Epistemic Logic, Relevant Alternatives, and the Dynamics of Context
According to the Relevant Alternatives (RA) Theory of knowledge, knowing that something is the case involves ruling out (only) the relevant alternatives. The conception of knowledge in epistemic logic also involves the elimination of possibilities, but without an explicit distinction, among the possibilities consistent with an agent’s information, between those relevant possibilities that an agent must rule out in order to know and those remote, far-fetched or otherwise irrelevant possibilities. In this article, I propose formalizations of two versions of the RA theory. Doing so clarifies a famous debate in epistemology, pitting Fred Dretske against David Lewis, about whether the RA theorist should accept the principle that knowledge is closed under known implication, familiar as the K axiom in epistemic logic. Dretske’s case against closure under known implication leads to a study of other closure principles, while Lewis’s defense of closure by appeal to the claimed context sensitivity of knowledge attributions leads to a study of the dynamics of context. Having followed the first lead at length in other work, here I focus more on the second, especially on logical issues associated with developing a dynamic epistemic logic of context change over models for the RA theory.
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