Jason Stanley presents a startling and provocative claim about knowledge: that whether or not someone knows a proposition at a given time is in part determined by his or her practical interests, i.e. by how much is at stake for that person at that time. In defending this thesis, Stanley introduces readers to a number of strategies for resolving philosophical paradox, making the book essential not just for specialists in epistemology but for all philosophers interested in philosophical methodology. Since a (...) number of his strategies appeal to linguistic evidence, it will be of great interest to linguists as well. (shrink)
Judging by our folk appraisals, then, knowledge and action are intimately related. The theories of rational action with which we are familiar leave this unexplained. Moreover, discussions of knowledge are frequently silent about this connection. This is a shame, since if there is such a connection it would seem to constitute one of the most fundamental roles for knowledge. Our purpose in this paper is to rectify this lacuna, by exploring ways in which knowing something is related to rationally acting (...) upon it, defending one particular proposal against anticipated objections. (shrink)
In this paper, I defend the thesis that alleffects of extra-linguistic context on thetruth-conditions of an assertion are traceable toelements in the actual syntactic structure of thesentence uttered. In the first section, I develop thethesis in detail, and discuss its implications for therelation between semantics and pragmatics. The nexttwo sections are devoted to apparent counterexamples.In the second section, I argue that there are noconvincing examples of true non-sentential assertions.In the third section, I argue that there are noconvincing examples of what (...) John Perry has called`unarticulated constituents''. I conclude by drawingsome consequences of my arguments for appeals tocontext-dependence in the resolution of problems inepistemology and philosophical logic. (shrink)
Chapter 1: Ryle on Knowing How Chapter 2: Knowledge-wh Chapter 3: PRO and the Representation of First-Person Thought Chapter 4: Ways of Thinking Chapter 5: Knowledge How Chapter 6: Ascribing Knowledge How Chapter 7: The Cognitive Science of Practical Knowledge Chapter 8: Knowledge Justified Preface A fact, as I shall use the term, is a true proposition. A proposition is the sort of thing that is capable of being believed or asserted. A proposition is also something that is characteristically the (...) kind of thing that is true or false; that snow is white is a true proposition, that Barack Obama is President of the United States as I am writing these words is another. Facts in this sense are not only among the things we believe and assert; they are also the kinds of things we know. The thesis of this book is that knowing how to do something is the same as knowing a fact. It follows that learning how to do something is learning a fact. For example, when you learned how to swim, what happened is that you learned some facts about swimming. Knowledge of these facts is what gave you knowledge of how to swim. Something similar occurred with every other activity that you now know how to do, such as riding a bicycle or cooking a meal. You know how to perform activities solely in virtue of your knowledge of facts about those activities. (shrink)
According to Interest-Relative Invariantism, whether an agent knows that p, or possesses other sorts of epistemic properties or relations, is in part determined by the practical costs of being wrong about p. Recent studies in experimental philosophy have tested the claims of IRI. After critically discussing prior studies, we present the results of our own experiments that provide strong support for IRI. We discuss our results in light of complementary findings by other theorists, and address the challenge posed by a (...) leading intellectualist alternative to our view. (shrink)
Contextualism in epistemology is the doctrine that the proposition expressed by a knowledge attribution relative to a context is determined in part by the standards of justification salient in that context. The (non-skeptical) contextualist allows that in some context c, a speaker may truly attribute knowledge at a time of a proposition p to Hannah, despite her possession of only weak inductive evidence for the truth of that proposition. Relative to another context, someone may make the very same knowledge attribution (...) to Hannah, yet be speaking falsely, because the epistemic standards in that context are higher. The reason this is possible, according to the contextualist, is that the two knowledge attributions express different propositions. (shrink)
This paper is a companion piece to my earlier paper “Fallibilism and Concessive Knowledge Attributions”. There are two intuitive charges against fallibilism. One is that it countenances the truth (and presumably acceptability) of utterances of sentences such as “I know that Bush is a Republican, though it might be that he is not a Republican”. The second is that it countenances the truth (and presumably acceptability) of utterances of sentences such as “I know that Bush is a Republican, even though (...) I’m not certain that he is”, or “I know that Bush it a Republican, even though it isn’t certain that he is.” In “Fallibilism and Concessive Knowledge Attributions”, I argue that fallibilism in epistemology does not countenance the truth of utterances of sentences such as “I know that Bush is a Republican, though it might be that he is not a Republican”. In this paper, I argue that there are independent reasons for thinking that utterances of sentences such as “I know that Bush is a Republican, though I’m not certain that he is” and “I know that Bush is a Republican, though it’s not certain that he is” are unassertible. More specifically, I argue that these are simply instances of Moore’s Paradox, such as “Dogs bark, but I don’t know that they do.” The right account of Moore’s Paradox does not involve the falsehood of the semantic content of the relevant utterances, but rather their pragmatic unacceptability. So the anti-fallibilist intuitions turn out to have pragmatic, rather than semantic import, and therefore do not tell against the truth of fallibilism. Fallibilism in epistemology is often thought to be theoretically desirable, but intuitively problematic. My purpose with these two papers is to show that fallibilism is not intuitively problematic. (shrink)
Lewis concludes that fallibilism is uncomfortable, though preferable to scepticism. However, he believes that contextualism about knowledge allows us to ‘dodge the choice’ between fallibilism and scepticism. For the contextualist semantics for ‘know’ can explain the oddity of fallibilism, without landing us into scepticism.
Egalitarianism, the view that equality matters, attracts a great deal of attention amongst contemporary political theorists. And yet it has turned out to be surprisingly difficult to provide a fully satisfactory egalitarian theory. The cutting-edge articles in Egalitarianism move the debate forward. They are written by some of the leading political philosophers in the field.
Fictionalist approaches to ontology have been an accepted part of philosophical methodology for some time now. On a fictionalist view, engaging in discourse that involves apparent reference to a realm of problematic entities is best viewed as engaging in a pretense. Although in reality, the problematic entities do not exist, according to the pretense we engage in when using the discourse, they do exist. In the vocabulary of Burgess and Rosen (1997, p. 6), a nominalist construal of a given discourse (...) is revolutionary just in case it involves a “reconstruction or revision” of the original discourse. Revolutionary approaches are therefore prescriptive. In contrast, a nominalist construal of a given discourse is hermeneutic just in case it is a nominalist construal of a discourse that is put forth as a hypothesis about how the discourse is in fact used; that is, hermeneutic approaches are descriptive. I will adopt Burgess and Rosen’s terminology to describe the two different spirits in which a fictionalist hypothesis in ontology might be advanced. Revolutionary fictionalism would involve admitting that while the problematic discourse does in fact involve literal reference to nonexistent entities, we ought to use the discourse in such a way that the reference is simply within the pretense. The hermeneutic fictionalist, in contrast, reads fictionalism into our actual use of the problematic discourse. According to her, normal use of the problematic discourse involves a pretense. According to the pretense, and only according to the pretense, there exist the objects to which the discourse would commit its users, were no pretense involved. My purpose in this paper is to argue that hermeneutic fictionalism is not a viable strategy in ontology. My argument proceeds in two steps. First, I discuss in detail several problematic consequences of any interesting application of hermeneutic fictionalism. Of course, if there is good evidence that hermeneutic fictionalism is correct in some cases, then some of these drastic consequences would have to be accepted.. (shrink)
Followers of Wittgenstein allegedly once held that a meaningful claim to know that p could only be made if there was some doubt about the truth of p. The correct response to this thesis involved appealing to the distinction between the semantic content of a sentence and features attaching to its use. It is inappropriate to assert a knowledge-claim unless someone in the audience has doubt about what the speaker claims to know. But this fact has nothing to do with (...) the semantic content of knowledgeascriptions; it is entirely explicable by appeal to pragmatic facts about felicitous assertion. (shrink)
The central claim is that the semantic knowledge exercised aby people when they speak is practical knowledge. The relevant idea of practical knowledge is explicated, applied to the case of speaking, and connected with an idea of agents' knowledge. Some defence of the claim is provided.
A singular thought about an object o is one that is directly about o in a characteristic way—grasp of that thought requires having some special epistemic relation to the object o, and the thought is ontologically dependent on o. One account of the nature of singular thought exploits a Russellian Structured Account of Propositions, according to which contents are represented by means of structured n-tuples of objects, properties, and functions. A proposition is singular, according to this framework, if and only (...) if it contains an object as a constituent. One advantage of the framework of Russellian Structured propositions is that it promises to provide a metaphysical basis for the notion of a singular thought about an object, grounding it in terms of constituency. In this paper, we argue that the attempt to ground the peculiar features of singular thoughts in terms of metaphysical constituency fails, and draw some consequences of our discussion for other debates. (shrink)
According to what I will call a contextualist solution to the sorites paradox, vague terms are context-sensitive, and one can give a convincing dissolution of the sorites paradox in terms of this context-dependency. The reason, according to the contextualist, that precise boundaries for expressions like “heap” or “tall for a basketball player” are so difficult to detect is that when two entities are sufficiently similar (or saliently similar), we tend to shift the interpretation of the vague expression so that if (...) one counts as falling in the extension of the property expressed by that expression, so does the other. As a consequence, when we look for the boundary of the extension of a vague expression in its penumbra, our very looking has the effect of changing the interpretation of the vague expression so that the boundary is not where we are looking. This accounts for the persuasive force of sorites arguments. (shrink)
Robert Stalnaker argues that his causal-pragmatic account of the problem of intentionality commits him to a coarse-grained conception of the contents of mental states, where propositions are represented as sets of possible worlds. Stalnaker also accepts the "direct reference" theory of names, according to which co-referring names have the same content. Stalnaker's view of content is thus threatened by Frege's Puzzle. Stalnaker's classic paper "Assertion" is intended to provide a response to this threat. In this paper, I evaluate Stalnaker's claim (...) that the causal-pragmatic account of intentionality commits one to a coarse-grained conception of the contents of mental states, and argue that the apparatus laid out in "Assertion" is not sufficiently comprehensive to account for all versions of Frege's Puzzle. (shrink)
This article investigates the semantics of sentences that express numerical averages, focusing initially on cases such as 'The average American has 2.3 children'. Such sentences have been used both by linguists and philosophers to argue for a disjuncture between semantics and ontology. For example, Noam Chomsky and Norbert Hornstein have used them to provide evidence against the hypothesis that natural language semantics includes a reference relation holding between words and objects in the world, whereas metaphysicians such as Joseph Melia and (...) Stephen Yablo have used them to provide evidence that apparent singular reference need not be taken as ontologically committing. We develop a fully general and independently justified compositional semantics in which such constructions are assigned truth conditions that are not ontologically problematic, and show that our analysis is superior to all extant rivals. Our analysis provides evidence that a good semantics yields a sensible ontology. It also reveals that natural language contains genuine singular terms that refer to numbers. (shrink)
The central claim is that the semantic knowledge exercised by people when they speak is practical knowledge. The relevant idea of practical knowledge is explicated, applied to the case of speaking, and connected with an idea of agents’ knowledge. Some defence of the claim is provided.
If, relative to a context, what a sentence says is necessarily true, then what it says must be so. If, relative to a context, what a sentence says is possible, then what it says could be true. Following natural philosophical usage, it would thus seem clear that in assessing an occurrence of a sentence for possibility or necessity, one is assessing what is said by that occurrence. In this paper, I argue that natural philosophical usage misleads here. In assessing an (...) occurrence of a sentence for possibility or necessity, one is not assessing the modal status of the proposition expressed by that occurrence of the sentence. (shrink)
Jason Stanley's "Knowledge and Practical Interests" is a brilliant book, combining insights about knowledge with a careful examination of how recent views in epistemology fit with the best of recent linguistic semantics. Although I am largely convinced by Stanley's objections to epistemic contextualism, I will try in what follows to formulate a version that might have some prospect of escaping his powerful critique.
Our intuitions about whether someone knows that p vary even fixing the intuitively epistemic features of that person’s situation. Sometimes they vary with features of our own situation, and sometimes they vary with features of the putative knower’s situation. If the putative knower is in a risky situation and her belief that p is pivotal in achieving a positive outcome of one of the actions available to her, or avoiding a negative one, we often feel she must be in a (...) particularly good epistemic position to know that p. If however she is not in a risky situation, we tend to be considerably more permissive in our attributions of knowledge. Our intuitions about when someone knows that p and when she doesn’t also fluctuate with what is salient, either to the putative knower or ourselves. If someone claims to know where their car is, and I raise the possibility that it has been stolen, she may retract her claim to know. Which of these tendencies, if any, reveal something about the nature of our epistemic terms or concepts? (shrink)
In the Twentieth Century, Logic and Philosophy of Language are two of the few areas of philosophy in which philosophers made indisputable progress. For example, even now many of the foremost living ethicists present their theories as somewhat more explicit versions of the ideas of Kant, Mill, or Aristotle. In contrast, it would be patently absurd for a contemporary philosopher of language or logician to think of herself as working in the shadow of any figure who died before the Twentieth (...) Century began. Advances in these disciplines make even the most unaccomplished of its practitioners vastly more sophisticated than Kant. There were previous periods in which the problems of language and logic were studied extensively (e.g. the medieval period). But from the perspective of the progress made in the last 120 years, previous work is at most a source of interesting data or occasional insight. All systematic theorizing about content that meets contemporary standards of rigor has been done subsequently. (shrink)
In this paper it is contended, against a challenging recent interpretation of Frege, that Frege should be credited with the first semirigorous formulation of semantic theory. It is argued that the considerations advanced against this contention suffer from two kinds of error. The first involves the attribution to Frege of a skeptical attitude towards the truth-predicate. The second involves the sort of justification which these arguments assume a classical semantic theory attempts to provide. Finally, it is shown that Frege was (...) in fact mindful of the need for the relevant sort of justification. (shrink)
I argue that it follows from a very plausible principle concerning understanding that the truth of an ascription of understanding is context-relative. I use this to defend an account of lexical meaning according to which full understanding of a natural kind term or name requires knowing informative, uniquely identifying information about its referent. This point undermines Putnam-style 'elm-beech' arguments against the description theory of names and natural kind terms.
According to what I call ‘the asymmetry thesis’, persons, though they are the direct bearers of the properties expressed by mental predicates, are not the direct bearers of properties such as those expressed by ‘weighs 135 pounds’ or ‘has crossed legs’. A number of different views about persons entail the asymmetry thesis. I first argue that the asymmetry thesis entails an error theory about our discourse involving person‐referring terms. I then argue that it is further threatened by consideration of the (...) grounds we have for self‐ascribing mental and physical predicates. (shrink)
Let DDQ be the thesis that definite descriptions are quantifiers. Philosophers often deny DDQ because they believe that quantifiers do not depend on context in certain ways, ways in which definite descriptions do depend on context. In this paper, we examine one such argument, which, if sound, would entail the negation of DDQ.We show that this argument fails, and draw some consequences from its failure.