DS-2017-06: The Problem of Epistemic Relevance

DS-2017-06: Hawke, Peter (2017) The Problem of Epistemic Relevance. Doctoral thesis, University of Amsterdam.

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Does being in a position to know P require information that rules out every possible way in which P is false? Traditional arguments for skepticism apparently assume a 'yes' answer. A relevant alternatives (RA) theorist answers 'no'. In this dissertation, I bypass prominent objections to relevant alternatives theory with a novel and precise version thereof called resolution theory. Resolution theory marries the old with the new. On the epistemic side, it claims that to be in a position to know proposition P is to have empirical information that discriminates P from not-P (a degenerate case: if P is a priori, discrimination requires no empirical information). Thus, resolution theory develops a key claim in the groundbreaking work of early RA advocate Alvin Goldman (in concert with ideas from another key progenitor: Fred Dretske). On the semantic side, it claims that the truth of "a knows that φ" requires that a be positioned to know that each proposition in a certain set is false: namely, a set of defeaters generated by the subject matter of φ in coordination with its Fregean guise. Thus, we capitalize on recent insights on how the meaning of "a knows that φ" interacts with the meaning of φ, building mainly on David Chalmers, Jonathan Schaffer and Stephen Yablo. Despite these many debts, resolution theory is a novelty, contrasting with its forerunners in critical ways. I argue that resolution theory overcomes objections that many RA theories fall prey to: Schaffer's problem of missed clues; the closure dilemma; and worries concerning ad hocness. In particular, these objections apply, to varying extents, to the theories we draw inspiration from. Among other consequences, resolution theory motivates a novel framework for epistemic logic, broadly situated in the modal tradition.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Report Nr: DS-2017-06
Series Name: ILLC Dissertation (DS) Series
Year: 2017
Subjects: Logic
Depositing User: Dr Marco Vervoort
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2022 15:17
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2022 15:17
URI: https://eprints.illc.uva.nl/id/eprint/2146

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