Timothy Williamson

in Knowledge and its Limits

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780199256563
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598678 | DOI:

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Philosophers such as Robert Nozick have argued that knowledge must be sensitive, in roughly the sense that if what one knew had been false, one would not have believed it. Such a counterfactual constraint has been used to explain the appeal of scepticism. This chapter argues that no version of the constraint is correct. It also criticizes the variant of Nozick's approach developed by Keith DeRose on which the standard for the application of the word ‘know’ depends on the conversational context. A version of the argument given by Hilary Putnam that if one was a brain in a vat, one could not think that one was constructed using perceptual demonstrative expressions.

Keywords: brain; counterfactual; demonstrative; DeRose; Nozick; Putnam; scepticism; vat

Chapter.  8440 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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