The apparent contextual variability exhibited by ‘knows’ and its cognates—brought to attention in examples like Keith DeRose’s Bank Case—poses familiar problems for conservative forms of invariantism about ‘knows’. The paper examines and criticises a popular response to those problems, one that involves appeal to so-called ‘pragmatic’ features of language. It is first argued, contrary to what seems to have been generally assumed, that any pragmatic defence faces serious problems with regard to our judgments about retraction. Second, the familiar objection that (...) the pragmatic effects at issue do not seem to be cancellable is considered. Advocates of the pragmatic defence have suggested that cancellability concerns can be dealt with fairly readily. It is shown both that their recent attempts to respond to those concerns, and some other possible attempts, are unsuccessful. Finally, it is argued that the popular relevance-based accounts, found in the work of Jessica Brown, Alan Hazlett, and Patrick Rysiew, fail to provide a satisfactory explanation of our judgments. (shrink)
A powerful objection to subject-sensitive invariantism concerns various ‘strange-but-true’ conditionals. One popular response to this objection is to argue that strange-but-true conditionals pose a problem for non-sceptical epistemological theories in general. In the present paper, it is argued that strange-but-true conditionals are not a problem for contextualism about ‘know’. This observation undercuts the proposed defence of SSI, and supplies a surprising new argument for contextualism.
Changes in conversationally salient error possibilities, and/or changes in stakes, appear to generate shifts in our judgments regarding the correct application of ‘know’. One prominent response to these shifts is to argue that they arise due to shifts in belief and do not pose a problem for traditional semantic or metaphysical accounts of knowledge. Such doxastic proposals face familiar difficulties with cases where knowledge is ascribed to subjects in different practical or conversational situations from the speaker. Jennifer Nagel has recently (...) offered an ingenious response to these problematic cases—appeal to egocentric bias. Appeal to this kind of bias also has the potential for interesting application in other philosophical arenas, including discussions of epistemic modals. In this paper, I draw on relevant empirical literature to clarify the nature of egocentric bias as it manifests in children and adults, and argue that appeal to egocentric bias is ill-suited to respond to the problem cases for doxastic accounts. Our discussion also has significant impact on the prospects for application of egocentric bias in other arenas. (shrink)
The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the rise of contextualist theories of knowledge ascriptions. Contextualists about ‘knows’ maintain that utterances of the form ‘S knows p’ and ‘S doesn’t know p’ resemble utterances such as ‘Peter is here’ and ‘Peter is not here’, in the sense that their truth-conditions vary depending upon features of the context in which they are uttered. In recent years, contextualism about ‘knows’ has come under heavy attack. This has been associated with a proliferation of (...) defences of so-called invariantist accounts of knowledge ascriptions, which stand united in their rejection of contextualism. The central goal of the present work is two-fold. In the first instance, it is to bring out the serious pitfalls in many of those recent defences of invariantism. In the second instance, it is to establish that the most plausible form of invariantism is one that is sceptical in character. Of course, the prevailing preference in epistemology is for non- sceptical accounts. The central conclusions of the thesis might therefore be taken to show that – despite recent attacks on its plausibility – some form of contextualism about ‘knows’ must be correct. However, this project is not undertaken without at least the suspicion that embracing sceptical invariantism is to be preferred to embracing contextualism. In the course of the discussion, I therefore not only attempt to rebut some standard objections to sceptical invariantism, but also to reveal – in at least a preliminary way – how the sceptical invariantist might best argue for the superiority of her account to that of the contextualist. (shrink)