Is Safety In Danger?
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In “Knowledge Under Threat” (Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 2012), Tomas Bogardus proposes a counterexample to the safety condition for knowledge. Bogardus argues that the case demonstrates that unsafe knowledge is possible. I argue that the case just corroborates the well-known requirement that modal conditions like safety must be relativized to methods of belief formation. I explore several ways of relativizing safety to belief-forming methods and I argue that none is adequate: if methods were individuated in those ways, safety would fail to explain several much-discussed cases. I then propose a plausible externalist principle of method individuation. On the one hand, relativizing safety to belief-forming methods in the way suggested allows the defender of safety to account for the cases. On the other hand, it shows that the target known belief of Bogardus’s example is safe. Finally, I offer a diagnosis of a common error about the kind of cases that are typically considered potential counterexamples to the necessity of the epistemic condition: proponents of the alleged counterexamples mistake a strong condition that I call super-safety for safety.
KeywordsMethods of belief formation Bogardus Knowledge Reliability Safety
I am grateful to Fernando Broncano Rodríguez, Joan Pagès, Michele Palmira, Manuel Pérez Otero and the audience of the Workshop on the Naturalization of the Mind and Modality held at the University of Girona (December 2012) for valuable comments. I am especially grateful to an anonymous referee for thought-provoking comments and helpful suggestions.
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