Brown, Jessica, and . Experimental Philosophy, Contextualism and SSI

2013, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research: 86 (2): 233-261.

Abstract: I will ask the conditional question: if folk attributions of “know” are not sensitive to the stakes and/or the salience of error, does this cast doubt on contextualism or subject-sensitive invariantism (SSI)? I argue that if it should turn out that folk attributions of knowledge are insensitive to such factors, then this undermines contextualism, but not SSI. That is not to say that SSI is invulnerable to empirical work of any kind. Rather, I defend the more modest claim that leading versions of SSI are not undermined by one particular kind of experimental result, namely the recent suggestion that knowledge attributions are insensitive to the stakes.

Comment: Suitable for an upper-level undergraduate course on epistemology for multiple purposes. It is good as a further reading for sessions on contextualism, pragmatic encroachment, philosophical methodology, and the use of experimental philosophy in epistemological theorizing.

Brown, Jessica, and . Subject­-Sensitive Invariantism and the Knowledge Norm for Practical Reasoning

2008, Nous 42(2): 167-189.

Introduction: It is increasingly popular to suggest that knowledge is the norm of practical reasoning, or reasoning about what to do (e.g. Hawthorne 2004, Stanley 2005). This idea is central to the defence of a new version of invariantism – ‘subject-sensitive invariantism’ – on which whether the true belief that p is knowledge not only depends on such factors as one’s evidence, and the reliability of the belief-producing process, but also the stakes or how important it is that p be true (the view is also known as ‘sensitive moderate invariantism’ (Hawthorne 2004) and ‘interest relative invariantism’ (Stanley 2005)). I will argue against the idea that knowledge is the norm of practical reasoning, whether that is understood as a necessity or sufficiency claim. Instead, I will argue that the epistemic standards for practical reasoning vary contextually.

Comment: This paper nicely elucidates the debates on pragmatic encroachment in epistemology and presents main objections to the knowledge norm of practical reasoning. It is useful for teachings on pragmatic encroachment and the knowledge norm of practical reasoning in an upper-level undergraduate course on epistemology.

Nagel, Jennifer, and . Knowledge Ascription and the Psychological Consequences of Changing Stakes

2008, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86: 279-294.

Abstract: Why do our intuitive knowledge ascriptions shift when a subject’s practical interests are mentioned? Many efforts to answer this question have focused on empirical linguistic evidence for context sensitivity in knowledge claims, but the empirical psychology of belief formation and attribution also merits attention. The present paper examines a major psychological factor (called “need-for-closure”) relevant to ascriptions involving practical interests. Need-for-closure plays an important role in determining whether one has a settled belief; it also influences the accuracy of one’s cognition. Given these effects, it is a mistake to assume that high- and low-stakes subjects provided with the same initial evidence are perceived to enjoy belief formation that is the same as far as truth-conducive factors are concerned. This mistaken assumption has underpinned contextualist and interest-relative invariantist treatments of cases in which contrasting knowledge ascriptions are elicited by descriptions of subjects with the same initial information and different stakes. The paper argues that intellectualist invariantism in fact yields the best treatment of such cases.

Comment: Nagel is one of the prominent epistemologists who bring relevant psychological researches to philosophical debates. In this paper, Nagel proposes a psychological account of intuitive judgments of pair of cases that are used to motivate subject sensitive invariantism. The paper is very useful for courses on methodology of philosophy and teachings on pragmatic encroachment in courses on epistemology.

Nagel, Jennifer, and . Epistemic Anxiety and Adaptive Invariantism

2010, Philosophical Perspectives 24: 407-435.

Abstract: Do we apply higher epistemic standards to subjects with high stakes? This paper argues that we expect different outward behavior from high-stakes subjects – for example, we expect them to collect more evidence than their low-stakes counterparts – but not because of any change in epistemic standards. Rather, we naturally expect subjects in any condition to think in a roughly adaptive manner, balancing the expected costs of additional evidence collection against the expected value of gains in accuracy. The paper reviews a body of empirical work on the automatic regulation of cognitive effort in response to stakes, and argues that we naturally see high- and low-stakes subjects as experiencing different levels of ‘epistemic anxiety’, and anticipate different levels of cognitive effort from them for this reason. If unresolved epistemic anxiety always bars an ascription of knowledge, then we can explain our responses to cases involving shifting stakes without positing any variation in the standards of intuitive knowledge ascription.

Comment: Nagel is one of the prominent epistemologists who bring relevant psychological researches to philosophical debates. In this paper, Nagel proposes a psychological account of intuitive judgments of pair of cases that are used to motivate subject sensitive invariantism. And she defends a view called "adaptive invariantism", a kind of moderate invariantism. The paper is very useful for courses on methodology of philosophy and teachings on pragmatic encroachement for courses on epistemology.