In Our Shoes or the Protagonist’s? Knowledge, Justification, and Projection

In Tania Lombrozo, Shaun Nichols & Joshua Knobe (eds.), Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy, Vol. 3. Oxford University Press. pp. 189-212 (2020)
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Sackris and Beebe (2014) report the results of a series of studies that seem to show that there are cases in which many people are willing to attribute knowledge to a protagonist even when her belief is unjustified. These results provide some reason to conclude that the folk concept of knowledge does not treat justification as necessary for its deployment. In this paper, we report a series of results that can be seen as supporting this conclusion by going some way towards ruling out an alternative account of Sackris and Beebe’s results—the possibility that the knowledge attributions that they witnessed largely stem from protagonist projection, a phenomenon in language use and interpretation in which the speaker uses words that the relevant protagonist might use to describe her own situation and the listener interprets the speaker accordingly. With that said, we do caution the reader against drawing the conclusion too strongly, on the basis of results like those reported here and by Sackris and Beebe. There are alternative possibilities regarding what drives the observed knowledge attributions in cases of unjustified true belief that must be ruled out before, on the basis of such results, we can conclude with much confidence that the folk concept of knowledge does not treat justification as necessary for its deployment.
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