The Ordinary Language Case for Contextualism and the Relevance of Radical Doubt

In: Contemporary Pragmatism
Michael P. WolfDepartment of Philosophy, Washington and Jefferson College, 60 S. Lincoln St., Washington, pa15301

Search for other papers by Michael P. Wolf in
Current site
Google Scholar
Jeremy Randel Koons p.o.Box 23689, Georgetown University in Qatar, Doha, Qatar

Search for other papers by Jeremy Randel Koons in
Current site
Google Scholar
Download Citation Get Permissions

Access options

Get access to the full article by using one of the access options below.

Institutional Login

Log in with Open Athens, Shibboleth, or your institutional credentials

Login via Institution


Buy instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):


Many contextualist accounts in epistemology appeal to ordinary language and everyday practice as grounds for positing a low-standards knowledge (knowledgeL) that contrasts with high-standards prevalent in epistemology (knowledgeH). We compare these arguments to arguments from the height of “ordinary language” philosophy in the mid 20th century and find that all such arguments face great difficulties. We find a powerful argument for the legitimacy and necessity of knowledgeL (but not of knowledgeH). These appeals to practice leave us with reasons to accept knowledgeL in the face of radical doubts raised by skeptics. We conclude by arguing that by relegating knowledgeH to isolated contexts, the contextualist fails to deal with the skeptical challenge head-on. KnowledgeH and knowledgeL represent competing, incompatible intuitions about knowledge, and we must choose between them. A fallibilist conception of knowledge, formed with proper attention to radical doubts, can address the skeptical challenge without illicit appeal to everyday usage.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 380 68 9
Full Text Views 135 2 0
PDF Views & Downloads 26 7 0