Critical Study of John Hawthorne, Knowledge and Lotteries and Jason Stanley, Knowledge and Practical Interests
In two important recent books, John Hawthorne and Jason Stanley each argue that non-evidential factors, such as the cost of being wrong and salience of possible error, have a place in epistemological theorizing. This point is familiar from the work of epistemological contextualists, who emphasize non-evidential speaker factors: factors which, when present in a speaker's conversational context, affect the semantic content of her knowledge attributions. According to Hawthorne and Stanley, the appropriate focus is on the subject, rather than the speaker: when the relevant non-evidential factors are present in a subject they can affect whether the subject knows. This suggests a reorientation for epistemology, away from the standard “intellectualist” (Stanley's term) model, endorsed even by contextualists, according to which only evidential or more broadly truth-related factors (evidence, safety, sensitivity, reliability, etc.) bear on whether a subject knows. If Hawthorne and Stanley are right, then the contextualist program should give way to a program of anti-intellectualist invariantism, or to use a more common label, subject-sensitive invariantism (SSI).