sosa_review

sosa_review - 1 Forthcoming in Williamson and His Critics ,...

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Unformatted text preview: 1 Forthcoming in Williamson and His Critics , ed. P. Greenough and D. Pritchard (OUP). Timothy Williamson’s Knowledge and Its Limits 1 Ernest Sosa Timothy Williamson’s Knowledge and Its Limits brilliantly interweaves themes from epistemology and philosophy of mind, for a radically new position that brings together two disciplines somewhat distanced in recent decades. 2 As part of that effort, Williamson argues that knowledge is a mental state, powerfully challenging the widespread assumption that knowledge is mental only by courtesy of the contained belief. The natural view, we are told, is that knowledge is a mental state as fully as any propositional attitude. If the content of a mental state can depend on the external world, so can the attitude to that content. Knowledge is one such attitude. One’s knowledge that it is raining depends on the weather; it does not follow that knowing that it is raining is not a mental state. The natural assumption is that sentences of the form ‘S knows p’ attribute mental states just as sentences of the forms ‘S believes p’ and ‘S desires p’ do….(6) 3 Believing truly, on the other hand, is not a mental state, and hence not an attitude (except by courtesy of the contained believing). This becomes important for the book’s later attempt to characterize knowledge as the most general factive, stative attitude, the most general stative attitude that one can have only to true propositions. If believing truly were a stative attitude, then believing truly would 1 This paper derives from an APA symposium on Knowledge and Its Limits (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). 2 As compared with the time of, say, Sellars’s “Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind,” though the work of Davidson, Dretske, Goldman, McDowell, Pollock, and Stich, among others, has sustained the connection all along. 3 Parenthetical references in the text are to Knowledge and Its Limits . 2 be a more general factive stative attitude than knowledge, which would falsify the account of knowledge. Ideally, a claim that knowledge is a mental state would rest on a well- founded account of what makes a state mental, and as usual Williamson does not disappoint. He gives an account of the mentality of states, by way of a theory of the mentality of concepts, one founded on a distinction between those that are intuitively mental and those that are not. This note has four parts. The first lays out Williamson’s account of mental concepts and mental states, and his characterization of knowledge as the most general factive stative attitude. The second problematizes the account of mental states and the characterization of knowledge, and offers an alternative account of when a state is purely mental; according to this account, knowledge really is mental only by courtesy of the contained belief (an internalist intuition opposed to the externalism featured in the book). The third part reflects on possible sources and support for such a conception of the purely mental. The fourth and last part and support for such a conception of the purely mental....
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This note was uploaded on 08/01/2008 for the course PHIL 290 taught by Professor Fitelson during the Fall '06 term at Berkeley.

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sosa_review - 1 Forthcoming in Williamson and His Critics ,...

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