SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

SOPhiA ToolsDE-pageEN-page

Programme - Talk

Knowledge and Overall Ability
(Epistemology, English)

The robust virtue theory of knowledge (RVK) has it that knowledge is true belief, where the belief's truth is owed to the exercise of epistemic ability. The fake barn case is often considered to render moot RVK (Kelp 2013, Pritchard 2012). In the fake barn case, Barney truthfully believes that he's facing a barn and apparently does so out of epistemic ability. Yet, since the area is peppered with fake barns, Barney intuitively lacks knowledge. In my talk, I will develop a variety of the no ability response (NAR) on behalf of RVK that wards off two objections. NAR claims that Barney lacks knowledge because, in that environment, he lacks the pertinent discriminatory ability required for knowing from eyesight (Greco 2007, Littlejohn 2014, Millar 2009). Yet this response faces two challenges. First, Kallestrup & Pritchard (2014) argue that NAR entails an implausible account of ability possession. They contend that being temporarily located in an unfavourable environment never deprives one of one's abilities. Secondly, Kelp (2016) maintains that NAR wrongly predicts lack of knowledge in so-called epistemic Frankfurt cases. For it allegedly entails that agent's in epistemic Frankfurt cases lack the epistemic ability required for knowing the target proposition. I will argue that both criticisms fail. Building on Littlejohn (2014), I will show that Kallestrup & Pritchard's theory of ability possession is at best true for general abilities but not for so-called overall abilities. Having an overall ability to do something depends on a favourable local environment. I will explain how the emerging theory of overall ability possession predicts lack of overall epistemic ability in fake barn cases and possession of overall epistemic ability in epistemic Frankfurt cases. Thus, RVK, interpreted as a claim about overall epistemic ability, predicts both knowledge in epistemic Frankfurt cases and lack of knowledge in fake barn cases.

Chair: Basil Müller
Time: 18:20-18:50, 18 September 2019 (Wednesday)
Location: HS E.002

Max Timo Goetsch 
(Freie Universität Berlin, Germany)

I have just completed my master's degree in philosophy and will start doing my PhD on epistemic abilities in autumn this year, under the supervision of Barbara Vetter. My focus lies primarily in epistemology and everything in its vicinity (applied epistemology, social epistemology, theory of science). I am also curious about metaphysics and possible intersections between normative epistemology and ethical/political theory.

Testability and Meaning deco