Southwest Philosophy Review

Volume 38, Issue 1, January 2022

James Simpson
Pages 59-69

More Clarity about Concessive Knowledge Attributions

Fallibilism is typically taken to face a problem from the apparent infelicity of concessive knowledge attributions (hereafter, CKAs). CKAs are of the form: “S knows that p, but it’s possible that q,” where q obviously entails not-p. CKAs sound to the ears of many philosophers as contradictory or infelicitous. But CKAs look to be overt statements of fallibilism, since if S fallibly knows that p, then she can’t properly rule out some possibility in which not-p. Do fallibilists, then, have some way of explaining the seeming infelicity of CKAs that doesn’t impugn the truth of fallibilism? Fallibilists think so. In this connection, there are two well-known responses to the problem: Patrick Rysiew’s pragmatic strategy and Jason Stanley’s semantic strategy. While both strategies have real virtues, there are aspects of each strategy that face certain complications. In this paper, I’ll outline those complications and I’ll develop some remedies to them. The aim of this paper will be to show that the challenge posed by CKAs isn’t a grave problem at all. In particular, I’ll argue that if the semantic strategy fails because CKAs really are overt statements of fallibilism, then there’s good reason to think that the pragmatic strategy succeeds, but if the pragmatic strategy fails because CKAs are obviously false or aren’t overt statements of fallibilism, then the semantic strategy succeeds. Thus, I’ll conclude that the problem for fallibilism posed by CKAs isn’t a grave problem at all.