Contextualism and Gradability

GAP.8 Proceedings (2013)
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Abstract
Contextualism in epistemology is the claim that the knowledge predicate is contextsensitive in the sense that it has different truth conditions across different contexts of use. Jason Stanley objects against this view that if it were correct! then "know" should be gradable in the same way as gradable adjectives. Since it lacks gradability it also lacks the postulated contextsensitivity. Or so Stanley argues. In this paper I show that the contextualist is not committed to the gradability of the knowledge predicate in the first place. I will distinguish between what I will call pure threshold predicates, which either apply simpliciter or not at all in each context, and impure threshold predicates, for which context determines whether they apply simpliciter, but which can also be satisfied to certain degrees. Threshold predicates are not gradable, but many of exhibit just the kind of contextsensitivity that is postulated for "know". Pace Stanley, three claims are going to be established: that the lack of gradability of the knowledge predicate (i) does not jeopardize its contextsensitivity, (ii) does not dismantle the analogies contextualists have claimed to hold between "know" and gradable adjectives, and (iii) is perfectly consistent with the idea of varyingly high epistemic standards.
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