, Volume 192, Issue 2, pp 363–383 | Cite as

Epistemic contextualism defended



Epistemic contextualists think that the extension of the expression ‘knows’ (and its cognates) depends on and varies with the context of utterance. In the last 15 years or so this view has faced intense criticism. This paper focuses on two sorts of objections. The first are what I call the ‘linguistic objections’, which purport to show that the best available linguistic evidence suggests that ‘knows’ is not context-sensitive. The second is what I call the ‘disagreement problem’, which concerns the behaviour of ‘knows’ in disagreement reports. These may not be the only objections to epistemic contextualism, but they are probably the most influential. I argue that the best current epistemic contextualist response to the linguistic objection is incomplete, and I show how it can be supplemented to deal with the full range of linguistic objections. I also develop a new solution to the disagreement problem. The upshot is that neither sort of objection gives us any reason to reject epistemic contextualism. This conclusion is, in a sense, negative—no new arguments for epistemic contextualism are advanced—but it’s a vital step towards rehabilitating the view.


Contextualism Epistemology Disagreement Context-sensitivity 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for PhilosophyUniversity of ViennaWienÖsterreich

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