Epistemic Risk and Safety
Invited conference paper presented and published in conference proceedings


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AbstractIt is a pervading intuition that the famous lottery case does not involve knowledge. This presents the difficulty of explaining our ignorance of the fact that the ticket is a loser, even though the probability of losing is extremely high. Timothy Williamson takes the lottery case to be an apparent threat to the safety theorists, of which he is one of them. He attempts to remove the puzzlement involved by arguing that the true belief in the lottery case is unsafe and thus not an instance of knowledge. The apparent difficulty of accounting for the unsafety of the true belief, given the extremely high probability of losing, brings forth the threat.

Williamson in his “Amherst Lecture in Philosophy (2009)” tries to counter those threats, such as the aforementioned one, by showing that safety is a purely modal notion, independent of any probabilistic likeness or unlikeness. In particular, his definition of safety is a “no risk” modal definition:

A true belief is safe iff there is no modal risk of falsehood.

He makes use of this to argue that the true belief in the lottery case is unsafe, because there is a single modally close possibility of falsehood (winning).

In this paper, while not disputing with Williamson’s view that safety is a purely modal notion, I shall put forward a counterexample to show that his “no risk” modal definition of safety is incorrect. Then I shall propose a modal definition of safety, according to which the true belief in the lottery case is safe, though the lottery case still does not involve knowledge. Lastly, I shall explain how my modal definition of safety can explain away the apparent puzzlement usually associated with the lottery case.
Acceptance Date01/05/2018
All Author(s) ListLeo Kam Ching Cheung
Name of ConferenceThe 4th Annual East-West Philosophy Forum
Start Date of Conference30/05/2018
End Date of Conference31/05/2018
Place of ConferenceFree University of Amsterdam
Country/Region of ConferenceNetherlands
Year2018
Month5
LanguagesEnglish-United Kingdom

Last updated on 2018-07-11 at 16:36