Why Epistemic Contextualism Does Not Provide an Adequate Account of Knowledge: Comments on Barke

  • Frank Hofmann


According to Antonia Barke’s version of contextualism, epistemic contextualism, a context is defined by a method and its associated assumptions. The subject has to make the assumption that the method is adequate or reliable and that good working conditions hold in order to arrive at knowledge by employing the method. I will criticize Barke’s claim that epistemic contextualism can provide a more satisfactory explanation or motivation for context shifts than conversational contextualism (in particular, David Lewis’s contextualism). Two more points of criticism will be presented, which are meant to show that epistemic contextualism presupposes epistemic internalism, and that epistemicc) contextualism leads to an implausible view about which parameters the special achievement that is constitutive of knowledge depends on. I suggest that, contra epistemicc) contextualism, knowledge is a more robust phenomenon that does not depend on whether anyone calls into question any assumptions or raises skeptical doubts in conversation or in his or her mind (as, for example, Fred Dretske’s account says). I indicate how this can be reconciled with the phenomenon that knowledge attributions are somewhat unstable and seemingly context-dependent.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank Hofmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Philosophisches SeminarUniversität TübingenTübingenGermany

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