Contextualism has been hotly debated in recent epistemology and philosophy of language. The Case for Contextualism is a state-of-the-art exposition and defense of the contextualist position, presenting and advancing the most powerful arguments in favor of the view and responding to the most pressing objections facing it.
According to some powerful skeptical arguments, we know almost nothing. Contextualist theories of knowledge ascriptions have been developed with an eye toward resisting skepticism. Have the contextualists succeeded? After briefly outlining their view, I will consider whether contextualism about knowledge ascriptions provides a satisfactory response to one of the most popular and influential forms of skepticism. I conclude with some questions for the contextualist. As we’ll see, the effectiveness of the contextualist solution to skepticism is far from settled.
Epistemic contextualism is the theory that “knows” is a context sensitive expression. As a linguistic theory, epistemic contextualism is motivated by claims about the linguistic behavior of competent speakers. This chapter reviews evidence in experimental cognitive science for epistemic contextualism in linguistic behavior. This research demonstrates that although some observations that are consistent with epistemic contextualism can be confirmed in linguistic practices, these observations are also equally well explained both by psychological features that do not provide (...) support for contextualism and by rival theories that are inconsistent with contextualism. I conclude that the motivation for epistemic contextualism is underdetermined by existing experimental evidence, yielding little reason to accept it as an account of our actual linguistic practices. (shrink)
I provide an opinionated overview of the literature on the relationship of contextualism to knowledge norms for action, assertion, and belief. I point out that contextualists about ‘knows’ are precluded from accepting the simplest versions of knowledge norms; they must, if they are to accept knowledge norms at all, accept “relativized” versions of them. I survey arguments from knowledge norms both for and against contextualism, tentatively concluding that commitment to knowledge norms does not conclusively win the day either (...) for contextualism or for its rivals. But I also suggest that an antecedent commitment to contextualism about normative terms may provide grounds for suspicion about knowledge norms, and a debunking explanation of some of the data offered in favor of such norms. (shrink)
According to a recent challenge to Kratzer's canonical contextualist semantics for deontic modal expressions, no contextualist view can make sense of cases in which such a modal must be information-sensitive in some way. Here I show how Kratzer's semantics is compatible with readings of the targeted sentences that fit with the data. I then outline a general account of how contexts select parameter values for modal expressions and show, in terms of that account, how the needed, contextualist-friendly readings might plausibly (...) get selected in the challenge cases. (shrink)
In this entry, we provide an overview of some of the methodological debates surrounding contextualism and consider whether they are, in effect, based on an underlying methodological dispute. We consider three modes of motivation of epistemic contextualism including i) the method of cases, ii) the appeal to linguistic analogies and iii) the appeal to conceptual analogies and functional roles. We also consider the methodological debates about contextualism arising from experimental philosophy. We conclude that i) there is no (...) distinctive methodological doctrine or set of methodological doctrines that is centrally invoked by all epistemic contextualists and ii) the substantive dispute about the truth of contextualism very frequently, although not invariably, reflects an underlying methodological dispute. (shrink)
Epistemic Contextualism is the view that “knows that” is semantically context-sensitive and that properly accommodating this fact into our philosophical theory promises to solve various puzzles concerning knowledge. Yet Epistemic Contextualism faces a big—some would say fatal—problem: The Semantic Error Problem. In its prominent form, this runs thus: speakers just don’t seem to recognise that “knows that” is context-sensitive; so, if “knows that” really is context-sensitive then such speakers are systematically in error about what is said by, or (...) how to evaluate, ordinary uses of “S knows that p”; but since it's wildly implausible that ordinary speakers should exhibit such systematic error, the expression “knows that” isn't context-sensitive. We are interested in whether, and in what ways, there is such semantic error; if there is such error, how it arises and is made manifest; and, again, if there is such error to what extent it is a problem for Epistemic Contextualism. The upshot is that some forms of The Semantic Error Problem turn out to be largely unproblematic. Those that remain troublesome have analogue error problems for various competitor conceptions of knowledge. So, if error is any sort of problem, then there is a problem for every extant competitor view. (shrink)
Knowledge ascriptions seem context sensitive. Yet it is widely thought that epistemic contextualism does not have a plausible semantic implementation. We aim to overcome this concern by articulating and defending an explicit contextualist semantics for ‘know,’ which integrates a fairly orthodox contextualist conception of knowledge as the elimination of the relevant alternatives, with a fairly orthodox “Amherst” semantics for A-quantification over a contextually variable domain of situations. Whatever problems epistemic contextualism might face, lack of an orthodox semantic implementation (...) is not among them. (shrink)
This book investigates context-sensitivity in natural language by examining the meaning and use of a target class of theoretically recalcitrant expressions. These expressions-including epistemic vocabulary, normative and evaluative vocabulary, and vague language -exhibit systematic differences from paradigm context-sensitive expressions in their discourse dynamics and embedding properties. Many researchers have responded by rethinking the nature of linguistic meaning and communication. Drawing on general insights about the role of context in interpretation and collaborative action, Silk develops an improved contextualist theory of CR-expressions (...) within the classical truth-conditional paradigm: Discourse Contextualism. The aim of Discourse Contextualism is to derive the distinctive linguistic behavior of a CR-expression from a particular contextualist interpretation of an independently motivated formal semantics, along with general principles of interpretation and conversation. It is shown how in using CR-expressions, speakers can exploit their mutual grammatical and world knowledge, and general pragmatic reasoning skills, to coordinate their attitudes and negotiate about how the context should evolve. The book focuses primarily on developing a Discourse Contextualist semantics and pragmatics for epistemic modals. The Discourse Contextualist framework is also applied to other categories of epistemic vocabulary, normative and evaluative vocabulary, and vague adjectives. The similarities/differences among these expressions, and among context-sensitive expressions more generally, have been underexplored. The development of Discourse Contextualism in this book sheds light on general features of meaning and communication, and the variety of ways in which context affects and is affected by uses of language. Discourse Contextualism provides a fruitful framework for theorizing about various broader issues in philosophy, linguistics, and cognitive science. (shrink)
On Kratzer’s canonical account, modal expressions (like “might” and “must”) are represented semantically as quantifiers over possibilities. Such expressions are themselves neutral; they make a single contribution to determining the propositions expressed across a wide range of uses. What modulates the modality of the proposition expressed—as bouletic, epistemic, deontic, etc.—is context.2 This ain’t the canon for nothing. Its power lies in its ability to figure in a simple and highly unified explanation of a fairly wide range of language use. Recently, (...) though, the canon’s neat story has come under attack. The challenge cases involve the epistemic use of a modal sentence for which no single resolution of the contextual parameter appears capable of accommodating all our intuitions.3 According to these revisionaries, such cases show that the canonical story needs to be amended in some way that makes multiple bodies of information relevant to the assessment of such statements. Here I show that how the right canonical, flexibly contextualist account of modals can accommodate the full range of challenge cases. The key will be to extend Kratzer’s formal semantic account with an account of how context selects values for a modal’s.. (shrink)
In this paper I argue against one variety of contextualism about aesthetic predicates such as “beautiful.” Contextualist analyses of these and other predicates have been subject to several challenges surrounding disagreement. Focusing on one kind of contextualism— individualized indexical contextualism —I unpack these various challenges and consider the responses available to the contextualist. The three responses I consider are as follows: giving an alternative analysis of the concept of disagreement ; claiming that speakers suffer from semantic blindness; (...) and claiming that attributions of beauty carry presuppositions of commonality. I will argue that none of the available strategies gives a response which both satisfactorily explains all of the disagreement -data and is plausible independent of significant evidence in favor of contextualism. I conclude that individualized indexical contextualism about the aesthetic is untenable, although this does not rule out alternative contextualist approaches to the aesthetic. (shrink)
Contextualists such as Cohen and DeRose claim that the truth conditions of knowledge attributions vary contextually, in particular that the strength of epistemic position required for one to be truly ascribed knowledge depends on features of the attributor's context. Contextualists support their view by appeal to our intuitions about when it's correct (or incorrect) to ascribe knowledge. Someone might argue that some of these intuitions merely reflect when it is conversationally appropriate to ascribe knowledge, not when knowledge is truly ascribed, (...) and so try to accommodate these intuitions even on an invariantist view. DeRose (Blackwell Guide to Epistemology, 1998; Philosophical Review, 2002) argues that any such 'warranted assertibility manoeuvre', or 'WAM', against contextualism is unlikely to succeed. Here, I argue that his objections to a WAM against contextualism are not persuasive and offer a pragmatic account of the data about ascriptions of knowledge. (shrink)
In this paper, I exploit the parallel between epistemic contextualism and metaethical speaker-relativism to argue that a promising way out of two of the primary problems facing contextualism is one already explored in some detail in the ethical case – viz. expressivism. The upshot is an argument for a form of epistemic expressivism modeled on a familiar form of ethical expressivism. This provides a new nondescriptivist option for understanding the meaning of knowledge attributions, which arguably better captures the (...) normative nature of epistemic discourse than descriptivist competitors like invariantism and contextualism. (shrink)
In this essay I show how to reconcile epistemic invariantism with the knowledge account of assertion. My basic proposal is that we can comfortably combine invariantism with the knowledge account of assertion by endorsing contextualism about speech acts. My demonstration takes place against the backdrop of recent contextualist attempts to usurp the knowledge account of assertion, most notably Keith DeRose's influential argument that the knowledge account of assertion spells doom for invariantism and enables contextualism's ascendancy.
Contextualism in epistemology has traditionally been understood as the view that “know” functions semantically like an indexical term, encoding different contents in contexts with different epistemic standards. But the indexical hypothesis about “know” faces a range of objections. This article explores an alternative version of contextualism on which “know” is a semantically stable term, and the truth-conditional variability in knowledge claims is a matter of pragmatic enrichment. The central idea is that in contexts with stringent epistemic standards, knowledge (...) claims are narrowed: “know” is used in such contexts to make assertions about particularly demanding types of knowledge. The resulting picture captures all of the intuitive data that motivate contextualism while sidestepping the controversial linguistic thesis at its heart. After developing the view, the article shows in detail how it avoids one influential linguistic objection to traditional contextualism concerning indirect speech reports, and then answers an objection concerning the unavailability of certain types of clarification speeches. (shrink)
Despite increasing prominence, ‘ought’-contextualism is regarded with suspicion by most metaethicists. As I’ll argue, however, contextualism is a very weak claim, that every metaethicist can sign up to. The real controversy concerns how contextualism is developed. I then draw an oft-overlooked distinction between “parochial” contextualism—on which the contextually-relevant standards are those that the speaker, or others in her environment, subscribe to—and “aspirational” contextualism—on which the contextually-relevant standards are the objective standards for the relevant domain. However, (...) I argue that neither view is acceptable. I suggest an original compromise: “ecumenical contextualism”, on which some uses of ‘ought’ are parochial, others aspirational. Ecumenical contextualism is compatible with realism or antirealism, but either combination yields interesting results. And though it’s a cognitivist view, it is strengthened by incorporating an expressivist insight: for robustly normative usages of ‘ought’, the contextually-relevant standards must be endorsed by the speaker. (shrink)
According to Semantic Minimalism, every use of "Chiara is tall" (fixing the girl and the time) semantically expresses the same proposition, the proposition that Chiara is (just plain) tall. Given standard assumptions, this proposition ought to have an intension (a function from possible worlds to truth values). However, speakers tend to reject questions that presuppose that it does. I suggest that semantic minimalists might address this problem by adopting a form of "nonindexical contextualism," according to which the proposition invariantly (...) expressed by "Chiara is tall" does not have a context-invariant intension. Nonindexical contextualism provides an elegant explanation of what is wrong with "context-shifting arguments" and can be seen as a synthesis of the (partial) insights of semantic minimalists and radical contextualists. (shrink)
This interview was carried out on 13 December 2018 as Michael Williams was in Porto for a meeting of the Contextualism Network organised by the MLAG – Mind, Language, and Action Research Group (Institute of Philosophy of the University of Porto). We would like to thank him for his willingness to reply to our questions. -/- .
In this reply paper, I engage with a recent contextualist account of gender terms (particularly, 'woman') proposed by Esa Díaz-León 2016. Díaz-León's main aim is to improve both on previous contextualist and non-contextualist views and solve a certain puzzle for feminists. Central to this task is putting forward a view that allows trans women who didn't have gender affirming surgery to use the gender terms of their choice to self-identify. My goal is to investigate Díaz-León's proposal, point out (what I (...) take to be) several shortcomings of the view and discuss possible replies on her part. (shrink)
Functional localization has historically been one of the primary goals of neuroscience. There is still debate, however, about whether it is possible, and if so what kind of theories succeed at localization. I argue for a contextualist approach to localization. Most theorists assume that widespread contextual variability in function is fundamentally incompatible with functional decomposition in the brain, because contextualist accounts will fail to be generalizable and projectable. I argue that this assumption is misplaced. A properly articulated contextualism can (...) ground successful theories of localization even without positing completely generalizable accounts. Via a case study from perceptual neuroscience, I suggest that there is strong evidence for contextual variation in the function of perceptual brain areas. I then outline a version of contextualism that is empirically adequate with respect to this data, and claim that it can still distinguish brain areas from each other according to their functional properties. Finally, I claim that the view does not fail the norms for good theory in the way that anticontextualists suppose. It is true that, on a contextualist view, we will not have theories that are completely generalizable and predictive. We can, however, have successful partial generalizations that structure ongoing investigation and lead to novel functional insight, and this success is sufficient to ground the project of functional localization. (shrink)
In epistemology and in philosophy of language there is fierce debate about the role of context in knowledge, understanding, and meaning. Many contemporary epistemologists take seriously the thesis that epistemic vocabulary is context-sensitive. This thesis is of course a semantic claim, so it has brought epistemologists into contact with work on context in semantics by philosophers of language. This volume brings together the debates, in a set of twelve specially written essays representing the latest work by leading figures in the (...) two fields. All future work on contextualism will start here. Contributors: Kent Bach, Herman Cappelen, Andy Egan, Michael Glanzberg, John Hawthorne, Ernest Lepore, Peter Ludlow, Peter Pagin, Georg Peter, Paul M. Pietroski, Gerhard Preyer, Jonathan Schaffer, Jason Stanley, Brian Weatherson, Timothy Williamson. (shrink)
I defend a neo-Lewisean form of contextualism about knowledge attributions. Understanding the context-sensitivity of knowledge attributions in terms of the context-sensitivity of universal quantifiers provides an appealing approach to knowledge. Among the virtues of this approach are solutions to the skeptical paradox and the Gettier problem. I respond to influential objections to Lewis’s account.
This paper surveys some ways in which epistemic reasons ascriptions (or ERAs) appear to be context-sensitive, and outlines a framework for thinking about the nature of this context-sensitivity that is intimately related to ERAs' explanatory function.
This paper explores how the purpose of the concept of knowledge affects knowledge ascriptions in natural language. I appeal to the idea that the role of the concept of knowledge is to flag reliable informants, and I use this idea to illuminate and support contextualism about ‘knows’. I argue that practical pressures that arise in an epistemic state of nature provide an explanatory basis for a brand of contextualism that I call ‘practical interests contextualism’. I also answer (...) some questions that contextualism leaves open, particularly why the concept of knowledge is valuable, why the word ‘knows’ exhibits context-variability, and why this term enjoys such widespread use. Finally, I show how my contextualist framework accommodates plausible ideas from two rival views: subject-sensitive invariantism and insensitive invariantism. This provides new support for contextualism and develops this view in a way that improves our understanding of the concept of knowledge. (shrink)
In this short paper I survey recent contextualist answers to the challenge from disagreement raised by contemporary relativists. After making the challenge vivid by means of a working example, I specify the notion of disagreement lying at the heart of the challenge. The answers are grouped in three categories, the first characterized by rejecting the intuition of disagreement in certain cases, the second by conceiving disagreement as a clash of non-cognitive attitudes and the third by relegating disagreement at the pragmatic (...) level. For each category I present several important variants and raise some (general) criticisms. The paper is meant to offer a quick introduction to the current contextualist literature on disagreement and thus a useful tool for further research. (shrink)
We offer a new argument in favour of metanormative contextualism, the thesis that the semantic value of a normative ‘ought’ claim of the form ‘ S ought to Φ’ depends on the value of one or more parameters whose values vary in a way that is determined by the context of utterance. The debate over this contextualist thesis has centred on cases that involve ‘ought’ claims made in the face of uncertainty regarding certain descriptive facts. Contextualists, relativists, and invariantists (...) all have plausible ways of explaining these cases, and one could reasonably judge the debate between these views to be a stalemate. We argue that this stalemate can be broken by shifting focus to a case that involves normative uncertainty rather than descriptive uncertainty. While relativist and invariantist rivals of contextualism can give plausible accounts of the descriptive uncertainty cases, only contextualism can provide a plausible account of the normative uncertainty case. (shrink)
Epistemic contextualists think that the extension of the expression ‘knows’ depends on and varies with the context of utterance. In the last 15 years or so this view has faced intense criticism. This paper focuses on two sorts of objections. The first are what I call the ‘linguistic objections’, which purport to show that the best available linguistic evidence suggests that ‘knows’ is not context-sensitive. The second is what I call the ‘disagreement problem’, which concerns the behaviour of ‘knows’ in (...) disagreement reports. These may not be the only objections to epistemic contextualism, but they are probably the most influential. I argue that the best current epistemic contextualist response to the linguistic objection is incomplete, and I show how it can be supplemented to deal with the full range of linguistic objections. I also develop a new solution to the disagreement problem. The upshot is that neither sort of objection gives us any reason to reject epistemic contextualism. This conclusion is, in a sense, negative—no new arguments for epistemic contextualism are advanced—but it’s a vital step towards rehabilitating the view. (shrink)
In the past few years there has been a turn towards evaluating the empirical foundation of epistemic contextualism using formal (rather than armchair) experimental methods. By-and-large, the results of these experiments have not supported the original motivation for epistemic contextualism. That is partly because experiments have only uncovered effects of changing context on knowledge ascriptions in limited experimental circumstances (when contrast is present, for example), and partly because existing experiments have not been designed to distinguish between contextualism (...) and one of its main competing theories, subject-sensitive invariantism. In this paper, we discuss how a particular, "third-person", experimental design is needed to provide evidence that would support contextualism over subject-sensitive invariantism. In spite of the theoretical significance of third-person knowledge ascriptions for debates surrounding contextualism, no formal experiments evaluating such ascriptions that assess contextualist claims have previously been conducted. In this paper, we conduct an experiment specifically designed to examine that central gap in contextualism’s empirical foundation. The results of our experiment provide crucial support for epistemic contextualism over subject-sensitive invariantism. (shrink)
In this chapter, I produce counterexamples to Presuppositional Epistemic Contextualism (PEC), a view about the semantics of ‘knowledge’-ascriptions that I have argued for elsewhere. According to PEC, the semantic content of the predicate ‘know’ at a context C is partly determined by the speakers’ pragmatic presuppositions at C. The problem for the view that I shall be concerned with here arises from the fact that pragmatic presuppositions are sometimes known to be true by the speakers who make them: hence (...) the Problem of Known Presuppositions. After discussing several unsuccessful ways to solve the problem, I propose the addition of a new Lewisian rule of proper ignoring to the semantics of PEC--namely, the Rule of Evidence-Based Ignoring. If the proposed account succeeds, the Problem of Known Presuppositions has a straightforward solution within the framework of PEC. (shrink)
Invariantists argue that the notion of concept in psychology should be reserved for knowledge that is retrieved in a context-insensitive manner. Contextualists argue that concepts are to be understood in terms of context-sensitive ad hoc constructions. I review the central empirical evidence for and against both views and show that their conclusions are based on a common mischaracterization of both theories. When the difference between contextualism and invariantism is properly understood, it becomes apparent that the way the question of (...) stability is currently investigated will not lead to a consensus. Instead of focusing directly on stability, we should turn our attention to other desiderata on a theory of concepts. In particular, I show that invariantism, but not contextualism, fails to account for compositionality and abstract concepts. (shrink)
In his Knowledge and Practical Interests Jason Stanley argues that the view he defends, which he calls interest-relative invariantism, is better supported by certain cases than epistemic contextualism. In this article I argue that a version of epistemic contextualism that emphasizes the role played by the ascriber's practical interests in determining the truth-conditions of her ‘knowledge’ ascriptions – a view that I call interests contextualism – is better supported by Stanley's cases than interest-relative invariantism or other versions (...) of epistemic contextualism. My main aim is to show that interests contextualism is a viable, if often over-looked, alternative to the usual positions in the contemporary debate. (shrink)
According to contextualist theories in metaethics, when you use a moral term in a context, the context plays an ineliminable part in determining what natural property will be the semantic value of the term. Furthermore, on subjectivist and relativist versions of these views, it is either the speaker's own moral code or her moral community's moral code that constitutes the reference-fixing context. One standard objection to views of this type is that they fail to enable us to disagree in ordinary (...) conversations. In this chapter, I develop a new response to this objection on the basis of Kai von Fintel and Anthony Gillies' notion of proposition clouds. I argue that, because we live in a multicultural society, the conversational contexts we face will fail to disambiguate between all the things we could mean. This is why we can at best put into play proposition clouds when we make moral utterances. All the propositions in such clouds are then available for rejection and acceptance on the behalf of our audiences. The norms of conversation then guide us to make informative contributions to the conversation - accept and reject propositions in a way that leads to co-ordination of action and choice. (shrink)
Epistemic contextualism is widely believed to be incompatible with the recently popular view that knowledge is the norm of assertion, practical reasoning, or belief. I argue in this article that the problems arising for contextualism from the mentioned normative views are only apparent and can be resolved by acknowledging the fairly widespread phenomenon of non-obvious context-sensitivity (recently embraced by even some of contextualism's most ardent former critics). Building on recent insights about non-obvious context-sensitivity, the article outlines an (...) independently attractive contextualist account of the mentioned epistemic norms and provides a solution to the puzzles they give rise to in a contextualist framework. (shrink)
This paper considers ways that experimental design can affect judgments about informally presented context shifting experiments. Reasons are given to think that judgments about informal context shifting experiments are affected by an exclusive reliance on binary truth value judgments and by experimenter bias. Exclusive reliance on binary truth value judgments may produce experimental artifacts by obscuring important differences of degree between the phenomena being investigated. Experimenter bias is an effect generated when, for example, experimenters disclose (even unconsciously) their own beliefs (...) about the outcome of an experiment. Eliminating experimenter bias from context shifting experiments makes it far less obvious what the “intuitive” responses to those experiments are. After it is shown how those different kinds of bias can affect judgments about informal context shifting experiments, those experiments are revised to control for those forms of bias. The upshot of these investigations is that participants in the contextualist debate who employ informal experiments should pay just as much attention to the design of their experiments as those who employ more formal experimental techniques if they want to avoid obscuring the phenomena they aim to uncover. (shrink)
Contextualism is a view about meaning, semantic content and truth-conditions, bearing significant consequences for the characterisation of explicit and implicit content, the decoding/inferring distinction and the semantics/pragmatics interface. According to the traditional perspective in semantics (called "literalism" or "semantic minimalism"), it is possible to attribute truth-conditions to a sentence independently of any context of utterance, i.e. in virtue of its meaning alone. We must then distinguish between the proposition literally expressed by a sentence ("what is said" by the sentence, (...) its literal truth-conditions) and the implicit meaning of the sentence ("what is implicated" by a speaker uttering the sentence). Over the past forty years, however, an increasing number of linguists and philosophers have begun to underline the phenomenon of semantic underdetermination: the encoded meaning of the sentence employed by a speaker underdetermines the proposition explicitly expressed by an utterance of that sentence. According to the extreme version of this perspective – labelled "radical contextualism" - no sentence of a natural language expresses a complete proposition, or has fixed truth-conditions, even when unambiguous and devoid of indexicals. A sentence expresses a proposition only when completed and enriched with pragmatic constituents that do not correspond to any syntactic element of the sentence and yet are part of its semantic interpretation. More broadly, "contextualism" may be used to refer to a family of views which includes moderate contextualism (also called "indexicalism"), radical contextualism and non-indexical contextualism – and which contrasts with semantic minimalism. (shrink)
Moral contextualism is the view that claims like ‘A ought to X’ are implicitly relative to some (contextually variable) standard. This leads to a problem: what are fundamental moral claims like ‘You ought to maximize happiness’ relative to? If this claim is relative to a utilitarian standard, then its truth conditions are trivial: ‘Relative to utilitarianism, you ought to maximize happiness’. But it certainly doesn’t seem trivial that you ought to maximize happiness (utilitarianism is a highly controversial position). Some (...) people believe this problem is a reason to prefer a realist or error theoretic semantics of morals. I argue two things: first, that plausible versions of all these theories are afflicted by the problem equally, and second, that any solution available to the realist and error theorist is also available to the contextualist. So the problem of triviality does not favour noncontextualist views of moral language. (shrink)
It has been argued that epistemic contextualism faces the so-called factivity problem and hence cannot be stated properly. The basic idea behind this charge is that contextualists supposedly have to say, on the one hand, that knowledge ascribing sentences like “S knows that S has hands” are true when used in ordinary contexts while, on the other hand, they are not true by the standard of their own context. In my paper, I want to show that the argument to (...) the factivity problem fails because it rests on the mistaken premise that contextualists are committed to the truth of particular ordinary knowledge attributions. (shrink)
Conversational contextualism in epistemology is characterized by four main theses: 1. the indexicality of knowledge claims thesis; 2. the attributor contextualism thesis; 3. the conversational contextualism thesis, and 4. the main thesis of contextualism according to which a knowledge claim can be true in one context and false in another context in which more stringent standards for knowledge are operant. It is argued that these theses taken together generate problems for contextualism. In particular, it is (...) shown that there is no context in which the contextualist can truthfully claim to know her theory is true. Since these results were obtained only with principles the contextualist cannot give up—like the principle of epistemic closure and the principle that knowledge implies truth—it seems that contextualism is in need of a thoroughgoing revision if it is to become a successful epistemic theory. (shrink)
This paper attempts to show that contextualism cannot adequately handle all versions of ‘The Lottery Paradox.” Although the application of contextualist rules is meant to vindicate the intuitive distinction between cases of knowledge and non-knowledge, it fails to do so when applied to certain versions of “The Lottery Paradox.” In making my argument, I first briefly explain why this issue should be of central importance for contextualism. I then review Lewis’ contextualism before offering my argument that the (...) lottery paradox persists on all contextualist accounts. Although I argue that the contextualist does not fare well, hope nevertheless remains. For, on Lewis’ behalf, I offer what I take to be the best solution for the contextualist and argue that once this solution is adopted, contextualism will be in a better position to handle the lottery paradox than any other substantive epistemological theory. (shrink)
Keith DeRose has argued that ‘the knowledge account of assertion – according to which what one is in a position to assert is what one knows – ... provides a ... powerful positive argument in favor of contextualism’ (2009: 80). The truth is that it yields a powerful argument against contextualism, at least against its most popular, anti-sceptical versions. The following argument shows that, if we conjoin (such versions of) epistemic contextualism with an appropriate meta-linguistic formulation of (...) the knowledge account of assertion, contextualism cannot coherently be stated. (shrink)
Some authors have recently claimed that relativism about knowledge sentences accommodates the context sensitivity of our use of such sentences as well as contextualism, while avoiding the counterintuitive consequences of contextualism regarding our inter-contextual judgments, that is, our judgments about knowledge claims made in other contexts. I argue that relativism, like contextualism, involves an error theory regarding a certain class of inter-contextual judgments.
The goal of this work is to analyse the paradigmatic concept of universal values important for bioethics such as autonomy, beneficence, justice and developing contextual approaches in resolving the moral questions on bioethics. It also aims to reveal and analyse the importance of universal approaches despite the basic non-liminality of a context and subjectivity. Keywords: autonomy, contextualism, subjectivity, universal values, metaethics, normativity.
There are various ways in which context matters in ethics. Most clearly, the context in which an action is performed might determine whether the action is morally right: though it is often wrong not to keep a promise, it might be permissible in certain contexts. More radically, proponents of moral particularism (see particularism) have argued that a reason for an action in one context is not guaranteed to be a reason in a different context: whether it is a reason against (...) an act that it breaks a promise or inflicts pain might depend on the particulars of the situation. In moral epistemology, Timmons (1999: Ch. 5) argues that whether a moral judgment is epistemically responsible depends both on the basic moral outlook of the moral judge and on whether the context of judgment is one of engaged moral thinking, or one of distanced, skeptical reflection. In the former, the judge’s basic moral outlook can serve to justify the judgment; not so in the latter (see epistemology, moral). -/- Our focus here, however, will be on forms of metaethical, and more precisely semantic, contextualism in moral discourse and moral thinking. According to these forms of contextualism (henceforth “metaethical contextualism,” or just “contextualism”), the meaning or truth-conditions of a moral judgment depend not only on the properties of the act it concerns, but also on features of the context in which the judgment is made, such as the standards endorsed by the moral judge or the parties of the conversation. If metaethical contextualism is correct, it might be that when two persons judge that abortions must be banned, one person’s judgment might be true whereas the other person’s is false, because they accept different fundamental norms. This would undermine the idea that there are objectively correct answers to moral questions. -/- Metaethical contextualism is supported from three directions. First, what is expressed by terms such as “good” and “ought” seems to be context-dependent when used outside ethics, being dependent on a variety of interests and concerns. One might therefore expect similar context dependence when these terms are used to express moral judgments, assuming a corresponding variety of interests and concerns in moral contexts. Second, many have thought that deep moral disagree- ments suggest that the interests and concerns behind moral judgments do vary in this way. Finally, contextualism promises to make sense of what seems to be an intrinsic yet defeasible connection between moral judgments and moral motivation, by tying the meaning or truth-conditions of moral judgments closely to interests and concerns of moral judges. At the same time, contextualism faces two broad kinds of problems: to make sense of the seemingly categorical or objective preten- sions of moral claims, and to explain why the parties to deep moral disagreement often behave as if they were disagreeing about substantive issues rather than talking past each other. In the sections that follow, we look closer at both sources of support and problems for contextualism. (shrink)
This paper examines some of the interactions between holism, contextualism, and externalism, and will argue that an externalist metasemantics that grounds itself in certain plausible assumptions about self- knowledge will also be a contextualist metasemantics, and that such a contextualist metasemantics in turn resolves one of the best known problems externalist theories purportedly have with self-knowledge, namely the problem of how the possibility of various sorts of ‘switching’ cases can appear to undermine the ‘transparency’ of our thoughts (in particular, (...) our ability to tell, with respect to any two occurrent thoughts, whether they exercise the same or different concepts). (shrink)
In this paper, I seek to advance the thesis that if we are to come to a better appreciation of the historical rootedness of philosophical thinking, we must strive to encourage the contextualization of philosophical texts and support this goal by developing methods and tools for research that are facilitative of this contextualist goal.
Contextualist solutions to skeptical puzzles have recently been subjected to various criticisms. In this paper, I will defend contextualism against an objection prominently pressed by Stanley 2000. According to Stanley, contextualism in epistemology advances an empirically implausible hypothesis about the semantics of knowledge ascriptions in natural language. It is empirically implausible because it attributes to knowledge ascriptions a kind of semantic context-sensitivity that is wholly unlike any well- established type of semantic context-sensitivity in natural language.