, Volume 193, Issue 9, pp 2721–2745 | Cite as

Pragmatic encroachment and epistemically responsible action



Pragmatic encroachment (PE) is the view that whether one knows a proposition is, at least in part, a function of one’s practical situation, such as the stakes given the truth or falsity of that proposition. PE seems to be entailed by a principle stating that properly treating a proposition as a reason for acting requires that one knows that proposition, combined with intuitive judgments that the epistemic demands for good practical reasoning increase as one’s practical situation becomes more practically demanding. I argue here that this argument conflates judgments that pertain to two different kinds of normative epistemic requirements: one that pertains to whether one knows a proposition, and another that pertains to whether one is acting on one’s knowledge in an epistemically responsible way, where one acts in an epistemically responsible way just in case one is able to provide reason to believe that one does, in fact, know what one is doing. I appeal to two main sources of evidence to support the view that we make judgments of epistemically responsible action: one that appeals to the way in which our epistemic vigilance makes us look for more reasons to accept information in different circumstances, and another that appeals to empirical results from experimental philosophy. I conclude that if a major argument for PE rests on a conflation of two different kinds of judgments then the case for PE is significantly diminished.


Pragmatic encroachment Experimental philosophy Knowledge Practical reasoning 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.

Human or animal rights with informed consent

The original research in this article was not supported by any source of funding and does not involve any relevant issues of informed human or animal consent.


  1. Angel, P., & Shawn, S. (2014). Experimental evidence in support of anti-intellectualism about knowledge. In J. R. Beebe (Ed.), Advances in experimental epistemology. London: Continuum Press.Google Scholar
  2. Boyd, K., & Nagel, J. (2014). The Reliability of epistemic intuitions. In E. Machery & E. O’Neill (Eds.), Current controversies in experimental philosophy (pp. 109–127). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Brown, J. (2008). Subject-sensitive invariantism and the knowledge norm of practical reasoning. Nous, 42(2), 167–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Buckwalter, W., & Schaffer, J. (2013). Knowledge, stakes, and mistakes. Nous, 47(1), 1–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. DeRose, K. (2009). The case for contextualism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ditto, P. H., Munro, G. D., Apanovitch, A. M., Scepansky, J. A., & Lockhart, Lisa K. (2003). Spontaneous skepticism: The interplay of motivation and expectation in responses to favorable and unfavorable medical diagnoses. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 1120–1132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eagly, A. H., Kulesa, P., Brannon, L. A., Shaw, K., & Hutson-Comeaux, Sarah. (2000). Why counterattitudinal messages are as memorable as proattitudinal messages: The importance of active defense against attack. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 1392–1408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fantl, J., & McGrath, M. (2009). Knowledge in an uncertain world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Feltz, A., & Zalpentine, C. (2010). Do you know more when it matters less? Philosophical Psychology, 23(5), 683–706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fricker, M. (2007). Epistemic injustice. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Goldberg, S. (2012). Epistemic extendedness, testimony, and the epistemology of instrument-based belief. Philosophical Explorations, 15(2), 181–197.Google Scholar
  12. Haidt, J. (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychological Review, 108(4), 814–834.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ham, J., & van den Bos, K. (2008). Not fair for me! The influence of personal relevance on social justice inferences. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 699–705.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hawthorne, J. (2004). Knowledge and lotteries. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Kahneman, D., & Frederick, S. (2002). Representativeness revisited: Attribute substitution in intuitive judgment. In T. Gilovich, D. Griffin, & D. Kanheman (Eds.), Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive judgment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Lackey, J. (2007). Norms of assertion. Nous, 41(4), 594–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Miller, B. (2014a). Catching the WAVE: The weight-adjusting account of values and evidence. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 47, 69–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Miller, B. (2014b). Science, values, and pragmatic encroachment on knowledge. European Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 4(2), 253–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Nagel, J. (2008). Knowledge ascriptions and the psychological consequences of changing stakes. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 86(2), 279–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Nickel, P. (2013). Trust in technological systems. In M. de Vries, S. Hansson & A. Meijers (Eds.), Norms in technology (pp. 223–238). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  21. Origgi, G. (2010). Epistemic vigilance and epistemic responsibility in the liquid world of scientific publications. Social Epistemology, 24(3), 149–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Origgi, G. (2012). Epistemic injustice and epistemic trust. Social Epistemology, 26(2), 221–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pinillos, A. (2012). Knowledge, experiments, and practical interests. In J. Brown & M. Gerken (Eds.), Knowledge ascriptions (pp. 192–219). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Richter, T., Schroeder, S., & Wohrmann, B. (2009). You don’t have to believe everything you read: Background knowledge permits fast and efficient validation of information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96(3), 538–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Schul, Y., Mayo, R., & Burnstein, E. (2004). Encoding under trust and distrust: The spontaneous activation of incongruent cognitions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86(5), 668–679.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Shin, J. (2014). Time constraints and pragmatic encroachment on knowledge. Episteme, 11(2), 157–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Sperber, D., Clément, F., Heintz, C., Mascaro, O., Mercier, H., Origgi, G., et al. (2010). Epistemic vigilance. Mind & Language, 25(4), 359–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Sperber, D. (2013). Speakers are honest because hearers are vigilant: Reply to Kourken Michaelian. Episteme, 10(1), 61–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sperber, D., & Mercier, H. (2011). Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34, 57–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sripada, C., & Stanley, J. (2012). Empirical tests of interest-relative invariantism. Episteme, 9(1), 3–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Stanley, J. (2005). Knowledge and practical interests. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Stanley, Jason, & Hawthorne, John. (2008). Knowledge and action. The Journal of Philosophy, 105(10), 571–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Weatherson, B. (2011). Defending interest-relative invariantism. Logos and Episteme, 2(4), 591–609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

Personalised recommendations