Acta Analytica 28 (2):161-177 (2013)

Matjaz Potrc
University of Ljubljana
Terry Horgan
University of Arizona
The semantic blindness objection to contextualism challenges the view that there is no incompatibility between (i) denials of external-world knowledge in contexts where radical-deception scenarios are salient, and (ii) affirmations of external-world knowledge in contexts where such scenarios are not salient. Contextualism allegedly attributes a gross and implausible form of semantic incompetence in the use of the concept of knowledge to people who are otherwise quite competent in its use; this blindness supposedly consists in wrongly judging that there is genuine conflict between claims of type (i) and type (ii). We distinguish two broad versions of contextualism: relativistic-content contextualism and categorical-content contextualism. We argue that although the semantic blindness objection evidently is applicable to the former, it does not apply to the latter. We describe a subtle form of conflict between claims of types (i) and (ii), which we call différance-based affirmatory conflict. We argue that people confronted with radical-deception scenarios are prone to experience a form of semantic myopia (as we call it): a failure to distinguish between différance-based affirmatory conflict and outright inconsistency. Attributing such semantic myopia to people who are otherwise competent with the concept of knowledge explains the bafflement about knowledge-claims that so often arises when radical-deception scenarios are made salient. Such myopia is not some crude form of semantic blindness at all; rather, it is an understandable mistake grounded in semantic competence itself: what we call a competence-based performance error
Keywords Epistemic contextualism  Semantic blindness objection  Cartesian scenarios  Relativistic-content contextualism  Categorical-content contextualism  Différance based affirmatory conflict  Competence based performance errors
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DOI 10.1007/s12136-012-0164-2
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