Against global method safety

Research paper by Sven Bernecker

Indexed on: 09 Nov '18Published on: 08 Nov '18Published in: Synthese


The global method safety account of knowledge states that an agent’s true belief that p is safe and qualifies as knowledge if and only if it is formed by method M, such that her beliefs in p and her beliefs in relevantly similar propositions formed by M in all nearby worlds are true. This paper argues that global method safety is too restrictive. First, the agent may not know relevantly similar propositions via M because the belief that p is the only possible outcome of M. Second, there are cases where there is a fine-grained belief that is unsafe and a relevantly similar coarse-grained belief (with looser truth conditions) that is safe and where both beliefs are based on the same method M. Third, the reliability of conditional reasoning, a basic belief-forming method, seems to be sensitive to fine-grained contents, as suggested by the wide variation in success rates for thematic versions of the Wason selection task.