Are knowledge ascriptions sensitive to social context?

Synthese 199 (3-4):8579-8610 (forthcoming)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Plausibly, how much is at stake in some salient practical task can affect how generously people ascribe knowledge of task-relevant facts. There is a metaphysical puzzle about this phenomenon, and an empirical puzzle. Metaphysically: there are competing theories about when and how practical stakes affect whether it is correct to ascribe knowledge. Which of these theories is the right one? Empirically: experimental philosophy has struggled to find a stakes-effect on people’s knowledge ascriptions. Is the alleged phenomenon just a philosopher’s fantasy? I propose a new psychological account of when and why people’s knowledge ascriptions are sensitive to stakes. My hypothesis is motivated by empirical research on how people’s judgements are sensitive to their social context. Specifically, people’s evaluations are sensitive to their ‘psychological distance’ from the scenarios they are considering. When using ‘fixed-evidence probes’, experimental philosophy has found that what’s at stake for a fictional character in a made-up scenario has little or no effect on how participants ascribe knowledge to them. My hypothesis predicts this finding: the scenarios are too ‘psychologically distant’ to participants. Our empirical puzzle is resolved: the stakes-effect often present in the wild won’t be present in vignette studies. (This illustrates a widespread problem with X-phi vignette studies: if people might judge differently in other social contexts, we can’t generalize from the results of these experiments. That is, vignette studies are of doubtful ‘external validity’.) The hypothesis also resolves our metaphysical puzzle. It predicts that people do not ascribe knowledge in a way deemed correct by any of the standard philosophical views, namely classical invariantism, interest-relative invariantism, and contextualism. Our knowledge ascriptions shift around in the way that’s most useful for social beings like us, and this pattern in our judgements can only be endorsed by a genuinely relativist metaphysics for knowledge.

Similar books and articles

Knowledge and Cancelability.Tammo Lossau - 2021 - Synthese 199 (1-2):397-405.
Intrusión pragmática y valor epistémico.Pascal Engel - 2011 - Areté. Revista de Filosofía 23 (1):25-51.
Knowledge, Stakes and Error: A Psychological Account.Alexander Dinges - 2019 - Frankfurt am Main, Deutschland: Klostermann.
Epistemic Contextualism and Linguistic Behavior.Wesley Buckwalter - 2017 - In Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Contextualism. New York: Routledge. pp. 44-56.
Epistemic Contextualism: A Normative Approach.Robin McKenna - 2013 - Dissertation, University of Edinburgh
Introduction: Knowledge Ascriptions - Their Semantics, Cognitive Bases and Social Functions.Jessica Brown & Mikkel Gerken - 2012 - In Jessica Brown & Mikkel Gerken (eds.), Knowledge Ascriptions. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 1-30.
Epistemic Contextualism: A Normative Approach.Robert James McKenna - 2013 - Dissertation, University of Edinburgh
Knowledge in Context.Nikola Kompa - 2014 - Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia 5 (1):58-71.

Analytics

Added to PP
2020-04-30

Downloads
329 (#34,222)

6 months
65 (#12,972)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Alexander Jackson
Boise State University

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Knowledge and its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
Studies in the Way of Words.Herbert Paul Grice - 1989 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Knowledge and Lotteries.John Hawthorne - 2003 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Knowledge and Practical Interests.Jason Stanley - 2005 - Oxford University Press.

View all 81 references / Add more references