Counterfactual Knowledge, Factivity, and the Overgeneration of Knowledge

Erkenntnis 87 (5):2243-2263 (2020)
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Antirealists who hold the knowability thesis, namely that all truths are knowable, have been put on the defensive by the Church-Fitch paradox of knowability. Rejecting the non-factivity of the concept of knowability used in that paradox, Edgington has adopted a factive notion of knowability, according to which only actual truths are knowable. She has used this new notion to reformulate the knowability thesis. The result has been argued to be immune against the Church-Fitch paradox, but it has encountered several other triviality objections. Schlöder in a forthcoming paper defends the general approach taken by Edgington, but amends it to save it in turn from the triviality objections. In this paper I will argue, first, that Schlöder's justification for the factivity of his version of the concept of knowability is vulnerable to criticism, but I will also offer an improved justification that is in the same spirit as his. To the extent that some philosophers are right about our intuitive concept of knowability being a factive one, it is important to explore factive concepts of knowability that are made formally precise. I will subsequently argue that Schlöder's version of the knowability thesis overgenerates knowledge or, in other words, it leads to attributions of knowledge where there is ignorance. This fits a general pattern for the research programme initiated by Edgington. This paper also contains preliminary investigations into the internal and logical structure of lines of inquiries, which raise interesting research questions.

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Jan Heylen
KU Leuven


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