Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Bruce Russell


The traditional view of knowledge includes two plausible claims. The first claim is that the truth-conditions required to know some proposition p do not vary. So, for any two subjects who have the same epistemic position regarding p, either both know that p or both do not know that p. An implication of this invariantist position is that any difference in knowledge will be explained by a difference in their epistemic position. The second claim is that only epistemic or ‘truth-conducive’ reasons are relevant to considerations of knowledge. This intellectualist position has recently come under attack from those who argue that whether someone knows that p is partly restricted by their practical situation.

The first task of this dissertation is to defend invariantism from the contextualist view that the truth-conditions required to know that p are context-dependent. Contextualists argue that their view best explains our ordinary and intuitively correct knowledge-attributing practices. In response, I argue that they do not adequately address other related claims that are equally ordinary and intuitive. The debate largely hinges on identifying a mistake in the relevant cases and to that end I argue a closer analysis of contextualist cases reveals just such a mistake. In short, the ‘knowledge-denial’ rests on a false belief.

The second task is to defend intellectualism from the practicalist view of Jeremy Fantl and Matthew McGrath. Initially, I argue that the argument from their central KJ principle is susceptible to a counter-example first used by Baron Reed to attack the principle itself. This counter-example is much stronger than first realized as it also applies to the SafeReasons principle used as a premise in the argument for KJ. After showing the argument to be unsound, I discuss further examples which reveal a second condition on rational action. This condition suggests that knowing p is not sufficient to justify acting on p—as is implied by KJ—the act must also be worth it.

Included in

Epistemology Commons