, Volume 191, Issue 14, pp 3239–3269 | Cite as

Knowledge, conservatism, and pragmatics

  • Paul Dimmock
  • Torfinn Thomesen Huvenes


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.


Knowledge 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.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Shanghai Institute of TechnologyShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and IdeasUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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