Index, Context, and the Content of Knowledge

Authored by: Brian Rabern

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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The verb ‘knows’ is often treated as an intensional operator, and the logic of knowledge is often modelled with a modal operator K – a quantifier over ways that things could be compatible with a subject’s knowledge (or evidence). ‘Knows’ is also often taken to be context-sensitive in an interesting way. What ‘knows’ means seems to be sensitive to the epistemic features of the context, e.g. the epistemic standard in play, the set of relevant alternatives, etc. There are standard model-theoretic semantic frameworks which deal with both intensional operators and context-sensitive expressions. The basic elements of these frameworks were developed by Lewis (1970), Montague (1968), and Scott (1970), and then received more sophisticated renditions and philosophical interpretations in Kaplan (1989a) and Lewis (1980). In this chapter, we provide a brief overview of the various moving parts of these frameworks, the roles of context and index, the need for double indexing, and the relationship between semantic value and content. With the best version of the standard framework explicated we then return at the end to the treatment of ‘know’ as a context-sensitive intensional operator (contrasting it with an invariantist treatment).

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