Skip to content

Abstracts

The Conditionals of Deliberation:
Practical deliberation often involves conditional judgments about what will (likely) happen if certain alternatives are pursued.  It is widely assumed that the conditionals useful in deliberation are counterfactual or subjunctive conditionals.  Against this, I argue that the conditionals of deliberation are indicatives.  Key to the argument is an account of the relation between “straightforward” future-directed conditionals like “If the house is not painted, it will soon look quite shabby” and “‘were’d-up” FDCs like “If the house were not to be painted, it would soon look quite shabby”: an account on which both of these types of FDCs are grouped with the indicatives for semantic treatment and on which, while conditionals of both types are properly used in means-ends deliberations, those of the “were”d-up variety are especially well-suited for that purpose.

Gradable Adjectives: A Defense of Pluralism:
This paper attacks the Implicit Reference Class Theory of gradable adjectives and proposes instead a “pluralist” approach to the semantics of gradable adjectives, according to which gradable adjectives can be governed by a variety of different types of standards, one (but only one) of which is the group-indexed standards utilized by the Implicit Reference Class Theory.

“Bamboozled by Our Own Words”: Semantic Blindness and Some Objections to Contextualism
Epistemic contextualism is defended from several objections which allege that the way that “knows” actually behaves within some metalinguistic claims, belief reports, and speech reports is problematically different from what contextualism would predict, and from the objection that contextualism rules certain claims to be compatible with one another though they seem inconsistent.  Against the suggestion that contextualism problematically implicates speakers in “semantic blindness,” it is argued that the way that contextualism does implicate speakers in semantic blindness is not a strike against the view, because speakers are involved in equally problematic semantic blindness whether or not contextualism is true.

The Ordinary Language Basis for Contextualism and the New Invariantism:
This paper presents the features of the ordinary use of “knows” that make for a compelling case for the contextualist account of that verb, and presents and defends the methodology that takes us from that data to a contextualist conclusion.  Along the way, the superiority of contextualism over subject-sensitive invariantism is defended, and, in the final section, important objections to contextualism based on how “knows” operates in comparative judgments of content, metalinguistic claims, belief reports, and speech reports are answered.

Direct Warrant Realism:
Direct Warrant Realism is explained and defended.  DWR is a position in the epistemology of perception according to which our most basic perceptual beliefs enjoy some direct warrant, but not enough to render them rationally acceptable.  Rather, the beliefs in question are rationally acceptable due in large part to relations of mutual support that exist among them.  Sections 2-4 defend Weak Foundationalism, the general structural view underlying DWR, against both foundationalism and coherentism.  Sections 5-7 defend DWR itself.  Section 8 addresses an important parity argument for the rationality of certain religious beliefs given by William Alston, showing that this argument fails given the tenability of DWR as an account of the rationality of perceptual beliefs.

The Problem with Subject-Sensitive Invariantism:
A new form of Invariantism in epistemology, the Subject-Sensitive Invariantism of John Hawthorne and Jason Stanley, now stalks contextualism, threatening both to provide a rival account of the linguistic phenomena contextualism seeks to explain within an invariantist semantics, and also, as Thomas Blackson points out, to undermine an argument for contextualism in DeRose’s earlier “Assertion, Knowledge, and Context.”  The current paper attacks Subject-Sensitive Invariantism by showing how it mishandles certain third-person attributions of knowledge.

Single Scoreboard Semantics:
What happens to the “conversational score” when speakers in a conversation push the score for a context-sensitive term in different directions?  In epistemology, contextualists are often construed as holding that both the skeptic (“You don’t know!”) and her opponent (“Oh, yes I do!”) speak truthfully when they debate.  This assumes a “multiple scoreboards” version of contextualism.  But contextualists themselves typically opt for “single scoreboard” views on which such apparently competing claims really do conflict.  This paper explores several single scoreboard options for contextualists, opting in the end for the “gap view,” on which neither of our debaters speaks truthfully.

Sosa, Safety, Sensitivity, and Skeptical Hypotheses:
Ernest Sosa has advanced an important approach to knowledge and skepticism based on a “safety” condition for knowledge, arguing that his approach is superior both to accounts that instead stress the importance of “sensitivity” to knowledge, and to contextualist solutions to skepticism.  This paper critiques Sosa’s account, arguing that it does not deliver the promised advantages and answering Sosa’s objections to contextualist solutions to skepticism.

Assertion, Knowledge, and Context:
This paper uses the knowledge account of assertion (KAA) in defense of epistemological contextualism.  Part 1 explores the main problem afflicting contextualism, the “Generality Objection.”  Part 2 presents and defends both KAA and a powerful new positive argument that it provides for contextualism.  Part 3 uses KAA to answer the Generality Objection, and also casts other shadows over the prospects for anti-contextualism.

Solving the Skeptical Problem:
A new contextualist response to the problem of skepticism, built upon the “Rule of Sensitivity,” is explained and shown to be superior to other solutions, including other contextualist solutions, Nozick’s solution, and, especially, skeptical solutions.  It is argued that the best conclusion we can draw from the skeptic’s argument is that we’re not ordinarily mistaken when we claim or ascribe knowledge, despite the best efforts of the “bold skeptic” to show that we are.  Instead, the main insights to be drawn from a study of the skeptic’s argument involve the context-sensitivity of attributions of knowledge, and the role that the Rule of Sensitivity plays in changing the epistemic standards that govern these attributions.

Contextualism and Knowledge Attributions:
This paper is an exposition, clarification, and defense of contextualism: the view that there is a contextually determined variance in the epistemic standards a subject S must meet in order for a sentence attributing knowledge to S to be true.  Part I introduces and motivates the discussion of contextualism by means of a pair of cases which displays such a variation of epistemic standards.  Part II distinguishes contextualism from what has been called the Relevant Alternatives theory of knowledge (RA).  It is argued that of the two types of factors which are plausibly thought on RA to affect what the range of relevant alternatives is, only one type affects the meaning or content of a knowledge attribution; that one can accept RA without being a contextualist; and that RA theorists have gone wrong in attempting to tie the content of a knowledge attribution on a given occasion of use too closely to what the range of relevant alternatives is on that occasion.  Part III defends contextualism from objections that initially appear to be very powerful: the objection that the issue of whether a subject knows something or not seems to be independent of the contextual interests of those who happen to be talking about the subject at a given time; and the related charge that, after a knowledge claim is made and the standards for knowledge then go up, contextualism would countenance such an absurd utterance as, “Well, I did know before, but I no longer know.”  It is shown that contextualism would have you say no such thing.

Epistemic Possibilities:
In Sections A-F, a knowledge-based analysis of epistemic possibilities (possibilities that sentences of the form “It is possible that P,” where the embedded P is in the indicative mood, typically express) is presented and defended after some rival proposals (notably those of Hacking and Teller) are discussed and argued against. The principle that S does not know that P if it is possible (from S’s point of view) that not-P is defended in Section G. In Section H it is argued that an alleged entailment–one which would connect epistemic possibilities to possibilities of another kind, and would jeopardize the epistemic nature of “epistemic” possibilities–does not obtain.

Last modified 5 February 2011
Keith DeRose

Skip to toolbar