We are unable to display your institutional affiliation without JavaScript turned on.
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE
OR

Find using OpenURL

Anti-luck Epistemology, Pragmatic Encroachment, and True Belief

From: Canadian Journal of Philosophy
Volume 41, Number 4, December 2011
pp. 485-503 | 10.1353/cjp.2011.0041

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Two common theses in contemporary epistemology are that 'knowledge excludes luck' and that knowledge depends on 'purely epistemic' factors. In this essay, I shall argue as follows: given some plausible assumptions, 'anti-luck epistemology,' which is committed to the first thesis, implies the falsity of the second thesis. That is, I will argue that anti-luck epistemology leads to what has been called 'pragmatic encroachment' on knowledge. Anti-luck epistemologists hoping to resist encroachment must accept a controversial thesis about true belief or a dubious claim about luck and value and interests.

All of this should come as a surprise. Arguments for pragmatic encroachment usually highlight the relationship between knowledge and action, rather than highlight some (putative) feature of knowledge itself. The argument I'll offer links together work on three ordinarily unconnected topics within epistemology: anti-luck epistemology (e.g., Pritchard [2005] and Riggs [2007]), pragmatic encroachment (e.g., Fantl and McGrath [2002] and [2007] and Hawthorne [2004]), and the value of true belief (e.g., Kvanvig [2003: ch 2] and Grimm [2008]).

In the end, the argument may lead theorists away from anti-luck epistemology and toward related approaches not concerned to eliminate luck. I shall suggest that 'luck-free' views may avoid the troubles that beset anti-luck epistemologies.

I Anti-luck Epistemology and Luck

I shall begin by explaining what anti-luck epistemology is, elucidating the operative notion of luck by drawing on recent work on the nature of luck.

Anti-luck epistemology is a product of reflection on justification and knowledge after Gettier (1963). Let's recollect a classic Gettier-style example, due to Chisholm (1966: 23, fn 22):

SHEEP DOG. While gazing over a field, you see what looks to be a sheep and come to believe there is a sheep in the field. And you're right: just beyond a hill in the middle of the field, there is a sheep. It's out of view, though, and you have no idea it is there. What you see is a dog, convincingly dressed up as a sheep. You have a justified true belief that there is a sheep in the field.

Does that belief count as knowledge? Conventional wisdom says that you don't know that a sheep is in the field because your belief is true by luck. A justified true belief is not enough for knowledge because of this luck. And it came to pass that epistemologists received their slogan: 'knowledge excludes luck.'

This truism about luck is a critical starting point for many contemporary discussions of knowledge. Engel (1992), Greco (2003), Pritchard (2005) and (2007), Riggs (2007) and (2009), Becker (2008), and Coffman (2010) all take the truism and go on to develop 'anti-luck' epistemologies. Their shared strategy is to understand knowledge by way of saying something about the kind of luck that precludes knowledge in a Gettier example ('knowledge-precluding luck' hereafter).

As it happens, their views are diverse. For example, Pritchard imposes a safety condition on knowledge and defines knowledge-precluding luck in terms of a belief that's true in the actual world but false in many nearby possible worlds. Both Riggs and Greco invoke virtue-theoretic elements and characterize knowledge-precluding luck in terms of the potential knower's (lack of) 'credit-worthiness.' And Becker, an advocate of process reliabilism, proposes that knowledge-precluding luck involves a true belief formed by an unreliable process or held on an 'unsafe' basis. Setting their differences to the side, any anti-luck epistemologist will endorse the following thesis: whether someone is positioned to know some proposition p partly depends on whether she is positioned to hold a non-luckily true belief that p.

Before we consider how accounts of knowledge-precluding luck relate to luck simpliciter, we should note a further sort of diversity among theorists. Those who invoke luck to explain Gettier examples are joined by others who at least describe Gettier examples in different terms. A 'gettiered' belief is said to be true by 'accident' (Unger [1968]) or a 'felicitous coincidence' (Klein [1971]); Gettier himself said that such belief was true by 'sheer coincidence' (1963: 123).

It is notable that Pritchard treats at least some views...



You must be logged in through an institution that subscribes to this journal or book to access the full text.

Shibboleth

Shibboleth authentication is only available to registered institutions.

Project MUSE

For subscribing associations only.