Monthly Archives: July 2012

My problem with the Reason-Knowledge Principle

Whatever your definition for ‘S knows that p’ is, I take it that p being true figures as a necessary condition in that definition. Now, according to my (perhaps inaccurate) understanding of the pragmatist tradition, for p to be (or ‘to become’) true, our actions based on p have to be successful. In other words, being conducive to successful action seems to be at least a necessary condition in a pragmatist analysis of truth.

Now, what does ‘acting on p’ mean? Could it be possible for someone to act on p but reject p as a reason for his or her actions? (I have tried to figure out such cases without success.)

So here comes my problem with the Reason-Knowledge Principle, as stated in Hawthorne, John, and Stanley, Jason, Knowledge and Action, Journal of Philosophy, 105.10 (2008): 571-90.

RKP says that: “Where one’s choice is p-dependent, it is appropriate to treat the proposition that p as a reason for acting iff you know that p.”. Since the principle makes ‘knowing that p’ a necessary condition for treating p as a reason for acting, it would render all definitions of knowledge relying on the pragmatist view on truth circular.

However, shouldn’t such a principle be neutral with respect to our theoretical understanding of knowledge?