Attitude externalism and the state of knowing: towards a disjunctive account of propositional knowledge
Kunke, Timothy Edward
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This thesis is broadly about the structure of propositional knowledge and the ways in which an individual knower can have such knowledge. More specifically, it is about the epistemology of factive psychological attitudes and the view that knowing is a purely mental state. I take such a view as being not so much a theory of knowledge, but rather an accounting of how we know, or the ways in which we know. In arguing for this view I offer a different interpretation of certain epistemic conditions, like seeing and remembering and try to show how understanding the metaphysics of mental states and events clarifies the relation between such conditions and the factive psychological attitudes implicit in them. Part one of the thesis is occupied with a discussion about a form of externalism popular in contemporary philosophy of mind, content externalism and a form of externalism popularized by Timothy Williamson which I refer to in the thesis as attitude externalism. I argue that content externalism in the style of Tyler Burge, arguably one of its most prominent advocates, faces a rather serious dilemma when it comes to the role that mental states and specific mental events are meant to play in psychological explanation. The view endorsed by Timothy Williamson, which says that some psychological attitudes, factive attitudes like ‘seeing that’, can be thought of as broad prime conditions is offered as a way in which the content externalist can avoid this dilemma and retain a causal-psychological explanatory thesis about mental states and events. The second part of the thesis is concerned with the epistemology of factive psychological attitudes and I focus carefully on two paradigmatic cases – seeing and remembering. I dedicate a chapter to each and offer a series of arguments to the effect that seeing and remembering though they may be thought of as ways of having propositional knowledge, it is not necessary that they entail knowing nor that they be stative to do so. In this sense, there is a strong and important divergence in the dialectic of the thesis from the view offered by Timothy Williamson, on which many points in this thesis there is agreement. I conclude the thesis with a discussion on what I take to be a fundamental epistemological principle, which I call the multiformity principle. The argument there is that when a subject knows that p, there is always a specific way in which that subject knows. I further take this principle to reveal the fact that propositional knowledge is an intrinsically disjunctive phenomenon.