Relativism, knowledge and understanding

Episteme 11 (1):35-52 (2014)
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The arguments for and against a truth-relativist semantics for propositional knowledge attributions (KTR) have been debated almost exclusively in the philosophy of language. But what implications would this semantic thesis have in epistemology? This question has been largely unexplored. The aim of this paper is to establish and critique several ramifications of KTR in mainstream epistemology. The first section of the paper develops, over a series of arguments, the claim that MacFarlane's (2005, 2010) core argument for KTR ultimately motivates (for better or worse) the extension of a truth-relativist semantics to a subset of understanding attributions – attributions of understanding-why. I conclude by presenting some reasons to think that even if KTR were otherwise plausible, a truth-relativist semantics for understanding-why attributions is not. These claims, taken together, constitute a kind of epistemological argument against MacFarlane-style truth-relativism for knowledge attributions.
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Archival date: 2013-09-16
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