Rachel McKinnon, "The Norms of Assertion: Truth, Lies, and Warrant" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)


One of the important ways we use language is to make assertions - roughly, to pass on information we believe to be true to others. Insofar as we need to learn by means of what others they tell us, assertion is a speech act that addresses this need. It also follows norms - ordinarily, we shouldn't assert things that we believe to be false, and when we do we have violated a norm of assertion. In The Norms of Assertion: Truth, Lies, and Warrant (Palgrave Macmillan 2015), Rachel McKinnon argues against the prevailing idea that you need to know what you assert, and holds that we can even blamelessly assert something that we know to be false. McKinnon, an assistant professor of philosophy at the College of Charleston, defends a reasons-based norm in which the end goal of transmitting knowledge to others can be fulfilled by asserting falsehoods, and in which whether we have satisfied the norm depends heavily on the conventional and pragmatic contexts in which we make our assertions.

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Carrie Figdor

Carrie Figdor is professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.

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