Basic Knowledge and Conditions on Knowledge

Basic Knowledge and Conditions on Knowledge Mark McBride
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McBride’s book considers a variety of puzzles concerning immediate justification and knowledge. These puzzles are of active interest in the field, and it is useful to address them all in a single volume. I learned from this book, even when it covered issues I already knew well.
―Prof. Christopher Tucker, William & Mary University

How do we know what we know? In this stimulating and rigorous book, Mark McBride explores two sets of issues in contemporary epistemology: the problems that warrant transmission poses for the category of basic knowledge; and the status of conclusive reasons, sensitivity, and safety as conditions that are necessary for knowledge.

To have basic knowledge is to know (have justification for) some proposition immediately, i.e., knowledge (justification) that doesn’t depend on justification for any other proposition. This book considers several puzzles that arise when you take seriously the possibility that we can have basic knowledge.

McBride’s analysis draws together two vital strands in contemporary epistemology that are usually treated in isolation from each other. Additionally, its innovative arguments include a new application of the safety condition to the law.

This book will be of interest to epistemologists―both professionals and students.

The National University of Singapore has generously contributed to the publication of this volume.

Basic Knowledge and Conditions of Knowledge
Mark McBride | October 2017
238 | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
ISBN Paperback: 9781783742837
ISBN Hardback: 9781783742844
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781783742851
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781783742868
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781783742875
ISBN Digital (XML):9781783744381
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0104
BIC subject codes: HPK (Philosophy: epistemology and theory of knowledge), GTR (Cognitive science), CFA (Philosophy of language); BISAC PHI004000 (PHILOSOPHY / Epistemology)

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Publication Details

Overview of Part One
1. Reflections on Moore’s ‘Proof’
2. First Reflections on the Problem of Easy Knowledge
3. The Problem of Easy Knowledge: Towards a Solution
4. Evidence and Transmission Failure
5. A Puzzle for Dogmatism
Interim Review

Overview of Part Two
6. Conclusive Reasons
7. Sensitivity
8. Safety
9. Safety: An Application


Mark McBride is Assistant Professor at the National University of Singapore. His work has appeared in journals such as Episteme, Analytic Philosophy, the Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy, and Legal Theory. He writes in the areas of  epistemology, legal philosophy and ethics, and criminal law.

Part One- Exploring Basic Knowledge

Chapter 1 – Reflections on Moore’s ‘Proof’

Dogmatism, immediate justification, and basic knowledge are to be exposed to a pattern of objection. The author begins from Wright’s (1985) discussion of Moore’s (1939) ‘Proof’, and his introduction of the notion of failure of warrant transmission (related to epistemic circularity). McBride argues, against the standard view, that Wright’s position does not enjoy an advantage over dogmatism.

Chapter 2 –First Reflections on the Problem of Easy Knowledge

Continuing with the pattern of objection to dogmatism, immediate justification, and basic knowledge, McBride examines, and ultimately rejects, Zalabardo’s (2005) radical response to Cohen’s (2002, 2005) problem of easy knowledge. Along the way, McBride discusses warrant, inference, and transmission in some detail.

Chapter 3- The Problem of Easy Knowledge: Towards a Solution

McBride develops his own solution to the problem of easy knowledge, criticising and improving on a proposal by Martin Davies (2004). McBride's solution is available to the dogmatist. Thus, so far, the prospects look good for a defence of dogmatism, immediate justification, and basic knowledge against the pattern of objection

Chapter 4 – Evidence and Transmission Failure

Against the claim that the impression that there are instances of transmission failure is the product of a flawed conception of evidence, McBride argues that transmission failure (conceived as related to epistemic circularity) is possible on most plausible accounts of evidence. The importance of this chapter is primarily theoretical, rather than dialectical

Chapter 5 – A Puzzle for Dogmatism

Returning to dogmatism and the pattern of objection, McBride presents an apparently more serious puzzle for dogmatism. It seems that one must have had warrant to believe the conclusion of (EK)-reasoning antecedently to the perceptual evidence
.The author considers a puzzle in the realm of confirmation theory. The puzzle arises from consideration of reasoning with argument (EK), given certain epistemological commitments. The plan: First, McBride sets out the epistemological commitments in play. Second, he sets out an example, leading to the puzzle, putatively troubling for dogmatism. (The commitments of dogmatism are adumbrated in the Introduction.) The puzzle takes the form of a pair of arguments which he takes to be extractable from the recent work of a number of prominent epistemologists. Finally, McBride considers the implications of the puzzle for dogmatism.

Part Two- Conditions on Knowledge: Conclusive Reasons, Sensitivity and Safety

Chapter 6 – Conclusive Reasons

McBride explains Dretske’s challenge to knowledge-closure, based on his conclusive reasons condition on knowledge. McBride argues that his (1971) account of conclusive reasons can be supplemented so that his challenge to closure remains unmet.McBride's strategy in outline: first, he sets out Fred Dretske’s classic challenge to (Closure) – a challenge which began in 1970–1971. Then McBride considers a specific, recent counter-challenge to Dretske’s challenge to (Closure) mounted by John Hawthorne, and to defend Dretske’s challenge from Hawthorne’s counter-challenge. Doing this is not to invalidate (Closure). In this regard McBride's conclusions are modest: Dretske’s challenge to (Closure) is – or, better: can be made – sophisticated and, so far, unmet.

Chapter 7 – Sensitivity

Continuing to engage with the issue of knowledge-closure, McBride turns to Robert Nozick’s (1981) sensitivity condition on knowledge. McBride proposes some modifications of the sensitivity condition, argues that a sensitivity account should reject the Equivalence Principle (‘If you know a priori that p and q are equivalent and you know p, then you are in a position to know q’), and assess the costs of this rejection.

Chapter 8 – Safety

Beginning from Ernest Sosa’s (1999) safety condition on knowledge, McBride engages with Juan Comesaña’s (2005) example of unsafe knowledge. McBride proposes a modified safety condition, tests it against examples, and responds to a series of objections. He argues that, while further modifications may be required, it is plausible that (some version of) safety is a necessary condition on knowledge

Chapter 9 – Safety: An Application
In this final chapter, McBride brings epistemology to the practical domain of law. As Comesaña (2005) presented a putative counterexample to the necessity of Sosa’s (1999, 2002) safety condition, so McBride presents a putative counterexample to the necessity of the safety condition that Michael Pardo (2010) employs in his work on knowledge and jury verdicts. McBride's aim is not, of course, to falsify the thesis that safety is necessary for knowledge, but rather to advance discussion of the safety condition in philosophy of law (see Pardo, 2011). Towards the end, connections are drawn with McBride's proposal in chapter 8.