Unassertability And The Appearance Of Ignorance

Episteme 11 (2):125-143 (2014)
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Whether it seems that you know something depends in part upon practical factors. When the stakes are low, it can seem to you that you know that p, but when the stakes go up it'll seem to you that you don't. The apparent sensitivity of knowledge to stakes presents a serious challenge to epistemologists who endorse a stable semantics for knowledge attributions and reject the idea that whether you know something depends on how much is at stake. After arguing that previous attempts to meet this challenge fall short, I offer a new solution: the unassertability account. The account starts with the observation that high stakes subjects aren't in an epistemic position to assert. We generally presuppose that knowing is sufficient for epistemically proper assertion, but this presupposition only stands up to scrutiny if we draw a distinction between two notions of epistemic propriety, and we shouldn't expect ordinary speakers to draw it. A subject in a high stakes situation who fails to draw the distinction will be led by the sufficiency claim to treat anything she isn't in a position to assert as something she isn't in a position to know. The sensitivity of epistemically proper assertion to practical factors explains the merely apparent sensitivity of knowledge to stakes

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Geoffrey Pynn
Northern Illinois University


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