, Volume 155, Issue 1, pp 99-125

Epistemic Contextualism and the Semantics-Pragmatics Distinction

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Contextualism, in its standard form, is the view that the truth conditions of sentences of the form ‘S knows that P’ vary according to the context in which they are uttered. One possible objection to contextualism appeals to what Keith DeRose calls a warranted assertability maneuver (or WAM), according to which it is not our knowledge sentences themselves that have context-sensitive truth conditions, but what is pragmatically conveyed by the use of such sentences. Thus, proponents of WAMs argue, the context sensitivity of knowledge attributions is not a semantic phenomenon but a pragmatic one. I examine a number of WAMs and show that each (i) is seriously flawed, or (ii) undercuts standard contextualism if we hold a minimalist conception of semantic content. I propose an alternative form of contextualism that accommodates minimalism and is immune to the second type of WAM, and show that this new form of contextualism shares the virtues of standard contextualism.