Knowledge and Its Limits

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Knowledge and its Limits presents a systematic new conception of knowledge as a kind of mental stage sensitive to the knower's environment. It makes a major contribution to the debate between externalist and internalist philosophies of mind, and breaks radically with the epistemological tradition of analyzing knowledge in terms of true belief. The theory casts new light on such philosophical problems as scepticism, evidence, probability and assertion, realism and anti-realism, and the limits of what can be ...
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Overview


Knowledge and its Limits presents a systematic new conception of knowledge as a kind of mental stage sensitive to the knower's environment. It makes a major contribution to the debate between externalist and internalist philosophies of mind, and breaks radically with the epistemological tradition of analyzing knowledge in terms of true belief. The theory casts new light on such philosophical problems as scepticism, evidence, probability and assertion, realism and anti-realism, and the limits of what can be known. The arguments are illustrated by rigorous models based on epistemic logic and probability theory. The result is a new way of doing epistemology and a notable contribution to the philosophy of mind.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Newness in philosophy is rare. But this important book offers a boldly original view of the nature of knowledge.... A daring new picture of knowledge is skillfully supported with an argumentative verve that its author, the new professor of logic at Oxford University, has made himself known for.... Throughout, Mr Williamson is bold, ingenious and original; the tradition he opposes appears by contrast stale, scholastic and uninspired.... Anyone with a serious interest in philosophy will have much to learn from this challenging book."--The Economist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198250432
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/1/1900
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Timothy Williamson is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Knowing and acting 1
2 Unanalysable knowledge 2
3 Factive mental states 5
4 Knowledge as the justification of belief and assertion 8
5 The myth of epistemic transparency 11
6 Unknowable truths 18
1 A State of Mind 21
1.1 Factive attitudes 21
1.2 Mental states, first-person accessibility, and scepticism 23
1.3 Knowledge and analysis 27
1.4 Knowing as the most general factive mental state 33
1.5 Knowing and believing 41
2 Broadness 49
2.1 Internalism and externalism 49
2.2 Broad and narrow conditions 51
2.3 Mental differences between knowing and believing 54
2.4 The causal efficacy of knowledge 60
3 Primeness 65
3.1 Prime and composite conditions 65
3.2 Arguments for primeness 66
3.3 Free recombination 73
3.4 The explanatory value of prime conditions 75
3.5 The value of generality 80
3.6 Explanation and correlation coefficients 83
3.7 Primeness and the causal order 88
3.8 Non-conjunctive decompositions 89
4 Anti-Luminosity 93
4.1 Cognitive homes 93
4.2 Luminosity 94
4.3 An argument against luminosity 96
4.4 Reliability 98
4.5 Sorites arguments 102
4.6 Generalizations 106
4.7 Scientific tests 109
4.8 Assertibility conditions 110
5 Margins and Iterations 114
5.1 Knowing that one knows 114
5.2 Further iterations 120
5.3 Close possibilities 123
5.4 Point estimates 130
5.5 Iterated interpersonal knowledge 131
6 An Application 135
6.1 Surprise Examinations 135
6.2 Conditionally Unexpected Examinations 143
7 Sensitivity 147
7.1 Preview 147
7.2 Counterfactual sensitivity 148
7.3 Counterfactuals and scepticism 150
7.4 Methods 152
7.5 Contextualist sensitivity 156
7.6 Sensitivity and broad content 161
8 Scepticism 164
8.1 Plan 164
8.2 Scepticism and the non-symmetry of epistemic accessibility 164
8.3 Difference of evidence in good and bad cases 169
8.4 An argument for sameness of evidence 170
8.5 The phenomenal conception of evidence 173
8.6 Sameness of evidence and the sorites 174
8.7 The non-transparency of rationality 178
8.8 Scepticism without sameness of evidence 181
9 Evidence 184
9.1 Knowledge as justifying belief 184
9.2 Bodies of evidence 186
9.3 Access to evidence 190
9.4 An argument 193
9.5 Evidence as propositional 194
9.6 Propositional evidence as knowledge 200
9.7 Knowledge as evidence 203
9.8 Non-pragmatic justification 207
10 Evidential Probability 209
10.1 Vague probability 209
10.2 Uncertain evidence 213
10.3 Evidence and knowledge 221
10.4 Epistemic accessibility 224
10.5 A simple model 228
10.6 A puzzling phenomenon 230
11 Assertion 238
11.1 Rules of assertion 238
11.2 The truth account 244
11.3 The knowledge account 249
11.4 Objections to the knowledge account, and replies 255
11.5 The BK and RBK accounts 260
11.6 Mathematical assertions 263
11.7 The point of assertion 266
12 Structural Unknowability 270
12.1 Fitch's argument 270
12.2 Distribution over conjunction 275
12.3 Quantification into sentence position 285
12.4 Unanswerable questions 289
12.5 Trans-world knowability 290
Appendix 1 Correlation Coefficients 302
Appendix 2 Counting Iterations of Knowledge 305
Appendix 3 A Formal Model of Slight Insensitivity Almost Everywhere 307
Appendix 4 Iterated Probabilities in Epistemic Logic (Proofs) 311
Appendix 5 A Non-Symmetric Epistemic Model 316
Appendix 6 Distribution over Conjunction 318
Bibliography 321
Index 333
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