Remarks in Wittgenstein’s On Certainty present a view according to which all knowledge rests on commitments to things we do not know. In his usual manner, Wittgenstein does not present a clearly defined set of premises designed to support this view. Instead, the reasons emerge along with the view through a series of often cryptic remarks. But this does not prevent us from critically assessing the position (or positions) one finds in the work. This paper attempts to do that in (...) the form of a philosophical dialogue. The challenges to Wittgenstein’s view raised here center on: the extent to which hinge commitments can plausibly be regarded as rules of a language-game rather than rationally assessable propositions, mutual support versus bottom up notions of justification, the subject and context relativity of hinge commitments, the difference between justification and persuasion, whether propositions of the form p is hinge are themselves hinge, and the general viability of Wittgenstein’s view as an alternative to epistemological skepticism and Moorean anti-skepticism. (shrink)
This paper is a critique of the coercion argument against performance-enhancing drugs . According to this argument, lifting the ban on PEDs would undermine the autonomy of athletes by creating a situation where everyone must either use PEDs or not compete at the highest levels of sport. Four problems are raised for this argument and it is concluded that the argument fails. A variation on the coercion argument is also considered and rejected.
What constitutes a solution to the problem of skepticism? It has been traditionally held that one must produce an argument that would rationally persuade skeptical philosophers that they are mistaken. But there is a trend in recent epistemology toward the idea that we can solve the problem without giving skeptics any good reason to change their minds. This is what I call unambitious epistemology. This paper is a critique of that project.
Recent studies provide some support for the idea that prayer has curative powers. It is argued that even if prayers are effective in these kinds of cases it cannot be because God is answering them. While many have challenged theological explanations for the efficacy of prayer on epistemic grounds, the argument presented here concludes that the theological explanation conflicts with the standard conception of God. In particular, if God answers prayers in these kinds of cases then God is immoral.
This article argues for the thesis that the distinction between propositional and doxastic justification should be extended to knowledge. A consequence of this thesis is that there is a type of knowledge that requires belief and a type that does not. A familiar example strikingly similar to the sort of example used to introduce the propositional/doxastic justification makes a prima facie case. Additional theoretical advantages are revealed when the distinction is applied within the context of some recent epistemological debates. These (...) include debates over the knowledge account of assertion, testimonial knowledge, self-deception, and the question of whether knowledge can be essentially based on falsehood. It is contended that the sort of distinction offered here provides a way to settle these debates and, at the same time, acknowledge what is correct in the opposing positions. (shrink)
Gilbert Harman has presented an argument to the effect that if S knows that p then S knows that any evidence for not-p is misleading. Therefore S is warranted in being dogmatic about anything he happens to know. I explain, and reject, Sorensen's attempt to solve the paradox via Jackson's theory of conditionals. S is not in a position to disregard evidence even when.
Truthmaker maximalism is the claim that every truth has a truthmaker. The case of negative truths leads some philosophers to postulate negative states of affairs or to give up on truthmaker maximalism. This paper defends a version of the incompatibility view of negative truths. Negative truths can be made true by positive facts, and thus, truthmaker maximalism can be maintained without postulating negative states of affairs.
_Tell Me Something I Don’t Know_ is a collection of original dialogues in epistemology, suitable for student readers but also of interest to experts. Familiar problems, theories, and arguments are explored: second-order knowledge, epistemic closure, the preface paradox, skepticism, pragmatic encroachment, the Gettier problem, and more. New ideas on each of these issues are also offered, defended, and critiqued, often in humorous and entertaining ways.
The conclusive reasons view of knowledge entails the “abominable conjunction” that I know that I have hands but I do not know that I am not a brain in a vat. The argument from abomination takes this as a reason to reject the view. This paper aims to buttress the argument from abomination by adding a new sort to this list: the logical abominations. These include: “I know that argument is sound and that sound arguments have true conclusions but I (...) don’t know whether the conclusion of that argument is true”. Two standard replies to the argument from abomination are raised. It is argued that the logical abominations open new holes in both. (shrink)
The mooronic solution to the surprise quiz paradox says students know there will be a surprise quiz one day this week but they lose this knowledge on the penultimate day. This is because ‘there will be a surprise quiz one day this week’ then becomes an instance of Moore's paradox. This view has surprising consequences. Furthermore, even though the surprise quiz announcement becomes an instance of Moore's paradox on the penultimate day, this does not prevent the students from knowing the (...) quiz is coming. I conclude that the first stage of the paradoxical argument succeeds and the mooronic solution fails. (shrink)
No platforming is the practice of preventing or prohibiting someone from contributing to public discussion because that person advances what are—or are thought to be—objectionable views. Some of the most newsworthy cases of no platforming occur on university campuses. Despite what others have claimed, there are no good epistemic reasons for no platforming in that context.
Sextus Empiricus offers an underappreciated and under-discussed version of dream-based skepticism. Most philosophers interested in dreams and skepticism focus on the question of how you know you are not currently dreaming. Sextus points out that our waking experiences and dreams often conflict. And, the challenge goes, what reason do you have to trust the one over the other? This question presupposes that dreams and waking experiences are distinguishable. Thus the kinds of responses typically offered against dream-based skepticism do not apply. (...) And if we accept an idea upheld by one camp in the contemporary debate over the epistemology of disagreement, Sextus’ challenge is difficult to answer. A G.E. Moore-inspired response to the problem is also proposed and explored. It is argued that Sextus’ version of the problem reveals a certain limitation in that sort of approach to skeptical problems. (shrink)
In a Normal Case, a subject has a justified true belief that P and also knows that P. In a Gettier Case, a subject has a justified true belief that P but does not know that P. The received view (endorsed by Lycan and others) is that if one is in a Normal Case then one cannot know that he is not in a Gettier case. I argue that the received view is mistaken and I discuss the implications this has (...) on some other epistemological issues. (shrink)
Some object that contextualism makes knowledge elusive in the sense that it comes and goes as the standards for knowledge change. Contextualists have attempted to handle this objection by semantic ascent. Some of the recent refinements that contextualism has undergone create serious problems for this move. Either it makes contextualism unassertible or it makes refuting the skeptic too easy.
Epistemological Disjunctivism is the view that rational support for paradigm cases of perceptual knowledge that P comes from seeing that P – a state that is both factive and reflectively accessible. ED has the consequence that if I see that there is a barn before me, I can thereby be in a position to know that I am not in fake barn country. It is argued that this is a problem. The problem is distinct from familiar complaints about Neo-Mooreanism and (...) easy knowledge. Potential ways of avoiding this problem are proposed. It is argued that they do not succeed. There is a way out of ED's fake barn problem but many will likely find it inhospitable. (shrink)
Several subjects are fully convinced that they are brains in vats whose experiences are hallucinatory. They confront a ‘skeptic’ who raises the possibility that they are not brains in vats who lack and hallucinate hands but ‘brains in skulls’ who have hands and see them. Familiar responses to skepticism are offered in support of the claim that the subjects know they do not have hands. The philosophical significance of this looking-glass approach to skepticism is also discussed. It is suggested that (...) these familiar responses to skepticism do not achieve anything because, if we begin from the assumption that we are brains in vats, we can employ those same responses to skepticism to support the claim that we know we do not have hands. One interlocutor argues that things are not so dismal. The main conversation is framed by a discussion among night watchmen at some sort of skepticism laboratory. (shrink)
A self-fulfilling fallacy (SFF) is a fallacious argument whose conclusion is that the very fallacy employed is an invalid or otherwise illegitimate inferential procedure. This paper discusses three different ways in which SFF’s might serve to justify their conclusions. SFF’s might have probative value as honest and straightforward arguments, they might serve to justify the premise of a meta-argument or, following a point made by Roy Sorensen, they might provide a non-inferential basis for accepting their conclusion. The paper concludes with (...) an assessment of the relative merits of these proposals. (shrink)
Sorensen raises the issue of whether it is logically possible to fake Munchausen's syndrome by way of a fictional exchange between a physician and an insurance company. In this paper, it is shown that it is possible to fake Munchausen's syndrome and to fake faking Munchausen's syndrome. The implications of this on deeper philosophical issues such as Lewis' puzzle of iterated pretence and “internalist” versus “externalist” accounts of faking are discussed. An externalist account of faking is defended and offered as (...) a solution to Lewis' puzzle as it arises in this context. (shrink)
The inferentialist account of the a priori says that basic logical beliefs can be justified by way of rule circular inference. I argue that this account of the a priori fails to skirt the charge of begging the question, that the reasons offered in support of it are weak and that it makes justifying logical beliefs too easy. I also argue that recent modifications to inferentialism spell doom for it as a general theory of a priori justification.
This is a reply to W. Paul Franks’ critique (‘Why a Believer Could Believe that God Answers Prayers’) of my recent paper in Sophia (2007). I argue that Franks’ Plantinga-inspired criticism fails because it turns on the dubious assumption that the efficacy of prayer could provide evidence for the existence of God.