Timothy Williamson offers the ordinary practice, the lottery and the Moorean argument for the ‘knowledge account’ that assertion is theonly speech-act that is governed by the single ‘knowledge rule’ or norm, thatone must know its content. I show that the emptiness of the knowledge accountrenders mysterious why breaking the knowledge rule should be a source ofcriticism. I then argue that focussing exclusively on the sincerity of thespeech-act of letting one know engenders a category mistake about the nature ofconstraints on assertion. For Williamson and those in his tradition, assertionfalls under purely epistemic norms. But assertionis an epistemic action and is governed by norms of epistemic action. The actionof informing someone is an epistemic action. So is proclaiming one’s faith,answering an examiner or lying. I propose that norm of a type of assertion isthe epistemic state one needs for one’s speech-act to succeed in being anassertion of that type and that the epistemic state in question is determinedby the point of the type of assertion. Consequently, much of the knowledgeaccount is at odds with this proposal, although some of it is also correct ifassertion is thought of narrowly as informing. Next I show that Williamson’sthe ordinary practice argument, the lottery argument and the Moorean argument fail to support theknowledge account. After giving an analysis ofassertion, I propose that the norm of a type of assertion is theepistemic state one needs for one’s speech-act to succeed in being an assertionof that type and that the epistemic state in question is determined by thepoint of the type of assertion. One is practically irrational in violating thenorm.
assertion, speech acts, norms, knowledge, belief, intention
Modern Languages | Theory, Knowledge and Science
Universidade Estadual de Campinas
WILLIAMS, John Nicholas.(2017). Assertion and its many norms. Manuscrito, 40(4), 39-76.
Available at: http://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/soss_research/2415
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