Safety and Dream Scepticism in Sosa’s Epistemology

Synthese (6) (2024)
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A common objection to Sosa’s epistemology is that it countenances, in an objectionable way, unsafe knowledge. This objection, under closer inspection, turns out to be in far worse shape than Sosa’s critics have realised. Sosa and his defenders have offered two central response types to the idea that allowing unsafe knowledge is problematic: one response type adverts to the animal/reflective knowledge distinction that is characteristic of bi-level virtue epistemology. The other less-discussed response type appeals to the threat of dream scepticism, and in particular, to the idea that many of our everyday perceptual beliefs are unsafe through the nearness of the dream possibility. The latter dreaming response to the safety objection to Sosa’s virtue epistemology has largely flown under the radar in contemporary discussions of safety and knowledge. We think that, suitably articulated in view of research in the philosophy and science of dreaming, it has much more going for it than has been appreciated. This paper further develops, beyond what Sosa does himself, the dreaming argument in response to those who think safety (as traditionally understood) is a condition on knowledge and who object to Sosa’s account on the grounds that it fails this condition. The payoffs of further developing this argument will be not only a better understanding of the importance of insights about dreaming against safety as a condition on knowledge, but also some reason to think a weaker safety condition, one that is relativised to SSS (i.e., skill/shape/situation) conditions for competence exercise, gets better results all things considered as an anti-luck codicil on knowledge.

Author Profiles

J. Adam Carter
University of Glasgow
Robert Cowan
University of Glasgow


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