Prominent instances of anti-luck epistemology, in particular sensitivity and safety accounts of knowledge, introduce a modal condition on the pertinent belief in terms of closeness or similarity of possible worlds. Very roughly speaking, a belief must continue to be true in close possibilities in order to qualify as knowledge. Such closeness-accounts derive much support from their (alleged) ability to eliminate standard instances of epistemic luck as they appear in prominent Gettier-type examples. The article argues that there are new (...) Gettier-type examples which are grounded in “distant” epistemic luck. It is demonstrated that sensitivity and safety theories cannot handle such examples. (shrink)
ABSTRACTIn a recent paper, Michael Pardo argues that the epistemic property that is legally relevant is the one called Safety, rather than Sensitivity. In the process, he argues against our Sensitivity-related account of statistical evidence. Here we revisit these issues, partly in order to respond to Pardo, and partly in order to make general claims about legal epistemology. We clarify our account, we show how it adequately deals with counterexamples and other worries, we raise suspicions about (...) class='Hi'>Safety's value here, and we revisit our general skepticism about the role that epistemological considerations should play in determining legal policy. (shrink)
Modal knowledge accounts that are based on standards possible-worlds semantics face well-known problems when it comes to knowledge of necessities. Beliefs in necessities are trivially sensitive and safe and, therefore, trivially constitute knowledge according to these accounts. In this paper, I will first argue that existing solutions to this necessity problem, which accept standard possible-worlds semantics, are unsatisfactory. In order to solve the necessity problem, I will utilize an unorthodox account of counterfactuals, as proposed by Nolan, on which we also (...) consider impossible worlds. Nolan’s account for counterpossibles delivers the intuitively correct result for sensitivity i.e. S’s belief is sensitive in intuitive cases of knowledge of necessities and insensitive in intuitive cases of knowledge failure. However, we acquire the same plausible result for safety only if we reject his strangeness of impossibility condition and accept the modal closeness of impossible worlds. In this case, the necessity problem can be analogously solved for sensitivity and safety. For some, such non-moderate accounts might come at too high a cost. In this respect, sensitivity is better off than safety when it comes to knowing necessities. (shrink)
It is widely thought that if knowledge requires sensitivity, knowledge is not closed because sensitivity is not closed. This paper argues that there is no valid argument from sensitivity failure to non-closure of knowledge. Sensitivity does not imply non-closure of knowledge. Closure considerations cannot be used to adjudicate between safety and sensitivity accounts of knowledge.
The paper argues against Sosa’s claim that sensitivity cannot be differentially supported over safety as the right requirement for knowledge. Its main contention is that, although all sensitive beliefs that should be counted as knowledge are also safe, some insensitive true beliefs that shouldn’t be counted as knowledge are nevertheless safe.
Fortunately for those of us who work on the topic, Ernie Sosa has devoted much of his (seemingly inexhaustible) intellectual energy to the problem of philosophical skepticism. And to great effect. With the three exceptions of Peter Unger, whose 1975 Ignorance: A Case for Scepticism is a grossly under-appreciated classic of epistemology; Timothy Williamson, whose 2000 Knowledge and its Limits is, I hope, on its way to being a less underappreciated classic; and Thomas Reid, I have benefitted more from Sosa’s (...) wrestlings with skepticism than from anyone else’s work on the topic. (shrink)
This paper surveys attempts in the recent literature to offer a modal condition on knowledge as a way of resolving the problem of scepticism. In particular, safety-based and sensitivity-based theories of knowledge are considered in detail, along with the anti-sceptical prospects of an explicitly anti-luck epistemology.
ABSTRACTThis article defends the importance of epistemic safety for legal evidence. Drawing on discussions of sensitivity and safety in epistemology, the article explores how similar considerations apply to legal proof. In the legal context, sensitivity concerns whether a factual finding would be made if it were false, and safety concerns how easily a factual finding could be false. The article critiques recent claims about the importance of sensitivity for the law of evidence. In particular, (...) this critique argues that sensitivity does not have much of an effect on the value of legal evidence and that it fails to explain legal doctrine. By contrast, safety affects the quality of legal evidence, and safety better explains central features of the law of evidence, including probative value, admissibility rules, and standards of proof. (shrink)
In The Appearance of Ignorance, Keith DeRose develops a version of epistemic contextualism that combines aspects of both safety and sensitivity theories of knowledge. This paper discusses some potential problems for DeRose’s account stemming from his Rule of Sensitivity, which is meant to model upwards shifts in epistemic standards.
Corroborative evidence may be understood as having two epistemic effects: a primary effect by which it offers direct evidence for some claim, and a secondary effect by which it bolsters the appraised probative, or evidential, value of some other piece of evidence for that claim. This paper argues that the bolstering effect of corroborative evidence is epistemically legitimate because corroboration provides a reason to count the belief based on the initial evidence as sensitive to, and safe from, defeat in a (...) way that it was not previously recognized to be. Discovering that our initial evidence tracks the truth in a way we previously did not recognize provides a reason to positively reappraise the probative value of that evidence. The final section of the paper relates the proposed sensitivity- and safety-based account of corroboration to an explanation-based account. (shrink)
Knowledge closure is, roughly, the following claim: For every agent S and propositions P and Q, if S knows P, knows that P implies Q, and believes Q because it is so implied, then S knows Q. Almost every epistemologist believes that closure is true. Indeed, they often believe that it so obviously true that any theory implying its denial is thereby refuted. Some prominent epistemologists have nevertheless denied it, most famously Fred Dretske and Robert Nozick. There are closure advocates (...) who see other virtues in those accounts, however, and so who introduce revisions of one sort or another in order to preserve closure while maintaining their spirit. One popular approach is to replace the “sensitivity” constraint at the heart of both of those accounts with a “safety” constraint, as advocated by Timothy Williamson, Duncan Pritchard, Ernest Sosa, Stephen Luper, and others. The purpose of this essay is to show that this approach does not succeed: safety does not save closure. And neither does a popular variation on the safety theme, the safe-basis or safe-indicator account. (shrink)
This paper aims to show that Sosa’s theory of knowledge based on safety condition can provide a convincing response to the problem of philosophical skepticism. With regard to that, it is divided in three sections. The first section is dedicated to presenting the form of skeptical argument and few options we encounter when skeptic rises the challenge in the form of the so-called radical alternatives. The second section consists of the presentation of Sosa’s theory and safety condition, as (...) well as its differences and similarities with Nozick’s sensitivity condition and Dretske’s condition of conclusive reason. Finally, the third section evaluates Sosa’s theory in the light of Comesana’s counterexample. After the careful analysis of the hypothetical situation, it is shown that Comesana overlooks one important moment when he fixes the initial set of circumstances, which allows a successful defense of Sosa’s analysis of knowledge and safety condition. (shrink)
In his earlier writings, Fred Dretske proposed an anti-skeptical strategy that is based on a rejection of the view that knowledge is closed under known entailment. This strategy is seemingly congenial with a sensitivity condition for knowledge, which is often associated with Dretske’s epistemology. However, it is not obvious how Dretske’s early account meshes with the information-theoretic view developed in Knowledge and the Flow of Information. One aim of this paper is to elucidate the connections between these accounts. First (...) I argue that, contrary to an objection raised by Christoph Jäger, the information-theoretic account is compatible with Dretske’s anti-skeptical strategy based on the rejection of closure. This strategy invokes the notion of channel conditions, which are roughly speaking those conditions that are necessary and jointly sufficient for a signal to carry information. I propose an interpretation of the account that is based on the idea that a signal’s carrying information requires that the channel conditions are stable. It is shown that the resulting account incorporates both a sensitivity condition and a safety condition for knowledge. Finally, I demonstrate how this proposal allows for knowledge of modally robust propositions without making its acquisition too easy, as simple safety accounts do. I end with a suggestion concerning the direction that future research should take, based on the fact that in its present form the information-theoretic account does not capture inferential knowledge. (shrink)
The safety condition on knowledge, in the spirit of anti-luck epistemology, has become one of the most popular approaches to the Gettier problem. In the first part of this essay, I intend to show one of the reasons the anti-luck epistemologist presents for thinking that the safety theory, and not the sensitivity theory, offers the proper anti-luck condition on knowledge. In the second part of this essay, I intend to show that the anti-luck epistemologist does not succeed, (...) because the safety theory fails to capture a necessary requirement for the possession of knowledge. I will attack safety on two fronts. First, I will raise doubts about whether there is any principled safety condition capable of handling a kind of case, involving inductive knowledge, that it was designed to handle. Second, I will consider two cases in which the safety condition is not met but the protagonist seems to have knowledge nonetheless, and I will vindicate my intuitions for thinking that those are in fact cases of knowledge by contrasting them with traditional, well-known Gettier cases. I want to conclude, finally, that safety failures do not necessarily prevent one from acquiring knowledge. (shrink)
A number of prominent epistemologists claim that the principle of sensitivity “play[s] a starring role in the solution to some important epistemological problems”. I argue that traditional sensitivity accounts fail to explain even the most basic data that are usually considered to constitute their primary motivation. To establish this result I develop Gettier and lottery cases involving necessary truths. Since beliefs in necessary truths are sensitive by default, the resulting cases give rise to a serious explanatory problem for (...) the defenders of sensitivity accounts. It is furthermore argued that attempts to modally strengthen traditional sensitivity accounts to avoid the problem must appeal to a notion of safety—the primary competitor of sensitivity in the literature. The paper concludes that the explanatory virtues of sensitivity accounts are largely illusory. In the framework of modal epistemology, it is safety rather than sensitivity that does the heavy explanatory lifting with respect to Gettier cases, lottery examples, and other pertinent cases. (shrink)
Sensitivity is a modal epistemic principle. Modal knowledge accounts are externalist in nature and claim that the knowledge yielding connection between a true belief and the truthmaker must be spelled out in modal terms. The sensitivity condition was introduced by Robert Nozick. He suggests that if S knows that p, then S’s belief that p tracks truth. Nozick argues that this truth-tracking relation can be captured by subjunctive conditionals. As a first approximation, he provides the following modal analysis (...) of knowledge: S knows that p iff (1) p is true; (2) S believes that p; (3) if p were false, S wouldn’t believe that p and (4) if p were true, S would believe that p. The dominant terminology in the literature, also adopted here, is to call condition (3) the sensitivity condition and condition (4) the adherence condition. The sensitivity condition is intuitively appealing since it states that a subject does not know that p if she would believe that p even if p were false. Nozick used the sensitivity condition to accomplish two major tasks. First, he provided a solution to the Gettier problem by arguing that in Gettier cases subjects do not know since the sensitivity condition is violated. Second, he presented a controversial solution to the skeptical problem according to which we have external world knowledge but do not know that the skeptical hypothesis is false. This solution is available because sensitivity is not closed under known entailment. Quickly, criticism of the sensitivity condition emerged. First, most epistemologists regarded the price of abandoning knowledge closure as a price too high to pay. Second, it was noted that sensitivity leads to the counterintuitive consequence of precluding us from inductive knowledge since induction typically yields insensitive beliefs. The most dominant reaction to these problems was to replace sensitivity by the modal principle of safety, nowadays the most popular modal principle. However, sensitivity is not only important as a starting point of modal epistemology. Because of its intuitive attractiveness, many authors aimed at refining the original sensitivity account in order to avoid well-known problems. This has led to a second wave of sensitivity accounts. As of today, various sensitivity-based theories are on the market, including accounts that avoid closure failure, probabilistic interpretations of sensitivity and adherence, and contextualist approaches. There is thus a vivid and ongoing debate about the sensitivity principle in epistemology. (shrink)
Safety, as discussed in contemporary epistemology, is a feature of true beliefs. Safe beliefs, when formed by the same method, remain true in close-by possible worlds. I argue that our beliefs being safely true serves no recognisable epistemic interest and, thus, that this notion of safety should play no role in epistemology. Epistemologists have been misled by failing to distinguish between a feature of beliefs — being safely true — and a feature of believers, namely being safe from (...) error. The latter is central to our epistemic endeavours: we want to be able to get right answers, whatever they are, to questions of interest. I argue that we are sufficiently safe from error (in some relevant domain) by being sufficiently sensitive (to relevant distinctions). (shrink)
In a recent contribution to this journal, Fernando Broncano-Berrocal defends the safety conception of knowledge against my counterexamples in Freitag 2014 by adding a new clause to the safety condition. In this brief reply, I argue that Broncano-Berrocal's modification cannot be plausibly understood as a natural development of the original safety idea and that, moreover, the resulting account of knowledge can be refuted by a slight alteration of my original examples.
Modal Security is an increasingly discussed proposed necessary condition on undermining defeat. Modal Security says, roughly, that if evidence undermines (rather than rebuts) one’s belief, then one gets reason to doubt the belief's safety or sensitivity. The primary interest of the principle is that it seems to entail that influential epistemological arguments, including Evolutionary Debunking Arguments against moral realism and the Benacerraf-Field Challenge for mathematical realism, are unsound. The purpose of this paper is to critically examine Modal Security (...) in detail. We develop and discuss what we take to be the strongest objections to the principle. One of the aims of the paper is to expose the weakness of these objections. Another is to reveal how the debate over Modal Security interacts with core problems in epistemology — including the generality problem, and the distinction between direct and indirect evidence. (shrink)
This essay motivates a revised version of the epistemic condition of safety and then employs the revision to (i) challenge traditional conceptions of apriority, (ii) refute ‘strong privileged access’, and (iii) resolve a well-known puzzle about externalism and self-knowledge.
Subjunctivitis is the doctrine that what is distinctive about knowledge is essential modal in character, and thus is captured by certain subjunctive conditionals. One principal formulation of subjunctivism invokes a ``sensitivity condition'' (Nozick, De Rose), the other invokes a ``safety condition'' (Sosa). It is shown in detail how defects in the sensitivity condition generate unwanted results, and that the virtues of that condition are merely apparent. The safety condition is untenable also, because it is too easily (...) satisfied. A powerful motivation for adopting subjunctivism would be that it provides a solution to the problem of misleading evidence, but in fact, it does not. (shrink)
Modalists think that knowledge requires forming your belief in a “modally stable” way: using a method that wouldn't easily go wrong (i.e. safety), or using a method that wouldn't have given you this belief had it been false (i.e. sensitivity). Recent Modalist projects from Justin Clarke-Doane and Dan Baras defend a principle they call “Modal Security,” roughly: if evidence undermines your belief, then it must give you a reason to doubt the safety or sensitivity of your (...) belief. Another recent Modalist project from Carlotta Pavese and Bob Beddor defends “Modal Virtue Epistemology”: knowledge is a belief that is maximally modally robust across “normal” worlds. We'll offer new objections to these recent Modalist projects. We will then argue for a rival view, Explanationism: knowing something is believing it because it's true. We will show how Explanationism offers a better account of undermining defeaters than Modalism, and a better account of knowledge. (shrink)
: Duncan Pritchard has recently highlighted the problem of veritic epistemic luck and claimed that a safety‐based account of knowledge succeeds in eliminating veritic luck where virtue‐based accounts and process reliabilism fail. He then claims that if one accepts a safety‐based account, there is no longer a motivation for retaining a commitment to reliabilism. In this article, I delineate several distinct safety principles, and I argue that those that eliminate veritic luck do so only if at least (...) implicitly committed to reliabilism. (shrink)
Richard Feldman and William Lycan have defended a view according to which a necessary condition for a doxastic agent to have knowledge is that the agent’s belief is not essentially based on any false assumptions. I call this the no-essential-false-assumption account, or NEFA. Peter Klein considers examples of what he calls “useful false beliefs” and alters his own account of knowledge in a way which can be seen as a refinement of NEFA. This paper shows that NEFA, even given Klein’s (...) refinement, is subject to counterexample: a doxastic agent may possess knowledge despite having an essential false assumption. Advocates of NEFA could simply reject the intuition that the example is a case of knowledge. However, if the example is interpreted as not being a case of knowledge, then it can be used as a potential counterexample against both safety and sensitivity views of knowledge. I also provide a further case which, I claim, is problematic for all of the accounts just mentioned. I then propose, briefly, an alternative account of knowledge which handles all these cases appropriately. (shrink)
Discrimination is a central epistemic capacity but typically, theories of discrimination only use discrimination as a vehicle for analyzing knowledge. This paper aims at developing a self-contained theory of discrimination. Internalist theories of discrimination fail since there is no compelling correlation between discriminatory capacities and experiences. Moreover, statistical reliabilist theories are also flawed. Only a modal theory of discrimination is promising. Versions of sensitivity and adherence that take particular alternatives into account provide necessary and sufficient conditions on discrimination. (...) class='Hi'>Safety in contrast is not sufficient for discrimination as there are cases of safety that are clearly instances of discrimination failure. The developed account of discrimination between objects will be extended to discrimination between kinds and between types. (shrink)
Modal epistemic conditions have played an important role in post-Gettier theories of knowledge. These conditions purportedly eliminate the pernicious kind of luck present in all Gettier-type cases and offer a rather convincing way of refuting skepticism. This motivates the view that conditions of this sort are necessary for knowledge. I argue against this. I claim that modal conditions, particularly sensitivity and safety, are not necessary for knowledge. I do this by noting that the problem cases for both conditions (...) point to a problem that cannot be fixed even by a revised similarity ranking or ordering of worlds. I offer as groundwork a set theoretical analysis of the profiles of the problem cases for safety and sensitivity. I then demonstrate that these conditions fail whenever necessary links constitutive of the epistemic situation actually obtain but are not modally preserved. (shrink)
In a recent article in this journal, Wolfgang Freitag argues that Gettier-style cases that are based on the notion of “distant” epistemic luck cannot be ruled out as cases of knowledge by modal conditions such as safety or sensitivity. I argue that safety and sensitivity can be easily fixed and that Freitag provides no convincing reason for the existence of “distant” epistemic luck.
Knowledge closure is the claim that, if an agent S knows P, recognizes that P implies Q, and believes Q because it is implied by P, then S knows Q. Closure is a pivotal epistemological principle that is widely endorsed by contemporary epistemologists. Against Knowledge Closure is the first book-length treatment of the issue and the most sustained argument for closure failure to date. Unlike most prior arguments for closure failure, Marc Alspector-Kelly's critique of closure does not presuppose any particular (...) epistemological theory; his argument is, instead, intuitively compelling and applicable to a wide variety of epistemological views. His discussion ranges over much of the epistemological landscape, including skepticism, warrant, transmission and transmission failure, fallibilism, sensitivity, safety, evidentialism, reliabilism, contextualism, entitlement, circularity and bootstrapping, justification, and justification closure. As a result, the volume will be of interest to any epistemologist or student of epistemology and related subjects. (shrink)
A study was conducted of nanotechnology (NT) researchers’ views about ethics in relation to their work. By means of a purpose-built questionnaire, made available on the Internet, the study probed NT researchers’ general attitudes toward and beliefs about ethics in relation to NT, as well as their views about specific NT-related ethical issues. The questionnaire attracted 1,037 respondents from 13 U.S. university-based NT research facilities. Responses to key questionnaire items are summarized and noteworthy findings presented. For most respondents, the ethical (...) responsibilities of NT researchers are not limited to those related to safety and integrity in the laboratory. Most believe that NT researchers also have specific ethical responsibilities to the society in which their research is done and likely to be applied. NT appears to be one of the first areas of contemporary technoscientific activity in which a long-standing belief is being seriously challenged: the belief that society is solely responsible for what happens when a researcher’s work, viewed as neutral and merely enabling, is applied in a particular social context. Survey data reveal that most respondents strongly disagree with that paradigmatic belief. Finally, an index gauging NT researcher sensitivity to ethics and ethical issues related to NT was constructed. A substantial majority of respondents exhibited medium or high levels of sensitivity to ethics in relation to NT. Although most respondents view themselves as not particularly well informed about ethics in relation to NT, a substantial majority are aware of and receptive to ethical issues related to their work, and believe that these issues merit consideration by society and study by current and future NT practitioners. (shrink)
Sensitivity and safety are modal concepts of knowledge. A person’s belief that p is sensitive if and only if in the closest possible world where p is false S does not believe that p. A person’s belief that p is safe if and only if in most near-by possible worlds in which S continues to form her belief that p in the same way as in the actual world the belief continues to be true. Robert Nozick claims that (...)sensitivity is a necessary condition for knowledge. Ernest Sosa, Timothy Williamson and Duncan Pritchard argue among others that safety is necessary for knowledge. I shall contest both views by offering counterexamples of persons, to whom it is highly plausible to ascribe knowledge although their beliefs are neither sensitive nor safe. I conclude that neither sensitivity nor safety is a necessary condition for knowledge and that insensitive and unsafe knowledge exists. (shrink)
In "Mathematical Truth", Paul Benacerraf articulated an epistemological problem for mathematical realism. His formulation of the problem relied on a causal theory of knowledge which is now widely rejected. But it is generally agreed that Benacerraf was onto a genuine problem for mathematical realism nevertheless. Hartry Field describes it as the problem of explaining the reliability of our mathematical beliefs, realistically construed. In this paper, I argue that the Benacerraf Problem cannot be made out. There simply is no intelligible problem (...) that satisfies all of the constraints which have been placed on the Benacerraf Problem. The point generalizes to all arguments with the structure of the Benacerraf Problem aimed at realism about a domain meeting certain conditions. Such arguments include so-called "Evolutionary Debunking Arguments" aimed at moral realism. I conclude with some suggestions about the relationship between the Benacerraf Problem and the Gettier Problem. (shrink)
An account of the nature of knowledge must explain the value of knowledge. I argue that modal conditions, such as safety and sensitivity, do not confer value on a belief and so any account of knowledge that posits a modal condition as a fundamental constituent cannot vindicate widely held claims about the value of knowledge. I explain the implications of this for epistemology: We must either eschew modal conditions as a fundamental constituent of knowledge, or retain the modal (...) conditions but concede that knowledge is not more valuable than that which falls short of knowledge. This second horn—concluding that knowledge has no distinctive value—is unappealing since it renders puzzling why so much epistemological theorising focuses on knowledge, and why knowledge seems so important. (shrink)
Vogel argues that sensitivity accounts of knowledge are implausible because they entail that we cannot have any higher-level knowledge that our beliefs are true, not false. Becker and Salerno object that Vogel is mistaken because he does not formalize higher-level beliefs adequately. They claim that if formalized correctly, higher-level beliefs are sensitive, and can therefore constitute knowledge. However, these accounts do not consider the belief-forming method as sensitivity accounts require. If we take bootstrapping as the belief-forming method, as (...) the discussed cases suggest, then we face a generality problem. Our higher-level beliefs as formalized by Becker and Salerno turn out to be sensitive according to a wide reading of bootstrapping, but insensitive according to a narrow reading. This particular generality problem does not arise for the alternative accounts of process reliabilism and basis-relative safety. Hence, sensitivity accounts not only deliver opposite results given different formalizations of higher-level beliefs, but also for the same formalization, depending on how we interpret bootstrapping. Therefore, sensitivity accounts do not fail because they make higher-level knowledge impossible, as Vogel argues, and they do not succeed in allowing higher-level knowledge, as Becker and Salerno suggest. Rather, their problem is that they deliver far too heterogeneous results. (shrink)
Concussions in professional sports have received increased attention, which is partly attributable to evidence that found concussion incidence rates were much higher than previously thought. Further to this, professional hockey players articulated how their concussion symptoms affected their professional careers, interpersonal relationships, and qualities of life. Researchers are beginning to associate multiple/repeated concussions with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a structural brain injury that is characterized by tau protein deposits in distinct areas of the brain. Taken together, concussions impact many people in (...) the sporting community from current and former professional athletes and their families to medical and health professionals and researchers. In light of the growing awareness and sensitivity towards concussions, the purpose of this paper is to provide recommendations that are designed to improve player safety in professional hockey and address the ethical issues surrounding these suggestions. (shrink)
Contextualism is supposed to explain why the following argument for skepticism seems plausible: (1) I don’t know that I am not a bodiless brain-in-a-vat (BIV); (2) If I know I have hands, then I know I am not a bodiless BIV; (3) Therefore, I do not know I have hands. Keith DeRose claims that (1) and (2) are “initially plausible.” I claim that (1) is initially plausible only because of an implicit argument that stands behind it; it is not intuitively (...) plausible. The argument DeRose offers is based on the requirement of sensitivity, that is, on the idea that if you know something then you would not believe it if it were false. I criticize the sensitivity requirement thereby undercutting its support for (1) and the skeptical data that contextualism is meant to explain. While skepticism is not a plausible ground for contextualism, I argue that certain pragmatic considerations are. It’s plausible to think that to know something more evidence is required when more is at stake. The best way to handle skepticism is to criticize the arguments for it. We should not adopt contextualism as a means of accommodating skepticism even if there are other pragmatic reasons for being a contextualist about knowledge. (shrink)
Epistemic closure has been a central issue in epistemology over the last forty years. According to versions of the relevant alternatives and subjunctivist theories of knowledge, epistemic closure can fail: an agent who knows some propositions can fail to know a logical consequence of those propositions, even if the agent explicitly believes the consequence (having “competently deduced” it from the known propositions). In this sense, the claim that epistemic closure can fail must be distinguished from the fact that agents do (...) not always believe, let alone know, the consequences of what they know—a fact that raises the “problem of logical omniscience” that has been central in epistemic logic. This paper, part I of II, is a study of epistemic closure from the perspective of epistemic logic. First, I introduce models for epistemic logic, based on Lewis’s models for counterfactuals, that correspond closely to the pictures of the relevant alternatives and subjunctivist theories of knowledge in epistemology. Second, I give an exact characterization of the closure properties of knowledge according to these theories, as formalized. Finally, I consider the relation between closure and higher-order knowledge. The philosophical repercussions of these results and results from part II, which prompt a reassessment of the issue of closure in epistemology, are discussed further in companion papers. As a contribution to modal logic, this paper demonstrates an alternative approach to proving modal completeness theorems, without the standard canonical model construction. By “modal decomposition” I obtain completeness and other results for two non-normal modal logics with respect to new semantics. One of these logics, dubbed the logic of ranked relevant alternatives, appears not to have been previously identified in the modal logic literature. More broadly, the paper presents epistemology as a rich area for logical study. (shrink)
Amodal completion is the representation of occluded parts of perceived objects. We argue for the following three claims: First, at least some amodal completion-involved experiences can ground knowledge about the occluded portions of perceived objects. Second, at least some instances of amodal completion-grounded knowledge are not sensitive, that is, it is not the case that in the nearest worlds in which the relevant claim is false, that claim is not believed true. Third, at least some instances of amodal completion-grounded knowledge (...) are not safe, that is, it is not the case that in all or nearly all near worlds where the relevant claim is believed true, that claim is in fact true. Thus, certain instances of amodal completion-grounded knowledge refute both the view that knowledge is necessarily sensitive and the view that knowledge is necessarily safe. (shrink)
Keith DeRose’s new book The Appearance of Ignorance is a welcome companion volume to his 2009 book The Case for Contextualism. Where latter focused on contextualism as a view in the philosophy of language, the former focuses on how contextualism contributes to our understanding of some perennial epistemological problems, with the skeptical problem being the main focus of six of the seven chapters. DeRose’s view is that a solution to the skeptical problem must do two things. First, it must explain (...) how it is that we can know lots of things, such as that we have hands. Second, it must explain how it can seem that we don’t know these things. In slogan form, DeRose’s argument is that a contextualist semantics for knowledge attributions is needed to account for the “appearance of ignorance”—the appearance that we don’t know that skeptical hypotheses fail to obtain. In my critical discussion, I will argue inter alia that we don’t need a contextualist semantics to account for the appearance of ignorance, and in any case that the “strength” of the appearance of ignorance is unclear, as is the need for a philosophical diagnosis of it. (shrink)
The central question of this article is how to combine counterfactual theories of knowledge with the notion of actuality. It is argued that the straightforward combination of these two elements leads to problems, viz. the problem of easy knowledge and the problem of missing knowledge. In other words, there is overgeneration of knowledge and there is undergeneration of knowledge. The combination of these problems cannot be solved by appealing to methods by which beliefs are formed. An alternative solution is put (...) forward. The key is to rethink the closeness relation that is at the heart of counterfactual theories of knowledge. (shrink)
This paper looks at an argument strategy for assessing the epistemic closure principle. This is the principle that says knowledge is closed under known entailment; or (roughly) if S knows p and S knows that p entails q, then S knows that q. The strategy in question looks to the individual conditions on knowledge to see if they are closed. According to one conjecture, if all the individual conditions are closed, then so too is knowledge. I give a deductive argument (...) for this conjecture. According to a second conjecture, if one (or more) condition is not closed, then neither is knowledge. I give an inductive argument for this conjecture. In sum, I defend the strategy by defending the claim that knowledge is closed if, and only if, all the conditions on knowledge are closed. After making my case, I look at what this means for the debate over whether knowledge is closed. (shrink)
Many contemporary epistemologists hold that a subject S’s true belief that p counts as knowledge only if S’s belief that p is also, in some important sense, safe. I describe accounts of this safety condition from John Hawthorne, Duncan Pritchard, and Ernest Sosa. There have been three counterexamples to safety proposed in the recent literature, from Comesaña, Neta and Rohrbaugh, and Kelp. I explain why all three proposals fail: each moves fallaciously from the fact that S was at (...) epistemic risk just before forming her belief to the conclusion that S’s belief was formed unsafely. In light of lessons from their failure, I provide a new and successful counterexample to the safety condition on knowledge. It follows, then, that knowledge need not be safe. Safety at a time depends counterfactually on what would likely happen at that time or soon after in a way that knowledge does not. I close by considering one objection concerning higher-order safety. (shrink)
Modal epistemologists parse modal conditions on knowledge in terms of metaphysical possibilities or ways the world might have been. This is problematic. Understanding modal conditions on knowledge this way has made modal epistemology, as currently worked out, unable to account for epistemic luck in the case of necessary truths, and unable to characterise widely discussed issues such as the problem of religious diversity and the perceived epistemological problem with knowledge of abstract objects. Moreover, there is reason to think that this (...) is a congenital defect of orthodox modal epistemology. This way of characterising modal epistemology is however optional. It is shown that one can non-circularly characterise modal conditions on knowledge in terms of epistemic possibilities, or ways the world might be for the target agent. Characterising the anti-luck condition in terms of epistemic possibilities removes the impediment to understanding epistemic luck in the case of necessary truths and opens the door to using these conditions to shed new light on some longstanding epistemological problems. (shrink)
In a recent paper “Safety, Sensitivity, and Differential Support” (Synthese, December 2017), Jose Zalabardo argues that (contra Sosa in Philos Perspect 33(13):141–153,1999) sensitivity can be differentially supported as the correct requirement for propositional knowledge. Zalabardo argues that safety fails to dominate sensitivity; specifically: some cases of knowledge failure can only be explained by sensitivity. In this paper, I resist Zalabardo’s conclusion that domination failure confers differential support for sensitivity. Specifically, I argue that counterexamples (...) to sensitivity undermine differential support for sensitivity. Using Zalabardo’s modal framework, I consider a less demanding modal condition, what I call weak sensitivity, and I explain how weak sensitivity avoids an influential counterexample to sensitivity. However, I argue that we can subvert that counterexample only by abandoning Zalabardo’s case for domination failure. So either way, we cannot differentially support sensitivity. (shrink)
This book is primarily about checking and only derivatively about knowing. Checking is a very common concept for describing a subject’s epistemic goals and actions. Surprisingly, there has been no philosophical attention paid to the notion of checking. In Part I, I develop a sensitivity account of checking. To be more explicit, I analyze the internalist and externalist components of the epistemic action of checking which include the intentions of the checking subject and the necessary externalist features of the (...) method used. Crucially, successfully checking whether p is true requires using a method that is sensitive with respect to p, i.e. a method that would not indicate that p, if p were false. In Part II, I use the distinction between knowing and checking to explain central puzzles about knowledge, particularly puzzles centering on knowledge closure, puzzles concerning bootstrapping and the skeptical puzzle. Moreover, the book clarifies a dispute about modal epistemology, concerning the application of the sensitivity principle. By arguing that sensitivity is necessary for checking but not knowing, I explain where our persisting intuitions about sensitivity have their place in epistemology. (shrink)
This study describes the level of moral sensitivity among nursing students enrolled in a traditional baccalaureate nursing program and a master’s nursing program. Survey responses to the Modified Moral Sensitivity Questionnaire for Student Nurses from 250 junior, senior, and graduate students from one nursing school were analyzed. It was not possible to draw conclusions based on the tool. Moral category analysis showed students ranked the category structuring moral meaning highest and interpersonal orientation second. The moral issue ranking highest (...) was honesty, respect for the patient second, and third was responsibility to know the patient’s situation. Seniors agreed more often about the need to focus on patient safety. As students progress through the baccalaureate program and into the graduate program, their perspectives increasingly recognize the contextuality of moral issues. The results show a need to further develop a tool to measure moral sensitivity, using student understanding and perceptions of moral issues. (shrink)
Ernest Sosa and others have proposed a safety condition on knowledge: If S knows p, then in the nearest (non-actual) worlds in which S believes p, p is true.1 Colloquially, this is the idea that knowing requires not being easily mistaken. Here, I will argue that like another condition requiring a counterfactual relation between a subject’s belief and the world, viz. Robert Nozick’s sensitivity condition, safety leads, in certain cases, to the unacceptable result that knowledge is not (...) closed under known implication. (shrink)
Product safety has always been one of the main problems in engineering ethics. At times it has been discussed as primarily a problem of engineering ethics. However the right to safety is one of the four fundamental consumer rights and so it is an important theme also in business ethics. At the same time the problem of product safety is inseparably connected with business effectiveness: how much can we spend on product safety without making our production (...) unprofitable?Below we will present a possible treatment of the safety problem in teaching business ethics to post-graduate industrial engineering students – as we deal with the problem in Tallinn Technical University. (shrink)
In Escherichia coli, the role of lacA, the third gene of the lactose operon, has remained an enigma. I suggest that its role is the consequence of the need for cells to have safety valves that protect them from the osmotic effect created by their permeases. Safety valves allow them to cope with the buildup of osmotic pressure under accidental transient conditions. Multidrug resistance (MDR) efflux, thus named because of our anthropocentrism, is ubiquitous. Yet, the formation of simple (...) leaks would result in futile influx/efflux cycles. Versatile modification enzymes with low sensitivity solve the problem if the modified metabolite is the one exported by MDR permeases. This may account for the pervasive presence of acetyl-transferases, such as LacA, associated to acetyl-metabolite exporters. This scenario of constraints imposed by efficient influx of metabolites provides us with a model that should be followed when constructing synthetic cells. (shrink)
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is quickly growing in its applications. A variety of uses for the technology are beginning to be developed, including chips which can be used in identification cards, in individual items, and for human applications, allowing a chip to be embedded under the skin. Such chips could provide numerous benefits ranging from day-to-day convenience to the increased ability of the federal government to adequately ensure the safety of its citizens. However, there are also valid concerns about (...) the potential of this technology to infringe on privacy, creating fears of a surveillance society. These are concerns that must be addressed quickly, with sensitivity to individual interests and societal welfare, allowing humanity to reap the benefits of convenience and safety without paying an unacceptable price in the loss of privacy. (shrink)
In his précis of a recent book, Richard Joyce writes, “My contention…is that…any epistemological benefit-of-the-doubt that might have been extended to moral beliefs…will be neutralized by the availability of an empirically confirmed moral genealogy that nowhere…presupposes their truth.” Such reasoning – falling under the heading “Genealogical Debunking Arguments” – is now commonplace. But how might “the availability of an empirically confirmed moral genealogy that nowhere… presupposes” the truth of our moral beliefs “neutralize” whatever “epistemological benefit-of-the-doubt that might have been extended (...) to” them? In this article, I argue that there appears to be no satisfactory answer to this question. The problem is quite general, applying to all arguments with the structure of Genealogical Debunking Arguments aimed at realism about a domain meeting two conditions. The Benacerraf-Field Challenge for mathematical realism affords an important special case. (shrink)