Understanding, Luck, and Communicative Value.

In Abrol Fairweather & Carlos Montemayor (eds.), Linguistic Luck: Safeguards and Threats to Linguistic Communication. Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press (2023)
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Abstract

Does utterance understanding require reliable (i.e. non-lucky) recovery of the speaker’s intended proposition? There are good reasons to answer in the affirmative: the role of understanding in supporting testimonial knowledge seemingly requires such reliability. Moreover, there seem to be communicative analogues of Gettier cases in which luck precludes the audience’s understanding an utterance despite recovering the intended proposition. Yet, there are some major problems with the view that understanding requires such reliability. Firstly, there are a number of cases in which understanding seems to occur in a lucky way. In light of these cases I argue that we need to narrow down the precise sense in which understanding precludes luck – the anti-luck condition attached to linguistic understanding is importantly different to anti-luck conditions typically applied to knowledge. Secondly, Megan Hyska has recently argued that, assuming understanding precludes luck, we get a communicative analogue of the value problem for knowledge. i.e. why is it better to meet the other conditions for understanding in a reliable way than in a lucky way? It is natural to assume that we can simply port over our favoured responses to the epistemic value problem in response to Hyska’s challenge. I argue that, due to the difference between epistemic and communicative luck (discussed in response to the first problem), this cannot be done. The epistemic and communicative value problems will require different solutions. I close by sketching the beginnings of an alternative answer to the value problem for communication.

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Andrew Peet
Umeå University

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Epistemology and cognition.Alvin I. Goldman - 1986 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
The logical basis of metaphysics.Michael Dummett - 1991 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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