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.
In this paper I will be arguing that there are cases in which a subject, S, should have known that p, even though, given her state of evidence at the time, she was in no position to know it. My argument for this result will involve making two claims. The uncontroversial claim is this: S should have known that p when another person has, or would have, legitimate expectations regarding S’s epistemic condition, the satisfaction of these expectations would require that (...) S knows that p, and S fails to know that p. The controversial claim is that these three conditions are sometimes jointly satisfied. I will spend the majority of my time defending the controversial claim. I will argue that there are two main sources of legitimate expectations regarding another’s epistemic condition: participation in a legitimate social practice ; and moral and epistemic expectations more generally . In developing my position on this score, I will have an opportunity to defend the doctrine that there are “practice-generated entitlements” to expect certain things, where it can happen that the satisfaction of these expectations requires another’s having certain pieces of knowledge; to contrast practice-generated entitlements to expect with epistemic reasons to believe; to defend the idea that moral and epistemic standards themselves can be taken to reflect legitimate expectations we have of each other; to compare the “should have known” phenomenon with a widely-discussed phenomenon in the ethics literature—that of culpable ignorance; and finally to suggest the bearing of the “should have known” phenomenon to epistemology itself. (shrink)
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)
Reflection on testimony provides novel arguments for anti-individualism. What is anti-individualism? Sanford Goldberg's book defends three main claims under this heading: first, facts about the contents of beliefs do not supervene on individualistic facts about the believers ; second, an individual's epistemic entitlement to accept a piece of testimony depends on facts about her peers ; third, processes by which some humans acquire knowledge from testimony includes activities performed for them by others. Each of these three claims is argued for (...) separately from premises about the ways in which humans, adult and child, succeed in gaining knowledge by testimony. The three arguments provide the structure for Anti-Individualism.Goldberg's argument for the first claim – that the contents of beliefs do not supervene on individualistic facts about the believers – begins from uncontroversial facts about testimony. Gaining knowledge by testimony depends on knowing the meanings of some utterances, and it is possible to know the meaning of a person's utterance while knowing little that would distinguish this person from anyone else. The best explanation of how this is possible involves postulating linguistic norms which entail facts about the linguistic meanings of utterances. Now in some cases of testimony, a hearer acquires a belief whose content is the linguistic meaning of a speaker's utterance, where the linguistic meaning of this utterance is determined by linguistic norms. But linguistic norms might have been different from what they are even while the person's and her audience's non-relational properties remained unaltered. And in such a case, the hearer would have acquired a belief with a different content. Therefore, ‘Psychological facts such as believing that p do not supervene on the individualistic facts regarding the subject’ …. (shrink)
It has been alleged that the demands of friendship conflict with the norms of epistemology—in particular, that there are cases in which the moral demands of friendship would require one to give a friend the benefit of the doubt, and thereby come to believe something in violation of ordinary epistemic standards on justified or responsible belief :329–351, 2004; Stroud in Ethics 116:498–524, 2006; Hazlett in A luxury of the understanding: on the value of true belief, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013). (...) The burden of this paper is to explain these appearances away. I contend that the impression of epistemic partiality in friendship dissipates once we acknowledge the sorts of practical and epistemic reasons that are generated by our values: value-reflecting reasons. The present proposal has several virtues: it requires fewer substantial commitments than other proposals seeking to resist the case for epistemic partiality ; it is independently motivated, as it cites a phenomenon—value-reflecting reasons—we have independent reasons to accept; it provides a single, unified account of how various features of friendship bear on belief-formation; and makes clear how it is the very value we place on friendship itself that ensures against epistemic partiality. (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)
In this paper I argue that there can be cases of testimonial knowledge acquired through the acceptance of testimony which itself is unsafe. This has implications both for the epistemology of testimony and for the social nature of knowledge more generally.
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.
I believe that the sort of disagreements we encounter in philosophy—disagreements that often take the form that I have elsewhere called system- atic peer disagreements—make it unreasonable to think that there is any knowledge, or even justified belief, when the disagreements themselves are systematic. I readily acknowledge that this skeptical view is quite controversial; I suspect many are unconvinced. However, I will not be defending it here. Rather, I will be exploring a worry, or set of worries, that arise on (...) the assumption that this view is correct. For if it is unreasonable to think that there is justified belief in contexts of systematic philosophical disagreements, by what right do we continue to advance philosophical claims in such contexts? Indeed, by what right do we believe the philosophical claims we advance? And if we don’t believe them, why do we advance them in the first place? An inability to respond to these worries would leave us with the dis- tinct impression that the practice or activity of philosophy is quite suspect: what sort of practice or activity would have us believe unreasonably, assert unwarrantedly, and perhaps exhibit insincerity to boot? (shrink)
One of the central points of contention in the epistemology of testimony concerns the uniqueness (or not) of the justification of beliefs formed through testimony--whether such justification can be accounted for in terms of, or 'reduced to,' other familiar sort of justification, e.g. without relying on any epistemic principles unique to testimony. One influential argument for the reductionist position, found in the work of Elizabeth Fricker, argues by appeal to the need for the hearer to monitor the testimony for credibility. (...) Fricker (1994) argues, first, that some monitoring for trustworthiness is required if the hearer is to avoid being gullible, and second, that reductionism but not anti-reductionism is compatible with ascribing an important role to the process of monitoring in the course of justifiably accepting observed testimony. In this paper we argue that such an argument fails. (shrink)
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)
In this paper I argue that the tendency to defer in matters semantic is rationalized by our reliance on the say-so of others for much of what we know about the world. The result, I contend, is a new and distinctly epistemic source of support for the doctrine of attitude anti-individualism.
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)
The process of education, and in particular that involving very young children, often involves students' taking their teachers' word on a good many things. At the same time, good education at every level ought to inculcate, develop, and support students' ability to think for themselves. While these two features of education need not be regarded as contradictory, it is not clear how they relate to one another, nor is it clear how (when taken together) these features ought to bear on (...) educational practice itself. This article, which is largely programmatic, aims to provide tentative answers to these questions. (shrink)
Several authors (Boghossian 1998; Segal 2000) allege that 'empty' would-be natural kind terms are a problem for anti-individualistic semantics. In this paper I rebut the charge by providing an anti-individualistic semantics for such terms.
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)
In this paper, I apply Duncan Pritchard’s anti-luck epistemology to the case of knowledge through testimony. I claim that Pritchard’s distinction between veritic and reflective luck provides a nice taxonomy of testimony cases, that the taxonomic categories that emerge can be used to suggest precisely what epistemic statuses are transmissible through testimony, and that the resulting picture can make clear how testimony can actually be knowledge-generating.
A typical strategy of those who seek to show that externalism is compatible with authoritative knowledge of content is to show that externalism does nothing to undermine the claim that all thinkers can at any time form correct and justi?ed self-ascriptive judgements concerning their occurrent thoughts. In reaction, most incompat- ibilists have assumed the burden of denying that externalism is compatible with this claim about self-ascription. Here I suggest another way to attack the compatibilist strategy. I aim to show that (...) forming a justi?ed true self-ascriptive judgement about one. (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)
Frege’s ‘differential dubitability’ test is a test for differences in cognitive value: if one can rationally believe that p while simultaneously doubting that q, then the contents p and q amount to different ‘cognitive values’. If subject S is rational, does her simultaneous adoption of different attitudes towards p and q require that the difference between p and q(as cognitive values) be transparent to her? It is natural to think so. But I argue that, if attitude anti-individualism is true, then (...) rational differential dubitability does not presuppose that differences in cognitive value be transparent. The significance of this argument lies in what it tells us, both about the notion of cognitive value (and its relation to the differential dubitability test), but also about the prospects for a Burge-type position which aims to combine attitude anti-individualism with a (perhaps qualified) reliance on the differential dubitability test. (shrink)
Miranda Fricker's Epistemic Injustice is a wide-ranging and important book on a much-neglected topic: the injustice involved in cases in which distrust arises out of prejudice. Fricker has some important things to say about this sort of injustice: its nature, how it arises, what sustains it, and the unhappy outcomes associated with it for the victim and the society in which it takes place. In the course of developing this account, Fricker also develops an account of the epistemology of testimony. (...) Focusing my attention on that account, my central claims are two. First, at least some of Fricker's arguments against existing (inferentialist and non-inferentialist) views in the epistemology of testimony are less than fully persuasive, and the (non-inferentialist) view she ends up endorsing is not all that different from the views she criticizes. Second, her reasons for harboring doubts regarding the role of a principle of default entitlement within a non-inferentialist account are not persuasive. Neither of these claims affects the overall argument Fricker is trying to run. Rather, they suggest that Fricker may have picked more fights than she needed to in the epistemology of testimony. If so, we have reason to detach Fricker's important work on epistemic injustice from some of the details of the story she tells regarding the epistemology of testimony. (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)