Dretske’s theory of self-knowledge is interesting but peculiar and can seem implausible. He denies that we can know by introspection that we have thoughts, feelings, and experiences. But he allows that we can know by introspection what we think, feel, and experience. We consider two puzzles. The first puzzle, PUZZLE 1, is interpretive. Is there a way of understanding Dretske’s theory on which the knowledge affirmed by its positive side is different than the knowledge denied by its negative side? The (...) second puzzle, PUZZLE 2, is substantive. Each of the following theses has some prima facie plausibility: there is introspective knowledge of thoughts, knowledge requires evidence, and there are no experiences of thoughts. It is unclear, though, that these claims form a consistent set. These puzzles are not unrelated. Dretske’s theory of self-knowledge is a potential solution to PUZZLE 2 in that Dretske’s theory is meant to show how,, and can all be true. We provide a solution to PUZZLE 1 by appeal to Dretske’s early work in the philosophy of language on contrastive focus. We then distinguish between “Closure” and “Transmissibility”, and raise and answer a worry to the effect that Dretske’s theory of self-knowledge runs counter to Transmissibility. These results help to secure Dretske’s theory as a viable solution to PUZZLE 2. (shrink)
Epistemic contrastivism is the view that knowledge is a ternary relation between a person, a proposition and a set of contrast propositions. This view is in tension with widely shared accounts of practical reasoning: be it the claim that knowledge of the premises is necessary for acceptable practical reasoning based on them or sufficient for the acceptability of the use of the premises in practical reasoning, or be it the claim that there is a looser connection between knowledge and practical (...) reasoning. Given plausible assumptions, epistemic contrastivism implies that we should cut all links between knowledge and practical reasoning. However, the denial of any such link requires additional and independent arguments; if such arguments are lacking, then all the worse for epistemic contrastivism. (shrink)
A very natural view about perceptual knowledge is articulated, one on which perceptual knowledge is closely related to perceptual discrimination, and which fits well with a relevant alternatives account of knowledge. It is shown that this kind of proposal faces a problem, and various options for resolving this difficulty are explored. In light of this discussion, a two-tiered relevant alternatives account of perceptual knowledge is offered which avoids the closure problem. It is further shown how this proposal can: accommodate our (...) intuitions about perceptual knowledge and perceptual discrimination in terms of the notion of primary relevance, give an account of how alternatives can be rationally excluded without appeal to perceptual discrimination in terms of the notion of secondary relevance, and deal with the problem posed by inverted Gettier cases, and hence explain what it means to rationally exclude alternatives which are of secondary relevance. (shrink)
We report and discuss the results of a series of experiments that address a contrast effect exhibited by folk judgments about knowledge ascriptions. The contrast effect, which was first reported by Schaffer and Knobe, is an important aspect of our folk epistemology. However, there are competing theoretical accounts of it. We shed light on the various accounts by providing novel empirical data and theoretical considerations. Our key findings are, firstly, that belief ascriptions exhibit a similar contrast effect and, secondly, that (...) the contrast effect is systematically sensitive to the content of what is in contrast. We argue that these data pose significant challenges to contrastivist accounts of the contrast effect. Furthermore, some of the data set provides, in conjunction with some non-empirical epistemological arguments, some limited evidence for what we call a focal bias account of the data. According to the focal bias account, the contrast effects arise at least in part because epistemically relevant facts are not always adequately processed when they are presented in certain ways. (shrink)
Single-premise epistemic closure is the principle that: if one is in an evidential position to know that P where P entails Q, then one is in an evidential position to know that Q. In this paper, I defend the viability of opposition to closure. A key task for such an opponent is to precisely formulate a restricted closure principle that remains true to the motivations for abandoning unrestricted closure but does not endorse particularly egregious instances of closure violation. I focus (...) on two brands of epistemic theory that naturally incorporate closure restrictions. The first type holds that the truth value of a knowledge ascription is relative to a relevant question. The second holds that the truth value of a knowledge ascription is relative to a relevant topic. For each approach, I offer a formalization of a leading theory from the literature and use this formalization to evaluate the theory’s adequacy in terms of a precise set of desiderata. I conclude that neither theory succeeds in meeting these desiderata, casting doubt on the viability of the underlying approaches. Finally, I offer a novel variant of the topic-sensitive approach that fares better. (shrink)
One of contemporary epistemology's more important conceptual challenges is that of understanding the nature of fallibility. Part of why this matters is that it would contribute to our understanding the natures of fallible warrant and fallible knowledge. This article evaluates two candidates – and describes a shared form of failing. Each is concealedly infallibilist. This failing is all-too-representative of the difficulty of doing justice to the notion of fallibility within the notions of fallible warrant and fallible knowledge. The article ends (...) with a proposal for an improved form of conception of fallible warrant and fallible knowledge. (shrink)
Contrastivism about some concept says that the concept is relativized to sets of alternatives. Relative to some alternatives, the concept may apply, but relative to others, it may not. This article explores contrastivism about the central normative concepts of reasons and ought. Contrastivism about reasons says that a consideration may be a reason for an action A rather than one alternative, B, but may not be a reason for A rather than some other alternative, C. Likewise, contrastivism about ought says (...) that it might be that you ought to perform action A rather than action B, while it is not the case that you ought to perform A rather than some other alternative, C. It explores the shape and motivations for, and the relationship between, these contrastivist theories. (shrink)
Given how epistemologists conceive of understanding, to what degree do we understand the hypothesis of extended mind? If the extended mind debate is a substantive dispute, then we have only superficial understanding of the extended mind hypothesis. And if we have deep understanding of the extended mind hypothesis, then the debate over this hypothesis is nothing but a verbal dispute.
Do you know who you are? If the question seems unclear, it might owe to the notion of ‘knowing-wh’ (knowing-who, knowing-what, knowing-when, etc.). Such knowledge contrasts with ‘knowing-that’, the more familiar topic of epistemologists. But these days, knowing-wh is receiving more attention than ever, and here we will survey three current debates on the nature of knowing-wh. These debates concern, respectively, (1) whether all knowing-wh is reducible to knowing-that (‘generalized intellectualism’), (2) whether all knowing-wh is relativized to a contrast proposition (...) (‘contrastivism about knowing-wh’), and (3) whether the context-sensitivity of knowing-wh is a semantic or purely pragmatic phenomenon (‘contextualism vs. invariantism about knowing-wh’). (shrink)
In this paper, I draw on a recent account of perceptual knowledge according to which knowledge is contrastive. I extend the contrastive account of perceptual knowledge to yield a contrastive account of self-knowledge. Along the way, I develop a contrastive account of the propositional attitudes (beliefs, desires, regrets and so on) and suggest that a contrastive account of the propositional attitudes implies an anti-individualist account of propositional attitude concepts (the concepts of belief, desire, regret, and so on).
Many epistemologists have been attracted to the view that knowledge-wh can be reduced to knowledge-that. An important challenge to this, presented by Jonathan Schaffer, is the problem of “convergent knowledge”: reductive accounts imply that any two knowledge-wh ascriptions with identical true answers to the questions embedded in their wh-clauses are materially equivalent, but according to Schaffer, there are counterexamples to this equivalence. Parallel to this, Schaffer has presented a very similar argument against binary accounts of knowledge, and thereby in favour (...) of his alternative contrastive account, relying on similar examples of apparently inequivalent knowledge ascriptions, which binary accounts treat as equivalent. In this article, I develop a unified diagnosis and solution to these problems for the reductive and binary accounts, based on a general theory of knowledge ascriptions that embed presuppositional expressions. All of Schaffer's apparent counterexamples embed presuppositional expressions, and once the effect of these is taken into account, it becomes apparent that the counterexamples depend on an illicit equivocation of contexts. Since epistemologists often rely on knowledge ascriptions that embed presuppositional expressions, the general theory of them presented here will have ramifications beyond defusing Schaffer's argument. (shrink)
In recent work on the semantics of ‘knowledge’-attributions, a variety of accounts have been proposed that aim to explain the data about speaker intuitions in familiar cases such as DeRose’s Bank Case or Cohen’s Airport Case by means of pragmatic mechanisms, notably Gricean implicatures. This paper argues that pragmatic explanations of the data regarding ‘knowledge’-attributions are unsuccessful and concludes that in explaining those data we have to resort to accounts that (a) take those data at their semantic face value (Epistemic (...) Contextualism, Subject-Sensitive Invariantism or Epistemic Relativism), or (b) reject them on psychological grounds (Moderate Insensitive Invariantism). To establish this conclusion, the paper relies solely upon widely accepted assumptions about pragmatic theory, broadly construed, and on the Stalnakerian insight that linguistic communication takes place against the backdrop of a set of mutually accepted propositions: a conversation’s common ground. (shrink)
This paper defends strict invariantism against some philosophical and empirical data that have been taken to compromise it. The defence involves a combination of a priori philosophical arguments and empirically informed theorizing. The positive account of the data is an epistemic focal bias account that draws on cognitive psychology. It involves the assumption that, owing to limitations of the involved cognitive resources, intuitive judgments about knowledge ascriptions are generated by processing only a limited part of the available information?the part that (...) is in focus. According to the epistemic focal bias account, the intuitive judgments about knowledge ascriptions that constitute contrast effects amount to false positives, whereas the intuitive judgments that constitute salient alternatives effects amount to false negatives. I conclude by considering how the basic epistemic focal bias account may be developed further by reference to relevant alternatives theory in epistemology, pragmatics in the philosophy of language, and dual process theory in cognitive psychology. (shrink)
According to a view widely held by epistemic contextualists, the truth conditions of a knowledge claim depend on features of the context such as the presuppositions, interests and purposes of the conversational participants. Against this view, I defend an intentionalist account, according to which the truth conditions of a knowledge attribution are determined by the speaker’s intention. I show that an intentionalist version of contextualism has several advantages over its more widely accepted rival account.
Knowledge is widely thought to entail belief. But Radford has claimed to offer a counterexample: the case of the unconfident examinee. And Myers-Schulz and Schwitzgebel have claimed empirical vindication of Radford. We argue, in defense of orthodoxy, that the unconfident examinee does indeed have belief, in the epistemically relevant sense of dispositional belief. We buttress this with empirical results showing that when the dispositional conception of belief is specifically elicited, people’s intuitions then conform with the view that knowledge entails (dispositional) (...) belief. (shrink)
Many epistemologists treat knowledge as a binary relation that holds between a subject and a proposition. The contrastive account of knowledge developed by Jonathan Schaffer maintains that knowledge is a ternary, contrastive relation that holds between a subject, a proposition, and a set of contextually salient alternative propositions the subject’s evidence must eliminate. For the contrastivist, it is never simply the case that S knows that p; in every case of knowledge S knows that p rather than q. This paper (...) offers a counterexample to the contrastive account of knowledge. Part 1 summarizes the contrastive theory developed by Schaffer in a series of recent papers. Part 2 presents an example from a class of cases characterized by compatibility between the proposition p and each of the alternative propositions that occupy q. In such cases the alternative propositions that partially constitute the ternary contrastive relation play no role in the acquisition of knowledge. Part 3 considers and rejects potential responses to the counterexample. The paper concludes that the contrastive theory is not a general account of knowledge. (shrink)
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)
(Schroeder 2007) presents a puzzle about negative reason existentials—claims like ‘There's no reason to cry over spilled milk’. Some of these claims are intuitively true, but we also seem to be committed to the existence of the very reasons that are said not to exist. I argue that Schroeder's own pragmatic solution to this puzzle is unsatisfactory, and propose my own based on a contrastive account of reasons, according to which reasons are fundamentally reasons for one thing rather than another, (...) instead of reasons for things simpliciter, as has been traditionally held. (shrink)
Contrastivism about reasons is the view that ‘reason’ expresses a relation with an argument place for a set of alternatives. This is in opposition to a more traditional theory on which reasons are reasons for things simpliciter. I argue that contrastivism provides a solution to a puzzle involving reason claims that explicitly employ ‘rather than’. Contrastivism solves the puzzle by allowing that some fact might be a reason for an action out of one set of alternatives without being a reason (...) for that action out of a different set of alternatives. (shrink)
Tracking theories of knowledge are widely known to have the consequence that knowledge is not closed. Recent arguments by Vogel and Hawthorne claim both that there are no legitimate examples of knowledge without closure and that the costs of theories that deny closure are too great. This paper considers the tracking theories of Dretske and Nozick and the arguments by Vogel and Hawthorne. We reject the arguments of Vogel and Hawthorne and evaluate the costs of closure denial for tracking theories (...) of knowledge. (shrink)
Could the standard interpretation of Gettier cases reflect a fundamental confusion? Indeed so. How well can epistemologists argue for the truth of that standard interpretation? Not so well. A methodological mistake is allowing them not to notice how they are simply (and inappropriately) being infallibilists when regarding Gettiered beliefs as failing to be knowledge. There is no Gettier problem that we have not merely created for ourselves by unwittingly being infallibilists about knowledge.
Abstract: Some recent arguments against the classical invariantist account of knowledge exploit the idea that there is a ‘knowledge norm’ for assertion. It is claimed that, given the existence of this norm, certain intuitions about assertability support contextualism, or contrastivism, over classical invariantism. In this paper I show that, even if we accept the existence of a knowledge norm, these assertability-based arguments fail. The classical invariantist can accommodate and explain the relevant intuitions about assertability, in a way that retains the (...) idea that knowledge is the epistemic norm for assertion. When we consider the role of assertion as a conversational act, it becomes plausible that a subject's epistemic warrant to assert can be defeated even though she has knowledge. This defeasibility thesis is what allows the classical invariantist to accommodate and explain the kinds of intuitions on which assertability-based arguments depend. (shrink)
Suppose that Ann says, “Keith knows that the bank will be open tomorrow.” Her audience may well agree. Her knowledge ascription may seem true. But now suppose that Ben—in a different context—also says “Keith knows that the bank will be open tomorrow.” His audience may well disagree. His knowledge ascription may seem false. Indeed, a number of philosophers have claimed that people’s intuitions about knowledge ascriptions are context sensitive, in the sense that the very same knowledge ascription can seem true (...) in one conversational context but false in another. This purported fact about people’s intuitions serves as one of the main pieces of evidence for epistemic contextualism. (shrink)
This paper raises a problem for contrastivist accounts of knowledge. It is argued that contrastivism fails to succeed in providing a modest solution to the sceptical paradox—i.e. one according to which we have knowledge of a wide range of ordinary empirical propositions whilst failing to know the various anti-sceptical hypotheses entailed by them—whilst, at the same time, retaining a contrastivist version of the closure principle for knowledge.
Contrastive epistemologists say knowledge displays the ternary relation “S knows p rather than q”. I argue that “S knows p rather than q” is often equivalent to “S knows p rather than not-p” and hence equivalent to “S knows p”. The result is that contrastive knowledge is often binary knowledge disguised.
Skepticism seems to have excessive consequences: the impossibility of successful enquiry and differentiated judgment. Yet if skepticism could avoid these consequences, it would seem idle. I offer an account of moderate skepticism that avoids both problems. Moderate skepticism avoids excessiveness because skeptical reflection and ordinary enquiry are immune from one another: a skeptical hypothesis is out of place when raised with in an ordinary enquiry. Conversely, the result of an ordinary enquiry cannot be used to disprove skepticism. This ‘immunity’ can (...) be explained by theories such as contextualism, or sensitive invariantism. Moderate skepticism avoids idleness, because it can eliminate dogmatic elements from our commitments. An analogy is used to illustrate this: Consider someone who is rootless—someone who doesn't have a home. She won't take this conclusion to undermine her judgment that she is flying home for the holidays—even if she is sleeping in the guest bedroom. Similarly, a skeptic won't take the skeptical conclusion to undermine ordinary claims to know. Yet concluding that one is rootless is significant: it can shape one's commitments; for instance it can check one's nationalism. Similarly, accepting the skeptical conclusion is significant; it can undermine dogmatic commitments and ultimately bring about intellectual catharsis. (shrink)
This paper examines the relationship between perceptual knowledge and discrimination in the light of the so-called ‘relevant alternatives’ intuition. It begins by outlining an intuitive relevant alternatives account of perceptual knowledge which incorporates the insight that there is a close connection between perceptual knowledge and the possession of relevant discriminatory abilities. It is argued, however, that in order to resolve certain problems that face this view, it is essential to recognise an important distinction between favouring and discriminating epistemic support that (...) is often overlooked in the literature. This distinction complicates the story regarding how an alternative becomes relevant, and in doing so weakens the connection between perceptual knowledge and discrimination. The theory that results, however—what I term a ‘two-tiered’ relevant alternatives theory of perceptual knowledge—accommodates many of our intuitions about perceptual knowledge and so avoids the revisionism of some recent proposals in the epistemological literature. (shrink)
In "Knowing the Answer" I argued that knowledge-wh is question-relative. For example, to know when the movie starts is to know the answer p to the question Q of when the movie starts. Berit Brogaard and Jesper Kallestrup have each responded with insightful critiques of my argument, and novel accounts of knowledge-wh. I am grateful to them both for continuing the discussion in so thoughtful a way.
Epistemological contextualism - the claim that the truth-value of knowledge-attributions can vary with the context of the attributor - has recently faced a whole series of objections. The most serious one, however, has not been discussed much so far: the factivity objection. In this paper, I explain what the objection is and present three different versions of the objection. I then show that there is a good way out for the contextualist. However, in order to solve the problem the contextualist (...) has to accept a relationalist version of contextualism. (shrink)
Epistemological contextualism - the claim that the truth-value of knowledge-attributions can vary with the context of the attributor - has recently faced a whole series of objections. The most serious one, however, has not been discussed much so far: the factivity objection. In this paper, I explain what the objection is and present three different versions of the objection. I then show that there is a good way out for the contextualist. However, in order to solve the probleIn the contextualist (...) has to accept a relationalist version of contextualism. (shrink)
One of the most recent trends in epistemology is contrastivism. It can be characterized as the thesis that knowledge is a ternary relation between a subject, a proposition known and a contrast proposition. According to contrastivism, knowledge attributions have the form “S knows that p, rather than q”. In this paper I raise several problems for contrastivism: it lacks plausibility for many cases of knowledge, is too relaxed concerning the third relatum, and overlooks a further relativity of the knowledge relation.
A central intuition many epistemologists seem to have is that knowledge is distinctively valuable. In his paper 'Radical Scepticism, Epistemic Luck and Epistemic Value', Duncan Pritchard rejects the virtue-theoretic explanation of this intuition. This explanation says that knowledge is distinctively valuable because it is a cognitive achievement. It is maintained, in the first place, that the arguments Pritchard musters against the thesis that knowledge is a cognitive achievement are unconvincing. It is argued, in the second place, that even if the (...) arguments against the thesis that knowledge is a cognitive achievement were convincing, there is another explanation of the intuition that knowledge has final value available: the question-relative treatment of knowledge. (shrink)
We give a general description of a class of contrastive constructions, intended to capture what is common to contrastive knowledge, belief, hope, fear, understanding and other cases where one expresses a propositional attitude in terms of “rather than”. The crucial element is the agent's incapacity to distinguish some possibilities from others. Contrastivity requires a course-graining of the set of possible worlds. As a result, contrastivity will usually cut across logical consequence, so that an agent can have an attitude to p (...) rather than q but not to r rather than q , where r is a logical consequence of p . We relate these ideas to some general issues about thought, such as the question of whether all possibilities that can be distinguished in emotion can be distinguished in belief. (shrink)
Why do our intuitive knowledge ascriptions shift when a subject's practical interests are mentioned? Many efforts to answer this question have focused on empirical linguistic evidence for context sensitivity in knowledge claims, but the empirical psychology of belief formation and attribution also merits attention. The present paper examines a major psychological factor (called ?need-for-closure?) relevant to ascriptions involving practical interests. Need-for-closure plays an important role in determining whether one has a settled belief; it also influences the accuracy of one's cognition. (...) Given these effects, it is a mistake to assume that high- and low-stakes subjects provided with the same initial evidence are perceived to enjoy belief formation that is the same as far as truth-conducive factors are concerned. This mistaken assumption has underpinned contextualist and interest-relative invariantist treatments of cases in which contrasting knowledge ascriptions are elicited by descriptions of subjects with the same initial information and different stakes. The paper argues that intellectualist invariantism can easily accommodate such cases. (shrink)
A number of philosophers have recently defended “contrastivist” theories of knowledge, according to which knowledge is a relation between at least the following three relata: a knower, a proposition, and a contrast set. I examine six arguments that Jonathan Schaffer has given for this thesis, and show that those arguments do not favour contrastivism over a rival view that I call “evidentiary relativism”. I then argue that evidentiary relativism accounts for more data than does contrastivism.
I offer a critical treatment of the contrastivist response to the problem of radical scepticism. In particular, I argue that if contrastivism is understood along externalist lines then it is unnecessary, while if it is understood along internalist lines then it is intellectually dissatisfying. Moreover, I claim that a closer examination of the conditions under which it is appropriate to claim knowledge reveals that we can accommodate many of the intuitions appealed to by contrastivists without having to opt for this (...) particular brand of epistemological revisionism. (shrink)
It is argued that it is beneficial to view the debate regarding radical scepticism through the lens of epistemic value. In particular, it is claimed that we should regard radical scepticism as aiming to deprive us of an epistemic standing that is of special value to us, and that this methodological constraint on our dealings with radical scepticism potentially has important ramifications for how we assess the success of an anti-sceptical strategy.
How must knowledge be formed, if made in the image of assertion? That is, given that knowledge plays the normative role of governing what one may assert, what can be inferred about the structure of the knowledge relation from this role? I will argue that what one may assert is sensitive to the question under discussion, and conclude that what one knows must be relative to a question. In short, knowledge in the image of assertion is question-relative knowledge.
Knowledge ascriptions are contrast-sensitive. One natural explanation for this is that the knowledge relation is contrastive ( s knows that p rather than q ). But can the binary view of knowledge ( s knows that p ) explain contrast-sensitivity? I review some of the linguistic data supporting contrast-sensitivity, and critique the three main binary explanations for contrast-sensitivity. I conclude that the contrast-sensitivity of knowledge ascriptions shows that knowledge is a contrastive relation.
General contrastivism holds that all claims of reasons are relative to contrast classes. This approach applies to explanation (reasons why things happen), moral philosophy (reasons for action), and epistemology (reasons for belief), and it illuminates moral dilemmas, free will, and the grue paradox. In epistemology, contrast classes point toward an account of justified belief that is compatible with reliabilism and other externalisms. Contrast classes also provide a model for Pyrrhonian scepticism based on suspending belief about which contrast class is relevant. (...) This view contrasts with contextualism, invariantism, and Schaffer's contrastivism. (shrink)
Contrastivism is the claim that the knowledge relation is ternary, it relates three relata: a subject, a proposition, and a class of contrastive propositions. The present paper is a discussion of Jonathan Schaffer's arguments in favour of contrastivism. The case is made that these are unconvincing: the traditional binary account of knowledge can handle the phenomena that ternarity is claimed to handle in a superior way.
A strong, strictly virtue- based , and at the same time truth-centered framework for virtue epistemology (VE) is proposed that bases VE upon a clearly motivating epistemic virtue, inquisitiveness or curiosity in a very wide sense, characterizes the purely executive capacities-virtues as a means for the truth-goal set by the former, and, finally, situates the remaining, partly motivating and partly executive virtues in relation to this central stock of virtues. Character-trait epistemic virtues are presented as hybrids, partly moral, partly purely (...) epistemic. In order to make the approach virtue- based , it is argued that the central virtue (inquisitiveness or curiosity) is responsible for the value of truth: truth is valuable to cognizers because they are inquisitive, and most other virtues are a means for satisfying inquisitiveness. On can usefully combine this virtue-based account of the motivation for acquiring knowledge with a Sosa-style analysis of the concept “knowledge”, which brings to the forefront virtues-capacities, in order to obtain a full-blooded, “strong” VE. (shrink)
In this paper, I do three things. First, I offer an overview of an anti- luck epistemology, as set out in my book, Epistemic Luck. Second, I attempt to meet some of the main criticisms that one might level against the key theses that I propose in this work. And finally, third, I sketch some of the ways in which the strategy of anti- luck epistemology can be developed in new directions.