Being in a position to know

Journal article


Yli-Vakkuri, Juhani and Hawthorne, John. (2021). Being in a position to know. Philosophical Studies. pp. 1-17. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-021-01709-x
AuthorsYli-Vakkuri, Juhani and Hawthorne, John
Abstract

The concept of being in a position to know is an increasingly popular member of the epistemologist’s toolkit. Some have used it as a basis for an account of propositional justification. Others, following Timothy Williamson, have used it as a vehicle for articulating interesting luminosity and anti-luminosity theses. It is tempting to think that while knowledge itself does not obey any closure principles, being in a position to know does. For example, if one knows both p and ‘If p then q’, but one dies or gets distracted before being able to perform a modus ponens on these items of knowledge and for that reason one does not know q, one is still plausibly in a position to know q. It is also tempting to suppose that, while one does not know all logical truths, one is nevertheless in a position to know every logical truth. Putting these temptations together, we get the view that being in a position to know has a normal modal logic. A recent literature has begun to investigate whether it is a good idea to give in to these twin temptations—in particular the first one. That literature assumes very naturally that one is in a position to know everything one knows and that one is not in a position to know things that one cannot know. It has succeeded in showing that, given the modest closure condition that knowledge is closed under conjunction elimination (or ‘distributes over conjunction’), being a position to know cannot satisfy the so-called K axiom (closure of being in a position to know under modus ponens) of normal modal logics. In this paper, we explore the question of the normality of the logic of being in a position to know in a more far-reaching and systematic way. Assuming that being in a position to know entails the possibility of knowing and that knowing entails being in a position to know, we can demonstrate radical failures of normality without assuming any closure principles at all for knowledge. (However, as we will indicate, we get further problems if we assume that knowledge is closed under conjunction introduction.) Moreover, the failure of normality cannot be laid at the door of the K axiom for knowledge, since the standard principle NEC of necessitation also fails for being in a position to know. After laying out and explaining our results, we briefly survey the coherent options that remain.

Year2021
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Journal citationpp. 1-17
PublisherSpringer
ISSN1573-0883
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-021-01709-x
Scopus EID2-s2.0-85113884391
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range1-17
Publisher's version
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All rights reserved
File Access Level
Controlled
Output statusIn press
Publication dates
Online30 Aug 2021
Publication process dates
Accepted29 Jun 2021
Deposited22 Dec 2021
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