What a maker’s knowledge could be

Synthese 195 (1):465-481 (2018)
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Three classic distinctions specify that truths can be necessary versus contingent,analytic versus synthetic, and a priori versus a posteriori. The philosopher reading this article knows very well both how useful and ordinary such distinctions are in our conceptual work and that they have been subject to many and detailed debates, especially the last two. In the following pages, I do not wish to discuss how far they may be tenable. I shall assume that, if they are reasonable and non problematic in some ordinary cases, then they can be used in order to understand what kind of knowledge the maker’s knowledge is. By this I mean the sort of knowledge that Alice enjoys when she holds the information that Bob’s coffee is sweetened because she just put two spoons of sugar in it herself. The maker’s knowledge tradition is quite important but it is not mainstream in modern and analytic epistemology and lacks grounding in terms of exactly what sort of knowledge one is talking about. My suggestion is that this grounding can be provided by a minimalist approach, based on an information-theoretical analysis. In the article, I argue that we need to decouple a fourth distinction, namely informative versus uninformative, from the previous three and, in particular, from its implicit association with analytic versus synthetic and a priori versus a posteriori; such a decoupling facilitates, and is facilitated by, moving from a monoagent to a multiagent approach: the distinctions qualify a proposition, a message, or some information not just in themselves but relationally, with respect to an informational agent; the decoupling and the multiagent approach enable a re-mapping of currently available positions in epistemology on these four dichotomies; within such a re-mapping, two positions, capturing the nature of a witness’ knowledge and of a maker’s knowledge, can best be described as contingent, synthetic, a posteriori, and uninformative and as contingent, synthetic, weakly a priori, and uninformative respectively. In the conclusion, I indicate why the analysis of the maker’s knowledge has important consequences in all those cases in which the poietic intervention on a system determines the truth of the model of that system.
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