At the intersection of epistemology and philosophy of language is a puzzle. First, it seems we don’t need less evidence for a claim that we know something if the practical importance of the knowledge claim shifts. Second, it seems we shouldn’t assert that we know something if we don’t. Third, it seems that if the practical importance of a knowledge claim shifts, we should back up our claim with more evidence. So is knowledge really insensitive to shifts in practical stakes? Or should the knowledge norm of assertion be abandoned?
In Shifty Speech and Independent Thought (Oxford University Press, 2021), Mona Simion critically considers various types of responses to the Shiftiness Dilemma before defending her own solution. On her view, assertions obey both epistemic and non-epistemic norms, and what is permissible to assert shifts depending on all-things-considered judgments that rely on a contextually determined mix of these norms. Simion, who is lecturer in philosophy at the University of Glasgow, generalizes her approach to other types of epistemically relevant speech acts, and argues that only moral assertion requires special treatment, due to differences in audience understanding.
Carrie Figdor is professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.