The apparent contextual variability exhibited by ‘knows’ and its cognates—brought to attention in examples like Keith DeRose’s Bank Case—poses familiar problems for conservative forms of invariantism about ‘knows’. The paper examines and criticises a popular response to those problems, one that involves appeal to so-called ‘pragmatic’ features of language. It is first argued, contrary to what seems to have been generally assumed, that any pragmatic defence faces serious problems with regard to our judgments about retraction. Second, the familiar objection that the pragmatic effects at issue do not seem to be cancellable is considered. Advocates of the pragmatic defence have suggested that cancellability concerns can be dealt with fairly readily. It is shown both that their recent attempts to respond to those concerns, and some other possible attempts, are unsuccessful. Finally, it is argued that the popular relevance-based accounts, found in the work of Jessica Brown, Alan Hazlett, and Patrick Rysiew, fail to provide a satisfactory explanation of our judgments.
KeywordsKnowledge ascriptions Pragmatics Invariantism
Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the Friday Graduate Seminar (University of St Andrews, December 2009) and the CSMN Colloquium (University of Oslo, February 2010). We are grateful to the audiences on those occasions for useful comments and criticisms. We would also like to thank Jessica Brown, Herman Cappelen, Patrick Greenough, Daniele Sgaravatti, and two anonymous referees for helpful discussion and comments.
- Cohen, S. (1999). Contextualism, skepticism, and the structure of reasons. Philosophical Perspectives, 13, 57–89.Google Scholar
- Davis, S. (Ed.). (1991). Pragmatics: A reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- DeRose, K. (1999). Contextualism: An explanation and defense. In J. Greco & E. Sosa (Eds.), The Blackwell guide to epistemology (pp. 187–205). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
- Dougherty, T., & Rysiew, P. (2009). Fallibilism, epistemic possibility, and concessive knowledge attributions. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 78, 123–132.Google Scholar
- Dougherty, T., & Rysiew, P. (2011). Clarity about concessive knowledge attributions: a reply to Dodd. Synthese, 181, 395–403.Google Scholar
- Gazdar, G. (1979). Pragmatics: Implicature, pressupposition, and logical form. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
- Grice, P. (1975). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole & J. Morgan (Eds.), Syntax and Semantics 3 (pp. 41–58). New York: Academic Press. Page references are to the reprint in Grice 1989, p. 22–40.Google Scholar
- Grice, P. (1978). Further notes on logic and conversation. In P. Cole (Ed.), Syntax and semantics 9 (pp. 113–128). New York: Academic Press. Page references are to the reprint in Grice 1989, p. 41–57.Google Scholar
- Grice, P. (1989). Studies in the way of words. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Hawthorne, J. (2004). Knowledge and lotteries. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
- Horn, L. (1984). Toward a new taxonomy for pragmatic inference. In D. Schiffrin (Ed.), Meaning, form and use in context (pp. 11–42). Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
- Horn, L. (1989). A natural history of negation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Levinson, S. (1983). Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Levinson, S. (2000). Presumptive meanings. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Lutz, M. (2013). The pragmatics of pragmatic encroachment. Synthese. doi: 10.1007/s11229-013-0361-6.
- MacFarlane, J. (2005). The assessment sensitivity of knowledge attributions. In T. S. Gendler & J. Hawthorne (Eds.), Oxford studies in epistemology (Vol. 1, pp. 197–233). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- MacFarlane, J. (2011). Relativism and knowledge attributions. In S. Bernecker & D. Pritchard (Eds.), Routledge companion to epistemology (pp. 536–544). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- McGrath, M. (2013). Two purposes of knowledge attribution and the contextualism debate. In J. Greco & D. Henderson (Eds.), Epistemic evaluation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Pritchard, D. (2010). Contextualism, scepticism and warranted assertibility maneuvers. In J. K. Campbell, M. O’Rourke, & H. Silverstein (Eds.), Knowledge and skepticism (pp. 85–104). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Sadock, J. (1978). On testing for conversational implicature. In P. Cole (Ed.), Syntax and semantics 9 (pp. 281–297). New York: Academic Press. Page references are to the reprint in Davis 1991, pp. 365–376.Google Scholar
- 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: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar