There is a New Idea in epistemology. It goes by the name of ‘knowledge first,’ and it is particularly associated with Timothy Williamson’s book Knowledge and Its Limits. In slogan form, to put knowledge first is to treat knowledge as basic or fundamental, and to explain other states—belief, justification, maybe even content itself—in terms of knowledge, instead of vice versa. The idea has proven enormously interesting, and equally controversial. But deep foundational questions about its actual content remain relatively unexplored. We (...) think that a wide variety of views travel under the banner of ‘knowledge first’ (and that the slogan doesn’t help much with differentiating them). Furthermore, we think it is far from straightforward to draw connections between certain of these views; they are more independent than they are often assumed to be. Our project here is exploratory and clarificatory. We mean to tease apart various ‘knowledge first’ claims, and explore what connections they do or do not have with one another. Our taxonomy is offered in §2, and connections are explored in §3. The result, we hope, will be a clearer understanding of just what the knowledge first theses are. We conclude, in §4, with some brief suggestions as to how we think the various theses might be evaluated. (shrink)
This paper takes the form of a critical discussion of Crispin Wright’s notion of entitlement of cognitive project. I examine various strategies for defending the claim that entitlement can make acceptance of a proposition epistemically rational, including one which appeals to epistemic consequentialism. Ultimately, I argue, none of these strategies is successful, but the attempt to isolate points of disagreement with Wright issues in some positive proposals as to how an epistemic consequentialist should characterize epistemic rationality.
Carrie Jenkins presents a new account of arithmetical knowledge, which manages to respect three key intuitions: a priorism, mind-independence realism, and empiricism. Jenkins argues that arithmetic can be known through the examination of empirically grounded concepts, non-accidentally accurate representations of the mind-independent world.
Philosophers readily talk about merely verbal disputes, usually without much or any explicit reflection on what these are, and a good deal of methodological significance is attached to discovering whether a dispute is merely verbal or not. Currently, metaphilosophical advances are being made towards a clearer understanding of what exactly it takes for something to be a merely verbal dispute. This paper engages with this growing literature, pointing out some problems with existing approaches, and develops a new proposal which builds (...) on their strengths. (shrink)
I argue that mind-independence realism should be characterised in terms of what I call 'essential', rather than 'modal', independence from our mental lives. I explore the connections between the two kinds of independence, and argue that characterizations in terms of essence respect more intuitions about what realism is, harmonize better with standard characterizations of anti-realism, and avert the threat of subversion from Blackburn's quasi-realist.
In recent work Timothy Williamson argues that the epistemology of metaphysical modality is a special case of the epistemology of counterfactuals. I argue that Williamson has not provided an adequate argument for this controversial claim, and that it is not obvious how what he says should be supplemented in order to derive such an argument. But I suggest that an important moral of his discussion survives this point. The moral is that experience could play an epistemic role which is more (...) epistemically significant than a mere 'enabling' role but not equivalent to an evidential role. (shrink)
We discuss explanation of an earlier event by a later event, and argue that prima facie cases of backwards event explanation are ubiquitous. Some examples: (1) I am tidying my flat because my brother is coming to visit tomorrow. (2) The scarlet pimpernels are closing because it is about to rain. (3) The volcano is smoking because it is going to erupt soon. We then look at various ways people might attempt to explain away these prima facie cases by arguing (...) that in each case the 'real' explanation is something else. We argue that none of the explaining-away strategies are successful, and so any plausible account of explanation should either make room for backwards explanation, or have a good story to tell about why it doesn't have to. (shrink)
Boghossian claims that we can acquire a priori knowledge by means of a certain form of argument, our grasp of whose premises relies on the existence of implicit definitions. I discuss an objection to his ‘analytic theory of the a priori’. The worry is that in order to employ this kind of argument we must already know its conclusion. Boghossian has responded to this type of objection in recent work, but I argue that his responses are unconvincing. Along the way, (...) I resist Ebert’s reasons for thinking that Boghossian’s argument fails to transmit warrant from its premises to its conclusion. (shrink)
This paper builds on some important recent work by Amie Thomasson, wherein she argues that recent disputes about the existence of ordinary objects have arisen due to eliminiativist metaphysicians’ misunderstandings. Some, she argues, are mistaken about how the language of quantification works, while others neglect the existence and significance of certain analytic entailments. Thomasson claims that once these misunderstandings are cleared away, it is trivially easy to answer existence questions about ordinary objects using everyday empirical methods of investigation. She reveals (...) how two conflicting metaontologies can lead to different positions in the first-order debate. In this paper, I bring a third metaontological perspective to the table: one that enables us to maintain that ontological disputes about ordinary objects are not trivially easy to settle, even if we agree with Thomasson that they are merely verbal. These are serious verbal disputes. (shrink)
This note concerns a puzzle about probability which has recently caught the attention of a number of philosophers. According to the current philosophical consensus, the solution to the puzzle reveals that one can acquire new information, sufficient to change one's credences in certain events, just by having a certain experience, even though one knew all along that one would have an experience which felt exactly like this. I argue that the philosophical consensus is mistaken.
The goal of the research programme I describe in this article is a realist epistemology for arithmetic which respects arithmetic's special epistemic status (the status usually described as a prioricity) yet accommodates naturalistic concerns by remaining fundamentally empiricist. I argue that the central claims which would allow us to develop such an epistemology are (i) that arithmetical truths are known through an examination of our arithmetical concepts; (ii) that (at least our basic) arithmetical concepts are accurate mental representations of elements (...) of the arithmetical structure of the independent world; (iii) that (ii) obtains in virtue of the normal functioning of our sensory apparatus. The first of these claims protects arithmetic's special epistemic status relative, for example, to the laws of physics, the second preserves the independence of arithmetical truth, and the third ensures that we remain empiricists. Preliminaries Justifying and grounding concepts Cameras and filters An epistemology for arithmetic Concluding remarks. (shrink)
Lewis has argued that quasi-realism is fictionalism. Blackburn denies this, offering reasons which rely on a descriptive reading of quasi-realism. This note offers a different, more general argument against Lewis's claim, available to prescriptive as well as descriptive quasi-realists.
in American Philosophical Quarterly 44 (3), July 2007, pp. 259-72. Argues that epistemically normative claims are made true by the same facts as, but do not mean the same as, certain natural-sounding claims.
David Lewis is associated with the controversial thesis that some properties are more eligible than others to be the referents of our predicates solely in virtue of those properties’ being more natural; independently, that is, of anything to do with our patterns of usage of the relevant predicates. On such a view, the natural properties act as ‘reference magnets’. In this paper I explore (though I do not endorse) a related thesis in epistemology: that some propositions are ‘justification magnets’. According (...) to the doctrine of justification magnetism, we have better justification for some propositions than for others solely in virtue of certain features of those propositions; independently, that is, of anything to do with evidential support or cognitive accomplishment. In the course of discussing an objection to justification magnetism I describe (though I do not endorse) a novel approach to epistemology akin to interpretationism in the theory of reference. (shrink)
We argue that it would seem to be a mistake to blame Liar-like paradox on certain features of the object language, since the effect can be created with very minimal object languages that contain none of the usual suspects (truth-like predicates, reference to their own truth-bearers, negation, etc.).
I argue that Fitch’s ‘paradox of knowability’ presents no special problem for the epistemic anti-realist who believes that reality is epistemically accessible to us. For the claim which is the target of the argument (If p then it is possible to know p) is not a commitment of anti-realism. The epistemic anti-realist’s commitment is (or should be) to the recognizability of the states of affairs which render true propositions true, not to the knowability of the propositions themselves. A formal apparatus (...) for discussing the recognizability of states of affairs is offered, and other prima facie similar approaches to the paradox argument are reviewed. (shrink)
In this paper, we explore the traditional conception of a prioricity as epistemic independence of evidence from sense experience. We investigate the fortunes of the traditional conception in the light of recent challenges by Timothy Williamson. We contend that Williamson’s arguments can be resisted in various ways. En route, we argue that Williamson’s views are not as distant from tradition as they might seem at first glance.
Abstract This paper examines the kind of epistemic circularity which, according to Ernest Sosa, is unavoidably entailed whenever one has what he calls ?reflective? knowledge (that is, knowledge that p such that the knower reflectively endorses the reliability of the epistemic sources by which she came to her belief that p). I begin by describing the relevant kind of circularity and its role in Sosa's epistemology, en route presenting and resisting Sosa's arguments that this kind of circularity is not vicious. (...) Then I consider the somewhat complex relationship between Sosa's views on epistemic circularity and his response to the Problem of Easy Knowledge, arguing that (on one interpretation of Sosa, at least) a complete solution to that problem cannot be extracted from Sosa's work unless the aforementioned epistemic circularity can be proved non-vicious. (shrink)
Michael Devitt has been developing an influential two-pronged attack on the a priori for over thirteen years. This attack does not attempt to undermine the coherence or significance of the distinction between the a priori and the a posteriori, but rather to answer the question: 'What Can We Know A Priori?' with: 'Nothing'. In this paper I explain why I am dissatisfied with key extant responses to Devitt's attack, and then take my own steps towards resisting the attack as it (...) appears in two recent incarnations. Devitt aims firstly to undermine the motivation for believing in any a priori knowledge, and secondly to provide reasons directly against believing in any. I argue that he misidentifies the motivations available to the a priorist, and that his reasons against believing in the a priori do not take account of all the options. I also argue that his attempt to combine the two prongs of the attack into an abductive argument for his anti-a priorist position does not succeed. (shrink)
This is a big-picture book, 2 written with a breadth of focus which I find admirable. It exhibits what's come to be known as the ‘intersubdiscplinary’ approach to philosophy, which is not restricted by traditional boundaries within the discipline but rather proceeds with an eye to all sorts of areas of philosophy where relevant arguments, results, analogies and strategies might be lurking. I approve of this way of doing philosophy; it seems to me that all too often that wheels are (...) reinvented, or crucial points missed, because of a lack of this sort of intersubdisciplinarity.To help guide us through such a broad landscape, this book needed to be well-signposted and clearly written, and it is. It cannot be denied, however, that the ambitious scale of The Nature of Normativity won't be to every taste. For one thing, not everyone likes big pictures. For another, this is a deep, dense and in many ways difficult book, which can only really be appreciated by sitting down with it for hours on end. It will not repay the casual skim-reader, nor is it likely to appeal to those who prefer dipping into philosophy books over reading them wholesale.The book is also long . The view under construction has a great many interlocking elements, including non-reductive normative naturalism, normative realism, a priorist intuitionism, normative internalism, the normativity of intentionality, conceptual-role semantics, contextualism, possible-worlds semantics, and certain ideas about ‘planning’ derived from the recent work of Allan Gibbard. It will be a tough read for specialists who do not share Wedgwood's familiarity with a wide range of subdisciplines, who will either have to content themselves with a superficial reading of many passages or else hunt down the necessary background material to …. (shrink)