature of epistemology. <br>. (shrink)
One of Kripke's fundamental objections to descriptivism was that the theory misclassifies certain _a posteriori_ propositions expressed by sentences involving names as _a priori_. Though nowadays very few philosophers would endorse a descriptivism of the sort that Kripke criticized, many find two-dimensional semantics attractive as a kind of successor theory. Because two-dimensionalism needn't be a form of descriptivism, it is not open to the epistemic argument as formulated by Kripke; but the most promising versions of two-dimensionalism are open to (...) a close relative of that argument. (shrink)
Epistemic freedom is the freedom to affirm any one of several incompatible propositions without risk of being wrong. We sometimes have this freedom, strange as it seems, and our having it sheds some light on the topic of free will and determinism.
I define a property of beliefs - that of being structure-limning, or of “carving nature at the joints” - and propose three epistemological applications: (i) that limning structure has pro tanto epistemic value, (ii) that a species of understanding can be defined by appeal to the notion of limning structure, and (iii) that a distinction between important and trivial truths can be articulated by appeal to the notion of limning structure.
Knowledge ascriptions seem context sensitive. Yet it is widely thought that epistemic contextualism does not have a plausible semantic implementation. We aim to overcome this concern by articulating and defending an explicit contextualist semantics for ‘know,’ which integrates a fairly orthodox contextualist conception of knowledge as the elimination of the relevant alternatives, with a fairly orthodox “Amherst” semantics for A-quantification over a contextually variable domain of situations. Whatever problems epistemic contextualism might face, lack of an orthodox semantic implementation (...) is not among them. (shrink)
A popular account of epistemic justification holds that justification, in essence, aims at truth. An influential objection against this account points out that it is committed to holding that only true beliefs could be justified, which most epistemologists regard as sufficient reason to reject the account. In this paper I defend the view that epistemic justification aims at truth, not by denying that it is committed to epistemic justification being factive, but by showing that, when we focus (...) on the relevant sense of ‘justification’, it isn’t in fact possible for a belief to be at once justified and false. To this end, I consider and reject three popular intuitions speaking in favor of the possibility of justified false beliefs, and show that a factive account of epistemic justification is less detrimental to our normal belief forming practices than often supposed. (shrink)
In this paper I consider a recent argument of Timothy Williamson’s that epistemic internalism and content externalism are indeed incompatible, and since he takes content externalism to be above reproach, so much the worse for epistemic internalism. However, I argue that epistemic internalism, properly understood, remains substantially unaffected no matter which view of content turns out to be correct. What is key to the New Evil Genius thought experiment is that, given everything of which the inhabitants are (...) consciously aware, the two worlds are subjectively indistinguishable for them, which is what matters on internalist accounts of epistemic justification. I argue that even if a standard moral of the New Evil Genius intuition is untenable due to considerations arising from content externalism, the case can be understood as supporting epistemic internalism in a way that is wholly compatible with content externalism. In short, epistemic internalism is committed to sameness of justificatory status between subjectively indistinguishable counterparts, not sameness of content of their justifiers. (shrink)
Do we apply higher epistemic standards to subjects with high stakes? This paper argues that we expect different outward behavior from high-stakes subjects—for example, we expect them to collect more evidence than their low-stakes counterparts—but not because of any change in epistemic standards. Rather, we naturally expect subjects in any condition to think in a roughly adaptive manner, balancing the expected costs of additional evidence collection against the expected value of gains in accuracy. The paper reviews a body (...) of empirical work on the automatic regulation of cognitive effort in response to stakes, and argues that we naturally see high- and low-stakes subjects as experiencing different levels of ‘epistemic anxiety’, and anticipate different levels of cognitive effort from them for this reason. If unresolved epistemic anxiety always bars an ascription of knowledge, then we can explain our responses to cases involving shifting stakes without positing any variation in the standards of intuitive knowledge ascription. (shrink)
In this paper, I exploit the parallel between epistemic contextualism and metaethical speaker-relativism to argue that a promising way out of two of the primary problems facing contextualism is one already explored in some detail in the ethical case – viz. expressivism. The upshot is an argument for a form of epistemic expressivism modeled on a familiar form of ethical expressivism. This provides a new nondescriptivist option for understanding the meaning of knowledge attributions, which arguably better captures the (...) normative nature of epistemic discourse than descriptivist competitors like invariantism and contextualism. (shrink)
Many philosophers have argued that an event is lucky for an agent only if it was suitably improbable, but there is considerable disagreement about how to understand this improbability condition. This paper argues for a hitherto overlooked construal of the improbability condition in terms of the lucky agent’s epistemic situation. According to the proposed account, an event is lucky for an agent only if the agent was not in a position to know that the event would occur. It is (...) also explored whether this new account threatens the anti-luck program in epistemology. It is argued that although not detrimental to the anti-luck program, the epistemic account of luck sets certain important limits to its scope and feasibility. (shrink)
Foundationalism is false; after all, foundational beliefs are arbitrary, they do not solve the epistemic regress problem, and they cannot exist withoutother (justified) beliefs. Or so some people say. In this essay, we assess some arguments based on such claims, arguments suggested in recent work by Peter Klein and Ernest Sosa.
In this paper, I argue that the “Ought Implies Can” (OIC) principle, as it is employed in epistemology, particularly in the literature on epistemic norms, is open to counterexamples. I present a counterexample to OIC and discuss several objections to it. If this counterexample works, then it shows that it is possible that S ought to believe that p, even though S cannot believe that p. If this is correct, then OIC, considered from an epistemic point of view, (...) is false, since it is supposed to hold for any S and any p. (shrink)
The lottery paradox can be solved if epistemic justification is assumed to be a species of permissibility. Given this assumption, the starting point of the paradox can be formulated as the claim that, for each lottery ticket, I am permitted to believe that it will lose. This claim is ambiguous between two readings, depending on the scope of ‘permitted’. On one reading, the claim is false; on another, it is true, but, owing to the general failure of permissibility to (...) agglomerate, does not generate the paradox. The solution generalizes to formulations of the paradox in terms of rational acceptability and doxastic rationality. (shrink)
In this chapter, I produce counterexamples to Presuppositional Epistemic Contextualism (PEC), a view about the semantics of ‘knowledge’-ascriptions that I have argued for elsewhere. According to PEC, the semantic content of the predicate ‘know’ at a context C is partly determined by the speakers’ pragmatic presuppositions at C. The problem for the view that I shall be concerned with here arises from the fact that pragmatic presuppositions are sometimes known to be true by the speakers who make them: hence (...) the Problem of Known Presuppositions. After discussing several unsuccessful ways to solve the problem, I propose the addition of a new Lewisian rule of proper ignoring to the semantics of PEC--namely, the Rule of Evidence-Based Ignoring. If the proposed account succeeds, the Problem of Known Presuppositions has a straightforward solution within the framework of PEC. (shrink)
Conservatism about perceptual justification tells us that we cannot have perceptual justification to believe p unless we also have justification to believe that perceptual experiences are reliable. There are many ways to maintain this thesis, ways that have not been sufficiently appreciated. Most of these ways lead to at least one of two problems. The first is an over-intellectualization problem, whereas the second problem concerns the satisfaction of the epistemic basing requirement on justified belief. I argue that there is (...) at least one Conservative view that survives both difficulties, a view which has the further ability to undercut a crucial consideration that has supported Dogmatist views about perceptual justification. The final section explores a tension between Conservatism and the prospects of having a completely general account of propositional justification. Ironically, the problem is that Conservatives seem committed to making the acquisition of propositional justification too easy. My partial defense of Conservatism concludes by suggesting possible solutions to this problem. (shrink)
Although several important methodologies implicitly assume the truth of epistemic conservatism, the view that holding a belief confers some measure of justification on the belief, recent criticisms have led some to conclude that epistemic conservatism is an implausible view. That conclusion is mistaken. In this article, I propose a new formulation of epistemic conservatism that is not susceptible to the criticisms leveled at earlier formulations of epistemic conservatism. In addition to withstanding these criticisms, this formulation of (...)epistemic conservatism has several benefits. First, this formulation has the benefits of earlier formulations of epistemic conservatism, that is to say it makes sense of our intuitions about justification in regard to both memory beliefs and beliefs for which we have forgotten our evidence. Second, it provides a good way of responding to the skeptic’s challenge concerning the possibility of possessing knowledge of the external world posed by the Alternative Hypotheses argument. Third, it provides responses to both forms of a new skeptical problem plaguing basic knowledge structure theories, the Problem of Easy Knowledge formulated by Stewart Cohen. I argue that given the many benefits of this formulation of epistemic conservatism and the fact that it is not vulnerable to the criticisms that undermine earlier formulations of epistemic conservatism, this formulation of epistemic conservatism is a plausible view to maintain. (shrink)
My NCPS 2012 conference paper. The paper is a development of the abstract below. The file you can upload contains my brief "A Fast & Frugal Rebuttal of Epistemic Situationism," while the whole paper develops a fuller reply to the Alfano, and Doris and Olin papers also presented in this session, papers in which these authors extend the "situationist challenge" to virtue ethics, to different varieties of virtue epistemology. Abstract. This paper mounts an empirically-based rebuttal to the radical implications (...) that self-described “epistemic situationists” including Mark Alfano and John Doris would have us draw from mood and conformity studies. The compatibility of virtue epistemologies with dual process theory (Kahneman; Stanovich) in cognitive and social psychology is developed as one main way of defending the empirical adequacy of many or most forms of virtue epistemology. Although philosophical situationists ignore dual process models of human reasoning, I argue that the latter offer ample empirical support for the “psychological realizability” of the intellectual character-traits posited by virtue-focused epistemologies and featured in the credit theory of knowing. Draft by Guy Axtell (Radford University), for NCPS, 2012. All rights reserved. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org; or join us online at JanusBlog: The Virtue Theory Discussion Forum at http://janusblog.squarespace.com. For further development of these issues and arguments, see also my "Thinking Twice about Virtue and Vice (2013, forthcoming) . (shrink)
Control of our own beliefs is allegedly required for the truth of epistemic evaluations, such as S ought to believe that p , or S ought to suspend judgment (and so refrain from any belief) whether p . However, we cannot usually believe or refrain from believing at will. I agree with a number of recent authors in thinking that this apparent conflict is to be resolved by distinguishing reasons for believing that give evidence that p from reasons that (...) make it desirable to believe that p whether or not p is true. I argue however that there is a different problem, one that becomes clearer in light of this solution to the first problem. Someone’s approval of our beliefs is at least often a non-evidential reason to believe, and as such cannot change our beliefs. Ought judgments aim to change the world. But ‘ought to believe’ judgments can’t do that by changing the belief, if they don’t give evidence. So I argue that we should instead regard epistemic ought judgments as aimed mainly at influencing assertions that express the belief and other actions based on the belief, in accord with recent philosophical claims that we have epistemic norms for assertion and action. (shrink)
The semantic theory of expressivism has been applied within metaethics to evaluative words like ‘good’ and ‘wrong’, within epistemology to words like ‘knows’, and within the philosophy of language, to words like ‘true’, to epistemicmodals like ‘might’, ‘must’, and ‘probably’, and to indicative conditionals. For each topic, expressivism promises the advantage of giving us the resources to say what sentences involving these words mean by telling us what it is to believe these things, rather than by telling (...) us what it would be for them to be true. This, in turn, absolves these theories of the burden of holding that there is any general answer to what it is for these sentences to be true. However, expressivism is famously subject to a deep and general problem about how to account for the meanings of complex sentences – a problem variously known as the ‘Frege-Geach’ or ‘embedding’ problem. In this paper I will be interested in whether there are reasons to think that the embedding problem looks less difficult for some of these applications for expressivism, than for others. In particular, in this paper I will be interested in the prospects for expressivism about what I will call epistemics – a class which I take to include epistemicmodals like ‘might’ and ‘must’, sentential adverbs like ‘probably’, adjectives like ‘likely’ and ‘improbable’, and so-called ‘open’ indicative conditionals like ‘if the Fed doesn’t intervene, then the economy will enter a deflationary spiral’. There are several reasons to be particularly interested in expressivism about epistemics, relating both to the philosophical payoffs of such a view, and relating to the technical prospects for making it work. In other work I’ve touched on the especially interesting philosophical payoffs which make expressivism about epistemics interesting; in this paper I will be interested primarily in evaluating the possibility that there are better prospects for making expressivism about epistemics work than there are for making expressivism work about other topics. There are two main reasons why one might suspect that expressivism about epistemics will have better prospects than expressivism about many other topics, including in metaethics.. (shrink)
Contents. Introduction. 1. Preliminaries. 2. Normal Form Games. 3. Extensive Games. 4. Applications of Game Theory. 5. The Methodology of Game Theory. Conclusion. Appendix. Bibliography. Index. Does game theory—the mathematical theory of strategic interaction—provide genuine explanations of human behaviour? Can game theory be used in economic consultancy or other normative contexts? Explaining Games: The Epistemic Programme in Game Theory—the first monograph on the philosophy of game theory—is an attempt to combine insights from epistemic logic and the philosophy of (...) science to investigate the applicability of game theory in such fields as economics, philosophy and strategic consultancy. I prove new mathematical theorems about the beliefs, desires and rationality principles of individual human beings, and explore in detail the logical form of game theory as it is used in explanatory and normative contexts. I argue that game theory reduces to rational choice theory if used as an explanatory device, and that game theory is nonsensical if used as a normative device. A provocative account of the history of game theory reveals that this is not bad news for all of game theory, though. Two central research programmes in game theory tried to find the ultimate characterisation of strategic interaction between rational agents. Yet, while the Nash Equilibrium Refinement Programme has done badly thanks to such research habits as overmathematisation, model-tinkering and introversion, the Epistemic Programme, I argue, has been rather successful in achieving this aim. "The 'epistemic' approach to game theory has emerged over the past twenty-five years. What is this approach? How does it differ from the conventional equilibrium-based approach to game theory? What have been its strengths and weaknesses to date? To find out, read this comprehensive and excellently written account". Adam Brandenburger, J. P. Valles Professor of Business Economics and Strategy, Stern School of Business, New York University "Reading Boudewijn de Bruin's book should be rewarding both for game theorists interested in the conceptual foundations of their discipline and for philosophers who want to learn more about formal analysis of strategic interaction. It provides an in-depth logical study of the currently dominant epistemic approaches to non-cooperative games, with an eye both to the attractions and to the serious challenges facing the Epistemic Programme". Wlodek Rabinowicz, Professor of Practical Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, Lund University . (shrink)
Though it seems rather surprising in retrospect, until about twenty-ﬁve years ago no philosopher in the Western tradition had explicitly formulated the question whether there could be an epistemic analogue to practical akrasia. Also surprisingly, despite the prima facie analogue with practical akrasia (the possibility of which is not much disputed), much of the recent work on this question has defended the rather bold view that epistemic akrasia is impossible. While the arguments purporting to show the impossibility of (...)epistemic akrasia have been criticized by some, I propose instead to make a head-on attack and defend the substantive view that epistemic akrasia is possible — indeed, actual. This leaves for another day the project of diagnosing exactly where the arguments for the impossibility of epistemic akrasia go wrong. Here, I content myself with trying to show that they must go wrong, since — as I will argue — epistemic akrasia is possible. (shrink)
In disagreements about trivial matters, it often seems appropriate for disputing parties to adopt a ‘middle ground’ view about the disputed matter. But in disputes about more substantial controversies (e.g. in ethics, religion, or politics) this sort of doxastic conduct can seem viciously acquiescent. How should we distinguish between the two kinds of cases, and thereby account for our divergent intuitions about how we ought to respond to them? One possibility is to say that ceding ground in a trivial dispute (...) is appropriate because the disputing parties are usually epistemic peers within the relevant domain, whereas in a more substantial disagreement the disputing parties rarely, if ever, qualify as epistemic peers, and so ‘sticking to one’s guns’ is usually the appropriate doxastic response. My aim in this paper is to explain why this way of drawing the desired distinction is ultimately problematic, even if it seems promising at first blush. (shrink)
The following analysis shows how developments in epistemic logic can play a nontrivial role in cognitive neuroscience. We argue that the striking correspondence between two modes of identification, as distinguished in the epistemic context, and two cognitive systems distinguished by neuroscientific investigation of the visual system (the "where" and "what" systems) is not coincidental, and that it can play a clarificatory role at the most fundamental levels of neuroscientific theory.
The paper is concerned with the semantics of knowledge attributions(K-claims, for short) and proposes a position holding that K-claims are contextsensitive that differs from extant views on the market. First I lay down the data a semantic theory for K-claims needs to explain. Next I present and assess three views purporting to give the semantics for K-claims: contextualism, subject-sensitive invariantism and relativism. All three views are found wanting with respect to their accounting for the data. I then propose a hybrid (...) view according to which the relevant epistemic standards for evaluating K-claims are neither those at the context of the subject (subject-sensitive invariantism), nor those at the context of the assessor (relativism), but it is itself an open matter. However, given that we need a principled way of deciding which epistemic standards are the relevant ones, I provide a principle according to which the relevant standards are those that are the highest between those at the context of the subject and those at the context of the assessor/attributor. In the end I consider some objections to the view and offer some answers. (shrink)
In this paper I defend what I call the argument from epistemic reasons against the moral error theory. I argue that the moral error theory entails that there are no epistemic reasons for belief and that this is bad news for the moral error theory since, if there are no epistemic reasons for belief, no one knows anything. If no one knows anything, then no one knows that there is thought when they are thinking, and no one (...) knows that they do not know everything. And it could not be the case that we do not know that there is thought when we believe that there is thought and that we do not know that we do not know everything. I address several objections to the claim that the moral error theory entails that there are no epistemic reasons for belief. It might seem that arguing against the error theory on the grounds that it entails that no one knows anything is just providing a Moorean argument against the moral error theory. I show that even if my argument against the error theory is indeed a Moorean one, it avoids Streumer's, McPherson's and Olson's objections to previous Moorean arguments against the error theory and is a more powerful argument against the error theory than Moore's argument against external world skepticism is against external world skepticism. (shrink)
The article suggests a reading of the term ‘epistemic account of truth’ which runs contrary to a widespread consensus with regard to what epistemic accounts are meant to provide, namely a definition of truth in epistemic terms. Section 1. introduces a variety of possible epistemic accounts that differ with regard to the strength of the epistemic constraints they impose on truth. Section 2. introduces the paradox of knowability and presents a slightly reconstructed version of a (...) related argument brought forward by Wolfgang Künne. I accept the paradox and Künnes argument as sound objections to all the different epistemic accounts which are committed to one of the various constraints on truth introduced in section 1. Section 3. offers a modified epistemic constraint which, or so I argue, is immune to the paradox of knowability and plausible on independent grounds. (shrink)
Epistemologists often assume that an agent’s epistemic goal is simply to acquire as much knowledge as possible for herself. Drawing on an analogy with ethics and other practices, I argue that being situated in an epistemic community introduces a range of epistemic virtues (and goals) which fall outside of those typically recognized by both individualistic and social epistemologists. Candidate virtues include such traits as honesty, integrity (including an unwillingness to misuse one’s status as an expert), patience, and (...) creativity. We can understand such traits to be epistemic virtues insofar as they tend to produce knowledge – not for the agent alone, but for her community. Recognition of such ‘otherregarding epistemic virtues’ both broadens the area of inquiry of epistemology, and introduces new standards for the evaluation of epistemic agents. (shrink)
Knowledge seems to be a good thing, or at least better than epistemic states that fall short of it, such as true belief. Understanding too seems to be a good thing, perhaps better even than knowledge. In a number of recent publications, Duncan Pritchard tries to account for the value of understanding by claiming that understanding is a cognitive achievement and that achievements in general are valuable. In this paper, I argue that coming to understand something need not be (...) an achievement, and so Pritchard's explanation of understanding's value fails. Next, I point out that Pritchard's is just one of many attempts to account for the value of an epistemic state – whether it be understanding, knowledge, or whatever – by appeal to the notion of achievement or, more generally, the notion of success because of ability. Tentatively, I offer reasons to be sceptical about the prospects of any such account. (shrink)
This paper addresses a problem for theories of epistemic democracy. In a decision on a complex issue which can be decomposed into several parts, a collective can use different voting procedures: Either its members vote on each sub-question and the answers that gain majority support are used as premises for the conclusion on the main issue (premise based-procedure, pbp), or the vote is conducted on the main issue itself (conclusion-based procedure, cbp). The two procedures can lead to different results. (...) We investigate which of these procedures is better as a truth-tracker, assuming that there exists a true answer to be reached. On the basis of the Condorcet jury theorem, we show that the pbp is universally superior if the objective is to reach truth for the right reasons. If one instead is after truth for whatever reasons, right or wrong, there will be cases in which the cbp is more reliable, even though, for the most part, the pbp still is to be preferred. (shrink)
An epistemic duty would be a duty to believe, disbelieve, or withhold judgment from a proposition, and it would be grounded in purely evidential or epistemic considerations. If I promise to believe it is raining, my duty to believe is not epistemic. If my evidence is so good that, in light of it alone, I ought to believe it is raining, then my duty to believe supposedly is epistemic. I offer a new argument for the claim (...) that there are no epistemic duties. Though people do sometimes have duties to believe, disbelieve, or withhold judgment from propositions, those duties are never grounded in purely epistemic considerations. (shrink)
This paper begins by raising a puzzle about what function our use of the word ‘rational’ could serve. To solve the puzzle, I introduce a view I call Epistemic Communism: we use epistemic evaluations to promote coordination among our basic belief-forming rules, and the function of this is to make the acquisition of knowledge by testimony more efficient.
To lead an environmentally virtuous life requires information—about morality, environmental issues, the impacts of our actions and commitments, our options for alternatives, and so on. On the other hand, we are finite beings with limited time and resources. We cannot feasibly investigate all of our options, and all environmental issues (let alone moral issues, more broadly). In this paper I attempt to provide initial steps towards addressing the epistemic demands of environmental virtue. In the first half of the paper (...) I provide rules of thumb with respect to (1) how to prioritize our investigations into various issues, and (2) what kinds of information we should seek with respect to these issues, and the levels of epistemic justification we ought to attain. In the second half of the paper, I turn to a modified virtue ethics, appealing to the attitudes of virtuous ideal observers to provide characterizations of morally justified and morally non-culpable actions. I then apply these latter concepts in assessing agents, their actions and projects (with respect to environmental virtue), in light of their investigative efforts, and given their particular circumstances. (shrink)
This paper explores the relationship between scepticism and epistemic relativism in the context of recent history and philosophy of science. More specifically, it seeks to show that significant treatments of epistemic relativism by influential figures in the history and philosophy of science draw upon the Pyrrhonian problem of the criterion. The paper begins with a presentation of the problem of the criterion as it occurs in the work of Sextus Empiricus. It is then shown that significant treatments of (...)epistemic relativism in recent history and philosophy of science (critical rationalism, historical philosophy of science and the strong programme) draw upon the problem of the criterion. It is briefly suggested that a particularist response to the problem of the criterion may be put to good use against epistemic relativism. (shrink)
In this chapter, I argue for the thesis that phenomenal consciousness is the basis of epistemic justification. More precisely, I argue for the thesis of phenomenal mentalism, according to which epistemic facts about which doxastic attitudes one has justification to hold are determined by non-epistemic facts about one’s phenomenally individuated mental states. I begin by providing intuitive motivations for phenomenal mentalism and then proceed to sketch a more theoretical line of argument according to which phenomenal mentalism provides (...) the best explanation of the independently motivated thesis of access internalism. The result is a theory of epistemic justification that brings intuition and theory into reflective equilibrium. (shrink)
Philosophers, especially in recent years, have engaged in reflection upon the nature of experience. Such reflections have led them to draw a distinction between conscious and unconscious mentality in terms of whether or not it is like something to have a mental state. Reflection upon the history of psychology and upon contemporary cognitive science, however, identifies the distinction between conscious and unconscious mental states to be primarily one which is drawn in epistemic terms. Consciousness is an epistemic not (...) ion marking the special kind of first-person knowledge we have of our own mental states. Psychologists have found it expedient, for explanatory reasons, to ignore or reject the assumption that we have exhaustive first-person knowledge of our mental states and, in doing so, use the term â��unconsciousâ�� to indicate the peculiar epistemic status of certain mental states. It is argued that epistemic consciousness is distinct from the subjective-experiential notion of consciousness, from â��access-consciousnessâ�� and from higher-order thought conceptions of mental state consciousness, and that epistemic consciousness has an important role to play in philosophy of mind and in the history of psychology. (shrink)