Knowledge is Not Our Norm of Assertion

In Blake Roeber, Ernest Sosa, Matthias Steup & John Turri (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, 3rd edition. Wiley-Blackwell (2024)
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The norm of assertion, to be in force, is a social norm. What is the content of our social norm of assertion? Various linguistic arguments purport to show that to assert is to represent oneself as knowing. But to represent oneself as knowing does not entail that assertion is governed by a knowledge norm. At best these linguistic arguments provide indirect support for a knowledge norm. Furthermore, there are alternative, non-normative explanations for the linguistic data (as in recent work from Van Elswyk). Direct arguments would rely on normative judgments about the permissibility or impermissibility of assertions with and without the speaker knowing the content asserted. John Turri's work experimental results purport to show that our norm of assertion is factive, and probably knowledge. But as a number of recent experimentalists (Kneer, Reuter and Broessel, Marsili and Wiegmann) have shown, Turri's results rely on the problemmatic use of 'should' as in 'Maria should assert that she owns a 1990 watch.' Correcting for this, these experimentalists provide strong evidence that our norm of assertion is not factive. The standard reply to evidence like this from the assertion of unlucky falsehoods is the excuse maneuver. But Marsili and Wiegmann, following Turri's protocol for testing for excuse validation, show that participants who judge that assertions unlucky falsehoods are permissible are not guilty of excuse validation. Given our current understanding of the experimental evidence, knowledge is not our norm of assertion.



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Peter Graham
University of California, Riverside

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