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Ideas of Stewart Cohen, by Text

[American, fl. 1998, Professor at Arizona State University.]

2005 Contextualism Defended (and reply)
1 p.69 Our own intuitions about whether we know tend to vacillate
     Full Idea: One robust feature of our intuitions about whether we know things is that they tend to vacillate.
     From: Stewart Cohen (Contextualism Defended (and reply) [2005], 1)
     A reaction: This strikes me as important. If we were tacit invariantists (Idea 19557) we should be able to ask ourselves whether we 'really and truly' know various things, but we can't decide. I know lots about Nietzsche in a pub, and very little in a university.
1 p.70 Contextualists slightly concede scepticism, but only in extremely strict contexts
     Full Idea: Contextualism concedes that there is some truth to skepticism, but contains the damage by holding that skeptical claims are true only relative to atypically strict contexts.
     From: Stewart Cohen (Contextualism Defended (and reply) [2005], 1)
     A reaction: My attitude to scepticism is that everything we ever affirm should have a footnote saying '...but you never know...', and it should then be ignored. In the strictest context everything is doubted simultaneously (including language), and that is paralysis.
1 p.79 We shouldn't jump too quickly to a contextualist account of claims to know
     Full Idea: Maybe contextualists are too quick to appeal to our conflicting intuitions regarding knowledge.
     From: Stewart Cohen (Contextualism Defended (and reply) [2005], 1)
     A reaction: An important point (from Earl Conee). I thoroughly approve of contextualism, but the whole status of whether a witness or a teacher knows what they are talking about is in danger of collapsing into relativism. This is what peer review is all about.
1 p.81 The context sensitivity of knowledge derives from its justification
     Full Idea: On my own view, the context sensivity of knowledge is inherited from one of its components, i.e. justification.
     From: Stewart Cohen (Contextualism Defended (and reply) [2005], 1)
     A reaction: That sounds right, and it reinforces the idea that 'justification' is a more important epistemological concept than 'knowledge'. 'Am I justified in believing p?' Answer: 'it depends how well you have researched it'.
3 p.74 Contextualism is good because it allows knowledge, but bad because 'knowing' is less valued
     Full Idea: Contextualism is a 'good news, bad news' theory. The good news is that we have lots of knowledge and many surfaces are 'flat'; the bad news is that knowledge and flatness are not all they were cracked up to be.
     From: Stewart Cohen (Contextualism Defended (and reply) [2005], 3)
     A reaction: That is exactly my position. I lost all interest in whether someone precisely 'knows' or 'does not know' something a long time ago (even in scientific or forensic contexts). In the case of flatness the case is even more obvious.
2005 Contextualism Defended
p.57 p.57 Contextualism says sceptical arguments are true, relative to their strict context
     Full Idea: Contextualism explains the appeal of sceptical arguments by allowing that the claims of the sceptic are true, relative to the very strict context in which they are made.
     From: Stewart Cohen (Contextualism Defended [2005], p.57)
     A reaction: This strikes me a right. I've always thought that global scepticism must be conceded if we are being very strict indeed about justification, but also that it is ridiculous to be that strict. So the epistemological question is 'How strict should we be?'
p.58 p.58 There aren't invariant high standards for knowledge, because even those can be raised
     Full Idea: The problem for invariantism is that competent speakers, under sceptical pressure, tend to deny that we know even the most conspicuous facts of perception, the clearest memories etc.
     From: Stewart Cohen (Contextualism Defended [2005], p.58)
     A reaction: This is aimed at Idea 12892. This seems to me a strong response to the rather weak invariantist case (that there is 'really and truly' only one invariant standard for knowledge). Full strength scepticism about everything demolishes all knowledge.
p.68 p.68 Knowledge is context-sensitive, because justification is
     Full Idea: The context-sensitivity of knowledge is inherited from one of its components, i.e. justification.
     From: Stewart Cohen (Contextualism Defended [2005], p.68)
     A reaction: I think this is exactly right - that there is nothing relative or contextual about what is actually true, or what someone believes, but knowleddge is wholly relative because it rests on shifting standards of justification.