Philosophical Review

Solving the Skeptical Problem Author(s): Keith DeRose Reviewed work(s): Source: The Philosophical Review, Vol. 104, No. 1 (Jan., 1995), pp. 1-52 Published by: Duke University Press on behalf of Philosophical Review Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2186011 . Accessed: 12/04/2012 11:36
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ThePhilosophical Review, Vol. 104,No. 1 January 1995)

Solving the Skeptical Problem Keith DeRose
1. The Puzzle of Skeptical Hypotheses and powerful skeptical Many of the most celebrated, intriguing, arguments proceed by means of skeptical hypotheses. Brutally pared to their barest essentials,theyare roughlyof the following form,where 'O' is a proposition about the external world one would ordinarily thinkone knows (e.g., I have hands') and 'H' is a suitablychosen skeptical hypothesis (e.g., I am a bodiless brain in a vat who has been electrochemically stimulatedto have preciselythose sensoryexperiences I've had, hencefortha 'BjV'2): The ArgumentfromIgnorance (AI) 3 1. I don't know that not-H. 2. If I don't know that not-H, then I don't know that 0. C. I don't know that 0.4

So,

1 choose this0 partly forits historicalconnections to Descartes's First Meditation,and also because I thinkit is an exemplarycase of something we ordinarily thinkwe know.But whilewe would ordinarily thinkwe know this0, we'd seldom have occasion to saythatwe know it,because cases in which such a claim to knowledgewould be conversationally order are in quite rare. (Exception: A teacherbegins an epistemology lecturebymatterof-factly listingvarious thingsshe knows,and that any plausible theoryof knowledgeshould make her come out to know.In the course of thislisting, she says, "And I know that I have hands.") For this and various related reasons, some mightnot like mychoice of 0. Such readers are invitedto supplytheirown favorite exemplarycases of things knowas the skeptic's we target. VThose who thinkthat Hilary Putnam may have already disarmed BIVinspired skepticismshould understand the BIV hypothesisto be the hypothesis that one's brain has been recently envatted aftermany years of normal embodiment.For even ifPutnam is rightin claimingthatthe contentof the beliefsof the BIVs of his scenario is such thatthese BIVs aren't massively deceived, it seems that recently envattedBIVs are so deceived. 3AI takesits name primarily fromits first premise. But since one of Al's best formulations which I herebyreferreaders seeking a good version (to of Al thathas not been so brutally pared) is in chapter 1 of Peter Unger's book Ignorance: Casefor Scepticism A (1975), it is in more than one sense thatit is an argument"fromignorance." 4j actuallyhaven't pared Al to its barest essentials.It could be further.
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Settingaside the distracting side issues that immediately threaten from all directions,and keeping AI in this stark,uncomplicated form,I will,in what follows,presentand defend, at least in broad outline, the correct solution to the puzzle AI confrontsus with. And AI does present us with a puzzle, because, for reasons we'll in investigate later sections,each of its premises is initially plausible, when H is well chosen. For however improbable or even bizarre it may seem to suppose that I am a BLV,it also seems that I don't know thatI'm not one. How couldI know such a thing?And it also seems that if,for all I know,I am a BLV,then I don't know that I have hands. How could I know that I have hands if,for all I know,I'm bodiless (and thereforehandless)? But, at the same time, it initiallyseems that I do know that I have hands. So two plausible premisesyield a conclusion whose negation we also find plausible. So somethingplausible has to go. But what?And equally importantly, how? To be sure, the premises are only plausible, not compelling. Thus, we will alwayshave recourse to the Moorean reaction to this
pared to a one-premiseargument:I don't know that not-H; so, I don't know that 0. The second, "bridge" premise has been added to facilitate mytreatment the argument,nicelydividingthose issues thatimpact on of the acceptability the first of premise fromthose germane to the second. Al is the first and great argumentby skepticalhypothesis. And the second, like unto it, is TheArgument Possibility from (AP), which,like Al, takes its name fromits first premise,and which has thisform: 1. It is possible thatHind2. If it is possible thatHind, then it is possible thatnot-O0id. So, 3. It is possible thatnot-Oind. 4. If it is possible thatnot-Oind,then I don't know that 0. So, C. I don't know that 0. (The subscript'ind' indicatesthatwhatoccurs in the scope of 'It is possible that' is to be kept in the indicativemood, so thatthe possibility expressed willbe an epistemicone. The "bridge" premises,2 and 4, can be omitted.) In thispaper I address onlyAl, but let me quicklyindicate how AP should be handled. Premise 4, which initially strikes manyas AP's weakestlink,is actuallycorrect (DeRose 1991, section G). Thus, the AP skepticmust be stopped before reaches step 3. Fortunately, treatment Al that I she the of presentin thispaper can be generalized to handle the initialphase (steps 1-3) of AP as well. This treatment AP is lefthere as an exercise for the of reader,but is explained in chapter 3, especiallysection K, of my 1990. 2

SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM

argument:Declare that it is more certain that one knowsthatone has hands than it is that either of the premises of the argumentis true (much less that their conjunction is true), and therefore reject one of those premises, rather than accept the conclusion. But also available is the skepticalreaction,which is to accept the conclusion. But we should hope fora bettertreatment the argumentthan of simplychoosing which of the three individually plausible propositions-the two premises and the negation of the conclusionseems least certain and rejectingit on the grounds that the other two are true. In seeking a solution to this puzzle, we should seek an explanation of how we fell into this skeptical trap in the first place, and not settlefor making a simple choice among three distastefulways out of the trap. We must explain how two premises that togetheryield a conclusion we find so incredible can themselves seem so plausible to us. Only with such an explanation in place can we proceed withconfidence and withunderstandingto free ourselvesfromthe trap. Many of those workingon AI in recent years seem to have understood this.5And I have good news to report: Substantialprogress towards finallysolving this skeptical puzzle has been made along two quite different fronts.The bad news is that,as I shall argue, neitherapproach has solved the puzzle. But the culminating good news is that,as I will also argue, the new solution I present here, which incorporatesimportantaspects of each of the two approaches, can finallysolve this perennially thornyphilosophical problem. While more details and precisionwillbe called forin the resultingsolution than I will provide, there will be enough meat on the bones to make it plausible thatthe fully articulatedsolution lies in the directionI point to here. In sections 2-4 of this paper, I explore the contextualistapproach to the problem of skepticism, and show whyit has thus far fallen shortof solvingthe puzzle. In sections 5-9, I turnto Robert Nozick's attemptto solve our puzzle. Since the shortcomingsof Nozick's treatment knowledgeand skepticism of have been, at least
5This is especiallytrue of StewartCohen, to whom I'm indebted forhis general setup of the puzzle as a conflictof intuitions, satisfactory a solution of whichrequiresan explanation of whythe puzzle arises.See Cohen 1988, 93-94.
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to my satisfaction, duly demonstratedby others,it will not be my purpose here to rehearse those shortcomings, but rather to explore and expand upon the substantialinsightthat remains intact in Nozick's account. In sections 10-17, I present and defend my own contextualistsolution, which I argue is the best solution to our puzzle. Since, as I argue in sections 15-17, the skeptic's own solution, according to which we accept AI's conclusion, is among the solutionsinferior the one I present,AI does not successfully to support that conclusion. 2. ContextualistSolutions: The Basic Strategy Suppose a speaker A (for "attributor") says,"S knows that P," of a subject S's true belief that P. According to contextualist theories of knowledgeattributions, how strongan epistemicpositionS must be in with respect to P for A's assertion to be true can vary according to featuresof A's conversationalcontext.6 Contextualisttheoriesof knowledge attributions have almost invariablybeen developed with an eye toward providingsome kind of answerto philosophical skepticism. For skepticalargumentslike AI threatento show,not only thatwe fail to meet veryhigh requirementsfor knowledge of interestonly to misguided philosophers but seeking absolute certainty, that we don't meet even the truth conditions of ordinary,out-on-the-street knowledge attributions. They thus threatento establish the startling result that we never, or almost never, truthfully ascribe knowledge to ourselves or to other mere mortals. But, according to contextualists, the skeptic,in presentingher argument, manipulates the semantic standards for knowledge, therebycreating a context in which she can truthfully that we say know nothing or very little.7Once the standards have been so
6For a bit more on the nature of contextualisttheories,see my 1992. The notion of (comparative) strength epistemicposition,central to my of characterization contextualism, of will be explicated below in sections 10 and 11. in For exemplarycontextualist treatments the problem of skepticism, of addition to the papers cited below in sections3 and 4, see especiallyUnger 1986 and Cohen 1988. 7This is at least so according to skeptic-friendly versionsof contextualist solutions,as will be explained later in thissection.
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one is initially temptedto say thatthere's no good sense in which I know thatI'm 5 . isn't the skeptic's present denial equally false?And wouldn't it be equally true forus now.it will not only be true for us to claim to know the verythingsthat the skepticnow denies we know. In fact.but itwillalso be wrongforus to deny that we know these things. Whythen are we puzzled? Why don't we simplyaccept the skeptic's conclusion and henceforth refrainfromascribingsuch knowledge to ourselvesor others?Becontinues.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM sense that we only could falselyclaim to know raised.Once we realize this. Thus. is thatthe skeptic'spresentdenials thatwe knowvarious thingsare compatible with our ordinaryclaims to know those very perfectly propositions. For the fact that the skeptic can invoke very high standards that we don't live up to has no tendency to show that we the don't satisfy more relaxed standardsthat are in place in more ordinaryconversationsand debates. But then. our ordinaryclaims to knowcan be safeguardwhile. Three important points about contextualist strategies as described above should be made before I move on.we can see how both the skepof tic's denials of knowledge and our ordinaryattributions knowledge can be correct. according to the contextualistsolution. Whether such a timid skeptical stance is of any interestis a topic for another paper. The contextualiststrategyis importantbecause AI initiallyseems to threaten the truthof our ordinaryclaims-it threatensto boldly show thatwe've been wrong all along in thinkingand sayingthat we know this and that. First.we also realize this:As soon as cause. same time. to claim to know? What we fail to realize.at the ed fromthe apparentlypowerfulattackof the skeptic. the persuasiveness of the skeptical argument is explained. the contextualist we find ourselvesin more ordinaryconversationalcontexts.thistypeof will strategy leave untouched the timidskepticwho purportsbyAI merely to be establishingthe weak claim that in some (perhaps "high" or "philosophical") sense (perhaps induced by the presentation of Al) we don't know the relevant 0. while not even purporting to establish the bold thesis that our ordinary claims to know that same proposition are false.in the skeptic'spresence. it is hoped. For it doesn't seem as if it's just in some "high" or "philosophical" sense thatAl's premises are true: They seem true in the ordinarysense of 'know'. we correctly such thingsas thatwe have hands.

by not letting the skepticget awaywithraisingthem.withoutanybody's sayinganything. The argumenthas about the same degree of intuitive appeal when one is just consideringit by oneself.But we must realize that the resultingsolution will have to be generalized to explain whythe argumentcan be so appealing even when one is consideringit in solitude.The contextualist's ultimatepoint willthen be this: To the extent that the skeptic doessucceed. The basic idea of the generalizationwill take either or both of the following 8Thanks Richard to and this Grandy to PeterUngerforpressing point.and does.keep the standardslow. she does so only by raisingthe standardsfor knowledge. involvesthe standardsforknowledge being changed bywhat'sbeing said in a conversation. I will frame the contextualistexplanation in terms of such conversationalrules.To safeguard ordinaryclaims to know while at the same time explaining the persuasivenessof the skepticalarguments(which is the goal of his strategy). Third. AI can be puzzling even when one is not in the presence of a skepticwho is presentingit. 6 . have above I assumed a skeptic-friendly version of contextualism-one according to which the philosophical skepticcan (fairly easily). Some contextualistsmay thinkthat it's not so easy to so raise the standardsfor knowledge.KEITH DEROSE not a BIV or in which I can know I have hands ifI don't know that I'm not a BIV.as described above. How (and whether)to avoid the bold skepticalresult is puzzle enough. largelybecause that'swhat been done by my contextualist predecessors. in presenting the contextualiststrategy. Whether the skeptic actually succeeds against a determined opponent in so raising the standardsis of littleimportance.But the contextualistexplanation. Second. the contextualistcan provisionallyassumea skepticfriendly version of contextualism. For the most part.and so the success of her argument has no tendencyto show that our ordinaryclaims to know are in any way defective. But the importantpoint is to identify the mechanism by which the skeptic at least threatens to raise the standards for knowledge. succeed in raisingthe standardsfor knowledge in such a wayas to make her denials of knowledge true.leaving it as an open question whetherand under which conditions the skepticactuallysucceeds at raisingthe standards. and thata determined opponent of the skepticcan.withwhom I want to make contact.withnothingbeing said.

does treat them in passing.Second.made in another context.we haven't explained the persuasivenessof AT.that I do know thatverything. and thus haven't solved our puzzle. one of the best attempts to explain how (by what rule or conversational mechanism) skeptics raise the standards for knowledge is to be found in David Lewis's "Scorekeeping in a Language Game" (1979). while not primarily about knowledge attributions. My own solution will employ the basic contextualist exstrategy plained in thissection. our judgment regardingwhether somethingcan or cannot be truly asserted (under appropriateconditions) mightbe held to affectour judgment regardingwhether it's true or false. ifwe haven't located and explained the conversational rule or mechanism by which the skeptic raises (or threatensto raise) the standardsfor knowledge.it can be maintained that there is a rule for the changing of the standards for knowledge that governs the truth conditions of our thoughts regardingwhat is and is not known that mirrorsthe rule for the truthconditions of what is said regarding knowledge." Lewis's Rule of Accommodationis quite different from the mechanism most RA theoristsposit-thus the separate treatmentof 7 .9 Though substantialpapers have been largelydevoted to contex- 91 am here distinguishing among contextualistsolutions according to the mechanismor rule thattheyallege raises the standardsforknowledge. But. as should be apparent already. even when we make thisjudgment in solitude. I don't know that I have hands. makes them (at least) seem true even when they're just being thought. Some Old Contextualist Solutions: Lewis's "Rule of Accommodation" tualism and its ability to explain the workings of skeptical arguments like AT.say.First. then. an analogue of the contextualist solution can be given for thought. That the premises of AI could be trulyasserted.The two main proposals that have been put forwardare discussed in the followingtwo sections.according to which the premises and conclusion of AI are trulythought. And here contextualists have had little to offer. had when in the grip of AI.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM two forms. In that case. Althoughthereare suggestions the RelevantAlternatives of (RA) approach in "Scorekeeping. will be compatible with my thought. 3. a paper that. with nothing being said at all.but my true thoughtthat.

'flat'. that is. Suppose. "My desktop is not flat. raise the standards for knowledge"-so as to make the skeptic's statements true.'0 Such rules specify that when a statement is made containing such a term. To tho extentthatLewis is a relevantalternativist.And yet he was in no waywrongwhen he laid claim to infallibleknowledge." what I say would be false if it were evaluated according to the standards for flatness in place immediately before this is said. 8 . "rules of accommodation" operate in many spheres of discourse that contain context-sensitive terms. "1ForLewis. if need be.and relyon a Rule of Accommodation to lower the standards back down so as to make hisclaim true?To thisLewis responds that. Lewis suggests that skeptics manipulate a similar rule to change the standards for what is to count as knowledge. Once the standards for knowledge have been so raised. the range of alternatives thatone must be in a position to eliminatein order to count as knowing. this raisingof epistemicstandardsconsistsin expanding the range of relevant alternativesto what one believes. If I were then to say. according to Lewis. But the Rule of Accommodation specifies that in such a situation-at least under the right circumstances. And one way to change the conversational score with respect to the standards in place for flatness is to say something.'2 (355) Lewis. for example. is a context-sensitive term: how flat a surface must be in order for a sentence describing it as "flat" to be true is a variable matter that is determined by conversational context. the standardsare more easilyraised than lowered (355). then.as forRelevantAlternatives theorists (see section 4. then-ceteris paribus and within certain limits-the "conversational score" tends to change.KEITH DEROSE According to Lewis. so as to make that statement true. below). the skeptic's statements change the conversational score-here. For example. then the commonsensicalepistemologist must concede defeat. According to Lewis's explanation of the plausibility of skepticism. that would require for its truth such a change in standards. RA aspects of the his treatment addressed below in section 4. '2Why can't the commonsensical epistemologistsimplydeclare again that he knows.What he said was true withrespect to the score as it then was. where the ceteris paribus clause is metthe standards for flatness are raised so as to make my statement true. are 10See especially346-47. that in a certain conversation the standards for flatness are relaxed enough that my desktop counts as being flat. forsome admittedly unknownreason.

"infallible knowledge. nor that we have hands. which. And this explanation initially appears to be tailor-made for AI. at the very least.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM Here Lewis displays the basic contextualist strategy: He protects the truth of what we ordinarily say. worthestablishing it's that it can't reallysolve the puzzle. as I noted in section 1. the standards for knowledge are raised. To vividly illustrate why this is so. of any argument by skeptical hypothesis. is just the sort of thing that can raise the standards for knowledge via a Rule of Accommodation. explains why the AI skeptic is more convincing than the simple skeptic.since the solution at least suggestedbyLewis is one of the best on offer. In seeking a solution to the puzzle generated by AI. When 13To be fair. for AI's firstpremise is a denial of knowledge-precisely the type of assertion that a rise in the standards for knowledge can help to make true. let us imagine and compare two skeptics who are tryingto convince you that you don't know that you have hands. from the skeptic's attack by explaining the success of that attack in terms of the skeptic's changing what counts as knowledge. Lewis. simply insists that you don't know that you have hands." on the other hand. or say before the skeptic gets a hold of us. suggesting the treatment of that Lewis offers should be helpfulin solvingthe puzzle of skepticalhypotheses.'3 But a Rule of Accommodation cannot really explain the persuasiveness of AI. or. is prettypowerful. or. the persuasiveness of the skeptic's attack is explained in such a way as to make it unthreatening to our ordinary claims of knowledge." Thus. treatsknowledgeonlyin passing. relies on AI." true to her name. as it stands. Such a denial. The "AI skeptic. The "simple skeptic. we should hope for a solution that. offering no reasoning at all for this skeptical assertion. to a level at which we count as knowing neither that we're not BLVs. But the Rule of Accommodation. then we haven't explained how the skeptical argument works on us in any way sufficient to differentiate it from a bald (and dogmatic!) skeptical assertion. Perhaps when the skeptic asserts this firstpremise. more generally. via the Rule of Accommodation. then. appears to be equally accommodating to both of our imagined skeptics. 9 .as I've pointed out. Still. he neverexplicitly a attempts solutionto our puzzle. Although the skeptiche imagines does utilize a skepticalhypothesis(that one is the victim a deceivingdemon (355)). here. If our explanation does not do this much.

certain philosophyclasses are good examples). Of course. the operative Rule of Accommodation can be seen to contain a feature that favors the AI skeptic over the simple skeptic. To avoid possible misunderstanding. tend to militatein favorof high epistemicstandards. we've little idea of what it is that may solve the puzzle. which has so far eluded us. it seems to me. as we've little idea what these aspects are. may (at least in part) be found in a fuller articulation of that Rule.Nor is it even to deny thatsuch Rules of Accommodation help the Al skeptic. we want primarily explain what the nature of the skepticalargumentitselfadds to the effectivenessof the skeptic'sperformancethatgoes beyond whatis contributed by the skeptic'ssettingand the factthatshe assertsher conclusion. In that case. the solution to our puzzle.including those of Al skeptics.Thus. me clearlystate that my let objection is not to the proposed solution's lack of precision-that we're not given a veryclear idea of when the Rule of Accommodation takes effect.Al skepticsmay take advantage of these the influenceof which may explain some of the persuasiveness of factors. the problem isn't thatthe Rule isn'tcompletely filled in. One 14None of this is to deny that there is some Rule of Accommodation according to which the standardsfor knowledge tend to be raised to "accommodate" denials of knowledge. since the explanatorywork needed to solve the puzzle isn't done by the aspects of the Rule that have been provided.KEITH DEROSE the simple skepticclaims that I don't know thatI have hands. at least as it has so far been articulated. But there is nothingto thisRule. when it's more fully articulated. but rather that.14 Perhaps. My own solution will be like- wise imprecise. to But to solve our puzzle. 10 .depending on how it is fleshed out.No.I find it plausible to supoften pose thatmanydenials of knowledge.that would favorthe AI skeptic over the simple skeptic. for the reasons given above. Likewise. And. But I doubt that the solution even lies in that direction. the ceterisparibus clause mayblock thisresult.In fact. the explanation based on this Rule does not differentiate between these two skeptics. do exert an upward pressure on the standards for knowledge via some such rule. it will have to be done by just those aspects of the Rule that haven't been provided. it doesn't solve our puzzle. the supposed Rule of Accommodation should raise the standardsfor knowledge to such a point as to make her claim true. that the Rule says merely that the standards tendto change in a certainway provided that the (highlyunarticulated) ceteris paribus clause is met. theirskepticalperformances.But if it doesn't do that.certain settings(in addition to courts of law.

Since I'm not in thatkind of epistemicposition. 1015-16). the skeptic raises the standards for knowledge to a level at which I count as knowingneitherthat the animals are not cleverly painted mules nor that they'rezebras.who was in a position to say. Suppose.I know thatthose animals are not mules cleverly painted to look like zebras. He brags. And it indeed does seem that once this skeptical hypothesisis broughtinto play. for instance. I would ordinarily claim to know that the animals in the cage are zebras.I cannot happilyclaim to knowwhatI so happily claimed to know before. (Suppose. I don't count as knowing. as much as the skeptic. to vary Dretske's example. If I saw what looked to be zebras in the zebra cage at a zoo. since I couldn't tell a cleverly painted mule froma zebra. below. 11 ." But these same higher standardsseem to be induced when the skepticalhypothesis broughtinto play bya positiveclaim to know is that it doesn't obtain. so I know that they're really zebras. The resultingpremises are individually plausible.although perhaps someone more familiar with mules and zebras would still count as knowing."No.even at these higher standards-someone.seems to invoke higher standardsfor knowl15Forsomecomments this on notionof "ruling out" see sections and 4 5. forinstance.) skeptic might A challenge this supposed knowledge with an instance of AI where o is Those animals are zebrasand H is Those animals are mules cleverly painted to look like zebras.To be in a good enough position to claim to know that the animals are zebras according to the standards brought into play by the skeptic. A contextualisttreatmentof this instance of AI will claim that in asserting the firstpremise.one must be in a good enough position that one can rule out15 the hypothesisthat theyare cleverlypainted mules. "Due to my vast knowledge of zebra and mule anatomy. that I am confronted.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM (secondary) reason for my doubt is that positive claims to know that skepticalhypothesesdon't obtain seem to raise the standards for knowledge as well as do denials of such knowledge.but by a boastfulzoologist. "Do you knowwhat those animals are?" I would respond positively.thatmyson asked me. theycan't be mules: no mule's head is shaped like that.not by a skeptic." This zoologist. To illustrate thisI'll use Fred Dretske'sfamiliar example of mules cleverlypainted to look like zebras (Dretske 1970.

is to be found in an explanation of what it is about skeptical hypotheses that makes these propositions.what he does is make positive claims to know. He certainly seems to be claiming more than the mundane knowledge that even I possess-and claim to possess-in an ordinary zoo setting. a Rule of Accommodation can't do anything to explain this notable rise in epistemic standards. But a Rule of Accommodation cannot account for this rise in standards.does strongly suggestor implythat I don't. I am skepticalof thisattemptto salvage the solutionfortworeasons. and a rise in standards for knowledge can never help to make true a positive claim to know. on behalf of the Rule of Accommodation and the solution to Al thatcan be based on it. to solve the puzzle. suspect thatthe I rule becomes far too powerfulif it's allowed to work on what we suggest as well as on what we say. And. if it's to be found at all.KEITH DEROSE edge at which he. thatthe boastfulzoologist. My secondary reason for doubting that the Rule of Accommodation might solve our puzzle was worth bringing up both because 161t's been proposed to me. To the contrary. Far from being found in a Rule of Accommodation. for the zoologist doesn't deny any supposed knowledge. as opposed to ever so many other propositions.16 My primary reason for doubting that our solution is to be found in a fuller articulation of the Rule of Accommodation is this: To explain the persuasiveness of Al (and. where there's no such zoologist telling me what's what. we must identifythe feature of skeptical hypotheses that makes it particularly hard to claim or to think that one knows that theyare false.and thinkshe is informing me that he too knowswhat's what. as I said. So. then. a solution to our puzzle. So. such effective skeptical weapons. while he does not say thatI don't know. 12 . of its first premise) in such a way as to differentiate the Al skeptic from the simple skeptic. in particular. we must locate or articulate this peculiarly potent feature of just these propositions (the skeptical hypotheses).Second. once we see what this feature is and how it works. First. the Rule of Accommodation is destined to play only a rather subsidiary role (see note 14) in explaining the effectiveness of the skeptic's attack. will count as knowing that the animals are zebras. but not I. the standardsfor knowledgeseem likewise raised even if the boastfulzoologist thinksI am also an expert. Here he's not even suggestingthatI don't know. and the Rule of Accommodation operates here on his suggestion: the standardsgo up so as to make the suggestiontrue.

if S is at a zoo thatfairly consistently uses painted mules in an attemptto fool the zoo-going public. even though S is luckyenough to be at this zoo on one of the rare days when actual zebras are being used. one can be an RA theoristwithoutbeing a contextualist.Thus. 1981a. But in various extraordinary cases. to again use Dretske's example. 1022.and because it vividly illustrates this importantfact: The upward pressure on the standards for knowledge that bringing skeptical hypothesesinto play exerts is exertedwhetherthe hypothesesare raised in denials of knowledge or in positiveclaims to know. as see especiallysection 9 below. 18See. I'm not certain whetherDretske'sis even a contextualist versionof RA. then the painted mule hypothesis is relevant. such an assertion is made withinand must be evaluated against a certain framework relevant of alternatives to P.It might be made relevant by some extraordinary featureof S (the putativesubject of knowledge) or her surroundings.his treatment runs into the same difficulties does Nozick's. "S knows that P. which she can't do unless she knows more than I do about zebras and mules.proposes a treatment of Al quite different from that described below. 4. 1971. Goldman 1976.for example.) One thingis clear about Dretske'streatment Al: He denies premise (2).19 most RA theorists contextualists. of Given this." According to RA. (As I note in part 2 of my 1992. although he does advocate a Relevant Alternatives theoryof knowledge. 772. But not everycontraryof or alternativeto P is a relevant alternative. But are and allow 17FredDretske (see his 1970. 19Thus. To know that P is to have a true belief that P and to be able to rule out these relevantalternatives. I can truthfully claim to know they're zebras despite my inability rule out thisfanciful to alternative. S cannot truthfully be said to know that they'rezebras unless she is able to rule out the painted mule hypothesis. 1981b). the painted mules hypothesis is a relevant alternative. 249.So. Again suppose a speaker A says. In an ordinarycase of claimingto know thatsome animals in the zoo are zebras. the alternative thatthey'recleverly painted mules is not relevant. 13 . Dretske 1970.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM it seems to me to have some force. Some Old Contextualist Solutions: The "Relevant Alternatives" Approach and the Rule of Relevance'7 Perhaps the most popular solution to our puzzle has been put forward by advocates of the "Relevant Alternatives"theory of knowledge (RA). and Stine 1976.

So the skeptic truthfullyasserts that we don't know that the hypothesis doesn't obtain. and that therebyattach to her qua puwill also allow feaRA theorists tativesubject of knowledge.where S and A are identical. the Relevant Alternatives Solution (henceforth.Matters ascriber of knowledge). our inability to rule out the skeptic's far-fetchedhypothesis is no bar to our truthfullyclaiming to know such things as that we can be an invariantist 20AsI explain in part 2 of my1992. and since it is an alternative to both I am not a BIV and to I have hands. and then truthfullyconcludes that we don't know that we have hands. It is this contextualist aspect of (most versions of) RA that facilitates the most commonly proposed solution to our puzzle. Once the skeptical hypothesis has been made relevant. withfirst-person get tricky Here.which affecthow good a position she must be in to count as knowing.contextualist turesof her conversationalcontext. 'RAS'). 14 .and which therebyattach to her qua of attributor knowledge. we correctly sense that we could only falsely claim to know these things. 776).KEITH DEROSE that features of the conversational context in which A (the ascriber of knowledge) finds himself. are relevant. thatmentioningan alternative partnerlets one get awaywithmaking relevantonly ifone's conversational it relevant. we correctly sense that we cannot truthfullyclaim to know anything contrary to it unless we can rule it out." then certain alternatives may be relevant that ordinarily are not (1976. Since we are unable to rule it out. With some slight variations in detail in different presentations of it. We realize that in most of the conversational circumstances in which we find ourselves. versionof thiscontexhere I'm onlygivingthe skeptic-friendly 21Again. An RA theoristmight be less friendly the skeptic by makes thatalternative holding. to affectwhich alternatives knowledgeclaims. suggests that "if the speaker is in a class in which Descartes's evil demon has just been discussed. to tualistsolution. for instance. in addition to allowing featuresthat affecthow good an epistemic position our subject actuallyis in.forexample.20Alvin Goldman. in addition to features of S and her surroundings.to influencewhat the range of relevantalternativesis. the basic of idea of RAS is this: The Al skeptic's mentioning the BLV hypothesis in presenting the firstpremise of Al makesthat hypothesis relevant.2' Why then are we puzzled? Because we at the same time realize that the BLV hypothesis is not ordinarily relevant. can influence which alternatives are relevant. an RA theorist if he allows only factorsabout the putativesubject of knowledge and her to factors pertaining the speaker (the and not conversational surroundings.

it nonethelessmaybe relevantthatin the skeptic'spresentation of All's first premise. In the proposition must. is an instance of the general contextualist strategyone according to which the raising of the standards consists in enlarging the range of alternatives that are relevant and that one must therefore be in a position to rule out in order to count as knowing. we realize that when we again find ourselves in more ordinary contexts. RAS. even as we find the skeptic's denials of knowledge persuasive. is that our ordinary claims to know such things as that we have hands are compatible with the skeptic's present denial that we know those very things. be inserted into a conversationin the rightway. can handle cases like that of the boastful zoologist. no doubt. it will not only be correct for us to claim to know such things.22 Note that this Rule of Relevance.the advocate of RAS can leave it as a futureproject to specify more exactly just whichwaysare the rightways. as opposed to the Rule of Accommodation. Plausiblyholding that in presentingAl the skepticdoesinserther skepticalhypothesis into the conversationin the rightway. in which a positive claim to know that a skeptical hypothesis doesn't obtain seems to have the same effect on the meaning of sentences containing 'know' as would a denial of such knowledge. is that mentioning proposition Q-ceteris paribus and within a certain limits.But the advocate of RAS can plausiblyclaim to have explained the persuasivenessof Al even if he hasn't given an exact specificationof the conditions under which a mentioning of a proposition makes that propositiona relevantalternative. expand the range of relevant alternatives so that it will include that hard-to-rule-out hypothesis. order to be made relevant. Call this the Rule of Relevance. by including a mention of the skeptical hypothesis. then. the mentioningof the hypothesis occurs withinthe scope of an epistemicoperator" S does not know that. it shouldn't be held thatjust any mention of a proposition makes thatpropositiona relevantalternative. no doubt-tends to make Q a contextually relevant alternative to any P that is contrary to Q. then. The conversational rule or mechanism that RAS posits for enlarging that range (raising the standards for knowledge). it would be wrong to deny that we know them merely because we can't rule out the BLV hypothesis. according to RAS..Althoughthisby itself will be neithernecessarynor sufficient the mentioningof a propositionto for be of the rightkind to enlarge the range of relevantalternatives as to so include it. 220f course. 15 . What we fail to realize. on which both the denial and the claim to know will.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM have hands. This is to be expected on the present Rule of Relevance. Thus.

I don't know that it doesn't I obtain (and don't know whether it obtains). And it's plausible thatwe don't know that theydon't obtain. What accounts for the plausibility saying that I don't know of thatI'm not a BIV? The factthatI can't discern thatI'm not one? This is no explanation.KEITH DEROSE But to explain the persuasivenessof AI (particularly its first of premise). and also plausible to say thatwe don't know that they don't obtain. But though it is plausible to suppose we can't rule out skeptical hypotheses. there are plentyof other phrases thatcan be used plausiblyto describe our apparentlylimitedepistemicpositionwithregard to effective skepticalhypotheses. It seemsjust as good (in fact. a treatment AI must of tell us what it is about skepticalhypothesesthat makes it difficult to claim to know that theydon't obtain. I can't tell that it doesn't obtain (and can't tell whetherit obtains).to me. Indeed. And isn't there somethingto thisexplanation?For it seems that we indeed can't rule out (effective)skeptical hypotheses. Likewiseforrulingout.But citingone of these to explain the plausibility of another doesn't occasion even the slightest advance in our understanding.Then consider whetherthe plausibility the of 16 . better) to reversethingsand claim thatthe factthatI don't know thatI'm not a BLVaccounts forthe plausibility sayingthatI can't discern of that I'm not one.it is futileto tryto explain the plausibility the latter of by that of the former. and to therebysolve our puzzle. its and so forth. The key featureof skeptical hypothesesthat RAS seizes on is clearly this: we can't rule them out. and I can't distinguish obtainingfromits not obtaining. It is indeed plausible to suppose thatwe can't rule out skepticalhypotheses. But it doesn't seem to advance our understandingmuch to explain the plausibility eitherby thatof of the other. (An exercise for the reader: Randomly pick two of the above negative assessments of our epistemic position vis-a-vis effective skepticalhypotheses. I can't discern that it doesn't obtain (and can't discern whetherit obtains). of the following All descriptions about myposition vis-4-vis BLV hypothesis the have some initial plausibility: cannot rule it out.and so on.and it furtherseems that it is preciselythis fact that makes them such effective skepticalweapons.

well as an explanation of as the plausibility the various other pessimisticevaluations. This point of weakness in the contextualistsolutions is the particularpoint of strength Nozick's treatment of of Al in his PhilosophicalExplanations (1981).(If you're running low on such negative assessments. to come up with many more on your own. 5. Once of this explanation is in place. you'll find it's easy. Then reverse thingsand consider whetherthe plausibility the second can be of explained by reference to the first. combined with the Rule of Relevance. as will emerge in the following sections (especially section 8). could yield an approach to skepticismclose to the one I'll here defend.followingmy lead.23 Indeed. But I'll be workingin the general directionI thinkGoldman points to. This.) To explain whywe feel some pull towardsdescribingour epistemic positionwithregardto skepticalhypotheses anyof the above in less than flattering ways-as well as very many other ways that I didn't bother to mention-we need an explanation that reaches outside this circle of all-too-closely related terms of epistemic appraisal. The SubjunctiveConditionalsAccount (SCA) of the of Plausibility Al's FirstPremise The main stumblingblock of the contextualist solutionswe've discussed has been a failure to explain what it is about skeptical hypotheses that makes it so plausible to suppose thatwe don't know that they'refalse. the best explanation for the plausibility Al's first of premise also seems to provide a good account of whyit seems that we can't rule out skepticalhypotheses.) Then evaluate the success of explaining the plausibility Al's first of premise by referenceto the fact thatwe can't rule out effective skepticalhypotheses. he strives to remain neutral on the issue. 17 . In thisand the following three sections I'll present and defend the Subjunctive Conditionals 23Goldman (1976) cashes out "discriminating" what one believes from a relevantalternative it in termsof what one would believe if the alterto native obtained. Goldman himselfdoes not propose a solution to the skepticalproblem. it becomes even clearer that none of the thingsit's used to explain can be properlyused to explain each other.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM firstcan be explained by reference to the second.Try the same procedure on another pair of descriptions.

it is usually sufficient (though not necessary) that H be incompatible with 0. so. it serves to explain why. It is this that makes it hard to claim to know that I'm not a BIV.typically jecting oneself into it. According to SCA. I still feel strongly pulled toward admitting the (mildly) skeptical claim that I don't know that the paper isn't mistaken about which team won: I realize that my belief that the paper isn't mistaken is a belief I would hold even if it were false (even if the paper were mistaken). For.inclinationto thinkthatwe don't know that P when we think that our belief that P is a belief we would hold even ifP were false. the problem with my belief that I'm not a BIV-and I do have such a belief. But what about the firstpremise? To make it con- look for a hypothesisthat elicits in the vincing. Let's say thatS's belief thatP is insensitive if S would believe that P if P were false. even though I feel inclined to say that I know the Bulls won their game last night because I read the result in a single newspaper. this general inclination explains the operation of nonphilosophical skeptical hypotheses that are far less radical than the BIV hypothesis or even the painted mule hypothesis. after encountering a couple of instances of AI with different skeptical hypotheses plugged into the 'H' slot (for example. To make AI's second premise convincing. though not exceptionless. we have a verystronggeneral. And. the painted mules. How would thingsseem to me if that situation obtained? Well. according to SCA. an ability to construct convincing instances of Al oneself. Indeed. what would I believe if such a much (or exactly) what I ac"strange" situationobtained? Pretty 18 . prettymuch (or sometimes exactly) as they actually seem to me. and the mistaken paper hypotheses). thus.we instinctively listenerboth the belief that the hypothesisdoesn't obtain and an acknowledgement that this belief is one she would hold even if the hypothesisdid obtain. Just so. As is well worth noting. SCA's generalization can then be restated as follows: We tend to judge that S doesn't know that P when we think S's belief that P is insensitive. one can't help but proUpon hearing the hypothesis.KEITH DEROSE Account (SCA) of the plausibility of AI's firstpremise. the BIV. one develops a sense of what makes for an effective skeptical hypothesis and. as do most of us-is that I would have this belief (that I'm not a BIV) even if it were false (even if I were one). which I've abstracted from Nozick's account of knowledge and skepticism.

how can that. But if thisbelief is one I would hold even if it were false. and in particular. In a normal zoo setting.it's true? I be in a position to tell that. In section 8 we will see stronggrounds for endorsingSCA as being at least on the righttrackdespite the exceptionsto the generalizationto whichit appeals.if I werea BIV.in termsof subjunctive of conditionals.it stillseems we would believe the observed animals weren't painted mules if theywere preciselythat. From this.Even reluctance to ascribe knowledge in certain lottery high (there where the odds ofyourbeing a loser are astronomically are 20 million tickets.and you have but one ticket).Some of these exceptionswillbe quickly and main point to discussed in sections 6 and 7 below.Consider especially the description involving'ruling out'.a similarexplanation.of course.can explain the plausibility the other wayswe feel inclined to describe our seeminglylimitedepistemicposition vis-Avis effective skeptical hypotheses. etc. But these exceptions 19 . SCA accounts for this seeming: Your belief that you're a loser is one you would hold even ifyou were the winner. it seems.or discern that.But there are problems. I as would believe everybit as firmly I actuallydo that I wasn'tone.most of us would take ourselves to know that the animals in the zebra cage are zebras. For example.it can seem thatyou don't knowthatyou're a loser of a fair lotteryif the winner hasn't yet been announced.As I suggested above.or know As I've just hinted. is thatthisverygeneral inclination needn't be exceptionless to perform the explanatory role SCA assignsit. only one of which is a winner. SCA is a powerfulexplanation. even afterperforming ference. we should be able to infer that they'renot cleverlypainted mules. the explanation goes. Also worth noting is the usefulness of SCA in explaining our situations. Why does it seem we can't tell that they're not painted mules? Because we would believe theyweren't even if theywere. The first make regardingsuch exceptions. since zebras aren't mules.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM tuallybelieve. there are exceptions to the general inclination to which SCA appeals: There are cases in which it seems to us that some S does knowthatP even thoughwejudge thatS would believe thatP even ifP were false. Ditto forwhywe seemingly can't discern thatthey'renot and whyit seems we can't distinguish theirbeing cleverly painted mules fromtheirnot being such. So whyare we reluctantto count our seeing the zebras and performing thisinferenceas a case of rulingout the painted mule hypoththe inesis? Because.

via method M. it seems. thatp (179). (1981. Grandmothers. The revised third conditionI've displayedis partof Nozick's attemptto analyze the technical locution. even though it can seem that if he weren't well. even though we won't be in a position to make SCA ideally precise here. yielding: (3) If p weren'ttrue and S were to use M to arriveat a beliefwhether (or not) p. what Nozick does is this:He analyzesthe technicallocution 'S knows. and Methods First. thatp'. then S wouldn't believe. which is: (3) If p weren't true. Nozick's response is to relativize this third condition to the method by which S has come to believe that p. and then in turn analyzesthe relation of S's knowingthat p in termsof this technical locution. where 'M' is the method by which S has come to believe that p. consider a case discussed by Nozick: A grandmothersees her grandson is well when he comes to visit.but if he were sick or dead. But his grandmother case also seems to be an exception to the general inclination SCA appeals to: Here we're not at all inclined to think the grandmother doesn't know her grandson is well.24 Unlike Nozick. for they will indicate certain important directions in which SCA can be improved. 6. I'm not presenting an analysis of propositional knowledge. then. otherswould tell her he was well to spare her upset. SCA. she would still believe he was. though it can seem that she doesn't satisfythe third condition of a preliminary form of Nozick's analysis of S knows that P. the grandmother knows her grandson is well.S wouldn't believe thatp.via M. The generalization SCA utilizes says that we tend to judge that S doesn't know where S does not satisfyNozick's 24Precisely. 20 .KEITH DEROSE are still worth examining. 179) Here. Yet thisdoes not mean she doesn't know he is well (or at least ambulatory)when she sees him.

in evaluatingthatsimple conditional. Especiallywhere the contextfocusesone's attentionon the grandmother and her cognitiveand recognitional abilities. one can place heavyweightupon similarity withrespectto the method she is using to arrive at her belief.and thus.the respectsin whichthe possible worldsare to resemble the actual world is a highlycontext-sensitive matter. or. the first option. ing rightat him! The standardpossible-worlds semanticsfor counterfactual conditionalscan illuminatewhat's going on here. But.one can also stressother and plans of ones involving propensities the similarities. On this way of evaluatingthe conditional. thatwe tend to judge that S We can sharpen SCA by specifying doesn't know when she fails to satisfy Nozick's initialformulation of (3).she would tively believe thathe was well.like Nozick.the grandmother of does satisfy even the initialformulation Nozick's thirdcondition.After she's lookall. can be outweighed other by 21 .and then it can seem that in the closestworld in which the grandson is not well. followingNozick.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM third condition for knowledge.25 But in neithercase is this 25These not identical are On modifications. where (3) is evaluated in such a waythatheavyemphasis is withrespectto the method of beliefformation put upon similarity utilized by S.contexttakescare of thisforus. One possibility here is to follow Nozick very closelybymodifying thatgeneralizationso thatit refers to Nozick's modified. and she's no counter-example the generalization to utilizedby SCA.though.thirdcondition. the grandmother would be effeclied to).ratherthan his original. particularly factsground thejudgment the variousfamily members(or whatever thatif her grandsonweren'twell.she's looking right at him and seeing thathe's not well. and so does not believe he is well. one wayof evaluating On thatsimple conditional. we can inserta specificationof the method into the antecedent of (3). explicitly relativizing our account to the method by which S believes that P.it can of seem that even Nozick's initialformulation the thirdcondition forknowledgeis met bythe grandmother.similarity with to is but respect method weighted heavily. When one searchesforthe possibleworldsmostsimilarto the actual world in whichthe grandsonis not well. Often. the grandmother would notbelieve he was well. to reach the verdictthatifhe were not well.it seems thatifthe grandsonwere not well. Even to one aware of the likelihoodthatthe grandmother's would have kepther family in the dark about her grandson'sconditionwere he not well.

Thus. Likewise insensitive is my belief that the following hypothesis is false: I'm an intelligent dog who's always incorrectly thinking that I have hands.KEITH DEROSE to make a very precise modification. even so evaluated. The firstpremise of the argument can be quite unconvincing despite the fact that SCA predicts that we'd find it plausible. SCA and Some Skeptical Hypotheses That Don't Work Certain instances of Al aren't very persuasive. the following simple H: I falsely believe that I have hands. predicts that it will seem to us that the above beliefs don't amount to knowledge and that we'll find plausible the firstpremise of Al that results when the above hypotheses are used. It's at the firstpremise that this ill-fatedinstance of Al fizzles. that in an attempt to show by Al that I don't know I have hands. as it has so far been formulated.on the second option. 22 . it merely indicates the direction in which a more precise account might lie. for instance. Again. since the method by which S believes that P becomes part of the antecedent of the conditional we're evaluating (the modified (3)). rather. 7. If this belief of mine were false (if I were such a deluded intelligent dog) I'd still believe it was true (I'd still believe that I wasn't such a creature). the most similarworld(s) in which the antecedent of the original (3) are true may be worlds that diverge from the actual world with respect to the method by which S came to believe that P. Suppose. the main point to make here is that SCA's generalization factors. As opposed to the BIV hypothesis. a skeptic utilizes. But my belief that I don't falsely believe that I have hands is insensitive: If this belief were false (if I did falselybelieve that I have hands) I would still believe it was true (I'd still believe that I don't falsely believe that I have hands). But in fact these instances of Al's firstpremise are far from convincing. the closest possible world(s) in which that antecedent is true cannot be worlds that diverge from the actual world withrespect to method. By contrast. So SCA. for any such use of the notion of methodsof belief formation in our account invites a host of questions (many of which Nozick wrestles with) involving how such methods are to be specified and individuated. it seems that one does know that the deluded dog hypothesis and the simple false belief hypothesis are false. The resulting instance of Al seems to pack little or no more punch than a simple skeptic's unsupported claim that I don't know I have hands. instead of the BIV hypothesis.

What we need now is some assurance that we're headed in the rightdirection. we have some understandingof how (if H is true) we have come to falselybelieve that 0. and since the above italicizedpropositiondoesn't explain how I wentwrongwithrespectto myhavinghands. withoutindicatinghow I came to be so sadly mistaken. But thisagain is just a preliminary and there'sroom fora lot more refinement statement.Part of the problem withthese "hypotheses"is thattheydon't give us much of an idea of howI come to have the falsebelieftheyassignto me. While a more precisely Chisholmed refinementof SCA might not have the negations of these ineffective H's as instances of those propositionsit says we tend to judge we don't know. Ifalsely believe I havehandsimpliesthatI don't have hands. we Thus. that Since I do take myself know that I have hands (thisbelief isn't to insensitive). The first these hypothesessimplystipulatesthatI'm wrongabout my of having hands. If either of our ineffective hypotheses is filled in so as to make it clear to us how I came to falsely believe I have hands. when we encounter effective skepticalhypotheses. here. SCA Confirmed Such assurance is to be found by consideringwhat it would take to make it seem to us thatwe do know skepticalhypothesesto be false. The limitation of SCA's generalizationthat's suggested by these cases is this: We don'tso judge ourselvesignorantof P wherenot-Pimpliessomething we take ourselvesto know to be false. I'll here just make a preliminary observationas to what mightbe going wrong. Hypotheses are supposed to explain. By contrast. skepticalhypothesesshould explain how we might come to believe something despite its being false. it becomes effective.withoutprovidingan explanationof how we came to falsely believe thisthingwe think know. 23 .SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM needn't be exceptionlessto be explanatory. I'll judge that I do know thatpropositionto be false. whichadds little to our understandingof how mymistakeabout havinghands came about.The second adds to the first thatI'm a dog. 8. SCA's generalizationwas this: We tend to judge that S doesn't knowthatP when we thinkthatS's beliefthatP is insensitive (when we thinkthatS would believe P even ifP were false).

what you're hearing may not be a real radio announcement but the voice of a friend fromsome be who's rigged up a practicaljoke.This is an indication that SCA has correctly identifiedthe block. As noted above in secreconsider the lottery But let's first tion 5.The explanation provided by SCA for this pheappealing: It does seem that the fact that nomenon is intuitively we would believe that we were losers even if we were winnersis largelywhat's behind our judgment thatwe don't know we're losers. be sure.we'd stillbelieve thatwe were.All veryremote possibilities.In the lottery situation. we are puzzlinglyreluctantto claim knowledge in certain lotterysituations. no longer been the winner. But.and so forth.we judge that in that case you'd now believe you were the winner or would double-checked at least be suspendingjudgment as you frantically thatthe veryoccurrence thatwould the match. SCA similarly appealing explanation provides a very intuitively thatwe don't know thatskepticalhypotheses forwhyit seems to us 24 . you might suffering weird momentaryvisual illusion and misreadingthe numbers on to your ticket.whydon't these possibilitiesrob us of knowledge even afterthe announcement has been made and heard? the SCA's explanation of whywe don't thinkwe know before announcement is made is thatwe at thattimejudge thatifwe weren't losers.then whydoes it seem that you do know you're a loser afterthe winningnumber has been announced on the radio and you've compared the numnumbers announced? bers on your ticketwith the sadly different Afterall. The occurrence which gets us to judge thatwe know here also removes what SCA posits as the block to our judging thatwe know. It's veryimpressive sufficeto make it seem to us thatyou do knowyou're a loser (the radio announcement) also reversesour judgment regarding the truthof the conditionalappealed to in SCA to explain whyit seems to us thatyou don't know before the announcement is made. even a veryminutechance of being wrong seems to deprive one of knowledge. since we're already countenancing even the most minute chances of error.you'd believe you were a loser. radio announcements can be in error. Note thatonce you've heard the announcement of the winningnumbers and compared them it seems that ifyou had withthe numbers on your ticket. SCA receives further powerfulsupport when we consider the for grounds that do seem to us sufficient knowledgeof one's being a loser. But if we're going to worryabout even such minute chances of error.KEITH DEROSE case. Rather.

it seems. 252).The boastfulzoologist I introduced toward the end of section 3. But the very anatomical knowledgethatseeminglyenables him to know they're not painted mules also has the consequence that if the animals werecleverlypainted mules.And although I don't seem to know they're not painted mules simply looking at them.It's difficult. Again and again. then wouldbelieve a S 25 . one involving paint remover.I could.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM are false. would not believe that theyweren't. hard to test SCA in this it's way. as has been suggestedin the literature(Stine 1976. seems that I.and the changes that would clear the wayforour judging thatwe know also remove this block. it seems. it would notbelieve that the animals weren't painted mules if in fact they were. I could get myselfinto a position in which I seemingly wouldknow that the newspaper isn't mistakenabout whetherthe Bulls won last night.Which special investigations would do the trick (and under which circumstanceswould they)? A surveyof various scenarios yields an impressivecorrelation: The investigations thatwould seeminglyallow me to know that the animals aren't painted mules would also affect our judgment as to the truth value of the subjunctiveconditional so criticalto SCA. In the case of the BIV hypothesis. that is.as was also noted in section 5. unlike me. It again receivespowerful furtherconfirmation we look to cases in which one seemingly as does know that a skeptical hypothesisdoesn't obtain (cases in which skeptical hypothesesthat are ordinarilyeffective fail to be effective). the zoologist.for it's difficult imagine a situation in which it seems a to subject does know thatshe's not a BIV. by get to know this if I undertook some special investigation-perhaps. while I. Likewise. by checking appropriately independent sources. I would not believe it wasn't. This makes it difficult not to believe that SCA is at least roughlycorrect. But thisonlyconfirms SCA: While it's difficult imagine a situation in which one seems to to know thatone's not a BIV. knows that the animals in the zebra cage are not cleverly painted mules. to imagine a situationin which someone believes they'renot a BIV but in which the conditional If S were BIV. it seems. do not. Once I have completed the investigation. SCA posits a certain block to our judging that we know.But the checks thatwould seemingly allow this knowledgewould also make it seem that if the paper were mistaken. it's likewisedifficult imagine circumto stances in which the block SCA positsis removed. like the zoologist.

as was the case with not knowing. one's brain is electrochemically stimulated so that one has precisely those sensory experiences one actually has had. there are also strong grounds for accepting Al's second premise and for accepting the denial of its conclusion. the present explanation for the plausibility of Al's firstpremise can't be happily reversed: Trying to account for the plausibility of the subjunctive conditional If H weretrue. vincinginstancesof Al's first 26 . by reference to the (presumed) fact that I don't know that H is false certainly seems to get things backwards. given the exceptions to the general tendencythatwe've discussed Chisholmed in sections6 and 7. And. But wouldn't one then have formed precisely those beliefs that one actually has formed. We have to stop short somewhere. whyI haven't accepted thatsome properly requirement(which has as instancesof it conof refinement the sensitivity premise) is necessaryfor knowledge. the investigations that would reverse our other pessimistic judgments regarding your a standing vis-A-vis skeptical hypothesis would also put you in a position to say that you wouldn't believe the hypothesis is false if it were true. Much better to follow the proposed Nozickean route in explaining the plausibility of denying knowledge by reference to the conditional. to make it seem that you can tell that those animals aren't painted mules. as the BIV hypothesis is formulated. SCA. as was the case with not knowing. Indeed.KEITH DEROSE she wasn't a BIV isn't true. To solve this puzzle. Further. therefore. It seems that this explanation. for the plausibility of Al's firstpremise must be (at least roughly) correct and. we can't simply accept all three members of this triad as true. I'll claim that 260r. for instance. Thus. that it points to part of the solution to our puzzle. For. none of these explanations by subjunctive conditionals seems happily reversible. you must put yourself in such a position that you wouldn't believe they weren't if they were.I would believeit was false. including the belief that one's not a BIV? Unlike that involved in the Relevant Alternatives Solution. But while we've just seen strong grounds for simply accepting Al's firstpremise. some readers will wonder why I have claimed only that our general tendency not to count insensitive beliefs as instances of knowledge explains that premise's plausibility and have stopped short of accepting sensitivityas a necessary condition for knowledge26 and therefore simply endorsing that firstpremise as true.

in Nozick takesaccount of the method of beliefformation his finalversion of the thirdcondition. it also involves denying the second.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM All's firstpremise. while not simplytrue. is true according to unusually high standards for knowledge. Nozick's Own Solution and the Abominable Conjunction Nozick's own treatment of Al. for example-tells us to. This treatment is based on Nozick's account of knowledge as true. I'll argue. Most of us would judge of 27Thoughthisstatement Nozick's account of knowledgeis rough. The skeptic's mistake-the second premise-is supposing that you can know you have hands only if you also know that you're not a BIV. Nozick claims. 27 . Here Nozick's account does very well in issuing the intuitivelycorrect verdict for the relevant particular judgments regarding what is known and what is not. But.27 Thus. one's true belief that p is sensitive to the truth value of p if one would not have believed that p if p had been false.anyway: automatiIt cally holds whenever true belief is present. why sensitivityseems necessary for knowledge. fails. but I believe this fourthcondition to be redundant.that will not affectmy treatment. The same thinghappens withthe fourth. This is not the place for a general evaluation of Nozick's analysis of propositional knowledge. as I've already noted. sensitivebelief. Or so Nozick claims. that will be good reason for stopping short where my solution tells us to. and much more unfortunately. rather than where one of its inferior rivalsbold skepticism. You don't know that you're not a BIV. Nozick claims. But. Nozick's treatment of Al involves accepting the skeptic's firstpremise. So you do know you have hands even though you don't know that you're not a BIV. because any belief you might have to this effect is insensitive: You would have held this belief even if it were false (even if you were a BIV). very roughly. more generally. 9. If my solution provides the best explanation for how all three members of our puzzling triad seem true. which would apply equally well to Nozick's fullaccount. where. your belief that you have hands is a sensitive belief: If it were false-if you didn't have hands-you would not hold it. so let us confine ourselves to the results of this analysis as applied to the beliefs in question in Al. from which SCA was abstracted. my solution explains why that premise seems true and. I've skipped entirely Nozick's fourth conditionforknowledge. By contrast. Also. at the same time.

true (205-6). still. Thus. So Nozick is relyingon his analysisto appeal. But there are three relevant issues to our puzzle: Is the firstpremise of Al true? Is the second premise true? Is the conclusion true? And it's easy to endorse the intuitively correct answer to two out of the three questions if you're willing to take the implausible stand on the remaining one. it does seem quite plausible to most of us that we don't know that it doesn't obtain. Afteradmitting ick claims thatit's wrong. and he is right.Attempts avoid skepticism claimingwe make us do know these thingsare bound to fail. denying it in the face of its evident intuitive appeal. But similarremarkscould be made about Nozick.we do not know theydon't obtain. it yields an intuitivelybizarre result on the comparative judgment the second premise embodies. As Nozick himselfadmits. he writes:"The skeptic assertswe do not know his possibilities by to don't obtain. ifour 28At205-6 Nozick admitsthisappeal.and his reasons for thisclaim are made entirely knowledgewon't fromwithinhis analysisof knowledge:Given his analysis. strikeus even as bad faith" (201). when a skeptical hypothesis is well chosen.28 Accepting his treatment involves embracing the abominable conjunction that while you don't know you're not a bodiless (and handless!) BIV. and that the skepticis rightabout this? second premise leaves me about as "suspicious" as does a denial of the and though Nozick's denial doesn't strikeme as an instance of bad first.The skeptic'spossibilities uneasy because. it that attemptsto show we do know these thingsleave us is not surprising suspicious. who choose ratherto deny the first Nozick is quite hard on anti-skeptics premise. and this is Nozick's verdict. And show us that the second premise is false despite its intuitive indeed. So whynot say that what we "deeply realize" is its own intuitive that if you don't know that you're not a BIV. Nozthatthe closure principle seems below). Nozick has developed and defended his analysisof knowledge (in 28 . be closed (see especially 206-8). as we deeply realize. 29Whatare Nozick's grounds for rejectingthe second premise?Nozick notes that the premise is an instance of a very general principle to the effectthat knowledge is closed under known implication (see note 33. premiseseem no bettercandidatesforthatcharge. notion of knowledgewas as strongas we naturally closed under known logical implication) then the skepticwould be right. you know you have hands.29 "Thus. And.the second premise has appeal. while his account does quite well on the relevant particular intuitions regarding what is and isn't known. Nozick takes his implausible stand on the issue of the second premise. thinkthis?Furtherexplorationand explanation (But whydo we naturally roots of the natural assumptionthatknowledge is needed of the intuitive is closed under knownlogical implication)" (242). tend to think (namely.KEITH DEROSE that we do know such things as that we have hands. denials of the first faith. then you don't know you Nozick's denial of the have hands. and later he writes.

made by Saul Kripkein lectures. Nozick depends heavilyon the independent plausibility this analysisto provide the momentumfor his treatment of of Al. make true a speaker's attribution knowledge to thatsubject is a of flexiblematterthatcan varyaccording to featuresof the speaker's conversationalcontext. Indeed. and we're inclined to think that insensitivebeliefs don't constituteknowledge.For those interested in criticalliteratureon Nozick. Recall that according to contextualist theories of knowledge athow strong a subject's epistemic position must be to tributions. I won't here rehearse the powerfulobjections to Nozick's analysisof propositional knowledge that have been put forward. has not.That explanation is thatwe realize thatany belief we mighthave to the effectthat an (effective)skepticalhypothesis doesn't obtain is insensitive. Strength Epistemic Position and Al's Second Premise of Here's how: by incorporatingSCA into a contextualist solution to our puzzle that avoids such a fumblingof Al's second premise. part 1 of chapter 3) before he applies it to the issue of skepticism(in part 2). what is perhaps the most powerfulattackon Nozick's theoryof knowledge.30 assuming that thisanalysisisn't independentlyconbut.31 we're leftwithlittlereason to followNozick in choosing to take an implausible stand preciselywhere he has rather than someplace else. feel thatthey understand pretty well what's meant when I claim. is the notion of (relative) strength epistemic of position. to the best of myknowledge.found itswayinto print. How can we appropriate that explanation withoutfollowingNozick in having to implausiblydeny the second premise of Al and embrace the abominable conjunction? 10. For. In presenting and de- I've found thatmost listeners fendingcontextualism.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM As promised.as we saw in sections5 and 8 above.LuperFoy 1987 contains an excellent bibliography. 30Unfortunately. This leaves us in a bind.then.circa 1985. Central to contextualism. 29 . for instance. SCA is quite powerful. I propose a very strongendorsementof thatsecond premise. 3'As remarkedin note 29. vincing before we turn to the problem of skeptical hypotheses. a good place to startis withForbes 1984 and severalof the essaysin Luper-Foy 1987. For stillfurther reading.

thenMugsy is not tall.But it would this importantnotion of strengthof epistemic be good to clarify test position as best we can by.Both in situationF (for barnbe the thingHenry putatively through "fakes") and in situationN ("no fakes").P is a true proposition that S believes. thenhe knows in F to get to get the comparison right.and takes himselfto know.we may suppose that Henry has just been fooled timesby such fakes. N is exactlylike F. So. it that the object he's seeing is a barn. Henry is driving the countrysideand. unusual going on. and this comparativeconditional serves as a good intuitivetestfor that comparativefact:It bringsthatfact to light.Likewise. and If Wilt is not tall. and so this time truly believes thatwhat he's seeing is a barn. Henry is in an area that is filled with very convincingfake barns-papier-mAch6 barn facades. And indeed. thenhe knowsin N seems The evident failure of If Henry knows in N.where S is a putativesubject of knowledge. in both cases. let Henry be our subject. forinstance.supplyingan intuitive than another. then good basis for assenting to these conditionals is the comparative knowledge that Wilt is at least as tall as Mugsy. having no reason to think there's anything believes. But one very case. In fact. the comparativegroundsforour assent is our realizationthat an S is in at leastas strong epistemic position with respect to P in situation B as he is in with respect to that same proposition in situationA. and A and B are situationsin which S is found. then S knows thatP in B. unbeknownstto him.The best forwhen one epistemicposition is stronger One can have a variety conditionals. we can comparativegroundsforassentingto conditionalsof have similarly the form If S knows that P in A.to borrowsome examples fromAlvinGoldman (1976). the conditional If Henry knowsin E. and let WhatHenryis seeingis a knows.KEITH DEROSE thatsometimesthe standardsforknowledgeare higherthan usual.although he's now looking more than twenty at the only actual barn for miles around. such device is thatof comparative of grounds for assenting to conditionals like If Mugsyis tall. With regard to these examples. the comparison rightshowsthatHenry's not in as stronga position 30 . veryfirmly is a barn.for instance. except thatthere are no fakesin the area-the thingsHenry has taken to be barns have all actually been barns. In such a Wilt is tall. or that in some conversationalsituationsone's epistemicposition mustbe strongerthan in othersto count as knowing.indicatingthat Henry's in at least as strongan epistemicposition in situationN as he is in situationF. But in F.

as Nozick.33 Let's look brieflyat some instances. Together. the arch denier of closure. the relevant conditionals can be difficult to evaluate.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM to know in F as in N.) As is also well known. these results indicate that Henry's in a stronger epistemic position in N than in F.32 Sometimes no clear verdict results when we attempt to evaluate a conditional in this comparative way. and it mighttake a lot of tinkering get it exactly to right. then S doesn't know thatP can indicate that S is in at least as strong an epistemic position with respect to Q as she's in with respect to p.the strength the epistemicposition of a subject with respect to one proposition in one situation as compared with that same subject's epistemicpositionwithrespectto a different propositionin a different situation.of course. there are exceptions to the principleso formulated. "We would be ill31 . But. thenS knows that Q and If S doesn't know that Q. 33Asis well known. some of the relevant conditionals are clearly true on comparative grounds. where the skeptical hypothesis is well chosen. They seem true and are true. Such is the case with instances of Al's second premise. I suggest. at least when the closure principle isn't strengthened as there described. if we compare a situation in which Henry has a good look at the barn but in which there are a couple of fake barns several miles away that Henry hasn't encountered with a situation in which there are no fakes at all in Henry's vicinitybut in which he doesn't have quite as good a look at the barn. we are in at least as good a position to know that the hypothesis is false as we're in to know the targeted piece of presumed ordinary knowledge. comparative conditionals can similarly be used to test the relative strength of epistemic position of a single subject with respect to different propositions that subject believes in the same situation: Thus. for the good reason that it's unclear how the two epistemic positions we're evaluating compare with one another. Recall the following epistemologically perplexing pairs of propositions: 32And. the intuitive correctness of If S knowsthatP. for just this comparative reason: As we realize.instancesof Al's second premise are ofteninstances of the principlethatknowledgeis closed under knownlogical implication: Kp & K(p entails q) -* Kq. such conditionalscan be used to make all manner of other comparisons:comparativestrength the epistemicpositionsof two of different with respect to the same proposition or with respect to subjects different of propositions. in many instances. Thus. (In the next paragraph I explain whythis is not alwaysthe case. puts it. As is important to our discussion of Al's second premise.etc.But.

and to accept other convincing into advised. Perhaps if S is to know that P. the BIV hypothesis as seems to undermine myputativeknowledgeof I'm in Houston well as of I have hands. Thus. but also others such that if theywere the case. Those animals are zebras. of course.KEITH DEROSE not-H I'm not a BIV. 32 . 205).but. Those Qs that are incompatiblewithP itselfwill then be seen as special cases of those that are at odds with S's knowingthat P. then S wouldn't know that P. anti-skeptical ciples "is not a fruitful While restrictions have to be put on the closure principle thatwill will weaken it in certain respects. then S must know that mustbe added) such thatif Q were not-Q forany Q (but here restrictions true. The Bulls won last night. thatI'm a bodiless BIV is compatible withmy being in Houston. will continue to appear that somethinglike to it P is correct" (1981. This comparative fact is revealed in each case by the highly plausible conditional that is Al's second premise: If I don't know that not-H. The paper isn't mistaken about whether the Bulls won last night.Some instances of Al's second premise are convincing even though H is compatible with 0. For instance. then I don't know that 0. Nozick goes on to claim that thisappearance is deceiving. 0 I have hands. I propose then to accept the relevant conditional with respect to each of the above pairs. Barry Stroud discusses a strongerclosure principle such as thisin his 1984 (25-30). the range of Qs thatmustbe known not to obtain may be broadened so as to include not only propositions that are incompatible with P. the relevant comparative fact involving strength of epistemic position holds. Given natural background assumptions. Those animals aren't just cleverly painted mules.I believe thatsomethinglike P is correct.there may be other respectsin which it can be strengthened.but thatdoesn't compete withmypresentaccount of Al's second premise:When a conditional is an instance of the properlyformulatedclosure principle. Closely tied to that comparative fact in each case is the related and intuitively compelling realization that it would be no wiser to bet one's immortal soul on O's being true than to bet it on not-H's being true.however. See Brueckner 1985 for argumentsthat the denial of knowledgeclosure prinproject" (112). Although these details are difficult get straight. we can sense that the following comparative fact holds for each of the above pairs: I am in no better a position to know that 0 than I am in to know that notH.S would not know thatP. quibble over the details of P [the principlethatknowledge is closed under known logical implication].

(With respect to the first pair of to propositions.one is in at least as strongan epistemicposition withrespect to not-H as one is in withrespect to 0. then I don't know that 0 .But even before thisfurther evidence is gathered.the notion of of strengthof epistemic position. we've already obtained interesting plyingthem to the epistemologically perplexing pairs of propositions displayed above.at the same time. one could gatherfurther one's epistemicposition evidence. Indeed. on the other. Yet. In each case. the Nozickean notion of the sensitivity beliefsand. these conditionalsare true regardless how high or low the standardsfor knowledge of are set. For each of the second and third pairs of propositions. we can return to the first in premise. two notions that are central to my attemptto solve our puzzle are.it is difficult imagine a situationin which one is in such a strongpositionwithrespectto one's not being a BIV that this belief is sensitive.Just as the comparativefact that Wilt is at least as tall as Mugsy has the result that the conditional If Wilt is not tall. and make even one's belief that not-H sensitive. on the one hand.) 33 o will result in If I don't know that not-H. so the comparativefact that I'm in at least as strong an epistemic position withrespect to not-H as I'm in with respect to being true regardlessof how high or low the standardsfor knowledge are set. strengthen withrespect to both not-H and 0. then Mugsy is not tall willbe true regardlessof how high or low the standardsfortallness are set. one's belief in 0 is sensitive. Thus. despite the fact that one is in no strongeran epistemic position with respect to this 0 than one is in with respect to not-H. one's belief that 0 is already sensitive.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM stances of Al's second premise. we willnever have to followNozick in accepting the abominable conjunction: that conjunction is false at any epistemic standard. while one's belief in not-H is insensitive. Withthatringingendorsementof Al's second premise anchored firmly place. 11. While both notions stand in need of a good deal of sharpeningand explanation (only some of which resultsapthey'llreceive here). hoping to inaccount of thatpremise's plaucorporate SCA into a contextualist sibility. Strength and Sensitivity As has become veryapparent.

the stronger positionone is in withrespectto P. These include worlds in which I lost my hands years ago while workingon myuncle's garbage truck. our above Os) if belief in such propositionsis to be sensitive. What's more. of course.while stillhavingit be the case that one's belief matches the factat worlds thatfar awayand a closer. depends on how distantfromactuality the closest not-Pworlds are.but also at the worlds sufficiently close to the actual world. we should remembereitherto restrict our attentionsolelyto those worldsin which the subject uses the same method of belief-formation she uses in the actual world. There are also. in the other nearby worlds in which I have hands.In the closest of these not-Pworlds. Consider mybelief thatI have hands.not onlyin the actual world. of course. That is.The further awayone can get fromthe actual world. or to weigh similarity with respect to the subject's method veryheavily in determining the closeness of possible worlds to the actual world. but these are very 34 . mybeliefas to whether My belief as to whether I have hands doesn't match the fact in various worlds in which I'm a BIV.more ordinarypropositions (e.KEITH DEROSE This leads us to an importantinsight regarding skeptical hypotheses: One's epistemicposition withrespect to propositionsto the effectthat skeptical hypothesesdon't hold must be stronger than it is with respect to other.) If the truth-tracking one's belief as to whetherP extends of far enough fromactualityto reach the closest not-Pworlds.and one's belief that P is sensitive. An importantcomponent of being in a strongepistemicpositionwith respect to P is to have one's belief as to whetherP is true match the factof the matteras to whetherP is true.But how far from actualitymust truthtrackingreach-how strong an epistemic position must one be in-to make one's belief thatP sensitive? That. at least in my own case. some alarmingly close worlds in which I don't have hands. still but somewhatenlightening.. and it's true. but should be nonaccidentallytrue.where this requires one's belief as to whetherP is true to match the factof the matterat nearbyworlds. I believe thisat the actual world. one's belief should not only be true.then one doesn't believe that P in those closest not-Pworlds.I'm now fully aware of the factthatI'm handless.g. (Recalling the resultsof section 6. pictureof how thissituationcan arise. An explanation of our two central notions in termsof possible worlds will provide a partial and quite rough-and-ready. I believe that I do.and I have hands matchesthe factof the matter.

one's belief as to whetherP needn't match the fact of the matterthat far fromthe actual world for one to be in a quite strongposition with respect to P. one must notbelieve that P in the closest not-Pworlds. I'm in a pretty strongepistemic position withrespect to that matter. conversely.it seems that in a fairly wide range of worlds surroundingthe actual world. while these beliefsremain insensitive(since one would still believe that the hypothesesdidn't obtain in the closest worlds in which theydo obtain). even though one's belief as to whetherP doesn't match the factof the matterin the closest not-Pworlds:Since even the closest of the not-Pworlds are quite distant. quite remote. one needn't be in a verystrongposition for one's belief to be sensitive. does occur. then. The Rule of Sensitivity and the Beginningsof a New ContextualistSolution The importantinsightregardingskepticalhypotheses-that one's epistemic position with respect to propositionsto the effectthat skeptical hypothesesdon't hold must be strongerthan it is with respectto otherpropositions beforebeliefsin such propositions can 35 Now let P be I'm not a BIV Where not-P (here. I am a BIV) is . By contrast. where P is such that there are both P and not-Pworldsveryclose to the actual world. and.and in my case.I'm in a pretty strong epistemicpositionwithrespectto thisP. Since skepticalhypothesestend to fastenon somewhatremote (and sometimesveryremote) possibilities.one can be in a quite strongepistemicpositionwith respect to P merelyby believingthat P in all the nearbyworlds. This can occur. But for one's belief that P to be sensitive. my belief as to whether I have hands does a good job of matchingthe fact of the matter.As I do believe this P in such nearby worlds.While there are closer worlds in which the match fails. one can be in a relatively (and sometimes a very) strongposition withrespect to beliefs to the effectthat theydon't obtain (since one's belief as to whether they obtain matches the factof the matterover a wide range of worlds closest to the actual world).Thus.one's belief thatP mustbe sensitive(one must not believe thatP in the closest not-P worlds) in order for one to be in even a minimallystrong epistemic position with respect to P.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM distant. 12.

or to weigh similarity into a conversationin any number a 34Introducing skepticalhypothesis of waysother than in attributions and denials of knowledge can seem to raise the standardsfor knowledge. I've said." desirable. as withthe Rule of Releyou really seems vance (see note 22). we must again remember either to restrict to those worldsin whichthe subjectuses the same method of belief with formationshe uses in the actual world. 36 .Where the P involvedis to the effect does not obtain. Context.within as to whetherP is true must match the factof the matterin order for the subject to count as knowing.For instance. I will here state it in such a way that it applies only to (and denials) of knowledge. (Given the resultsof section our attentionsolely 6.more ordinary.but still perhaps enlightening. to such a level as P for to require S's beliefin thatparticular to be sensitive it to count thata skeptical as knowledge. not just anymention of a skepticalhypothesis to trigger mechanismforraisingthe standardsof knowledgeI'm about the to articulate.Let's call the conversationalrule this new account posits as the mechanism by which the skepticraises the standardsfor knowledgethe "Rule of Althougha more general formulation thisrule is of Sensitivity.for.instead of arguing.as we've seen. therefore.KEITH DEROSE account of how."You don't know that the paper isn't mistakenabout the result of last night's you don't know that the Bulls won.centered on the actual world. is propositions-before a beliefin such a propositioncan be sensitive. if need be.Picturethis requirement as a contextually determined sphere of possible whicha subject'sbelief worlds. the standardsfor knowledge (the standardsfor how good an epistemicposition one must be in to count as knowing) tend to be raised. the skepticraises the standardsforknowledge.our rule this:When it is assertedthatsome subjectS knows(or does is simply not know) some proposition P. determines how strongan Sensitivity epistemicpositionone mustbe in to count as knowing. Now.since such applicationsare attributions what's needed to address the presentpuzzle.34So limited.picture of how the Rule of operates. in prebe sensitive-suggestsa new contextualist sentingAl. answerme this:Do know that the Bulls won?" Of course." a skepticmay urge. A storyin termsof possible worlds again provides a rough-andready. "Consider thisproposition:The newspaperis mistakenabout who won the game. game. one must be epistemicpositionwithrespectto a propositionstating in a stronger thata skepticalhypothesis false-relative to other.then thisrule dictatesthatthe standards hypothesis will be raised to a quite high level. keeping that propositionclearlyin mind.

While manynoteworthy features and virtuesof thissolution are best explained by comparingit with the other proposed solutions to our puzzle.35 This truthfully I'm 35Again. By the Rule of Sensitivity. the skeptic's assertion that we don't know that not-H. As the standards for knowledge go up. the standardsfor knowledge are raised to such a level as to require our belief that not-H to be sensitivebefore it can count as knowledge. the standardsare drivenup to such a level that we don't count as knowingthatnot-H. if necessary. the sphere of epistemically relevantworlds becomes larger-the truth-tracking one's belief must extend furof therfromactuality one to count as knowing. at the high standardsput in place by the skeptic'sassertionof Al's first premise. In utilizing Al to attackour putativeknowledge of 0. drivesthe standardsforknowledge up to such a point as to make that assertion true. At these high standards. the skepticinstinctively chooses her skepticalhypothesis. features:(1) We will be in at least as stronga position to know that not-H as we're in to know that0. recall. but (2) Anybeliefwe mighthave to the effectthat not-H will be an insensitivebelief (a belief we would hold even if not-H were false-that is.) Call this sphere the sphere of epistemicallyrelevantworlds. so that it will have these two H. is also true at lower standards). and then assertsAl's conclusion thatwe don't know that0. then. enlarge the sphere of epistemically relevantworldsso thatit at least includes the closest worldsin which P is false. as I'll do in following sections. recall.bythe Rule of Sensitivity. hereassuming skeptic-friendly a version contextualism. Since our belief that not-H isn't sensitive (feature (2)). of See thesecondimportant pointmade at theend of section 2. for the Rule of Sensitivity be formulatedas follows:When it's ascan serted that S knows (or doesn't know) that P. 37 . A powerful solution to our puzzle resultswhen we follow the basic contextualist strategy (see section 2) and utilize this Rule of to Sensitivity explain how the standardsfor knowledge are raised bythe skeptic'spresentationofAl.And since we're in no stronger an epistemicposition withrespect to 0 than we're in withrespect to not-H (feature (1)). even if H were true). Given feature (2).Given thispicture.the basic idea of the present solution is this.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM respect to the subject's method very heavilyin determiningthe closeness of possible worlds to the actual world. then.the skeptictruthfully assertsher second premise (which.we also failto know that 0.

second. on this account. we have the general inclination asserted there because our concept of knowledgejust is.but it would also have us happily asserting abominable conjunctions.any belief we might have to the effectthat a skeptical hypothesisdoesn't obtain (where that hyas pothesis is well chosen) is insensitive: we realize.that of true. On Nozick's account. We explain the plausibility Al's first of premise by reference to the followingtwo facts. This would account for our inclination to deny the status of knowledge to insensitivebeliefs alright. But we divergefromNozin ick's treatment our account of whythe second factabove holds.KEITH DEROSE accounts for the persuasivenessof Al. we have a verygeneral inclination to thinkthat we don't know that P when we realize that our belief that P is insensitive-when we realize thatwe would believe thatP even if P were false. roughly.we're loathe to do.in fact. and SCA: A Comparison of 13. which.For the fact that the skeptic can installvery high standardsthatwe don't live up to has no tendencyto show thatwe don't satisfy more relaxed standardsthat are in place in more the ordinaryconversationsand debates. rather. and 38 . Our new contextualistsolution gains an importantadvantage over its contextualistrivalsby incorporating SCA. we would hold thisbelief even if it were false (even if the hypothesisdid obtain). And.First. Our new solution avoids thisunhappiness by not building a sensitivity requirementinto the very concept of knowledge. The notion of sensitivity. We followNozick in employingSCA. The Rule of Sensitivity Our New Solution withthe Other Contextualist Solutions and withNozick's Solution solutionswe've Recall thatthe problem withthe othercontextualist premise seen is that theyfail to adequately explain whyAl's first has the intuitivepull it has (when the skeptical hypothesisemployed is well chosen).Al doesn't threatenthe truthof our ordinaryclaims to know the veryOs our knowledge of which the skeptic attacks. But since. sensitivebelief. state her conclusion only by raising the skeptic gets to truthfully the standardsfor knowledge.finds its happier home in our contextualistaccount of how the standardsforknowledgeare raised.

for instance.Thus. that we're not BIVs. is not in a good enough epistemicposition S as knowingthatP by the standardsthat. So. wheneverS's belief thatP is insensitive. explaining the plausibilThus.we do know.according to the to count would be put in place by the veryclaim that S Rule of Sensitivity. knows (or doesn't know) that P. Our verdictregarding (2) is thit it's true regardlessof what epistemic standard it's evaluated at. not-C. can say know that P. that the second fact holds! incorporate SCA. A positiveclaim that S doesknow such a P. on the other hand. Thus. issue a verdictas to the truthof each of these three. No wonder. is doomed to failure:The makingof the claim will raise the standardsfor knowledge to a level high enough to make we thatclaim false. and can onlyfalsely assert that S doesn't truthfully that S does know that P. according to ordinarylow standardsforknowledge.But this.recall. we successfully Nozick in licensingabomfollowing premise.combined witha similarlyenthusiasticendorsementof (1).Where S's belief thatP is not sensitive. not at all standards. If I don't that not-H. Our New ContextualistSolution Clarifiedand Solution Compared withthe Straightforward The puzzle of skepticalhypotheses. would land us in bold skepticism.without ityof Al's first inable conjunctions. then I don't know that 0. on our solution. so its is plausibility easily accounted for. an assertion that S doesn't will raise the know that P. then.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM the second factabove is accounted for as follows. but only at the unusually inflated standards conducive to skepticism. 14. I do know that 0. where S's belief that P is insensitive.We avoid that fate by endorsing (1) as true.but it must also explain whywe find all of them plausible. concerns the premises of Al togetherwiththe negation of its conclusion: 1. A solution to the puzzle must. I don't know that not-H. 2.of course. solution has Let's be clear about what our present contextualist to say about each of these. 39 . to make thatdenial standardsforknowledgeto a level high enough of knowledge true.

40 . But what of (not-C)? On the present solution." despite the factthatS's belief thatnot-H is insensitive.I would findit a bit embarrassing if we could never claimto have such knowledge by means of simple and knowledgeattributions. all of which are individually one plausible.36it's no attemptsto deny it are destined surprisethatwe find it so plausible. sectionJ ("Low-Strength Not Obtain") of my 1990. will have this good reason for doubting each of them: that the to the othersseem true. These conversationalsituation. we've seen. (Notare C) seems plausible because it's true when evaluated at the standards most normallyapplied to it. it will be asked. given certainfeaturesof the condoes not operate. Such ambivalence is to be expected wheneverwe're dealing witha puzzle consistingof mutuallyinconsistentpropositions. whydo we find these claims to know plausible even when we're in a context in which the skeptic has raised the standardsto such a level that these claims are false?A littlecaution is in order here. At any rate.we're able to explain its plausibility. It's controcorrect (not-C) does seem to us in such versialjust how intuitively a context. As I explain there.the Rule of Sensitivity call stituteexceptions to the rule thatone cannot truthfully an insensitive belief knowledge. by the Rule of Sensitivity. though (1) is falsewhen evaluated according to those ordinary as low standards. seems we can truthfully not-H. I welcome these exceptions. put in place by the assertion of (1). In such cases.And it's difficult distinguish doubt of (notC) thatarises fromthisverygeneral source (that its falsehood follows fromother thingsone findsplausible) fromthatwhich arises from the fact that the standards are high.For it's a of featureof my treatment Al thatwe do know skepticalhypothesesto be false according to low epistemicstandards. But. For when the propositionsare considered together. chapter Claims to Know thatSkeptical HypothesesDo 3. the very strongpull that (not-C) continues to exert on (at least most of) us even when the standardsare high is explained in the manner outsay 36Butfor cases in which it seems one can truthfully "S knows that see not-H. claims to know ordinarypropositionsare true according to ordinarylow standards but false according to the highlyinflated standards that.despite the factthat our belief thatnot-H is insensitive.Most of us feel some ambivalence. by means of the fact that the high standardsat which (1) is true are preciselythe standardsthatan assertionor denial of it put into and play.Since attemptsto assert (1) are bound to resultin truth. and would actuallybe a bit worriedif thereweren't such exceptions.KEITH DEROSE But. to produce falsehood. I'm reassuredby the resultthatin special conit claim to know that versationalcircumstances.

on the other hand. and the "Bold Skeptical" solution thus denies (not-C).37 the "Nozickean" (2). farfrom It's certain thatMoorewould haveso responded otherinstances Al thatutilize to of different skeptical hypotheses. froma failureto see the truthof contextualism. to claim to know that 0. 41 .of course. The verdictsthe present solution issues regardingthe truthvalues of the members of the triad are complicated by the fact that ours is a contextualist solution.It's easy.then. claim we to know the 0 in question.it willnot onlybe true forus to claim to know these veryOs that the skepticnow denies we know. But whichstraightforward solution an invariantist confusedly adopts will depend on the standards thatdominate her evaluation of our beliefsin 0 and in notH. out-on-the-street of knowledge. accepting that we speak falsely even in ordinary.she talk will end up a Moorean. If her evaluation is dominated by the relatively low standards that govern our ordinary. the truthvalues of (1) and (not-C) varywith context. in the skeptic's presence. Noncontextualist (henceforth. whenever.claimingthisloser to be false according to the invariantepistemic standards that govern all attributions and denials of knowledge: The "Moorean" solution in thisway denies (1) .The Nozis ickean solution ensues from evaluating each belief according to 37This called the "Moorean" solution is because Moore responded in thiswayto the dreamargument. bold skepticism the result. must choose one of the membersof thistriadto deny. we at the same time realize that as soon as we find ourselves in more ordinaryconversationalcontexts. nonphilosophical discussions. From the perspectiveof our presentcontextualist solution. Only (2) receives the same verdict regardlessof what the epistemicstandardsare.but it will also be wrong for us to deny that we know these things.each of these straightforward solutionsresultsin part. If she evaluates the beliefs in question according to the high standards that are put into place by the skeptic'spresentationof Al. It's just this variance that our solution so essentially relies on in explaining how we fall into our puzzling conflict of intuitions. "straightforward") solutions.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM lined in section 2: Even while we're in a contextgoverned by high standards at which we don't count as knowingthat 0.to thinkthatthe skeptic'spresentdenial mustbe equally false and that it would be equally true for us now.

have not. a claim to know (or an admission that one doesn't know) that a skepticalhypothesisis false will.in systematic our use.KEITH DEROSE the standards that would most often be used in evaluating that belief.the bold skeptic holds that we're speaking the truthwhenever we say that someone doesn't know 38See the first paragraph of note 28. Maneuver 15. For reasons we've seen.Mooreans. the admission is true and the claim is false. solution must explain what leads To succeed.It's the defendthe statusof knowledgefor our insensitive who've made the most progresshere. I'll explain why our contextualistsolution is superior to that of the bold skeptic.by tend to invitea veryhigh reading.wheneverwe say or thinkthatwe know these things. above. But a claim to know that 0 doesn't so demand a high reading. at which the Rule of Sensitivity. Otherwise. of our very common word 'know'. According to the bold skeptic. The bold skeptic thus implicates and widespread falsehood in us. From the present perspective.we'll have littlereason for denying just thatmember of the triad.progressed any fartheralong this front. In the ers of bold skepticism remaining sections. Equally paradoxically."38 there be. a straightforward our intuitionsastraywith respect to the unluckymember of the triadwhich thatsolution denies. if any vital task to "furtherexploration. 42 .it seems to almost all of us thatwe do know the Os that the skeptic claims we don't know.the Nozickean is reactingto the factthatone can usually claim that one does know that 0 and can usuallytruthtruthfully fullyclaim not to know that not-H. have fared no betterin explaining whywe're so reluctantto claim beliefs. at least until the conintuitively versationalair is cleared. parenthetically and other Nozickeans. to the best of my knowledge. it seems the reverseof correct to claim to know that 0. What the Nozickean misses is it how difficult is to make these twoclaims together:once you have admitted that you don't know that not-H. we say or thinksomethingfalse. in speech and in thought. Bold Skepticismand the WarrantedAssertability Almostall of the time. speakers of English. to the best of my knowledge.Nozick himselfprovides leavingthis no such explanationwithrespectto (2).

it's often useful for us to claim that we do know them. 43 .ifI had to reject contextualism and adopt a straightforward solution. presumably. though it's in fact false. and unwarranted assertability for falsehood. What leads us astray? Peter Unger and Barry Stroud have suggested on behalf of bold skepticism that although we don't know these O's. What then leads us astray is this: We mistake this useful/justified/warranted assertability of knowledge ascriptions for truth.39On the other side of the coin. could claim that although we do indeed know that H is false.41 It's at (1) that the skeptic has his best hope of gaining an advantage over my solution. Simply attributing apparent truth to warranted assertability is a game almost any party to this dispute can fairly easily play. we're mistaking the useless/unwarranted/unjustified assertability of denials of knowledge for falsehood. but are rather warranted in saying that we don't know (though this latter is false).forreasons I can't go into here. Two serious problems emerge for the bold skeptic at this point. does seek to defend the bold skepticalong these lines in chapter 2 of his 1984. see especiallypages 50-54. Stroud. 39Thisis the basic line Unger takes in his defense of bold skepticism in his 1975. The firstis that such "warranted assertability maneuvers" could be attempted by advocates of the other solutions as well. even though it seems to most of us that we'd then be saying something quite false. 41Formyown part. the Moorean. for that premise indeed does seem true. but this by itself does not favor the bold skeptic's solution over the other straightforwardapproaches. for instance. 40By contrast. and we are therefore often warranted or justified in making such claims. Thus. I thinkthe resulting Moorean positionwould be slightly more defensible. and we mistake this warranted assertability for truth.I'd be a Moorean.40That this line of thought would eventually work out any better for the bold skeptic than for his opponents would take some showing. we're not warranted in claiming that we know this (though this claim would be true). and each it seems could claim that the reason this loser they've chosen seems true.our new contextualistsolution attributesthe apparent truthof (1) to (1)'s truth (and not just its warrantedassertability) the at verystandardsits assertioninvokes. see especiallypages 55-82.thoughnot himself advocating bold skepticism.thus. Warranted assertability indeed can be mistaken for truth.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM these Os. Each of the straightforward approaches denies a member of the triad constituting our puzzle. is that we're often warranted in asserting it.

making sure his endorsement of SCA is made in such a way as to account for our intuitionshere. But the skeptic's other problem lurks here.although he thinks(1) is true. the skeptic.while solving a philosophical puzzle consistingof a set of individually plausible but mutuallyinconsistentclaims. the skepticfaces thisquestion: If.we are warranted in claiming to know all manner of other thingsthat in fact we don't know. whetheror not he buys into SCA.I've stopped short of fullyendorsing it. the skeptic's second big problem is that. and one is relieved of the burden of explaining the plausibility those members that one of endorses.one onlyhas to explain (away) the plausibility of those members of the set one denies. unlike the skeptic.to see whyskepticalhypothesesare effective. but we customarily recognize 44 .as he claims. The skeptic's use of SCA will take this form: Although we know nothing (or very little).the answer must involve the lack of sensitivity enjoyed by our beliefs that skeptical hypothesesdon't obtain. making do withan explanation of its plausibility. And here skepticshave little to offer.according to the skeptic.But if the resultsof sections 5 and 8 above are correct.owes us an explanation forits plausibility.given that. Usually. But the skepticmustnow also address Al's second premise. Thus.whydoesn't it seem to us here that we know what. Given thatour habit of mistaking our ignorance for knowledge is so pervasive. Indeed.which we're so pervasivelyblind to. in fact. and thus can't mistakewarrantedassertability truthhere.But truthdoes not sufficeto explain apparent truthwhere one makes us out to be absolutelyhorriblejudges of truthsof the kind in question. mustbe told why we're not warranted in claiming to know that skeptical hypotheses are false.KEITH DEROSE and. shine throughso clearlyto us just where the issue is whetherwe know a skepticalhypothesisto be false? The skeptic's initial answer will certainlybe that we're notwarranted in claiming to know that skepticalhypothesesdon't obtain. it's when our beliefs are insensitivethat we're not even warrantedin asserting that we know and we thereforerecognize our lack of knowledge. because he holds that we're subject to constantand radical error as to the scope of our knowledge. consistently thinkingwe know thingswhen we don't. theirtruthand our abilityto recognize that truthbeing explanation enough of their apparent truth.we don't-that these skeptical hypotheses are false?Whydoes our lack of knowledge. But for we then.we're usuallyunder the delusion that we know that 0.

His problem is that the warrantedassertability neuver by itselfdidn't reallysolve our puzzle. what passes for knowledge in some contexts he'll deny that the won't so pass in others. on the skeptic'sconception. are typically when we ascribe knowledge in everyday these false. standardsreflecta correspondingvariationin the truthconthese varying of ditionsforattributions knowledge. 45 . and assertsthatour standardsforsaying knowvaryfrom case to case (65-66).And the onlywayI've seen to incorporate SCA into a treatmentof Al that also handles the other pieces of sensitiveepisteour puzzle is to employ the idea that contextually mic standardsgovern our use of 'know'.With respect to my solution. but the skeptic has a This may look like a difficult maready answer. varyin the waythe contruthconditionsof knowledgeattributions will maintain textualistclaims theydo.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM thatwe don't know thatnot-H.he'll maintain.whyaren't we happy to conjoin this errorwiththat insightand embrace the abominable conjunction? question.of course. as I've advocated here.remain constantat a level The warrantedassertbeyond the reach of mere mortalsto satisfy.42 solution. saying we situations.but insistthat it governs the warranted assertability conditionsof these sentences. 75) in our everyday we uses of 'know'. the bold skeptic can is maintainthat the Rule of Sensitivity a rule for the raisingof the epistemic standards governing our use of sentences ascribing knowledge to subjects. alright. Being an invariantist.although "the exigencies of action" justify somethingliterally The best exploration of this typeof idea is provided by false attributions. Thus. but ratherre-introduced it in a new form.But on Stroud's skeptic'sconception. Unger in his 1984.which. by means of a simple twist. The sensible invariantist admit that.ratherthan their truthconditions. 42Stroudthus claims that on the skeptic'sconception of our practices. This allows the bold skepticto mimic any contextualist and in particularthe solution I'm advocating here. the standardsfor ascribing knowledge that we employ in everydayuse depend upon our "aims and interestsat the moment" (65). But wise invariantists varyingstandards govern our use of asaccept that contextually will criptionsand denials of knowledge. and to posit the Rule of as Sensitivity the mechanism by which the Al skeptic drivesthose typically standardsup. we operate under certain"practicalconstraints"(1984. According to contextualism. But the clever invariantist supposes epistemicstandardsthatthe contextualist thatthe varying the truthconditionsof these sentences in factgovern their govern conditions of warrantedassertability.

44Readersof Unger's 1984 willsee the stronginfluenceof thatexcellent book on myprocedure here. (But see his more recent 1986. note that all this maneuvering can be mimicked by the Moorean. who can also hold that a Rule of Sensitivity governsthe warrantedassertability conditionsof knowledge ascriptions. can be easilyadapted to suit the purposes of the bold skeptic.which are held to be invariant.The resultis a theoryparallel to my own contextualist solution.which in differs its semanticsof 'know': According to this parallel invariantisttheory.due to the low standards for warranted assertability that would ordinarilybe applied to such a claim.43 How shall we rationally decide between a contextualist solution. for instance. Let's borrow an example and suppose. of but in the Moorean's hands.and in particularthe one I'm here defending. But since a claim to know some 0 is usuallywarranted. that a crazed philosopher 43Goingback to the bold skeptic'sfirst problem.the Moorean can hold that the truthconditions of such attributions knowledge remain invariant.Like the bold skeptic. though I come to verydifferent conclusions -thanhe does in thatwork. the context-sensitive varying epistemicstandardswe've discovered govern the warrantedassertability conditions of attributions and denials of knowledge. Thus. Bold Skepticismand Systematic Falsehood Like its contextualist our new solution is designed largely relatives. And since Al's second premise is alwayswarranted. these constantepistemicstandardswill be meetably low. since we're never warrantedin claiming to know that skeptical hypothesesdon't obtain (due to the operation of the twisted Rule of Sensitivity). we judge (incorrectly)that we know this 0. we're led to judge (correctly)thatsuch claims to knowledge would be false. mysolution. for Thus.ratherthan their truthconditions. with the goal in mind of crediting most of our attributionsof knowledge with truth.like other contextualist solutions.KEITH DEROSE abilitymaneuver can then be employed: We mistakewarrantedasfor sertability truth (and unwarrantedassertability falsehood).we judge (again correctly)that this premise is true.) 46 .And no wonder. We in general take it as a strikeagainst a theoryof a common term of a natural language that it involves the speakers of that language in systematic and widespread falsehood in their use of that term.and the bold skeptic'sanalogue of it?44 16.

of the term 'physician' are involved: that we take to be physiciansmany licensed practithe tionersof medicine who don't satisfy demanding requirement alleged. but it's eminentlyreasonable to suppose that such facts as these. in addition to holding a medical degree. It's no doubt largelyin virtue of such facts as these that the traditional view.hypothesisregardingthe semanticsof 'physician'.45On what grounds should we reject thisbizarre conjecture in favorof a more traditionaland less demanding account of what it is to be a phycould have been such thatS's having sician?Our language certainly the abilityto cure any conceivable illness was a truthcondition of 'S is a physician' (although the word 'physician' would not have been veryuseful in thatcase). thatwe seriously describe these people as being physicians. who in turnborrowed the example fromelsewhere.suspend our judgment against his contention. regarding our use. because. and in the absence of quite weighty counterbalancingconsiderationsthat fa45See Stroud (1984. In virtueof what is our language in fact such that the strange theoryis not true of it? I'm of course not in a position to give a complete answer to this question.is true of our language.etc. that we don't denythat these people are physicians. 47 .)And these factsalso provideus withour best reasons or evidence for accepting the traditional. do articulate these sentences' warranted assertability conditions. That his theory involvesus in systematic falsehood continues to constitutea strikeagainst it. ratherthan the strange. that the peculiar theoryimplicatesus in systematic spread falsehood in our speech and thoughtinvolving'physicians' is a (constitutiveand evidential) strike against the theory that proves quite decisive. we should not. on the basis of this maneuver.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM claimed that there are no physicians. a necessarycondition for being a physician is that one be able to cure any conceivable illness.ratherthan the conjecture of our crazed philosopher. 40). (The correctnessof the traditionalview largely in consists such facts. while they don't accurately specifythe truthconditions of sentences involvingthat term. in thoughtand in speech. If our crazed philosopher tried to account for the above facts regardingour use of the term 'physician' via the quick and easy conjecture that the less demanding requirementsthat are more traditionally assigned to 'physician'. In this and widecase.

Like practically any claim to have provided the best explanation of something. bold skepticism can appear to be supported by skepticalargumentslike Al. of To help the skepticsolve the puzzle.By contrast. In his reviewof Unger 1984. In part 3 of my 1992. does not explain the plausibility Al's premises. as I've here argued. I argue that contextualismcan handle the most serious consequences one mightsuspectwould followfromthislack of independence.47 Indeed. making the warrantedassertability maneuver seem more motivatedhere than it is in the hands of our imagined crazed philosopher. If yet invariantism. as part of his case for his relativist conclusion that there's no factof the matteras to whethercontextualism or skeptical invariantism correct.Bold skepticism. 47Well. it at the same time can seem to make sense of otherpieces of the puzzle (that we're inclined to say that we don't know that skeptical hypotheses are false and to say thatwe don't know various ordinary thingsifwe don't know these hypothesesto be false).we're leftwithno reason forpayingthathigh price for a solution. skeptics are free to refuse this help and propose other solutions.thisappearance is deceptive. thisstrikeremains decisive.KEITH DEROSE vor the strangetheoryover the traditionalone.little reason. Though the bold skeptic's resolution of our puzzle involves us in systematic falsehood because of its unwaveringacceptance of Al's conclusion. writes. as we saw in the previoussection. I would take this to be a very importantadvantage for invariantism-perhaps even weighty enough to make the contestbetween the two theoriesinteresting. speakers' intuitionsconcerning the correctuse of 'know' seem to conformto the closure principleforknowledge assertedby the invariantist denied by the contextualist"(1986. which. In his 1984. properlydeveloped. 512). not contextualism. Whateverindependence concerns mightremain withcontextualism seem quite swamped by the cost of the bold skeptic's solution. since the bold skepticalsolution and our 460f course. is quite high indeed. But. but upheld closure."In particular.by itself. contextualismneed not. I've had to ascribe to him an analogue of our new solution. Unger tries to balance this relative is disadvantageof skepticalinvariantism against contextualism'srelativedisadvantage that it does not make the truthconditions of knowledge attributions appropriately independent fromthe currentintentsand interests of those who happen to be speaking on a given occasion (37). 48 . and. Of course.relatingthe advantages of invariantism. claim here is hostage to the possible future my development of a betterexplanation coming along. Brueckner. as I've argued. does not. But.46 But once we see thatthe skeptical puzzle can be solvedjust as well withoutthe bold skeptic'ssystematic falsehood. the problem withthishopeless nonstarter a theory of is that there don't seem to be any such counterbalancingconsiderations in its favor.

importancewould followfromthe of fact that the skepticcan or cannot be knocked fromhis perch by argumentsfrompremises of that particulartype.one of which is what premises the anti-skeptic allowed to appeal to in an argument is designed to dethrone the skeptic. But skeptical argumentslike Al threatento show that the skeptic needn't just play this game. and it's to a weightyconsideration against that resolution. with there being littleroom forweighty compensatingadvantagesforthisresolution over the contextualist's(givenhow similartheyare in other respects). as Thomas Reid noted.and he must even be leftto enjoy his skepticism"(1895.ifanything.the bold skeptic'sresolutionof Al should be rejected because it involvesus in systematic wideand spread falsehood in our use of a common term of our language.there's not much difference how theysolve the puzin zle. And. If the skeptic won't allow any premises to be available. then.B of my 1989. to make the game a bit more interesting.SOLVING THE SKEPTICAL PROBLEM new contextualistsolution under consideration closely parallel each other. as withthe crazed philosopher's theoryof 'physician'. 49 . I've here argued that the bold skepticcannot win thisbattle-that of providingthe best resolution of our puzzling conflictof intuitake an implausible stand on the issue of closure. Begging the Question Againstthe Skeptic? If skepticsare allowed to play King of the Mountain-they startoff on top (never mind how theygot there) and it's the anti-skeptics' job to knock them off-displacing them can be a verydifficult task. "It would be impossibleby argumentto beat him out of thisstronghold. I have littleinterestin playingKing of the Mountain.48 If. above. slim range of claims is a allowed to pass inspection and be available for use in the antiskepticalcampaign. can give us.) 481 discuss thisin section II. How difficult depends on several factors. 17. So.better he starting reasons for accepting his skepticismthan we have for rejectingit. (See section 10 and especiallynote 33. 447). but can gain the top of the mountain-that fromour own beliefsand intuitions. then (as Reid again recognized) it's oftendifficultto saywhat. That the bold skeptical resolution involves us in systematic falsehood is one of the few differences be found here.thisconsiderationproves decisive.

thereby perhaps raising the concern that I'm begging the question against the skeptic. either in the actual world or in any nearby worlds. John Carroll. for three years of almost daily philosophical discussions. and University at the University Virginia. Holly Thomas. and ask why we should give credence to just those that favor him. Indeed. according to any standards for knowledge. and forhis manycommentson various drafts of thispaper and its ancestors. I betray my conviction that I'm not a BIV. Graeme Forbes. I'm not a BIV. Edward Stein.many of which were on the topic of knowledge and skepticismand almost all of which were enjoyable and enlightening.Mark Heller. Although Al's premises are initially plausible. Along the way. And if we can further show that those beliefs that seem to favor his solution can be accommodated in our solution better than he can accommodate those of our beliefs that are hostile to him. For instance. But. But if the skeptic is marshalling deeply felt intuitions of ours in an attempt to give us good reasons for accepting his skepticism. of course. in claiming that my belief that I have hands is sensitive. the best conclusion we can draw is that we're not ordinarily mistaken when we claim or ascribe knowledge.fromwhichI've learned much. 50 . despite the bold skeptic's attempt to show that we are. the best resolution for the conflict of intuitions generated by Al is not that of the bold skeptic. then I don't know I have hands. first my philosophyteacher. Is it legitimate for me to use this conviction in a debate against the skeptic? Not if we're playing King of the Mountain.49 Rice University 49This paper is dedicated to the memory of Ken Konyndyk. Richard Grandy. Instead. and the role that the Rule of Sensitivityplays in changing the epistemic standards that govern these attributions. I've been assuming certain things that we believe but that the skeptic claims we can't know.KEITH DEROSE tions.Charlottesville helpfulcomof for mentson earlierdrafts thispaper.Thanks to AnthonyBrueckner. as I firmly believe. an anonymous reader for the Philosophical and to audiences at Rice Review. the main insights to be drawn from a study of Al involve the context-sensitivity attributions of of knowledge. Special thanksare due to Peter Unger of forhis important on writings thistopic. I'm ready to admit to the skeptic that if I am a BIV. it's legitimate to point out that other of our beliefs militate against his position.

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