One of the main goals of epistemologists is to provide a substantive and explanatory account of the conditions under which a belief has some desirable epistemic status (typically, justification or knowledge). According to the reliabilist approach to epistemology, any adequate account will need to mention the reliability of the process responsible for the belief, or truth-conducive considerations more generally. Historically, one major motivation for reliabilism—and one source of its enduring interest—is its naturalistic potential. According to reliabilists, epistemic properties can be (...) explained in terms of reliability, which in turn can be understood without reference to any unreduced epistemic notions, such as evidence or knowledge. This article begins by surveying some of the main forms of reliabilism, concentrating on process reliabilism as a theory of justification. It proceeds to review some of the main objections to reliabilism, and some of the responses that have been offered on the reliabilist’s behalf. After canvassing some recent developments in reliabilist epistemology, the article concludes by considering various cousins and spin-offs of reliabilist epistemology, including virtue reliabilism and various evidentialist-reliabilist hybrids. (shrink)
According to a rich tradition in philosophy of action, intentional action requires practical knowledge: someone who acts intentionally knows what they are doing while they are doing it. Piñeros Glasscock argues that an anti-luminosity argument, of the sort developed in Williamson, can be readily adapted to provide a reductio of an epistemic condition on intentional action. This paper undertakes a rescue mission on behalf of an epistemic condition on intentional action. We formulate and defend a version of an epistemic condition (...) that is free from any luminosity commitments. While this version of an epistemic condition escapes reductio, it comes with substantive commitments of its own. In particular, we will see that it forces us to deny the existence of any essentially intentional actions. We go on to argue that this consequence should be embraced. On the resulting picture, intentional action is not luminous. But it still entails practical knowledge. (shrink)
This paper argues that we should assign certainty a central place in epistemology. While epistemic certainty played an important role in the history of epistemology, recent epistemology has tended to dismiss certainty as an unattainable ideal, focusing its attention on knowledge instead. I argue that this is a mistake. Attending to certainty attributions in the wild suggests that much of our everyday knowledge qualifies, in appropriate contexts, as certain. After developing a semantics for certainty ascriptions, I put certainty to explanatory (...) work. Specifically, I argue that by taking certainty as our central epistemic notion, we can shed light on a variety of important topics, including evidence and evidential probability, epistemic modals, and the normative constraints on credence and assertion. (shrink)
This essay defends a novel form of virtue epistemology: Modal Virtue Epistemology. It borrows from traditional virtue epistemology the idea that knowledge is a type of skillful performance. But it goes on to understand skillfulness in purely modal terms — that is, in terms of success across a range of counterfactual scenarios. We argue that this approach offers a promising way of synthesizing virtue epistemology with a modal account of knowledge, according to which knowledge is safe belief. In particular, we (...) argue that the modal elements of the view offer important advantages over traditional virtue epistemology, which assigns a central explanatory role to aptness. At the same time, the virtue epistemological elements of the theory reveal new avenues for overcoming obstacles to traditional modal accounts of knowledge. Finally, we highlight the advantages of Modal Virtue Epistemology over alternative syntheses, such as Pritchard's (2012) hybrid approach. (shrink)
One attractive feature of process reliabilism is its reductive potential: it promises to explain justification in entirely non-epistemic terms. In this paper, I argue that the phenomenon of epistemic defeat poses a serious challenge for process reliabilism’s reductive ambitions. The standard process reliabilist analysis of defeat is the ‘Alternative Reliable Process Account’ (ARP). According to ARP, whether S’s belief is defeated depends on whether S has certain reliable processes available to her which, if they had been used, would have resulted (...) in S not holding the belief in question. Unfortunately, ARP proves untenable. I show, by way of counterexample, that ARP fails to articulate either necessary or sufficient conditions on defeat. Process reliabilists must either provide an alternative reductive account of defeat or renounce their reductive aspirations. (shrink)
This paper develops a question-sensitive theory of intention. We show that this theory explains some puzzling closure properties of intention. In particular, it can be used to explain why one is rationally required to intend the means to one’s ends, even though one is not rationally required to intend all the foreseen consequences of one’s intended actions. It also explains why rational intention is not always closed under logical implication, and why one can only intend outcomes that one believes to (...) be under one’s control. (shrink)
The past decade has seen a protracted debate over the semantics of epistemic modals. According to contextualists, epistemic modals quantify over the possibilities compatible with some contextually determined group’s information. Relativists often object that contextualism fails to do justice to the way we assess utterances containing epistemic modals for truth or falsity. However, recent empirical work seems to cast doubt on the relativist’s claim, suggesting that ordinary speakers’ judgments about epistemic modals are more closely in line with contextualism than relativism (...) (Knobe & Yalcin 2014; Khoo 2015). This paper furthers the debate by reporting new empirical research revealing a previously overlooked dimension of speakers’ truth-value judgments concerning epistemic modals. Our results show that these judgments vary systematically with the question under discussion in the conversational context in which the utterance is being assessed. We argue that this ‘QUD effect’ is difficult to explain if contextualism is true, but is readily explained by a suitably flexible form of relativism. (shrink)
One leading approach to justification comes from the reliabilist tradition, which maintains that a belief is justified provided that it is reliably formed. Another comes from the ‘Reasons First’ tradition, which claims that a belief is justified provided that it is based on reasons that support it. These two approaches are typically developed in isolation from each other; this essay motivates and defends a synthesis. On the view proposed here, justification is understood in terms of an agent’s reasons for belief, (...) which are in turn analyzed along reliabilist lines: an agent's reasons for belief are the states that serve as inputs to their reliable processes. I show that this synthesis allows each tradition to profit from the other's explanatory resources. In particular, it enables reliabilists to explain epistemic defeat without abandoning their naturalistic ambitions. I go on to compare my proposed synthesis with other hybrid versions of reliabilism that have been proposed in the literature. (shrink)
When is it permissible to rely on a proposition in practical reasoning? Standard answers to this question face serious challenges. This paper uses these challenges to motivate a certainty norm of practical reasoning. This norm holds that one is permitted to rely on p in practical reasoning if and only if p is epistemically certain. After developing and defending this norm, I consider its broader implications. Taking a certainty norm seriously calls into question traditional assumptions about the importance of belief (...) and knowledge. In particular, it raises the possibility that many epistemological jobs that are usually assigned to belief and knowledge should be reallocated to two related but importantly different states: psychological and epistemic certainty. (shrink)
Relativism and expressivism offer two different semantic frameworks for grappling with a similar cluster of issues. What is the difference between these two frameworks? Should they be viewed as rivals? If so, how should we choose between them? This chapter sheds light on these questions. After providing an overview of relativism and expressivism, I discuss three potential choice points: their relation to truth conditional semantics, their pictures of belief and communication, and their explanations of disagreement.
According to expressivists, normative language expresses desire-like states of mind. According to noncognitivists, normative beliefs have a desire-like functional role. What is the relation between these two doctrines? It is widely assumed that expressivism commits you to noncognitivism, and vice versa. This paper against this assumption. I advance a view that combines a noncognitivist psychology with a descriptivist semantics for normative language. While this might seem like an ungainly hybrid, I argue that it has important advantages over more familiar metaethical (...) positions. The noncognitivist aspect of the theory captures all of the explanatory benefits standardly associated with expressivism. At the same time, the descriptivist element allows us to avoid the semantic headaches for expressivism. (shrink)
We often claim to know what might be—or probably is—the case. Modal knowledge along these lines creates a puzzle for information-sensitive semantics for epistemic modals. This paper develops a solution. We start with the idea that knowledge requires safe belief: a belief amounts to knowledge only if it could not easily have been held falsely. We then develop an interpretation of the modal operator in safety that allows it to non-trivially embed information-sensitive contents. The resulting theory avoids various paradoxes that (...) arise from other accounts of modal knowledge. It also delivers plausible predictions about modal Gettier cases. (shrink)
According to noncognitivism, normative beliefs are just desire-like attitudes. While noncognitivists have devoted great effort to explaining the nature of normative belief, they have said little about all of the other attitudes we take towards normative matters. Many of us desire to do the right thing. We sometimes wonder whether our conduct is morally permissible; we hope that it is, and occasionally fear that it is not. This gives rise to what Schroeder calls the 'Many Attitudes Problem': the problem of (...) developing a plausible noncognitivist account of the full range of attitudes that we take towards normative matters. This paper explores the problem and proposes a solution. (shrink)
This paper explores what happens if we construe evidentialism as a thesis about the metaphysical grounds of justification. According to grounding evidentialism, facts about what a subject is justified in believing are grounded in facts about that subject’s evidence. At first blush, grounding evidentialism appears to enjoy advantages over a more traditional construal of evidentialism as a piece of conceptual analysis. However, appearances are deceiving. I argue that grounding evidentialists are unable to provide a satisfactory story about what grounds the (...) evidential facts, and that this provides good reason to reject grounding evidentialism. (shrink)
According to deontological approaches to justification, we can analyze justification in deontic terms. In this paper, I try to advance the discussion of deontological approaches by applying recent insights in the semantics of deontic modals. Specifically, I use the distinction between weak necessity modals and strong necessity modals to make progress on a question that has received surprisingly little discussion in the literature, namely: ‘What’s the best version of a deontological approach?’ The two most obvious hypotheses are the Permissive View, (...) according to which justified expresses permission, and the Obligatory View, according to which justified expresses some species of obligation. I raise difficulties for both of these hypotheses. In light of these difficulties, I propose a new position, according to which justified expresses a property I call faultlessness, defined as the dual of weak necessity modals. According to this view, an agent is justified in phi-ing iff it’s not the case that she should [/ought] not phi. I argue that this ‘Faultlessness View’ gives us precisely what’s needed to avoid the problems facing the Permissive and Obligatory Views. (shrink)
This paper develops a new challenge for moral noncognitivism. In brief, the challenge is this: Beliefs — both moral and non-moral — are epistemically evaluable, whereas desires are not. It is tempting to explain this difference in terms of differences in the functional roles of beliefs and desires. However, this explanation stands in tension with noncognitivism, which maintains that moral beliefs have a desire-like functional role. After critically reviewing some initial responses to the challenge, I suggest a solution, which involves (...) rethinking the functional relationship between desire and belief. (shrink)
According to the dogmatist, knowing p makes it rational to disregard future evidence against p. The standard response to the dogmatist holds that knowledge is defeasible: acquiring evidence against something you know undermines your knowledge. However, this response leaves a residual puzzle, according to which knowledge makes it rational to intend to disregard future counterevidence. I argue that we can resolve this residual puzzle by turning to an unlikely source: Kavka’s toxin puzzle. One lesson of the toxin puzzle is that (...) it is irrational to intend to do that which you know will be irrational. This yields a simple reply to the dogmatist: it is irrational to intend to disregard future evidence because you can know in advance that it will be irrational to do so. (shrink)
Epistemologists have long believed that epistemic luck undermines propositional knowledge. Action theorists have long believed that agentive luck undermines intentional action. But is there a relationship between agentive luck and epistemic luck? While agentive luck and epistemic luck have been widely thought to be independent phenomena, we argue that agentive luck has an epistemic dimension. We present several thought experiments where epistemic luck seems to undermine both knowledge-how and intentional action and we report experimental results that corroborate these judgments. These (...) findings have implications for the role of knowledge in a theory of intentional action and for debates about the nature of knowledge-how and the significance of knowledge representation in folk psychology. (shrink)
One leading account of justification comes from the evidentialist tradition. According to evidentialists, whether a doxastic attitude is justified depends on whether that attitude is supported by the believer’s evidence. This chapter assesses the prospects for evidentialism, focusing on the question of whether evidentialists can provide a satisfactory account of their key notions – evidence possession and evidential support – without helping themselves to the notion of justification.
Are all epistemic notions – including evidence and rational credence – sensitive to practical considerations? A number of philosophers have argued that the answer must be ‘No’, since otherwise rational agents would be susceptible to diachronic Dutch books. After unpacking this challenge, I show how it can be resisted by appealing to an analogy between shifting stakes and memory loss. The upshot: pervasive epistemic shiftiness may be tenable after all.