Advertisement

Synthese

pp 1–22 | Cite as

On the generality argument for the knowledge norm

  • Davide Fassio
Article
  • 54 Downloads

Abstract

An increasingly popular view in contemporary epistemology holds that the most fundamental norm governing belief is knowledge. According to this norm one shouldn’t believe what one doesn’t know. A prominent argument for the knowledge norm appeals to the claim that knowledge is the most general condition of epistemic assessment of belief, one entailing all other conditions under which we epistemically assess beliefs (truth, evidence, reliability…). This norm would provide an easy and straightforward explanation of why we assess beliefs along all these various epistemic dimensions. This article argues that this line of argument is ultimately unsuccessful. I show that the main premise of the argument actually supports the opposite conclusion: the norm of belief requires a condition weaker than knowledge. Furthermore, I argue that if we hold on to the assumption that knowledge is the most general condition of belief’s epistemic assessment, the fundamental norm of belief is factive: one is not permitted to believe a proposition p if it is not true that p.

Keywords

Norms of belief Generality argument Epistemic normativity 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Cameron Boult, Jie Gao and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the GRE Conference “Les Principes de l’Épistémologie” at the Collège de France (Paris 2017) and the 2018 European Epistemology Network Conference at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Thanks to the audiences for their helpful feedback. Research for this article was partially funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation research project ‘The Unity of Reasons’ (P300P1-164569).

References

  1. Adler, J. (2002). Belief’s own ethics. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  2. Alston, W. (1989). Epistemic justification. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Alvarez, M. (2010). Kinds of reasons: An essay in the philosophy of action. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baron, M. (1995). Kantian ethics almost without apology. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Baron, M. (2005). Justifications and excuses. Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, 2(2), 387–406.Google Scholar
  6. Benton, M. A. (2014). Knowledge norms. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved September 1, 2018, from http://www.iep.utm.edu/kn-norms/.
  7. Bird, A. (2007). Justified judging. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 74(1), 81–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boghossian, P. A. (2003). The normativity of content. Philosophical Issues, 13(1), 31–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Broome, J. (2013). Rationality through reasoning. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Capes, J. A. (2012). Blameworthiness without wrongdoing. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 93(3), 417–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dancy, J. (2000). Practical reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Engel, P. (2004). Truth and the aim of belief. In D. Gillies (Ed.), Laws and models in science (pp. 77–97). London: King’s College Publications.Google Scholar
  13. Engel, P. (2013). Doxastic correctness. Aristotelian Society Supplementary, 87(1), 199–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fassio, D. (2011). Belief, correctness and normativity. Logique et Analyse, 54(216), 471–486.Google Scholar
  15. Fassio, D. (2015). The aim of belief. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved September 1, 2018, from https://www.iep.utm.edu/beli-aim/.
  16. Fassio, D. (2017). Is there an epistemic norm of practical reasoning? Philosophical Studies, 174(9), 2137–2166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Feldman, R. (2002). Epistemological duties. In P. Moser (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of epistemology (pp. 362–384). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gardner, J. (2007). Offences and defences: Selected essays in the philosophy of criminal law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gerken, M. (2011). Warrant and action. Synthese, 178(3), 529–547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gibbard, A. (2005). Truth and correct belief. Philosophical Issues, 15(1), 338–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gibbons, J. (2013). The norm of belief. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Graham, P. A. (2010). In defense of objectivism about moral obligation. Ethics, 121(1), 88–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Graham, P. A. (2014). A sketch of a theory of moral blameworthiness. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 88(2), 388–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hawthorne, J. (2004). Knowledge and lotteries. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Hawthorne, J., & Srinivasan, A. (2013). Disagreement without transparency: some bleak thoughts. In D. Christensen & J. Lackey (Eds.), The epistemology of disagreement: New essays (pp. 9–30). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hawthorne, J., & Stanley, J. (2008). Knowledge and action. Journal of Philosophy, 105(10), 571–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Huemer, M. (2007). Moore’s paradox and the norm of belief. In S. Nuccetelli & G. Seay (Eds.), Themes from G.E. Moore (pp. 142–157). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Hughes, N. (2017a). No excuses: Against the knowledge norm of belief. Thought: A Journal of Philosophy, 6(3), 157–166.Google Scholar
  29. Hughes, N. (2017b). Dilemmic epistemology. Synthese.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-017-1639-x.Google Scholar
  30. Hyman, J. (1999). How knowledge works. Philosophical Quarterly, 50(197), 433–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hyman, J. (2015). Action, knowledge, and will. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kiesewetter, B. (2017). The normativity of rationality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kolodny, N. (2005). Why be rational? Mind, 114(455), 509–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kvanvig, J., & Menzel, C. (1990). The basic notion of justification. Philosophical Studies, 59, 235–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Littlejohn, C. (2012). Justification and the truth-connection. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Littlejohn, C. (2013). The Russellian retreat. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 113, 293–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Littlejohn, C. (forthcoming). A plea for epistemic excuses. In F. Dorsh & J. Dutant (Eds.), The New Evil Demon Problem. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Lord, E. (2015). Acting for the right reasons, abilities, and obligation. In R. Schafer-Landau (Ed.), Oxford studies in metaethics (Vol. 10). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Lord, E. (2018). The importance of being rational. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Madison, B. J. C. (2017). On justifications and excuses. Synthese.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-017-1418-8.Google Scholar
  41. McHugh, C. (2011). What do we aim at when we believe? Dialectica, 65(3), 369–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McHugh, C., & Way, J. (2017). Objectivism and perspectivism about the epistemic ought. Ergo, an Open Access Journal of Philosophy, 4(5), 121–145.Google Scholar
  43. Millar, A. (2004). Understanding people: Normativity and rationalizing explanation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Millar, A. (2009). How reasons for action differ from reasons for belief. In Simon Robertson (Ed.), Spheres of reason. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Ogien, R., & Tappolet, C. (2009). Les concepts de l’éthique. Houston: Hermann.Google Scholar
  46. Railton, P. (1999). Normative force and normative freedom: Hume and Kant, but not Hume versus Kant. Ratio, 12(4), 320–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Railton, P. (2003). Facts, values, and norms: Essays toward a morality of consequence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Railton, P. (2006). Normative guidance. In R. Shafer-Landau (Ed.), Oxford studies in metaethics (Vol. 1, pp. 3–34). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Raz, J. (1975). Practical reason and norms. Paris: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  50. Rosen, G. (2001). Brandom on modality, normativity and intentionality. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 63(3), 611–623.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Scanlon, T. (2008). Moral dimensions: Permissibility, meaning, blame. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Schroeder, T. (2003). Donald Davidson’s theory of mind is non-normative. Philosophers’ Imprint, 3(1), 1–14.Google Scholar
  53. Shah, N. (2003). How truth governs belief. Philosophical Review, 112(4), 447–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Shah, N., & Velleman, J. D. (2005). Doxastic deliberation. Philosophical Review, 114(4), 497–534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Simion, M., Kelp, C., & Ghijsen, H. (2016). Norms of belief. Philosophical Issues, 26(1), 374–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Smithies, D. (2012). The normative role of knowledge. Noûs, 46(2), 265–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sosa, E. (2010). Knowing full well. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Stanley, J. (2005). Knowledge and practical interests. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Stocker, M. (1973). Act and agent evaluations. Review of Metaphysics, 27(1), 42–61.Google Scholar
  60. Sutton, J. (2007). Without justification. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  61. Unger, P. K. (1975). Ignorance: A case for scepticism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  62. von Wright, G. H. (Ed.). (1983). On the logic of norms and action. In Practical reason, philosophical papers (Vol. 1). Blackwell.Google Scholar
  63. Wedgwood, R. (2002). The aim of belief. Philosophical Perspectives, 16, 267–297.Google Scholar
  64. Wedgwood, R. (2003). Choosing rationally and choosing correctly. In S. Stroud & C. Tappolet (Eds.), Weakness of will and practical irrationality (pp. 201–229). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wedgwood, R. (2005). Railton on normativity. Philosophical Studies, 126(3), 463–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wedgwood, R. (2007). The nature of normativity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wedgwood, R. (2013). Doxastic correctness. Aristotelian Society Supplementary, 87(1), 217–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Whiting, D. (2010). Should I believe the truth? Dialectica, 64(2), 213–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Whiting, D. (2013). Nothing but the truth: On the norms and aims of belief. In T. Chan (Ed.), The aim of belief. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  70. Williamson, T. (2000). Knowledge and its limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  71. Williamson, T. (2005a). Contextualism, subject-sensitive invariantism and knowledge of knowledge. Philosophical Quarterly, 55(219), 213–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Williamson, T. (2005b). Knowledge, context, and the agent’s point of view. In G. Preyer & G. Peter (Eds.), Contextualism in philosophy: Knowledge, meaning, and truth (pp. 91–114). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  73. Williamson, T. (2008). Why epistemology cannot be operationalized. In Q. Smith (Ed.), Epistemology: New essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  74. Williamson, T. (forthcoming). Justifications, excuses, and sceptical scenarios. In F. Dorsch & J. Dutant (Eds.), The new evil demon. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  75. Wittgenstein, L. (2009). Philosophical Investigations, 4th edition (trans. Hacker and Schulte). Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  76. Zimmerman, M. J. (1988). An essay on moral responsibility. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  77. Zimmerman, M. J. (2009). Living with uncertainty: The moral significance of ignorance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, School of HumanitiesZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina

Personalised recommendations