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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 38, 2013

Wayne A. Davis
Pages 147-176
DOI: 10.5840/jpr2013388

Grice’s Razor and Epistemic Invariantism

Grice’s Razor is a methodological principle that many philosophers and linguists have used to help justify pragmatic explanations of linguistic phenomena over semantic explanations. A number of authors in the debate over contextualism argue that an invariant semantics together with Grice’s (1975) conversational principles can account for the contextual variability of knowledge claims. I show here that the defense of Grice’s Razor found in these “Gricean invariantists,” and its use against epistemic contextualism, display all the problems pointed out earlier in Davis (1998). The everyday variation in acceptable knowledge claims is better explained in terms of implicature than indexicality, but general conversational principles shed little light on whether ‘know’ is used hyperbolically, meiotically, or loosely in a context, although this issue is crucial in deciding what if anything ‘S knows p’ implicates. I present reasons favoring an account of the representative bank case in terms of loose use, making clear how they differ from Grice’s Razor.

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