I now think that, in addition to that use, this observation undercuts certain implications sometimes drawn from knowledge norms. In particular, I think it points to a lacuna in one of the central arguments of Fantl and McGrath's defense of pragmatic encroachment. I think this is a pretty fair reconstruction of their §4.3:
- KJ: If you know that p, then p is warranted enough to justify you in phi-ing, for any phi.
- Consider some low-stakes action, X, for which LOW has q as a sufficient reason; LOW can appropriately perform X. (Their example: Matt knows the train is a local; this justifies his boarding it.)
- There is a possible counterpart of LOW in the same epistemic position but with higher stakes, HIGH, such that HIGH cannot appropriately perform X. (Their example: Jeremy really needs to get off at a local stop; the stakes are too high for him to risk boarding.)
- So q is not well-enough warranted to justify X in phi-ing.
- So HIGH does not know q.
- So two subjects in the same epistemic position can differ with respect to knowledge of q.
- So purism is false.
(For maximum faithfulness to F&M's broader intentions, we should understand this entire argument, including its conclusion, as being offered under the conditional assumption that fallibilism is true -- that it's possible to know that p, even though there is some epistemic possibility that not-p.)
I'm concerned with the move from (3) to (4). It has pretty much the same form as the arguments sketched above, except that it's holding different bits fixed. Jessica Brown argued from what she saw as intuitive verdicts about knowledge and appropriate action against the knowledge norm; Fantl and McGrath argue from intuitive verdicts about appropriate action and the principle of the knowledge norm against the knowledge verdict Brown found intuitive. My argument shows the flaw in both of these arguments. (In a sense, they are instances of the same argument, run in different directions.)
The move from (3) to (4) relies, like Brown's surgeon case argument, on the assumption that the knowledge of q, the non-actionability of X, and the knowledge norm are incompatible. But as I've shown, they're not. They're incompatible only on the assumption that q is, if possessed as a reason, a good enough reason to X. And there just aren't obvious intuitive verdicts about facts like these; neither are there clear theories that dictate which claims like these to accept. It's obvious enough whether S knows q, and whether S would be justified in Xing -- but whether q itself is well-enough justified to be among the reasons S has for Xing is an esoteric question on which naive intuitions are silent.
Everybody who accepts (2) and (3) has to think there's some important difference that derives from a change in the stakes that bears on actionability. But you can think this without giving up on KJ, fallibilism, or purism, if you want to. You can say that what propositions are good enough reasons to X depends in part on the stakes. That is: whether p is known is stakes-independent; so too is whether p is warranted enough to be a reason for phi-ing, for any phi. What varies by stakes is whether p, supposing that it is a reason, is by itself a good enough reason to phi. When the stakes are high, p, though still genuinely a reason, isn't a good enough reason. In lower stakes, p is a good enough reason. Insensitive knowledge; insensitive reasons for action; sensitive needs of actions for reasons.
This does look to me like a significant and substantive gap in F&M's argument. I'm generally pretty sympathetic to F&M-style views -- I'm a different sort of contextualist than those who are motivated by 'intellectualism' -- but this does look to me to be a potentially promising avenue for resisting pragmatic encroachment from F&M-style arguments.
It will not obviously help, however, with the knowledge intuitions about bank cases and the like. Lots of pragmatic encroachment people seem to be turning their emphasis away from these cases recently, in favor of broader theoretical arguments. Certainly, this seems to be one of F&M's aims. I rather suspect, though, that the pragmatic encroachment theorist may end up needing to rely on judgements about cases more than they think. (I don't know that that's a problem.)