It is widely thought that moral obligations are necessarily guidance giving. This supposed fact has been put to service in defence of the ‘ought-implies-can’ principle according to which one cannot be morally obligated to do the impossible, since impossible-to-satisfy obligations would not give guidance. It is argued here that the supposed fact is no such thing; moral obligations are not necessarily guiding giving, and so the ‘guidance argument’ for ought-implies-can fails. This is the result of no non-trivial condition being ‘luminous’.
I argue that there can be epistemic dilemmas: situations in which one faces conflicting epistemic requirements with the result that whatever one does, one is doomed to do wrong from the epistemic point of view. Accepting this view, I argue, may enable us to solve several epistemological puzzles.
Knowledgeable Assertion in the Image of Knowledgeable Belief
I describe two ways of thinking about what constitutes a knowledgeable assertion – the ‘orthodox view’ and the ‘isomorphic view’. I argue that we should discard the orthodox view and replace it with the isomorphic view; the latter is more natural and has greater theoretical utility than the former.
When are you epistemically permitted to believe that P? I argue that the answer is: when it is epistemically rational for you to do so. More broadly, I argue that when it comes to the ‘coarse–grained’ doxastic attitudes of belief, suspension, and disbelief, it is permissible for you to take one of these attitudes to P if it is rational for you to do so. Rationality is the norm of belief, and of coarse–grained doxastic attitude formation in general.
It is often argued that the requirement that moral obligations be ‘action guiding’ motivates the claim that one can be obligated to ϕ only if one can ϕ. I argue that even on its most plausible interpretation, this argument fails, since the reasoning behind it leads to the absurd conclusion that one is permitted to ϕ if one cannot ϕ.
Recently it has been increasingly popular to argue that knowledge is the norm of belief. I present an argument against this view. The argument trades on the epistemic situation of the subject in the bad case. Notably, unlike with other superficially similar arguments against knowledge norms, knowledge normers preferred strategy of appealing to the distinction between permissibility and excusability cannot help them to rebut this argument.
Williamson (2000) appeals to considerations about when it is natural to say that a hypothesis is consistent with one’s evidence in order to motivate the claim that all and only knowledge is evidence. It is argued here that the relevant considerations do not support this claim, and in fact conflict with it.
Is Knowledge The Ability To φ For The Reason That P?
Hyman (1999, 2006) argues that knowledge is best conceived as a kind of ability: S knows that p iff S can φ for the reason that p. Hyman motivates this thesis by appealing to Gettier cases. I argue that it is counterexampled by a certain kind of Gettier case where the fact that p is a cause of the subject’s belief that p. One can φ for the reason that p even if one does not know that p. So knowledge is not best conceived as an ability of this kind