According to a tradition reaching back to Plato, questions about the nature of knowledge are to be answered by offering an analysis in terms of truth, belief, justification, and other factors presumed to be in some sense more basic than knowledge itself. In light of the apparent failure of this approach, knowledgefirst philosophy instead takes knowledge as the starting point in epistemology and related areas of the philosophies of language and mind. Knowledge cannot (...) be analyzed in the traditional sense, but this does not make it mysterious or unimportant. On the contrary, we are freed to use our grasp of what knowledge is to elucidate the nature of belief, justification, evidence, the speech act of assertion, and the demands on action and practical reasoning, and to treat knowledge as a purely mental state in its own right. KnowledgeFirst? offers the first overview and critical evaluation of knowledgefirst philosophy as a whole. (shrink)
I begin by criticizing reductionist knowledge-first epistemology according to which knowledge can be used to reductively analyze other epistemic phenomena. My central concern is that proponents of such an approach commit a similar mistake to the one that they charge their opponents with. This is the mistake of seeking to reductively analyze basic epistemic phenomena in terms of other allegedly more fundamental phenomena. I then turn to non-reductionist brands of knowledge-first epistemology. Specifically, I consider the (...)knowledge norms of assertion and contrast them with an alternative that I have developed elsewhere (Gerken 2011, 2012a, 2013b, 2014, 2015a, 2015c, MS). On the basis of the critical discussion, I question whether a knowledge-first program that is both plausible and distinctive has been identified. On a more positive note, I sketch the contours of an alternative that I label ‘equilibristic epistemology.’ According to this approach, there isn’t a single epistemic phenomenon or concept that is “first.” Rather, there are a number of basic epistemic phenomena that are not reductively analyzable although they may be co-elucidated in a non-reductive manner. This approach preserves some grains of truth in knowledge-first epistemology. For example, it preserves the idea that knowledge can be taken to be explanatorily basic and unanalyzable. However, since no single epistemic phenomenon is first, knowledge is not first. (shrink)
I develop a challenge for a widely suggested knowledge-first account of belief that turns, primarily, on unknowable propositions. I consider and reject several responses to my challenge and sketch a new knowledge-first account of belief that avoids it.
'Knowledge-First' constitutes what is widely regarded as one of the most significant innovations in contemporary epistemology in the past 25 years. Knowledge-first epistemology is the idea that knowledge per se should not be analysed in terms of its constituent parts (e.g., justification, belief), but rather that these and other notions should be analysed in terms of the concept of knowledge. This volume features a substantive introduction and 13 original essays from leading and up-and-coming philosophers (...) on the topic of knowledge-first philosophy. The contributors' essays range from foundational issues to applications of this project to other disciplines including the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of perception, ethics and action theory. KnowledgeFirst: Approaches in Epistemology and Mind aims to provide a relatively open-ended forum for creative and original scholarship with the potential to contribute and advance debates connected with this philosophical project. (shrink)
This paper has two aims. The first is critical: I identify a set of normative desiderata for accounts of justified belief and I argue that prominent knowledgefirst views have difficulties meeting them. Second, I argue that my preferred account, knowledgefirst functionalism, is preferable to its extant competitors on normative grounds. This account takes epistemically justified belief to be belief generated by properly functioning cognitive processes that have generating knowledge as their epistemic function.
Knowledge-first evidentialism combines the view that it is rational to believe what is supported by one's evidence with the view that one's evidence is what one knows. While there is much to be said for the view, it is widely perceived to fail in the face of cases of reasonable error—particularly extreme ones like new Evil Demon scenarios (Wedgwood, 2002). One reply has been to say that even in such cases what one knows supports the target rational belief (...) (Lord, 201x, this volume). I spell out two versions of the strategy. The direct one uses what one knows as the input to principles of rationality such as conditionalization, dominance avoidance, etc. I argue that it fails in hybrid cases that are Good with respect to one belief and Bad with respect to another. The indirect strategy uses what one knows to determine a body of supported propositions that is in turn the input to principles of rationality. I sketch a simple formal implementation of the indirect strategy and show that it avoids the difficulty. I conclude that the indirect strategy offers the most promising way for knowledge-first evidentialists to deal with the New Evil Demon problem. (shrink)
An infuential twenty-first century philosophical project posits a central role for knowledge: knowledge is more fundamental than epistemic states like belief and justification. So-called “knowledgefirst” theorists find support for this thought in identifying central theoretical roles for knowledge. I argue that a similar methodology supports a privileged role for more specific category of basic knowledge. Some of the roles that knowledgefirst theorists have posited for knowledge generally are better (...) suited for basic knowledge. (shrink)
Knowledge-first theories of justification give knowledge priority when it comes to explaining when and why someone has justification for an attitude or an action. The emphasis of this entry is on knowledge-first theories of justification for belief. As it turns out there are a number of ways of giving knowledge priority when theorizing about justification, and in what follows I offer an opinionated survey of more than a dozen existing options that have emerged in (...) the last two decades since the publication of Timothy Williamson’s Knowledge and Its Limits. I first trace several of the general theoretical motivations that have been offered for putting knowledgefirst in the theory of justification. I then go on to examine existing knowledge-first theories of justification and their standing objections. These objections are largely, but not exclusively, concerned with the extensional adequacy of knowledge-first theories of justification. There are doubtless more ways of giving knowledge priority in the theory of justification than I cover here, but the resulting survey will be instructive as it highlights potential shortcomings that would-be knowledge-first theorists of justification may wish either to avoid or else to be prepared with a suitable error theory. (shrink)
The paper takes a closer look at the role of knowledge and evidence in legal theory. In particular, the paper examines a puzzle arising from the evidential standard Preponderance of the Evidence and its application in civil procedure. Legal scholars have argued since at least the 1940s that the rule of the Preponderance of the Evidence gives rise to a puzzle concerning the role of statistical evidence in judicial proceedings, sometimes referred to as the Problem of Bare Statistical Evidence. (...) While this puzzle has led to the development of a multitude of accounts and approaches in the legal literature, I argue here that the problem can be resolved fairly straightforwardly within a knowledge-first framework. (shrink)
Recent knowledgefirst epistemology features a number of different accounts of justified belief, including a knowledgefirst reductionism according to which to believe justifiably is to know Sutton, Littlejohn, Williamson, a knowledgefirst version of accessibilism Millar and a knowledgefirst version of mentalism Bird. This paper offers a knowledgefirst version of virtue epistemology and argues that it is preferable to its knowledgefirst epistemological rivals: only (...) class='Hi'>knowledgefirst virtue epistemology manages to steer clear of a number of problems that its competition encounters. (shrink)
There are two different kinds of enkratic principles for belief: evidential enkratic principles and normative enkratic principles. It’s frequently taken for granted that there’s not an important difference between them. But evidential enkratic principles are undermined by considerations that gain no traction at all against their normative counterparts. The idea that such an asymmetry exists between evidential and normative enkratic principles is surprising all on its own. It is also something that calls out for explanation. Similarly, the considerations that undermine (...) evidential enkratic principles also undermine certain narrow-scope evidential principles. This too generates explanatory questions. I show how a knowledge-first view of rationality can easily address these explanatory questions. Thus we have one more reason to put knowledgefirst in epistemology. (shrink)
This paper examines three reasons to think that Craig's genealogy of the concept of knowledge is incompatible with knowledge-first epistemology and finds that far from being incompatible with it, the genealogy lends succour to it. This reconciliation turns on two ideas. First, the genealogy is not history, but a dynamic model of needs. Secondly, by recognizing the continuity of Craig's genealogy with Williams's genealogy of truthfulness, we can see that while both genealogies start out from specific (...) needs explaining what drives the development of certain concepts rather than others, they then factor in less specific needs which in reality do not come later at all, and which have also left their mark on these concepts. These genealogies thereby reveal widespread functional dynamics driving what I call the de-instrumentalization of concepts, the recognition of which adds to the plausibility of such instrumentalist approaches to concepts. (shrink)
There is a New Idea in epistemology. It goes by the name of ‘knowledgefirst,’ and it is particularly associated with Timothy Williamson’s book Knowledge and Its Limits. In slogan form, to put knowledgefirst is to treat knowledge as basic or fundamental, and to explain other states—belief, justification, maybe even content itself—in terms of knowledge, instead of vice versa. The idea has proven enormously interesting, and equally controversial. But deep foundational questions about (...) its actual content remain relatively unexplored. We think that a wide variety of views travel under the banner of ‘knowledgefirst’ (and that the slogan doesn’t help much with differentiating them). Furthermore, we think it is far from straightforward to draw connections between certain of these views; they are more independent than they are often assumed to be. Our project here is exploratory and clarificatory. We mean to tease apart various ‘knowledgefirst’ claims, and explore what connections they do or do not have with one another. Our taxonomy is offered in §2, and connections are explored in §3. The result, we hope, will be a clearer understanding of just what the knowledgefirst theses are. We conclude, in §4, with some brief suggestions as to how we think the various theses might be evaluated. (shrink)
When a belief is self-fulfilling, having it guarantees its truth. When a belief is self-defeating, having it guarantees its falsity. These are the cases of “self-impacting” beliefs to be examined below. Scenarios of self-defeating beliefs can yield apparently dilemmatic situations in which we seem to lack sufficient reason to have any belief whatsoever. Scenarios of self-fulfilling beliefs can yield apparently dilemmatic situations in which we seem to lack reason to have any one belief over another. Both scenarios have been used (...) independently to challenge Evidentialism, on which what we may rationally believe is all and only what fits our current evidence. Here we tie the two scenarios together and explore what a knowledge-sensitive evidentialist approach to one implies for the other. (shrink)
I provide a novel knowledge-first account of justification that avoids the pitfalls of existing accounts while preserving the underlying insight of knowledge-first epistemologies: that knowledge comes first. The view I propose is, roughly, this: justification is grounded in our practical knowledge (know-how) concerning the acquisition of propositional knowledge (knowledge-that). I first refine my thesis in response to immediate objections. In subsequent sections I explain the various ways in which this thesis (...) is theoretically superior to existing knowledge-first accounts of justification. The upshot is a virtue-theoretic, knowledge-first view of justification that is internalist-friendly and able to explain more facts about justification than any other available view. (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 (...) class='Hi'>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)
This paper distinguishes two ways to ?put knowledgefirst?. One way affirms a knowledge norm. For example, Williamson  argues that one must only assert that which one knows. Hawthorne and Stanley  argue that one must only treat as a reason for action that which one knows. Another way to put knowledgefirst affirms a determination thesis. For example, Williamson  argues that what one knows determines what one is justified in believing. Hawthorne and (...) Stanley  argue that what one knows determines what it is rational for one to do. This paper argues that the defender of the knowledge norms can and should reject the determination theses. For example, the rationality of acting on a partial belief cannot be explained in terms of the subject's knowledge. That's no problem for the knowledge norm, which only governs acting on full belief. (Analogously, the knowledge norm of flat-out assertion does not govern hedged assertion.) One might worry that rejecting the determination theses undermines the importance of knowing. I reply that the knowledge norms set the standard for epistemic success. The importance of success is not undermined by loosening its ties to justification and rationality. (shrink)
What should knowledgefirst theorists say about the value of knowledge? In this paper I approach this issue by arguing for a single ‘modest knowledgefirst claim’ about the value of knowledge. This is that the special value of knowledge isn’t merely instrumental value relative to true belief. I show that MKF is inconsistent with the version of the Platonic stability theory that Williamson defends in Knowledge and its Limits. I then argue (...) in favour of MKF by arguing that Williamson’s stability theory fails for reasons that plausibly generalise to any theory of the value of knowledge that is inconsistent with MKF. Crucial to this argument is a putative adequacy condition on philosophical theories of the value of knowledge: that, in order to fully explain the special value of knowledge, a theory must identify respects in which knowledge is more valuable than true belief that give enquirers adequate reason for preferring knowledge to true belief. I conclude by suggesting that this adequacy condition is the source of a more general dilemma for proponents of philosophical theories of the value of knowledge. (shrink)
The Orthodox View (OV) of the relation between epistemic justification and knowledge has it that justification is conceptually prior to knowledge—and so, can be used to provide a noncircular account of knowledge. OV has come under threat from the increasingly popular “KnowledgeFirst” movement (KFM) in epistemology. I assess several anti-OV arguments due to three of KFM’s most prominent members: Timothy Williamson, Jonathan Sutton, and Alexander Bird. I argue that OV emerges from these attacks unscathed.
On a widely suggested knowledge-first account of belief, to believe p is to phi as if one knew p. I challenge this view by arguing against various regimentations of it. I conclude by generalizing my argument to alternative knowledge-first views suggested by Williamson and Wimmer.
The knowledge-first solution to the New Evil Demon Problem (NEDP) goes hand in hand with a particular conception of the normativity of justification, one according to which a justified belief is one that satisfies some sort of ought or should (Williamson forthcoming). This claim is incompatible with another, well accepted, view that regards the normativity of justification. According to this established view, a justified belief is rather something that is neither obligatory, nor forbidden (see e.g. Alston 1989, 1993, (...) 2006; Ginet 1975). The purpose of this contribution is to settle the debate between these two irreconcilable conceptions of the normativity of justification. The main upshot is that the knowledge-first conception of the normativity of justification, the one on which the knowledge-first solution to the NEDP relies, seems in fact superior. (shrink)
In order for a reason to justify an action or attitude it must be one that is possessed by an agent. Knowledge-centric views of possession ground our possession of reasons, at least partially, either in our knowledge of them or in our being in a position to know them. On virtually all accounts, knowing P is some kind of non-accidental true belief that P. This entails that knowing P is a kind of non-accidental true representation that P. I (...) outline a novel theory of the epistemic requirement on possession in terms of this more general state of non-accidental true representation. It is just as well placed to explain the motivations behind knowledge-centric views of possession, and it is also better placed to explain the extent of the reasons we possess in certain cases of deductive belief-updates and cases involving environmental luck. I conclude with three reflections. First, I indicate how my arguments generate a dilemma for Errol Lord’s view that possessing reasons is just a matter of being in a position to manifest one’s knowledge how to use them. Second, I explain how my view can simultaneously manage cases of environmental luck without falling prey to lottery cases. Finally, I sketch the direction for a further range of counterexamples to knowledge-centric theories of possession. (shrink)
I motivate and develop a novel account of the epistemic assessability of suspension as a development of my knowledge-first, virtue-epistemological research program. First, I extend an argument of Ernest Sosa's for the claim that evidentialism cannot adequately account for the epistemic assessability of suspension. This includes a kind of knowledge-first evidentialism of the sort advocated by Timothy Williamson. I agree with Sosa that the reasons why evidentialism fails motivate a virtue-epistemological approach, but argue that my (...)knowledge-first account is preferable to his view. According to my account, rational belief is belief that manifests proper practical respect for what it takes to know. Beliefs are the only primary bearers of epistemic evaluation since they are the only candidates for knowledge. However, suspension can manifest a derivative kind of practical respect for what it takes to know. Thus, we can explain why the same sort of assessment is applicable to both belief and suspension, and why belief has a privileged claim to these properties. Lastly, I'll look at Sosa's and Williamson's treatments of Pyrrhonian skepticism, which treats a certain kind of suspension as the epistemically superior practice, and argue that my account provides a better anti-skeptical response than either of their approaches. (shrink)
Tyler Burge notably offers a truth‐first account of perceptual entitlement in terms of a priori necessary representational functions and norms: on his account, epistemic normativity turns on natural norms, which turn on representational functions. This paper has two aims: first, it criticises Tyler Burge's truth‐first a priori derivation on functionalist and value‐theoretic grounds. Second, it develops a novel, knowledge‐first a priori derivation of perceptual entitlement. According to the view developed here, it is a priori that (...) we are entitled to believe the deliverances of our perceptual belief formation system, in virtue of the latter's constitutive function of generating knowledge. (shrink)
A defense of the idea that knowledge is first in the sense that there is nothing prior to knowledge that puts reasons or evidence in your possession. Includes a critical discussion of the idea that perception or perceptual experience might provide reasons and a defense of a knowledge-first approach to justified belief.
I will claim that the distinction Craig French describes between “specific realizations of knowledge” and “means of knowing”, after respective theorisations by Timothy Williamson and Quassim Cassam, can be seen as a faultline between epistemology on the one hand, and the analysis of ordinary language use on the other. The possibility of this disjunction, I believe, raises the question as to whether the latter kind of analysis has anything to contribute to epistemology at all. Cassam’s “explanatory” conception of ways (...) of knowing is shown to be inconsistent as an epistemology, and prone to use of unfair examples even considered as the analysis of ordinary discourse for expressions of knowledge. Nonetheless, in order to argue that this is the case, the “explanatory” conception helps us to consider the better mode of analysis for explanations of knowledge in philosophy. (shrink)
Many have found it plausible that knowledge is a constitutively normative state, i.e. a state that is grounded in the possession of reasons. Many have also found it plausible that certain cases of proprioceptive knowledge, memorial knowledge, and self-evident knowledge are cases of knowledge that are not grounded in the possession of reasons. I refer to these as cases of basic knowledge. The existence of basic knowledge forms a primary objection to the idea (...) that knowledge is a constitutively normative state. In what follows I offer a way through the apparent dilemma of having to choose between either basic knowledge or the normativity of knowledge. The solution involves homing in on a state of awareness (≈non-accidental true representation) that is distinct from knowledge and which in turn grounds the normativity of knowledge in a way that is fully consistent with the existence of basic knowledge. An upshot of this is that externalist theories of knowledge turn out to be fully compatible with the thesis that knowledgeable beliefs are always beliefs that are justified by the reasons one possesses. (shrink)
An account of the source of ﬁrst-person knowledge is essential not just for phenomenology, but for anyone who takes seriously the apparent evidence that we each have a distinctive access to knowing what we experience. One standard way to account for the source of ﬁrst-person knowledge is by appeal to a kind of inner observation of the passing contents of one’s own mind, and phenomenology is often thought to rely on introspection. I argue, however, that Husserl’s (...) method of phenomenological reduction was designed precisely to ﬁnd a route to knowledge of the structures of consciousness that was independent of any appeal to observation of one’s own mental states. The goals of this essay are to explicate Husserl’s method of phenomenological reduction in contemporary terms that (1) show its distance from all inner-observation accounts, (2) exhibit its kinship to and historical inﬂuence on outer-observation accounts of selfknowledge popularized by Sellars, and (3) demonstrate that a contemporary ‘cognitive transformation’ view based on Husserl’s method may provide a viable contribution to contemporary debates about the source of self-knowledge. (shrink)
Abstract: Pluralistic ignorance is a nasty informational phenomenon widely studied in social psychology and theoretical economics. It revolves around conditions under which it is "legitimate" for everyone to remain ignorant. In formal epistemology there is enough machinery to model and resolve situations in which pluralistic ignorance may arise. Here is a simple first stab at recovering from pluralistic ignorance by means of knowledge transmissibility.
Abstract: There is much that I admire in Richard Moran's account of how first-person authority may be consistent with self-knowledge as an achievement. In this paper, I examine his attempt to characterize the goal of psychoanalytic treatment, which is surely that the patient should go beyond the mere theoretical acceptance of the analyst's interpretation, and requires instead a more intimate, first-personal, awareness by the patient of their psychological condition.I object, however, that the way in which Moran distinguishes (...) between the deliberative and the theoretical attitudes is ultimately inconsistent with a satisfactory account of psychoanalytic practice; mainly because, despite Moran's claims to the contrary, such a distinction is still inspired by a Cartesian picture of the self. I argue that, in the light of his distinction, Moran may emphasize that an agent's psychological dispositions should be permeable to her decisions and projects, but is forced to reject the idea that permeability could go the other way too. I explore Bernard Williams' notion of acknowledgment and Simone Weil's distinction between two notions of necessity, in order to articulate a notion of receptive passivity which may help us to characterize this second direction of permeability. I finally outline why receptive passivity (and, thereby, the double direction of permeability) is crucial in order to identify the goal of psychoanalytic treatment and, derivatively, to understand how a certain kind of awareness may have a significant therapeutic effect. (shrink)