In his recent Knowledge and its Limits, Timothy Williamson argues that no non-trivial mental state is such that being in that state sufﬁces for one to be in a position to know that one is in it. In short, there are no “luminous” mental states. His argument depends on a “safety” requirement on knowledge, that one’s conﬁdent belief could not easily have been wrong if it is to count as knowledge. We argue that the safety requirement is ambiguous; on one (...) interpretation it is obviously true but useless to his argument, and on the other interpretation it is false. (shrink)
Your evidence constrains your rational degrees of confidence both locally and globally. On the one hand, particular bits of evidence can boost or diminish your rational degree of confidence in various hypotheses, relative to your background information. On the other hand, epistemic rationality requires that, for any hypothesis h, your confidence in h is proportional to the support that h receives from your total evidence. Why is it that your evidence has these two epistemic powers? I argue that various proposed (...) accounts of what it is for something to be an element of your evidence set cannot answer this question. I then propose an alternative account of what it is for something to be an element of your evidence set. 1 Introduction 2 The elements of one's evidence set are propositions 3 Which kinds of propositions are in one's evidence set? 3.1 Doxastic accounts of evidence 3.2 Non-doxastic accounts of evidence 4 Elaborating and defending the LIE CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
There is some consensus that for S to know that p, it cannot be merely a matter of luck that S’s belief that p is true. This consideration has led Duncan Pritchard and others to propose a safety condition on knowledge. In this paper, we argue that the safety condition is not a proper formulation of the intuition that knowledge excludes luck. We suggest an alternative proposal in the same spirit as safety, and find it lacking as well.
(NEG) is widely accepted both by internalist and by externalists. In fact, there have been very few opponents of (NEG). Timothy Williamson (e.g., 2000) rejects (NEG), for reasons that have by now received a great deal of scrutiny.2 John McDowell also rejects (NEG), but his reasons have not received the scrutiny they deserve. This is in large part because those reasons have not been well understood. We believe that McDowell’s challenge to (NEG) is important, worthy of fair assessment, and maybe (...) even correct. In this paper, we explain McDowell’s challenge to (NEG), and also explain how McDowell can address a seemingly fatal objection to his view. (shrink)
Rieber 1998 proposes an account of "S knows that p" that generates a contextualist solution to Closure. In this paper, I’ll argue that Rieber’s account of "S knows that p" is subject to fatal objections, but we can modify it to achieve an adequate account of "S knows that p" that generates a unified contextualist solution to all four puzzles. This is a feat that should matter to those philosophers who have proposed contextualist solutions to Closure: all of them have (...) motivated their contextualism by appeal to the fact that they can explain the plausibility of each of the statements in Closure taken individually, and they can do this without having to deny that each of those statements is true, at least in the context in which it is plausible. But notice that this consideration would equally well motivate a contextualist approach to the other puzzles. Nonetheless, no contextualist has yet suggested how a contextualist solution to the other puzzles might go. (shrink)
A skeptic claims that I do not have knowledge of the external world. It has been thought that the skeptic reaches this conclusion because she employs unusually stringent standards for knowledge. But the skeptic does not employ unusually high standards for knowledge. Rather, she employs unusually restrictive standards of evidence. Thus, her claim that we lack knowledge of the external world is supported by considerations that would equally support the claim that we lack evidence for our beliefs about the external (...) world. These considerations do not threaten the truth of our ordinary attributions of evidence, however, for such attributions are context-sensitive in their semantics. It is argued that this solution to the problem of the external world enjoys all of the benefits, and suffers none of the problems, of other solutions to the problem of the external world. (shrink)
Wittgenstein’s On Certainty is sometimes read as providing a response to the skeptical puzzle from closure, according to which our commitment to the trustworthiness of our evidence is not itself evidentially grounded. In this paper, I argue both that this standard reading of Wittgenstein is incorrect, and that a more accurate reading of Wittgenstein provides us with a more plausible solution to the Closure Puzzle.
Liberals claim that some perceptual experiences give us immediate justification for certain perceptual beliefs. Conservatives claim that the justification that perceptual experiences give us for those perceptual beliefs is mediated by our background beliefs. In his recent paper ?Basic Justification and the Moorean Response to the Skeptic?, Nico Silins successfully argues for a non-Moorean version of Liberalism. But Silins's defence of non-Moorean Liberalism leaves us with a puzzle: why is it that a necessary condition for our perceptual experiences to justify (...) us in holding certain perceptual beliefs is that we have some independent justification for disbelieving various sceptical hypotheses? I argue that the best answer to this question involves commitment to Crispin Wright's version of Conservatism. In short, Wright's Conservatism is consistent with Silins's Liberalism, and the latter helps to give us grounds for accepting the former. (shrink)
According to a doctrine that I call “Cartesianism”, knowledge – at least the sort of knowledge that inquirers possess – requires having a reason for belief that is reflectively accessible as such. I show that Cartesianism, in conjunction with some plausible and widely accepted principles, entails the negation of a popular version of Fallibilism. I then defend the resulting Cartesian Infallibilist position against popular objections. My conclusion is that if Cartesianism is true, then Descartes was right about this much: for (...) S to know that p, S must have reasons for believing that p which are such that S can know, by reflection alone, that she has those reasons, and that she could not possibly have those reasons if p is not true. Where Descartes went wrong was in thinking that our ordinary, fallible, non-theologically grounded sources of belief (e.g., perception, memory, testimony), cannot provide us with such reasons. (shrink)
Right now, I see a computer in front of me. Now, according to current philosophical orthodoxy, I could have the very same perceptual experience that I’m having right now even if I were not seeing a computer in front of me. Indeed, such orthodoxy tells us, I could have the very same experience that I’m having right now even if I were not seeing anything at all in front of me, but simply suffering from a hallucination. More generally, someone can (...) have the very same perceptual experience no matter whether she is enjoying a veridical perception of some mindindependent object, or merely hallucinating. What differs across these two kinds of case is not the kind of experience that she has, but rather the connections between her experience and the rest of the world. So say most philosophers. (shrink)
Many epistemologists are interested in offering a positive account of how it is that many of our common sense beliefs enjoy one or another positive epistemological status (e.g., how they are warranted, justified, reasonable, or what have you). A number of philosophers, under the influence of Wittgenstein and/or J. L. Austin, have argued that this enterprise is misconceived. The most effective version of this argument is to be found in Mark Kaplan’s paper “Epistemology on Holiday”. After explaining what this criticism (...) amounts to and why it is important, I then respond to it. My response is based upon, and is intended to display the explanatory power of, a contractarian account of our practice of epistemic appraisal. (shrink)
Your evidence constrains your rational degrees of confidence both locally and globally. On the one hand, particular bits of evidence can boost or diminish your rational degree of confidence in various hypotheses, relative to your background information. On the other hand, epistemic rationality requires that, for any hypothesis h, your confidence in h is proportional to the support that h receives from your total evidence. Why is it that your evidence has these two epistemic powers? I argue that various proposed (...) accounts of what it is for something to be an element of your evidence set cannot answer this question. I then propose an alternative account of what it is for something to be an element of your evidence set. 1 Introduction 2 The elements of one's evidence set are propositions 3 Which kinds of propositions are in one's evidence set? 3.1 Doxastic accounts of evidence 3.2 Non-doxastic accounts of evidence 4 Elaborating and defending the LIE. (shrink)
In Fear of Knowledge, Paul Boghossian argues against various forms of epistemic relativism. In this paper, I criticize Boghossian’s arguments against a particular variety of relativism. I then argue in favor of a thesis that is very similar to this variety of relativism.
Contextualist solutions to skeptical puzzles have recently been subjected to various criticisms. In this paper, I will defend contextualism against an objection prominently pressed by Stanley 2000. According to Stanley, contextualism in epistemology advances an empirically implausible hypothesis about the semantics of knowledge ascriptions in natural language. It is empirically implausible because it attributes to knowledge ascriptions a kind of semantic context-sensitivity that is wholly unlike any well- established type of semantic context-sensitivity in natural language.
A skeptic claims that I do not have knowledge of the external world. It has been thought that the skeptic reaches this conclusion because she employs unusually stringent standards for knowledge. But the skeptic does not employ unusually high standards for knowledge. Rather, she employs unusually restrictive standards of evidence. Thus, her claim that we lack knowledge of the external world is supported by considerations that would equally support the claim that we lack evidence for our beliefs about the external (...) world. These considerations do not threaten the truth of our ordinary attributions of evidence, however, for such attributions are context-sensitive in their semantics.It is argued that this solution to the problem of the external world enjoys all of the benefits, and suffers none of the problems, of other solutions to the problem of the external world. (shrink)
Goldman’s epistemology has been influential in two ways. First, it has influenced some philosophers to think that, contrary to erstwhile orthodoxy, relations of evidential support, or confirmation, are not discoverable a priori. Second, it has offered some philosophers a powerful argument in favor of methodological reliance on intuitions about thought experiments in doing philosophy. This paper argues that these two legacies of Goldman’s epistemology conflict with each other.
Historically, prominent proponents of the guidance deontological conception of epistemic justification have thought that the guidance deontological conception entails access internalism. Alvin Goldman has argued that this is not so, and that there is no good argument from the guidance deontological conception of justification to access internalism. This paper refutes Goldman's argument. If the guidance deontological conception of epistemic justification is correct, then so is access internalism.
A number of philosophers have recently defended “contrastivist” theories of knowledge, according to which knowledge is a relation between at least the following three relata: a knower, a proposition, and a contrast set. I examine six arguments that Jonathan Schaffer has given for this thesis, and show that those arguments do not favour contrastivism over a rival view that I call “evidentiary relativism”. I then argue that evidentiary relativism accounts for more data than does contrastivism.
Stephen Schiffer has argued that contextualist solutions to skepticism rest on an implausible "error theory" concerning our own semantic intentions. Similar arguments have recently been offered also by Thomas Hofweber and Patrick Rysiew. I attempt to show how contextualists can rebut these arguments. The kind of self-knowledge that contextualists are committed to denying us is not a kind of self-knowledge that we need, nor is it a kind of self-knowledge that we can plausibly be thought to possess.
What is the epistemological value of perceptual experience? In his recently influential paper, “The Skeptic and the Dogmatist”1, James Pryor develops a seemingly plausible answer to this question. Pryor’s answer comprises the following three theses: (F) “Our perceptual justification for beliefs about our surroundings is always defeasible – there are always possible improvements in our epistemic state which would no longer support those beliefs.” (517) (PK) “This justification that you get merely by having an experience as of p can sometimes (...) suffice to give you knowledge that p is the case.” (520) (D) “When it perceptually seems to you as if p is the case, you have a kind of justification for believing p that does not presuppose or rest on your justification for anything else, which could be cited in argument (even an ampliative argument) for p. To have this justification for believing p, you need only have an experience that represents p as being the case. No further awareness or reflection or background beliefs are required.” (519) Let’s use the phrase “fallibilist dogmatism” to refer to the conjunction of (F), (PK), and (D).2 Pryor does not argue for either (F) or (PK) in his paper; he simply shares the widespread and plausible assumption that (F) and (PK) are both true. But the conjunction of (F) and (PK) implies that we can have knowledge on the basis of defeasible justification. And this view leads to paradox. Consider the following individually plausible but jointly incompatible statements. (shrink)
Many philosophers accept a “privileged access” thesis concerning our own present mental states and mental events. According to these philosophers, if I am in mental state (or undergoing mental event) M, then – at least in many cases – I have privileged access to the fact that I am in (or undergoing) M. For instance, if I now believe that my cat is sitting on my lap, then (in normal circumstances) I have privileged access to the fact that I now (...) believe that my cat is sitting on my lap. Similarly, if I now imagine a parade coming down Main Street, then (again, in normal circumstances) I have privileged access to the fact that I am now imagining a parade coming down Main Street. And again, if it now visually appears to me as if there is a cloud in the sky, then (again, in normal circumstances) I have privileged access to the fact that it now visually appears to me as if there is a cloud in the sky. In each of these aforementioned cases, if circumstances are normal, then, these philosophers say, I have a distinctive kind of privileged epistemic access to facts about my own mental states or events. Of course, I don’t have privileged epistemic access to all facts about my own mental states or events. For instance, I don’t have privileged epistemic access to facts about which unconscious mental states or events I have. But I do have privileged epistemic access to many facts about my own mental states or events, and in particular to the various facts listed above. (shrink)
My topic in this paper is a particular species of epistemic justification – a species that, following Roderick Firth, I call “propositional justification.”1 Propositional justification is a relation between a person and a proposition. I will say that for S to bear the propositional justification relation to p is for S to be “justified in believing” that p. What is propositional justification? What is it for S to be justified in believing that p? Here’s my answer.
Many philosophers hold some verion of the doctrine of "basic knowledge". According to this doctrine, it's possible for S to know that p, even if S doesn't know the source of her knowledge that p to be reliable or trustworthy. Stewart Cohen has recently argued that this doctrine confronts the problem of easy knowledge. I defend basic knowledge against this criticism, by providing a contextualist solution to the problem of easy knowledge.
Since the publication of W.V. Quine’s “Epistemology Naturalized”1, a growing number of self-described “naturalist” epistemologists have come to hold a particular view of what epistemology can and ought to be. In order to articulate this naturalist view, let me begin by describing the epistemological work that the naturalist tends to criticize – a motley that I will refer to collectively as “non-naturalist epistemology”. I will describe this motley in terms that are designed to capture the naturalist’s discontentment with it, as (...) follows: Non-naturalist epistemology has devoted itself, by and large, to addressing a small set of now familiar questions. What is it for someone to know that something is the case? What is it for someone to be justified in believing that something is the case? How does evidence confirm theory? To what degree ought one to be confident in a theory, given such-and-such evidence? What sorts of semantic properties do our various epistemic appraisals have? In order to answer these familiar questions, the non-naturalist epistemologist typically does not adduce any scientific findings concerning human cognition. Rather, she consults her intuitions about which properties are exemplified by various imagined cases. Unfortunately, if any of these familiar questions have been correctly answered, the correctness of these answers is not generally appreciated as such, even among professional non-naturalist epistemologists. Furthermore, virtually none of the work that’s been done in the course of trying to answer these familiar questions has any clear prospect of helping to guide or improve human intellectual conduct. As it’s been generally practiced then, non-naturalist epistemology offers us no useful advice, and.. (shrink)
According to Gupta, there is a difficulty facing any attempt to answer this question. The difficulty has to do with the following phenomenon. The impact that any particular experience has on what the experiencing subject is entitled to believe will depend upon the concepts, conceptions, and beliefs – in short, upon the view – that the experiencing subject is entitled to hold when she has that experience.1 But what view she was entitled to hold when she had that experience depends (...) in turn upon what experiences she had before then. And what view those experiences made her entitled in holding depended, in turn, upon what view she was entitled to hold when she had those experiences, which depended in turn upon what experiences she had had before that, and so on. Given this interdependence, what could make it the case that a creature’s experience makes her entitled simpliciter to hold a view, and not simply entitled to hold a view conditional on having some other entitlements? And, just as puzzling, what could make it the case that a creature’s experience makes her obligated simpliciter to hold a view? It is this latter question that Gupta attempts to answer. (shrink)
This quoted passage makes a negative claim – a claim about what we are not doing when we characterize an episode or state as that of knowing – and it also makes a positive claim – a claim about what we are doing when we characterize an episode or state as that of knowing. Although McDowell has not endorsed the negative claim, he has repeatedly and explicitly endorsed the positive claim, i.e., that “in characterizing an episode or a state as (...) that of knowing… we are placing it in the logical space of reasons, of justifying and being able to justify what one says.” This is what I will henceforth call “the positive Sellarsian claim”. (shrink)
Epistemology is one of the oldest, yet still one of the most active, areas of philosophical research today. There currently exists many annotated tomes of primary sources, and a handful of single-authored introductions to the field, but there is no book that captures epistemology’s dynamic growth and lively debates for a student audience. In this volume, eight leading philosophers debate four topics central to recent research in epistemology: The A Priori: C. S. I. Jenkins and Michael Devitt The A Posteriori: (...) Richard Fumerton and Nicholas Silins The Regress of Justification: Declan Smithies and Peter Klein Skepticism: Anthony Brueckner and Ernest Sosa Ram Neta’s introduction to the volume, descriptions of each chapter, annotated bibliographies for each controversy, and supplemental guide to further controversies in epistemology help provide clearer and richer views of active controversies for all readers. (shrink)
In recent years, a growing body of experimental literature has called into question the reliability of our intuitions about hypothetical cases, and thereby called into question the use of intuitions in philosophy. In this paper, I critically assess one prominent example of this challenge, namely, Swain, Alexander, and Weinberg’s recent study of order effects on the Truetemp intuition. I argue that the very data that Swain,Alexander, and Weinberg find do not undermine, but instead support, the reliability of intuition. I also (...) show how intuition can itself be marshaled in the service of figuring out just when we can and cannot expect to find order effects on our intuitions. (shrink)
Stephen Schiffer has argued that contextualist solutions to skepticism rest on an implausible “error theory” concerning our own semantic intentions. Similar arguments have recently been offered also by Thomas Hofweber and Patrick Rysiew. I attempt to show how contextualists can rebut these arguments. The kind of self-knowledge that contextualists are committed to denying us is not a kind of self-knowledge that we need, nor is it a kind of self-knowledge that we can plausibly be thought to possess.
Rationality, whatever exactly it demands of us, promotes success, whatever exactly that is. Some philosophers interpret that slogan as something that can provide them with a way of reductively explaining the demands of rationality by appeal to some independently intelligible notion of success: being rational, they might say, is just having whatever property it is that promotes success. Other philosophers may interpret the same slogan as something that can provide them with a way of reductively explaining the notion of success (...) by appeal to some independently intelligible notion of the demands of rationality: having success, they might say, is just having whatever property it is that is promoted by being rational. In this paper, I argue that neither of these reductive efforts can succeed. I then argue that understanding the way in which rationality promotes success requires us to understand why the promotion relation between rationality and success can be severed by some kinds of luck, but not by others. To explain the kind of luck that can sever promotion, we should conceive of both rationality and success as distinct but related facets of something more fundamental than either of them. (shrink)