Acting on true belief

Philosophical Studies 175 (9):2221-2237 (2018)
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This paper critically examines Timothy Williamson’s claim that knowledge figures essentially in explanations of behavior. Since this claim implies that knowledge is causally efficacious in bringing about actions, it plays a key role in Williamson’s case for knowledge being a mental state. I first discuss a central example of Williamson, in which a burglar ransacks a house. I dispute Williamson’s claim that the best explanation of the burglar’s behavior invokes the burglar’s state of knowledge as he enters the house, by arguing that there is a better explanation that only mentions the burglar’s beliefs. Since the reasons that explain the superiority of my proposed explanation generalize, I conclude that one does not have to invoke a subject’s state of knowledge to explain behavior. Nevertheless, Williamson’s explanation is superior to belief-based explanations if one only considers facts that obtain before the action takes place. In the final part of the paper, I argue that this fact does not help Williamson’s case for considering knowledge as a mental state.



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Jens Kipper
University of Rochester

Citations of this work

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References found in this work

Knowledge and its limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Knowledge and its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 64 (1):200-201.
Knowledge and Its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2003 - Philosophical Quarterly 53 (210):105-116.
Knowledge and Its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2005 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 70 (2):452-458.
Alief and Belief.Tamar Szabó Gendler - 2008 - Journal of Philosophy 105 (10):634-663.

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