In this book, Ernest Sosa explains the nature of knowledge through an approach originated by him years ago, known as virtue epistemology. Here he provides the first comprehensive account of his views on epistemic normativity as a form of performance normativity on two levels. On a first level is found the normativity of the apt performance, whose success manifests the performer's competence. On a higher level is found the normativity of the meta-apt performance, which manifests not necessarily first-order skill or (...) competence but rather the reflective good judgment required for proper risk assessment. Sosa develops this bi-level account in multiple ways, by applying it to issues much disputed in recent epistemology: epistemic agency, how knowledge is normatively related to action, the knowledge norm of assertion, and the Meno problem as to how knowledge exceeds merely true belief. A full chapter is devoted to how experience should be understood if it is to figure in the epistemic competence that must be manifest in the truth of any belief apt enough to constitute knowledge. Another takes up the epistemology of testimony from the performance-theoretic perspective. Two other chapters are dedicated to comparisons with ostensibly rival views, such as classical internalist foundationalism, a knowledge-first view, and attributor contextualism. The book concludes with a defense of the epistemic circularity inherent in meta-aptness and thereby in the full aptness of knowing full well. (shrink)
The topic is experimental philosophy as a naturalistic movement, and its bearing on the value of intuitions in philosophy. This paper explores first how the movement might bear on philosophy more generally, and how it might amount to something novel and promising. Then it turns to one accomplishment repeatedly claimed for it already: namely, the discrediting of armchair intuitions as used in philosophy.
From the back cover: "Ever since Plato, philosophers have faced one central question: What is the scope and nature of human knowledge? In this volume the distinguished philosopher Ernest Sosa has collected his essays on this subject written over a period of twenty-five years. All the major topics of contemporary epistemology are covered: the nature of propositional knowledge, externalism versus internalism, foundationalism versus coherentism, and the problem of the criterion. The resulting book is a valuable resource for scholars and can (...) serve as a textbook for graduate seminars in epistemology.". (shrink)
Rational beings pursue and value truth . Intellectual conduct is to be judged, accordingly, by how well it aids our pursuit of that ideal. I ask whether these platitudes mean, and whether they are true.
In what way is knowledge better than merely true belief? That is a problem posed in Plato’s Meno. A belief that falls short of knowledge seems thereby inferior. It is better to know than to get it wrong, of course, and also better than to get it right by luck rather than competence. But how can that be so, if a true belief will provide the same benefits? In order to get to Larissa you do not need to know the (...) way. A true belief will get you there just as well. Is it really always better to know the answer to a question than to get it right by luck? In part i we ponder: Is knowledge always better at least in epistemic respects? The affirmative answer is subject to doubts deriving from a conception of belief as sufficient confidence, but is defensible against such doubts. In our search for the special value of knowledge, we then explore in part ii the relation between knowledge and proper action. Part iii goes on to consider how the value of knowledge intuition acquires further interest through its equivalence with the view of knowledge as a norm of assertion. Finally, part iv steps back to examine what we might mean in saying that to know is always, necessarily better than to get it right by luck while really in ignorance. In order to defend our value-of-knowledge intuition we need first to understand it more clearly. Part iv offers an explanation. (shrink)
What modal relation must a fact bear to a belief in order for this belief to constitute knowledge of that fact? Externalists have proposed various answers, including some that combine externalism with contextualism. We shall find that various forms of externalism share a modal conception of “sensitivity” open to serious objections. Fortunately, the undeniable intuitive attractiveness of this conception can be explained through an easily confused but far preferable notion of “safety.” The denouement of our reflections, finally, will be to (...) show how replacing sensitivity with safety makes it possible to defend plain Moorean common sense against the spurious advantages over it claimed by skeptical, tracking, relevant-alternative, and contextualist accounts. (shrink)
Ernest Sosa extends his distinctive approach to epistemology, intertwining issues concerning the role of the will in judgment and belief with issues of epistemic evaluation. While noting that human knowledge trades on distinctive psychological capacities, Sosa also emphasizes the role of the social in human knowledge.
Testimony is a crucial source of knowledge: we are to a large extent reliant upon what others tell us. It has been the subject of much recent interest in epistemology, and this volume collects twelve original essays on the topic by some of the world's leading philosophers. It will be the starting point for future research in this fertile field. Contributors include Robert Audi, C. A. J. Coady, Elizabeth Fricker, Richard Fumerton, Sanford C. Goldberg, Peter Graham, Jennifer Lackey, Keith Lehrer, (...) Richard Moran, Frederick F. Schmitt, Ernest Sosa, and James Van Cleve. (shrink)
Ernest Sosa presents a new approach to the problems of knowledge and scepticism. He argues for two levels of knowledge, the animal and the reflective, each viewed as a distinctive human accomplishment. Sosa's virtue epistemology illuminates different varieties of scepticism, the nature and status of intuitions, and epistemic normativity.
... With those who identify happiness [faring happily or well] with virtue or some one virtue our account is in harmony; for to virtue belongs virtuous activity. But it makes, perhaps, no small difference whether we place the chief good in possession or in use, in state of mind or in activity. For the state of mind may exist without producing any good result, as in a man who is asleep or in some other way quite inactive, but the activity (...) cannot; for one who has the activity will of necessity be acting, and acting well. And as in the Olympic Games it is not the most beautiful and the strongest that are crowned but those who compete, so those who act win, and rightly win, the noble and good things in life. (shrink)
According to Moore, his argument meets three conditions for being a proof: first, the premiss is different from the conclusion; second, he knows the premiss to be the case; and, third, the conclusion follows deductively.2 Further conditions may be required, but he evidently thinks his proof would satisfy these as well. As Moore is well aware, many philosophers will feel he has not given “...any satisfactory proof of the point in question."3 Some, he believes, will want the premiss itself proved. (...) But he has.. (shrink)
In “Tracking, Competence, and Knowledge,” Ernest Sosa notes that in attempting to account for the conditions for knowledge, externalists have proposed that the justification condition be replaced or supplemented by the requirement that a certain modal relation be obtained between a fact and a subject's belief concerning that fact. While assessing attempts to identify such a relation, he focuses on an account labeled “Cartesian‐tracking”, which accounts for the relation in the form of two conditionals. If a person S believes a (...) proposition P → P P → S believes P. Sosa suggests that be abandoned as a requirement, and that, equipped with his modifications, can offer promising results in connection with skepticism. He argues that modified coupled with the requirement that S's belief be “virtuous” can illuminate the nature of propositional knowledge. (shrink)
Belief is considered a kind of performance, which attains one level of success if it is true (or accurate), a second level if competent (or adroit), and a third if true because competent (or apt). Knowledge on one level (the animal level) is apt belief. The epistemic normativity constitutive of such knowledge is thus a kind of performance normativity. A problem is posed for this account by the fact that suspension of belief seems to fall under the same sort of (...) epistemic normativity as does belief itself, yet to suspend is of course precisely not to perform, certainly not with the aim of truth. The paper takes up this problem, and proposes a solution that distinguishes levels of performance norrmativity, including a first order where execution competence is in play, and a second order where the performer must assess the risks attendant on issuing a first-order performance. This imports a level of reflective knowledge that ascends above the animal level. (shrink)
That conception is orthodox in today’s common sense and also historically. Presupposed by Plato, Augustine, and Descartes, it underlies familiar skeptical paradoxes. Similar orthodoxy is also found in our developing science of sleep and dreaming. Despite such confluence.
Survey results are in the first instance utterances, which require interpretation. Moreover, when the results seem to involve disagreement in intuitive responses to a thought experiment, the results are most directly responsive to the scenario as envisaged by the particular subject, where the text of the example can give rise to relevantly different scenarios, depending on how the scenario is shaped by the subjects involved, under the guidance of the text. All of this opens up a defense of intuitions against (...) results that ostensibly imply extensive intuitive disagreement based on cultural or socio-economic background. Critics of the armchair have replied to this defense in recent publications. This paper takes up some of those replies. (shrink)
Davidson’s epistemology, like Kant’s, features a transcendental argument as its centerpiece. Both philosophers reject any priority, whether epistemological or conceptual, of the subjective over the objective, attempting thus to solve the problem of the external world. For Davidson, three varieties of knowledge are coordinate—knowledge of the self, of other minds, and of the external world. None has priority. Despite the epistemologically coordinate status of the mind and the world, however, the content of the mind can be shown to entail how (...) it is out in the world. More exactly, Davidson argues, we could not possibly have the beliefs we have, with their contents, unless the world around us was pretty much the way we take it to be, at least in its general outline. We are thus offered a way to argue, to all appearances a priori, from how it is in our minds to how it is in the world. The argument is a priori at least in being free of premises or assumptions about contingent particularities concerning the world around us or our relation to it. From premises about the contents of our propositional attitudes, the argument wends its way to a conclusion about the general lines of how the world around us is structured and populated. Before presenting his own account, Davidson rejects received views of meaning and knowledge. What follows will combine themes from his critique of alternatives with his more positive account and how it deals with the skeptic. (shrink)
This is a unique collection of new and recently-published articles which debate the merits of virtue-theoretic approaches to the core epistemological issues of knowledge and justified belief. The readings all contribute to our understanding of the relative importance, for a theory of justified belief, of the reliability of our cognitive faculties and of the individuals responsibility in gathering and weighing evidence. Highlights of the readings include direct exchanges between leading exponents of this approach and their critics.
In my remarks, I discuss Sosa's attempt to deal with the sceptical threat posed by dreaming. Sosa explores two replies to the problem of dreaming scepticism. First, he argues that, on the imagination model of dreaming, dreaming does not threaten the safety of our beliefs. Second, he argues that knowledge does not require safety, but a weaker condition which is not threatened by dreaming skepticism. I raise questions about both elements of his reply.
A main epistemic problematic, found already in Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, presents a threefold choice on how a belief may be justified: either through infinitely regressive reasoning, or through circular reasoning, or through reasoning resting ultimately on some foundation. Aristotle himself apparently takes the foundationalist option when he argues that rational intuition is a foundational source of scientific knowledge. The five modes of Agrippa, which pertain to knowledge generally, again pose the same problematic, the “Pyrrhonian” problematic. And here Galen and the (...) Stoics also opt for foundations. Sections I and II below explore that foundationalist option. Section III draws some lessons. And Section IV uses these to interpret Descartes. I argue that Descartes shows us the way beyond the Pyrrhonian problematic, although his way is not that traditionally attributed to him. On these basic issues of epistemology, Descartes is no Cartesian. (shrink)
A discussion of George Bealer's conception and defense of rational intuition as a basis of philosophical knowledge, under three main heads: a) the phenomenology of intellectual intuition; b) the status of such intuition as a basic source of evidence, and the explanation of what gives it that status; and c) the defense of intuition against those who would reject it and exclude it on principle from the set of valid sources of evidence.
Since this paper is for a conference on “Contextualism in Epistemology and Beyond,” I have opted to sketch a retrospective of contextualism in epistemology, including highlights of the “relevant alternatives” approach, given how relevantism and contextualism have developed in tandem. We focus on externalist forms of contextualism, bypassing internalist forms such as Cohen 1988 and Lewis 1996, but much of our discussion will be applicable to contextualism generally. Internalist contextualism is helpfully discussed in papers by Stewart Cohen, Richard Feldman, and (...) Jonathan Vogel, in Tomberlin 1999. (shrink)
This paper takes up the critique of armchair philosophy drawn by some experimental philosophers from survey results. It also takes up a more recent development with increased methodological sophistication. The argument based on disagreement among respondents suggests a much more serious problem for armchair philosophy and puts in question the standing of our would-be discipline.
Epistemology is too far-flung and diverse for a survey in a single essay. I have settled for a snapshot which, though perforce superficial and partial, might yet provide an overview. My perspective is determined by the books and articles prominent in the recent literature and in my own recent courses and seminars. Seeing that the boundaries of our field have shifted through the ages and are even now very ill-marked, I have chosen two central issues, each under vigorous and many-sided (...) discussion in recent years and at present: (A) Scepticism, and (B) Theories of Justification; and in each case I shall focus on work either published or widely discussed within the last five years. (shrink)
Comprehensive and packed, Alvin Plantinga's two-volume treatise defies sum- mary. The first volume, Warrant: Current Views, is a meticulous critical survey of epistemology today. Many current approaches are presented and exhaustively discussed, and a negative verdict is passed on each in turn. This prepares the way for volume two, Warrant and Proper Function, where a positive view is advanced and developed in satisfying detail. The cumulative result is most impressive, and should command attention for years to come. Here I cannot (...) possibly do justice to the scope and richness of Plantinga's accomplishment. Given the limitations imposed by the occasion, I will discuss only what seem the most important and original proposals, and will compare them with some relevant alternatives. (shrink)
The mind-body problem arises because of our status as double agents apparently en rapport both with the mental and with the physical. We think, desire, decide, plan, suffer passions, fall into moods, are subject to sensory experiences, ostensibly perceive, intend, reason, make believe, and so on. We also move, have a certain geographical position, a certain height and weight, and we are sometimes hit or cut or burned. In other words, human beings have both minds and bodies. What is the (...) relation between these? Religion often tells us that we are really embodied souls released at death from our bodily prisons. Could this be right? (shrink)
It is argued that knowledge is a form of action. It is a kind of successful attempt to attain the truth. The success must avoid a particular sort of “epistemic luck”. It must derive from competence rather than luck. Knowledge, then, is a judgment or belief that aims at truth and attains accuracy not by luck but through the agent’s cognitive adroitness, so that the attainment is apt. A higher grade of knowledge then requires that the agent attain aptly not (...) only the accuracy (truth) but even the aptness of that first-order success. This more fully apt success is on a higher level of epistemic achievement, and in this respect is a special case of a general truth of performance normativity that applies across domains of human performance, whether in the arts, in sports, in the professions, and so on. An attempt in general reaches that higher level of achievement by being not only apt but fully apt. (shrink)
Ever since Plato it has been thought that one knows only if one's belief hits the mark of truth and does so with adequate justification. The issues debated by Laurence BonJour and Ernest Sosa concern mostly the nature and conditions of such epistemic justification, and its place in our understanding of human knowledge. Presents central issues pertaining to internalism vs. externalism and foundationalism vs. virtue epistemology in the form of a philosophical debate. Introduces students to fundamental questions within epistemology while (...) engaging in contemporary debates. Written by two of today’s foremost epistemologists. Includes an extensive bibliography. (shrink)
Reflective Knowledge draws together ground-breaking work in epistemology by Ernest Sosa. He argues for a reflective virtue epistemology based on virtuous circularity, shows how this idea may be found explicitly or just below the surface in such illustrious predecessors as Descartes and Moore, and defends the view against its rivals.
Comprehensive and packed, Alvin Plantinga's two-volume treatise defies summary. The first volume, Warrant: Current Views, is a meticulous critical survey of epistemology today. Many current approaches are presented and exhaustively discussed, and a negative verdict is passed on each in turn. This prepares the way for volume two, Warrant and Proper Function, where a positive view is advanced and developed in satisfying detail. The cumulative result is most impressive, and should command attention for years to come. Here I cannot possibly (...) do justice to the scope and richness of Plantinga's accomplishment. Given the limitations imposed by the occasion, I will discuss only what seem the most important and original proposals, and will compare them with some relevant alternatives. (shrink)