Knowledge, true belief, and the gradability of ignorance

Philosophical Studies 181 (4):893-916 (2024)
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Given the significant exculpatory power that ignorance has when it comes to moral, legal, and epistemic transgressions, it is important to have an accurate understanding of the concept of ignorance. According to the Standard View of factual ignorance, a person is ignorant that p whenever they do not know that p, while on the New View, a person is ignorant that p whenever they do not truly believe that p. On their own though, neither of these accounts explains how ignorance can often be a degreed notion—how we can sometimes be slightly ignorant, quite ignorant, or completely ignorant that p. In this paper, I will argue that there is a route for advocates of the Standard View and the New View to accommodate the gradability of ignorance. On the view I defend, ‘ignorant’ picks out everyone that is ignorant to some degree, making it possible that ignorance can be both degreed and characterized as a lack of knowledge or true belief. Even though we can be ignorant to a greater or lesser extent, the only way to avoid being ignorant that p is to know or truly believe.

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Wes Siscoe
University of Notre Dame


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