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Knowledge, Questions And Answers

Meghan B Masto, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

This dissertation can be found at the following url:


In this dissertation I attempt to develop a better understanding of knowledge and belief. In Chapter 1 I offer an analysis of knowledge-wh . I argue that knowledge-wh ascriptions express that a subject stands in the knowledge relation to a question--where to stand in this knowledge relation to a question is to know an answer to the question. Additionally I adopt a contextualist picture of knowledge- wh . I raise some problems for invariantism about knowledge- wh and I argue that contextualism about knowledge-wh fits nicely with a very natural understanding of the semantics of interrogatives, and the nature of questions.

In Chapter 2 consider whether knowledge-how is importantly different from knowledge-wh . I argue that 'knows how' is ambiguous, but on one sense knowledge-how ascriptions should be treated just like the other knowledge ascriptions with interrogative complements. Hence this type of knowledge-how is not fundamentally distinct from knowledge-wh .

In Chapter 3 I reconsider various theories about knowledge and knowledge- that ascriptions in light of our conclusions about knowledge- wh ascriptions. It seems that doing so can help adjudicate between contextualism and invariantism about knowledge-that and may help determine which form of contextualism about knowledge-that is the most plausible.

In Chapter 4 I consider whether there is some fact about the nature of the attitudes that determines the verb's complement selection. Some have suggested that the embedding behavior of attitude verbs is correlated with the factivity of the attitude verb. I evaluate this suggestion and the possible explanations for the embedding behavior of the various attitude verbs. I attempt to determine the extent to which the factivity of verbs is correlated with their embedding behavior and I attempt to explain why factivity plays such an important role. I argue that these facts can provide important insights into the nature of the attitudes.

In Chapter 5 I explore the way in which knowledge and action are related in an important way. I consider the claim that it is appropriate to treat the proposition that p as a reason for action if and only if you know that p . I first present and explain the principle. Next I consider some objections to the proposal, and I argue that none of these objections is successful. I claim that the contrastivist, in particular, has several moves available in the face of the alleged problems with this Reason-Knowledge principle.