Why we don’t deserve credit for everything we know

Abstract

A view of knowledge—what I call the Deserving Credit View of Knowledge(DCVK)—found in much of the recent epistemological literature, particularly among so-called virtue epistemologists, centres around the thesis that knowledge is something for which a subject deserves credit. Indeed, this is said to be the central difference between those true beliefs that qualify as knowledge and those that are true merely by luck—the former, unlike the latter, are achievements of the subject and are thereby creditable to her. Moreover, it is often further noted that deserving credit is what explains the additional value that knowledge has over merely lucky true belief. In this paper, I argue that the general conception of knowledge found in the DCVK is fundamentally incorrect. In particular, I show that deserving credit cannot be what distinguishes knowledge from merely lucky true belief since knowledge is not something for which a subject always deserves credit.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Adler J.E. (1994). Testimony, trust, knowing. The Journal of Philosophy 91:264–275

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Adler J.E. (2002). Belief’s own ethics. MIT, Cambridge, MA

    Google Scholar 

  3. Audi R. (1997). The place of testimony in the fabric of knowledge and justification. American Philosophical Quarterly 34:405–422

    Google Scholar 

  4. Audi R. (1998). Epistemology: A contemporary introduction to the theory of knowledge. Routledge, London

    Google Scholar 

  5. Audi, R. (Forthcoming). Testimony, credulity, and veracity. In J. Lackey & E. Sosa (Eds.), The epistemology of testimony. Oxford: Oxford University Press

  6. Austin J.L. (1979). Other minds. Philosophical papers (3rd Edn). Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  7. BonJour L. (1985). The structure of empirical knowledge. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA

    Google Scholar 

  8. Burge T. (1993). Content preservation. The Philosophical Review 102:457–488

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Burge T. (1997). Interlocution, perception, and memory. Philosophical Studies 86:21–47

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Chisholm R.M. (1977). Theory of knowledge (2nd Edn). Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J

    Google Scholar 

  11. Coady C.A.J. (1992). Testimony: A philosophical study. Clarendo Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  12. Coady C.A.J. (1994). Testimony, observation and autonomous knowledge. In: Matilal B.K., Chakrabarti A. (eds) Knowing from words. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp. 225–250

    Google Scholar 

  13. Dummett M. (1994). Testimony and memory. In: Matilal B.K., Chakrabarti A. (eds) Knowing from words. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp. 251–272

    Google Scholar 

  14. Evans G. (1982). The varieties of reference. Clarendon Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  15. Faulkner P. (2000). The social character of testimonial knowledge. The Journal of Philosophy 97:581–601

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Faulkner P. (2002). On the rationality of our response to testimony. Synthese 131:353–370

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Foley R. (1994). Egoism in epistemology. In: Schmitt F. (eds) Socializing epistemology: The social dimensions of knowledge. Roman and Littlefield, Lanham, MD, pp. 53–73

    Google Scholar 

  18. Fricker E. (1987). The epistemology of testimony. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 61:57–83

    Google Scholar 

  19. Fricker E. (1994). Against gullibility. In: Matilal B.K., Chakrabarti A. (eds) Knowing from words. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp. 125–161

    Google Scholar 

  20. Fricker E. (1995). Telling and trusting: reductionism and anti-reductionism in the Epistemology of Testimony. Mind 104:393–411

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Fricker E. (2002). Trusting others in the sciences: A Priori or empirical warrant?. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 33:373–383

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Fricker, E. (Forthcoming a). Knowledge from trust in testimony is second-hand knowledge. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

  23. Fricker, E. (Forthcoming b). Testimony and epistemic autonomy. In J. Lackey & E. Sosa (Eds.), The epistemology of testimony. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  24. Gettier E. (1963). Is justified true belief knowledge?. Analysis 23:121–123

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Goldberg, S. C. (Forthcoming). Reductionism and the distinctiveness of testimonial knowledge. In J. Lackey & E. Sosa (Eds.), The Epistemology of testimony. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  26. Goldman A.I. (1999). Knowledge in a social world. Clarendon Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  27. Graham, P. J. (Forthcoming). Liberal fundamentalism and its rivals. In J. Lackey & E. Sosa (Eds.), The epistemology of testimony. Oxford: Oxford University Press

  28. Greco J. (2000). Two kinds of intellectual virtue. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 60:179–184

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Greco J. (2003). Knowledge as credit for true belief. In: DePaul M., Zagzebski L. (eds) Intellectual virtue: Perspectives from ethics and epistemology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 111–134

    Google Scholar 

  30. Hardwig J. (1985). Epistemic dependence. The Journal of Philosophy 82:335–394

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Hardwig J. (1991). The role of trust in knowledge. The Journal of Philosophy 88:693–708

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Hume D. (1967). An enquiry concerning human understanding. In: Selby-Bigge L.A. (eds) Hume’s enquiries. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  33. Insole C.J. (2000). Seeing off the local threat to irreducible knowledge by testimony. The Philosophical Quarterly 50:44–56

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Lackey J. (1999). Testimonial knowledge and transmission. The Philosophical Quarterly 49:471–409

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Lackey J. (2003). A minimal expression of non-reductionism in the epistemology of testimony. Noûs 37:706–732

    Google Scholar 

  36. Lackey, J. (Forthcoming a). Testimony and the infant/child objection. Philosophical Studies.

  37. Lackey, J. (Forthcoming b). Learning from words. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

  38. Lackey, J. (Forthcoming c). It takes two to tango: beyond reductionism and non-reductionism in the epistemology of testimony. In J. Lackey & E. Sosa (Eds.), The epistemology of testimony. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  39. Lehrer, K. (Forthcoming). Testimony and trustworthiness. In J. Lackey, & E. Sosa (Eds.), The epistemology of testimony. Oxford: Oxford University Press

  40. Lipton P. (1998). The epistemology of testimony. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 29:1–31

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Lyons J. (1997). Testimony, induction and folk psychology. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 75:163–178

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. McDowell J. (1994). Knowledge by hearsay. In: Matilal B.K., Chakrabarti A. (eds) Knowing from words. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp. 195–224

    Google Scholar 

  43. Millgram E. (1997). Practical induction. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA

    Google Scholar 

  44. Neta R., Rohrbaugh G. (2004). Luminosity and the safety of knowledge. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 85:396–406

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Owens D. (2000). Reason without freedom: The problem of epistemic normativity. Routledge, London

    Google Scholar 

  46. Plantinga A. (1993). Warrant and proper function. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  47. Pritchard D. (2005). Epistemic luck. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  48. Reed, B. (2005). The long road to skepticism. manuscript.

  49. Reid, T. (1993). The works of Thomas Reid, Sir William Hamilton (Ed.), Charlottesville, VA: Publishing.

  50. Reynolds S.L. (2002). Testimony, knowledge, and epistemic goals. Philosophical Studies 110:139–161

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Riggs W.D. (2002). Reliability and the value of knowledge. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 64:79–96

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Root M. (2001). Hume on the virtues of testimony. American Philosophical Quarterly 38:19–35

    Google Scholar 

  53. Ross A. (1986). Why do we believe what we are told?. Ratio 28:69–88

    Google Scholar 

  54. Rysiew P. (2002). Testimony, simulation, and the limits of inductivism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 78:269–274

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Schmitt F.F. (1999). Social epistemology. In: Greco J., Sosa E. (eds) The Blackwell guide to epistemology. Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 354–382

    Google Scholar 

  56. Schmitt, F. F. (Forthcoming). Testimonial justification and transindividual reason: In J. Lackey & E. Sosa (Eds.), The epistemology of testimony. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  57. Shope R. (1983). The analysis of knowing. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ

    Google Scholar 

  58. Sosa E. (1991). Knowledge in perspective: Selected essays in epistemology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  59. Sosa E. (2003). The place of truth in epistemology. In: DePaul M., Zagzebski L. (eds) Intellectual virtue: perspectives from ethics and epistemology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 155–179

    Google Scholar 

  60. Sosa, E. (Forthcoming). Knowledge: instrumental and testimonial. In J. Lackey & E. Sosa (Eds.), The epistemology of testimony. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  61. Stevenson L. (1993). Why believe what people say?. Synthese 94:429–451

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Strawson P.F. (1994). Knowing from words. In: Matilal B.K., Chakrabarti A. (eds) Knowing from words. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp. 23–27

    Google Scholar 

  63. Van Cleve, J. (Forthcoming). Reid on the credit of human testimony. In J. Lackey & E. Sosa (Eds.), The epistemology of testimony. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  64. Webb M.O. (1993). Why I know about as much as you: A reply to Hardwig. The Journal of Philosophy 90:260–270

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Weiner M. (2003). Accepting testimony. The Philosophical Quarterly 53:256–264

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Welbourne M. (1979). The transmission of knowledge. The Philosophical Quarterly 29:1–9

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Welbourne M. (1981). The community of knowledge. The Philosophical Quarterly 31:302–314

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. Welbourne M. (1986). The community of knowledge. Aberdeen University Press, Aberdeen

    Google Scholar 

  69. Welbourne M. (1994) Testimony, knowledge and belief. In: Matilal B.K., Chakrabarti A. (eds) Knowing from words. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp. 297–313

    Google Scholar 

  70. Williamson T. (1996) Knowing and asserting. The Philosophical Review 105:489–523

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Williamson T. (2000) Knowledge and its limits. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  72. Zagzebski L. (1996) Virtues of the mind: An inquiry into the nature of virtue and the ethical foundations of knowledge. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  73. Zagzebski L. (1999). What is knowledge?. In: Greco J., Sosa E. (eds) The Blackwell guide to epistemology. Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 92–116

    Google Scholar 

  74. Zagzebski L. (2003). Intellectual motivation and the good of truth. In: DePaul M., Zagzebski L. (eds) Intellectual virtue: perspectives from ethics and epistemology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 135–154

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jennifer Lackey.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Lackey, J. Why we don’t deserve credit for everything we know. Synthese 158, 345–361 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-006-9044-x

Download citation

Keywords

  • Knowledge
  • Luck
  • Credit