Catherine Z. Elgin
Papers on Knowledge
Epistemically Useful Falsehoods
(Knowledge, Skepticism, and Defeat ed.
Brandon Fitelson, Rodrigo Borges, Cherie Braden.
Springer, forthcoming 2018.)
In 'Useful False Beliefs', Peter Klein argues that the justification
required for knowledge can contain a false belief essentially. Then
the agent arrives at her conclusion via a chain of inference that
includes a false belief. If her inferential path is close enough to
a route that contains only truths, Klein maintains, her conclusion is
justified. Still, he intimates, reliance on a falsehood is an
epistemic defect, even if not a fatal one. All things considered, it
is preferable to take the epistemic high road and rely only on truths.
I will argue however, that sometimes inferring via a falsehood is an
epistemic strength. Reliance on a falsehood enables the agent to
marshal epistemic resources by excluding from her reasoning
irrelevant complications that would blind her to the relation between
her evidence and her conclusion.
(Voicing Dissent ed.
Casey Johnson. Routledge, forthcoming, 2018.)
Discussions of disagreement typically assume that if epistemic peers
disagree, at least one of them has made a mistake. I will argue that
this is not always so. Even if peers have the same evidence,
background information, education, and reasoning abilities, they may
responsibly differ over how to deploy these resources. They may, for
example, assign different weights to bits of evidence, set different
standards for acceptability, favor different reasoning strategies,
and/or diverge in their assessments of the reliability or
significance of the background information that they share. If so,
disagreement among competent epistemic agents is an asset. It
reveals important features of the epistemic situation and the
perspectives that can responsibly be adopted toward it. The
existence of such disagreements may support skepticism vis à vis the
first order issue under dispute. If so, such skepticism is a virtue
rather than a vice.
Begging to Differ
(The Philosopher's Magazine, 59, 2012.)
Weaving the Web of Belief
(Contemporary Debates in Epistemology
2nd edition, ed. Matthias Steup. Malden: Blackwell, forthcoming.)
Touchstones of History: Anscombe, Hume, and Julius Caesar
(Logos & Episteme 1, 2010, 39-57.)
(Knowledge and Skepticism ed.
Joseph Keim Campell, Michael O'Rourke and Harry
Silverstein. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010, 309-324.)
My goal in this paper is not to defeat skepticism, but to
articulate a reasonable epistemological basis for
disregarding it. I argue that first, skepticism is not
continuous with ordinary epistemic practice. We do not, as
it were, slide down a slippery slope to skepticism simply by
raising our epistemic standards. Second, skepticism is not a
viable practical stance: in order to act, we must assume
that skepticism is false. But third, the practical is
inseparable from the theoretical, so an assumption that is
mandatory for practice is at least not unreasonable for
theory. The conclusion is not that skepticism is false; but
that it can be epistemologically responsible to assume that
skepticism is false. The fate of epistemology does not turn
on defeating skepticism; for some epistemological problems
we can simply set the skeptical challenge aside.
ed. Richard Feldman and Ted Warfield.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, 53-68.)
Holism, Coherence, and Tenability
(Contemporary Debates in Epistemology
ed. Matthias Steup and Ernest Sosa.
Boston: Blackwell, 2005, 156-167.)
Take It From Me: The Epistemological Status of Testimony
(Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, LXV,
Word Giving, Word Taking
(Fact and Value: Essays for Judith Jarvis Thomson,
ed. Alex Byrne, Robert Stalnaker, and Ralph Wedgwood.
Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001, 97-116.)