SOPhiA 2017

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Knowing How I Can and Counterfactual Success
(Epistemology, English)

Spencer (forthcoming) argues that it is not the case that if a subject s is able to φ, it is possible for s to φ. Consider the following case: K lives in a fully deterministic world. She is, in all respects, similar to her peers in intelligence and creativity. Now, her peers all know the conjunction of the initial state of the world and the complete set of natural laws (nl). However, K herself never gets to know nl. We want to say that K is able to know h&l, even though she does not succeed in any possible world. If Spencer is right, the counterfactual analyses of ability are false. Furthermore, Spencer's cases can be extended to show that knowledge of ways to φ also fails to be supported by counterfactual cases. Suppose that in the previous scenario, K is taught a way to learn nl, but never follows through it. Then, K does not follow through it in any world. K is then able to do something, it seems, which it is impossible for her. Knowing how in the relevant sense does not, then, entail counterfactual success (contra Hawley 2003). However, this weakens the link between knowing how and its effectivity. An intellectualist account of knowing how should be able to explain the intuitive differences between knowing that x is a way to φ and knowing how to φ. Stanley (2011) has proposed that the difference lies precisely in that the latter entails some form of counterfactual success (bypassing the need to postulate 'practical guises' as in Stanley & Williamson (2001)). This entails, implausibly, that attributions of knowledge-how to K in the scenario above are improper. Here, I will discuss diagnoses of the case which appeal to a genericity intuition (K is able in the sense that her peers typically are-she herself lacks the ability), or explain it away as a case of ambiguity (K knows how she would try to φ, not that she would φ if she tried). I will then argue that it would be reasonable for K to try even though it is not possible for her to succeed.

Chair: Markus Hierl
Time: 18:00-18:30, 13 September 2017 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.005
Remark: CHANGE. The talk is cancelled!

Felipe Morales 
(KU Leuven, Belgium)

I am a PHD Student at KU Leuven, working in the topic of modal epistemology. Previously, I did my MPhil in KU Leuven, where my thesis was on the structure and measures of understanding (as distinct from knowledge or other epistemic notions). I came to Leuven from Universidad de Chile, at Santiago, Chile, where I did my bachelors and first masters, also on the topic of modal epistemology and understanding, but from a broader metaphilosophical perspective.

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