A noncontextualist account of contextualist linguistic data

Acta Analytica 20 (2):56-79 (2005)
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The paper takes as its starting point the observation that people can be led to retract knowledge claims when presented with previously ignored error possibilities, but offers a noncontextualist explanation of the data. Fallibilist epistemologies are committed to the existence of two kinds of Kp -falsifying contingencies: (i) Non-Ignorable contingencies [NI-contingencies] and (ii) Properly-Ignorable contingencies [PI-contingencies]. For S to know that p, S must be in an epistemic position to rule out all NI-contingencies, but she need not be able to rule out the PI-contingencies. What is required vis-à-vis PI-contingencies is that they all be false . In mentioning PI-contingencies, an interlocutor can lead S mistakenly to think that these contingencies are NI-contingencies, when in fact they are not. Since S cannot rule out these newly mentioned contingencies and since she mistakenly takes them to be NI-contingencies , it is quite natural that she retract her earlier knowledge claim. In short, mentioning NI-contingencies creates a distortion effect. It makes S think that the standards for knowledge are higher than they actually are, which in turn explains why she mistakenly thinks she lacks knowledge. Conclusion: The primary linguistic data offered in support of contextualism can be explained without resorting to contextualism.

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Mylan Engel Jr
Northern Illinois University

Citations of this work

Contextualism and the Factivity Problem.Peter Baumann - 2008 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 76 (3):580-602.

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References found in this work

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Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man.Thomas Reid - 1785 - University Park, Pa.: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Derek R. Brookes & Knud Haakonssen.
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Scorekeeping in a language game.David Lewis - 1979 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 8 (1):339--359.
Solving the skeptical problem.Keith DeRose - 1995 - Philosophical Review 104 (1):1-52.

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