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Mentalism and Epistemic Transparency

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Abstract

Questions about the transparency of evidence are central to debates between factive and non-factive versions of mentalism about evidence. If all evidence is transparent, then factive mentalism is false, since no factive mental states are transparent. However, Timothy Williamson has argued that transparency is a myth and that no conditions are transparent except trivial ones. This paper responds by drawing a distinction between doxastic and epistemic notions of transparency. Williamson's argument may show that no conditions are doxastically transparent, but it fails to show that no conditions are epistemically transparent. Moreover, this reinstates the argument from the transparency of evidence against factive mentalism.

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... This approach is the mentalist internalism [2]. In the words of Declan Smithies B[m]entalism in epistemology is the thesis that one's mental states determine one's evidence and hence which propositions one has justification to believe [ 12]. But this position towards justification is not unchallenged [13]. ...
... Firstly, the mind of every person is cognitively luminous, which means, that a person knows her mental states, respectively her j-factors for a justification [2,13] and secondly, axiomatic principles guide the reflection of a person about her justification [2]. There are legitimate doubts towards the luminosity or transparency of mental states [13], which are doubted themselves [12]. But when it comes to the possibility for a person to reflect her justification, there is a necessity in certain principles that prevents this claim from doubts. ...
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This elaboration will explore the epistemology of futures studies. To address this, first the logi-cal ground of epistemology has to be examined, i.e., the laws of thought and in connection to that, the mere possibility of justified true beliefs about the future. After a short introduction to the concept of justified true beliefs, the distinction between internalism and externalism will be observed. Then, two approaches of justification will be explained and compared. Thereafter, the structure of knowledge has to be looked at and the distinction between foundationalism and coherentism will be illustrated. To conclude, the logical ground, the laws of thought, grants the possibility of justified true beliefs about the future, because the third law states that unam-biguous assumptions concerning the future can only be true or false but not undefined. Re-garding the distinction of internalsim and externalism, it is epistemically reasonable to favor internalism over externalism, because not only is it impossible to refer to the future externally but the internal approach concerning the accessibility of justification is a preferable way to justify beliefs about the future. Relating to the structure of knowledge, foundationalism is a better choice than coherentism, because it is a robust answer to the regress problem and moreover, a stable initial position is needed to justify beliefs about the future.
... For example,Smithies (2012a) would deny (i) by maintaining that ideally rational agents would never be wrong about their phenomenal states, whilst Goldman (2009) seems to deny (ii).5 0This is why I hold out hope for a way out along the lines hinted at in footnote 1. ...
Thesis
Can we always tell, just through reflection, what we should believe? That is the question of access, the central disagreement between epistemic internalists and externalists, and the focus of the dissertation. Chapter 1 gives an argument for access, connecting it with the question of whether we can intentionally bias our own investigations to favour desirable hypotheses. I argue that we can't: since we have to take any known biases into account when evaluating the evidence obtained, attempts to bias our inquiries will be self-undermining. Surprisingly, this explanation fails for agents who anticipate violating access; and such agents can in fact intentionally bias their investigations. Since this possibility remains counterintuitive when we focus on alleged counterexamples to access, this is a serious problem for externalism. Chapters 2 and 3 offer a solution to this problem and related, more familiar, ones. Chapter 2 lays some technical foundations, by investigating iterated knowledge in David Lewis's contextualist theory of knowledge. I show that his account has the surprising consequence that agents cannot attend to "negative access failures", cases in which someone fails to know something without knowing that they fail to know it. Whilst this prediction is prima facie unattractive, I show how it can be defended. Chapter 3 uses this Lewisian treatment of negative access failures to solve our problems for externalism. For I show that these problems arise not from maintaining that, in some situations, agents are unable to tell what they should believe, but rather from maintaining that rational agents can sometimes suspect that they are currently in such a situation or anticipate that they will be in such a situation in the future. Externalists can reject this stronger thesis. To explain how, I sketch a theory of evidence which integrates the Lewisian treatment of negative access failures to predict that agents always have to think that they can tell what they should believe, even though this isn't always true. By rejecting access, but maintaining that agents can never anticipate violating it, this theory reconciles the most attractive features of externalism and internalism.
... For criticisms of the anti-luminosity argument, see Weatherson[84], Berker[5], Ramachandran[59], Vogel[83], and Smithies[70]. For criticisms of the anti-KK argument, see Stalnaker[76], Greco[27], and Das and Salow[15]. ...
Article
Recently, several epistemologists have defended an attractive principle of epistemic rationality, which we shall call Ur-Prior Conditionalization . In this essay, I ask whether we can justify this principle by appealing to the epistemic goal of accuracy. I argue that any such accuracy-based argument will be in tension with Evidence Externalism , i.e., the view that agent’s evidence may entail nontrivial propositions about the external world. This is because any such argument will crucially require the assumption that, independently of all empirical evidence, it is rational for an agent to be certain that her evidence will always include truths, and that she will always have perfect introspective access to her own evidence. This assumption is incompatible with Evidence Externalism . I go on to suggest that even if we don’t accept Evidence Externalism , the prospects for any accuracy-based justification for Ur-Prior Conditionalization are bleak.
... So in failing to attack (Introspection I nternalist− f riendly ), Williamson leaves himself vulnerable to those who wish to use it to establish that we do have a cognitive home.39 This sort of strategy is taken inSmithies (2012). ...
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Closure principles say that if you know some proposition which entails a second and you meet further conditions then you know the second. In this paper I construct an argument against closure principles which turns on the idea that knowing a proposition requires that one’s belief-forming process be reliable. My argument parallels an influential argument offered by Timothy Williamson against KK principles–principles that say that if you know some proposition and you meet further conditions then you know that you know the proposition. After offering my argument, I provisionally assess its damage to closure principles and also look at how responses to my argument against closure principles can be used to generate responses to Williamson’s argument against KK principles.
... So even though the externalist objections discussed in this article focus on doxastic justification, they aren't levelled against the implausible view that proper basing somehow is an internalist notion, which means that the relevant issue really is the nature of propositional justification (i.e., whether it is internal or external). 6 1 Proponents of mentalism include Pollock and Cruz (1999), Conee and Feldman (2001), Wedgwood (2002), Smithies (2012) and McCain (2016). 2 A mental state is non-factive just in case it doesn't entail that it has propositional content that is true. By contrast, a factive mental state-like knowing that p-entails that its propositional content is true. 3 Cf. ...
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Facts about justification are not brute facts. They are epistemic facts that depend upon more fundamental non-epistemic facts. Internalists about justification often argue for mentalism, which claims that facts about justification supervene upon one’s non-factive mental states, using Lehrer and Cohen’s (Synthese 55(2):191–207, 1983) New Evil Demon Problem. The New Evil Demon Problem tells you to imagine yourself the victim of a Cartesian demon who deceives you about what the external world is like, and then asks whether you nevertheless have justification for your beliefs about the external world. Internalists and externalists agree that there is something that is epistemically good or valuable about both your actual beliefs and your beliefs in the demon scenario. Internalists claim that the epistemic property which these sets of beliefs share most intuitively should be thought of as sameness of justification. Externalists, on the other hand, reject this claim, usually either by challenging the internalist intuition directly, or by arguing that there is a more plausible way to think about the epistemic property in question. Recently, both kinds of externalist objection have been raised against the argument from the New Evil Demon Problem for mentalism. The goal of this paper is to defend the argument against three prominent objections—a pair of which is offered by Littlejohn (Can J Philos 39(3):399–434, 2009) and one by Williamson (in: Timmons M, Greco J, Mele A (eds.) Rationality and the good: critical essays on the ethics and epistemology of Robert Audi, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007; in: Dutant J, Dohrn D (eds.) The new evil demon, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2016).
... Section 5 presents the argument that scientific evidence has a public character which internalism cannot account for. Section 6 responds by explaining the way in which 1 This position is known as mentalism, and its proponents include Pollock and Cruz (1999); Conee and Feldman (1985); Wedgwood (2002); Smithies (2012); McCain (2016); and Egeland (2019). 2 Indeed, after the publication of Gettier's seminal article, several epistemologists have shifted their focus from knowledge to justification or evidence. As one commentator puts it: "knowledge is not really the proper central concern of epistemologico-sceptical inquiry. ...
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Considerations of scientific evidence are often thought to provide externalism with the dialectical upper hand in the internalism-externalism debate. How so? A couple of reasons are forthcoming in the literature. (1) Williamson (2000) argues that the E = K thesis (in contrast to internalism) provides the best explanation for the fact that scientists appear to argue from premises about true propositions (or facts) that are common knowledge among the members of the scientific community. (2) Kelly (Philosophy Compass, 3 (5), 933-955, 2008; 2016) argues that only external-ism is suited to account for the public character of scientific evidence. In this article, I respond to Williamson and Kelly's arguments. First, I show that the E = K thesis isn't supported by the way in which we talk about scientific evidence, and that it is unable to account for facts about what has been regarded as scientific evidence and as justified scientific belief in the history of science. Second, I argue that there are internalist views that can account for the publicity of scientific evidence, and that those views indeed do better in that regard than the (externalist) view proposed by Kelly. The upshot is that considerations of scientific evidence do not favor external-ism over internalism.
... 13 See Williamson (2000: 11) for both principles. For a critical discussion of both principles, see Smithies (2012). ...
Article
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Chapter
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Article
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In his provocative and engaging new book, Perplexities of Consciousness, Eric Schwitzgebel makes a compelling case that introspection is unreliable in the sense that we are prone to ignorance and error in making introspective judgments about our own conscious experience. My aim in this commentary is to argue that Schwitzgebel’s thesis about the unreliability of introspection does not have the damaging implications that he claims it does for the prospects of a broadly Cartesian approach to epistemology.
Chapter
In Knowledge and its Limits Timothy Williamson gives a fascinating argument against the claim that mental states or conditions are luminous. He defines luminosity as follows: 'A condition C is luminous if for every case α, if in α C obtains, then in α one is in a position to know that C obtains'. This chapter considers how the luminosity of the mental can be defended against Williamson's argument.
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This book is organised around an epistemological puzzle, which consists of a tension between various ordinary claims to know and our apparent incapacity to know whether or not someone will lose a lottery. In its starkest form, the puzzle is this: we do not think we know that a given lottery ticket will be a loser, yet we normally count ourselves as knowing all sorts of ordinary things which entail that its holder will not suddenly acquire a large fortune. The author explores various potential solutions to this puzzle, and issues on the nature and importance of knowledge. In the process, he offers a careful treatment of pertinent topics at the foundations of semantics.
Chapter
This chapter presents Timothy Williamson's responses to the arguments presented by his critics in the preceding chapters.
Chapter
When discussing problems in theory of knowledge we often find ourselves using a terminology that is characteristically ethical. We may ask what it is that distinguishes a good hypothesis or explanation from a bad one. We may affirm or deny that mere simplicity can sometimes make one hypothesis preferable to another. We may say that we ought to trust our memories to the extent that they cohere with one another. We may decide that this or that kind of inference to theoretical entities ispermissible. We may wonder if we could ever have the right to accept a theory if we knew of an equally plausible, but incompatible, alternative. And so forth. Facts of this kind suggest that epistemological questions are a species of ethical questions, and that epistemic concepts are reducible to ethical concepts to whatever extent this entails.
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Most of us, tacitly or explicitly, embrace a more or less Cartesian conception of our epistemic condition. According to such a conception, “what we have to go on”in learning about the world is, on the one hand, that which is a priori accessible to us, and, on the other, the inner experiences—visual imagery, tactile sensations, recollective episodes and so on—that pop into our Cartesian theaters. One of the central themes of Knowledge and its Limits is that this picture is fundamentally wrong. Williamson suggests that we should embrace the thesis that our body of evidence at a given time is all and only that which we know. Call this the “E=K thesis.”If the E=K thesis is correct, then what we have to go on is both more and less than the Cartesian picture would suggest: more because its domain extends outwards in space, and forwards and backwards in time; less because that which is unknown about our experiential life is excluded. In what follows, I shall identify and briefly discuss a number of themes connected to the E=K thesis.
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Timothy Williamson's Knowledge and Its Limits brilliantly interweaves themes from epistemology and philosophy of mind, for a radically new position that brings together two disciplines somewhat distanced in recent decades. 2 As part of that effort, Williamson argues that knowledge is a mental state, powerfully challenging the widespread assumption that knowledge is mental only by courtesy of the contained belief. The natural view, we are told, is that knowledge is a mental state as fully as any propositional attitude. If the content of a mental state can depend on the external world, so can the attitude to that content. Knowledge is one such attitude. One's knowledge that it is raining depends on the weather; it does not follow that knowing that it is raining is not a mental state. The natural assumption is that sentences of the form 'S knows p' attribute mental states just as sentences of the forms 'S believes p' and 'S desires p' do….(6) 3 Believing truly, on the other hand, is not a mental state, and hence not an attitude (except by courtesy of the contained believing). This becomes important for the book's later attempt to characterize knowledge as the most general factive, stative attitude, the most general stative attitude that one can have only to true propositions. If believing truly were a stative attitude, then believing truly would 1 This paper derives from an APA symposium on Knowledge and Its Limits (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). 2 As compared with the time of, say, Sellars's "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind," though the work of Davidson, Dretske, Goldman, McDowell, Pollock, and Stich, among others, has sustained the connection all along. 3 Parenthetical references in the text are to Knowledge and Its Limits.
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This article surveys work in epistemology since the mid-1980s. It focuses on (i) contextualism about knowledge attributions, (ii) modest forms of foundationalism, and (iii) the internalism/externalism debate and its connections to the ethics of belief.
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In Knowledge and Its Limits Timothy Williamson argues against the luminosity of phenomenal states in general by way of arguing against the luminosity of feeling cold, that is, against the view that if one feels cold, one is at least in a position to know that one does. In this paper I consider four strategies that emerge from his discussion, and argue that none succeeds.
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Timothy Williamson has recently argued that few mental states are luminous, meaning that to be in that state is to be in a position to know that you are in the state. His argument rests on the plausible principle that beliefs only count as knowledge if they are safely true. That is, any belief that could easily have been false is not a piece of knowledge. I argue that the form of the safety rule Williamson uses is inappropriate, and the correct safety rule might not conflict with luminosity.
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In “Knowledge and the Social Articulation of the Space of Reasons,” Robert Brandom reads my “Knowledge and the Internal” as sketching a position that, when properly elaborated, opens into his own social-perspectival conception of knowledge (and of objectivity in general). But this depends on taking me to hold that there cannot be justification for a belief sufficient to exclude the possibility that the belief is false. And that is exactly what I argued against in “Knowledge and the Internal.” Seeing that P constitutes falsehood-excluding justification for believing that P. That should seem common sense, but it is made unavailable by the inferentialist conception of justification that Brandom takes for granted. So far from realizing my aims, Brandom's social-perspectival conception of knowledge is squarely in the target area of my argument in “Knowledge and the Internal,” which I restate here so as to bring that out.
Article
A creature that is not aware of anything does not lead a genuinely intelligent life. Its activity is unintelligent because unguided by (conscious or unconscious) awareness. Although intelligent life does not consist solely of awareness, it is intelligent only where it is intimately related to awareness. Awareness of anything involves some awareness of how things are in some respect. Even awareness merely of how things appear to be is awareness of how they are in respect of appearance. Awareness of how things are is awareness, concerning some way, that they are that way. But awareness that they are that way is knowledge that they are that way. Thus all intelligent life involves an intimate relation to knowledge. The mental states of a creature are the states that make its life intelligent. Consequently, the state of knowing is a mental state; it is central to mentality.
Article
  In his recent Knowledge and its Limits, Timothy Williamson argues that no non-trivial mental state is such that being in that state suffices for one to be in a position to know that one is in it. In short, there are no “luminous” mental states. His argument depends on a “safety” requirement on knowledge, that one's confident belief could not easily have been wrong if it is to count as knowledge. We argue that the safety requirement is ambiguous; on one interpretation it is obviously true but useless to his argument, and on the other interpretation it is false.
Article
One of the main strands of the Cartesian tradition is the view that the mental realm is cognitively accessible to us in a special way: whenever one is in a mental state of a certain sort, one can know it just by considering the matter. In that sense, the mental realm is thought to be a cognitive home for us, and the mental states it comprises are luminous. Recently, however, Timothy Williamson has argued that we are cognitively homeless: no mental state is in fact luminous. But his argument depends on an excessively strong account of luminosity. I formulate a weaker conception of luminosity that is unaffected by Williamson’s argument and yet is substantial enough to satisfy those who wish to retain this part of the Cartesian tradition.
Article
The linchpin of Williamson (2000)'s radically externalist epistemological program is an argument for the claim that no non-trivial condition is luminous—that no non-trivial condition is such that whenever it obtains, one is in a position to know that it obtains. I argue that Williamson's anti-luminosity argument succeeds only if one assumes that, even in the limit of ideal reflection, the obtaining of the condition in question and one's beliefs about that condition can be radically disjoint from one another. However, no self-respecting defender of the luminosity of the mental would ever make such an assumption. Thus Williamson can only secure his controversial claims in epistemology by taking for granted certain equally controversial claims in the philosophy of mind. What emerges is that the best bet for defending an internalist epistemology against Williamson's attack is to take there to be a tight, intimate connection between (to take one example) our experiences and our beliefs upon reflection about the obtaining of those experiences, or between (to take another example) the rationality of our beliefs and our beliefs upon reflection about the rationality of those beliefs. Philosophy
Luminosity Regained, Philosophers
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