, Volume 79, Issue 5, pp 971–999

Very Improbable Knowing

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10670-013-9590-9

Cite this article as:
Williamson, T. Erkenn (2014) 79: 971. doi:10.1007/s10670-013-9590-9


Improbable knowing is knowing something even though it is almost certain on one’s evidence at the time that one does not know that thing. Once probabilities on the agent’s evidence are introduced into epistemic logic in a very natural way, it is easy to construct models of improbable knowing, some of which have realistic interpretations, for instance concerning agents like us with limited powers of perceptual discrimination. Improbable knowing is an extreme case of failure of the KK principle, that is, of a case of knowing something even though one does not know at the time that one knows that thing. A generalization of the argument yields cases of improbable rationality, in which it is rational for one to do something even though it is almost certain on one’s evidence at the time that it is not rational for one to do that thing. When the models are elaborated to represent appearances and beliefs as well as knowledge, they turn out to contain Gettier cases. Neglect of the possibility of improbable knowing may cause some sceptical claims and claims of the non-closure of knowledge under competent deduction to look more plausible than they deserve to. A formal appendix explores the closely related question of the conditions under which a reflection principle is violated. The principle says that the evidential probability of a proposition conditional on the evidential probability of that proposition’s being c is itself c.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OxfordOxfordUK

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