Current epistemological orthodoxy has it that knowledge is incompatible with luck. More precisely: Knowledge is incompatible with epistemic luck . This is often treated as a truism which is not even in need of argumentative support. In this paper, I argue that there is lucky knowledge. In the first part, I use an intuitive and not very developed notion of luck to show that there are cases of knowledge which are “lucky” in that sense. In the second part, I look (...) at philosophical conceptions of luck and come to the conclusion that knowledge can be lucky in those senses, too. I also turns out that a probabilistic notion of luck can help us see in what ways a particular piece of knowledge or belief can be lucky or not lucky. (shrink)
Can I be wrong about my own beliefs? More precisely: Can I falsely believe that I believe that p? I argue that the answer is negative. This runs against what many philosophers and psychologists have traditionally thought and still think. I use a rather new kind of argument, – one that is based on considerations about Moore's paradox. It shows that if one believes that one believes that p then one believes that p – even though one can believe that (...) p without believing that one believes that p. (shrink)
Voluntarism about beliefs is the view that persons can be free to choose their beliefs for non-epistemic (truth-related) reasons (cf. Williams 1973). One problem for belief voluntarism is that it can lead to Moore-paradoxality. The person might believe that -/- a.) there are also good epistemic reasons for her belief, or that b.) there are no epistemic reasons one way or the other, or that c.) there are good epistemic reasons against her belief. -/- If the person is aware of (...) the fact that she chose her belief for non-epistemic reasons, then she would believe one of the following three things (using "evidence" as a term for all kinds of epistemic reasons): -/- a.) I believe that p but not because of the good evidence in favour of it; b.) I believe that p but that has nothing to do with the evidence; c.) I believe that p but the evidence speaks against it. -/- We could add a fourth case in which the person suspends belief on the subject matter despite the evidence: -/- d.) The evidence supports "p" but I have no view on the matter. -/- All the different versions a-d are somehow Moore-paradoxical. They constitute different ways of mistrusting one's own belief (cf. Wittgenstein 1958, p.190). Given that one cannot, for conceptual reasons, mistrust one's beliefs, it follows that a person cannot be in one of the above predicaments described by a-d. Hence, voluntarism about beliefs is false, at least if we are dealing with cases in which the person is aware of the fact that she chose her belief for non-epistemic reasons. It won't help to focus on cases in which the person is not aware of that fact, either because she has forgotten the genesis of her belief or because the process of belief acquisition was unconscious. -/- Bas van Fraassen's conception of a stance (cf. van Fraassen 2002)-a mix of commitments, values, goals-gives us reason to rethink the possibility of voluntarism. Might we be free to choose our stances for non-epistemic reasons? I argue here that the answer is negative. First, it is not clear at all whether stances can be objects of choice, properly speaking. And: Can we make sense of the idea of a free choice here? Furthermore, I argue that similar problems of Moore-paradoxality would arise for voluntarism about stances. If one does not want to completely devalue the idea of a stance, one should avoid voluntarism. (shrink)
Epistemological contextualism - the claim that the truth-value of knowledge-attributions can vary with the context of the attributor - has recently faced a whole series of objections. The most serious one, however, has not been discussed much so far: the factivity objection. In this paper, I explain what the objection is and present three different versions of the objection. I then show that there is a good way out for the contextualist. However, in order to solve the problem the contextualist (...) has to accept a relationalist version of contextualism. (shrink)
Christoph Jäger (2004) argues that Dretske's information theory of knowledge raises a serious problem for his denial of closure of knowledge under known entailment: Information is closed under known entailment (even under entailment simpliciter); given that Dretske explains the concept of knowledge in terms of "information", it is hard to stick with his denial of closure for knowledge. Thus, one of the two basic claims of Dretske would have to go. Since giving up the denial of closure would commit Dretske (...) to skepticism, it would most probably be better to rather give up the information-theoretic account of knowledge. But that means that one of the best externalist views of knowledge has to be given up. I argue here that Jäger is mistaken and that there is no problem for Dretske. There is a rather easy way out of Jäger’s problem. (shrink)
In Baumann (American Philosophical Quarterly 42: 71–79, 2005) I argued that reflections on a variation of the Monty Hall problem throws a very general skeptical light on the idea of single-case probabilities. Levy (Synthese, forthcoming, 2007) puts forward some interesting objections which I answer here.
Abstract One of the most popular objections against epistemic contextualism is the so-called ?warranted assertability? objection. The objection is based on the possibility of a ?warranted assertability manoeuvre?, also known as a WAM. I argue here that WAMs are of very limited scope and importance. An important class of cases cannot be dealt with by WAMs. No analogue of WAMs is available for these cases. One should thus not take WAMs too seriously in the debate about epistemic contextualism.
One of the most recent trends in epistemology is contrastivism. It can be characterized as the thesis that knowledge is a ternary relation between a subject, a proposition known and a contrast proposition. According to contrastivism, knowledge attributions have the form “S knows that p, rather than q”. In this paper I raise several problems for contrastivism: it lacks plausibility for many cases of knowledge, is too relaxed concerning the third relatum, and overlooks a further relativity of the knowledge relation.
We often describe lives (or parts of lives) as meaningful or as not meaningful. It is also common to characterize them as more or less meaningful. Some lives, we tend to think, are more meaningful than others. But how then can one compare lives with respect to how much meaning they contain? Can one? This paper argues that (i) only a notion of rough equality can be used when comparing different lives with respect to their meaning, and that (ii) the (...) relation of being more meaningful is not transitive. It follows that all attempts to rank different lives in terms of meaning can at best lead to partially indeterminate and incomplete rankings. One should also give up on the idea of “maximizing” meaning. I will use Thaddeus Metz’s important recent book “Meaning in Life. An Analytic Study” as a foil for my discussion. (shrink)
The well known Monty Hall-problem has a clear solution if one deals with a long enough series of individual games. However, the situation is different if one switches to probabilities in a single case. This paper presents an argument for Monty Hall situations with two players (not just one, as is usual). It leads to a quite general conclusion: One cannot apply probabilistic considerations (for or against any of the strategies) to isolated single cases. If one does that, one cannot (...) but violate a very plausible non-arbitrariness condition and is led into a Moore-paradoxical incoherence. Even though arguments for switching are correct as applied to series of games, they don’t say anything useful about what rationality demands in a single case. (shrink)
One of the most interesting accounts of knowledge which have been recently proposed is the safety account of knowledge. According to it, one only knows that p if one's true belief that p could not have easily been false: S believes that p ==> p (where "==>" stands for the subjunctive conditional). This paper presents a counter-example and discusses attempts to fix the problem. It turns out that there is a deeper underlying problem which does not allow for a solution (...) that would help the safety theorist. It is not the case that knowledge is safe. (shrink)
Hájek has recently presented the following paradox. You are certain that a cable guy will visit you tomorrow between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. but you have no further information about when. And you agree to a bet on whether he will come in the morning interval (8, 12] or in the afternoon interval (12, 4). At first, you have no reason to prefer one possibility rather than the other. But you soon realise that there will definitely be a future (...) time at which you will (rationally) assign higher probability to an afternoon arrival than a morning one, due to time elapsing. You are also sure there may not be a future time at which you will (rationally) assign a higher probability to a morning arrival than an afternoon one. It would therefore appear that you ought to bet on an afternoon arrival. The paradox is based on the apparent incompatibility of the principle of expected utility and principles of diachronic rationality which are prima facie plausible. Hájek concludes that the latter are false, but doesn't provide a clear diagnosis as to why. We endeavour to further our understanding of the paradox by providing such a diagnosis. (shrink)
Is knowledge necessary or sufficient or both necessary and sufficient for acceptable practical reasoning and rational action? Several authors (e.g., Williamson, Hawthorne, and Stanley) have recently argued that the answer to these questions is positive. In this paper I present several objections against this view (both in its basic form as well in more developed forms). I also offer a sketch of an alternative view: What matters for the acceptability of practical reasoning in at least many cases (and in all (...) the cases discussed by the defenders of a strong link between knowledge and practical reasoning) is not so much knowledge but expected utility. (shrink)
One of the great attractions of Thomas Reid's account of knowledge is that he attempted to avoid the alternative between skepticism and dogmatism. This attempt, however, faces serious problems. It is argued here that there is a pragmatist way out of the problems, and that there are even hints to this solution in Reid's writings.
This paper argues against common views that at least in many cases Robert Nozick is not forced to deny common closure principles. More importantly, Nozick does not – despite first (and second) appearances and despite his own words – deny closure. On the contrary, he is defending a more sophisticated and complex principle of closure. This principle does remarkably well though it is not without problems. It is surprising how rarely Nozick’s principle of closure has been discussed. He should be (...) seen not so much as a denier of closure than as someone who’s proposing an alternative, more complex principle of closure. (shrink)
Amongst those who answered Molyneux’s question in the negative or at least not in the positive, George Berkeley is of particular interest because he argued for a very radical position. Most of his contribution to the discussion can be found in his Essay towards a New Theory of Vision. I will give an exposition of his view (2) and then move on to a critical discussion of this kind of view, - what one could call the “Berkeleian view” (3). I (...) think that the problems of what has become a standard negative answer to the question (mainly brought forward by empiricists) become very clear in Berkeley’s case and one can also learn a lot from this. (shrink)
In his recent book Moral Skepticisms Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argues in great detail for contrastivism with respect to justified moral belief and moral knowledge. I raise three questions concerning this view. First, how would Sinnott-Armstrong account for constraints on admissible contrast classes? Secondly, how would he deal with notorious problems concerning relevant reference classes? Finally, how can he account for basic features of moral agency? It turns out that the last problem is the most serious one for his account.
There is a sceptical puzzle according to which knowledge appears to license an unacceptable kind of dogmatism. Here is a version of the corresponding sceptical argument: (1) If a subject S knows a proposition p, then it is OK for S to ignore all evidence against p as misleading; (2) It is never OK for any subject to ignore any evidence against their beliefs as misleading; (3) Hence, nobody knows anything.I distinguish between different versions of the puzzle (mainly a ‘permissibility’ (...) version and a ‘closure’ version) and offer a solution for one version (the permissibility version) of the problem. No matter how much a subject knows, knowledge never gives one a license to ignore evidence against a proposition. Premise (1) of the argument is false and the puzzle can thus be resolved. (shrink)
Ernest Sosa has made and continues to make major contributions to a wide variety of topics in epistemology. In this paper I discuss some of his core ideas about the nature of knowledge and scepticism. I start with a discussion of the safety account of knowledge – a view he has championed and further developed over the years. I continue with some questions concerning the role of the concept of an epistemic virtue for our understanding of knowledge. Safety and virtue (...) hang very closely together for Sosa. All this easily leads to some thoughts on epistemic scepticism and on Sosa's stance on this. (shrink)
There are many ordinary propositions we think we know. Almost every ordinary proposition entails some "lottery proposition" which we think we do not know but to which we assign a high probability of being true (for instance: “I will never be a multi-millionaire” entails “I will not win this lottery”). How is this possible - given that some closure principle is true? This problem, also known as “the Lottery puzzle”, has recently provoked a lot of discussion. In this paper I (...) discuss one of the most promising answers to the problem: Stewart Cohen’s contextualist solution which is based on ideas about the salience of chances of error. After presenting some objections to it I sketch an alternative solution which is still contextualist in spirit. (shrink)
There is a very plausible principle of the transitivity of justifying reasons. It says that if "p" is better justified than "q" (all things considered) and "q" better than "r", then "p" is better justified than "r" (all things considered). There is a corresponding principle of rational theory choice. Call one theory "a better theory than" another theory if all criteria of theory choice considered (explanatory power, simplicity, empirical adequacy, etc.), the first theory meets the criteria better than the second (...) theory. The corresponding transitivity principle says that if theory A is a better theory than theory B and if theory B is a better theory than theory C, then A is a better theory than theory C. I argue against this principle. It turns out that whenever there are 2 or more relevant and independent criteria of theory evaluation, and whenever at least of one the criteria is "non-linear" in a certain sense, there may be violations of transitivity which do not violate any standards of rationality (of theory choice). This shows, again, that theory choice cannot be seen as merely the application of given rules of rational theory choice. (shrink)
This paper discusses two versions of reliabilism: modal and probabilistic reliabilism. Modal reliabilism faces the problem of the missing closeness metric for possible worlds while probalistic reliabilism faces the problem of the relevant reference class. Despite the severity of these problems, reliabilism is still very plausible (also for independent reasons). I propose to stick with reliabilism, propose a contextualist (or, alternatively, harmlessly relativist) solution to the above problems and suggest that probabilistic reliabilism has the advantage over modal reliabilism.
Philip Kitcher recently argued for a reconstruction in philosophy. According to him, the contemporary mainstream of philosophy has deteriorated into something that is of relevance only to a few specialists who communicate with each other in a language nobody else understands. Kitcher proposes to reconstruct philosophy along two axes: a knowledge axis and a value axis. The present article discusses Kitcher's diagnosis as well as his proposal of a therapy. It argues that there are problems with both, and it ends (...) with an alternative view of what some core problems of the profession currently are. (shrink)
A widely accepted thesis in the philosophy of language is that natural language proper names are rigid designators, and that they are so de jure, or as a matter of the “semantic rules of the language.” This paper questions this claim, arguing that rigidity cannot be plausibly construed as a property of name types and that the alternative, rigidity construed as a property of tokens, means that they cannot be considered rigid de jure; rigidity in this case must be viewed (...) as a pragmatic and not a semantic property. (shrink)
Does knowledge entail belief? This paper argues that the answer depends on how one interprets ‘belief’. There are two different notions of belief: belief as such and belief for knowledge. They often differ in their degrees of conviction such that one but not both might be present in a particular case. The core of the paper is dedicated to a defense of this overlooked distinction. The beginning of the paper presents the distinction. It then presents two cases which are supposed (...) to back up the claim that there is an important distinction here; I also offer some explanations concerning the structure of these cases. Finally, I add further considerations in support of the core thesis, and discuss objections. The distinction is important as such but also has interesting implications concerning the much discussed ‘entailment thesis’ according to which knowledge entails belief. It is argued here that even if knowledge entails belief-for-knowledge, it does not entail belief-as-such. This constitutes an interesting middle position and compromise in the philosophical debate about the entailment thesis. One further implication of this paper is that the discussion about the entailment thesis needs to take degrees of conviction seriously. Still another implication is that epistemic contextualists can deal very well with the relevant phenomena. (shrink)
The possibility of knowledge attributions across contexts (where attributor and subject find themselves in different epistemic contexts) can create serious problems for certain views of knowledge. Amongst such views is subject—sensitive invariantism—the view that knowledge is determined not only by epistemic factors (belief, truth, evidence, etc.) but also by non—epistemic factors (practical interests, etc.). I argue that subject—sensitive invariantism either runs into a contradiction or has to make very implausible assumptions. The problem has been very much neglected but is so (...) serious that one should look for alternative accounts of knowledge. (shrink)
This paper argues that the wants or desires of a person can be consistent with each other and still necessarily incompatible with each other and for interesting reasons. It is argued here that this problem is not rare and that there is no solution in sight.
In this paper I respond to P.D. Magnus’ critique of an earlier paper of mine on Thomas Reid’s theory of common sense. In the earlier paper (The Scottish Pragmatist? The Dilemma of Common Sense and the Pragmatist Way Out, Reid Studies 2, 1999, 47-57) I argued that Reid faces a dilemma between dogmatism and scepticism but that there are also hints in his work towards a pragmatist way out of the problem. P.D. Magnus, in a response to this paper (Reid’s (...) Dilemma and the Uses of Pragmatism, Journal of Scottish Philosophy 2, 2004, 69-72), criticizes me for misidentifying the kind of pragmatism one can find in Reid. In this paper I defend my interpretation of Reid and spell the relevant kind of pragmatism out in more detail. (shrink)
Suppose someone hears a loud noise and at the same time sees a yellow flash. It seems hard to deny that the person can experience loudness and yellowness together. However, since loudness is experienced by the auditory sense whereas yellowness is experienced by the visual sense it also seems hard to explain how.
Practical conflicts pervade human life. Agents have many different desires, goals, and commitments, all of which can come into conflict with each other. How can practical reasoning help to resolve these practical conflicts? In this collection of essays a distinguished roster of philosophers analyse the diverse forms of practical conflict. Their aim is to establish an understanding of the sources of these conflicts, to investigate the challenge they pose to an adequate conception of practical reasoning, and to assess the degree (...) to which that challenge can be met. These essays will serve as a major resource for students of philosophy but will also interest students and professionals in related fields of the social sciences such as psychology, political science, sociology and economics. (shrink)
Epistemic contrastivism is the view that knowledge is a ternary relation between a person, a proposition and a set of contrast propositions. This view is in tension with widely shared accounts of practical reasoning: be it the claim that knowledge of the premises is necessary for acceptable practical reasoning based on them or sufficient for the acceptability of the use of the premises in practical reasoning, or be it the claim that there is a looser connection between knowledge and practical (...) reasoning. Given plausible assumptions, epistemic contrastivism implies that we should cut all links between knowledge and practical reasoning. However, the denial of any such link requires additional and independent arguments; if such arguments are lacking, then all the worse for epistemic contrastivism. (shrink)
One of the most important views in the recent discussion of epistemological scepticism is Neo-Mooreanism. It turns a well-known kind of sceptical argument (the dreaming argument and its different versions) on its head by starting with ordinary knowledge claims and concluding that we know that we are not in a sceptical scenario. This paper argues that George Edward Moore was not a Moorean in this sense. Moore replied to other forms of scepticism than those mostly discussed nowadays. His own anti-sceptical (...) position turns out to be very subtle and complex; furthermore it changed over time. This paper follows Moore's views of what the sceptical problem is and how one should respond to it through a series of crucial papers with the main focus being on Moore's 'Proof of an External World'. An appendix deals with the much neglected relation between epistemological scepticism and moral scepticism in Moore. (shrink)
This paper presents a puzzle about moral responsibility. The problem is based upon the indeterminacy of relevant reference classes as applied to action. After discussing and rejecting a very tempting response I propose moral contextualism instead, that is, the idea that the truth value of judgments of the form S is morally responsible for x depends on and varies with the context of the attributor who makes that judgment. Even if this reply should not do all the expected work it (...) is a first step. (shrink)
Most contextualists agree that contexts differ with respect to relevant epistemic standards. In this paper, I discuss the idea that the difference between more modest and stricter standards should be explained in terms of the closeness or remoteness of relevant possible worlds. I argue that there are serious problems with this version of contextualism. In the second part of the paper, I argue for another form of contextualism that has little to do with standards and a lot with the well-known (...) problem of the reference class. This paper also illustrates the fact that contextualism comes in many varieties. (shrink)
For each of the many goals of an agent it is true that the agent wants its realization. Given further very plausible assumptions, one can show that there is no good reason for an agent not to want the realization of all of his goals. However, it seems also true that reaching all of one’s goals would be extremely boring; most human beings would consider such a life not worth living. In this respect, leading a life is like playing some (...) game: A game loses its point if one always easily wins. Human agents not only pursue goals but they also have the second-order desire to lead the life of a goal-pursuer. More precisely, they want to be goal-pursuers such that many but not all of their goals are being realized. I argue here that they have a good reason not to want the realization of all of their goals. Now, all this constitutes an antinomy: Apparently, there are very plausible arguments both for affirming as well as denying that an agent has good reasons not to want the realization of his goals. This antinomy is similar to the preface-paradox about beliefs which has a convincing solution (due to Frank Ramsey). I argue, however, that there is no such solution in the case of goals. This leaves us with the question what a solution could look like. (shrink)
Abstract. Kant's political philosophy in general is characterized by two aspects which sometimes compete with each other and sometimes supplement each other: an individualist element on the one hand and a social or "communitarian" element on the other hand. This paper deals with Kant's theory of private property. It attempts to show something that is usually overlooked in the secondary literature: that Kant has two, not just one argument for property. One is based on his theory of freedom and expresses (...) the individualist aspect of his thinking. The other argument is based on Kant's principle of right and expresses the social aspect of his political thought. Despite some problems with his arguments the complexity of Kant's theory remains impressive. (shrink)
This paper has two purposes: the first is to critically examine Kripke’s well-known arguments against Descriptivism and suggest that they are not as decisive as many have thought; the second is to argue that proper names do encode descriptive information of various kinds, that such information may be truth-conditionally significant, and hence that a name’s truth-conditional contribution is not limited to its referent.