To assert something is to perform a certain kind of act. This act is different in kind both from other speech acts, like questions, requests, commands, promises, and apologies, and from acts that are not speech acts, like toast buttering and inarticulate yodeling. My question, then is this: what features of an act qualify it as an assertion, and not one of these other kinds of act? To focus on a particular example: in uttering “Bill will close the window,” (...) one might be practicing English pronunciation, asserting that Bill will close the window, or requesting that Bill close the window. What makes it the case that one is doing one of these and not another? (shrink)
This essay is an opinionated exploration of the constraints that modal discourse imposes on the theory of assertion. Primary focus is on the question whether modal discourse challenges the traditional view that all assertions have propositional content. This question is tackled largely with reference to discourse involving epistemic modals, although connections with other flavors of modality are noted along the way.
Surprisingly little has been written about hedged assertion. Linguists often focus on semantic or syntactic theorizing about, for example, grammatical evidentials or epistemic modals, but pay far less attention to what hedging does at the level of action. By contrast, philosophers have focused extensively on normative issues regarding what epistemic position is required for proper assertion, yet they have almost exclusively considered unqualified declaratives. This essay considers the linguistic and normative issues side-by-side. We aim to bring some order (...) and clarity to thinking about hedging, so as to illuminate aspects of interest to both linguists and philosophers. In particular, we consider three broad questions. 1) The structural question: when one hedges, what is the speaker’s commitment weakened from? 2) The functional question: what is the best way to understand how a hedge weakens? And 3) the taxonomic question: are hedged assertions genuine assertions, another speech act, or what? (shrink)
In proxy assertion an individual or group asserts something through a spokesperson. The chapter explains proxy assertion as resting on the assignment of a status role to a person (that of spokesperson) whose utterances acts in virtue of that role have the status function of signaling that the principal is committed in a way analogous to an individual asserting that in his own voice. The chapter briefly explains how status functions and status roles are grounded and then treats, (...) in turn, the case of a spokesperson for an individual and a group and the differences in the significance of what the spokesperson does in each case. Finally, it reviews complications introduced by spokesperson autonomy, where the spokesperson is given leave to represent her principal’s views or positions in her own words and to respond to questions on his behalf. (shrink)
This chapter explores the prospects for justifying the somewhat widespread, somewhat firmly held sense that there is some moral advantage to untruthfully implicating over lying. I call this the "Difference Intuition." I define lying in terms of asserting, but remain open about what precise definition best captures our ordinary notion. I define implicating as one way of meaning something without asserting it. I narrow down the kind of untruthful implicating that should be compared with lying for purposes of evaluating whether (...) there is a moral difference between them. Just as lying requires a robust form of assertion, so the kind of untruthful implicating to be compared with lying requires a robust form of implicating. Next, I set out various ways of sharpening the Difference Intuition and survey a range of approaches to justifying one class of sharpenings. I finish by sketching an approach to justifying an alternative sharpening of the Difference Intuition, which is inspired by John Stuart Mill's discussion of lying. (shrink)
The purpose of the present chapter is to survey the work on epistemic norms of action, practical deliberation and assertion and to consider how these norms are interrelated. On a more constructive note, we will argue that if there are important similarities between the epistemic norms of action and assertion, it has important ramifications for the debates over speech acts and harm. Thus, we hope that the chapter will indicate how thinking about assertions as a speech act can (...) benefit from a broader action theoretic setting. We will proceed as follows. In Section 2, we provide a survey of epistemic norms of action and practical deliberation. In Section 3, we turn to the epistemic norms of assertion. In Section 4, we consider arguments for and against commonality of the epistemic norms of actions, practical deliberation and assertion. In Section 5, we discuss some of the ramifications of the debates over epistemic norms of assertion such as whether they may be extended to other linguistic phenomena such as Gricean implicature. In Section 6, we consider the consequences of the debate about the epistemic norms of action and practical deliberation for debates about speech and harm. (shrink)
Theories of assertion must explain how silencing is possible. This chapter defends an account of assertion in terms of normative commitments on the grounds that it provides the most plausible analysis of how individuals might be silenced when attempting to make assertions. The chapter first offers an account of the nature of silencing and defends the view that it can occur even in contexts where speakers’ communicative intentions are understood by their audience. Second, it outlines some of the (...) normative commitments characteristic of assertion when used in the speech act of telling;. This commitment view of assertion is then used to explain silencing as a matter of being deprived of the ability to make some of the commitments one is trying to acquire. Finally, the main rivals of the commitment view of assertion endorsed here are shown to be unable to account for silencing, at least when they are considered in their purest form. (shrink)
According to commitment accounts of assertion, asserting is committing oneself to something’s being the case, where such commitment is understood in terms of norms governing a social practice. I elaborate and compare two version of such accounts, liability accounts (associated with C.S. Peirce) and dialectical norm accounts (associated with Robert Brandom), concluding that the latter are more defensible. I argue that both versions of commitment account possess a potential advantage over rival normative accounts of assertion in that they (...) needn’t presuppose any notion of an assertion’s correctness. Additionally, I show how dialectical norm accounts can explain relations between assertion and truth. After setting forth objections that have been raised against commitment accounts, I argue that responses are available on behalf of dialectical norm accounts. Finally, I propose that a liberalized dialectical norm account can illuminate phenomena sometimes seen as supporting truth relativism. (shrink)
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.
[The version of this paper published by Oxford online in 2019 was not copy-edited and has some sense-obscuring typos. I have posted a corrected (but not the final published) version on this site. The version published in print in 2020 has these corrections.] Which is more fundamental, assertion or testimony? Should we understand assertion as basic, treating testimony as what you get when you add an interpersonal addressee? Or should we understand testimony as basic, treating mere assertion (...) -- assertion without testimony -- as what you get when you subtract that interpersonal relation? In this chapter, I’ll argue for the subtractive approach and for the more general thesis that its treatment of the interpersonal element in assertion makes understanding that interpersonal element the key to understanding how assertion expresses belief. My theory of belief-expression in assertion treats it as internalizing the transmission of belief in testimony. How we understand that internalizing move depends on how we conceptualize the interpersonal element in testimony. Since what I’ll call the Command Model does not give us the conceptual resources to make this move, we should adopt an alternative that I’ll call the Custodial Model, on which a testifier aims not to convince her addressee but to reason with him – to give him reasons to believe what she tells him grounded in her trustworthiness in thus attempting to influence him. The subtractive approach to assertion thus rests on a key distinction between the aims of reasoning and persuasion. (shrink)
A common objection to both contextualism and relativism about knowledge ascriptions is that they threaten knowledge norms of assertion and action. Consequently, if there is good reason to accept knowledge norms of assertion or action, there is good reason to reject both contextualism and relativism. In this paper we argue that neither contextualism nor relativism threaten knowledge norms of assertion or action.
Scientists, philosophers, and other researchers commonly assert their theories. This is surprising, as there are good reasons for skepticism about theories in cutting-edge research. I propose a new account of assertion in research contexts that vindicates these assertions. This account appeals to a distinct propositional attitude called endorsement, which is the rational attitude of committed advocacy researchers have to their theories. The account also appeals to a theory of conversational pragmatics known as the Question Under Discussion model, or QUD. (...) Hence, I call the theory the EQUD model. Motivating this account is a recognition that the speech act of assertion has two roles to play in research contexts. The first is the advocacy role, in which researchers assert a theory in order to advocate for it. The second is the evidential role, which is used to add to the common stock of information available to a field of inquiry. The EQUD model provides an account of warranted assertion for both these roles in research contexts. This success provides support for the theory of endorsement. It also provides support for information updating accounts of assertion. (shrink)
The Knowledge Norm or Knowledge Account of Assertion (KAA) has received added support recently from data on prompting assertion (Turri 2010) and from a refinement suggesting that assertions ought to express knowledge (Turri 2011). This paper adds another argument from parenthetical positioning, and then argues that KAA’s unified explanation of some of the earliest data (from Moorean conjunctions) adduced in its favor recommends KAA over its rivals.
I accomplish two things in this paper. First I expose some important limitations of the contemporary literature on the norms of assertion and in the process illuminate a host of new directions and forms that an account of assertional norms might take. Second I leverage those insights to suggest a new account of the relationship between knowledge and assertion, which arguably outperforms the standard knowledge account.
In this paper I present my proposal for the central norm governing the practice of assertion, which I call the Supportive Reasons Norm of Assertion (SRNA). The critical features of this norm are that it's highly sensitive to the context of assertion, such that the requirements for warrantedly asserting a proposition shift with changes in context, and that truth is not a necessary condition for warrantedly asserting. In fact, I argue that there are some cases where a (...) speaker may warrantedly assert something she knows to be false. Only SRNA seems able to account for such cases. (shrink)
People suffering from severe monothematic delusions, such as Capgras, Fregoli, or Cotard patients, regularly assert extraordinary and unlikely things. For example, some say that their loved ones have been replaced by impostors. A popular view in philosophy and cognitive science is that such monothematic delusions aren't beliefs because they don't guide behaviour and affect in the way that beliefs do. Or, if they are beliefs, they are somehow anomalous, atypical, or marginal beliefs. We present evidence from five studies that folk (...) psychology unambiguously views monothematic delusions as stereotypical beliefs. This calls into question widespread assumptions in the professional literature about belief's stereotypical functional profile. We also show that folk psychology views delusional patients as holding contradictory beliefs. And we show that frequent assertion is a powerful cue to belief ascription, more powerful than even a robust and consistent track record of non-verbal behaviour. (shrink)
Since the publication of Timothy Williamson’s Knowledge and its Limits, knowledge-first epistemology has become increasingly influential within epistemology. This paper discusses the viability of the knowledge-first program. The paper has two main parts. In the first part, I briefly present knowledge-first epistemology as well as several big picture reasons for concern about this program. While this considerations are pressing, I concede, however, that they are not conclusive. To determine the viability of knowledge-first epistemology will require philosophers to carefully evaluate the (...) individual theses endorsed by knowledge-first epistemologists as well as to compare it with alternative packages of views. In the second part of the paper, I contribute to this evaluation by considering a specific thesis endorsed by many knowledge-first epistemologists – the knowledge norm of assertion. According to this norm, roughly speaking, one should assert that p only if one knows that p. I present and motivate this thesis. I then turn to a familiar concern with the norm: In many cases, it is intuitively appropriate for someone who has a strongly justified belief that p, but who doesn't know that p, to assert that p. Proponents of the knowledge norm of assertion typically explain away our judgments about such cases by arguing that the relevant assertion is improper but that the subject has an excuse and is therefore not blameworthy for making the assertion. I argue that that this response does not work. In many of the problem cases, it is not merely that the subject’s assertion is blameless. Rather, the subject positively ought to make the assertion. Appealing to an excuse cannot be used to adequately explain this fact. (Nor can we explain this fact by appealing to some other, quite different, consideration.) Finally, I conclude by briefly considering whether we should replace the knowledge norm of assertion with an alternative norm. I argue that the most plausible view is that there is no norm specifically tied to assertion. (shrink)
Language is a human universal reflecting our deeply social nature. Among its essential functions, language enables us to quickly and efficiently share information. We tell each other that many things are true—that is, we routinely make assertions. Information shared this way plays a critical role in the decisions and plans we make. In Knowledge and the Norm of Assertion, a distinguished philosopher and cognitive scientist investigates the rules or norms that structure our social practice of assertion. Combining evidence (...) from philosophy, psychology, and biology, John Turri shows that knowledge is the central norm of assertion and explains why knowledge plays this role. -/- Concise, comprehensive, non-technical, and thoroughly accessible, this volume quickly brings readers to the cutting edge of a major research program at the intersection of philosophy and science. It presupposes no philosophical or scientific training. It will be of interest to philosophers and scientists, is suitable for use in graduate and undergraduate courses, and will appeal to general readers interested in human nature, social cognition, and communication. (shrink)
Recent literature features an increased interest in the sufficiency claim involved in the knowledge norm of assertion. This paper looks at two prominent objections to KNA-Suff, due to Jessica Brown and Jennifer Lackey, and argues that they miss their target due to value-theoretic inaccuracies. It is argued that the intuitive need for more than knowledge in Brown’s high-stakes contexts does not come from the epistemic norm governing assertion, but from further norms stepping in and raising the bar, and (...) Lackey’s purported quality-driven case against KNA-Suff boils down to a quantitative objection. If that is the case, Lackey’s argument will be vulnerable to the same objections as Brown’s. (shrink)
I suggest a way of extending Stalnaker’s account of assertion to allow for centered content. In formulating his account, Stalnaker takes the content of assertion to be uncentered propositions: entities that are evaluated for truth at a possible world. I argue that the content of assertion is sometimes centered: the content is evaluated for truth at something within a possible world. I consider Andy Egan’s proposal for extending Stalnaker’s account to allow for assertions with centered content. I (...) argue that Egan’s account does not succeed. Instead, I propose an account on which the contents of assertion are identified with sets of multi-centered worlds. I argue that such a view not only provides a plausible account of how assertions can have centered content, but also preserves Stalnaker’s original insight that successful assertion involves the reduction of shared possibilities. (shrink)
The view that truth is the norm of assertion has fallen out of fashion. The recent trend has been to think that knowledge is the norm of assertion. Objections to the knowledge view proceed almost exclusively by appeal to alleged counterexamples. While it no doubt has a role to play, such a strategy relies on intuitions concerning hypothetical cases, intuitions which might not be shared and which might shift depending on how the relevant cases are fleshed out. In (...) this paper, I reject the knowledge view on principled grounds. More specifically, by appeal to a principle which is motivated independently of the debate over the norms of assertion and which is already accepted by many proponents of the knowledge view, I show the knowledge view to be false while simultaneously accounting for why it might seem to be true. In doing so, I provide a novel defence of the unfashionable truth view. (shrink)
An impressive case has been built for the hypothesis that knowledge is the norm of assertion, otherwise known as the knowledge account of assertion. According to the knowledge account, you should assert something only if you know that it’s true. A wealth of observational data supports the knowledge account, and some recent empirical results lend further, indirect support. But the knowledge account has not yet been tested directly. This paper fills that gap by reporting the results of such (...) a test. The knowledge account passes with flying colors. (shrink)
Assertions are speech acts by means of which we express beliefs. As such they are at the heart of our linguistic and social practices. Recent research has focused extensively on the question whether the speech act of assertion is governed by norms, and if so, under what conditions it is acceptable to make an assertion. Standard theories propose, for instance, that one should only assert that p if one knows that p (the knowledge account), or that one should (...) only assert that p if p is true (the truth account). In a series of four experiments, this question is addressed empirically. Contrary to previous findings, knowledge turns out to be a poor predictor of assertability, and the norm of assertion is not factive either. The studies here presented provide empirical evidence in favour of the view that a speaker is warranted to assert that p only if her belief that p is justified. (shrink)
We present an inferentialist account of the epistemic modal operator might. Our starting point is the bilateralist programme. A bilateralist explains the operator not in terms of the speech act of rejection ; we explain the operator might in terms of weak assertion, a speech act whose existence we argue for on the basis of linguistic evidence. We show that our account of might provides a solution to certain well-known puzzles about the semantics of modal vocabulary whilst retaining classical (...) logic. This demonstrates that an inferentialist approach to meaning can be successfully extended beyond the core logical constants. (shrink)
This book is about the norms of the speech act of assertion. This is a topic of lively contemporary debate primarily carried out in epistemology and philosophy of language. Suppose that you ask me what time an upcoming meeting starts, and I say, “4 p.m.” I’ve just asserted that the meeting starts at 4 p.m. Whenever we make claims like this, we’re asserting. The central question here is whether we need to know what we say, and, relatedly, whether what (...) we assert must be true. If the meeting is really at 3:30 p.m., you’ll be late, and probably rather upset that I told you the wrong time. In some sense, it seems like I’m on the hook for having said something false. This sense that I’ve done something wrong suggests that there are certain standards of evaluating assertions: a way of distinguishing between good and bad, appropriate and inappropriate. We call these standards norms. And so the debate about what, if any, norms govern the linguistic practice of assertion is known as the norms of assertion debate. When one’s assertion satisfies the norm, we say that the assertion is warranted. -/- Various philosophers have typically focused their views of the norms of assertion on articulating the level of epistemic support required for properly asserting. Some argue, for example, that one must know what one asserts. Others argue that one merely needs to justifiably believe what one asserts–an epistemic standing weaker than knowledge. The purpose of this book is to defend what I propose as the central norm governing our practice of assertion, which I call the Supportive Reasons Norm. Here’s what it looks like: -/- One may assert that p only if: One has supportive reasons for p, The relevant conventional and pragmatic elements of the context are present, and One asserts that p at least in part because the assertion that p satisfies and. -/- In rough outline, the standards for warrantedly asserting shift with changes in context, although knowledge is never required for warrantedly asserting. In fact, in some special contexts, speakers may warrantedly lie. This latter feature particularly sets apart my view from others in the debate. This also means that truth, knowledge, and even belief aren’t necessary conditions for warrantedly asserting. (shrink)
C.S. Peirce held what is nowadays called a “commitment view” of assertion. According to this type of view, assertion is a kind of act that is determined by its “normative effects”: by asserting a proposition one undertakes certain commitments, typically to be able to provide reason to believe what one is asserting, or, in Peirce’s words, one “takes responsibility” for the truth of the proposition one asserts. Despite being an early adopter of the view, if Peirce’s commitment view (...) of assertion is mentioned at all in contemporary discussions it is only in passing. His view is, however, far more complex and nuanced than he has been given credit for. My primary goal here, then, is to get a better understanding of Peirce’s version of a commitment view of assertion. I also argue that figuring out the details of Peirce’s theory of assertion can also provide us with a viable way to respond to problems that contemporary commitment views of assertion face. (shrink)
Jennifer Lackey (2018) has developed an account of the primary form of group assertion, according to which groups assert when a suitably authorized spokesperson speaks for the group. In this paper I pose a challenge for Lackey's account, arguing that her account obscures the phenomenon of group silencing. This is because, in contrast to alternative approaches that view assertions (and speech acts generally) as social acts, Lackey's account implies that speakers can successfully assert regardless of how their utterances are (...) taken up by their audiences. What reflection on group silencing shows us, I argue, is that an adequate account of group assertion needs to find a place for audience uptake. (shrink)
According to an influential hypothesis, the speech act of assertion is subject to a single 'constitutive' rule, that takes the form: "One must: assert that p only if p has C". Scholars working on assertion interpret the assumption that this rule is 'constitutive' in different ways. This disagreement, often unacknowledged, threatens the foundations of the philosophical debate on assertion. This paper reviews different interpretations of the claim that assertion is governed by a constitutive rule. It argues (...) that once we understand the full import of assuming that assertion is governed by a constitutive rule, it becomes clear that some fundamental assumptions of the current debate are mistaken, and others unwarranted. (shrink)
We argue that honesty in assertion requires non-empirical knowledge that what one asserts is what one believes. Our argument proceeds from the thought that to assert honestly, one must follow and not merely conform to the norm ‘Assert that p only if you believe that p’. Furthermore, careful consideration of cases shows that the sort of doxastic self-knowledge required for following this norm cannot be acquired on the basis of observation, inference, or any other form of detection of one’s (...) own doxastic states. It is, as we put it, transparent rather than empirical self-knowledge. (shrink)
Assertions are our standard communicative tool for sharing and acquiring information. Recent empirical studies seemingly provide converging evidence that assertions are subject to a factive norm: you are entitled to assert a proposition p only if p is true. All these studies, however, assume that we can treat participants' judgments about what an agent 'should say' as evidence of their intuitions about assertability. This paper argues that this assumption is incorrect, so that the conclusions drawn in these studies are unwarranted. (...) It shows that most people do not interpret statements about what an agent 'should say' as statements about assertability, but rather as statements about what is in the agent's interest to do. It identifies some effective measures to force the intended reading of statements about what an agent 'should say', and shows that when these measures are implemented, people's judgments consistently and overwhelmingly align with non-factive accounts of assertion. (shrink)
Many philosophers think that games like chess, languages like English, and speech acts like assertion are constituted by rules. Lots of others disagree. To argue over this productively, it would be first useful to know what it would be for these things to be rule-constituted. Searle famously claimed in Speech Acts that rules constitute things in the sense that they make possible the performance of actions related to those things (Searle 1969). On this view, rules constitute games, languages, and (...) speech acts in the sense that they make possible playing them, speaking them and performing them. This raises the question what it is to perform rule-constituted actions (e. g. play, speak, assert) and the question what makes constitutive rules distinctive such that only they make possible the performance of new actions (e. g. playing). In this paper I will criticize Searle’s answers to these questions. However, my main aim is to develop a better view, explain how it works in the case of each of games, language, and assertion and illustrate its appeal by showing how it enables rule-based views of these things to respond to various objections. (shrink)
John N. Williams (1994) and Matthew Weiner (2005) invoke predictions in order to undermine the normative relevance of knowledge for assertions; in particular, Weiner argues, predictions are important counterexamples to the Knowledge Account of Assertion (KAA). I argue here that they are not true counterexamples at all, a point that can be agreed upon even by those who reject KAA.
There is a fundamental disagreement about which norm regulates assertion. Proponents of factive accounts argue that only true propositions are assertable, whereas proponents of non-factive accounts insist that at least some false propositions are. Puzzlingly, both views are supported by equally plausible (but apparently incompatible) linguistic data. This paper delineates an alternative solution: to understand truth as the aim of assertion, and pair this view with a non-factive rule. The resulting account is able to explain all the relevant (...) linguistic data, and finds independent support from general considerations about the differences between rules and aims. (shrink)
According to the increasingly popular knowledge account, assertion is governed by the rule that speech acts of that kind require knowledge of their content. Timothy Williamson has argued that this knowledge rule is the constitutive rule of assertion. It is argued here that it is not the constitutive rule of assertion in any sense of the term, as it governs only some assertions rather than all of them. A (qualified) knowledge rule can in fact be derived from (...) the traditional analysis of assertion according to which assertion is the linguistic expression of belief. Because it is more informative, this analysis provides a better point of departure for defending the knowledge account than Williamson’s view according to which the knowledge rule is part of the analysis of assertion. (shrink)
It is widely believed that the so-called knowledge account of assertion best explains why sentences such as “It’s raining in Paris but I don’t believe it” and “It’s raining in Paris but I don’t know it” appear odd to us. I argue that the rival rational credibility account of assertion explains that fact just as well. I do so by providing a broadly Bayesian analysis of the said type of sentences which shows that such sentences cannot express rationally (...) held beliefs. As an interesting aside, it will be seen that these sentences also harbor a lesson for Bayesian epistemology itself. (shrink)
If I were to say, “Agnes does not know that it is raining, but it is,” this seems like a perfectly coherent way of describing Agnes’s epistemic position. If I were to add, “And I don’t know if it is, either,” this seems quite strange. In this chapter, we shall look at some statements that seem, in some sense, contradictory, even though it seems that these statements can express propositions that are contingently true or false. Moore thought it was paradoxical (...) that statements that can express true propositions or contingently false propositions should nevertheless seem absurd like this. If we can account for the absurdity, we shall solve Moore’s Paradox. In this chapter, we shall look at Moore’s proposals and more recent discussions of Moorean absurd thought and speech. (shrink)
Pascal Engel (2008) has insisted that a number of notable strategies for rejecting the knowledge norm of assertion are put forward on the basis of the wrong kinds of reasons. A central aim of this paper will be to establish the contrast point: I argue that one very familiar strategy for defending the knowledge norm of assertion—viz., that it is claimed to do better in various respects than its competitors (e.g. the justification and the truth norms)— relies on (...) a presupposition that is shown to be ultimately under motivated. That presupposition is the uniqueness thesis—that there is a unique epistemic rule for assertion, and that such a rule will govern assertions uniformly. In particular, the strategy I shall take here will be to challenge the sufficiency leg of the knowledge norm in a way that at the same time counts against Williamson’s (2000) own rationale for the uniqueness thesis. However, rather than to challenge the sufficiency leg of the knowledge norm via the familiar style of ‘expert opinion’ and, more generally, ‘second-hand knowledge’ cases (e.g. Lackey (2008)), a strategy that has recently been called into question by Benton (2014), I’ll instead advance a very different line of argument against the sufficiency thesis, one which turns on a phenomenon I call epistemic hypocrisy. (shrink)
What is the relationship between the epistemic norms of assertion and the epistemic norms of action/practical reasoning? Brown argues that the standards for practical reasoning and assertion are distinct (Brown 2012). In contrast, Montminy argues that practical reasoning and assertion must be governed by the same norm (Montminy 2012). Likewise, McKinnon has articulated an argument for a unified account from cases of isolated second-hand knowledge (McKinnon 2012). To clarify the issue, I articulate a distinction between Equivalence Commonality (...) and Structural Commonality. I then argue against the former by counterexamples that doubly dissociate the standards for assertion and action. Furthermore, I argue that such a double dissociation compromises knowledge accounts of both assertion and action/practical reasoning. To provide a more accurate diagnosis, I consider speech act theory and argue that principled differences between the norms of action and assertion compromise Equivalence Commonality. In contrast, a qualified version of Structural Commonality may be preserved. (shrink)
This paper argues for a treatment of belief as essentially sensitive to certain features of context. The first part gives an argument that we must take belief to be context-sensitive in the same way that assertion is, if we are to preserve appealing principles tying belief to sincere assertion. In particular, whether an agent counts as believing that p in a context depends on the space of alternative possibilities the agent is considering in that context. One and the (...) same doxastic state may amount to belief that p in one context but not another. The second part of the paper gives a formal treatment of doxastic states, according to which belief is context-sensitive along just these lines. The model is applied to characterize (but not to refute) skeptical arguments. (shrink)
Epistemologists can be divided into two camps: those who think that nothing short of certainty or (subjective) probability 1 can warrant assertion and those who disagree with this claim. This paper addressed this issue by inquiring into the problem of setting the probability threshold required for assertion in such a way that that the social epistemic good is maximized, where the latter is taken to be the veritistic value in the sense of Goldman (Knowledge in a social world, (...) 1999). We provide a Bayesian model of a test case involving a community of inquirers in a social network engaged in group deliberation regarding the truth or falsity of a proposition $p.$ p . Results obtained by means of computer simulation indicate that the certainty rule is optimal in the limit of inquiry and communication but that a lower threshold is preferable in less idealized cases. (shrink)
We argue against the knowledge rule of assertion, and in favour of integrating the account of assertion more tightly with our best theories of evidence and action. We think that the knowledge rule has an incredible consequence when it comes to practical deliberation, that it can be right for a person to do something that she can't properly assert she can do. We develop some vignettes that show how this is possible, and how odd this consequence is. We (...) then argue that these vignettes point towards alternate rules that tie assertion to sufficient evidence-responsiveness or to proper action. These rules have many of the virtues that are commonly claimed for the knowledge rule, but lack the knowledge rule's problematic consequences when it comes to assertions about what to do. (shrink)
According to one tradition, uttering an indicative conditional involves performing a special sort of speech act: a conditional assertion. We introduce a formal framework that models this speech act. Using this framework, we show that any theory of conditional assertion validates several inferences in the logic of conditionals, including the False Antecedent inference. Next, we determine the space of truth-conditional semantics for conditionals consistent with conditional assertion. The truth value of any such conditional is settled whenever the (...) antecedent is false, and whenever the antecedent is true and the consequent is false. Then, we consider the space of dynamic meanings consistent with the theory of conditional assertion. We develop a new family of dynamic conditional-assertion operators that combine a traditional test operator with an update operation. (shrink)
According to a widely held view of assertion and belief, they are each governed by a tacitly acknowledged epistemic norm, and the norm on assertion and norm on belief are so related that believing p is epistemically permissible only if asserting it is. I call it the Same Norm View. A very common type of utterance raises a puzzle for this view, viz. utterances in which we say ‘I believe p' to convey somehow guarded affirmation of the proposition (...) that p. For example, one might respond to a query for directions to the station by saying ‘I believe it is down the first street on your left.' Often, when we reply in this way, it would have been pragmatically preferable simply to assert that p, had we been epistemically warranted in doing so. One's guarded reply thus suggests one is not so warranted. Nevertheless, if one believes what one, at face value, says one believes, one believes p. Contrary to what might seem to be suggested by the Same Norm View, one does not seem to portray oneself as irrational or epistemically beyond the pale in replying in this way. The paper develops this puzzle in detail, and examines a variety of options for a resolving it consistently with the Same Norm view. The most promising of these options, I argue, is to see ‘I believe' guarded affirmations as a form merely approximately correct speech. They would, though, be a form of such speech that interestingly differs from paradigm cases of loose use or conventional hyperbole in that speakers would be comparatively unaware of engaging in approximation. I conclude ‘I believe’—guarded affirmations either show the Same Norm View to be false or must be recognised as such an interestingly distinctive form of merely approximately correct speech. (shrink)
Communication is essential to human society, and assertion is central to communication. This article reviews evidence from life science, cognitive science, and philosophy relevant to understanding how our social practice of assertion is structured and sustained. The principal conclusion supported by this body of evidence is that knowledge is a central norm of assertion—that is, according to the rules of the practice, assertions should express knowledge.
The oddities in lottery cases and Moore’s paradox appear to support the knowledge account of assertion, according to which one should assert only what one knows. This paper preserves an emphasis on epistemic norms but presents grounds for an alternative explanation. The alternative divides the explanandum, explaining the error in lottery and Moorean assertions with one move and their deeper incoherence with another. The error derives from a respect in which the assertions are uninformative: the speaker is not being (...) appropriately responsive to her addressee’s epistemic needs. And the incoherence derives from a deeper respect in which lottery and some (but not all) Moorean assertions are uninformative: it is difficult to see how the speaker’s assertion could express any judgment she has made or would relevantly make, since she transparently lacks epistemic authority to inform any conceivable interlocutor on the subject. This diagnosis suggests an epistemic approach not directly to assertion but to judgment. Without judging that p, how could a speaker be in the business of informing her addressee that p? If the speaker transparently lacks authority to inform anyone whether p – to give anyone her word that p – how could she without confusion count as judging that p? (shrink)
Safety is a notion familiar to epistemologists principally because of the way in which it has been used in the attempt to cast light on the nature of knowledge. In particular, some have argued that an important constraint on knowledge is that one knows p only if one believes p safely. In this paper, I use safety for a different purpose: to cast light on the nature of assertion. I introduce what I call the safety account of assertion, (...) according to which one asserts p properly only if one asserts p safely. The central idea is that an assertion’s propriety depends on whether one could easily have asserted falsely in a similar case. I argue that the safety account is well motivated, since it neatly explains our intuitions about a wide range of assertions of different kinds. Of particular interest is the fact that the account explains our intuitions about several kinds of assertions which appear to raise problems for well-known rival accounts. (shrink)
Here I advance a unified account of the structure of the epistemic normativity of assertion, action, and belief. According to my Teleological Account, all of these are epistemically successful just in case they fulfill the primary aim of knowledgeability, an aim which in turn generates a host of secondary epistemic norms. The central features of the Teleological Account are these: it is compact in its reliance on a single central explanatory posit, knowledge-centered in its insistence that knowledge sets the (...) fundamental epistemic norm, and yet fiercely pluralistic in its acknowledgment of the legitimacy and value of a rich range of epistemic norms distinct from knowledge. Largely in virtue of this pluralist character, I argue, the Teleological Account is far superior to extant knowledge-centered accounts. (shrink)
We show that the contemporary debate surrounding the question “What is the norm of assertion?” presupposes what we call the quantitative view, i.e. the view that this question is best answered by determining how much epistemic support is required to warrant assertion. We consider what Jennifer Lackey ( 2010 ) has called cases of isolated second-hand knowledge and show—beyond what Lackey has suggested herself—that these cases are best understood as ones where a certain type of understanding , rather (...) than knowledge, constitutes the required epistemic credential to warrant assertion. If we are right that understanding (and not just knowledge) is the epistemic norm for a restricted class of assertions, then this straightforwardly undercuts not only the widely supposed quantitative view, but also a more general presupposition concerning the universalisability of some norm governing assertion—the presumption (almost entirely unchallenged since Williamson’s 1996 paper) that any epistemic norm that governs some assertions should govern assertions—as a class of speech act—uniformly. (shrink)
The paper proposes two logical analyses of (the norms of) justification. In a first, realist-minded case, truth is logically independent from justification and leads to a pragmatic logic LP including two epistemic and pragmatic operators, namely, assertion and hypothesis. In a second, antirealist-minded case, truth is not logically independent from justification and results in two logical systems of information and justification: AR4 and AR4¢, respectively, provided with a question-answer semantics. The latter proposes many more epistemic agents, each corresponding to (...) a wide variety of epistemic norms. After comparing the different norms of justification involved in these logical systems, two hexagons expressing Aristotelian relations of opposition will be gathered in order to clarify how (a fragment of) pragmatic formulas can be interpreted in a fuzzy-based question-answer semantics. (shrink)
It is highly now intuitive that the future is open and the past is closed now—whereas it is unsettled whether there will be a fourth world war, it is settled that there was a first. Recently, it has become increasingly popular to claim that the intuitive openness of the future implies that contingent statements about the future, such as ‘There will be a sea battle tomorrow,’ are non-bivalent (neither true nor false). In this paper, we argue that the non-bivalence of (...) future contingents is at odds with our pre-theoretic intuitions about the openness of the future. These intuitions are revealed by our pragmatic judgments concerning the correctness and incorrectness of assertions of future contingents. We argue that the pragmatic data together with a plausible account of assertion shows that in many cases we take future contingents to be true (or to be false), though we take the future to be open in relevant respects. It follows that appeals to intuition to support the non-bivalence of future contingents are untenable. Intuition favours bivalence. (shrink)