If knowing requires believing on the basis of evidence that entails what’s believed, we have hardly any knowledge at all. Hence the near-universal acceptance of fallibilism in epistemology: if it's true that "we are all fallibilists now" (Siegel 1997: 164), that's because denying that one can know on the basis of non-entailing evidence1is, it seems, not an option if we're to preserve the very strong appearance that we do know many things (Cohen 1988: 91). Hence the significance of concessive knowledge (...) attributions (CKAs) (Rysiew 2001)—i.e., sentences of the form 'S knows that p, but it's possible that q' (where q entails not-p). To many, utterances of such sentences sound very odd indeed. According to David Lewis (1996: 550), however, such sentences are merely "overt, explicit" statements of fallibilism; if so, their seeming incoherence suggests that, contrary to our everyday epistemic pretensions, "knowledge must be by definition infallible" after all (ibid.: 549). -/- Recently Jason Stanley (2005) has defended fallibilism against the Lewisian worry that overtly fallibilistic speech is incoherent. According yo Stanley, CKAs are not just odd-sounding: in most cases, they are simply false. But this doesn't impugn fallibilism. Insofar as the odd-sounding utterances Lewis cites state the fallibilist idea, the latter portion thereof ('S cannot eliminate a certain possibility in which not-p', e.g.) expresses the idea that the subject's evidence doesn't entail what's (allegedly) known (hence, the negation of any contrary propositions). According to Stanley, however, this is not the best reading of the possibility clauses CKAs contain. On the correct account of the latter, while the sentences Lewis cites are almost always self-contradictory, they don't capture the fallibilist idea after all. Here, we argue that the sentences in question do express precisely the fallibilist idea, but argue that Lewis has nonetheless failed to raise a problem for the latter. In addition, we respond to worries that the resulting view of the semantics of epistemic possibility statements has certain unacceptable consequences. (shrink)
One not infrequently hears rumors that the robust practice of natural theology reeks of epistemic pride. Paul Moser’s is a paradigm of such contempt. In this paper we defend the robust practice of natural theology from the charge of epistemic pride. In taking an essentially Thomistic approach, we argue that the evidence of natural theology should be understood as a species of God’s general self-revelation. Thus, an honest assessment of that evidence need not be prideful, but can be an act (...) of epistemic humility, receiving what God has offered, answering God’s call. Lastly, we provide criticisms of Moser’s alternative approach, advancing a variety of philosophical and theological problems against his conception of personifying evidence. (shrink)
Few concepts have been considered as essential to the theory of knowledge and rational belief as that of evidence. The simplest theory which accounts for this is evidentialism, the view that epistemic justification for belief--the kind of justification typically taken to be required for knowledge--is determined solely by considerations pertaining to one's evidence. In this ground-breaking book, leading epistemologists from across the spectrum challenge and refine evidentialism, sometimes suggesting that it needs to be expanded in quite surprising directions. Following this, (...) the twin pillars of contemporary evidentialism--Earl Conee and Richard Feldman--respond to each essay. This engaging debate covers a vast number of issues, and will illuminate and inform. (shrink)
Recently, Dylan Dodd (this Journal ) has tried to clear up what he takes to be some of the many confusions surrounding concessive knowledge attributions (CKAs)—i.e., utterances of the form “S knows that p , but it’s possible that q ” (where q entails not- p ) (Rysiew, Noûs 35(4): 477–514, 2001). Here, we respond to the criticisms Dodd offers of the account of the semantics and the sometime-infelicity of CKAs we have given (Dougherty and Rysiew, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (...) 78(1): 121–132, 2009), showing both how Dodd misunderstands certain central features of that view and how the latter can, pace Dodd, be naturally extended to explain the oddity of those “For all I know” statements to which Dodd draws attention. (shrink)
In this paper we argue that attention to the intricacies relating to belief illustrate crucial difficulties with Schellenberg's hiddenness argument. This issue has been only tangentially discussed in the literature to date. Yet we judge this aspect of Schellenberg's argument deeply significant. We claim that focus on the nature of belief manifests a central flaw in the hiddenness argument. Additionally, attention to doxastic subtleties provides important lessons about the nature of faith.
Fallibilism in epistemology is neither identical to nor unrelated to the ordinary notion of fallibility. In ordinary life we are forced to the conclusion that human beings are prone to error. The epistemological doctrine of fallibilism, though, is about the consistency of holding that humans have knowledge while admitting certain limitations in human ways of knowing. As will be seen, making the content of the basic intuition more precise is both somewhat contentious and the key to an adequate definition of (...) fallibilism. Before moving on to this project I will address a few preliminary issues. Then, after canvassing some prevailing views I will address two concerns. First, I will address the concern that prevailing views do not adequately take into account fallible knowledge of necessary truths and are thus not fully general accounts of fallible knowledge. Second, I will address probabilistic accounts of fallibilism. I will suggest that a simple, adequate account of fallibilism is possible. (shrink)
Abstract: This paper argues that instances of what are typically called ‘epistemic irresponsibility’ are better understood as instances of moral or prudenial failure. This hypothesis covers the data and is simpler than postulating a new sui generis form of normativitiy. The irresponsibility alleged is that embeded in charges of ‘You should have known better!’ However, I argue, either there is some interest at stake in knowing or there is not. If there is not, then there is no irresponsibility. If there (...) is, it is either the inquirer's interests—in which case it is a prudential shortcoming—or someone else's interests are at stake—in which case it is a moral shortcoming. In no case, I argue, is there any need to postulate a form of normativity in epistemology other than the traditional epistemological norm that one's attitudes should fit the evidence one has. (shrink)
Religious epistemology is the study of how subjects' religious beliefs can have, or fail to have, some form of positive epistemic status and whether they even need such status appropriate to their kind. The current debate is focused most centrally upon the kind of basis upon which a religious believer can be rationally justified in holding certain beliefs about God and whether it is necessary to be so justified to believe as a religious believer ought. Engaging these issues are primarily (...) three groups of people who call themselves ‘fideists’, ‘Reformed epistemologists’, and ‘evidentialists’. Each group has a position, but the positions are not mutually exclusive in every case, and in the debate, the names better describe the groups' emphases than mutually exclusive positions in the debate. In this article, we will first give a brief historical survey of evidentialism, fideism, and reformed epistemology. Second, we will give the fideist's position. Third, we will give the evidentialist's position. Fourth, we will give the reformed epistemologist's position, and last, we will include some comments on the current state of the debate, where we will show that the groups' positions are not mutually exclusive. (shrink)
With 13 essays, the short chapter summary approach will not work for reviewing this book.1 1 The chapters are not broken down into sections, so I can’t select representatives from sections. With not a single bad essay among them, I get no help narrowing it down that way either. I shall, then, focus on the contributions of women and more junior contributors, setting aside the chapters of the editors and others with whom I have fairly close personal connections.
We argue that there is a tension between two types of design arguments-the fine-tuning argument (FTA) and the biological design argument (BDA). The tension arises because the strength of each argument is inversely proportional to the value of a certain currently unknown probability. Since the value of that probability is currently unknown, we investigate the properties of the FTA and BDA on different hypothetical values of this probability. If our central claim is correct this suggests three results: 1. It is (...) not very plausible that a cumulative case for theism include both the FTA and the BDA (with one possible qualification); 2. Self-organization scenarios do not threaten theism but in fact provide the materials for a good FTA. 3. A plausible design argument of one sort or another (either FTA or BDA) will be available for a wide variety of values of the key probability. (shrink)
Skeptical theism has as its foundation the thesis that if God permits evil, his reasons for doing so will likely be beyond our ken. The only defense given for this thesis is the Parent Analogy. There is in the literature only one defense of this use of the Parent Analogy and it has never been confronted. I examine it and expose serious flaws, thus exposing a crack in the very foundation of skeptical theism.
The thesis of this short paper is that skeptical theism does not look very plausible from the perspective of a common sense epistemology. A corollary of this isthat anyone who finds common sense epistemology plausible and is attracted to skeptical theism has some work to do to show that they can form a plausiblewhole. The dialectical situation is that to the degree that this argument is a strong one, to that same degree (at least) the theorist who would like to (...) combinecommon sense epistemology with skeptical theism has some work to do. (shrink)
In this article, we examine in detail the New Atheists' most serious argument for the conclusion that God does not exist, namely, Richard Dawkins's Ultimate 747 Gambit. Dawkins relies upon a strong explanatory principle involving simplicity. We systematically inspect the various kinds of simplicity that Dawkins may invoke. Finding his crucial premises false on any common conception of simplicity, we conclude that Dawkins has not given good reason to think God does not exist.
I defend the position that the appearance of a conflict between common-sense epistemology and skeptical theism remains, even after one fully appreciates the role defeat plays in rational belief. In particular, Matheson’s recent attempt to establish peace is not fully successful.
In “Knowledge and epistemic necessity,” John Hawthorne gives a defense of what he rightly calls the “standard approach” to epistemic possibility against what he calls a new “competing idea” presented by Dougherty and Rysiew which he notes has been “endorsed and elaborated upon” by Fantl and McGrath. According to the standard approach, roughly, p is epistemically possible for S if S doesn’t know that not-p. The new approach has it that p is epistemically possible if p has a non-zero epistemic (...) probability. Both approaches, he notes, would explain the oddness of CKAs, utterances of the form “p, but possibly not p.” However, he offers a number of arguments designed to show that the standard approach has other advantages. In this paper, we undermine Hawthorne’s reasons for favoring the standard approach over Dougherty and Rysiew’s alternative approach. (shrink)
To accept ‘pragmatic encroachment’ is to take the view that whether you are in a position to know is in part a function of practical stakes. This position strikes many as not just unorthodox but extremely implausible. According to Jeremy Fantl and Matthew McGrath (F&M), however, the best account of the prima facie oddity of certain utterances incorporates just such a pragmatist maneuver. In reaching this conclusion, F&M begin with Trent Dougherty and Patrick Rysiew’s (D&R’s) theory as the best on (...) offer (2009a: 63/2009b: 20), but go on to raise objections to D&R’s recent account of the relevant oddity in purely pragmatic (i.e., extra-semantic) terms and to develop it in directions quite inimical to the general outlook established in D&R 2009 and D&R forthcoming. In this brief note, we reply to F&M’s objections and show that their development in the direction of interest-relativism is ill-founded: the relevant phenomena provide no grounds for budging on the issue of pragmatic encroachment. In addition, in the course of meeting F&M’s objections, an original account of certain Moore-paradoxical sentences is given, and the issue of how probable a proposition needs to be to be known is addressed. The result is a quite general defense of a commonsense, evidence-based approach to the relevant phenomena (quite apart from a defense of D&R). (shrink)
I argue that Linda Zagzebski's proposed solution to the Meno Problem faces serious challenges. The Meno Problem, roughly, is how to explain the value that knowledge, as such, has over mere true belief. Her proposed solution is that believings—when thought of more like actions—can have value in virtue of their motivations. This meshes nicely with her theory that knowledge is, essentially, virtuously motivated true belief. Her solution fails because it entails that, necessarily, all knowledge is motivated in a way that (...) resembles the motivation of actions. Crucially, Zagzebski says the value derived from motivation comes from certain laudable feelings—like love of truth (she is explicit that love is a feeling). But there are possible cases of knowledge—probably some of which are actual—in which subjects do not or cannot experience these feelings. (shrink)
In this paper I will offer a sketch of an account of knowledge which seeks to unify a number of disparate elements the inclusion of which I assume to be a desideratum of a theory of knowledge. The device I will utilize to achieve this unity-in-diversity is that of a functional property—a property multiply realizable in widely varying realization bases. The essential idea is that the property warrant is a functional property: that which epistemizes true belief, that which turns mere (...) true belief into knowledge. The ability of functional properties to be realized in diverse ways provides the flexibility to bring together all the items we want to fall under the concept knowledge . I will attempt to illustrate this for some key desiderata. ***Please note this is a draft shortened for APA purposes. The longer paper includes a defense of the propriety of the desiderata. (shrink)
In this brief re-reply to Axtell, I reply to key criticisms of my previous reply and flesh out a bit my notions of the relationship between internalist evidentialism and epistemic virtue and epistemic value.
Epistemic Authority is a mature work of a leading epistemologist and philosopher of religion. It is a work primarily in epistemology with applications to religious epistemology. There are obvious applications of the notion of epistemic authority to philosophy of religion. For, on the face of it, the notion of some kind of ”epistemic authority’ may serve as a conceptual anchor for our understanding of faith. Indeed, there is ample historical precedent for this. Faith, says Locke, is ”the assent to any (...) proposition... upon the credit of the proposer, as coming from God, in some extraordinary way of communication’. 1 In later Lockeans, ”credit’ is often rendered ”authority’, and the terms were used synonymously at the time of his writing. 2 One of the beauties of Locke’s view is its reductionism, that is, it’s parsimony, which is a species of elegance and therefore beauty. Zagzebski’s notion is more high-octane than Locke’s. In this essay I will do four things. In Section 1 I will describe two kinds or notions of authority or at least two usages of the word ”authority’. In Section 2 I will describe Zagzebski’s use of one of these notions, the non-Lockean one, to ground the reasonableness of religious belief. In Section 3 I will give four arguments against her view. In section 4 I will reply to her critique of Locke. The upshot, in my view, is that though we learn much from Epistemic Authority, a more Lockean approach to the nature of faith is still preferable. (shrink)
In this brief reply to Axtell, I review some general considerations pertaining to the disagreement and then reply point-by-point to Axtell's critique of thedilemma I pose for responsibilists in virtue epistemology. Thus I re-affirm my reductionist identity thesis that every case of epistemic irresponsibility is either a case of ordinary moral irresponsibility or ordinary practical irrationality.