, Volume 190, Issue 17, pp 3777-3796

Assertion and safety

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Abstract

Safety is a notion familiar to epistemologists principally because of the way in which it has been used in the attempt to cast light on the nature of knowledge. In particular, some have argued that an important constraint on knowledge is that one knows p only if one believes p safely. In this paper, I use safety for a different purpose: to cast light on the nature of assertion. I introduce what I call the safety account of assertion, according to which one asserts p properly only if one asserts p safely. The central idea is that an assertion’s propriety depends on whether one could easily have asserted falsely in a similar case. I argue that the safety account is well motivated, since it neatly explains our intuitions about a wide range of assertions of different kinds. Of particular interest is the fact that the account explains our intuitions about several kinds of assertions which appear to raise problems for well-known rival accounts.