Well, perhaps only maybe, but I’m in a bold mood, so here it is: pragmatic encroachment–where, when, how, why, and what the hell it is.
Been thinking about it lately because of a draft chapter from Keith on what he (from Jason) terms “Intellectualism.” Matt and Jeremy call it “epistemic purism,” which has nice moral overtones that Jane Austen would approve of. Here I want to address the “what the hell it is” question a bit, which I think is a bit harder than has been realized to this point.
First, minor issues, arising from a quote from Matt and Jeremy:
According to received tradition in analytic epistemology, whether a true belief qualifies as knowledge depends only on purely epistemic factors – factors that are appropriately “truth-related”. If my true belief that p qualifies as knowledge while yours does not, this must be because of some difference in our evidence regarding p, the reliability of the processes involved in our beliefs that p, our counterfactual relations to the truth of p, and so on. My true belief cannot count as knowledge, and yours not, simply because you have more at stake than I do in whether p. Raising the stakes may indirectly affect whether one satisfies the belief condition on knowledge (because of one’s worrying about the costs of being wrong, for example), but it cannot otherwise make a difference to whether one knows.
Three points. First, it is natural to characterize intellectualism negatively: it opposes pragmatic encroachment in the account of key epistemic terms. The goal of answering the “what the hell it is” question is to replace this negative characterize with something substantive and positive, since other types of encroachment are possible as well: moral, aesthetic, political, etc.
Second, a point Keith makes. His point, which he mentions and then moves past, is that belief may not be the right condition for knowledge. Maybe subjective certainty is required. I don’t know if that is correct, but no characterization of intellectualism should hang on the issue.
A final point about the quote above. Suppose raising the stakes makes the risk of being mistaken more salient, and suppose one agrees with Mike Bergmann concerning subjective defeaters and the epistemic significance of salience of risk. Salience of risk thus enters the intellectualist story as a type of defeater that would need to be rebutted in order to fail to undermine knowledge, but I don’t see how the characterization of intellectualism by F&M leaves open that possibility, except by lowering one’s confidence level to the point at which one no longer believes. I doubt salience of risk need have any confidence-lowering result, so raising the stakes can function in a different way in a fully intellectualist story than F&M allow. If the connection were lawlike or even metaphysically necessary, the intellectualist position should still be able to accommodate the point. So even necessary connections to practical stakes isn’t incompatible with intellectualism.
That’s a point that Keith stresses anyway: contextualism is attractive in part because it can maintain intellectualism. Now, this is a surprising claim, initially, because Keith agrees with John and Jason about the bank case that the practical stakes affect whether it is true to attribute knowledge. But the contextualist gets to assign the role of pragmatic encroachment to the level of semantic ascent only, claiming that the proposition expressed is true/false on the basis of purely intellectual factors. The trick, of course, is that the proposition expressed varies by context, and this variability is where pragmatic encroachment enters for the contextualist, rather than into (to use a term crying for explication) the truth conditions of the proposition expressed. So classical invariantism denies any place to pragmatic encroachment, either about knowledge or about ‘knowledge’ and its cognates, contextualism allows pragmatic encroachment at the semantic metalevel, and some versions of invariantism, such as subject-sensitive invariantism, allow it at both the semantic metalevel and and the object level.
The small issues above foreshadow bigger ones, however. As I see it, the quote above is a schema for an account, where we fill in the kinds of acceptable items for an intellectualist to appeal to in terms of a wide range of epistemic concepts: truth-related factors, purely epistemic factors, sameness of total epistemic position, evidence, or sharing the same truth-relevant features. We populate the list with the kinds of things by which epistemologists have clarified the concepts of justification, (epistemic or egocentric) rationality, reliability, safety, sensitivity, warrant, or positive epistemic status.
Now, some items on the list give cause for concern. If ‘epistemic’ means something concerning knowledge, then it will be unhelpful to define intellectualism in terms of epistemic factors, since everybody thinks that only conditions for knowledge can be appealed to in an account of the distinction between knowledge and true belief.
But we don’t need to make such a silly mistake. As Jason puts it, the idea is to understand intellectualism in terms of truth-related factors that affect how likely it is that the belief is true, either from the point of view of the subject or from a more objective vantage point. It is worth noting that the only notion of likelihood that will be of much use here is the epistemic one which we might use to clarify one of the evaluative notions above: justification, warrant, rationality, reliability, etc. But we needn’t mean by ‘epistemic’ “whatever makes for knowledge”; instead, we are talking about the factors that make for key epistemic notions regarding which it is a substantive claim that they are required for knowledge. So we look through a glass darkly at intellectualism by saying intellectualism is the view that the only relevant difference between knowledge and true belief is stuff related to epistemological axiology: justification, warrant, rationality, positive epistemic status, undefeatedness, reliability, safety, sensitivity, etc.
Now, some do deny this position: Fantl & McGrath, for instance. But I think the heart of intellectualism still eludes us. Here’s why.
The complication arises from something Jason says. He says that items of epistemological axiology are themselves subject to pragmatic encroachment (no, he didn’t really say that–he just said it about justification, and I generalized). So suppose that’s right. Then you can’t define intellectualism as above, since items of epistemological axiology are not themselves epistemically pure. That’s the complication: for any attempt to identify the factors an intellectualist can appeal to, the worry is that a pragmatic encroacher might come along and sully that factor.
Of course, if there is a fundamental, unsullied notion, that is one element out of which we craft the sullied concepts, things are fine again. For example, maybe justification is sullied, but crafted from pragmatic stuff plus truth-related factors, where the latter are unsullied.
The problem is that the notion of a truth-related factor needs clarification. There’s the reliabilist characterization, which does leave it unsullied. But you shouldn’t have to adopt such an account to be an intellectualist. Perhaps such a factor is a reasonable-belief-making feature, or a bit of evidence in favor of some proposition. But reasonability isn’t by definition unsullied, and neither is the notion of evidence, so far as I can tell. If so, it looks like we must face the possibility that things are sullied “all the way down”, and the prospect of having to characterize intellectualism even in the face of this possibility.
Maybe there’s a simple solution here. Maybe the truth of intellectualism rests on there being some unsullied epistemic concept or concepts and intellectualism about a particular epistemic concept such as knowledge requires that the only epistemic contribution to knowledge (i.e., what is needed in addition to whatever semantic and psychological elements are needed) is explicable in terms of these unsullied concepts.
This proposal gets things backwards however. Intellectualism and unsullied-ness are interdefinable and interdependent concepts in this discussion. We don’t know what intellectualism about knowledge is, and we want to define it in terms of intellectualism about some other concept. But then we need an account of that sort of intellectualism, and the chase begins all over again.
I don’t know who this is a problem for. But the basic issue is this: how can one define intellectualism given the possibility of lack of purity all the way down? Perhaps this is an argument for the conclusion that there has to be some fundamental, unsullied epistemic notion?