Suppose I can justify something to some small extent. I thought I could smell someone else's perfume on my husband this evening. And I am a jealous wife, so believed he was having an affair. But I had no reason to doubt his story, that he had just met a friend. Given that he was having an affair, then can anyone attribute knowledge to me, despite my belief being irrational? I was reading quickly about epistemic contextualism, and didn't see how all Epistemic Contextualists define the attribution process, if it allows knowledge to be irrational.

I am fairly certain no, it was wishful thinking to wonder otherwise, and I'm unsure they even mean that belief in e.g. the external world is ever irrational.

the proposition expressed by a tokened ‘knowledge’ sentence depends on context. Thus, if in general a utterance of ‘S knows that p’ is true just in case the subject has a true belief and is in a strong epistemic position, there are variable standards governing just how strong the subject’s epistemic position must be in order for the tokened sentence to express a truth.

Does any Epistemic Contextualist not exclude the possibility that I know my husband is having an affair?

e.g. Ram Neta says that what varies with context is what is classed as evidence for a true belief, not how well it supports our belief. When someone raises an objection (we might be brains in vats, perhaps your husband met a friend), to that evidence, that cannot be eliminated and would mean that our evidence does not support our belief, then that person cannot attribute knowledge to us.

In which case, do I invariantly lack knowledge if I am ignoring how little and unreliable my evidence is, due to e.g. jealousy? Even if I do not know that I am not a brain in the vat, the belief I have hands only lacks epistemic virtue if every belief about the external world does. But my belief about my husband will not be virtuous in any skeptical scenario, as I had no reason but jealousy not to believe his story in the first place. If virtue/reliability is necessary for knowledge, then it is invariantly not knowledge.

e.g. Cohen says that a true belief must involve evidence that does not contain any saliently possible error, and what is salient depends on the context of the attribution of knowledge.

In which case, do I invariantly lack knowledge if my belief's evidence can be better explained as irrelevant? The evidence I have for me having hands is still sufficient for knowing I do, even if you allow the skeptical claim I may have taken a hallucinogenic drug. But if I had no reason to doubt his story, I cannot defend my justification of my belief in my husband's infidelity to any skeptic, even one that does not make the possibility of error salient enough to change the standard of justification needed for knowledge (he may have met a married woman). That seems to suggest that I invariantly lack knowledge.

In general, it's unclear whether Epistemic Contextualism means that true knowledge attributions can vary for irrational beliefs (by which I mean belief that is held based on evidence that is trivially better explained as irrelevant or is not virtuously sufficient reason for the belief, etc.) or just that evidence for a true belief need not always defeat every skeptical argument to be knowledge.

Does context dependence mean that knowledge and rationality depend on context? I am not asking because I want to divorce my husband, and I am not trying to excuse his lies. But I wondered if - independent of the value of any epistemic virtues I possess - I am only equivocally missing the value of knowledge in addition to my true belief. I hope to have clarified that the answer is presumably no for some Epistemic Contextualists, but is it the case for all of them?

  • Potentially in some cases. For example, suppose that a month later you find confirmation that he was indeed having an affair. Then you might say you "knew" it (before the confirmation) although you really only suspected it. Here the attributor is your future self, S is your present self that smelled the perfume, and p is the proposition that he is having an affair.
    – causative
    Apr 6 at 1:44
  • ECs seems to want to define knowledge so that it is context dependent @causative having some evidence for your true belief may not suffice for knowledge in any contexts, if the evidence is bad. e.g. someone who believes in aliens just based on a crop circle presumably might be said to invariably not know aliens existed, even if it turns out they did land that day
    – user65545
    Apr 6 at 2:19
  • I might be completely wrong here, everything I say.
    – user65545
    Apr 6 at 18:47
  • EC is not the usual semantic contextualism and the difference is subtle and the conflation between the two is a leading cause of most meaning confusions at least linguistically, but actually applicable in most other channels. Per Socrate rationality is a prerequisite of any true virtuous knowledge and understanding, not merely gaining some representational information or energy via casual thoughts or emotion, thus it's difficult to assign any credit to irrational thought even its content's truth value is true, Of course you could be Humean relaying such credit assignment to nonrationality... Apr 7 at 22:06
  • do I mean "credit" @DoubleKnot I don't think about epistemic virtue all that much
    – user65545
    Apr 7 at 22:51


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