The Disappearance of Ignorance

In: International Journal for the Study of Skepticism
Author: Robin McKenna
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  • University of Liverpool

Keith DeRose’s new book The Appearance of Ignorance is a welcome companion volume to his 2009 book The Case for Contextualism. Where latter focused on contextualism as a view in the philosophy of language, the former focuses on how contextualism contributes to our understanding of (and solution to) some perennial epistemological problems, with the skeptical problem being the main focus of six of the seven chapters. DeRose’s view is that a solution to the skeptical problem must do two things. First, it must explain how it is that we can know lots of things, such as that we have hands. Second, it must explain how it can seem that we don’t know these things. In slogan form, DeRose’s argument is that a contextualist semantics for knowledge attributions is needed to account for the “appearance of ignorance”—the appearance that we don’t know that skeptical hypotheses fail to obtain. In my critical discussion, I will argue inter alia that we don’t need a contextualist semantics to account for the appearance of ignorance, and in any case that the “strength” of the appearance of ignorance is unclear, as is the need for a philosophical diagnosis of it.

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