Philosophical Studies

, Volume 175, Issue 5, pp 1163–1182 | Cite as

A linguistic grounding for a polysemy theory of ‘knows’

  • Mark SattaEmail author


In his book Knowledge and Practical Interests Jason Stanley offers an argument for the conclusion that it is quite unlikely that an ambiguity theory of ‘knows’ can be “linguistically grounded”. His argument rests on two important assumptions: (1) that linguistic grounding of ambiguity requires evidence of the purported different senses of a word being represented by different words in other languages (i.e. represented by more than one word within other languages) and (2) that such evidence is lacking in the case of ‘knows’. In this paper, I challenge the conclusion that there isn’t a linguistic grounding for an ambiguity theory of ‘knows’ by making cases against both of Stanley’s major assumptions. I will do this by making a case for a prime facie linguistic grounding for a polysemy theory of ‘knows’ without appealing to word use in other languages. Given that a polysemy theory of ‘knows’ is a type of ambiguity theory of ‘knows’ (as will be explained shortly), if I succeed in linguistically grounding a polysemy theory of ‘knows’, then I have shown that at least one type of ambiguity theory of ‘knows’ can be linguistically grounded.


Ambiguity Polysemy Knows Knowledge Contextualism Zeugma 



I’m grateful to helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this work from Micheal Bergmann, Rod Bertolet, Chuck Bradley, Lydia Catedral, Nevin Climenhaga, Paul Dimmock, Paul Draper, Gretchen Ellefson, Maite Ezcurdia, Amy Flowerree, Baron Reed, Jennifer Saul, Matthias Steup, Aaron Thomas-Buldoc, Michael Veber, and Nathan Weston and to the audiences at a 2015 Northwestern University epistemology brownbag, the IV Colombian Conference in Logic, Epistemology and Philosophy of Science at the Universidad de los Andes, and the 2015 North Carolina Philosophical Society where an earlier draft of this paper received the Graduate Student Paper Prize.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard Law SchoolCambridgeUSA

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