Conceptual equivocation and epistemic relevance

Dialectica 63 (2):117-132 (2009)

Mikkel Gerken
University of Southern Denmark
Much debate has surrounded "switching" scenarios in which a subject's reasoning is said to exhibit the fallacy of equivocation ( Burge 1988 ; Boghossian 1992, 1994 ). Peter Ludlow has argued that such scenarios are "epistemically prevalent" and, therefore, epistemically relevant alternatives ( Ludlow 1995a ). Since a distinctive feature of the cases in question is that the subject blamelessly engages in conceptual equivocation, we may label them 'equivocational switching cases'. Ludlow's influential argument occurs in a discussion about compatibilism with regards to anti-individualism (or content externalism) and self-knowledge. However, the issue has wide-reaching consequences for many areas of epistemology. Arguably, the claim that equivocational switching cases are epistemically relevant may bear on the epistemology of inference, testimony, memory, group rationality and belief revision. Ludlow's argument proceeds from a now well-known "down to Earth" switching-case of a subject, Biff, who travels between the US and the UK. I argue that Ludlow's case-based argument fails to support the general claim that conceptual equivocational switching cases are prevalent and epistemically relevant. Thus, the discussion addresses the basis of some poorly understood issues regarding the epistemological consequences of anti-individualism. Simultaneously, the discussion is broadened from the narrow focus on self-knowledge. Finally, the critical discussion serves as the basis for some general reflections on epistemic relevance and the epistemic risks associated with conceptual equivocation. Specifically, I suggest that philosophy is an area where the risk of conceptual equivocation is extraordinarily high.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.1746-8361.2008.01169.x
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 45,685
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.
Reference and Consciousness.J. Campbell - 2002 - Oxford University Press.
Elusive Knowledge.David K. Lewis - 1996 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74 (4):549 – 567.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 22 (3):287-297.
Reference and Consciousness.John Campbell - 2002 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 72 (2):490-494.

View all 35 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Warrant and Action.Mikkel Gerken - 2011 - Synthese 178 (3):529-547.
Internalism and Externalism in the Epistemology of Testimony.Mikkel Gerken - 2013 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 87 (3):532-557.
Conceptual Equivocation and Warrant by Reasoning.Mikkel Gerken - 2011 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89 (3):381-400.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
98 ( #87,257 of 2,280,837 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #249,587 of 2,280,837 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature