Many epistemologists use intuitive responses to particular cases as evidence for their theories. Recently, experimental philosophers have challenged the evidential value of intuitions, suggesting that our responses to particular cases are unstable, inconsistent with the responses of the untrained, and swayed by factors such as ethnicity and gender. This paper presents evidence that neither gender nor ethnicity influence epistemic intuitions, and that the standard responses to Gettier cases and the like are widely shared. It argues that epistemic intuitions are produced (...) by the natural ‘mindreading’ capacity that underpins ordinary attributions of belief and knowledge in everyday social interaction. Although this capacity is fallible, its weaknesses are similar to the weaknesses of natural capacities such as sensory perception. Experimentalists who do not wish to be skeptical about ordinary empirical methods have no good reason to be skeptical about epistemic intuitions. (shrink)
Intuitively, there is a difference between knowledge and mere belief. Contemporary philosophical work on the nature of this difference has focused on scenarios known as “Gettier cases.” Designed as counterexamples to the classical theory that knowledge is justified true belief, these cases feature agents who arrive at true beliefs in ways which seem reasonable or justified, while nevertheless seeming to lack knowledge. Prior empirical investigation of these cases has raised questions about whether lay people generally share philosophers’ intuitions about these (...) cases, or whether lay intuitions vary depending on individual factors (e.g. ethnicity) or factors related to specific types of Gettier cases (e.g. cases that include apparent evidence). We report an experiment on lay attributions of knowledge and justification for a wide range of Gettier Cases and for a related class of controversial cases known as Skeptical Pressure cases, which are also thought by philosophers to elicit intuitive denials of knowledge. Although participants rated true beliefs in Gettier and Skeptical Pressure cases as being justified, they were significantly less likely to attribute knowledge for these cases than for matched true belief cases. This pattern of response was consistent across different variations of Gettier cases and did not vary by ethnicity or gender, although attributions of justification were found to be positively related to measures of empathy. These findings therefore suggest that across demographic groups, laypeople share similar epistemic concepts with philosophers, recognizing a difference between knowledge and justified true belief. (shrink)
In the philosophical literature on mental states, the paradigmatic examples of mental states are beliefs, desires, intentions, and phenomenal states such as being in pain. The corresponding list in the psychological literature on mental state attribution includes one further member: the state of knowledge. This article examines the reasons why developmental, comparative and social psychologists have classified knowledge as a mental state, while most recent philosophers--with the notable exception of Timothy Williamson-- have not. The disagreement is traced back to a (...) difference in how each side understands the relationship between the concepts of knowledge and belief, concepts which are understood in both disciplines to be closely linked. Psychologists and philosophers other than Williamson have generally have disagreed about which of the pair is prior and which is derivative. The rival claims of priority are examined both in the light of philosophical arguments by Williamson and others, and in the light of empirical work on mental state attribution. (shrink)
Why do our intuitive knowledge ascriptions shift when a subject's practical interests are mentioned? Many efforts to answer this question have focused on empirical linguistic evidence for context sensitivity in knowledge claims, but the empirical psychology of belief formation and attribution also merits attention. The present paper examines a major psychological factor (called ?need-for-closure?) relevant to ascriptions involving practical interests. Need-for-closure plays an important role in determining whether one has a settled belief; it also influences the accuracy of one's cognition. (...) Given these effects, it is a mistake to assume that high- and low-stakes subjects provided with the same initial evidence are perceived to enjoy belief formation that is the same as far as truth-conducive factors are concerned. This mistaken assumption has underpinned contextualist and interest-relative invariantist treatments of cases in which contrasting knowledge ascriptions are elicited by descriptions of subjects with the same initial information and different stakes. The paper argues that intellectualist invariantism can easily accommodate such cases. (shrink)
Internalists have criticised reliabilism for overlooking the importance of the subject's point of view in the generation of knowledge. This paper argues that there is a troubling ambiguity in the intuitive examples that internalists have used to make their case, and on either way of resolving this ambiguity, reliabilism is untouched. However, the argument used to defend reliabilism against the internalist cases could also be used to defend a more radical form of externalism in epistemology.
Epistemologists generally agree that the stringency of intuitive ascriptions of knowledge is increased when unrealized possibilities ofenor are mentioned. Non-sceptical invanantists (Williamson, Hawthorne) think it a mistake to yield in such cases to the temptation to be more stringent, but they do not deny that we feel it. They contend that the temptation is best explained as the product of a psychological bias known as the availability heuristic. I argue against the availability explanation, and sketch a rival account of what (...) happens to us psychologically when possibilities of error are raised. (shrink)
Once symbolized by a burning armchair, experimental philosophy has in recent years shifted away from its original hostility to traditional methods. Starting with a brief historical review of the experimentalist challenge to traditional philosophical practice, this chapter looks at research undercutting that challenge, and at ways in which experimental work has evolved to complement and strengthen traditional approaches to philosophical questions.
Harman’s lottery paradox, generalized by Vogel to a number of other cases, involves a curious pattern of intuitive knowledge ascriptions: certain propositions seem easier to know than various higher-probability propositions that are recognized to follow from them. For example, it seems easier to judge that someone knows his car is now on Avenue A, where he parked it an hour ago, than to judge that he knows that it is not the case that his car has been stolen and driven (...) away in the last hour. Contextualists have taken this pattern of intuitions as evidence that ‘knows’ does not always denote the same relationship; subject-sensitive invariantists have taken this pattern of intuitions as evidence that non-traditional factors such as practical interests figure in knowledge; still others have argued that the Harman Vogel pattern gives us a reason to abandon the principle that knowledge is closed under known entailment. This paper argues that there is a psychological explanation of the strange pattern of intuitions, grounded in the manner in which we shift between an automatic or heuristic mode of judgment and a controlled or systematic mode. Understanding the psychology behind the pattern of intuitions enables us to see that the pattern gives us no reason to abandon traditional intellectualist invariantism. The psychological account of the paradox also yields new resources for clarifying and defending the single premise closure principle for knowledge ascriptions. (shrink)
Do we apply higher epistemic standards to subjects with high stakes? This paper argues that we expect different outward behavior from high-stakes subjects—for example, we expect them to collect more evidence than their low-stakes counterparts—but not because of any change in epistemic standards. Rather, we naturally expect subjects in any condition to think in a roughly adaptive manner, balancing the expected costs of additional evidence collection against the expected value of gains in accuracy. The paper reviews a body of empirical (...) work on the automatic regulation of cognitive effort in response to stakes, and argues that we naturally see high- and low-stakes subjects as experiencing different levels of ‘epistemic anxiety’, and anticipate different levels of cognitive effort from them for this reason. If unresolved epistemic anxiety always bars an ascription of knowledge, then we can explain our responses to cases involving shifting stakes without positing any variation in the standards of intuitive knowledge ascription. (shrink)
We naturally evaluate the beliefs of others, sometimes by deliberate calculation, and sometimes in a more immediate fashion. Epistemic intuitions are immediate assessments arising when someone’s condition appears to fall on one side or the other of some significant divide in epistemology. After giving a rough sketch of several major features of epistemic intuitions, this article reviews the history of the current philosophical debate about them and describes the major positions in that debate. Linguists and psychologists also study epistemic assessments; (...) the last section of the paper discusses some of their research and its potential relevance to epistemology. (shrink)
Do epistemic intuitions tell us anything about knowledge? Stich has argued that we respond to cases according to our contingent cultural programming, and not in a manner that tends to reveal anything significant about knowledge itself. I’ve argued that a cross-culturally universal capacity for mindreading produces the intuitive sense that the subject of a case has or lacks knowledge. This paper responds to Stich’s charge that mindreading is cross-culturally varied in a way that will strip epistemic intuitions of their evidential (...) value. I argue that existing work on cross-cultural variation in mindreading favors my position over Stich’s. (shrink)
Factive mental states, such as knowing or being aware, can only link an agent to the truth; by contrast, nonfactive states, such as believing or thinking, can link an agent to either truths or falsehoods. Researchers of mental state attribution often draw a sharp line between the capacity to attribute accurate states of mind and the capacity to attribute inaccurate or “reality-incongruent” states of mind, such as false belief. This article argues that the contrast that really matters for mental state (...) attribution does not divide accurate from inaccurate states, but factive from nonfactive ones. (shrink)
Action is not always guided by conscious deliberation; in many circumstances, we act intuitively rather than reflectively. Tamar Gendler (2014) contends that because intuitively guided action can lead us away from our reflective commitments, it limits the power of knowledge to guide action. While I agree that intuition can diverge from reflection, I argue that this divergence does not constitute a restriction on the power of knowledge. After explaining my view of the contrast between intuitive and reflective thinking, this paper (...) argues against the conclusions Gendler draws from empirical work on implicit bias. (shrink)
When and why does it matter whether we can give an explicit justification for what we believe? This paper examines these questions in the light of recent empirical work on the social functions served by our capacity to reason, in particular, Mercier and Sperber’s argumentative theory of reasoning.
To what extent should we trust our natural instincts about knowledge? The question has special urgency for epistemologists who want to draw evidential support for their theories from certain intuitive epistemic assessments while discounting others as misleading. This paper focuses on the viability of endorsing the legitimacy of Gettier intuitions while resisting the intuitive pull of skepticism – a combination of moves that most mainstream epistemologists find appealing. Awkwardly enough, the “good” Gettier intuitions and the “bad” skeptical intuitions seem to (...) be equally strong. This chapter argues that it is not a coincidence that these two types of intuition register with equal force: they are generated by a common mechanism. However, the input to this mechanism is interestingly different in the two types of case, and different in a way that can support the mainstream view that Gettier cases tell us something about knowledge where skeptical intuitions involve systematic error. (shrink)
Do laypeople and philosophers differ in their attributions of knowledge? Starmans and Friedman maintain that laypeople differ from philosophers in taking ‘authentic evidence’ Gettier cases to be cases of knowledge. Their reply helpfully clarifies the distinction between ‘authentic evidence’ and ‘apparent evidence’. Using their sharpened presentation of this distinction, we contend that the argument of our original paper still stands.
Williamson has a strikingly economical way of showing how justified true belief can fail to constitute knowledge: he models a class of Gettier cases by means of two simple constraints. His constraints can be shown to rely on some unstated assumptions about the relationship between reality and appearance. These assumptions are epistemologically non-trivial but can be defended as plausible idealizations of our actual predicament, in part because they align well with empirical work on the metacognitive dimension of experience.
In the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke insists that all knowledge consists in perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas. However, he also insists that knowledge extends to outer reality, claiming that perception yields ‘sensitive knowledge’ of the existence of outer objects. Some scholars have argued that Locke did not really mean to restrict knowledge to perceptions of relations within the realm of ideas; others have argued that sensitive knowledge is not strictly speaking a form of knowledge for Locke. (...) This chapter argues that Locke’s conception of sensitive knowledge is in fact compatible with his official definition of knowledge, and discusses his treatment of the problem of skepticism, both in the Essay and in the correspondence with Stillingfleet. (shrink)
Human beings naturally desire knowledge. But what is knowledge? Is it the same as having an opinion? Highlighting the major developments in the theory of knowledge from Ancient Greece to the present day, Jennifer Nagel uses a number of simple everyday examples to explore the key themes and current debates of epistemology.
One might think that a healthy respect for the deliverances of experience would require us to give up any claim to nontrivial a priori knowledge. One way it might not would be if the very admission of something as an episode of experience required the use of substantive a priori knowledge -- if there were certain a priori standards that a representation had to meet in order to count as an experience, rather than as, say, a memory or daydream. This (...) paper argues that, surprisingly enough, we can find elements of this essentially Kantian line about experience even in the work of empiricists, such as John Locke and Bas van Fraassen. (shrink)
Having assigned experience this exclusive role in justification, empiricists then have a range of views concerning the character of experience, the semantics of our claims about unobservable entities, the nature of empirical confirmation, and the possibility of non-empirical warrant for some further class of claims, such as those accepted on the basis of linguistic or logical rules. Given the definitive principle of their position, empiricists can allow that we have knowledge independent of experience only where what is known is not (...) some objective fact about the world, but something about our way of conceptualizing or describing things. Some empiricists say we have knowledge of verbal equivalences or trivialities; some argue that any non-empirical tenets are not even properly called knowledge, but should be seen as notions accepted on pragmatic rather than properly epistemic grounds. What no empiricist will allow is substantive a priori knowledge: according to empiricism we have no pure rational insight into real necessities or the inner structure of nature, but must rely on the deliverances of our senses for all of our information about external reality. Some versions of empiricism argue against the very notion of real necessities or metaphysical structure behind the phenomena; other versions take a more agnostic approach, arguing that if there is a metaphysical structure behind the phenomena it is either out of our epistemic reach, or known only to the extent that it can be grasped through experience, rather than through rational reflection. (shrink)
Descartes claims that God is both incomprehensible and yet clearly and distinctly understood. This paper argues that Descartes’s development of the contrast between comprehension and understanding makes the role of God in his epistemology more interesting than is commonly thought. Section one examines the historical context of sceptical arguments about the difficulty of knowing God. Descartes describes the recognition of our inability to comprehend God as itself a source of knowledge of him; section two aims to explain how recognizing limits (...) to our cognitive powers is supposed to yield knowledge of anything other than ourselves. Section three aims to give a partial account of the role that awareness of the limitations of our cognitive powers is supposed to play in anchoring our knowledge of other things, and to show how such an approach to knowledge could still contribute to the development of a response to scepticism in the contemporary context. (shrink)
At any given time, an individual has certain beliefs and certain procedures or methods for modifying those beliefs. In The Realm of Reason, as in his previous book, Being Known (1999), Christopher Peacocke is concerned with the elusive question of what it is for someone to be “entitled” to a given belief or procedure.1..