Paper on DeRose on Gaps

I’ve just posted a shortish paper entitled “DeRose on Truth-Value Gaps for ‘Knows.'” The title is a bit misleading–I’m not so much discussing Keith’s actual view as a view that Keith might have. Keith holds that the standards for ‘know’ in a certain context are the standards that the speaker chooses to use, rather than the ones that would be reasonable for her to use. If two participants in a conversation insist on different standards, then knowledge ascriptions that meet only one of the standards have no truth-value. I argue that, even if Keith held that the standards in a context were the standards that are reasonable to use, there’d still be truth value gaps in a lot of situations; and that even given his actual views, there are truth-value gaps in more situations than you might think.

Anyway, I’d greatly appreciate any comments anyone has.


Paper on DeRose on Gaps — 2 Comments

  1. About a fairly complicated case — a speaker is talking to two different listeners, one of whom is in a high-stakes practical situation & the other of whom faces low stakes–Matt writes:

    This case causes some trouble for DeRose’s actual view that standards are determined by the standard that the speaker chooses to use rather than by the standards that are reasonable in the context. It does not seem as though Samantha chooses to use any standard in particular. No standard is indicated in the course of the conversation, and we may suppose that she simply answers the question without thinking of one standard or another. On DeRose’s stated view there may be no way to resolve the question of exactly what Samantha means when she says ‘knows’. (pp. 8-9)

    I’m not sure I’m understanding this right. Is the trouble just coming from the fact that not much has been said or is going on to select a particular standard — so that the trouble (at least for my view) does not come from the particular complications of this case (with the two listeners w/ different purposes), but would arise in a simple case with a speaker and a single listener, just so long as not much has been said or is otherwise going on to select a particular standard?

    If so, then in line with the spirit of the closing pages of Matt’s paper, it seems like the answer might well be some working out of the thought that — as happens quite generally with context-sensitive terms — we often get by just fine with extremely vague uses of terms, that can be sharpened later in a conversation if our purposes call for it.

  2. Keith,
    Thanks for the comment! Probably I shouldn’t have claimed that the case affirmatively causes trouble for the view. But you’re right: The claim is that even when there’s only one speaker and one hearer, if nothing’s going on to select a standard, then (on your view) no standard has been selected.

    That’s clearer in the case discussed in my paper than in the one-listener case, becase if there’s one listener we might take it that the speaker’s use of “know” inherits the standard that the listener intends to use; whereas in the two-listener case that can’t happen, because there’s no unique standard to inherit.

    (An analogy: A says “Keith is a contextualist,” intending ‘Keith’ to refer to you. B says “Good ol’ Keith,” intending nothing in particular. B’s use of ‘Keith’ refers to you.
    A says “Keith is a contextualist,” intending ‘Keith’ to refer to you. C says “Keith is a coherentist,” intending ‘Keith’ to refer to Keith Lehrer. B says “Good ol’ Keith,” intending nothing in particular. It doesn’t seem as though B’s use of ‘Keith’ has a well-defined reference.)

    What I need, and what I think does follow, is that the two-listeners case yields a truth-value gap on your view as well as the view I discuss (on which the standard in use is always the standard that would be reasonable).

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