Lotteries, Quasi-Lotteries, and Scepticism

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (2):335-352 (2012)
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I seem to know that I won't experience spaceflight but also that if I win the lottery, then I will take a flight into space. Suppose I competently deduce from these propositions that I won't win the lottery. Competent deduction from known premises seems to yield knowledge of the deduced conclusion. So it seems that I know that I won't win the lottery; but it also seems clear that I don't know this, despite the minuscule probability of my winning (if I have a lottery ticket). So we have a puzzle. It seems to generalize, for analogues of the lottery-proposition threaten almost all ordinary knowledge attributions. For example, my apparent knowledge that my bike is parked outside seems threatened by the possibility that it's been stolen since I parked it, a proposition with a low but non-zero probability; and it seems that I don't know this proposition to be false. Familiar solutions to this family of puzzles incur unacceptable costs—either by rejecting deductive closure for knowledge, or by yielding untenable consequences for ordinary attributions of knowledge or of ignorance. After canvassing and criticizing these solutions, I offer a new solution free of these costs. Knowledge that p requires an explanatory link between the fact that p and the belief that p. This necessary but insufficient condition on knowledge distinguishes actual lottery cases from typical, apparently analogous ‘quasi-lottery’ cases. It does yield scepticism about my not winning the lottery and not experiencing spaceflight, but the scepticism doesn't generalize to quasi-lottery cases such as that involving my bike.



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Eugene Mills
Virginia Commonwealth University

Citations of this work

How to Play the Lottery Safely?Haicheng Zhao - 2023 - Episteme 20 (1):23-38.
DeRose on Lotteries.Peter Baumann - 2020 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 10 (1):44-67.
Lotteries, Possibility and Skepticism.Daniel Immerman - 2015 - Skepsis: A Journal for Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Research 12:51-67.

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References found in this work

Knowledge and its limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Philosophical Explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Harvard University Press.
Knowledge and lotteries.John Hawthorne - 2004 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Epistemic Luck.Duncan Pritchard - 2005 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.

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