A new defense of the knowledge norm of assertion
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Recent work in both the philosophy of language and epistemology has relied on the premise that there is a norm of assertion, that there are certain epistemic conditions that a speaker must meet vis-a-vis her asserted proposition before it would be epistemically permissible for her to assert it. Perhaps the most well-known and most widely accepted norm is the knowledge norm of assertion [KNA], which holds that knowledge of p is necessary for an epistemically permissible assertion of p. However, within the last few years, KNA has faced a number of criticisms and alternate proposed norms. My dissertation attempts to do two things: first to clarify what is at issue in the debate and explain why it matter, and second to produce a new defense of KNA. In my first chapter, I examine what kinds of norms are at issue in the debate over epistemic normativity. Although the participants in the norms of assertion debate frequently refer to certain statements as "epistemically permissible", little attention is ever given to defining what this term means. In this chapter I attempt to show that this kind of normativity differs from the sort of epistemic normativity that has been the focus of traditional epistemology, because the latter takes beliefs as its object and the former takes the speech act of assertion as its object. As I argue, doxastic norms (he first sense of the term 'epistemic norm') is grounded in rationality, while the other kind of normativity (which I dub 'assertive norms') that we are left with is identical to Paul Grice's supermaxim of quality. In this way, our sense of 'epistemic normativity' reduces to one aspect of the conversational norms that Grice examined in his "Logic and Conversation". Of course, this move is only valid so long as there is no bridge principle between belief and assertion, so I then turn my attention to arguing, contra Timothy Williamson and others, that there is no principle that allows us to move directly from one to the other. In my second chapter I turn my attention to the claim that certain rules are constitutive of the act of assertion. As I argue, the kind of constitutivity invoked by Williamson in his argument for KNA differs from other approaches to constitutive rules (i.e. those offered by John Searle and David Lewis) in that it does not provide us with necessary conditions for performing an action. Instead the Williamsonian concept provides us with governing norms that differentiate permissible and impermissible ways of performing actions. I then examine what it means for an assertion to be permissible in Williamson's sense versus all-things-considered permissible. As I argue, this distinction allows us to bypass a common objection to KNA, to wit that there are permissible assertions where the speaker fails to know the asserted contents. In my third chapter, I offer a new argument for KNA. I argue that KNA is a composite norm composed of various subnorms that match the traditional conditions for knowledge. More specifically, I argue that various proposed norms of assertion--the truth norm, the belief norm, and the justification normal--all provide us with necessary, but insufficient conditions for being a rule that governs assertion. In going through the respective linguistic and epistemic data, I try to show that only KNA is capable of handling it all. In my penultimate chapter, I address the sufficiency of knowledge as a governing norm of assertion. I examine four recent attempts to undermine a sufficiency variant of KNA by arguing that it is incapable of accounting or the relevant linguistic cases. As such, the criticism examined here holds that KNA must be strengthened, supplemented, or replaced. I conclude my dissertation by arguing both that KNA is able to handle these purported problem cases, and that the proposed fixes all give rise to untoward difficulties of their own.My final chapter is dedicated to reconciling two seemingly disparate understandings of assertion: the normative account from Williamson and the psychological account. According to the psychological account, an assertion is the expression of belief. As I argue in this chapter, the psychological account of assertion needs to be amended to show that when a speaker asserts p, she represents herself as knowing p. Once I've established this, I then move on argue that the psychological account of assertion provides us with a grounding duty for KNA. If we expect our conversational partners act as they represent themselves (i.e. as asserting what they know), then in normal cooperative contexts we have a prima facie duty to follow KNA. As a result, the seemingly disparate approaches to assertion are more intimately linked than previously thought.
Access is limited to the campus of the University of Missouri--Columbia.