, Volume 191, Issue 14, pp 3351–3366

Idealization, epistemic logic, and epistemology


DOI: 10.1007/s11229-014-0448-8

Cite this article as:
Yap, A. Synthese (2014) 191: 3351. doi:10.1007/s11229-014-0448-8


Many criticisms of epistemic logic have centered around its use of devices such as idealized knowers with logical omniscience and perfect self-knowledge. One possible response to such criticisms is to say that these idealizations are normative devices, and that epistemic logic tells us how agents ought to behave. This paper will take a different approach, treating epistemic logic as descriptive, and drawing the analogy between its formal models and idealized scientific models on that basis. Treating it as descriptive matches the way in which some philosophers, including one of its founders, Jaako Hintikka, have thought about epistemic logic early in its history. Further, the analogy between the two fields will give us a way to defuse criticisms that see epistemic logic as unrealistic. For example, criticizing models of epistemic logic in which agents know all propositional tautologies as being unrealistic would be like criticizing frictionless planes in physics for being unrealistic. Each one would certainly be an unsuitable model for studying some kinds of phenomena, but is entirely appropriate for others. After outlining the analogy between epistemic and scientific models, we will discuss some ways in which idealizations are used by different research programs in epistemic logic.


Epistemic Logic Epistemology Idealization Logic  Philosophy of logic 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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