Sanford C. Goldberg presents a novel account of the speech act of assertion. He argues that this type of speech act is answerable to an epistemic, context-sensitive norm. On this basis he shows the philosophical importance of assertion for key debates in philosophy of language and mind, epistemology, and ethics.
Sanford C. Goldberg argues that a proper account of the communication of knowledge through speech has anti-individualistic implications for both epistemology and the philosophy of mind and language. In Part I he offers a novel argument for anti-individualism about mind and language, the view that the contents of one's thoughts and the meanings of one's words depend for their individuation on one's social and natural environment. In Part II he discusses the epistemic dimension of knowledge communication, arguing that the epistemic (...) characteristics of communication-based beliefs depend on features of the cognitive and linguistic acts of the subject's social peers. In acknowledging an ineliminable social dimension to mind, language, and the epistemic categories of knowledge, justification, and rationality, his book develops fundamental links between externalism in the philosophy of mind and language, on the one hand, and externalism is epistemology, on the other. (shrink)
In Relying on others [Goldberg, S. 2010a. Relying on others: An essay in epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press], I argued that, from the perspective of an interest in epistemic assessment, the testimonial belief-forming process should be regarded as interpersonally extended. At the same time, I explicitly rejected the extendedness model for beliefs formed through reliance on a mere mechanism, such as a clock. In this paper, I try to bolster my defense of this asymmetric treatment. I argue that a crucial (...) assumption lying behind the argument I used to establish interpersonal extendedness in testimony cases does not apply to beliefs formed through reliance on instruments. In this respect, at least, there appears to be something epistemically distinctive about relying on another epistemic agent. (shrink)
The following three propositions appear to be individually defensible but jointly inconsistent: (1) reliability is a necessary condition on epistemic justification; (2) on contested matters in philosophy, my beliefs are not reliably formed; (3) some of these beliefs are epistemically justified. I explore the nature and scope of the problem, examine and reject some candidate solutions, compare the issue with ones arising in discussions about disagreement, and offer a brief assessment of our predicament.
The scenario of the brain in a vat, first aired thirty-five years ago in Hilary Putnam's classic paper, has been deeply influential in philosophy of mind and language, epistemology, and metaphysics. This collection of new essays examines the scenario and its philosophical ramifications and applications, as well as the challenges which it has faced. The essays review historical applications of the brain-in-a-vat scenario and consider its impact on contemporary debates. They explore a diverse range of philosophical issues, from intentionality, external-world (...) scepticism, and the nature of truth, to the extended mind hypothesis, reference magnetism, and new versions of realism. The volume will be a rich and valuable resource for advanced students in metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of mind and language, as well as anyone interested in the relations between language, thought and the world. (shrink)
Many epistemologists agree that even very young children sometimes acquire knowledge through testimony. In this paper I address two challenges facing this view. The first (building on a point made in Lackey (2005)) is the defeater challenge, which is to square the hypothesis that very young children acquire testimonial knowledge with the fact that children (whose cognitive immaturity prevents them from having or appreciating reasons) cannot be said to satisfy the No-Defeaters condition on knowledge. The second is the extension challenge, (...) which is to give a motivated, extensionally-adequate account of the conditions on testimonial knowledge in early childhood. Neither challenge can be met merely by endorsing externalism about knowledge; but we can meet both by reconceiving the process that eventuates in the child’s consumption of testimony. My central thesis is that this process should be seen as implicating features of the child's social environment. The result is a novel anti-individualistic externalism about knowledge. (shrink)
Elsewhere I and others have argued that evidence one should have had can bear on the justification of one's belief, in the form of defeating one's justification. In this paper, I am interested in knowing how evidence one should have had (on the one hand) and one's higher-order evidence (on the other) interact in determinations of the justification of belief. In doing so I aim to address two types of scenario that previous discussions have left open. In one type of (...) scenario, there is a clash between a subject's higher-order evidence and the evidence she should have had: S's higher-order evidence is misleading as to the existence or likely epistemic bearing of further evidence she should have. In the other, while there is further evidence S should have had, this evidence would only have offered additional support for S's belief that p. The picture I offer derives from two “epistemic ceiling” principles linking evidence to justification: one's justification for the belief that p can be no higher than it is on one's total evidence, nor can it be higher than what it would have been had one had all of the evidence one should have had. Together, these two principles entail what I call the doctrine of Epistemic Strict Liability: insofar as one fails to have evidence one should have had, one is epistemically answerable to that evidence whatever reasons one happened to have regarding the likely epistemic bearing of that evidence. I suggest that such a position can account for the battery of intuitions elicited in the full range of cases I will be considering. (shrink)
Alessandra Tanesini’s insightful paper explores the moral and epistemic harms of arrogance, particularly in conversation. Of special interest to her is the phenomenon of arrogance-induced silencing, whereby one speaker’s arrogance either prevents another from speaking altogether or else undermines her capacity to produce certain speech acts such as assertions. I am broadly sympathetic to many of Tanesini’s claims about the harms associated with this sort of silencing. In this paper I propose to address what I see as a lacuna in (...) her account. I believe that the arrogant speaker can put those he silences in the morally outrageous position in which their own silence contributes to their oppression. While nothing in Tanesini’s account would predict or explain this, the wrinkle I propose will aim to do so in a way that is in the spirit of her account. To do so, I will need to expand the focus of discussion: instead of concentrating on silencing, I will consider the phenomenon of silence. When one is silent in the face of a mutually observed assertion, one’s silence will be interpreted by others. I argue that under certain widespread conditions, a hearer’s silence in the face of the arrogant speaker’s assertions is likely to be falsely interpreted as indicating her assent to the assertion, and such an interpretation of the hearer’s silence will bring new harms in its wake—in particular, harms to the hearer who was silenced, and also harms to the community at large. When we combine these new harms with the ones Tanesini identified in her paper, we reach the further conclusion that the harms of silencing are potentially far worse than many have imagined. (shrink)
Many epistemologists agree that even very young children sometimes acquire knowledge through testimony. In this paper I address two challenges facing this view. The first ) is the defeater challenge, which is to square the hypothesis that very young children acquire testimonial knowledge with the fact that children cannot be said to satisfy the No‐Defeaters condition on knowledge. The second is the extension challenge, which is to give a motivated, extensionally‐adequate account of the conditions on testimonial knowledge in early childhood. (...) Neither challenge can be met merely by endorsing externalism about knowledge; but we can meet both by reconceiving the process that eventuates in the child’s consumption of testimony. My central thesis is that this process should be seen as implicating features of the child’s social environment. The result is a novel anti‐individualistic externalism about knowledge. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that the nature of our epistemic entitlement to rely on certain belief-forming processes—perception, memory, reasoning, and perhaps others—is not restricted to one's own belief-forming processes. I argue as well that we can have access to the outputs of others’ processes, in the form of their assertions. These two points support the conclusion that epistemic entitlements are “interpersonal.” I then proceed to argue that this opens the way for a non-standard version of anti-reductionism in the epistemology (...) of testimony, and a more “extended” epistemology—one that calls into question the epistemic significance that has traditionally been ascribed to the boundaries separating individual subjects. (shrink)
This paper reviews recent philosophical work on assertion, with a special focus on work exploring the theme of assertion's norm. It concludes with a brief section characterizing several open questions that might profitably be explored from this perspective.
This paper addresses how the anonymity of an assertion affects the epistemological dimension of its production by speakers, and its reception by hearers. After arguing that anonymity does have implications in both respects, I go on to argue that at least some of these implications derive from a warranted diminishment in speakers' and hearers' expectations of one another when there are few mechanisms for enforcing the responsibilities attendant to speech. As a result, I argue, anonymous assertions do not carry the (...) same of the speaker's relevant epistemic authoritativeness that ordinary assertions do. If this is correct, the phenomenon of anonymity provides us with a lesson regarding ordinary assertions: their aptness for engendering belief in others, and so for communicating knowledge, depends in general on the very publicness of the act of assertion itself. (shrink)
In other work I have defended the claim that, when we rely on other speakers by accepting what they tell us, our reliance on them differs in epistemically relevant ways from our reliance on instruments, when we rely on them by accepting what they “tell” us. However, where I have explored the former sort of reliance at great length, I have not done so with the latter. In this paper my aim is to do so. My key notions will be (...) those of our social practices, the normative expectations that are sanctioned by those practices, and the epistemically engineered environments constituted by some of these practices. With these notions in mind, I will argue that one’s reliance on instruments, while relevantly different from one’s reliance on other speakers, can nevertheless manifest a kind of epistemic dependence which epistemological theory can and should acknowledge. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to articulate and defend a particular role for ethico-political values in social epistemology research. I begin by describing a research programme in social epistemology—one which I have introduced and defended elsewhere. I go on to argue that by the lights of this research programme, there is an important role to be played by ethico-political values in knowledge communities, and an important role in social epistemological research in describing the values inhering in particular knowledge communities. (...) I conclude by noting how, even as it expands its focus beyond the traditional one to include descriptions of our “knowledge practices,” this sort of project relates to some of the core questions that have been pursued by traditional epistemology. (shrink)
It is widely considered a truism that the only evidence that can provide justification for one's belief that p is evidence in one's possession. At the same time, a good many epistemologists accept another claim seemingly in tension with this "truism," to the effect that evidence not in one's possession can defeat or undermine the justification for one's belief that p. Anyone who accepts both of these claims accepts what I will call the asymmetry thesis: while evidence in one's possession (...) can either enhance or detract from justification, evidence not in one's possession can only detract from it. The asymmetry thesis is not uncontroversial; but any epistemologist who endorses the doctrine of normative defeat will be under tremendous pressure to accept it. In this paper I try to motivate the asymmetry thesis in two steps: first, by appeal to a feature that assessments of justification share with evaluative assessments generally, according to which we can distinguish generic expectations in play from the explicit criteria for satisfying the relevant evaluative standard; and second, by arguing that when it comes to epistemic assessments, the generic expectations themselves derive from our roles as epistemic agents in communities in which we depend on one another for knowledge. (shrink)
Sandford C. Goldberg puts forward a theory of epistemic normativity that is grounded in the things we properly expect of one another as epistemic subjects. This theory has far-reaching implications not only for the theory of epistemic normativity, but also for the nature of epistemic assessment itself.
Most explorations of the epistemic implications of Semantic Anti- Individualism (SAI) focus on issues of self-knowledge (first-person au- thority) and/or external-world skepticism. Less explored has been SAIs implications forthe epistemology of reasoning. In this paperI argue that SAI has some nontrivial implications on this score. I bring these out by reflecting on a problem first raised by Boghossian (1992). Whereas Boghos- sians main interest was in establishing the incompatibility of SAI and the a priority of logical abilities (Boghossian 1992: 22), (...) I argue that Boghossians argument is better interpreted as pointing to SAIs implications for the na- ture of discursive justification. (shrink)
In her recent book Anti-Individualism and Knowledge, Jessica Brown has presented a novel answer to the self-knowledge achievement problem facing the proponent of anti-individualism. She argues that her answer is to be preferred to the traditional answer (based on Burge, 1988a). Here I present three objections to the claim that her proposed answer is to be preferred. The significance of these objections lies in what they tell us about the nature of the sort of knowledge that is in dispute. Perhaps (...) the most important lesson I draw from this discussion is that, given the nature of knowledge of one's own thoughts, discriminability (from relevant alternatives) is not a condition on knowledge as such. (shrink)
This paper discusses the epistemic outcomes of following a belief-forming policy of inclusiveness under conditions in which one anticipates systematic disagreement with one’s interlocutors. These cases highlight the possibility of distinctly epistemic costs of inclusiveness, in the form of lost knowledge of or a diminishment in one’s rational confidence in a proposition. It is somewhat controversial whether following a policy of inclusiveness under such circumstances will have such costs; this will depend in part on the correct account of the epistemic (...) significance of disagreement (a topic over which there is some disagreement). After discussing this matter at some length, I conclude, tentatively, that inclusiveness under disagreement can have such epistemic costs. Still, I go on to argue, such costs by themselves would not rationalize substantial limitations on a broad policy of inclusiveness. Insofar as there are grounds for restricting how inclusive one should be in belief-formation, these grounds will not be epistemic, but instead will reflect the practical costs—the time, effort, and resource costs to the subject—of following such a policy. (shrink)
Given anti-individualism, a subject might have a priori (non-empirical)knowledge that she herself is thinking that p, have complete and exhaustive explicational knowledge of all of the concepts composing the content that p, and yet still need empirical information (e.g. regarding her embedding conditions and history) prior to being in a position to apply her exhaustive conceptual knowledge in a knowledgeable way to the thought that p. This result should be welcomed by anti-individualists: it squares with everything that compatibilist-minded anti-individualists have (...) said regarding e.g. the compatibility of anti-individualism and basic self-knowledge; and more importantly it contains the crux of a response to McKinsey-style arguments against anti-individualism. (shrink)
In his Beyond Justification, Bill Alston argued that there is no single property picked out by ‘epistemic justification,’ and that instead epistemological theory should investigate the range of epistemic desiderata that beliefs may enjoy. In this paper I argue that none of his arguments taken singly, nor the collection as a group, gives us a reason to abandon the traditional idea that there is a property of epistemic justification. I conclude by suggesting how Alston’s proposal to investigate the variety of (...) epistemic desiderata bears on the questions at the heart of the theory of epistemic justification. Here I suggest that, despite his attempts at neutrality with respect to debates about epistemic justification, Alston might well have taken sides on one of the main issues of substance. (shrink)
In this paper I argue, first, that the most influential (and perhaps only acceptable) account of the epistemology of self-knowledge, developed and defended at great length in Wright (1989b) and (1989c) (among other places), leaves unanswered a question about the psychology of self-knowledge; second, that without an answer to this question about the psychology of self-knowledge, the epistemic account cannot be considered acceptable; and third, that neither Wright's own answer, nor an interpretation-based answer (based on a proposal from Jacobsen (1997)), (...) will suffice as an acceptable answer to the psychological question. My general ambition is thus to establish that more work is needed if we are to have a full account of self-knowledge in both its epistemological and psychological aspects. I conclude by suggesting how my thesis bears on those who aim to provide an empirical account of the cognition involved in self-knowledge. (shrink)
Written by an international team of leading scholars, this collection of thirteen new essays explores the implications of semantic externalism for self-knowledge and skepticism, bringing recent developments in the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of language, and epistemology to bear on the issue. Structured in three parts, the collection looks at self-knowledge, content transparency, and then meta-semantics and the nature of mental content. The chapters examine a wide range of topics in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language, (...) including 2D semantics, transparency views of self-knowledge, and theories of linguistic understanding, as well as epistemological debates on contextualism, contrastivism, pragmatic encroachment, anti-luminosity arguments and testimony. The scope of the volume will appeal to graduate students and researchers in epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, cognitive science, psychology and linguistics. (shrink)
In Sven Bernecker’s excellent new book, Memory, he proposes an account of what we might call the “metasemantics” of memory: the conditions that determine the contents of the mental representations employed in memory. Bernecker endorses a “pastist externalist” view, according to which the content of a memory-constituting representation is fixed, in part, by the “external” conditions prevalent at the time of the tokening of the original representation. Bernecker argues that the best version of a pastist externalism about memory contents will (...) have the result that there can be semantically-induced memory losses in cases involving unwitting “world-switching”. The burden of this paper is to show that Bernecker’s argument for this conclusion does not succeed. My arguments on this score have implications for our picture of mind-world relations, as these are reflected in a subject’s attempts to recall her past thoughts. (shrink)
In their chapter “Knowledge, Practical Adequacy, and Stakes,” Charity Anderson and John Hawthorne present several challenges to the doctrine of pragmatic encroachment. In this brief reply to their chapter two things are aimed at. First, the chapter argues that there is a sense in which their case against pragmatic encroachment is a bit weaker, and another sense in which that case is much stronger, than Anderson and Hawthorne’s own argument would suggest. Second, the chapter highlights and then builds upon their (...) extremely interesting reflections on one sort of practical matter that has not received proper attention in the literature: the epistemic significance of double-checking. This is done with an eye towards pointing in the direction of further work. (shrink)
Regarding testimony as evidence fails to predict the sort of epistemic support testimony provides for testimonial belief. As a result, testimony-based belief should not be assimilated into the category of epistemically inferential, evidence-based belief.
Many people agree that a proper epistemological treatment of testimonial knowledge will regard testimonial warrant—the total truth-conducive support enjoyed by a belief grounded on a piece of testimony —as socially diffuse, in the sense that it is not something that supervenes on the proper functionality of the hearer’s cognitive resources together with the reasons she has for accepting the testimony. After arguing for such a view, I go on to identify a challenge many people think flows from an acknowledgment of (...) the social diffusion of warrant. In particular, such an acknowledgment appears to preclude a happy account of the rationality of testimony-based belief. After identifying the nature of this challenge and the various positions that one can take on it, I develop a response according to which rationality itself (like warrant) is socially diffuse. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that there are cases in which a speaker S's observation of the fact that her assertion that p is accepted by another person enhances the strength of S's own epistemic position with respect to p, as compared to S's strength of epistemic position with respect to p prior to having made the assertion. I conclude by noting that the sorts of consideration that underwrite this possibility may go some distance towards explaining several aspects of our (...) group life as epistemic subjects—in particular, groupthink and group polarization. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that Rik Peels’s account of doxastic responsibility is too subjectivist, as it fails to deliver the correct verdicts in some cases in which one’s responsibilities derive from a social role and where one has misleading higher-order evidence about the first-order evidence. The take-home point is that the notion of responsibility in doxastic responsibility is something that is owed to others.
Do computers have beliefs? I argue that anyone who answers in the affirmative holds a view that is incompatible with what I shall call the commonsense approach to the propositional attitudes. My claims shall be two. First,the commonsense view places important constraints on what can be acknowledged as a case of having a belief. Second, computers – at least those for which having a belief would be conceived as having a sentence in a belief box – fail to satisfy some (...) of these constraints. This second claim can best be brought out in the context of an examination of the idea of computer self-knowledge and self-deception, but the conclusion is perfectly general: the idea that computers are believers, like the idea that computers could have self-knowledge or be self-deceived, is incompatible with the commonsense view. The significance of the argument lies in the choice it forces on us: whether to revise our notion of belief so as to accommodate the claim that computers are believers, or to give up on that claim so as to preserve our pretheoretic notion of the attitudes. We cannot have it both ways. (shrink)
In this paper I characterize the problem of first-person authority as it confronts the proponent of the belief box conception of belief, and I develop the groundwork for a belief box account of that authority. If acceptable, the belief box account calls into question (by undermining a popular motivation for) the thesis that first-person authority is not to be traced to a truth-tracking relation between first-person opinions themselves and the beliefs which they are about.
Speech reports of the form ‘A said that p’ are sometimes used by a speaker S as a reason in support of S’s own claim to know that p – in particular, when S’s claim to know is made on the basis of A’s testimony. In this paper I appeal to intuitions regarding the epistemology of testimony to argue that such ‘testimonial’ uses of speech reports ought to be ascribed their strict de dicto truth conditions. This result is then used (...) as the basis for the claim that, no matter how they are used, all speech reports of this form ought to be ascribed their strict de dicto truth conditions. I conclude by offering a characterization of the content of the notions of saying and what is said, and by making some programmatic remarks regarding the role of these notions in semantic theory. (shrink)