Toricelli's Trumpet

We are a Working Group devoted to the discussion of historical and philosophical issues in symbolic logic, mathematics, and science. We meet on occasional Wednesday evenings for a talk and a lively discussion. The group is funded by the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities and the Department of Philosophy.

All members of the academic community are welcome to attend. We have regular participants in many different fields, including philosophy, mathematics, history of science, and psychology.

The group organizers are Lara Buchak (Philosophy), Wesley Holliday (Philosophy), John MacFarlane (Philosophy), Paolo Mancosu (Philosophy), Sherrilyn Roush (Philosophy), and Seth Yalcin (Philosophy).

Our next event

April 02, 2014, 6-7:30 PM in 234 Moses Hall

Igal Kvart (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

The Pragmatics of Steering – and of Knowledge Ascriptions, Assertions, and more

In this talk, I lay out a pragmatic account, which handles the standard examples propelled by Epistemic Contextualism and Pragmatic Encroachment approaches, and offer an alternative. Epistemic Contextualism and Pragmatic Encroachment (most notably represented by Subject-Sensitive Invariantism – SSI) offered accounts of knowledge ascriptions in which contextual standards or stakes play a major role in the semantics of knowledge ascriptions. These accounts were propelled mostly by examples that seemed to require a pragmatic component in the truth-conditions of knowledge ascriptions in order to be accounted for. I assume that MacFarlane’s theory of assessment belongs in this family, but I will not discuss it directly.

By contrast, I offer a pragmatic account which, I claim, explains the examples in question, and specifically their clear pragmatic character within the pragmatic field, obviating a central need for introducing pragmatic ingredients into the semantics of knowledge ascriptions that invoke contextual standards or stakes. The main pragmatic components I employ are rational assertibility and especially what, I argue, is a specific pragmatic role of Steering, exemplified by a pragmatic thrust of the use of ‘know’, of the assertoric mode, and well beyond. By accounting for the intuitions associated with the paradigmatic examples, this account confers substantive constraints on the methodology of using intuitions as evidence for semantic features, with a variety of repercussions.