Against Contextualism: Belief, Evidence, & the Bank Cases

Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 17 (1):57-70 (2013)
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Contextualism (the view that ‘knowledge’ and its variants are context-sensitive) has been supported in large part through appeal to intuitions about Keith DeRose’s Bank Cases. Recently, however, the contextualist construal of these cases has come under fire from Kent Bach and Jennifer Nagel who question whether the Bank Case subject’s confidence can remain constant in both low- and high-stakes cases. Having explained the Bank Cases and this challenge to them, I argue that DeRose has given a reasonable reply to this initial challenge. However, I proceed to argue that the current stalemate can be broken. Seeking to extend the Bach-Nagel critique, I offer a novel interpretation of the Bank Cases according to which the subject’s evidence changes between low- and high-stakes cases. If I am correct, then, given the amount of support the Bank Cases have been thought to lend contextualism, the case for contextualism is seriously weakened.

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Logan Paul Gage
Franciscan University of Steubenville


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