Relativism, knowledge and understanding

Episteme 11 (1):35-52 (2014)
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Abstract

The arguments for and against a truth-relativist semantics for propositional knowledge attributions (KTR) have been debated almost exclusively in the philosophy of language. But what implications would this semantic thesis have in epistemology? This question has been largely unexplored. The aim of this paper is to establish and critique several ramifications of KTR in mainstream epistemology. The first section of the paper develops, over a series of arguments, the claim that MacFarlane's (2005, 2010) core argument for KTR ultimately motivates (for better or worse) the extension of a truth-relativist semantics to a subset of understanding attributions – attributions of understanding-why. I conclude by presenting some reasons to think that even if KTR were otherwise plausible, a truth-relativist semantics for understanding-why attributions is not. These claims, taken together, constitute a kind of epistemological argument against MacFarlane-style truth-relativism for knowledge attributions.

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J. Adam Carter
University of Glasgow

Citations of this work

Relativism.Maria Baghramian & Adam J. Carter - 2020 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Relativism.Chris Swoyer - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Objectual understanding, factivity and belief.J. Adam Carter & Emma C. Gordon - 2016 - In Martin Grajner & Pedro Schmechtig (eds.), Epistemic Reasons, Norms and Goals. De Gruyter. pp. 423-442.
Epistemological Implications of Relativism.J. Adam Carter - 2017 - In Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Contextualism. Routledge. pp. 292-301.

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References found in this work

Knowledge and its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas Samuel Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Knowledge and Lotteries.John Hawthorne - 2003 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

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