This book is about the norms of the speech act of assertion. This is a topic of lively contemporary debate primarily carried out in epistemology and philosophy of language. Suppose that you ask me what time an upcoming meeting starts, and I say, “4 p.m.” I’ve just asserted that the meeting starts at 4 p.m. Whenever we make claims like this, we’re asserting. The central question here is whether we need to know what we say, and, relatedly, whether (...) what we assert must be true. If the meeting is really at 3:30 p.m., you’ll be late, and probably rather upset that I told you the wrong time. In some sense, it seems like I’m on the hook for having said something false. This sense that I’ve done something wrong suggests that there are certain standards of evaluating assertions: a way of distinguishing between good and bad, appropriate and inappropriate. We call these standards norms. And so the debate about what, if any, norms govern the linguistic practice of assertion is known as the norms of assertion debate. When one’s assertion satisfies the norm, we say that the assertion is warranted. -/- Various philosophers have typically focused their views of the norms of assertion on articulating the level of epistemic support required for properly asserting. Some argue, for example, that one must know what one asserts. Others argue that one merely needs to justifiably believe what one asserts–an epistemic standing weaker than knowledge. The purpose of this book is to defend what I propose as the central norm governing our practice of assertion, which I call the Supportive Reasons Norm. Here’s what it looks like: -/- One may assert that p only if: One has supportive reasons for p, The relevant conventional and pragmatic elements of the context are present, and One asserts that p at least in part because the assertion that p satisfies and. -/- In rough outline, the standards for warrantedly asserting shift with changes in context, although knowledge is never required for warrantedly asserting. In fact, in some special contexts, speakers may warrantedly lie. This latter feature particularly sets apart my view from others in the debate. This also means that truth, knowledge, and even belief aren’t necessary conditions for warrantedly asserting. (shrink)
Assertions are speech acts by means of which we express beliefs. As such they are at the heart of our linguistic and social practices. Recent research has focused extensively on the question whether the speech act of assertion is governed by norms, and if so, under what conditions it is acceptable to make an assertion. Standard theories propose, for instance, that one should only assert that p if one knows that p (the knowledge account), or that one (...) should only assert that p if p is true (the truth account). In a series of four experiments, this question is addressed empirically. Contrary to previous findings, knowledge turns out to be a poor predictor of assertability, and the norm of assertion is not factive either. The studies here presented provide empirical evidence in favour of the view that a speaker is warranted to assert that p only if her belief that p is justified. (shrink)
According to an influential hypothesis, the speech act of assertion is subject to a single 'constitutive' rule, that takes the form: "One must: assert that p only if p has C". Scholars working on assertion interpret the assumption that this rule is 'constitutive' in different ways. This disagreement, often unacknowledged, threatens the foundations of the philosophical debate on assertion. This paper reviews different interpretations of the claim that assertion is governed by a constitutive rule. It argues (...) that once we understand the full import of assuming that assertion is governed by a constitutive rule, it becomes clear that some fundamental assumptions of the current debate are mistaken, and others unwarranted. (shrink)
Epistemologists can be divided into two camps: those who think that nothing short of certainty or (subjective) probability 1 can warrant assertion and those who disagree with this claim. This paper addressed this issue by inquiring into the problem of setting the probability threshold required for assertion in such a way that that the social epistemic good is maximized, where the latter is taken to be the veritistic value in the sense of Goldman (Knowledge in a social world, (...) 1999). We provide a Bayesian model of a test case involving a community of inquirers in a social network engaged in group deliberation regarding the truth or falsity of a proposition $p.$ p . Results obtained by means of computer simulation indicate that the certainty rule is optimal in the limit of inquiry and communication but that a lower threshold is preferable in less idealized cases. (shrink)
The purpose of the present chapter is to survey the work on epistemic norms of action, practical deliberation and assertion and to consider how these norms are interrelated. On a more constructive note, we will argue that if there are important similarities between the epistemic norms of action and assertion, it has important ramifications for the debates over speech acts and harm. Thus, we hope that the chapter will indicate how thinking about assertions as a (...) speech act can benefit from a broader action theoretic setting. We will proceed as follows. In Section 2, we provide a survey of epistemic norms of action and practical deliberation. In Section 3, we turn to the epistemic norms of assertion. In Section 4, we consider arguments for and against commonality of the epistemic norms of actions, practical deliberation and assertion. In Section 5, we discuss some of the ramifications of the debates over epistemic norms of assertion such as whether they may be extended to other linguistic phenomena such as Gricean implicature. In Section 6, we consider the consequences of the debate about the epistemic norms of action and practical deliberation for debates about speech and harm. (shrink)
We show that the contemporary debate surrounding the question “What is the norm of assertion?” presupposes what we call the quantitative view, i.e. the view that this question is best answered by determining how much epistemic support is required to warrant assertion. We consider what Jennifer Lackey ( 2010 ) has called cases of isolated second-hand knowledge and show—beyond what Lackey has suggested herself—that these cases are best understood as ones where a certain type of understanding , rather (...) than knowledge, constitutes the required epistemic credential to warrant assertion. If we are right that understanding (and not just knowledge) is the epistemic norm for a restricted class of assertions, then this straightforwardly undercuts not only the widely supposed quantitative view, but also a more general presupposition concerning the universalisability of some norm governing assertion—the presumption (almost entirely unchallenged since Williamson’s 1996 paper) that any epistemic norm that governs some assertions should govern assertions—as a class of speech act—uniformly. (shrink)
I argue that the debates over which norm constitutes assertion can be abandoned by challenging the three main motivations for a constitutive norm. The first motivation is the alleged analogy between language and games. The second motivation is the intuition that some assertions are worthy of criticism. The third is the discursive responsibilities incurred by asserting. I demonstrate that none of these offer good reasons to believe in a constitutive norm of assertion, as such a norm is understood (...) in the literature. Others who have made similar arguments conclude that assertion does not exist at all—that there is no such thing as assertion. I disagree: we do not have to relinquish the category of assertion just because it is not normatively constituted. There are alternative ways to understand and individuate assertion that do not rely on a constitutive norm. (shrink)
In this paper I present my proposal for the central norm governing the practice of assertion, which I call the Supportive Reasons Norm of Assertion (SRNA). The critical features of this norm are that it's highly sensitive to the context of assertion, such that the requirements for warrantedly asserting a proposition shift with changes in context, and that truth is not a necessary condition for warrantedly asserting. In fact, I argue that there are some cases where a (...) speaker may warrantedly assert something she knows to be false. Only SRNA seems able to account for such cases. (shrink)
Language is a human universal reflecting our deeply social nature. Among its essential functions, language enables us to quickly and efficiently share information. We tell each other that many things are true—that is, we routinely make assertions. Information shared this way plays a critical role in the decisions and plans we make. In Knowledge and the Norm of Assertion, a distinguished philosopher and cognitive scientist investigates the rules or norms that structure our social practice of assertion. Combining (...) evidence from philosophy, psychology, and biology, John Turri shows that knowledge is the central norm of assertion and explains why knowledge plays this role. -/- Concise, comprehensive, non-technical, and thoroughly accessible, this volume quickly brings readers to the cutting edge of a major research program at the intersection of philosophy and science. It presupposes no philosophical or scientific training. It will be of interest to philosophers and scientists, is suitable for use in graduate and undergraduate courses, and will appeal to general readers interested in human nature, social cognition, and communication. (shrink)
A principal conclusion supported by convergent evidence from cognitive science, life science, and philosophy is that knowledge is a central norm of assertion—that is, according to the rules of the practice, assertions should express knowledge. That view has recently been challenged with new experiments. This paper identifies a critical confound in the experiments. In the process, a new study is reported that provides additional support for the view that knowledge is a central norm of assertion.
In this paper I draw attention to a number of problems that afflict norm accounts of assertion, i.e. accounts that explain what assertion is, and typically how speakers understand what assertion is, by appeal to a norm of assertion. I argue that the disagreements in the literature over norm selection undermines such an account of understanding. I also argue that the treatment of intuitions as evidence in the literature undermines much of the connection to empirical evidence. (...) I further argue that appeals made to conversational patterns do not require the existence of any norms at all. (shrink)
holds for all central declarative sentences. According to deflationists, the key to an understanding of truth lies in an appreciation of the grammatical advantages of a predicate satisfying DS. As Paul Horwich puts it, “our truth predicate is merely a logical device enabling simple formulations of certain sorts of generalization.” (1996, p. 878; see also Horwich 1990).
An impressive case has been built for the hypothesis that knowledge is the norm of assertion, otherwise known as the knowledge account of assertion. According to the knowledge account, you should assert something only if you know that it’s true. A wealth of observational data supports the knowledge account, and some recent empirical results lend further, indirect support. But the knowledge account has not yet been tested directly. This paper fills that gap by reporting the results of such (...) a test. The knowledge account passes with flying colors. (shrink)
Communication is essential to human society, and assertion is central to communication. This article reviews evidence from life science, cognitive science, and philosophy relevant to understanding how our social practice of assertion is structured and sustained. The principal conclusion supported by this body of evidence is that knowledge is a central norm of assertion—that is, according to the rules of the practice, assertions should express knowledge.
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)
I can, given the right conditions, transmit my knowledge to you by telling you some information. If I know the time, and if all goes well, I can bring it about that you know it too. If conditions are right, all I have to do is assert to you what time it is. Paradigmatically, speakers use assertions to transmit what they know to their hearers. Clearly, assertion and testimony are tightly connected. The nature of this connection, however, is not (...) so clear. According to many accounts, assertion has an epistemic constitutive norm. This norm appears to be able to account for some important features of testimony: first, testimonial knowledge transmission, second, the reliability of testimony, and third, the epistemic rights exchanged in cases of testimony. In this paper, however, I argue against this apparent ability. The constitutive norm of assertion, I argue, plays no role in accounts of testimonial knowledge transmission, or of the epistemic rights that testimony confers. This is especially clear whe.. (shrink)
Why is it that we cannot legitimately make certain aesthetic assertions – for instance that ‘Guernica is harrowing’ or that ‘The Rite of Spring is strangely beautiful’ – on the basis of testimony alone? In this paper I consider a species of argument intended to demonstrate that the best explanation for the impermissibility of such assertions is that a particular view of the norms of aesthetic belief – pessimism concerning aesthetic testimony – is correct. I begin by outlining the (...) strongest instance of such ‘arguments from assertion’ and demonstrating that it presents a powerful motivation for embracing pessimism; the view that it is illegitimate to form aesthetic beliefs on the basis of testimony alone. I then go on to argue that, appearances notwithstanding, the pessimist’s opponents – optimists concerning aesthetic testimony – are able to provide an explanation for the impermissibility of these assertions which is at least as good as, and in some respects better than, that offered by their pessimist. The explanation I propose draws on some important work on signalling in aesthetics, by Denis Dutton and others, to argue that the problem with such assertions is closely parallel to the problem Dutton claims is generated by forgeries. Those making such assertions misrepresent a piece of aesthetic labour as their own, when, in fact, it is the work of another. I also explore the wider implications of this view for debates in aesthetic epistemology and beyond. (shrink)
An account of the norms of assertion is proposed which is supported by the same considerations that motivate the familiar knowledge account of those norms, but does not have a problematic consequence of the latter. This alternative account is defended against others to be found in the literature, and some larger epistemological issues it raises are considered briefly.
The view that truth is the norm of assertion has fallen out of fashion. The recent trend has been to think that knowledge is the norm of assertion. Objections to the knowledge view proceed almost exclusively by appeal to alleged counterexamples. While it no doubt has a role to play, such a strategy relies on intuitions concerning hypothetical cases, intuitions which might not be shared and which might shift depending on how the relevant cases are fleshed out. In (...) this paper, I reject the knowledge view on principled grounds. More specifically, by appeal to a principle which is motivated independently of the debate over the norms of assertion and which is already accepted by many proponents of the knowledge view, I show the knowledge view to be false while simultaneously accounting for why it might seem to be true. In doing so, I provide a novel defence of the unfashionable truth view. (shrink)
According to assurance views of testimonial justification, in virtue of the act of testifying a speaker provides an assurance of the truth of what she asserts to the addressee. This assurance provides a special justificatory force and a distinctive normative status to the addressee. It is thought to explain certain asymmetries between addressees and other unintended hearers (bystanders and eavesdroppers), such as the phenomenon that the addressee has a right to blame the speaker for conveying a falsehood but unintended hearers (...) do not, and the phenomenon that the addressee may deflect challenges to his testimonial belief to the speaker but unintended hearers may not. Here I argue that we can do a better job explaining the normative statuses associated with testimony by reference to epistemic norms of assertion and privacy norms. Following Sanford Goldberg, I argue that epistemic norms of assertion, according to which sincere assertion is appropriate only when the asserter possesses certain epistemic goods, can be ‘put to work’ to explain the normative statuses associated with testimony. When these norms are violated, they give hearers the right to blame the speaker, and they also explain why the speaker takes responsibility for the justification of the statement asserted. Norms of privacy, on the other hand, directly exclude eavesdroppers and bystanders from an informational exchange, implying that they have no standing to do many of the things, such as issue challenges or questions to the speaker, that would be normal for conversational participants. This explains asymmetries of normative status associated with testimony in a way logically independent of speaker assurance. (shrink)
Assertion is fundamental to our lives as social and cognitive beings. Philosophers have recently built an impressive case that the norm of assertion is factive. That is, you should make an assertion only if it is true. Thus far the case for a factive norm of assertion been based on observational data. This paper adds experimental evidence in favor of a factive norm from six studies. In these studies, an assertion’s truth value dramatically affects whether (...) people think it should be made. Whereas nearly everyone agreed that a true assertion supported by good evidence should be made, most people judged that a false assertion supported by good evidence should not be made. The studies also suggest that people are consciously aware of criteria that guide their evaluation of assertions. Evidence is also presented that some intuitive support for a non-factive norm of assertion comes from a surprising tendency people have to misdescribe cases of blameless rule-breaking as cases where no rule is broken. (shrink)
This paper advances our understanding of the norms of assertion in two ways. First, I evaluate recent studies claiming to discredit an important earlier finding which supports the hypothesis that assertion has a factive norm. In particular, I evaluate whether it was due to stimuli mentioning that a speaker’s evidence was fallible. Second, I evaluate the hypothesis that assertion has a truth-insensitive standard of justification. In particular, I evaluate the claim that switching an assertion from (...) true to false, while holding all else objectively constant, is irrelevant to attributions of justification. Two pre-registered experiments provide decisive evidence against each claim. In the first experiment, switching from mentioning to not mentioning fallibility made no difference to assertability attributions, thereby disproving the criticism concerning fallibility. By contrast, switching an assertion from true to false decreased the rate of assertability attribution from over 90% to less than 20%, thereby replicating and vindicating the original finding supporting a factive norm. In the second experiment, switching an assertion from true to false decreased the rate of justification attribution from over 80 to 10%, thereby undermining the hypothesis that assertion’s standard of justification is truth-insensitive. The second experiment also demonstrates that perspective-taking influences attributions of justification, and it provides initial evidence that the standard of justification for assertion is stricter than the standard for belief. (shrink)
Since the publication of Timothy Williamson’s Knowledge and its Limits, knowledge-first epistemology has become increasingly influential within epistemology. This paper discusses the viability of the knowledge-first program. The paper has two main parts. In the first part, I briefly present knowledge-first epistemology as well as several big picture reasons for concern about this program. While this considerations are pressing, I concede, however, that they are not conclusive. To determine the viability of knowledge-first epistemology will require philosophers to carefully evaluate the (...) individual theses endorsed by knowledge-first epistemologists as well as to compare it with alternative packages of views. In the second part of the paper, I contribute to this evaluation by considering a specific thesis endorsed by many knowledge-first epistemologists – the knowledge norm of assertion. According to this norm, roughly speaking, one should assert that p only if one knows that p. I present and motivate this thesis. I then turn to a familiar concern with the norm: In many cases, it is intuitively appropriate for someone who has a strongly justified belief that p, but who doesn't know that p, to assert that p. Proponents of the knowledge norm of assertion typically explain away our judgments about such cases by arguing that the relevant assertion is improper but that the subject has an excuse and is therefore not blameworthy for making the assertion. I argue that that this response does not work. In many of the problem cases, it is not merely that the subject’s assertion is blameless. Rather, the subject positively ought to make the assertion. Appealing to an excuse cannot be used to adequately explain this fact. (Nor can we explain this fact by appealing to some other, quite different, consideration.) Finally, I conclude by briefly considering whether we should replace the knowledge norm of assertion with an alternative norm. I argue that the most plausible view is that there is no norm specifically tied to assertion. (shrink)
Frank Hindriks has attempted to derive a variant of Timothy Williamson’s knowledge rule for assertion on the basis of a more fundamental belief expression analysis of that speech act. I show that his attempted derivation involves a crucial equivocation between two senses of ‘must,’ and therefore fails. I suggest two possible repairs; but I argue that even if they are successful, we should prefer Williamson’s fully general knowledge rule to Hindriks’s restricted moral norm.
In this paper Timothy Williamson’s argument that the knowledge norm of assertion is the best explanation of the unassertability of Morrean sentences is challenged and an alternative account of the norm of assertion is defended.
What is the relationship between the epistemic norms of assertion and the epistemic norms of action/practical reasoning? Brown argues that the standards for practical reasoning and assertion are distinct (Brown 2012). In contrast, Montminy argues that practical reasoning and assertion must be governed by the same norm (Montminy 2012). Likewise, McKinnon has articulated an argument for a unified account from cases of isolated second-hand knowledge (McKinnon 2012). To clarify the issue, I articulate a distinction between (...) Equivalence Commonality and Structural Commonality. I then argue against the former by counterexamples that doubly dissociate the standards for assertion and action. Furthermore, I argue that such a double dissociation compromises knowledge accounts of both assertion and action/practical reasoning. To provide a more accurate diagnosis, I consider speech act theory and argue that principled differences between the norms of action and assertion compromise Equivalence Commonality. In contrast, a qualified version of Structural Commonality may be preserved. (shrink)
Assertions are our standard communicative tool for sharing and acquiring information. Recent empirical studies seemingly provide converging evidence that assertions are subject to a factive norm: you are entitled to assert a proposition p only if p is true. All these studies, however, assume that we can treat participants' judgments about what an agent 'should say' as evidence of their intuitions about assertability. This paper argues that this assumption is incorrect, so that the conclusions drawn in these studies are unwarranted. (...) It shows that most people do not interpret statements about what an agent 'should say' as statements about assertability, but rather as statements about what is in the agent's interest to do. It identifies some effective measures to force the intended reading of statements about what an agent 'should say', and shows that when these measures are implemented, people's judgments consistently and overwhelmingly align with non-factive accounts of assertion. (shrink)
This paper defends a new norm of assertion: Assert that p only if you are in a position to know that p. We test the norm by judging its performance in explaining three phenomena that appear jointly inexplicable at first: Moorean paradoxes, lottery propositions, and selfless assertions. The norm succeeds by tethering unassertability to unknowability while untethering belief from assertion. The PtK‐norm foregrounds the public nature of assertion as a practice that can be other‐regarding, allowing asserters to (...) act in the best interests of their audience when psychological pressures would otherwise prevent them from communicating the knowable truth. (shrink)
The knowledge norm of assertion is the subject of a lively debate on when someone is in a position to assert something. However, not much has been said about the logic that underlies such debate. In this paper, I propose a formalisation of the knowledge norm in a deontic logic that aims to be explanatory and conceptually sound. Afterwards, I investigate some problems that this formalisation makes visible. This reveals some significant limitations of the underlying logic: it can neither (...) contain Axiom 4 nor Axiom C4. Moreover, sentences of the form p and I have not asserted that p appear to licence a violation of deontic rules. (shrink)
This chapter discusses norms of assertion. I defend the view that the sole constitutive norm of assertion is that you should not assert what you do not believe. I also discuss the views of some--e.g. Grice, Williamson--who have defended the stronger view that the sole constitutive norm of assertion is that you should not assert what you do not know.
The knowledge account of assertion (KAA) is the view that assertion is governed by the norm that the speaker should know what s/he asserts. It is not the purpose of this article to examine all the criticisms nor to try to give a full defence of KAA, but only to defend it against the charge of being normatively incorrect. It has been objected that assertion is governed by other norms than knowledge, or by no norm at (...) all. It seems to me, however, that a number of these criticisms are based on a number of misunderstandings of the notion of a norm and of the way it can regulated a given practice. Once we spell out in what sense knowledge can play a normative role in this context, the KAA appears much more plausible. (shrink)
According to the widely endorsed Knowledge Account of Assertion, the epistemic requirements on assertion are captured by the Knowledge Norm of Assertion, which requires speakers only to assert what they know. This paper proposes that in addition to the Knowledge Norm there is also an Epistemic Propositional Certainty Norm of Assertion, which enjoins speakers only to assert p if they believe that p on the basis of evidence which makes p an epistemic propositional certainty. The paper (...) explains how this propositional certainty norm accounts for a range of data related to the practice of assertion and defends the norm against general objections to certainty norms of assertion put forward by Duncan Pritchard, John Turri, and Timothy Williamson, by drawing on linguistic theories about epistemic modals and gradable predicate semantics. Together these considerations show that the prospects of a certainty account of assertion are much more promising than is usually assumed. (shrink)
Mona Simion has recently argued for a function-first norm of moral assertion. According to function-first accounts, the norm of any kind of assertion is determined by the function of that kind of assertion. She argues that, on the assumption that moral understanding is the goal of moral inquiry, the function of moral assertion is reliably generating moral understanding in others and that the norm of moral assertion should fall out of that function. In particular, she (...) thinks the norm should be such that satisfying it is the most reliable way for one’s moral assertions to generate moral understanding in others—at least when all else goes well. With this in mind, she proposes The Explanation Proffering Account of Moral Assertion. First, I argue that satisfying EPNMA is not the only or most reliable way for one’s moral assertion to generate moral understanding in one’s audience. I propose an alternative norm on which one must accompany one’s moral assertions with a maieutic speech act, i.e., an utterance in the form of a question or assertion that aims to elicit knowledge or other epistemic states from an audience. Second, I present counterexamples to EPNMA wherein speakers make moral assertions that violate EPNMA and yet they are not intuitively epistemically criticizable for their assertion. I conclude by briefly sketching an alternative account that avoids the pitfalls of EPNMA. (shrink)
This paper was written for a workshop on ethics and epistemology at Missouri. I use an example from unpublished work with Ishani Maitra to develop a new kind of argument for expressivism. (I don’t endorse the argument, but I think it is interesting.) Roughly, the argument is that knowledge is a norm governing assertions, but moral claims do not have to be known to be properly made, so to make a moral claim is not to make an assertion. Some (...) suggestions are made for how a non-expressivist might avoid the argument. (shrink)
In this paper, I defend the thesis that knowledge is the norm of assertion. I first examine three prominent “counterexamples”: false assertion, selfless assertion, and assertion based on mere justified true belief. I argue that they all fail to square well with our ordinary intuitions. However, the contemporary debate over the norm of assertion depends heavily on the method of counterexamples, whose crux is to prompt our intuitions regarding the appropriateness (or inappropriateness) of a certain (...) kind of assertions. This method has its limits as sometimes the debate simply boils down to a clash of intuitions. I think we can do better. In the second part of the paper, I construct a positive argument for the knowledge norm, showing that the knowledge norm can be derived from the general account of the conversational role of assertion. I argue that in order for assertion to play the role it plays in conversation, the knowledge norm must hold. (shrink)
Arguably, a theory of assertion should be able to provide (i) a definition of assertion, and (ii) a set of conditions for an assertion to be appropriate. This paper reviews two strands of theories that have attempted to meet this challenge. Commitment-based accounts à la Peirce define assertion in terms of commitment to the truth of the proposition. Restriction-based accounts à la Williamson define assertion in terms of the conditions for its appropriate performance. After assessing (...) the suitability of these projects to meet the desiderata of a theory of assertion, I argue that a speech act theoretic account à la Searle is more suitable for this purpose: it integrates the core intuitions of both restriction-based and commitment-based accounts while avoiding their respective problems, and has the further advantage of determining how assertion fits into a more general theory of illocutionary acts. (shrink)
In recent years, much attention has been given to the epistemic credentials of belief based on moral testimony. Some people think pure moral deference is wrong, others disagree. It comes as a surprise, however, that while the epistemic responsibilities of the receiver of moral testimony have been closely scrutinized, little to no discussion has focused on the epistemic duties of the speaker. This paper aims to supply this lack: it defends a function-first account of the normativity of moral assertion. (...) According to this view, in virtue of its function of reliably generating understanding in the audience, a moral assertion that p needs be knowledgeable and accompanied by a contextually appropriate explanation why p. (shrink)
Many contemporary philosophers argue that assertion is governed by an epistemic norm. In particular, many defend the knowledge account of assertion, which says that one should assert only what one knows. Here, I defend a non‐normative alternative to the knowledge account that I call the repK account of assertion. According to the repK account, assertion represents knowledge, but it is not governed by a constitutive epistemic rule. I show that the repK account offers a more straightforward (...) interpretation of the conversational patterns and intuitions that motivate the knowledge account. It does so in terms of ordinary normative principles that philosophers already accept, none of which are constitutive to assertion. I then contend that the repK account is preferable to the knowledge account because it is simpler, its implications are less contentious, and it avoids a problem for normative accounts of assertion recently raised by Peter Pagin. I also argue that the repK account offers a satisfying explanation of selfless assertion, a counterexample to the knowledge account posed by Jennifer Lackey. (shrink)
There’s a widespread conviction in the norms of assertion literature that an agent’s asserting something false merits criticism. As Williamson puts it, asserting something false is likened to cheating at the game of assertion. Most writers on the topic have consequently proposed factive norms of assertion – ones on which truth is a necessary condition for the proper performance of an assertion. However, I argue that this view is mistaken. I suggest that we can (...) illuminate the error by introducing a theoretical distinction between the norm of a practice and its goal. In light of this distinction, we can see that proponents of factive norms tend to mistake the goal of a practice for the norm. In making my case, I present an analogy between the norms and goals of placing wagers and the norms and goals of assertion. One may place a bet and lose without being subject to criticism, while one may win and be worthy of criticism. Whether one wins or loses is irrelevant to the normative evaluation of a bet. What is relevant is whether the bet maximizes the bettor's expected value, which is a function of what might be lost, what might be gained, and how likely those prospects are, given the bettor's evidence. Similarly, I argue, whether one's assertion is true or false is not strictly relevant to the normative evaluation of an assertion. What is relevant is whether the speaker has adequate supporting reasons for the assertion, and that the necessary conventional and pragmatic features are present. However, context will determine what count as supportive reasons for a given proposition, what counts as relevant, and what count as conventional and pragmatic elements possessing that relevance. My proposed norm, the Supportive Reasons Norm, is thus sensitive to the context of assertion and shifts from context to context. (shrink)
Here I advance a unified account of the structure of the epistemic normativity of assertion, action, and belief. According to my Teleological Account, all of these are epistemically successful just in case they fulfill the primary aim of knowledgeability, an aim which in turn generates a host of secondary epistemic norms. The central features of the Teleological Account are these: it is compact in its reliance on a single central explanatory posit, knowledge-centered in its insistence that knowledge sets (...) the fundamental epistemic norm, and yet fiercely pluralistic in its acknowledgment of the legitimacy and value of a rich range of epistemic norms distinct from knowledge. Largely in virtue of this pluralist character, I argue, the Teleological Account is far superior to extant knowledge-centered accounts. (shrink)