, Volume 188, Issue 2, pp 247–272 | Cite as

Contextualism and fallibility: pragmatic encroachment, possibility, and strength of epistemic position



A critique of conversational epistemic contextualism focusing initially on why pragmatic encroachment for knowledge is to be avoided. The data for pragmatic encroachment by way of greater costs of error and the complementary means to raise standards of introducing counter-possibilities are argued to be accountable for by prudence, fallibility and pragmatics. This theme is sharpened by a contrast in recommendations: holding a number of factors constant, when allegedly higher standards for knowing hold, invariantists still recommend assertion (action), while contextualists do not. Given the knowledge norm of assertion, if one recommendation is preferable to the other, the result favors the preferred recommendation’s account of knowledge. In the final section, I offer a unification of these criticisms centering on the contextualist use of ‘epistemic position’. Their use imposes on threshold notions of justification, warrant, or knowledge tests that are suitable only to unlimited comparative or scalar notions like confidence or certainty and places them at one with an important strand of sceptical reasoning.


Contextualism Invariantism Raised costs of errors Possibilities (counter-possibilities) Lewis Cohen DeRose Unger Pragmatics Fallibility 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Brooklyn College and the Graduate SchoolCUNYNew YorkUSA

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