We consider the complex interactions between rape culture and epistemology. A central case study is the consideration of a deferential attitude about the epistemology of sexual assault testimony. According to the deferential attitude, individuals and institutions should decline to act on allegations of sexual assault unless and until they are proven in a formal setting, i.e., a criminal court. We attack this deference from several angles, including the pervasiveness of rape culture in the criminal justice system, the epistemology of testimony (...) and norms connecting knowledge and action, the harms of tacit idealizations away from important contextual factors, and a contextualist semantics for 'knows' ascriptions. (shrink)
Ichikawa and Jarvis offer a new rationalist theory of mental content and defend a traditional epistemology of philosophy. They argue that philosophical inquiry is continuous with non-philosophical inquiry, and can be genuinely a priori, and that intuitions do not play an important role in mental content or the a priori.
The book develops and synthesises two main ideas: contextualism about knowledge ascriptions and a knowledge-first approach to epistemology. The theme of the book is that these two ideas fit together much better than it's widely thought they do. Not only are they not competitors: they each have something important to offer the other.
Contextualist treatments of clashes of intuitions can allow that two claims, apparently in conflict, can both be true. But making true utterances is far from the only thing that matters — there are often substantive normative questions about what contextual parameters are appropriate to a given conversational situation. This paper foregrounds the importance of the social power to set contextual standards, and how it relates to injustice and oppression, introducing a phenomenon I call "contextual injustice," which has to do with (...) the unjust manipulation of conversational parameters in context-sensitive discourse. My central example applies contextualism about knowledge ascriptions to questions about knowledge regarding sexual assault allegations, but I will also discuss parallel dynamics in other examples of context-sensitive language involving politically significant terms, including gender terms. The central upshot is that the connections between language, epistemology, and social justice are very deeply interlinked. (shrink)
What sorts of things are the intuitions generated via thought experiment? Timothy Williamson has responded to naturalistic skeptics by arguing that thought-experiment intuitions are judgments of ordinary counterfactuals. On this view, the intuition is naturalistically innocuous, but it has a contingent content and could be known at best a posteriori. We suggest an alternative to Williamson's account, according to which we apprehend thought-experiment intuitions through our grasp on truth in fiction. On our view, intuitions like the Gettier intuition are necessarily (...) true and knowable a priori. Our view, like Williamson's, avoids naturalistic skepticism. (shrink)
What is it like to dream? On an orthodox view, dreams involve misleading sensations and false beliefs. I argue, on philosophical, psychological, and neurophysiological grounds, that orthodoxy about dreaming should be rejected in favor of an imagination model of dreaming. I am thus in partial agreement with Colin McGinn, who has argued that we do not have misleading sensory experiences while dreaming, and partially in agreement with Ernest Sosa, who has argued that we do not form false beliefs while dreaming. (...) Rather, on my view, dreams involve mental imagery and propositional imagination. I defend the imagination model of dreaming from objections. (shrink)
In “Against Arguments from Reference” (Mallon et al., 2009), Ron Mallon, Edouard Machery, Shaun Nichols, and Stephen Stich (hereafter, MMNS) argue that recent experiments concerning reference undermine various philosophical arguments that presuppose the correctness of the causal-historical theory of reference. We will argue three things in reply. First, the experiments in question—concerning Kripke’s Gödel/Schmidt example—don’t really speak to the dispute between descriptivism and the causal-historical theory; though the two theories are empirically testable, we need to look at quite different data (...) than MMNS do to decide between them. Second, the Gödel/Schmidt example plays a different, and much smaller, role in Kripke’s argument for the causal-historical theory than MMNS assume. Finally, and relatedly, even if Kripke is wrong about the Gödel/Schmidt example—indeed, even if the causal-historical theory is not the correct theory of names for some human languages—that does not, contrary to MMNS’s claim, undermine uses of the causalhistorical theory in philosophical research projects. (shrink)
This paper will articulate and defend a novel theory of epistemic justification; I characterize my view as the thesis that justification is potential knowledge . My project is an instance of the ‘knowledge-first’ programme, championed especially by Timothy Williamson. So I begin with a brief recapitulation of that programme.
Many of the motivations in favor of contextualism about knowledge apply also to a contextualist approach to counterfactuals. I motivate and articulate such an approach, in terms of the context-sensitive 'all cases', in the spirit of David Lewis's contextualist view about knowledge. The resulting view explains intuitive data, resolves a puzzle parallel to the skeptical paradox, and renders safety and sensitivity, construed as counterfactuals, necessary conditions on knowledge.
I argue that “consent” language presupposes that the contemplated action is or would be at someone else’s behest. When one does something for another reason—for example, when one elects independently to do something, or when one accepts an invitation to do something—it is linguistically inappropriate to describe the actor as “consenting” to it; but it is also inappropriate to describe them as “not consenting” to it. A consequence of this idea is that “consent” is poorly suited to play its canonical (...) central role in contemporary sexual ethics. But this does not mean that nonconsensual sex can be morally permissible. Consent language, I’ll suggest, carries the conventional presupposition that that which is or might be consented to is at someone else’s behest. One implication will be a new kind of support for feminist critiques of consent theory in sexual ethics. (shrink)
I defend a neo-Lewisean form of contextualism about knowledge attributions. Understanding the context-sensitivity of knowledge attributions in terms of the context-sensitivity of universal quantifiers provides an appealing approach to knowledge. Among the virtues of this approach are solutions to the skeptical paradox and the Gettier problem. I respond to influential objections to Lewis’s account.
A number of philosophers have recently suggested that the role of intuitions in the epistemology of armchair philosophy has been exaggerated. This suggestion is rehearsed and endorsed. What bearing does the rejection of the centrality of intuition in armchair philosophy have on experimentalist critiques of the latter? I distinguish two very different kinds of experimentalist critique: one critique requires the centrality of intuition; the other does not.
How do we know what's (metaphysically) possible and impossible? Arguments from Kripke and Putnam suggest that possibility is not merely a matter of (coherent) conceivability/imaginability. For example, we can coherently imagine that Hesperus and Phosphorus are distinct objects even though they are not possibly distinct. Despite this apparent problem, we suggest, nevertheless, that imagination plays an important role in an adequate modal epistemology. When we discover what is possible or what is impossible, we generally exploit important connections between what is (...) possible and what we can coherently imagine. We can often come to knowledge of metaphysical modality a priori. (shrink)
I offer an epistemic framework for theorising about faith. I suggest that epistemic faith is a disposition to believe or infer according to particular methods, despite a kind of tendency to perceive an epistemic shortcoming in that method. Faith is unjustified, and issues into unjustified beliefs, when the apparent epistemic shortcomings are actual; it is justified when the epistemic worries are unfounded. Virtuous faith is central to a great deal of epistemology. A rational agent will manifest faith in their perceptual (...) abilities, in determining which experts and testifiers to trust, in their a priori reasoning, and in the epistemic capacities that are specific to their social environment. To ignore faith is to ignore a crucial element of our social and individualistic epistemic lives. One exercises faith when one forms beliefs despite a kind of apparent epistemic shortcoming, which may or may not correspond to a genuine weakness in evidential support. For example, standing on a bridge one knows to be safe, despite one's natural but irrational fear, can manifest a kind of epistemic faith. So too can forming perceptual beliefs, or engaging in logical inferences, despite lacking a dialectically satisfying response to skeptical arguments. The same goes for beliefs that are informed by one's ideological stance – these too count as manifestations of faith, and under some circumstances, such faith is epistemically appropriate. One upshot of my project will be that an intuitively appealing neutrality ideal for education and discourse is untenable. I'll conclude with some discussion of practical questions about whether, when, and why it can be worthwhile engaging seriously with people who have radically opposed views and frameworks. (shrink)
Ernest Sosa has argued that the solution to dream scepticism lies in an understanding of dreams as imaginative experiences – when we dream, on this suggestion, we do not believe the contents of our dreams, but rather imagine them. Sosa rebuts scepticism thus: dreams don’t cause false beliefs, so my beliefs cannot be false, having been caused by dreams. I argue that, even assuming that Sosa is correct about the nature of dreaming, belief in wakefulness on these grounds is epistemically (...) irresponsible. The proper upshot of the imagination model, I suggest, is to recharacterize the way we think about dream scepticism: the sceptical threat is not, after all, that we have false beliefs. So even though dreams don’t involve false beliefs, they still pose a sceptical threat, which I elaborate. (shrink)
There is a New Idea in epistemology. It goes by the name of ‘knowledge first,’ and it is particularly associated with Timothy Williamson’s book Knowledge and Its Limits. In slogan form, to put knowledge first is to treat knowledge as basic or fundamental, and to explain other states—belief, justification, maybe even content itself—in terms of knowledge, instead of vice versa. The idea has proven enormously interesting, and equally controversial. But deep foundational questions about its actual content remain relatively unexplored. We (...) think that a wide variety of views travel under the banner of ‘knowledge first’ (and that the slogan doesn’t help much with differentiating them). Furthermore, we think it is far from straightforward to draw connections between certain of these views; they are more independent than they are often assumed to be. Our project here is exploratory and clarificatory. We mean to tease apart various ‘knowledge first’ claims, and explore what connections they do or do not have with one another. Our taxonomy is offered in §2, and connections are explored in §3. The result, we hope, will be a clearer understanding of just what the knowledge first theses are. We conclude, in §4, with some brief suggestions as to how we think the various theses might be evaluated. (shrink)
I criticize Timothy Williamson's characterization of thought experiments on which the central judgments are judgments of contingent counterfactuals. The fragility of these counterfactuals makes them too easily false, and too difficult to know.
I argue that evaluating the knowledge norm of practical reasoning is less straightforward than is often assumed in the literature. In particular, cases in which knowledge is intuitively present, but action is intuitively epistemically unwarranted, provide no traction against the knowledge norm. The knowledge norm indicates what it is appropriately to hold a particular content as a reason for action; it does not provide a theory of what reasons are sufficient for what actions. Absent a general theory about what sorts (...) of reasons, if genuinely held, would be sufficient to justify actions—a question about which the knowledge norm is silent—many of the kinds of cases prevalent in the literature do not bear on the knowledge norm. (shrink)
According to some critics, traditional armchair philosophical methodology relies in an illicit way on intuitions. But the particular structure of the critique is not often carefully articulated—a significant omission, since some of the critics’ arguments for skepticism about philosophy threaten to generalize to skepticism in general. More recently, some experimentalist critics have attempted to articulate a critique that is especially tailored to affect traditional methods, without generalizing too widely. Such critiques are more reasonable, and more worthy of serious consideration, than (...) are blunter critiques that generalize far too widely. I argue that a careful (empirical!) examination of extant philosophical practices shows that traditional philosophical methods can meet these more reasonable challenges. (shrink)
This chapter will consider three themes relating to the significance of intuitions in contemporary philosophy. In §1, I’ll review and explore the relationship between philosophical use of words like ‘intuitively’ and any kinds of mental states that might be called ‘intuitions’. In §2, I’ll consider the widely-discussed analogy between intuitive experience and perceptual experience, drawing out some interesting similarities and differences. Finally, in §3, I’ll introduce the recent movement of ‘experimental philosophy’, and consider to what extent its projects are tied (...) up with questions about the role of intuitions in philosophy. My primary aim will be to survey and explain; I will make no effort, however, to hide the fact that I’m a philosopher and a partisan to some of these debates. So there will be some arguments for controversial points of view, too—hopefully these will be easily perceptible, and my opponents fairly represented. Limitations of space demand a rather superficial treatment of most of our topics; endnotes will direct the reader to more comprehensive discussions. (shrink)
How radical is the idea that reasons are factive? Some philosophers consider it a dramatic departure from orthodoxy, with surprising implications about the bearing of the external world on what credences it’s reasonable to have, what beliefs are epistemically appropriate, and what actions are rational. I deny these implications. In the cases where external matters imply differences in factive states, there will inevitably be important weaker factive states in common. For example, someone who knows it is raining has many factive (...) states in common with someone who has a Gettiered belief that it is raining, or one who falsely but justifiably believes that it is raining. The factive reasons denied to subjects in Gettier cases or skeptical scenarios are in an important sense redundant; appropriate belief or action supervenes on internal states, even if reasons must be factive (and even if appropriate belief and action supervenes on reasons). The degree to which the strategy is applicable depends substantively on epistemic assumptions about basic or foundational knowledge. I argue that even given a significantly externalist approach to the latter internalist intuitions about rational credence, belief, and action can be vindicated. (shrink)
Epistemic contextualism is a recent and hotly debated topic in philosophy. Contextualists argue that the language we use to attribute knowledge can only be properly understood relative to a specified context. How much can our knowledge depend on context? Is there a limit, and if so, where does it lie? What is the relationship between epistemic contextualism and fundamental topics in philosophy such as objectivity, truth, and relativism? The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Contextualism is an outstanding reference source to the (...) key topics, problems, and debates in this exciting subject and is the first collection of its kind. Comprising thirty-seven chapters by a team of international contributors the _Handbook_ is divided into eight parts: Data and motivations for contextualism Methodological issues Epistemological implications Doing without contextualism Relativism and disagreement Semantic implementations Contextualism outside ‘knows’ Foundational linguistic issues. Within these sections central issues, debates and problems are examined, including contextualism and thought experiments and paradoxes such as the Gettier problem and the lottery paradox; semantics and pragmatics; the relationship between contextualism, relativism, and disagreement; and contextualism about related topics like ethical judgments and modality. The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Contextualism is essential reading for students and researchers in epistemology and philosophy of language. It will also be very useful for those in related fields such as linguistics and philosophy of mind. (shrink)
I distinguish (§1) two projects in modal epistemology—one about how we come to know modal truths, and one about why we have the ability so to come to know. The latter, I suggest, (§§2–3) is amenable to an evolutionary treatment in terms of general capacities developed to evaluate quotidian modal claims. I compare (§4) this approach to a recent suggestion in a similar spirit by Christopher Hill and Timothy Williamson, emphasizing counterfactual conditionals instead of quotidian modals; I argue that while (...) there are some reasons to prefer the quotidian modals approach, there are none favoring the Hill/Williamson counterfactual approach. I conclude (§5) with a suggestion that the remaining questions both approaches leave unanswered ought not to be too troubling. (shrink)
We develop a novel challenge to pragmatic encroachment. The significance of belief-desire psychology requires treating questions about what to believe as importantly prior to questions about what to do; pragmatic encroachment undermines that priority, and therefore undermines the significance of belief-desire psychology. This, we argue, is a higher cost than has been recognized by epistemologists considering embracing pragmatic encroachment.
An infuential twenty-first century philosophical project posits a central role for knowledge: knowledge is more fundamental than epistemic states like belief and justification. So-called “knowledge first” theorists find support for this thought in identifying central theoretical roles for knowledge. I argue that a similar methodology supports a privileged role for more specific category of basic knowledge. Some of the roles that knowledge first theorists have posited for knowledge generally are better suited for basic knowledge.
One of the more visible recent developments in philosophical methodology is the experimental philosophy movement. On its surface, the experimentalist challenge looks like a dramatic threat to the apriority of philosophy; ‘experimentalist’ is nearly antonymic with ‘aprioristic’. This appearance, I suggest, is misleading; the experimentalist critique is entirely unrelated to questions about the apriority of philosophical investigation. There are many reasons to resist the skeptical conclusions of negative experimental philosophers; but even if they are granted—even if the experimentalists are right (...) to claim that we must do much more careful laboratory work in order legitimately to be confident in our philosophical judgments— the apriority of philosophy is unimpugned. The kinds of scientific investigation that experimental philosophers argue to be necessary involve merely enabling sensory experiences. Although they are not enabling in the sense of permitting concept acquisition, they are enabling in another epistemically significant way that is also consistent with the apriority of philosophy. (shrink)
What is it to explain away an intuition? Philosophers regularly attempt to explain intuitions away, but it is often unclear what the success conditions for their project consist in. I attempt to articulate some of these conditions, taking philosophical case studies as guides, and arguing that many attempts to explain away intuitions underestimate the challenge the project of explaining away involves. I will conclude, therefore, that explaining away intuitions is a more difficult task than has sometimes been appreciated; I also (...) suggest, however, that the importance of explaining away intuitions has often been exaggerated. (shrink)
Deception sometimes results in nonconsensual sex. A recent body of literature diagnoses such violations as invalidating consent: the agreement is not morally transformative, which is why the sexual contact is a rights violation. We pursue a different explanation for the wrongs in question: there is valid consent, but it is not consent to the sex act that happened. Semantic conventions play a key role in distinguishing deceptions that result in nonconsensual sex (like stealth condom removal) from those that don’t (like (...) white lies). Our framework is also applicable to more controversial cases, like those implicated in so-called “gender fraud” complaints. (shrink)
Timothy Williamson (2000) makes a strong prima facie case for the identification of a subject's total evidence with the subject's total knowledge (E = K). However, as Brian Weatherson (Ms) has observed, there are intuitively problematic consequences of E = K. In this article, I'll offer a contextualist implementation of E = K that provides the resources to respond to Weatherson's argument; the result will be a novel approach to knowledge and evidence that is suggestive of an unexplored contextualist approach (...) to basic knowledge. (shrink)
I develop a class of counterexamples to Blome-Tillmann’s ‘Presuppositional Epistemic Contextualism’. There are cases in which subjects are ignorant of key propositions that are inconsistent with the pragmatic presuppositions in conversational contexts in which they are discussed; in such contexts, PEC wrongly predicts the subjects to satisfy certain ‘knows’ attributions.
Having fascinated some of the greatest philosophers from the earliest times, dreaming figures importantly in the history of philosophy, as in Plato’s Theaetetus, Augustine’s Confessions, and, perhaps most famously, Descartes’s Mediations. By far the greatest philosophical focus on dreaming has been epistemic: Socrates suggests to Theaetetus that since he cannot tell whether he is dreaming, he cannot trust his senses to know contingent facts about the world around him. And a similar worry drives Descartes’s radical doubt in the First Meditation. (...) We might think that dream skepticism is, among the radical Cartesian skeptical scenarios, a particularly worrying one, since dreams, unlike evil demons, are a commonplace of everyday life. (shrink)
How should we understand good philosophical inquiry? Ernest Sosa has argued that the key to answering this question lies with virtue-based epistemology. According to virtue-based epistemology, competences are prior to epistemic justification. More precisely, a subject is justified in having some type of belief only because she could have a belief of that type by exercising her competences. Virtue epistemology is well positioned to explain why, in forming false philosophical beliefs, agents are often less rational than it is possible to (...) be. False philosophical beliefs are often unjustified—and the agent is thereby less rational for having them—precisely because these beliefs could not be formed by exercising competences. But, virtue epistemology is not well positioned to explain why, in failing to form some true philosophical beliefs, agents are less rational than it is possible to be. In cases where agents fall short by failing to believe philosophical truths, the problem is not that they believe things they shouldn’t, but that they lack beliefs they ought to have. We argue that Timothy Williamson's recent critique of the a priori/a posteriori distinction falls prey to similar problem cases. Williamson fails to see that a type of belief might be a priori justified if and only if, even without any special confirming experiences, agents fall short by failing to have this type of belief. We conclude that there are types of beliefs that are deeply a priori justified for any agent regardless of what epistemic competences the agent has. However, we also point out that this view has a problem of its own: it appears to make the acquisition of a priori knowledge too easy. We end by suggesting that a move back towards virtue-based epistemology is necessary. But in order for this move to be effective, epistemic competences will have to be understood very differently than in the reliabilist tradition. (shrink)
In recent years, some defenders of traditional philosophical methodology have argued that certain critiques of armchair methods are mistaken in assuming that intuitions play central evidential roles in traditional philosophical methods. According to this kind of response, experimental philosophers attack a straw man; it doesn’t matter whether intuitions are reliable, because philosophers don’t use intuitions in the way assumed. Deutsch (2010), Williamson (2007), and Cappelen (2012) all defend traditional methods in something like this way. I also endorsed something like this (...) line in Ichikawa (2014a). -/- In this contribution, I will follow up on this sort of defence of traditional philosophical methods in three ways. In §1, I will rehearse and extend some of my reasons for challenging the idea that traditional methods depend on intuitions in an evidential role. (My reasons are very different from those discussed in (Cappelen, 2012).) I will also engage with some recent more sophisticated attempts to establish the idea that intuitions play evidential roles in philosophy, such as that of Chudnoff (2013). In §2, I will consider and argue against a dismissive response to such positions from experimental philosophers, who consider the question of philosophical reliance on intuitions to be irrelevant to the experimentalist critique. But in §3, I will argue that it would also be a mistake to conclude (as Herman Cappelen does) that the critique is rendered totally irrelevant by the denial of the evidential role of intuitions; I defend a more moderate view on which the bearing of experimental studies of philosophical intuitions is relevant for philosophical methodology, but only in a relatively limited way. (shrink)
This chapter considers Ernest Sosa’s contributions to philosophical methodology. In Section 1, Sosa’s approach to the role of intuitions in the epistemology of philosophy is considered and related to his broader virtue-theoretic epistemological framework. Of particular focus is the question whether false or unjustified intuitions may justify. Section 2 considers Sosa’s response to sceptical challenges about intuitions, especially those deriving from experimental philosophy. I argue that Sosa’s attempt to attribute apparent disagreement in survey data to difference in meaning fails, but (...) that some of his other, more general, responses to experimentalist sceptics succeed. (shrink)
This chapter has four central aims. First, in §1, I distinguish two ideas within epistemology that sometimes travel under the name ‘contextualism’ — the ‘situational contextualist’ idea that an individual’s context, especially their social context, can make for a difference in what they know, and the ‘linguistic contextualist’ idea that discourse using the word ‘knows’ and its cognates is context-sensitive, expressing dif- ferent contents in different conversational contexts. -/- Second, in §2, I situate contextualism with respect to several influential ideas (...) in feminist epistemology. These ideas are thoroughgoingly contextualist in the situational sense; I’ll explore the prospects for linguistic contextualist analogues or implementations of them. Simple connections between these feminist ideas and linguistic contextualism will prove elusive, but more subtle ones are possible, and sometimes attractive. -/- §3 considers the degree to which contextual epistemic parameters are determined interpersonally, as opposed to individualistically. Should contextualists hold that speakers can individually determine the contextual parameters that influence the truth- conditions of their utterances? Or are they fixed at a broader social level? I’ll rehearse some influential reasons to opt for the latter, more social, form of contextualism. -/- In §4 I discuss the practical and moral significance of speakers’ choices of epistemic parameters, given contextualism. For example, I’ll consider how standards-raising can be used to discredit evidential sources, with an eye towards the social and moral consequences of such moves. (shrink)
Jennifer Windt’s Dreaming is an enormously rich and thorough book, developing illuminating connections between dreaming, the methodology of psychology, and various philosophical subfields. I’ll focus on two epistemological threads that run through the book. The first has to do with the status of certain assumptions about dreams. Windt argues that the assumptions that dreams involve experiences, and that dream reports are reliable — are methodologically necessary default assumptions, akin to Wittgensteinian hinge propositions. I’ll suggest that Windt is quietly pre-supposing some (...) sceptical assumptions, and that recent literature in epistemic externalism may bear in important ways on her arguments. The second thread involves the perennial sceptical worry that dreaming threatens ordinary knowledge. I’ll suggest again that Windt makes tacit sceptical assumptions one may wish to resist. (shrink)
Among the tools the epistemologist brings to the table ought to be, I suggest, a firm understanding of the imagination--one that is informed by philosophy of mind, cognitive psychology, and neuroscience. In my dissertation, I highlight several ways in which such an understanding of the imagination can yield insight into traditional questions in epistemology. My dissertation falls into three parts. In Part I, I argue that dreaming should be understood in imaginative terms, and that this has important implications for questions (...) about dream skepticism. In Part II, I argue that an understanding of the imagination is important for understanding important parts of philosophical methodology--particularly those involving thought experiments. I mean in Part II to be vindicating a great deal of traditional methodology. In Part III, I explore what I take to be a number of deep connections between knowledge and counterfactuals. I defend a form of contextualism in each domain, and argue that inference among imaginings, with its important structural similarities to inference in belief, plays a central role in the epistemology of counterfactuals. (shrink)