Losing Confidence in Luminosity

Noûs:1-30 (2020)
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A mental state is luminous if, whenever an agent is in that state, they are in a position to know that they are. Following Timothy Williamson’s Knowledge and Its Limits, a wave of recent work has explored whether there are any non-trivial luminous mental states. A version of Williamson’s anti-luminosity appeals to a safety- theoretic principle connecting knowledge and confidence: if an agent knows p, then p is true in any nearby scenario where she has a similar level of confidence in p. However, the relevant notion of confidence is relatively underexplored. This paper develops a precise theory of confidence: an agent’s degree of confidence in p is the objective chance they will rely on p in practical reasoning. This theory of confidence is then used to critically evaluate the anti-luminosity argument, leading to the surprising conclusion that although there are strong reasons for thinking that luminosity does not obtain, they are quite different from those the existing literature has considered. In particular, we show that once the notion of confidence is properly understood, the failure of luminosity follows from the assumption that knowledge requires high confidence, and does not require any kind of safety principle as a premise
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