Rational Assertibility, the Steering Role of Knowledge, and Pragmatic Encroachment


Igal Kvart RATIONAL ASSERTIBILITY, THE STEERING ROLE OF KNOWLEDGE, AND PRAGMATIC ENCROACHMENT Abstract In the past couple of decades, there were a few major attempts to establish the thesis of pragmatic encroachment – that there is a significant pragmatic ingredient in the truth-conditions for knowledge-ascriptions. Epistemic contextualism has flaunted the notion of a conversational standard, and Stanley's subject-sensitive invariantism (SSI) promoted stakes, each of which, according to their proponents, play a major role as pragmatic components in the truth conditions of knowledge ascriptions. These conceptions were propelled first and foremost by examples of knowledge ascriptions with obvious pragmatic aspects that seemed to require a pragmatic component in the truth-conditions of knowledge ascriptions in order to be accounted for. However, if such examples can be adequately explained not by pragmatic encroachment purely pragmatically, the central role that such examples play in supporting these accounts will be undermined. I lay out here a new pragmatic account, offering a different, purely pragmatic picture that explains such examples, and much more. If such an account and its associated explanations are adequate, then much of a need or a motivation for pragmatic encroachment is undermined. Specifically, I will develop the notion of rational assertibility, appealing to rational norms (which are not Gricean) as interfacing with semantic and epistemic (and other) norms to yield assertibility simpliciter. More importantly, I will argue for a well-entrenched pragmatic profile of knowledge, the so-called steering role of knowledge. Knowledge ascriptions, or simple assertions (that don't invoke the notion of knowledge), it will be argued, play a pragmatic role of steering audiences in joint deliberational setups to the speaker's preferred action by invoking an impending practical inference leading to that preferred action, and of ignoring incompatible alternatives. The recognition of rational forces as affecting, sometimes strongly and predominantly, intuitions associated with knowledge ascriptions, has important implications to philosophical methodology regarding what count as evidence for semantic features. One such lesson calls for securing examples with no significant rational forces at play in order to establish semantic features. Another calls attention to the ill-suitability of employing assertibility by figures in examples featuring deliberational setups for such a purpose in view of the role that such assertibility plays in reflecting rational aspects of such figures, in addition to their epistemic and semantic characteristics. Still another lesson points to a specific role that audiences play in such deliberational setups.

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Igal Kvart
Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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