DeRose’s Theory of Knowledge

Here’s a follow-up on my reference to Keith’s split-finger fastball (you’ll have to have been reading the comments diligently to get that reference…). I bet most you have thought, like I have, that Keith’s theory is a variant of a sensitivity theory of knowledge, one that makes central use of the subjunctive conditional that goes by that name. I’ve been reading the Blackwell volume on Sosa, having agreed to review it for NDPR, and discovered an important fact here. Keith claims that his account of knowledge is better characterized in terms of strong enough true belief, where strength is measured by how remote are the possibilities in which one goes wrong about p. Of course how strong is strong enough depends on the context, but the interesting point to note is that in spite of the amount of space devoted by Keith to subjunctive conditional accounts of knowledge, his own view is significantly different from them. The primary difference is that the strength account pays attention both to worlds in which one believes p and p is false and to worlds in which p is true and one believes ~p. On the subjunctive conditionals account, only the former worlds are relevant (and the same is true of the safety view Sosa once endorsed).


DeRose’s Theory of Knowledge — 2 Comments

  1. I would protest that I’ve just been throwing straight stuff all along, but I have heard too many people describe me as holding to a contextualized sensitivity account, so I guess there must be something tricky in my delivery. And now I’ve seen really smart epistemologists so describe me in print: See n. 6 of Schaffer’s “From Contextualism to Constrastivism”; a remark in Feldman’s unpublished “Reliabilism Levelled”; and p. 60, n. 26 of Hawthorne’s KNOWLEDGE AND LOTTERIES. (Hawthorne goes on to dismiss the idea he ascribes to me of using a “contextualized version of Nozick’s tracking approach” with this comment: “Many — including myself — will be skeptical of using [Nozick’s tracking approach] as a springboard.” Count me among those who would be so skeptical! That’s why I don’t do it.)

    Sensitivity is very important to me in that I try to explain — as I think any theory of knowledge should — why we so often judge that insensitive beliefs don’t amount to knowledge. But this is tricky for me precisely because I don’t use a sensitivity account of what knowledge is. Rather I use a no-sufficiently-close-worlds-in-which-I-go-wrong account of what knowledge is — a contextualized version of the approach, as you note.

    I thought that was obvious in “Solving the Skeptical Problem.” But I guess not. (I wonder: Is this view of me as using a contextualized sensitivity account of knowledge an impression that many have received independently by reading SSP, or was that a reading of SSP made by a very few, who then spread it to others?) Anyway, my piece in the Sosa volume should clear it up, I hope.

  2. Keith, I didn’t get that impression from SSP. But, then again, I’m not an ideal witness, since I first (seriously and responsibly) read SSP alongside the manuscript of your contribution to the Sosa volume in Ernie’s seminar a couple years ago.

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