Knowledge and normality

Synthese 198 (12):11673-11694 (2021)

Abstract

In this paper, we propose a general constraint on theories of knowledge that we call ‘normalism’. Normalism is a view about the epistemic threshold that separates knowledge from mere true belief; its basic claim is that one knows only if one has at least a normal amount of epistemic support for one’s belief. We argue that something like normalism is required to do full justice to the normative role of knowledge in many key everyday practices, such as assertion, inquiry, and testimony. The view of normality we employ to flesh out this claim is inspired by experimental work on the folk notion of normality, which suggests that folk judgments of what is ‘normal’ are based upon both statistical averages as well as normative ideals within the relevant target domain. Adopting this notion of normality to set the threshold for knowledge results in a view upon which knowledge is routinely available on an everyday basis without being a merely trivial achievement. We explore several interesting consequences of this view, including the implication that the threshold for knowing may change as, e.g., the ease of availability of information in an epistemic community changes over time. The result is a ‘shifty’ view of knowledge which nonetheless retains more stability than standard contextualist or pragmatic encroachment approaches.

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Author Profiles

Joachim Horvath
Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Jennifer Nado
University of Hong Kong

References found in this work

Knowledge and Practical Interests.Jason Stanley - 2005 - Oxford University Press.
Elusive Knowledge.David K. Lewis - 1996 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74 (4):549 – 567.
Justifications, Excuses, and Sceptical Scenarios.Timothy Williamson - forthcoming - In Fabian Dorsch & Julien Dutant (eds.), The New Evil Demon. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Knowledge and its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 64 (1):200-201.

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