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Knowledge and the Norm of Assertion

Knowledge and the Norm of Assertion: An Essay in Philosophical Science

John Turri
Copyright Date: 2016
Edition: 1
Published by: Open Book Publishers
Pages: 126
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  • Book Info
    Knowledge and the Norm of Assertion
    Book Description:

    Language is a human universal reflecting our deeply social nature. Among its essential functions, language enables us to quickly and efficiently share information. We tell each other that many things are true—that is, we routinely make assertions. Information shared this way plays a critical role in the decisions and plans we make. In Knowledge and the Norm of Assertion, a distinguished philosopher and cognitive scientist investigates the rules or norms that structure our social practice of assertion. Combining evidence from philosophy, psychology, and biology, John Turri shows that knowledge is the central norm of assertion and explains why knowledge plays this role. Concise, comprehensive, non-technical, and thoroughly accessible, this volume quickly brings readers to the cutting edge of a major research program at the intersection of philosophy and science. It presupposes no philosophical or scientific training. It will be of interest to philosophers and scientists, is suitable for use in graduate and undergraduate courses, and will appeal to general readers interested in human nature, social cognition, and communication.

    eISBN: 978-1-78374-185-4
    Subjects: Philosophy, Biological Sciences, Psychology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction (pp. 1-6)

    One road closure followed by unusually heavy traffic on the alternate route meant that we were cutting it close. Squeezing the armrest so hard that her fingernails turned white, she grimaced, “How long before we’re there?” “Ten minutes,” I answered, vexed that the upcoming light turned yellow. A few silent moments ensued. The uneasy thought hung over our heads like a menacing storm cloud — we might not make it to the hospital in time. Then our two year old daughter, Sarah, peeped from the back, “Daddy, how you know that?” “Know what?” “That we be there in ten minutes.” “I...

  5. 1. Evidence and Argument (pp. 7-20)

    In this chapter, I present the observational and experimental evidence demonstrating that knowledge is the norm of assertion. I also explain why knowledge is the norm of assertion.

    All of us are intimately familiar with the practice of assertion. We have participated in it for as long as we can remember, as have all the people in our lives. Social observation provides a wealth of data about the ordinary give-and-take and evaluation of assertion. Introspective observation also provides further data about how certain assertions would strike us as inconsistent or odd. Taken as a whole, this set of data strongly...

  6. 2. Extensions and Connections (pp. 21-38)

    The basic argument for the knowledge account is self-contained and sufficient to compel assent in an unbiased, attentive mind. But there is yet more evidence for the knowledge account. In this chapter, I discuss six additional lines of evidence. Some are extremely well developed and constitute further compelling evidence for the knowledge account. Others are more tentative but they exhibit enough promise to be worth careful consideration.

    Humans teach each other many things. We provide each other with information. Our main vehicle for transmitting information is assertion. As we leave the forest, we tell our friend headed into the forest...

  7. 3. Objections and Replies (pp. 39-60)

    This chapter answers the main criticisms of the knowledge account of assertion.

    Probably the most popular and persistent objection to the knowledge account is that it fumbles cases of reasonable ignorant assertions. A reasonable ignorant assertion has two features: the speaker reasonably believes that the assertion’s content is true, but she does know that it is true. Critics have repeatedly discussed two types of example that supposedly fit this description.

    The first type involves reasonable false assertions. In this type of case, a speaker has good evidence for believing that, say, she owns a certain type of watch. And she...

  8. 4. Prospects and Horizons (pp. 61-86)

    Over the past decade, the development of the literature on norms of assertion has been extraordinary. It has been one of the most lively and fruitful areas of philosophical inquiry during this time. And, as should be clear from the preceding chapters, it has paid enormous dividends. We now know that there is a deep normative connection between knowledge and assertion. The best way to understand this connection is that knowledge is the norm of assertion. That one simple idea packs immense explanatory punch. The amount and variety of evidence that it explains is astounding and, as far as I...

  9. Coda (pp. 87-88)

    Benjamin Franklin made it a habit to ask himself every night, “What good have I done today?” I am not in the habit of asking myself this every night, but it seems a good practice upon finishing a book. What good lessons has this book imparted?

    The main substantive lesson is, of course, that knowledge is the norm of assertion. With multiple lines of convergent evidence, both theoretical and empirical, proponents of the knowledge account can now assert that their view is true. We now know that it is true — the question is settled. We also have on the table...

  10. References (pp. 89-106)
  11. Index (pp. 107-112)
  12. Back Matter (pp. 113-117)