Introduction -- Fallibilism -- Contextualism -- Knowledge and reasons -- Justification -- Belief -- The value and importance of knowledge -- Infallibilism or pragmatic encroachment? -- Appendix I: Conflicts with bayesian decision theory? -- Appendix II: Does KJ entail infallibilism?
Epistemologists often claim that in addition to belief and disbelief there is a third, neutral, doxastic attitude. Various terms are used: ‘suspending judgment’, ‘withholding’, ‘agnosticism’. It is also common to claim that the factors relevant to the justification of these attitudes are epistemic in the narrow sense of being factors that bear on the strength or weakness of one’s epistemic position with respect to the target proposition. This paper addresses two challenges to such traditionalism about doxastic attitudes. The first concerns (...) the relevance of non-epistemic factors we might call "future-comparative" – e.g., that you’ll have more decisive evidence on whether p tomorrow – to the justification of suspending judgment. The second, from Jane Friedman, is to explain the point of the neutral attitude without appealing to inquiry and thus taking goal-related factors, which are not epistemic, such as the value of the goal or the prospects for finding means to achieve it, to bear on the justification of the neutral attitude. My defense of traditionalism relies on distinguishing three ways of being neutral on a question: agnosticism, inquiry and suspension of judgment. Traditionalism is saved because, of these, agnosticism alone is a genuine doxastic attitude. (shrink)
Evidentialism is the thesis that epistemic justification for belief supervenes on evidential support. However, we claim there are cases in which, even though two subjects have the same evidential support for a proposition, only one of them is justified. What make the difference are pragmatic factors, factors having to do with our cares and concerns. Our argument against evidentialism is not based on intuitions about particular cases. Rather, we aim to provide a theoretical basis for rejecting evidentialism by defending a (...) “pragmatic” necessary condition on epistemic justification. We argue for the following necessary condition for justification: S is justified in believing that p only if S is rational to prefer (and, hence, act) as if p. In light of this necessary condition, the price of evidentialism is skepticism, or something close to it. (shrink)
We argue, contrary to epistemological orthodoxy, that knowledge is not purely epistemic -- that knowledge is not simply a matter of truth-related factors (evidence, reliability, etc.). We do this by arguing for a pragmatic condition on knowledge, KA: if a subject knows that p, then she is rational to act as if p. KA, together with fallibilism, entails that knowledge is not purely epistemic. We support KA by appealing tothe role of knowledge-citations in defending and criticizing actions, and by giving (...) a principled argument for KA, based on the inference rule KB: if a subject knows that A is the best thing she can do, she is rational to do A. In the second half of the paper, we consider and reject the two most promising objections to our ease for KA, one based on the Gricean notion of conversational implicature and the other based on a contextualist maneuver. (shrink)
Mark Balaguer has written a provocative and original book. The book is as ambitious as a work of philosophy of mathematics could be. It defends both of the dominant views concerning the ontology of mathematics, Platonism and Anti-Platonism, and then closes with an argument that there is no fact of the matter which is right.
Walking through the supermarket, I see the avocados. I know they are avocados. Similarly, if you see a pumpkin on my office desk, you can know it’s a pumpkin from its looks. The phenomenology in such cases is that of “just seeing” that such and such. This phenomenology might suggest that the knowledge gained is immediate. This paper argues, to the contrary, that in these target cases, the knowledge is mediate, depending as it does on one’s knowledge of what the (...) relevant kind of thing looks like. To make the case requires examining the nature of knowing what Fs look like. Is such knowledge to be understood as knowledge of a fact, or rather as a kind of ability? From the conclusion that the knowledge in the target cases is not immediate, the paper concludes that perception does not afford us immediate knowledge concerning objects’ kinds. (shrink)
Much of the plausibility of epistemic conservatism derives from its prospects of explaining our rationality in holding memory beliefs. In the first two parts of this paper, I argue for the inadequacy of the two standard approaches to the epistemology of memory beliefs, preservationism and evidentialism. In the third, I point out the advantages of the conservative approach and consider how well conservatism survives three of the strongest objections against it. Conservatism does survive, I claim, but only if qualified in (...) certain ways. Appropriately qualified, conservatism is no longer the powerful anti-skeptical tool some have hoped for, but a doctrine closely connected with memory. (shrink)
The two main theories of perceptual reasons in contemporary epistemology can be called Phenomenalism and Factualism. According to Phenomenalism, perceptual reasons are facts about experiences conceived of as phenomenal states, i.e., states individuated by phenomenal character, by what it’s like to be in them. According to Factualism, perceptual reasons are instead facts about the external objects perceived. The main problem with Factualism is that it struggles with bad cases: cases where perceived objects are not what they appear or where there (...) is no perceived object at all. The main problem with Phenomenalism is that it struggles with good cases: cases where everything is perfectly normal and the external object is correctly perceived, so that one’s perceptual beliefs are knowledge. In this paper we show that there is a theory of perceptual reasons that avoids the problems for Factualism and Phenomenalism. We call this view Propositionalism. We use ‘proposition’ broadly to mean the entities that are contents of beliefs and other doxastic attitudes. The key to finding a middle ground between Phenomenalism and Factualism, we claim, is to allow our reasons to be false in bad cases. Despite being false, they are about the external world, not our phenomenal states. (shrink)
Imagine I hold up a Granny Smith apple for all to see. You would thereby gain justified beliefs that it was green, that it was apple, and that it is a Granny Smith apple. Under classical foundationalism, such simple visual beliefs are mediately justified on the basis of reasons concerning your experience. Under dogmatism, some or all of these beliefs are justified immediately by your experience and not by reasons you possess. This paper argues for what I call the looks (...) view of the justification of simple visual beliefs. According to the looks view, such beliefs are mediately justified on the basis of reasons concerning how the relevant things look. Unlike under classical foundationalism, under the looks view as I develop it, these reasons are public. They are public with respect to both their content and possession: with respect to content, they are not about ourselves and our experiences, and with respect to their possession, many people can have the very same looks-related reasons. (shrink)
Walking through the supermarket, I see the avocados. I know they are avocados. Similarly, if you see a pumpkin on my office desk, you can know it's a pumpkin from its looks. The phenomenology in such cases is that of "just seeing" that such and such is the case. This phenomenology might suggest that the knowledge gained is immediate. This essay argues, to the contrary, that in these target cases, the knowledge is mediate, depending as it does on one's knowledge (...) of what the relevant kind of thing looks like. To make the case requires examining the nature of knowing what Fs look like. Is such knowledge to be understood as knowledge of a fact, or rather as a kind of ability? From the claim that the knowledge in the target cases is not immediate, and the fact that these cases are paradigm cases of immediate knowledge of objects' kinds, the essay concludes that perception does not afford us immediate knowledge concerning objects’ kinds. (shrink)
According to Schellenberg, our perceptual experiences have the epistemic force they do because they are exercises of certain sorts of capacity, namely capacities to discriminate particulars—objects, property-instances and events—in a sensory mode. She calls her account the “capacity view.” In this paper, I will raise three concerns about Schellenberg’s capacity view. The first is whether we might do better to leave capacities out of our epistemology and take content properties as the fundamental epistemically relevant features of experiences. I argue we (...) would. The second is whether Schellenberg’s appeal to factive and phenomenal evidence accommodates the intuitive verdicts about the bad case that she claims it does. I argue it does not. The third is whether Schellenberg’s account of factive evidence is adequate to capture nuances concerning the justification for singular but nondemonstrative perceptual beliefs, such as the belief that’s NN, where NN is a proper name. I argue it is not. If I am right, these points suggest a mental-state-first account of perceptual justification, rather than a capacity-first account, and one which treats the good and bad cases alike in respect of justification and complicates the relation between perceptual content and what one is justified in believing. (shrink)
We begin by asking what fallibilism about knowledge is, distinguishing several conceptions of fallibilism and giving reason to accept what we call strong epistemic fallibilism, the view that one can know that something is the case even if there remains an epistemic chance, for one, that it is not the case. The task of the paper, then, concerns how best to defend this sort of fallibilism from the objection that it is “mad,” that it licenses absurd claims such as “I (...) know that p but there’s a chance that not p ” and “ p but it there’s a chance that not p .” We argue that the best defense of fallibilism against this objection—a “pragmatist” defense—makes the following claims. First, while knowledge that p is compatible with an epistemic chance that not- p , it is compatible only with an insignificant such chance. Second, the insignificance of the chance that not- p is plausibly understood in terms of the irrelevance of that chance to p ’s serving as a ‘justifier’, for action as well as belief. In other words, if you know that p , then any chance for you that not p doesn’t stand in the way of p ’s being properly put to work as a basis for action and belief. (shrink)
In this chapter, we follow Edward Craig?s advice: ask what the concept of knowledge does for us and use our findings as clues about its application conditions. What a concept does for us is a matter of what we can do with it, and what we do with concepts is deploy them in thought and language. So, we will examine the purposes we have in attributing knowledge. This chapter examines two such purposes, agent evaluation and informant-suggestion, and brings the results (...) to bear on an important debate about the application conditions of the concept of knowledge?the debate between contextualists and their rivals. (shrink)
Epistemology has long mesmerized its practitioners with numerous puzzles. What can we know, and how can we know it? In Epistemology: A Contemporary Introduction, Alvin Goldman, one of the most noted contemporary epistemologists, and Matthew McGrath, known for his work on a wide range of topics in the field, have joined forces to delve into these puzzles.
Is truth a substantial feature of truth-bearers? Correspondence theorists answer in the affirmative, deflationists in the negative. Correspondence theorists cite in their defense the dependence of truth on meaning or representational content. Deflationists in turn cite the conceptual centrality of simple equivalences such as ''Snow is white' is true iff snow is white'' and 'It is true that snow is white iff snow is white'. The apparent facts to which these theorists appeal correspond to some of our firmest and most (...) basic convictions about truth. An account of truth that fails to accommodate either sort of apparent fact is inadequate. The account presented in this essay attempts to avoid this inadequacy by 'deflating' truth for propositions but 'inflating' truth for entities that express propositions, thus drawing from the insights of both deflationists and correspondence theorists. (shrink)
The correspondence theory of truth is often thought to be supported by the intuition that if a proposition (sentence, belief) is true, then something makes it true. I argue that this appearance is illusory and is sustained only by a conflation of two distinct notions of truthmaking, existential and non-existential. Once the conflation is exposed, I maintain, deflationism is seen to be adequate for accommodating truthmaking intuitions.
One familiar form of argument for rejecting entities of a certain kind is that, by rejecting them, we avoid certain difficult problems associated with them. Such problem-avoidance arguments backfire if the problems cited survive the elimination of the rejected entities. In particular, we examine one way problems can survive: a question for the realist about which of a set of inconsistent statements is false may give way to an equally difficult question for the eliminativist about which of a set of (...) inconsistent statements fail to be 'factual'. Much of the first half of the paper is devoted to explaining a notion of factuality that does not imply truth but still consists in 'getting the world right'. The second half of the paper is a case study. Some 'compositional nihilists' have argued that, by rejecting composite objects (and so by denying the composition ever takes place), we avoid the notorious puzzles of coincidence, for example, the statue/lump and the ship of Theseus puzzles. Using the apparatus developed in the first half of the paper, we explore the question of whether these puzzles survive the elimination of composite objects. (shrink)
This paper is a critical response to Eli Hirsch’s recent work in metaontology. Hirsch argues that several prominent ontological disputes about physical objects are verbal, a conclusion he takes to vindicate common sense ontology. In my response, I focus on the debate over composition (van Inwagen’s special composition question). I argue that given Hirsch’s own criterion for a dispute’s being verbal – a dispute is verbal iff charity requires each side to interpret the other sides as speaking the truth in (...) their own languages –his case for verbalness comes up short. Hirsch ignores an important facet of charity, which I call charity to expressibility, viz. that we ought ceteris paribus to interpret linguistic communities as not speaking expressively impoverished languages. In fact, I argue that given his criterion, the debate over composition turns out nonverbal. I close by suggesting that even if the dispute over composition is nonverbal, the sides can arrive at a kind of limited conciliation through charitable interpretation of one another. Each side ought to interpret a great many of the other sides claims as “factual” even if false. (shrink)
According to Schellenberg’s capacitism, perception is constituted by employing perceptual capacities to discriminate and single out particulars, including objects, events and property instances. To say that perception is so constituted, for her, is to say that perceptual states have the content, phenomenal character, and evidential force they do in virtue of the fact that they are yielded by employing perceptual capacities.1 1.
In recent work, Sosa proposes a comprehensive account of epistemic value based on an axiology for attempts. According to this axiology, an attempt is better if it succeeds, better still if it is apt (i.e., succeeds through competence), and best if it is fully apt, (i.e., guided to aptness by apt beliefs that it would be apt). Beliefs are understood as attempts aiming at the truth. Thus, a belief is better if true, better still if apt, and best if fully (...) apt. I raise a Kantian obstacle for Sosa’s account, arguing that the quality or worth of an attempt is independent of whether it succeeds. In particular, an attempt can be fully worthy despite being a failure. I then consider whether Sosa’s competence-theoretic framework provides the resources for an axiology of attempts that does not place so much weight on success. I discuss the most promising candidate, an axiology grounded in the competence of attempts, or what Sosa calls adroitness. An adroit attempt may fail. I raise doubts about whether an adroitness-based axiology can provide a plausible explanation of the worthiness of subjects’ beliefs in epistemically unfortunate situations, such as the beliefs of the brain in a vat. I conclude by speculating that the notion of a belief’s fit with what the subject has to go on, a notion missing from Sosa’s competence-theoretic framework, is crucial to explaining epistemic worth. (shrink)
This paper argues, in response to Huw Price, that deflationism has the resources to account for the normativity of truth. The discussion centers on a principle of hyper-objective assertibility, that one is incorrect to assert that p if not-p. If this principle doesn't state a fact about truth, it neednt be explained by deflationists. If it does,, it can be explained.
Stewart Cohen offers a critique of much contemporary epistemology. Epistemologies use the term ‘epistemic’ in order to specify the issues they investigate and about which they disagree. Cohen sees widespread confusion about these issues. The problem, he argues, is that ‘epistemic’ is functioning as an inadequately defined technical term. I will argue, rather, that the troubles come more from non-technical vocabulary, in particular with ‘justification’ and ‘ought’, and generally from the difficulty of explaining normativity. Overall, the message of this paper (...) is that normativity is what’s hard to understand, not the term ‘epistemic.’. (shrink)
This paper examines the prospects of a prima facie attractive response to Fantl and McGrath’s argument for pragmatic encroachment. The response concedes that if one knows a proposition to be true then that proposition is warranted enough for one to have it as a reason for action. But it denies pragmatic encroachment, insofar as it denies that whether one knows a proposition to be true can vary with the practical stakes, holding fixed strength of warrant. This paper explores two ways (...) to allow knowledge-reason links without pragmatic encroachment, both of which appeal to defeat. The first appeals to defeaters of reasons. If you know the bank is open tomorrow, what you know is available as a reason, but it may be defeated by considerations concerning the stakes. The second appeals to defeaters which do not defeat reasons but which nonetheless do something similar: they make the action recommended by those reasons vicious. In a high stakes case performing the “risky” action would be vicious even if it is justified in the sense of being supported by undefeated reasons. What is defeated is a virtue-based epistemic status rather than reasons or justification. I argue that neither proposal halts the march from a knowledge-reason link to pragmatic encroachment. (shrink)
In Sect. 1 of this chapter, Matthew McGrath examines Sosa's work on the nature of truth. Sosa's chief purpose is to determine what sort of theory of truth is appropriate for truth-centered epistemology -- an epistemology that takes truth to be the goal of inquiry and which explains key epistemic notions in terms of truth. While Sosa refutes arguments from Putnam and Davidson against the correspondence theory, he is hesitant to endorse it because he doubts we have a clear enough (...) grasp of what correspondence amounts to and what the correspondents are. A truth-centered epistemologist, however, is free to work with minimalism about truth and Moorean primitivism. Part of Sosa's case for primitivism, and against minimalism, involves a comparison with Moore's account of goodness. Here McGrath notes an important dissimilarity between the two (i.e., susceptibility to open-question arguments) and suggests that this may be reason to prefer minimalism to primitivism. -/- In Sect. 2, Jeremy Fantl discusses Sosa's work on the role of truth in epistemology. Sosa seems to be motivated by a dilemma facing any account of that role on which true belief is the sole fundamental epistemic value. On the one hand, we want an account of the role of truth in epistemology to explain why we epistemically evaluate beliefs and guide our intellectual lives in the way we do. On the other hand, it should not come out that we have any sort of epistemic obligation to form beliefs about completely boring or trivial matters (e.g., about the first phone number listed on page 356 of the phone book). Sosa's attempt to resolve the dilemma is to, first of all, adopt something like a pluralism about epistemic value and, second of all, move the primary locus of epistemic evaluation from beliefs to faculties. The second part of this chapter investigates the intricacies of these maneuvers. (shrink)