Here’s a followup issue regarding Keith’s post that could be lost in the comments and is significant enough that it shouldn’t be. It’s from Matt McGrath, and so I’m lifting it to a main entry to promote further discussion of it:
A question for Keith. Suppose a third party speaker is mistaken about what is at stake for a subject S in whether p, but S is not. In fact, S has little at stake in whether p, though the speaker believes S has a great deal at stake. Suppose also that S has good evidence for p. The speaker then thinks of various counterpossibilities of S’s error. It seems to me that for Keith this should normally raise the standards associated with ‘know’ in the speaker’s mouth. As Keith suggests, what affects a speaker’s meaning depends not on the facts but on the speaker’s beliefs, doubts, etc. And if the standards are raised, the speaker will speak truly in saying, “S doesn’t know that p.” Doesn’t this seem wrong? Similarly, if the speaker mistakenly thought nothing much was at stake for S in whether p, she would not speak truly in saying, “S knows that p.”
I have in mind the Cohen 1999 paper on contextualism and the Gettier problem. Cohen argued that a contextualist solution (like Lewis’s) to the Gettier problem is implausible: when the third party speaker wrongly believes a subject isn’t in a Gettier case the speaker can’t speak truly in saying “S knows.” I would think that it would be every bit as implausible – though I don’t recall if Cohen makes this point – to think a speaker who wrongly believed a subject was in a Gettier could speak truly in saying “S doesn’t know.”
Keith, if you think Cohen’s argument works for the Gettier problem, why doesn’t the parallel argument above work to show that contextualist maneuvers are useless for explaining the epistemic relevance of stakes?