The Semantic Error Problem for Epistemic Contextualism

Authored by: Patrick Greenough , Dirk Kindermann

The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Contextualism

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138818392
eBook ISBN: 9781315745275
Adobe ISBN: 9781317594697


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Epistemic Contextualism is the view that “knows that” is semantically context-sensitive and that properly accommodating this fact into our philosophical theory promises to solve various puzzles concerning knowledge. 1 Yet Epistemic Contextualism faces a big – some would say fatal – problem: The Semantic Error Problem. 2 In its prominent form, this runs thus: speakers just don’t seem to recognise that “knows that” is context-sensitive; so, if “knows that” really is context-sensitive, then such speakers are systematically in error about what is said by, or how to evaluate, ordinary uses of “S knows that p”; but since it’s wildly implausible that ordinary speakers should exhibit such systematic error, the expression “knows that” isn’t context-sensitive. 3

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