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)
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 probleIn the contextualist (...) has to accept a relationalist version of contextualism. (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)
Safety accounts of knowledge claim, roughly, that knowledge that p requires that one's belief that p could not have easily been false. Such accounts have been very popular in recent epistemology. However, one serious problem safety accounts have to confront is to explain why certain lottery‐related beliefs are not knowledge, without excluding obvious instances of inductive knowledge. We argue that the significance of this objection has hitherto been underappreciated by proponents of safety. We discuss Duncan Pritchard's recent solution to the (...) problem and argue that it fails. More importantly, the problem reaches deeper and poses a threat to any current safety accounts that require a belief's modal stability in close possibilities (as well as safety accounts that appeal to ‘normality’). We end by arguing that ways out of the problem require substantial reconstruction for a safety‐based account of knowledge. (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)
Peter Baumann develops and defends a distinctive version of epistemic contextualism, the view that the truth conditions or the meaning of knowledge attributions of the form "S knows that p" can vary with the context of the attributor. The first part of the book examines arguments for contextualism and develops Baumann's version. It begins by dealing with the argument from cases and ordinary usage, and then addresses "theoretical" arguments, from reliability and from luck. The second part of the book discusses (...) the problems contextualism faces, to which it must respond, and provides an extension of contextualism beyond epistemology. The third part of the book is focused on some major objections to contextualism and alternative views, namely subject-sensitive invariantism, contrastivism and relativism. (shrink)
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.
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)
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)
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.
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 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.
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)
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.
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.
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)
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 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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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.
Human dignity seems very important to us. At the same time, the concept ‘human dignity’ is extrordinarily elusive. A good way to approach the questions “What is it?” and “Why is it important?” is to raise another question first: In virtue of what do human beings have dignity? Speciesism - the idea that human beings have a particular dignity because they are humans - does not seem very convincing. A better answer says that human beings have dignity because and insofar (...) as they are persons. I discuss several versions of this idea as well as several objections against it. The most promising line of analysis says that human beings cannot survive psychologically without a very basic form of recognition and respect by others. The idea that humans have a very special dignity is the idea that they owe each other this kind of respect. All this also suggests that human dignity is inherently social. Non-social beings do not have dignity - nor do they lack it. It is because we are social animals of a certain kind that we have dignity - not so much because we are rational animals. (shrink)
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.
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)
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)
According to reliabilist conceptions of knowledge, knowledge implies reliable true belief. Since reliability is an irreducibly probabilistic notion, one's view of knowledge also depends on one's view of probability. If one believes that all probability is subjective probability, knowledge becomes a relativized concept: knowledge is relative to a given body of beliefs of a given person at a given time. Since such a relativized conception of knowledge is extremely implausible and since reliabilism seems to capture at least part of the (...) truth, one should rather give up a purely subjective view of probability. -/- . (shrink)
1. Here is a very simple game. You come up with a number and I come up with a number. If I come up with the higher number, I win; otherwise you win. You go first. Call this ‘The Very Simple Game’. Few would play it if they had to go first and many if they are guaranteed to go second.2. Here is another one. You come up with a number n and I come up with a number m. If (...) m times 1/ n > 1, then I win; if not, then you win. You go first. Call this ‘Still The Very Simple Game’. Since I win just in case m is greater than n, this game collapses into The Very Simple Game. Few people will play it if they have to go first.3. Here is a third one. Let us call it ‘Looks Like A Tricky Game’. Suppose you have a choice between exactly two actions: keep holding on to some thing t ; hand t over to me and accept my offer to give you, with some probability p , some thing with utility m .Suppose, you are a maximizer of expected utility with …. (shrink)
This paper discusses the close and complicated relation between 3 dimensions of Kant's theory of the pure will: the epistemological aspect (morality is a priori), the motivational aspect (moral motivation is free of sensual inclinations), the content-aspect (the categorical imperative as the supreme moral principle). Kant runs these 3 aspects together at times and it is necessary to consider them as independent parts of a complex theory.
Contemporary discussions of epistemological skepticism - the view that we do not and cannot know anything about the world around us - focus very much on a certain kind of skeptical argument involving a skeptical scenario (a situation familiar from Descartes’ First Meditation). According to the argument, knowing some ordinary proposition about the world (one we usually take ourselves to know) requires knowing we are not in some such skeptical scenario SK; however, since we cannot know that we are not (...) in SK we also cannot know any ordinary proposition. One of the most prominent skeptical scenarios is the brain-in-the-vat-scenario: An evil scientist has operated on an unsuspecting subject, removed the subject’s brain and put it in a vat where it is kept functioning and is connected to some computer which feeds the brain the illusion that everything is “normal”. This paper looks at one aspect of this scenario after another – envatment, disembodiment, weird cognitive processes, lack of the right kind of epistemic standing, and systematic deception. The conclusion is that none of these aspects (in isolation or in combination) is of any relevance for a would-be skeptical argument; the brain-in-the-vat-scenario is irrelevant to and useless for skeptical purposes. Given that related scenarios (e.g., involving evil demons) share the defects of the brain-in-the-vat-scenario, the skeptic should not put any hopes on Cartesian topoi. (shrink)
What is coercion? Not only is an answer to this question interesting in itself but it can also help us to better understand the nature of freedom of action. I start with a critical discussion of Harry Frankfurt’s conception of coercion and voluntary action. Despite several objections, it turns out that some of Frankfurt’s ideas and arguments can also be used in a different way and prove to be crucial for a more plausible conception of coercion and free action.
Are we free? What does "freedom" mean here? In the following, I shall only focus with freedom of action. My main thesis is that there is not just one basic type of free action but more. Philosophers, however, tend to assume that there is just one way to act freely. Hence, a more detailed analysis of free action is being called for. I will distinguish between different kinds of free action and discuss the relations between them. The analysis of different (...) types of coercion will lead to a different view on freedom – a view which stresses the many faces of free action. (shrink)
We often think or say that someone was wrong about something but almost right about it or close to the truth. This can mean more than one thing. Here, I propose an analysis of the idea of being epistemically close to the truth. This idea plays an important role in our practice of epistemic evaluation and therefore deserves some detailed attention. I start with an exposition of the idea of getting things right by looking at the main forms of reliabilism (...) about true belief and belief acquisition. The focus on reliabilism is justified because everyone is a reliabilist in a basic sense. Section 2 develops a notion of closeness to the truth in two steps. Section 3 mentions some ways in which this notion is useful, one having to do with the Gettier problem. (shrink)
This article is concerned with a central but neglected aspect of Weber's theory of authority: the distinction between different motives of obedience. Weber's list of motives of "Fügsamkeit" raises an important problem: it seems to be incoherent. Since Weber was a very systematic author this is rather astonishing. More important: this problem questions the special status of the belief in legitimacy and the important role this belief in supporting and stabilizing authority. In other words, the problem questions the foundations of (...) Weber's sociology of authority. Since Weber himself doesn't say very much about this topic it is necessary to reconstruct the typology of motives of obedience. My reconstruction is supposed to meet Weber's intentions. I argue that the main point of Weber's classification is the differentiation between normative and non-normative motives of obedience. This reconstructed typology is coherent and allows us to explain the special status of the belief in legitimacy. This not only sheds some new light on a central part of Weber's sociology of authority but also opens some systematically important perspectives. A general typology of motives of compliance in asymmetric social relationships can be constructed. This typology has important advantages to other theoretical conceptions and allows for a substantial contribution to the sociology of authority. (shrink)
This article discusses Keith DeRose’s treatment of the lottery problem in Chapter 5 of his recent The Appearance of Ignorance. I agree with a lot of it but also raise some critical points and questions and make some friendly proposals. I discuss different ways to set up the problem, go into the difference between knowing and ending inquiry, propose to distinguish between two different kinds of lotteries, add to the defense of the idea that one can know lottery propositions, give (...) a critical discussion of DeRose’s contextualist solution to the problem, and support his defense against an absurdity objection with additional arguments. (shrink)