Epistemic Modal Eavesdropping: a straight solution to a relativist challenge

Abstract

A primary challenge from the relativist to the contextualist about epistemic modals is to explain eavesdropping data—i.e., why the eavesdropper is inclined to judge the speaker as having uttered an epistemic modal falsehood (when she is so inclined), even though the speaker’s utterance is true according to reasonable contextualist truth conditions. The issue turns in large part on the strength and shape of the data, both of which are in dispute. One complaint is that an eavesdropper’s truth value judgments fluctuate with variations of non- epistemic fact (even after the relevant epistemic/information states are determined). The project here is to strengthen and reframe this complaint in a debate-neutral way, and to show how a sober contextualism can uniformly accommodate it and the standard eavesdropping data. Along the way we reject John Hawthorne’s danger-theoretic explanation of these subtleties.

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Joe Salerno
Saint Louis University

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References found in this work

Epistemic Modals in Context.Andy Egan, John Hawthorne & Brian Weatherson - 2005 - In Gerhard Preyer & Georg Peter (eds.), Contextualism in philosophy: knowledge, meaning, and truth. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 131-170.
Epistemic modals are assessment-sensitive.John MacFarlane - 2011 - In Andy Egan & Brian Weatherson (eds.), Epistemic Modality. Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Epistemic Modals in Context.Andy Egan, John Hawthorne & Brian Weatherson - 2005 - In Gerhard Preyer & Georg Peter (eds.), Contextualism in philosophy: knowledge, meaning, and truth. New York: Oxford University Press.
Eavesdroppers and epistemic modals.John Hawthorne - 2007 - Philosophical Issues 17 (1):92-101.

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