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Knowing Who: How Perspectives and Context Interact

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Epistemology, Context, and Formalism

Part of the book series: Synthese Library ((SYLI,volume 369))

Abstract

In this article we investigate how conceptual perspectives and context interact in the determination of the truth of sentences in which ‘knowing-wh’ constructions occur.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Even if we assume that the epistemic standards are the same in context α and β, (1) will, prima facie, have different truth-values with respect to α and β. Thus, this shift in truth-value from α to β cannot be traced back to the fact that in each context there is a different epistemic standard at play and the meaning and/or the semantic value of ‘know’ is sensitive to that difference in context. What cases like the card scenario therefore seem to show is a kind of context sensitivity which is characteristic of ‘knowing-wh’ constructions, in the sense that it cannot be explained by the putative context-sensitivity of ‘know’.

  2. 2.

    The notions of a conceptual cover and conceptual perspective will be defined later on.

  3. 3.

    MacFarlane rejects the hypothesis that the context of assessment of a sentence plays a role similar to the first role played by the context of use. That is, he rejects that there is a context of assessment A of the use of a sentence X in context U such that A is different from U and A helps determine the proposition expressed by X as used in U.

  4. 4.

    More precisely: Contextualism takes the proposition expressed in a context of use by a sentence containing a wh-clause to be dependent on the perspective that is at play in that context; Sensitive Invariantism takes the truth, in a context of use (and of assessment), of sentences containing wh-clauses to be dependent on the perspective at play under the circumstances of evaluation of the sentence (where circumstances of evaluation do not include any perspective parameter, just as sentences such as ‘Jupiter is as far apart to Nepture as the Earth is from the Sun’ depend for their truth at a given circumstance of evaluation on the distance between the Earth and the Sun at that circumstance, even though the circumstance has no ‘distance between the Earth and the Sun’ parameter); and Relativism takes the truth, in a context of use and of assessment, of sentences containing wh-clauses to be dependent on a perspective parameter under the circumstances of evaluation, whose value is given by the perspective at play in the context of assessment. Aloni (2001), presented in the previous section, is an example of a contextualist analysis. As far as we know, nobody has explicitly defended a sensitive invariantist or a relativist analysis of ‘knowledge-wh’ in the linguistic or philosophical literature.

  5. 5.

    We assume here that circumstances of evaluation do not include any perspective parameter.

  6. 6.

    And, accordingly, added a perspective parameter to the circumstances of evaluation, whose value is given by the perspective at play in the context of assessment.

  7. 7.

    Braun has also recognized that this argument could lose some of its strength because comparative and gradable adjectives would be subject to the same objection as the one he provides, even though these expressions are widely recognized as being context-sensitive.

  8. 8.

    It is actually possible to know an answer to a question of the form ‘who \(\varphi\)’, without knowing who \(\varphi\). For example, ‘Mary called’ is an answer to the question ‘who called?’. But knowing that Mary called is not enough to know who called. Suppose Mary and John called, but you believe that only Mary called. Then you know that Mary called, but you don’t know who called. But we will disregard these issues here (see Groenendijk and Stokhof 1984, for further discussion).

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Correspondence to Maria Aloni .

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Aloni, M., Jacinto, B. (2014). Knowing Who: How Perspectives and Context Interact. In: Lihoreau, F., Rebuschi, M. (eds) Epistemology, Context, and Formalism. Synthese Library, vol 369. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02943-6_6

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