The Explanationist and the Modalist

Episteme:1-16 (2022)
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Recent epistemology has witnessed a substantial opposition between two competing approaches to capturing the notion of non-accidentality in the analysis of knowledge: the explanationist and the modalist. According to the latest advocates of the former, S knows that p if and only if S believes that p because p is true. According to champions of the latter, S knows that p if and only if S's belief that p is true in a relevant set of possible worlds. Because Bogardus and Perrin's explanationism promises to deliver a plausible analysis of knowledge without any need for modal notions, it is an elegant proposal with prima facie appeal. However, such version of explanationism ultimately does not live up to its promises: in this paper, I raise some objections to their explanationist analysis of knowledge while showing that modalism is in much better shape than they think. In particular, I argue that their explanationist condition generates the wrong results in Gettier cases and fake-barn cases. I also offer and defend a novel version of modalism: I introduce a refined safety condition which is shown to successfully handle the same Gettier cases that beset Bogardus and Perrin's version of explanationism. The paper concludes with a reassessment of the explanationist's initial ambition to provide an analysis of knowledge without modal notions. The upshot will be that even if the prospects for such analysis remain dim, our money should be on the modalist, not the explanationist.

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Dario Mortini
Universitat de Barcelona


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