Can it be more difficult to know something when there is a great deal at stake?

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Mark Paul


There are a plethora of highly plausible cases, such as DeRose’s bank cases, in which our intuition very strongly suggests that it can be more difοcult to know something when there is a great deal at stake. Intuitively, though, whether or not an agent knows a proposition should not depend on what is at stake for that agent, but rather on such things as the subject’s evidence, their justiοcation and the truth or falsity of the object of purported knowledge. This paper attempts to provide a survey of the existing literature on this topic and to provide an assessment of the prospects for a coherent account of the stake-sensitivity of knowledge, assuming that such sensitivity obtains. The author begins with an exposition of DeRose’s bank cases, which is followed by arguments for and against the stake-sensitivity of knowledge. After a brief exploration of the experimental literature regarding folk intuitions in cases that purport to demonstrate stake-sensitivity, this paper will consider two accounts of the stake-sensitivity of knowledge—namely epistemic Contextualism and Subject-Sensitive Invariantism (SSI)—examining the beneοts and drawbacks of each in turn. The author will argue that SSI is best-placed to account for the stake-sensitivity of knowledge, mostly because of a strong and largely unresolved linguistic objection levied against the very heart of Contextualism.

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