Knowledge and Skepticism
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: The MIT Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
Earlier versions of the essays in this volume were presented at the seventh annual Inland Northwest Philosophy Conference (INPC), held between April 30 and May 2, 2004, in Pullman, Washington, and Moscow, Idaho. For their financial and administrative support of the conference, we thank the philosophy departments...
Introduction: Framing Knowledge and Skepticism
There are two main questions in epistemology: What is knowledge and do we have any of it? The former question asks after the nature of a concept, and this has two sides, namely, its intrinsic nature and its extrinsic nature. Within the analytic tradition, attention to intrinsic nature has focused on the proper analysis of knowledge...
1. Knowledge and Conclusive Evidence
In ‘‘Conclusive Reasons,’’ Fred Dretske argues that when knowledge is based on evidence, this evidence must be conclusive. The present essay uses recent work on epistemic contextualism to defend a version of Dretske’s claim. Advocates of epistemic contextualism usually defend it by arguing that it can solve certain...
2. Theorizing Justification
Just as there are many theories of the concept of knowledge—some that require justification and some that do not—so too there are many theories of the concept of justification. Any epistemology textbook or anthology would lead one to believe that the major disagreements over its analysis are internalism versus externalism and...
3. Truth Tracking and the Problem of Reflective Knowledge
The criticism finds its roots in Vogel’s earlier work (1987), and recurs in papers by Ernest Sosa (2002, 1996). Sosa suggests that the externalist idea behind tracking is on target, but that Nozick’s counterfactual is a misbegotten regimentation of the idea. In its place Sosa offers his own counterfactual ‘‘safety’’ condition, which he feels...
4. Contextualism, Skepticism, and Warranted Assertibility Maneuvers
Attributer contextualists maintain that ‘knows’ is a context-sensitive term in the sense that sentences of the form ‘‘S knows that p’’ (call this the ‘ascription sentence’) will have different truth-values depending on the context of utterance (which will, of course, be the attributer’s context). One interesting consequence of the...
5. Knowledge In and Out of Context
We can be willing in one context to attribute a bit of knowledge that we wouldn’t attribute and might even deny in another, especially a context in which we’re stumped by a skeptical argument. Apparently, our standards for knowledge sometimes go up, sometimes way up. How can this be? By claiming that the very contents of...
6. Contextualism in Epistemology and the Context-Sensitivity of ‘Knows’
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 context-sensitive 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...
7. Locke’s Account of Sensitive Knowledge
Locke’s epistemology, particularly as it concerns sensitive knowledge of external physical objects, is usually thought to suffer from both internal, textually supported difficulties, and also from powerful philosophical objections. The former difficulties concern Locke’s apparent commitment, in Book IV of the Essay, to the thesis that...
8. Revelations: On What Is Manifest in Visual Experience
Unity: Thanks to its nature and the nature of the other determinate shades, canary yellow, like the other shades, has its own unique place in the network of similarity, difference and exclusion relations exhibited by the whole family of shades. (Think of the relations exemplified along the axes of hue, saturation and brightness...
9. Knowing It Hurts
Many people think of pain and other bodily sensations (e.g., tickles, itches, nausea) as feelings one is necessarily conscious of. Some think there can be pains one doesn’t feel, pains one is (for a certain interval) not conscious of (‘‘I was so distracted I forgot about my headache’’), but others agree with Reid (1969, 1, 12) and...
10. Reasoning Defeasibly about Probabilities
The use of probabilities is ubiquitous in philosophy, science, engineering, artificial intelligence, economics, and many other disciplines. It is generally supposed that the logical and mathematical structure of probabilities is well understood, and completely characterized by the probability calculus. The probability calculus is typically identified...
11. Anti-Individualism, Self-Knowledge, and Why Skepticism Cannot Be Cartesian
Anti-individualism is often said to be at odds with the Cartesian view of the mind that grounds external-world skepticism. For according to the Cartesian view, it is coherent to doubt whether any of one’s thoughts correspond to external objects, whereas anti-individualism says it is a conceptual truth that without objects external...
12. Is There a Reason for Skepticism?
Two compelling and persistent projects of contemporary epistemology are engaging skepticism and searching for adequate epistemic principles. The former project, of course, can be traced in various forms through the ancients and moderns, and the last decade has seen skepticism debated with renewed vigor. The centrality of...
13. Skepticism Aside
My goal in this essay is not to defeat skepticism, but to articulate a reasonable epistemological basis for disregarding it. I argue that (1) skepticism is not continuous with ordinary epistemic practice. We do not, as it were, slide down a slippery slope to skepticism simply by raising our epistemic standards. (2) Skepticism is not a viable...
14. Hume’s Skeptical Naturalism
The task of this essay is to describe the relationship between Hume’s skepticism and his naturalism, and in doing so to demonstrate the way some of Hume’s most important recent commentators have misunderstood both. It’s not surprising that commentators have gotten things wrong, since both Hume’s skepticism and...