Contemporary virtue epistemology (hereafter ‘VE’) is a diverse collection of approaches to epistemology. At least two central tendencies are discernible among the approaches. First, they view epistemology as a normative discipline. Second, they view intellectual agents and communities as the primary focus of epistemic evaluation, with a focus on the intellectual virtues and vices embodied in and expressed by these agents and communities. -/- This entry introduces many of the most important results of the contemporary VE research program. These include (...) novel attempts to resolve longstanding disputes, solve perennial problems, grapple with novel challenges, and expand epistemology’s horizons. In the process, it reveals the diversity within VE. Beyond sharing the two unifying commitments mentioned above, its practitioners diverge over the nature of intellectual virtues, which questions to ask, and which methods to use. -/- It will be helpful to note some terminology before proceeding. First, we use ‘cognitive’, ‘epistemic’ and ‘intellectual’ synonymously. Second, we often use ‘normative’ broadly to include not only norms and rules, but also duties and values. Finally, ‘practitioners’ names contemporary virtue epistemologists. (shrink)
I argue against the orthodox view of the relationship between propositional and doxastic justification. The view under criticism is: if p is propositionally justified for S in virtue of S's having reason R, and S believes p on the basis of R, then S's belief that p is doxastically justified. I then propose and evaluate alternative accounts of the relationship between propositional and doxastic justification, and conclude that we should explain propositional justification in terms of doxastic justification. If correct, this (...) proposal would constitute a significant advance in our understanding of the sources of epistemic justification. (shrink)
This paper explains what it is to believe something for a reason. My thesis is that you believe something for a reason just in case the reason non-deviantly causes your belief. In the course of arguing for my thesis, I present a new argument that reasons are causes, and offer an informative account of causal non-deviance.
We distinguish between two categories of belief—thin belief and thick belief—and provide evidence that they approximate genuinely distinct categories within folk psychology. We use the distinction to make informative predictions about how laypeople view the relationship between knowledge and belief. More specifically, we show that if the distinction is genuine, then we can make sense of otherwise extremely puzzling recent experimental findings on the entailment thesis (i.e. the widely held philosophical thesis that knowledge entails belief). We also suggest that the (...) distinction can be applied to debates in the philosophy of mind and metaethics. (shrink)
Many philosophers favour the simple knowledge account of assertion, which says you may assert something only if you know it. The simple account is true but importantly incomplete. I defend a more informative thesis, namely, that you may assert something only if your assertion expresses knowledge. I call this 'the express knowledge account of assertion', which I argue better handles a wider range of cases while at the same time explaining the simple knowledge account's appeal. §1 introduces some new data (...) that a knowledge account of assertion well explains. §2 explains the simple knowledge account's advantage over two of its main competitors. §3 presents a problem for the simple account and offers a solution, which is to adopt the express knowledge account. §4 encapsulates the case for the express knowledge account, and offers a unifying vision for the epistemology of belief and assertion. §5 answers an objection. §6 briefly sums up. Even those who ultimately reject my conclusion can still benefit from the new data presented in §1, and learn an important lesson from the problem discussed in §3, which demonstrates a general constraint on an acceptable account of the norm of assertion. (shrink)
This paper provides a principled and elegant solution to the Gettier problem. The key move is to draw a general metaphysical distinction and conscript it for epistemological purposes. Section 1 introduces the Gettier problem. Sections 2–5 discuss instructively wrong or incomplete previous proposals. Section 6 presents my solution and explains its virtues. Section 7 answers the most common objection.
I accomplish two things in this paper. First I expose some important limitations of the contemporary literature on the norms of assertion and in the process illuminate a host of new directions and forms that an account of assertional norms might take. Second I leverage those insights to suggest a new account of the relationship between knowledge and assertion, which arguably outperforms the standard knowledge account.
Epistemic reasons are mental states. They are not propositions or non-mental facts. The discussion proceeds as follows. Section 1 introduces the topic. Section 2 gives two concrete examples of how our topic directly affects the internalism/externalism debate in normative epistemology. Section 3 responds to an argument against the view that reasons are mental states. Section 4 presents two problems for the view that reasons are propositions. Section 5 presents two problems for the view that reasons are non-mental facts. Section 6 (...) argues that reasons are mental states. Section 7 responds to objections. (shrink)
Nearly all success is due to some mix of ability and luck. But some successes we attribute to the agent’s ability, whereas others we attribute to luck. To better understand the criteria distinguishing credit from luck, we conducted a series of four studies on knowledge attributions. Knowledge is an achievement that involves reaching the truth. But many factors affecting the truth are beyond our control and reaching the truth is often partly due to luck. Which sorts of luck are compatible (...) with knowledge? We find that knowledge attributions are highly sensitive to lucky events that change the explanation for why a belief is true. By contrast, knowledge attributions are surprisingly insensitive to lucky events that threaten but ultimately fail to change the explanation for why a belief is true. These results shed light on our concept of knowledge, help explain apparent inconsistencies in prior work on knowledge attributions, and constitute progress toward a general understanding of the relation between success and luck. (shrink)
Professional philosophers say it’s obvious that a Gettier subject does not know. But experimental philosophers and psychologists have argued that laypeople and non-Westerners view Gettier subjects very differently, based on experiments where laypeople tend to ascribe knowledge to Gettier subjects. I argue that when effectively probed, laypeople and non-Westerners unambiguously agree that Gettier subjects do not know.
An impressive case has been built for the hypothesis that knowledge is the norm of assertion, otherwise known as the knowledge account of assertion. According to the knowledge account, you should assert something only if you know that it’s true. A wealth of observational data supports the knowledge account, and some recent empirical results lend further, indirect support. But the knowledge account has not yet been tested directly. This paper fills that gap by reporting the results of such a test. (...) The knowledge account passes with flying colors. (shrink)
Can judging that an agent blamelessly broke a rule lead us to claim, paradoxically, that no rule was broken at all? Surprisingly, it can. Across seven experiments, we document and explain the phenomenon of excuse validation. We found when an agent blamelessly breaks a rule, it significantly distorts people’s description of the agent’s conduct. Roughly half of people deny that a rule was broken. The results suggest that people engage in excuse validation in order to avoid indirectly blaming others for (...) blameless transgressions. Excuse validation has implications for recent debates in normative ethics, epistemology and the philosophy of language. These debates have featured thought experiments perfectly designed to trigger excuse validation, inhibiting progress in these areas. (shrink)
In this essay I show how to reconcile epistemic invariantism with the knowledge account of assertion. My basic proposal is that we can comfortably combine invariantism with the knowledge account of assertion by endorsing contextualism about speech acts. My demonstration takes place against the backdrop of recent contextualist attempts to usurp the knowledge account of assertion, most notably Keith DeRose's influential argument that the knowledge account of assertion spells doom for invariantism and enables contextualism's ascendancy.
Is knowledge justified true belief? Most philosophers believe that the answer is clearly ‘no’, as demonstrated by Gettier cases. But Gettier cases don’t obviously refute the traditional view that knowledge is justified true belief (JTB). There are ways of resisting Gettier cases, at least one of which is partly successful. Nevertheless, when properly understood, Gettier cases point to a flaw in JTB, though it takes some work to appreciate just what it is. The nature of the flaw helps us better (...) understand the nature of knowledge and epistemic justification. I propose a crucial improvement to the traditional view, relying on an intuitive and independently plausible metaphysical distinction pertaining to the manifestation of intellectual powers, which supplements the traditional components of justification, truth and belief. (shrink)
Researchers have debated whether knowledge or certainty is a better candidate for the norm of assertion. Should you make an assertion only if you know it's true? Or should you make an assertion only if you're certain it's true? If either knowledge or certainty is a better candidate, then this will likely have detectable behavioral consequences. I report an experiment that tests for relevant behavioral consequences. The results support the view that assertability is more closely linked to knowledge than to (...) certainty. In multiple scenarios, people were much more willing to allow assertability and certainty to come apart than to allow assertability and knowledge to come apart. (shrink)
Epistemic norms play an increasingly important role in current debates in epistemology and beyond. In this volume a team of established and emerging scholars presents new work on the key debates. They consider what epistemic requirements constrain appropriate belief, assertion, and action, and explore the interconnections between these standards.
It is increasingly recognized that knowledge is the norm of assertion. As this view has gained popularity, it has also garnered criticism. One widely discussed criticism involves thought experiments about “selfless assertion.” Selfless assertions are said to be intuitively compelling examples where agents should assert propositions that they don’t even believe and, hence, don’t know. This result is then taken to show that knowledge is not the norm of assertion. This paper reports four experiments demonstrating that “selfless assertors” are viewed (...) as both believing and knowing the propositions they assert: this is the natural and intuitive way of interpreting the case. Thought experiments about selfless assertions do not threaten the knowledge account and they do not motivate weaker alternative accounts. The discussion also highlights a general lesson for philosophers: thought experiments intended to probe for mental state attributions should not conflict with basic principles that guide social cognition. (shrink)
According to factive accounts of the norm of belief and decision-making, you should not believe or base decisions on a falsehood. Even when the evidence misleadingly suggests that a false proposition is true, you should not believe it or base decisions on it. Critics claim that factive accounts are counterintuitive and badly mischaracterize our ordinary practice of evaluating beliefs and decisions. This paper reports four experiments that rigorously test the critic’s accusations and the viability of factive accounts. The results undermine (...) the accusations and provide the best evidence yet of factive norms of belief and decision-making. The results also help discriminate between two leading candidates for a factive norm: truth and knowledge. Knowledge is the superior candidate. (shrink)
People suffering from severe monothematic delusions, such as Capgras, Fregoli, or Cotard patients, regularly assert extraordinary and unlikely things. For example, some say that their loved ones have been replaced by impostors. A popular view in philosophy and cognitive science is that such monothematic delusions aren't beliefs because they don't guide behaviour and affect in the way that beliefs do. Or, if they are beliefs, they are somehow anomalous, atypical, or marginal beliefs. We present evidence from five studies that folk (...) psychology unambiguously views monothematic delusions as stereotypical beliefs. This calls into question widespread assumptions in the professional literature about belief's stereotypical functional profile. We also show that folk psychology views delusional patients as holding contradictory beliefs. And we show that frequent assertion is a powerful cue to belief ascription, more powerful than even a robust and consistent track record of non-verbal behaviour. (shrink)
It is often thought that judgments about what we ought to do are limited by judgments about what we can do, or that “ought implies can.” We conducted eight experiments to test the link between a range of moral requirements and abilities in ordinary moral evaluations. Moral obligations were repeatedly attributed in tandem with inability, regardless of the type (Experiments 1–3), temporal duration (Experiment 5), or scope (Experiment 6) of inability. This pattern was consistently observed using a variety of moral (...) vocabulary to probe moral judgments and was insensitive to different levels of seriousness for the consequences of inaction (Experiment 4). Judgments about moral obligation were no different for individuals who can or cannot perform physical actions, and these judgments differed from evaluations of a non-moral obligation (Experiment 7). Together these results demonstrate that commonsense morality rejects the “ought implies can” principle for moral requirements, and that judgments about moral obligation are made independently of considerations about ability. By contrast, judgments of blame were highly sensitive to considerations about ability (Experiment 8), which suggests that commonsense morality might accept a “blame implies can” principle. (shrink)
Pedagogy is a pillar of human culture and society. Telling each other information and showing each other how to do things comes naturally to us. A strong case has been made that declarative knowledge is the norm of assertion, which is our primary way of telling others information. This article presents an analogous case for the hypothesis that procedural knowledge is the norm of instructional demonstration, which is a primary way of showing others how to do things. Knowledge is the (...) norm of telling and showing. It is the prime pedagogical principle. (shrink)
Epistemic contextualism is one of the most hotly debated topics in contemporary epistemology. Contextualists claim that ‘know’ is a context-sensitive verb associated with different evidential standards in different contexts. Contextualists motivate their view based on a set of behavioural claims. In this paper, I show that several of these behavioural claims are false. I also show that contextualist test cases suffer from a critical confound, which derives from people's tendency to defer to speakers’ statements about their own mental states. My (...) evidence consists in results from several behavioural experiments. I conclude that contextualism is an idle hypothesis and I propose some general methodological lessons. (shrink)
What individuates the speech act of prediction? The standard view is that prediction is individuated by the fact that it is the unique speech act that requires future-directed content. We argue against this view and two successor views. We then lay out several other potential strategies for individuating prediction, including the sort of view we favor. We suggest that prediction is individuated normatively and has a special connection to the epistemic standards of expectation. In the process, we advocate some constraints (...) that we think a good theory of prediction should respect. (shrink)
Radical skepticism is the view that we know nothing or at least next to nothing. Nearly no one actually believes that skepticism is true. Yet it has remained a serious topic of discussion for millennia and it looms large in popular culture. What explains its persistent and widespread appeal? How does the skeptic get us to doubt what we ordinarily take ourselves to know? I present evidence from two experiments that classic skeptical arguments gain potency from an interaction between two (...) factors. First, people evaluate inferential belief more harshly than perceptual belief. Second, people evaluate inferential belief more harshly when its content is negative (i.e., that something is not the case) than when it is positive (i.e., that something is the case). It just so happens that potent skeptical arguments tend to focus our attention on negative inferential beliefs, and we are especially prone to doubt that such beliefs count as knowledge. That is, our cognitive evaluations are biased against this specific combination of source and content. The skeptic sows seeds of doubt by exploiting this feature of our psychology. (shrink)
This paper refutes two important and influential views in one fell stroke. The first is G.E. Moore’s view that assertions of the form ‘Q but I don’t believe that Q’ are inherently “absurd.” The second is Gareth Evans’s view that justification to assert Q entails justification to assert that you believe Q. Both views run aground the possibility of being justified in accepting eliminativism about belief. A corollary is that a principle recently defended by John Williams is also false, namely, (...) that justification to believe Q entails justification to believe that you believe Q. (shrink)
This paper critically evaluates the regress argument for infinitism. The dialectic is essentially this. Peter Klein argues that only an infinitist can, without being dogmatic, enhance the credibility of a questioned non-evident proposition. In response, I demonstrate that a foundationalist can do this equally well. Furthermore, I explain how foundationalism can provide for infinite chains of justification. I conclude that the regress argument for infinitism should not convince us.
A standard view in contemporary philosophy is that belief is involuntary, either as a matter of conceptual necessity or as a contingent fact of human psychology. We present seven experiments on patterns in ordinary folk-psychological judgments about belief. The results provide strong evidence that voluntary belief is conceptually possible and, granted minimal charitable assumptions about folk-psychological competence, provide some evidence that voluntary belief is psychologically possible. We also consider two hypotheses in an attempt to understand why many philosophers have been (...) tempted to view belief as involuntary: that belief is a prototype concept and that belief is a dual character concept. Altogether, our findings contribute to longstanding philosophical debates about the relationship between the will and the intellect, while also advancing scientific understanding of important social judgments. (shrink)
This article accomplishes two closely connected things. First, it refutes an influential view about the relationship between perception and knowledge. In particular, it demonstrates that perceiving does not entail knowing. Second, it leverages that refutation to demonstrate that knowledge is not the most general factive propositional attitude.
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.
Assertion is fundamental to our lives as social and cognitive beings. By asserting, we share knowledge, coordinate behavior, and advance collective inquiry. Accordingly, assertion is of considerable interest to cognitive scientists, social scientists, and philosophers. This paper advances our understanding of the norm of assertion. Prior evidence suggests that knowledge is the norm of assertion, a view known as “the knowledge account.” In its strongest form, the knowledge account says that knowledge is both necessary and sufficient for assertability: you should (...) make an assertion if and only if you know that it is true. The knowledge account has been rejected on the grounds that it conflicts with our ordinary practice of evaluating assertions. This paper reports four experiments that address an important objection of this sort, which focuses on a class of examples known as “Gettier cases.” The results undermine the objection and, in the process, provide further evidence for the knowledge account. T... (shrink)
The epistemic closure principle says that knowledge is closed under known entailment. The closure principle is deeply implicated in numerous core debates in contemporary epistemology. Closure’s opponents claim that there are good theoretical reasons to abandon it. Closure’s proponents claim that it is a defining feature of ordinary thought and talk and, thus, abandoning it is radically revisionary. But evidence for these claims about ordinary practice has thus far been anecdotal. In this paper, I report five studies on the status (...) of epistemic closure in ordinary practice. Despite decades of widespread assumptions to the contrary in philosophy, ordinary practice is ambivalent about closure. Ordinary practice does not endorse an unqualified version of the epistemic closure principle, although it might endorse a source-relative version of the principle. In particular, whereas inferential knowledge is not viewed as closed under known entailment, perceptual knowledge might be. (shrink)
It’s a cornerstone of epistemology that knowledge requires truth – that is, that knowledge is factive. Allan Hazlett boldly challenges orthodoxy by arguing thatthe ordinary concept of knowledge is not factive. On this basis Hazlett further argues that epistemologists shouldn’t concern themselves with the ordinary concept of knowledge, or knowledge ascriptions and related linguistic phenomena. I argue that either Hazlett is wrong about the ordinary concept of knowledge, or he’s right in a way that leaves epistemologists to carry on exactly (...) as they have, paying attention to much the same things they always did. (shrink)
I argue that you can have a priori knowledge of propositions that neither are nor appear necessarily true. You can know a priori contingent propositions that you recognize as such. This overturns a standard view in contemporary epistemology and the traditional view of the a priori, which restrict a priori knowledge to necessary truths, or at least to truths that appear necessary.
In a single-iteration fake barn case, the agent correctly identifies an object of interest on the first try, despite the presence of nearby lookalikes that could have mislead her. In a multiple-iteration fake barn case, the agent first encounters several fakes, misidentifies each of them, and then encounters and correctly identifies a genuine item of interest. Prior work has established that people tend to attribute knowledge in single-iteration fake barn cases, but multiple-iteration cases have not been tested. However, some theorists (...) contend that multiple-iteration cases are more important and will elicit a strong tendency to deny knowledge. Here I report a behavioural experiment investigating knowledge judgments in multiple-iteration fake barn cases. The main finding is that people tend to attribute knowledge in these cases too. Ironically, the results indicate that the presence of fakes could prevent iterated errors from lowering knowledge attributions. The results also provide evidence that ordinary knowledge attributions are based on attributions of cognitive ability. (shrink)
Centuries ago, Descartes and Locke initiated a foundational debate in epistemology over the relationship between knowledge, on the one hand, and practical factors, on the other. Descartes claimed that knowledge and practice are fundamentally separate. Locke claimed that knowledge and practice are fundamentally united. After a period of dormancy, their disagreement has reignited on the contemporary scene. Latter-day Lockeans claim that knowledge itself is essentially connected to, and perhaps even constituted by, practical factors such as how much is at stake, (...) how important the situation is, or how one should act. Latter-day Cartesians claim, by contrast, that knowledge is entirely constituted by truth-related factors such as truth, belief, and evidence. Each side has supported its case with claims about patterns in ordinary behavior and knowledge judgments. Lockeans argue that these patterns are best explained by positing a fundamental and direct link between knowledge and practical factors. Cartesians argue that the patterns can be equally well explained by positing an indirect link, entirely mediated by the traditional factors of truth, belief, and evidence, thereby rendering the Lockean hypothesis unnecessary. We argue that Cartesians are right about some practical factors, in particular stakes and how important a situation is, which have, at best, a modest indirect relationship to knowledge. However, Lockeans are right about actionability: whether a person should pursue a course of action is unquestionably very powerfully and directly connected to knowledge. (shrink)
This paper presents a puzzle about justification and withholding. The puzzle arises in a special case where experts advise us to not withhold judgment. My main thesis is simply that the puzzle is genuinely a puzzle, and so leads us to rethink some common assumptions in epistemology, specifically assumptions about the nature of justification and doxastic attitudes. Section 1 introduces the common assumptions. Section 2 presents the puzzle case. Section 3 assesses the puzzle case. Section 4 explains the choice we're (...) faced with. Sections 5 and 6 consider and reject some proposed solutions, and in the process refine and clarify the choice we're faced with. Section 7 considers and rejects a miscellany of different proposed solutions. (shrink)
There is a virtual consensus in contemporary epistemology that knowledge must be reliably produced. Everyone, it seems, is a reliabilist about knowledge in that sense. I present and defend two arguments that unreliable knowledge is possible. My first argument proceeds from an observation about the nature of achievements, namely, that achievements can proceed from unreliable abilities. My second argument proceeds from an observation about the epistemic efficacy of explanatory inference, namely, that inference to the best explanation seems to produce knowledge, (...) even if it isn't reliable. I also propose a successor to standard versions of reliabilism, which I call ‘ecumenical reliabilism’. Ecumenical reliabilism is consistent with unreliably produced knowledge and helps explain why unreliably produced knowledge is possible. (shrink)
We report two experiments exploring the perception of how contemporary philosophy is often conducted. We find that (1) participants associate philosophy with the practice of conducting thought experiments and collating intuitions about them, and (2) that this form of inquiry is viewed much less favourably than the typical form of inquiry in psychology: research conducted by teams using controlled experiments and observation. We also found (3) an effect whereby relying on intuition is viewed more favorably in the context of team (...) inquiry than in individual inquiry and (4) that greater prior exposure to philosophy lowered one’s opinion of inquiry driven by intuitions and thought experiments. Finally with respect to participant gender, we found that (5) women favored observation over intuition more than men did, and (6) tended to view a question pursued by a research team as more important than men viewed it. (shrink)
This paper applies speech-act theory to craft a new response to Pyrrhonian skepticism and diagnose its appeal. Carefully distinguishing between different levels of language-use and noting their interrelations can help us identify a subtle mistake in a key Pyrrhonian argument.
I evaluate two new objections to an infinitist account of epistemic justification, and conclude that they fail to raise any new problems for infinitism. The new objections are a refined version of the finite-mind objection, which says infinitism demands more than finite minds can muster, and the normativity objection, which says infinitism entails that we are epistemically blameless in holding all our beliefs. I show how resources deployed in response to the most popular objection to infinitism, the original finite-mind objection, (...) can be redeployed to address the two new objections. (shrink)
Many philosophers claim that interesting forms of epistemic evaluation are insensitive to truth in a very specific way. Suppose that two possible agents believe the same proposition based on the same evidence. Either both are justified or neither is; either both have good evidence for holding the belief or neither does. This does not change if, on this particular occasion, it turns out that only one of the two agents has a true belief. Epitomizing this line of thought are thought (...) experiments about radically deceived “brains in vats.” It is widely and uncritically assumed that such a brain is equally justified as its normally embodied human “twin.” This “parity” intuition is the heart of truth-insensitive theories of core epistemological properties such as justification and rationality. Rejecting the parity intuition is considered radical and revisionist. In this paper, I show that exactly the opposite is true. The parity intuition is idiosyncratic and widely rejected. A brain in a vat is not justified and has worse evidence than its normally embodied counterpart. On nearly every ordinary way of evaluating beliefs, a false belief is significantly inferior to a true belief. Of all the evaluations studied here, only blamelessness is truth-insensitive. (shrink)
We accomplish three things in this paper. First, we provide evidence that the motivational internalism/externalism debate in moral psychology could be a false dichotomy born of ambiguity. Second, we provide further evidence for a crucial distinction between two different categories of belief in folk psychology: thick belief and thin belief. Third, we demonstrate how careful attention to deep features of folk psychology can help diagnose and defuse seemingly intractable philosophical disagreement in metaethics.