Minsun Kim and Yuan Yuan: “Cross-Cultural Universality of Knowledge Attributions”

New paper by Kim and Yuan: pdf.


We selected three effects of knowledge attribution recently reported about English speakers, i.e., (1) ceteris paribus people are less willing to ascribe knowledge for true beliefs based on probabilistic evidence than for true beliefs based on perceptual evidence; (2) ceteris paribus people are less willing to ascribe knowledge for true beliefs based on apparent evidence than for true beliefs based on authentic evidence even in Gettierized scenarios; and (3) ceteris paribus people are more willing to attribute knowledge to a protagonist when she engages in harmful activities than when she engages in beneficent activities even in Gettierized scenarios. And we translated the materials used in these existing studies into Chinese and Korean and then ran the studies with participants in China and South Korea. Strikingly, all three of the effects that had been found with Western participants also emerged with participants from these other cultures. Drawing on these results, we argue that it is time for a pivot in our more meta-philosophical discussions, namely, we should start systematically theorizing about the rather extraordinary cross-cultural similarities (instead of unfounded divergences) in people’s epistemic intuitions.

CSSiP Summer School, “Rationality, Objectivity, Disagreement”

The 11th Cologne Summer School in Philosophy (CSSiP) on

“Rationality, Objectivity, Disagreement”

will take place in Cologne, July 25 through July 29, 2016. This year’s special guest will be Thomas Kelly (Princeton University). Since more than a decade Kelly promoted a number of refreshing new ideas in epistemology and consequently initiated rethinking of epistemological orthodoxy. Among his main themes are the epistemology of disagreement, the nature of epistemic evidence, and the limits of instrumental rationality within epistemology. The Summer School will focus on these and related themes in epistemology. It mainly aims at professional philosophers and graduate students.

Attendance is free, but limited to 50 participants – to be selected on the basis of motivation and qualification. Online application is possible through April 15. Please add a short letter that sketches your academic background and main motivation for participating in the Summer School. If you are interested in giving a brief presentation (approx. 20 minutes) related to Kelly’s work, please also send an abstract of no more than 1,000 words. We will inform you about the success of your application soon after the deadline.

Apply via email to:

For more information, please visit our website:

Prof. Dr. Thomas Grundmann
Philosophisches Seminar
Universität zu Köln

New empirical studies on epistemic contextualism

Epistemic contextualism is the view that the verb “know” is a context sensitive expression. As a first approximation, epistemic contextualism states that in order for us to truthfully say a person “knows” a proposition, that person must meet the standards set by our context and, critically, the standards change across contexts. The variation is thought to be theoretically important partly because it might indicate an ingredient of (the truth conditions of) “knowledge” statements beyond the traditional factors of belief, evidence, and truth.

Contextualists motivate their view based on a set of empirical claims about competent speakers’ linguistic behavior in certain situations. A famous way of illustrating the idea involves a pair of cases about a man who wants to deposit a check and is deciding whether to wait in a long line at the bank on a Friday afternoon, or come back on Saturday morning when the line would be short. But the question arises: is this bank actually open Saturday morning? The man visited this bank two Saturdays ago and it was open then, but banks do sometimes change their hours. In the “low stakes” version of the case, nothing serious hinges on whether he deposits the check before the weekend is over, and the man says, “I know that the bank is open tomorrow.” In the “high stakes” version of the case, something very serious hinges on whether he deposits the check before the weekend is over, and the man says, “I don’t know that the bank is open tomorrow.”

Contextualists claim that competent speakers will judge that the man truthfully says he “knows” in the low stakes version, and that the man truthfully says he “doesn’t know” in the high stakes version.

Do people behave as contextualists predict? Prior research on this empirical question has yielded mixed results. Taking into account methodological objections raised by contextualists,* I ran another series of studies to investigate the issue.** I found that, just as contextualists predicted, people judged that the man truthfully says he “knows” in the low stakes case, and that the man truthfully says he “doesn’t know” in the high-stakes case. Continue reading

What philosophers think might not be what you think they think

Professional philosophers often appeal to patterns in ordinary thought and talk — “commonsense” — in order to support theories or assumptions. In recent years, the emerging interdisciplinary field of experimental epistemology has revealed many instances where commonsense epistemology has been seriously mischaracterized. But even if professional philosophers misidentify what the folk think about knowledge, certainly they know what they themselves think about knowledge. Right?


In a fascinating paper forthcoming in Philosophical Studies, a pair of researchers tested ordinary people and professional philosophers (“experts”) on a range of cases.* A principal finding concerns knowledge attributions in cases where an agent sees an object that is surrounded by visually indistinguishable fakes. Continue reading

Fundraising effort to support fired faculty at Mount St. Mary’s

As I discussed earlier, two faculty members at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland were fired earlier this week for “disloyalty” to the institution. For the latest on this story, use the Google.

Nearly 8,000 academics have signed a statement of protest calling for the faculty to be reinstated. What’s needed now are contributions to a fundraising effort to help cover their legal fees. To contribute please visit gofund.me/mountfaculty.

As Brian Leiter observes, part of why this effort is so important is that a strong showing here could scare the university into backing down on their own. It will also send a message to administrators elsewhere that this sort of thing will not be allowed to stand.

Note also that excess contributions will be donated to Bottom Line, Inc. (http://www.bottomline.org/), a charity devoted to helping disadvantaged college students get in to college, graduate, and go far in life.

Statement of Protest Regarding Faculty Firings at Mount St. Mary’s University

I taught for several years at Mount St. Mary’s University, where Thane Naberhaus, a (tenured) professor of philosophy, was abruptly fired yesterday afternoon for his role in opposing a plan to dismiss at-risk freshmen in their first semester of college.

For more on the story, you can visit Daily Nous.

To sign a statement of protest from members of the academic community, please visit http://tinyurl.com/msmprotestform.

The proto-reliabilist hypothesis

In contemporary Anglo-American epistemology, it is very widely assumed that knowledge must be reliably produced. On this view, knowledge must be produced by abilities (processes, faculties, powers, etc.) that “will or would yield mostly true beliefs,” as William Alston put it. Call this consensus view “knowledge reliabilism.”

One thing I’ve always been surprised by is how little explicit, direct argumentation there is for knowledge reliabilism in the literature. An old paper by Goldman contains a weak explanatory argument, which gets cited sometimes. Aside from that, the main consideration offered in support of knowledge reliabilism is that it’s just commonsense. For instance, Edward Craig claims that reliabilism “matches our everyday practice with the concept of knowledge as actually found,” that it is “a good fit to the intuitive extension of ‘know’.” And Ernest Sosa claims that reliabilism is the theoretical “correlate” of “commonsense” epistemology. Call this “the proto-reliabilist hypothesis” about folk epistemology.

The proto-reliabilist hypothesis makes at least a couple straightforward predictions. First, people will tend to deny knowledge in cases of unreliably formed belief. Second, clear and explicit differences in reliability should produce large differences in people’s willingness to attribute knowledge. These predictions can be tested with some very simple experiments. Below I briefly describe one I ran. Continue reading

7th Annual Northwestern/Notre Dame (NU/ND) Graduate Epistemology Conference: Evanston, IL, April 22-23


7th Annual Northwestern/Notre Dame (NU/ND) Graduate Epistemology Conference

April 22-23, 2016
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Keynote Speaker: Selim Berker (Harvard)

Submissions deadline: February 1

Submission guidelines: We welcome submissions in the field of epistemology, broadly construed. Papers may be on any topic in epistemology, and we especially encourage
the submission of papers in sub-fields or on topics that have received less attention in mainstream epistemology in the past 60 years. Examples of such sub-fields and topics are: feminist epistemology, epistemology of race and gender, social epistemology, and so-called normative epistemology. Papers should be no more than 4000 words (approx. 13 pages), excluding notes. Papers should be prepared for blind review: include detachable cover page with paper’s title, abstract, author’s name, mailing address, email, phone number, school affiliation, and word count; please omit any self-identifying remarks within the body of the paper. Papers should be emailed as an attached PDF to the conference organizers at nundgradconf@gmail.com.