Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 265-273

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Practical Interests, Relevant Alternatives, and Knowledge Attributions: an Empirical Study

  • Joshua MayAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of California, Santa Barbara Email author 
  • , Walter Sinnott-ArmstrongAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Dartmouth College
  • , Jay G. HullAffiliated withDepartment of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College
  • , Aaron ZimmermanAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of California, Santa Barbara


In defending his interest-relative account of knowledge, Jason Stanley relies heavily on intuitions about several bank cases. We experimentally test the empirical claims that Stanley seems to make concerning our common-sense intuitions about these cases. Additionally, we test the empirical claims that Jonathan Schaffer seems to make, regarding the salience of an alternative, in his critique of Stanley. Our data indicate that neither raising the possibility of error nor raising stakes moves most people from attributing knowledge to denying it. However, the raising of stakes (but not alternatives) does affect the level of confidence people have in their attributions of knowledge. We argue that our data impugn what both Stanley and Schaffer claim our common-sense judgments about such cases are.