Evidence and the openness of knowledge

Philosophical Studies 174 (4):1001-1037 (2017)
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Abstract

The paper argues that knowledge is not closed under logical inference. The argument proceeds from the openness of evidential support and the dependence of empirical knowledge on evidence, to the conclusion that knowledge is open. Without attempting to provide a full-fledged theory of evidence, we show that on the modest assumption that evidence cannot support both a proposition and its negation, or, alternatively, that information that reduces the probability of a proposition cannot constitute evidence for its truth, the relation of evidential support is not closed under known entailment. Therefore the evidence-for relation is deductively open regardless of whether evidence is probabilistic or not. Given even a weak dependence of empirical knowledge on evidence, we argue that empirical knowledge is also open. On this basis, we also respond to the strongest argument in support of knowledge closure. Finally, we present a number of significant benefits of our position, namely, offering a unified explanation for a range of epistemological puzzles.

Author Profiles

Levi Spectre
Open University of Israel
Assaf Sharon
Stanford University

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