Saturday, July 25, 2009

DeRose on 'knowledge' norm of assertion

In his 2002 paper "Assertion, Knowledge, and Context," Keith DeRose gave an argument for contextualism about 'knows' that took basically this form: knowledge is the norm of assertion; assertability varies according to context; therefore, knowledge varies according to context.

This was a pretty confused argument -- though of course this is much clearer in retrospect, with the advantage of years of engagement with SSI. The problem is that contextualism is a thesis about the word 'knows', not about knowledge, while 'knowledge is the norm of assertion' seems like it must be a thesis about knowledge, not about English. In fact, something like a knowledge norm for assertion, combined with the observation that what you're allowed to assert depends on your situation, provides a pretty good argument for SSI; I take it to be exactly parallel to the main argument for SSI that Stanley and Fantl and McGrath give.

In chapter 3 of his new book The Case for Contextualism, DeRose essentially reproduces the content of that 2002 paper, but he does add about two new pages of material designed to correct this aspect of the original. Now, in contrast to earlier, he recognizes the need to clarify the statement of the knowledge norm of assertion, if it is to be understood in contextualist terms. He gives us:
The Relativized Knowledge Account of Assertion (KAA-R): A speaker, S, is well-enough positioned with respect to p to be able to properly assert that p if and only if S knows that p according to the standards for knowledge that are in place as S makes her assertion. (99)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Philosophy Book Review Tips?

I'm reviewing a book for the first time; do any philosophers have tips on how to plan/organize/read/etc.? This is all new to me, and I'd welcome any advice from veterans on how to proceed. Do you like to take notes along the way? Should I plan on reading cover-to-cover more than once? How do you decide what to focus on?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Is Imagination A Priori?

Is Imagination A Priori? Draft of 21 July, 2009. Will be subsumed into a longer piece.
Sometimes, we come to new knowledge via imaginative processes; plausibly, sometimes, such imagination plays an indispensably warranting role. Is such a role for imagination inconsistent with the apriority of our new knowledge? Stephen Yablo has argued that a certain kind of imaginative engagement, ‘peeking’, is relevantly like reliance on perceptual experience, and thus precludes apriority. I argue that Yablo’s case against the apriority of peeking is not compelling.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

How rich is truth in fiction?

According to orthodoxy, what's true in a fiction goes beyond what's entailed by the text making up the story. Although fictions are gappy (there's no fact about whether Hamlet had an even number of hairs), some things are determinately true without being stated, or being entailed by thugs that are stated (Hamlet was not a leprechaun). This orthodoxy is pretty much universal, I think, and I've relied on it in my work on thought experiments.

In the past few months, I've worried a bit about that orthodoxy. I don't think orthodoxy here should be abandoned, but I do think it faces an important challenge that hasn't, to my knowledge, been articulated before. The challenge begins with a consideration of non-fiction.

Not all non-fiction is true; some works of non-fiction are mistaken, and some are fraudulent. (All biographies are non-fiction, but not all biographies are true.) What determines whether a non-fiction is true? The key to the challenge is this: we can and should distinguish between whether a work of non-fiction is true, and whether it is merely misleading. I could write a very deceptively misleading biography of David Lewis, such that anyone who read it would walk away with rampant false beliefs about him. But if I did so using only true sentences, relying on pragmatic implicatures and natural assumptions to generate the misleading nature of my non-fiction, then, I claim, the biography I have written is true.

Now take a fiction made up of just the same sentences I used in my misleading autobiography of Lewis. This is just the sort of situation where, according to orthodoxy, principles of generation for truth in fiction will generate false propositions and add them to the set of fictional truths. But this, given what we've said in the previous paragraph, is inconsistent with the truism that contents of fictions don't work in ways radically different from those of non-fictions. A non-fiction's content is true if its sentences are. Can we really deny that a fiction, sentence-by-sentence identical with a non-fiction, has true content if its corresponding non-fiction does? That's the puzzle.

Here, as I see them, are the options:

  1. Reject orthodoxy. What's true in the fiction does not, after all, go beyond what's given in the literal text.

  2. Posit a stark disanalogy. Their obvious forms of similarity notwithstanding, fictions and non-fictions get content in radically divergent ways.

  3. Bifurcate 'content'. (Brian Weatherson suggested this to me when I posed the puzzle to him.) Agree with the conclusion about 'content' of fictions in some sense, while insisting that there's a richer 'true in the fiction' that goes beyond content.

I guess I'm inclined to agree with Brian that, of these choices, (3) is the best way to go. But I'd be interested to hear if anyone thinks I'm selling the other possibilities short, or have overlooked additional possible solutions.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Papers on Intuitions

Intuitions and Begging the Question is now under review. Check it out if you're interested in reading what I think about intuitions, and making me wish I'd asked you for comments on it before submitting it.

My next project: making revisions to Explaining Away Intuitions.

Here, incidentally, is where I have all my papers online now.