A linguistic grounding for a polysemy theory of ‘knows’
In his book Knowledge and Practical Interests Jason Stanley offers an argument for the conclusion that it is quite unlikely that an ambiguity theory of ‘knows’ can be “linguistically grounded”. His argument rests on two important assumptions: (1) that linguistic grounding of ambiguity requires evidence of the purported different senses of a word being represented by different words in other languages (i.e. represented by more than one word within other languages) and (2) that such evidence is lacking in the case of ‘knows’. In this paper, I challenge the conclusion that there isn’t a linguistic grounding for an ambiguity theory of ‘knows’ by making cases against both of Stanley’s major assumptions. I will do this by making a case for a prime facie linguistic grounding for a polysemy theory of ‘knows’ without appealing to word use in other languages. Given that a polysemy theory of ‘knows’ is a type of ambiguity theory of ‘knows’ (as will be explained shortly), if I succeed in linguistically grounding a polysemy theory of ‘knows’, then I have shown that at least one type of ambiguity theory of ‘knows’ can be linguistically grounded.
KeywordsAmbiguity Polysemy Knows Knowledge Contextualism Zeugma
I’m grateful to helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this work from Micheal Bergmann, Rod Bertolet, Chuck Bradley, Lydia Catedral, Nevin Climenhaga, Paul Dimmock, Paul Draper, Gretchen Ellefson, Maite Ezcurdia, Amy Flowerree, Baron Reed, Jennifer Saul, Matthias Steup, Aaron Thomas-Buldoc, Michael Veber, and Nathan Weston and to the audiences at a 2015 Northwestern University epistemology brownbag, the IV Colombian Conference in Logic, Epistemology and Philosophy of Science at the Universidad de los Andes, and the 2015 North Carolina Philosophical Society where an earlier draft of this paper received the Graduate Student Paper Prize.
- Cohen, S. (1999). Contextualism, skepticism, and the structure of reasons. In J. E. Tomberlin (Ed.), Philosophical perspectives, 13: Epistemology, 1999. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
- Craig, E. (1990). Knowledge and the state of nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Cruse, A. D. (1982). On lexical ambiguity. Nottingham Linguistic Circular, 11(2), 65–80.Google Scholar
- DeRose, K. (1999). Contextualism: An explanation and defense. In J. Greco & E. Sosa (Eds.), The blackwell guide to epistemology (pp. 187–204). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
- Descartes, R. (1934). The philosophical works of descartes: Volume II (E. Haldane and G. R. T. Ross, Trans.). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Descartes, R. (1984). The philosophical writings of descartes: Volume II (J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff and D. Murdoch, Trans.). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Feldman, F. (1986). A cartesian introduction to philosophy. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.Google Scholar
- Hawthorne, J. (2004). Knowledge and lotteries. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Newman, L. (2014). Descartes’ epistemology. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition). http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/descartes-epistemology/.
- Perry, J. (2001) Reference and Reflexivity. Center for the Study of Language and Information: Stanford University.Google Scholar
- Ravin, Y., & Lecock, C. (2000). Polysemy: An overview. In Y. Ravin & C. Lecock (Eds.), Polysemy: Theoretical and computational approaches. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Rysiew, P. (2005). Contesting contextualism. Grazer Philosophische Studien, 69, 51–69.Google Scholar
- Rysiew, P. (2011). Epistemic contextualism. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Winter 2011 Edition). http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2011/entries/contextualism-epistemology/.
- Rysiew, P. (2012). Epistemic scorekeeping. In J. Brown & M. Gerken (Eds.), Knowledge ascriptions (pp. 55–74). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Saul, J. (2015). Lying, misleading, and what is said: An exploration in philosophy of language and in ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Sennet, A. (2011). Ambiguity. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2011/entries/ambiguity/.
- Shields, C. (2003). Order in multiplicity. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
- The OEC: Facts About the Language. Retrieved on August 24, 2015 from: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/words/the-oec-facts-about-the-language.
- van Woudenberg, R. (2005). Contextualism and the many senses of knowledge. Grazer Philosophische Studien, 69, 147–164.Google Scholar