Neural phase: a new problem for the modal account of epistemic luck

Synthese (8):1-18 (2019)
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One of the most widely recognised intuitions about knowledge is that knowing precludes believing truly as a matter of luck. On Pritchard’s highly influential modal account of epistemic luck, luckily true beliefs are, roughly, those for which there are many close possible worlds in which the same belief formed in the same way is false. My aim is to introduce a new challenge to this account. Starting from the observation—as documented by a number of recent EEG studies—that our capacity to detect visual stimuli fluctuates with the phase of our neural oscillations, I argue that there can be very close possible worlds in which an actual-world detectable stimulus is undetectable. However, this doesn’t diminish our willingness to attribute knowledge in the case that the stimulus is detectable, even when undetectability would result in the same belief formed in the same way being false. As I will argue at length, the modal account appears unable to accommodate this result.

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Adam Michael Bricker
University of Turku


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