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MindGrad 2009

‘Analyticity and Being in a Position to Know’

David Tait, University College London

I argue that the pessimism generated by Williamson in recent work concerning the notion of analytic truth is not warranted by the arguments he offers in support. Analyticity requires that there be some positive epistemic position in which subjects are placed just in virtue of their grasp of certain propositions. Williamson’s objections have centred on the difficulty of preserving this feature in an account that can also accommodate the possibility that one might grasp such a proposition yet fail to know it. This can be achieved by employing the idea of being in a position to know: an analytic truth is one a subject’s grasp of which places them in a position to know it. The rejection of just such a strategy by Williamson presupposes a specific conception of what it is for a subject to be in a position to know, one we need not accept. I argue that by considering cases of perceptual knowledge, we can isolate another, alternative conception of being in a position to know. The availability of this alternative conception provides us with the resources to diagnose the error in Williamson’s argument and demonstrates the viability of utilizing this strategy in defence of analyticity.


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