Volume 9, Issue 4, 2018
The Warrant Account and the Prominence of ‘Know’
Many philosophers agree that there is an epistemic norm governing action. However, they disagree on what this norm is. It has been observed that the word ‘know’ is prominent in ordinary epistemic evaluations of actions. Any opponent of the knowledge norm must provide an explanation of this fact. Gerken has recently proposed the most developed explanation. It invokes the hypothesis that, in normal contexts, knowledge-level warrant is frequently necessary and very frequently sufficient (Normal Coincidence), so that knowledge-based assessments would be a good heuristic for practical reasoning and epistemic evaluations of action. In this paper, I raise three problems for this approach. First, I argue that Normal Coincidence is ad hoc: it relies on an unsupported frequency hypothesis that we should expect to be false given the warrant account that Gerken also endorses. Second, I argue that, in any case, Normal Coincidence is insufficient to support the hypothesis that knowledge-based evaluation of action constitutes a good heuristic. Third, I consider three other hypotheses close to Normal Coincidence apparently more likely to support the heuristic hypothesis, but I argue that they seem even more ad hoc than Normal Coincidence.