Reflective Knowledge

  • Ernest Sosa
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 404)


It might be thought that reflective knowledge is of interest only to puzzle-solving intellectuals in their armchairs, that the knowledge of general interest is the “animal” sort, so that reflective knowledge deserves by comparison little more than a footnote. But this overlooks the fact that the difference between animal and reflective knowledge is not a sharp difference in kind. Rather is it a difference of degree. Apart from the intrinsic interest of reflective knowledge, there is a substantial historical reason for distinguishing it: namely, that only thus can we fully understand the power and traditional importance of philosophical skepticism. For the Pyrrhonists it is not enough that one’s sources be in fact reliable, even if one has no notion that this is so. Thus, they would not dignify with the title of knowledge any information acquired through sources that happen to be reliable beyond one’s ken. I do not join in thinking only such reflective “knowledge” worthy of the title. But I do find it, other things equal, an accomplishment on a higher plane than mere unreflective, “animal” knowledge. Enlightened belief requires a perspective on the reliability of one’s cognitive faculties. “Real” knowledge, found at this higher level, requires that one’s belief be reliably produced, but also that one see one’s belief as reliably produced.


Reflective knowledge Knowledge in degrees Enhanced knowledge Knowledge as achievement Pyrrhonism Metajustification Knowledge of reliability Epistemic competence Epistemology 


  1. Sextus Empiricus. (1990). Sextus empiricus: Against the logicians. Translation by Jonathan Barnes, in The Toils of Scepticism, translated by Jonathan Barnes, 138–139. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Sosa, E. (2000). Skepticism and contextualism. Philosophical Issues X, Supplement to Noûs, 10, 1–1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Ernest Sosa
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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