Unreasonable Knowledge

Philosophical Perspectives 24 (1):1-21 (2010)
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Abstract
It is common orthodoxy among internalists and externalists alike that knowledge is lost or defeated in situations involving misleading evidence of a suitable kind. But making sense of defeat has seemed to present a particular challenge for those who reject an internalist justification condition on knowledge. My main aim here is to argue that externalists ought to take seriously a view on which knowledge can be retained even in the face of strong seemingly defeating evidence. As an instructive example, I first discuss whether a theory on which knowledge is belief that is safe from error has the resources for accommodating defeat. I argue that beliefs retained in defeat cases need not be unsafe or true in some accidental way. I then discuss externalist strategies for explaining why we have incorrect intuitions about defeat. The notion of an epistemically reasonable subject plays a central role in my theory. Reasonable subjects adopt general strategies that are good for acquiring true belief and knowledge across a wide range of normal cases, but stubbornly retaining belief in the face of new evidence does not reflect such policies. I argue that though the methods employed by subjects who fail to adjust their beliefs in defeat cases may be perfectly good, they are not good methods to adopt, as their adoption is accompanied by bad dispositions. What emerges is a view on which a subject can know despite being unreasonable, and despite failing to manifest dispositions to know across normal cases. Unreasonable subjects are genuinely criticisable, but like almost anything, knowledge can sometimes be achieved in the absence of a good general strategy.
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First archival date: 2013-12-05
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2010-12-30

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