Epistemic contextualism is one of the most hotly debated topics in contemporary epistemology. Contextualists claim that ‘know’ is a context-sensitive verb associated with different evidential standards in different contexts. Contextualists motivate their view based on a set of behavioural claims. In this paper, I show that several of these behavioural claims are false. I also show that contextualist test cases suffer from a critical confound, which derives from people's tendency to defer to speakers’ statements about their own mental states. (...) My evidence consists in results from several behavioural experiments. I conclude that contextualism is an idle hypothesis and I propose some general methodological lessons. (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 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)
§I schematises the evidence for an understanding of ‘know’ and other terms of epistemic appraisal that embodies contextualism or subject-sensitive invariantism, and distinguishes between those two approaches. §II argues that although the cases for contextualism and sensitive invariantism rely on a principle of charity in the interpretation of epistemic claims, neither approach satisfies charity fully, since both attribute metalinguistic errors to speakers. §III provides an equally charitable anti-sceptical insensitive invariantist explanation of much of the same evidence as the (...) result of psychological bias caused by salience effects. §IV suggests that the explanation appears to have implausible consequences about practical reasoning, but also that applications of contextualism or sensitive invariantism to the problem of scepticism have such consequences. §V argues that the inevitable difference between appropriateness and knowledge of appropriateness in practical reasoning, closely related to the difference between knowledge and knowledge of knowledge, explains the apparent implausibility. (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)
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)
In this paper, I engage with a recent contextualist account of gender terms proposed by Díaz-León, E. 2016. “Woman as a Politically Significant Term: A Solution to the Puzzle.” Hypatia 31 : 245–58. 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 did not undergo gender-affirming medical procedures to use the gender terms of their choice (...) to self-identify. My goal is to investigate Díaz-León’s proposal, point out several shortcomings of the view and discuss possible replies on her part. (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)
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)
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)
Philosophers on all sides of the contextualism debates have had an overly narrow conception of what semantic context sensitivity could be. They have conflated context sensitivity (dependence of truth or extension on features of context) with indexicality (dependence of content on features of context). As a result of this conflation, proponents of contextualism have taken arguments that establish only context sensitivity to establish indexicality, while opponents of contextualism have taken arguments against indexicality to be arguments against context (...) sensitivity. Once these concepts are carefully pulled apart, it becomes clear that there is conceptual space in semantic theory for nonindexical forms of contextualism that have many advantages over the usual indexical forms. (shrink)
In this paper I investigate a certain contextualist answer to the problem raised for the view by the phenomenon of faultless disagreement: namely, that it cannot account for disagreement in ordinary exchanges involving predicates of personal taste. I argue that the answer investigated either misses the target, ignoring the relevant cases which the relativist challenge is based or that it has to appeal to semantic blindness, a move that has certain costs. In addition, I argue that the same holds for (...) a specific variant of contextualist view – the presuppositional view proposed by López de Sa. (shrink)
Contextualism treats ‘knows’ as an indexical that denotes different epistemic properties in different contexts. Contrastivism treats ‘knows’ as denoting a ternary relation with a slot for a contrast proposition. I will argue that contrastivism resolves the main philosophical problems of contextualism, by employing a better linguistic model. Contextualist insights are best understood by contrastivist theory.
Contextualists offer "high-low standards" practical cases to show that a variety of knowledge standards are in play in different ordinary contexts. These cases show nothing of the sort, I maintain. However Keith DeRose gives an ingenious argument that standards for knowledge do go up in high-stakes cases. According to the knowledge account of assertion (Kn), only knowledge warrants assertion. Kn combined with the context sensitivity of assertability yields contextualism about knowledge. But is Kn correct? I offer a rival account (...) of warranted assertion and argue that it beats Kn as a response to the "knowledge" version of Moore's Paradox. (shrink)
I distinguish between Old Contextualism, New Contextualism, and the Multiple Concepts Theory. I argue that Old Contextualism cannot handle the following three problems: (i) the disquotational paradox, (ii) upward pressure resistance, (iii) inability to avoid the acceptance of skeptical conclusions. New Contextualism, in contrast, can avoid these problems. However, since New Contextualism appears to be a semanticized mirror image of MCT, it remains unclear whether it is in fact a genuine version of contextualism.
Standard contextualism regarding epistemic modality is a family of theories that state that the modal base of an epistemic is determined solely by the context of utterance and the evaluation world. Recently it has been argued that standard contextualism is untenable because it cannot account for dialogues featuring (dis)agreement with epistemic claims and for the semantic import of epistemics embedded under attitude verbs. I present a new variant of standard contextualism, Practical Contextualism, which successfully accounts for (...) both kinds of phenomena, and in some cases makes better predictions than its current non-standard-contextualist competitors. (shrink)
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.
The central contentions of this paper are two: first, that contextualism about knowledge cannot fulfil the eirenic promise which, for those who are drawn to it, constitutes, I believe, its main attraction; secondly, that the basic diagnosis of epistemological scepticism as somehow entrapping us, by diverting attention from a surreptitious shift to a special rarefied intellectual context, rests on inattention to the details of the principal sceptical paradoxes. These contentions are consistent with knowledge-contextualism, of some stripe or other, (...) being true. What follows will not bear directly on that. (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)
In epistemology, “contextualism” denotes a wide variety of more-or-less closely related positions according to which the issues of knowledge or justification are somehow relative to context. I will proceed by first explicating the position I call contextualism, and distinguishing that position from some closely related positions in epistemology, some of which sometimes also go by the name of “contextualism”. I’ll then present and answer what seems to many the most pressing of the objections to contextualism as (...) I construe it, and also indicate some of the main positive motivations for accepting the view. Among the epistemologists I’ve spoken with who have an opinion on the matter, I think it’s fair to say a majority reject contextualism. However, the resistance has to this point been largely underground, with little by way of sustained arguments against contextualism appearing in the journals,[i] though I have begun to see various papers in manuscript form which are critical of contextualism. Here, I’ll respond the criticism of contextualism that, in my travels, I have found to be the most pervasive in producing suspicion about the view. (shrink)
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)
We defend a contextualist account of deontic judgments as relativized both to (i) information and to (ii) standards or ends, against recent objections that turn on practices of moral disagreement. Kolodny & MacFarlane argue that information-relative contextualism cannot accommodate the connection between deliberation and advice; we suggest in response that they misidentify the basic concerns of deliberating agents. For pragmatic reasons, semantic assessments of normative claims sometimes are evaluations of propositions other than those asserted. Weatherson, Schroeder and others have (...) raised parallel objections to standard-relative contextualism; we argue for a parallel solution. (shrink)
I want to discuss an approach to knowledge that I shall call simple conversational contextualism or SCC for short. Proponents of SCC think that it offers an illuminating account of both why scepti- cism is wrong and why arguments for scepticism are so intuitively appealing. I have my doubts.
As genomic science has evolved, so have policy and practice debates about how to describe and evaluate the ways in which genomic information is treated for individuals, institutions, and society. The term genetic exceptionalism, describing the concept that genetic information is special or unique, and specifically different from other kinds of medical information, has been utilized widely, but often counterproductively in these debates. We offer genomic contextualism as a new term to frame the characteristics of genomic science in the (...) debates. Using stasis theory to draw out the important connection between definitional issues and resulting policies, we argue that the framework of genomic contextualism is better suited to evaluating genomics and its policy-relevant features to arrive at more productive discussion and resolve policy debates. (shrink)
The central issue of this essay is whether contextualism in epistemology is genuinely in conflict with recent claims that ‘know’ is not in fact a contextsensitive word. To address this question, I will first rehearse three key aims of contextualists and the broad strategy they adopt for achieving them. I then introduce two linguistic arguments to the effect that the lexical item ‘know’ is not context sensitive, one from Herman Cappelen and Ernie Lepore, one from Jason Stanley. I find (...) these and related arguments quite compelling. In particular, I think Cappelen and Lepore (2003, 2005a) show pretty definitively that ‘know’ is not like ‘I’/‘here’/‘now’, and Stanley (2004) shows that ‘know’ is not like ‘tall’/‘rich’.1 One could try to find another model for ‘know’. Instead, I consider whether one can rescue ‘‘the spirit of contextualism in epistemology’’—that is, achieve its aims by deploying a strategy of appealing to speaker context—even while granting that ‘know’ isn’t a context-sensitive word at all. My conclusion, in a nutshell, is this: If there are pragmatic determinants of what is asserted/stated, and contextualism can overcome independent problems not having to do specifically with the context-sensitivity of the word ‘know’, then the spirit of contextualism can be salvaged. Even though, for reasons sketched by the aforementioned authors, ‘know’ doesn’t actually belong in the class of context-sensitive words. (shrink)
This article distinguishes Wittgensteinian contextualism from epistemic relativism. The latter involves the view that a belief ’s status as justified depends on the believer’s epistemic system, as well as the view that no system is superior to another. It emerges from the thought that we must rely, circularly, on our epistemic system to determine whether any belief is justified. Contextualism, by contrast, emerges from the thought that we need not answer a skeptical challenge to a belief unless there (...) is good reason to doubt the belief; so we need not rely on our epistemic system to determine whether a belief is justified. Accordingly contextualism is not committed to the view that a belief ’s status depends on the believer’s epistemic system, nor to the view that no system is superior to another. The contextualist is not committed to epistemic relativism. (shrink)
This paper presents a new argument for a form of contextualism about ‘justified belief’, the argument being based on considerations concerning the nature of belief. It is then argued that this form of contextualism, although it is true, cannot help to answer the threat of scepticism. However, it can explain many other puzzling phenomena: it can give an account of the linguistic mechanisms that determine how the extension of ‘justified belief’ shifts with context; it can help to defuse (...) some puzzles regarding the closure of justified belief under competent deduction; and it can give a plausible account of the role that practical concerns play in the thinking of a rational believer, allowing for a more plausible kind of "intellectualism" about justified belief. (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)
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)
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)
Moral relativism provides a compelling explanation of linguistic data involving ordinary moral expressions like 'right' and 'wrong'. But it is a very radical view. Because relativism relativizes sentence truth to contexts of assessment it forces us to revise standard linguistic theory. If, however, no competing theory explains all of the evidence, perhaps it is time for a paradigm shift. However, I argue that a version of moral contextualism can account for the same data as relativism without relativizing sentence truth (...) to contexts of assessment. This version of moral contextualism is thus preferable to relativism on methodological grounds. (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)
I will here sharply oppose all the phases of the story Schaffer & Knobe tell. In Part 1 we will look at the supposed empirical case against standard contextualism, and in Part 2 we will investigate Schaffer & Knobe’s supposed empirical case for the superiority of contrastivism over standard contextualism.
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)
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)
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)
John Greco has recently raised two worries for epistemic contextualism, viz it deprives epistemology of its subject matter and renders objective knowledge impossible. He argues that these problems are not restricted to contextualism, but apply to rival theories, like subject sensitive invariantism, and that they are overstated. I develop Greco's worries, which show that contextualism suggests either that there is no such thing as knowledge, or a weird view of knowledge: as disparately varied and undisciplined, individual-dependent and (...) arbitrary. I then argue that these issues are not overstated and that they can be avoided if one opts for moderate insensitive invariantism. (shrink)
Epistemic contextualism is a recent and hotly debated position. In its dominant form, EC is the view that the proposition expressed by a given knowledge sentence depends upon the context in which it is uttered. What makes this view interesting and controversial is that ‘context’ here refers, not to certain features of the putative subject of knowledge or his/her objective situation, but rather to features of the knowledge attributor' psychology and/or conversational-practical situation. As a result of such context-dependence, utterances (...) of a given such sentence, made in different contexts, may differ in truth value. (shrink)
David Annis is professor of philosophy at Ball State University. In this essay, Annis offers an alternative to the foundationalist-coherent controversy: "contextualism." This theory rejects both the idea of intrinsically basic beliefs in the foundational sense and the thesis that coherence is sufficient for justification. he argues that justification is relative to the varying norms of social practices.
In the good old days, a large part of the debate about skepticism focused on the quality of the reasons we have for believing propositions of various types. Skeptics about knowledge in a given domain argued that our reasons for believing propositions in that domain were not good enough to give us knowledge; opponents of skepticism argued that they were. The different conclusions drawn by skeptics and non-skeptics could come either from differences in their views about the standards or conditions (...) we had to satisfy in order to have knowledge or from differences in their assessments of the quality or character of the reasons we have. In recent years, discussions of skepticism have often focused on three anti-skeptical responses that don't directly address the questions about reasons or evidence that used to be considered fundamental. These anti-skeptical responses are: 1) content externalism, as proposed by Hilary Putnam1; 2) the denial of closure, as proposed by Robert Nozick2; and 3) contextualism about knowledge attributions, as proposed by Stewart Cohen, Keith DeRose, and David Lewis3. I believe that these recent responses to skepticism characteristically avoid the central epistemological issues raised by skepticism and often concede to skeptics far more than is warranted. In this paper I will examine some contextualist responses to skepticism. In Section I I describe the general idea of contextualism and its application to skepticism. In Section II I describe and briefly discuss some particular versions of contextualism. In Section III I argue that even if it is true that sentences attributing knowledge have contextually variable truth conditions, this fact does not provide the basis for a satisfactory response to skepticism. This is because the central issue raised by skepticism is whether we satisfy the standards for knowledge in place in ordinary contexts, not whether we satisfy some allegedly higher standards which, according to contextualists, are in place in some epistemological contexts. In effect, this paper is part of an argument for a return to the good old days. (shrink)
while no one was looking, contextualism replaced rational reconstructionism as the dominant methodology among English-speaking early modern historians of philosophy. In this paper, I expose the contours of this silent revolution, show that rational reconstructionism is a thing of the past among early modern historians, and examine the current state of early modern scholarship.1 As the contextualist revolution has increasingly widened our perspective and revealed the period’s philosophical diversity, it has encouraged early modernists to develop new skills and expertise. (...) I propose here that current early modern historians are devoted to maximize... (shrink)
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.
The skeptic says that "knowledge" is an absolute term, whereas the contextualist says that 'knowledge" is a relationally absolute term. Which is the better hypothesis about "knowledge"? And what implications do these hypotheses about "knowledge" have for knowledge? I argue that the skeptic has the better hypothesis about "knowledge", but that both hypotheses about "knowledge" have deeply anti-skeptical implications for knowledge, since both presuppose our capacity for epistemically salient discrimination.
This chapter discusses three puzzles about practical conditionals and inferences and shows how the flexible, contextualist semantic framework for “ought”. The chapter develops elsewhere resolves all three puzzles more satisfactorily than any of its three most prominent rivals, the relativist account of Niko Kolodny and John MacFarlane, the wide-scoping account of John Broome, and the “trying on” account of James Dreier. The chapter first introduces the puzzle cases and six desiderata for their solutions, and then shows how only flexible (...) class='Hi'>contextualism about “ought” is able to resolve each while satisfying all six desiderata. (shrink)