pp 1–17 | Cite as

Knowledge, hope, and fallibilism

  • Matthew A. Benton
S.I.: Knowledge and Justification, New Perspectives


Hope, in its propositional construction “I hope that p” is compatible with a stated chance for the speaker that \(\lnot \textit{p}\). On fallibilist construals of knowledge, knowledge is compatible with a chance of being wrong, such that one can know that p even though there is an epistemic chance for one that \(\lnot \textit{p}\). But self-ascriptions of propositional hope that p seem to be incompatible, in some sense, with self-ascriptions of knowing whether p. Data from conjoining hope self-ascription with outright assertions, with first- and third-person knowledge ascriptions, and with factive predicates suggest a problem: when combined with a plausible principle on the rationality of hope, they suggest that fallibilism is false. By contrast, the infallibilist about knowledge can straightforwardly explain why knowledge would be incompatible with hope, and can offer a simple and unified explanation of all the linguistic data introduced here. This suggests that fallibilists bear an explanatory burden which has been hitherto overlooked.


Knowledge Hope Fallibilism Infallibilism Epistemic modals Factives 



For helpful comments, many thanks especially to John Hawthorne, Billy Dunaway, Dylan Dodd, and Blake Roeber, as well as Bob Beddor, Fabrizio Cariani, Andrew Chignell, Christina Dietz, Anne Jeffrey, Adrienne Martin, Sam Newlands, Baron Reed, Rebekah Rice, Paolo Santorio, John Turri, Peter van Elswyk, and to two helpful anonymous referees. Thanks also to audiences at Northwestern University and the University of Nottingham. This paper was supported in part by a Faculty Research and Scholarship grant (Seattle Pacific University, 2017), and by grants from the John Templeton Foundation (at the University of Oxford, and especially at the University of Notre Dame through the Hope and Optimism: Conceptual and Empirical Investigations project). The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.


  1. Anand, P., & Hacquard, V. (2013). Epistemics and attitudes. Semantics and Pragmatics, 6(article 8), 1–59. Scholar
  2. Anderson, C. (2014). Fallibilism and the flexibility of epistemic modals. Philosophical Studies, 167, 597–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Benton, M. A. (2011). Two more for the knowledge account of assertion. Analysis, 71, 684–687.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Benton, M. A. (2016). Gricean quality. Noûs, 50, 689–703.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bovens, L. (1999). The value of hope. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 59, 667–681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown, J. (2011). Fallibilism and the knowledge norm for assertion and practical reasoning. In J. Brown & H. Cappelen (Eds.), Assertion: New philosophical essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Comesana, J., & McGrath, M. (2014). Having false reasons. In C. Littlejohn & J. Turri (Eds.), Epistemic norms: New essays on action, belief, and assertion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Day, J. P. (1969). Hope. American Philosophical Quarterly, 6, 89–102.Google Scholar
  9. Dietz, C. H. (2017). Reasons and factive emotions. Philosophical Studies.
  10. Dodd, D. (2010). Confusion about concessive knowledge attributions. Synthese, 172, 381–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dorr, C., & Hawthorne, J. (2013). Embedding epistemic modals. Mind, 122, 867–913.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dougherty, T. (2011). Fallibilism. In S. Bernecker & D. Pritchard (Eds.), The Routledge companion to epistemology. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Dougherty, T., & Rysiew, P. (2009). Fallibilism, epistemic possibility, and concessive knowledge attributions. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 78, 123–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dougherty, T., & Rysiew, P. (2011). Clarity about concessive knowledge attributions: Reply to Dodd. Synthese, 181, 395–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Douven, I. (2006). Assertion, knowledge, and rational credibility. The Philosophical Review, 115, 449–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Downie, R. S. (1963). Hope. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 24, 248–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dutant, J. (2016). How to be an infallibilist. Philosophical Issues, 26, 148–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fantl, J. (2015). What is it to be happy that p? Ergo, 2, 267–297.Google Scholar
  19. Fantl, J., & McGrath, M. (2009). Knowledge in an uncertain world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Geach, P. (1965). Assertion. The Philosophical Review, 74, 449–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gerken, M. (2017). On folk epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gordon, R. M. (1969). Emotions and knowledge. Journal of Philosophy, 66, 408–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gordon, R. M. (1987). The structure of emotions: Investigations in cognitive philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Hawthorne, J. (2004). Knowledge and lotteries. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  25. Hawthorne, J. (2012). Knowledge and epistemic necessity. Philosophical Studies, 158, 493–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lackey, J. (2007). Norms of assertion. Noûs, 41, 594–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Martin, A. M. (2011). Hopes and dreams. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 83, 148–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Martin, A. M. (2014). How we hope: A moral psychology. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  29. McKinnon, R. (2013). The supportive reasons norm of assertion. American Philosophical Quarterly, 50, 121–135.Google Scholar
  30. Reed, B. (2002). How to think about fallibilism. Philosophical Studies, 107, 143–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Reed, B. (2013). Fallibilism, epistemic possibility, and epistemic agency. Philosophical Issues, 23, 40–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Sennet, A. (2016). Ambiguity. In: E. N. Zalta (Ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed 7 May 2018.
  33. Stanley, J. (2005). Fallibilism and concessive knowledge attributions. Analysis, 65, 126–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Turri, J. (2011). The express knowledge account of assertion. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 89, 37–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Turri, J. (2014). Knowledge and suberogatory assertion. Philosophical Studies, 167, 557–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Turri, J. (2016). Knowledge and the norm of assertion: An essay in philosophical science. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Unger, P. (1975). Ignorance: A defense of skepticism. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  38. Weiner, M. (2005). Must we know what we say? The Philosophical Review, 114, 227–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Whitcomb, D. (2017). One kind of asking. Philosophical Quarterly, 67, 148–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Williamson, T. (2000). Knowledge and its limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Worsnip, A. (2015). Possibly false knowledge. Journal of Philosophy, 122, 225–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Yalcin, S. (2007). Epistemic modals. Mind, 116, 983–1026.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Seattle Pacific UniversitySeattleUSA

Personalised recommendations