Nagel, Jennifer, and . Knowledge as a mental state

2013, Gendler, Tamar (ed), Oxford Studies in Epistemology, Volume 4. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 275-310

Abstract: In the philosophical literature on mental states, the paradigmatic examples of mental states are beliefs, desires, intentions, and phenomenal states such as being in pain. The corresponding list in the psychological literature on mental state attribution includes one further member: the state of knowledge. This article examines the reasons why developmental, comparative and social psychologists have classified knowledge as a mental state, while most recent philosophers – with the notable exception of Timothy Williamson – have not. The disagreement is traced back to a difference in how each side understands the relationship between the concepts of knowledge and belief, concepts which are understood in both disciplines to be closely linked. Psychologists and philosophers other than Williamson have generally have disagreed about which of the pair is prior and which is derivative. The rival claims of priority are examined both in the light of philosophical arguments by Williamson and others, and in the light of empirical work on mental state attribution.

Comment: This is a good teaching material on knowledge first. There is a recent response to this paper written by Aidan McGlynn ("Mindreading knowledge", 2016) which can be used together in teaching in order to create a nice dynamic of debate.

Nagel, Jennifer, and . Knowledge and reliability

forthcoming, Kornblith, Hilary & McLaughlin, Brian (eds.), Alvin Goldman and his Critics. Blackwell.

Internalists have criticised reliabilism for overlooking the importance of the subject’s point of view in the generation of knowledge. This paper argues that there is a troubling ambiguity in the intuitive examples that internalists have used to make their case, and on either way of resolving this ambiguity, reliabilism is untouched. However, the argument used to defend reliabilism against the internalist cases could also be used to defend a more radical form of externalism in epistemology.

Comment: This paper defends reliabilism from criticisms according to which our intuition tells against reliabilism. It is suitable for an introductory epistemology course, sessions on reliabilism or epistemic externalism.