Kochiras, Hilarie, and . Belief Contexts and Epistemic possibility

2006, Principia 10(1): 1-20.

Abstract: Although epistemic possibility figures in several debates, those debates have had relatively little contact with one another. G. E. Moore focused squarely upon analyzing epistemic uses of the phrase, ‘It’s possible that p’, and in doing so he made two fundamental assumptions. First, he assumed that epistemic possibility statements always express the epistemic position of a community, as opposed to that of an individual speaker. Second, he assumed that all epistemic uses of ‘It’s possible that p’ are analyzable in terms of knowledge, not belief. A number of later theorists, including Keith DeRose, provide alternative accounts of epistemic possibility, while retaining Moore’s two assumptions. Neither assumption has been explicitly challenged, but Jaakko Hintikka’s analysis provides a basis for doing so. Drawing upon Hintikka’s analysis, I argue that some epistemic possibility statements express only the speaker’s individual epistemic state, and that contra DeRose, they are not degenerate community statements but a class in their own right. I further argue that some linguistic contexts are belief- rather than knowledge-based, and in such contexts, what is possible for a speaker depends not upon what she knows, but upon what she believes.

Comment: Useful as a further reading for postgraduate courses in epistemology. Previous knowledge of the Moorean account and David Lewis' work on shifting contexts is required for a better understanding of this paper.