Safety, Closure, and the Flow of Information

Erkenntnis 81 (5):1109-1126 (2016)
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Abstract

In his earlier writings, Fred Dretske proposed an anti-skeptical strategy that is based on a rejection of the view that knowledge is closed under known entailment. This strategy is seemingly congenial with a sensitivity condition for knowledge, which is often associated with Dretske’s epistemology. However, it is not obvious how Dretske’s early account meshes with the information-theoretic view developed in Knowledge and the Flow of Information. One aim of this paper is to elucidate the connections between these accounts. First I argue that, contrary to an objection raised by Christoph Jäger, the information-theoretic account is compatible with Dretske’s anti-skeptical strategy based on the rejection of closure. This strategy invokes the notion of channel conditions, which are roughly speaking those conditions that are necessary and jointly sufficient for a signal to carry information. I propose an interpretation of the account that is based on the idea that a signal’s carrying information requires that the channel conditions are stable. It is shown that the resulting account incorporates both a sensitivity condition and a safety condition for knowledge. Finally, I demonstrate how this proposal allows for knowledge of modally robust propositions without making its acquisition too easy, as simple safety accounts do. I end with a suggestion concerning the direction that future research should take, based on the fact that in its present form the information-theoretic account does not capture inferential knowledge.

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Jens Kipper
University of Rochester

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Knowledge and its limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Counterfactuals.David K. Lewis - 1973 - Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.
Philosophical explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Epistemic Luck.Duncan Pritchard - 2005 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.

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