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Pragmatic Encroachment, Knowledge Norm of Action


One of the salutary features of Timothy Williamson’s knowledge-first epistemology, which he most thoroughly defends in Knowledge and Its Limits (2000), is its explanation and defense of knowledge norms for assertion and action. Williamsonian knowledge, in other words, is partly justified by its ability to explain why we do and should speak and act in certain ways. His defense of knowledge norms is, however, the subject of several critiques. The line of criticism that I will address in this piece argues that Williamson’s argument for the knowledge norm of action is in tension with his account of knowledge as a non-luminous mental state. In short, contra Williamson, knowledge must be iterable to (together with our desires) explain and justify why one should act differently than someone with mere justified true belief in a variety of cases, including Williamson’s own robbery case. The ‘KK Thesis’ that requires knowledge to iterable such that you only know something when you know that you know it is flatly inconsistent with Williamson’s text. Williamson appears to be forced in the position of amending (or, worse, abandoning) the knowledge norm of action or accepting KK. Accepting KK would too radically alter Williamson’s view. This tension raises the question of how to salvage a similar knowledge norm of action if one is amenable to the knowledge-first program.


Winning entry for the 2017 edition of teorema's Essay Prize for Young Scholars on Knowledge-First Epistemology and Decision Theory

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