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Advice for Fallibilists: Put Knowledge to Work

Jeremy Fantl and Matthew McGrath
Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition
Vol. 142, No. 1, The First Midwest Epistemology Workshop (Jan., 2009), pp. 55-66
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27734351
Page Count: 12
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Advice for Fallibilists: Put Knowledge to Work
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Abstract

We begin by asking what fallibilism about knowledge is, distinguishing several conceptions of fallibilism and giving reason to accept what we call strong epistemic fallibilism, the view that one can know that something is the case even if there remains an epistemic chance, for one, that it is not the case. The task of the paper, then, concerns how best to defend this sort of fallibilism from the objection that it is "mad," that it licenses absurd claims such as "I know that p but there's a chance that not p" and "p but it there's a chance that not p." We argue that the best defense of fallibilism against this objection—a "pragmatist" defense—makes the following claims. First, while knowledge that p is compatible with an epistemic chance that not-p, it is compatible only with an insignificant such chance. Second, the insignificance of the chance that not-p is plausibly understood in terms of the irrelevance of that chance to p's serving as a 'justifier', for action as well as belief. In other words, if you know that p, then any chance for you that not p doesn't stand in the way of p's being properly put to work as a basis for action and belief.

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