Defeatism Defeated (with Max Baker-Hytch), to appear in Philosophical Perspectives.
Many epistemologists are enamored with a defeat condition on knowledge. In this paper we present some implementation problems for defeatism, understood along either internalist or externalist lines. We then propose that one who accepts a knowledge norm of belief, according to which one ought to believe only what one knows, can explain away much of the motivation for defeatism. This is an important result, because on the one hand it respects the plausibility of the intuitions about defeat shared by many in epistemology; but on the other hand, it obviates the need to provide a unified account of defeat which plays well with the most plausible views of how knowledge fits with evidential probability.
Lying, Belief, and Knowledge. For The Oxford Handbook of Lying, ed. by Jörg Meibauer, forthcoming.
What is the relationship between lying, belief, and knowledge? Prominent accounts of lying define it in terms of belief, namely telling someone something one believes to be false, often with the intent to deceive. This paper develops a novel account of lying by deriving evaluative dimensions of responsibility from the knowledge norm of assertion. Lies are best understood as special cases of vicious assertion; lying is the anti-paradigm of proper assertion. This enables an account of lying in terms of knowledge: roughly, lying is telling someone something you know ain't so.
Some philosophers oppose recent arguments for the Knowledge Account of Assertion by claiming that assertion, being an act much like any other, will be subject to norms governing acts generally, such as those articulated by Grice for the purpose of successful, cooperative endeavours. But in fact, Grice is a traitor to their cause; or rather, they are his dissenters, not his disciples. Drawing on Grice's unpublished papers, I show that he thought of asserting as a special linguistic act in need of its own norm, and he tied his maxim of Quality to knowledge. I also develop a simple Gricean-inspired argument showing that the Quality maxim is not dependent on the Cooperative Principle. If it is not thus dependent, then the Cooperative Principle cannot be the explanation of, or source of normativity for, the Quality maxim. Thus, leveraging the insights informing the maxim of Quality actually provides the resources for a distinctive positive case that knowledge is the constitutive norm of assertion.
Expert testimony figures in recent debates over how best to understand the norm of assertion and the domain-specific epistemic expectations placed on testifiers. Cases of experts asserting with only isolated second-hand knowledge (Lackey 2011, 2013) have been used to shed light on whether knowledge is sufficient for epistemically permissible assertion. I argue that relying on such cases of expert testimony introduces several problems concerning how we understand expert knowledge, and the sharing of such knowledge through testimony. Refinements are needed to clarify exactly what principles are being tested by such cases; but once refined, such cases raise more questions than they answer. (Lackey replies here.)
The problem of evil is the most prominent argument against the existence of God. Skeptical theists contend that it is not a good argument. Their reasons for this contention vary widely, involving such notions as CORNEA, epistemic appearances, 'gratuitous' evils, 'levering' evidence, and the representativeness of goods. We aim to clarify some confusions about these notions, and also to offer a few new responses to the problem of evil.
Encyclopedia article covering the growing literature on the Knowledge Norm of Assertion (and its rivals), the Knowledge Norm of Action (and pragmatic encroachment), the Knowledge Norm of Belief, and the Knowledge Norm of Disagreement.
Believing on Authority, European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 6 (2014): 133-144.
Linda Zagzebski's Epistemic Authority (OUP, 2012) brings together issues in social epistemology with topics in moral and political philosophy as well as philosophy of religion. In this paper I criticize her discussion of self-trust and rationality, which sets up the main argument of the book; I consider how her view of authority relates to some issues of epistemic authority in testimony; and I raise some concerns about her treatment of religious epistemology and religious authority in particular. (Zagzebski's replies appear in this issue.)
The Knowledge Account of Assertion -- roughly: one should not assert what one does not know -- can explain a variety of Moorean conjunctions, a fact often cited as evidence in its favor. David Sosa ("Dubious Assertions," Philosophical Studies, 2009) has objected that the account does not generalize satisfactorily, since it cannot explain the infelicity of certain iterated conjunctions without appealing to the controversial 'KK' principle. This essay responds by showing how the Knowledge Account can handle such conjunctions without use of the KK principle. (Discussed by Martin Montminy here.)
John N. Williams (1994) and Matthew Weiner (2005) invoke predictions in order to undermine the normative relevance of knowledge for assertions; in particular, Weiner argues, predictions are important counterexamples to the Knowledge Account of Assertion (KAA). I argue here that they are not true counterexamples at all, a point that can be agreed upon even by those who reject KAA.
The Knowledge Account of Assertion (KAA) has received added support recently from data on prompting assertion (John Turri 2010) and from a refinement suggesting that assertions ought to express knowledge (John Turri 2011). This paper adds another argument from parenthetical positioning, and then argues that KAA's unified explanation of some of the earliest data adduced in its favor recommends KAA over its rivals. (Discussed by Martijn Blaauw here, and by Rachel McKinnon & John Turri here.)
The Modal Gap: the Objective Problem of Lessing's Ditch(es) and Kierkegaard's Subjective Reply, Religious Studies 42 (2006): 27-44.
This essay expands upon the suggestion that G.E. Lessing's infamous 'ditch' is actually three ditches: temporal, metaphysical, and existential gaps. It examines the complex problems these ditches raise, and then proposes that Kierkegaard's Philosophical Fragments and Concluding Unscientific Postscript exhibit a similar triadic structure, which may signal a deliberate attempt to engage and respond to Lessing's three gaps. Viewing the Climacean project in this way offers an enhanced understanding of the intricacies of Lessing's rationalist approach to both religion and historical truth, and illuminates Climacus's subjective response to Lessing.
Paul Grice, in Oxford Bibliographies in Philosophy. Oxford University Press, March 2015.
Epistemology Personalized. [under review]
Recent epistemology has focused almost exclusively on propositional knowledge. This paper considers an underexplored area of epistemology, namely knowledge of persons: if propositional knowledge is a state of mind, consisting in a subject's attitude to a (true) proposition, the account developed here thinks of interpersonal knowledge as a state of minds, involving a subject's attitude to another (existing) subject. This kind of knowledge is distinct from propositional knowledge, but it exhibits a gradability characteristic of context-sensitivity, and admits of shifty thresholds. It is supported by a wide range of unexplored linguistic data and intuitive cases; and it promises to illuminate debates in epistemology, philosophy of religion, and ethics.
Memory and Retrospective Certainty in Descartes. [undergoing revision]
This essay considers Descartes's epistemological project, particularly as it develops in the first three Meditations. It begins by highlighting the types of certainty in the early Meditations, which sets up the main focus: to provide an interpretation of the place of memory and retrospective certainty as they relate to metaphysical doubt and the theistic proof. It then evaluates Harry Frankfurt's (1962) well-known criticisms of the earlier "memory interpretation," and disarms elements of his refutation. I show not that his criticisms are entirely unsuccessful, but that his resulting suggestion, which has become the received view -- that memory is only incidental to Descartes's concern -- is unwarranted. I interpret the many Cartesian passages linking memory and the theistic proof: these offer an explanation of why Descartes consistently construes metaphysical doubt, and why he contrasts the epistemic positions of the atheist and the theist, in terms of retrospection. It concludes with an account of Descartes's subtle reasoning by which he evades the common charge of circularity.
Pragmatic Encroachment and Theistic Knowledge.
If knowledge is sensitive to practical stakes, then whether one knows depends in part on the practical costs of being wrong. When considering religious belief, the practical costs of being wrong about theism may differ dramatically between the theist (if there is no God) and the atheist (if there is a God). This paper explores the prospects, on pragmatic encroachment, for knowledge of theism (even if true) and of atheism (even if true), given two types of practical costs, namely by holding a false belief, and by missing out on a true belief. These considerations set up a more general puzzle of epistemic preference when faced with the choice between two beliefs, only one of which could become knowledge.
Epistemic Parentheticals. (with Martijn Blaauw) [undergoing revision]
Parenthetical verbs take on a particular use in the first person simple present tense: they commonly serve to clarify the speaker's own emotional or evidential position, or her own take on what speech act she is making. The parenthetical use ('slifting' or 'complement preposing' in linguistics) of epistemic language in assertion---particularly 'I know,' 'I believe,' and 'I think'---attracts interest because the use of such language signals a speaker's (perceived) strength of epistemic position. Recent debate over the epistemic norm of assertion has renewed interest in how epistemic verbs, especially when used parenthetically, may be handled in a systematic way. This paper introduces new linguistic considerations from parenthetically positioned epistemic verbs, and develops an argument for how such considerations are best explained.
Lotteries and Prefaces. For The Routledge Handbook on Epistemic Contextualism, ed. by Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa (forthcoming 2016).
Article on the contextualist approach to handling the lottery and preface paradoxes (in progress).