Minimalism And The Limits Of Warranted Assertability Maneuvers

Episteme 11 (3):245-260 (2014)
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Contextualists and pragmatists agree that knowledge-denying sentences are contextually variable, in the sense that a knowledge-denying sentence might semantically express a false proposition in one context and a true proposition in another context, without any change in the properties traditionally viewed as necessary for knowledge. Minimalists deny both pragmatism and contextualism, and maintain that knowledge-denying sentences are not contextually variable. To defend their view from cases like DeRose and Stanley's high stakes bank case, minimalists like Patrick Rysiew, Jessica Brown, and Wayne Davis forward ‘warranted assertability maneuvers.’ The basic idea is that some knowledge-denying sentence seems contextually variable because we mistake what a speaker pragmatically conveys by uttering that sentence for what she literally says by uttering that sentence. In this paper, I raise problems for the warranted assertability maneuvers of Rysiew, Brown, and Davis, and then present a warranted assertability maneuver that should succeed if any warranted assertability maneuver will succeed. I then show how my warranted assertability maneuver fails, and how the problem with my warranted assertability maneuver generalizes to pragmatic responses in general. The upshot of my argument is that, in order to defend their view from cases like DeRose and Stanley's high stakes bank case, minimalists must prioritize the epistemological question whether the subjects in those cases know over linguistic questions about the pragmatics of various knowledge-denying sentences.
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