Williamson on knowledge and psychological explanation

Philosophical Studies 116 (1):37-52 (2003)
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Abstract

According to many philosophers, psychological explanation canlegitimately be given in terms of belief and desire, but not in termsof knowledge. To explain why someone does what they do (so the common wisdom holds) you can appeal to what they think or what they want, but not what they know. Timothy Williamson has recently argued against this view. Knowledge, Williamson insists, plays an essential role in ordinary psychological explanation.Williamson's argument works on two fronts.First, he argues against the claim that, unlike knowledge, belief is``composite'' (representable as a conjunction of a narrow and a broadcondition). Belief's failure to be composite, Williamson thinks, undermines the usual motivations for psychological explanation in terms of belief rather than knowledge.Unfortunately, we claim, the motivations Williamson argues against donot depend on the claim that belief is composite, so what he saysleaves the case for a psychology of belief unscathed.Second, Williamson argues that knowledge can sometimes provide abetter explanation of action than belief can.We argue that, in the cases considered, explanations that cite beliefs(but not knowledge) are no less successful than explanations that citeknowledge. Thus, we conclude that Williamson's arguments fail both coming andgoing: they fail to undermine a psychology of belief, and they fail tomotivate a psychology of knowledge.

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Author Profiles

Jonathan Cohen
University of California, San Diego
P. D. Magnus
State University of New York, Albany

Citations of this work

The disvalue of knowledge.David Papineau - 2019 - Synthese 198 (6):5311-5332.
Knowledge and mentality.Carlotta Pavese - 2021 - Philosophical Perspectives 35 (1):359-382.
Belief is prior to knowledge.David Rose - 2015 - Episteme 12 (3):385-399.
Extended Cognition and Propositional Memory.J. Adam Carter & Jesper Kallestrup - 2015 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 92 (3):691-714.
Acting on true belief.Jens Kipper - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (9):2221-2237.

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References found in this work

The Language of Thought.J. A. Fodor - 1978 - Critica 10 (28):140-143.
Supervenience and Mind: Selected Philosophical Essays.Jaegwon Kim - 1993 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (4):579-607.
Psychophysical supervenience.Jaegwon Kim - 1982 - Philosophical Studies 41 (January):51-70.
Remnants of Meaning.Stephen Schiffer - 1989 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 50 (2):409-423.

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