Knowledge and asymmetric loss

Review of Philosophy and Psychology:1-22 (forthcoming)
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This paper offers a novel account of practical factor effects on knowledge attributions that is consistent with the denial of contextualism, relativism and pragmatic encroachemt. The account goes as follows. Knowledge depends on factors like safety, reliability or probability. In many cases, it is uncertain just how safe, how reliably formed or how probable the target proposition is. This means that we have to estimate these quantities in order to form knowledge judgements. Such estimates of uncertain quantities are independently known to be affected by pragmatic factors. When overestimation is costlier than underestimation, for instance, we tend to underestimate the relevant quantity to avoid greater losses. On the suggested account, high stakes and other pragmatic factors induce such “asymmetric loss functions” on quantities like safety, reliability and probability. This skews our estimates of these quantities and thereby our judgements about knowledge. The resulting theory is an error-theory, but one that rationlizes the error in question.



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