Knowing Full Well

Knowing Full Well

Knowing Full Well

Knowing Full Well


In this book, Ernest Sosa explains the nature of knowledge through an approach originated by him years ago, known as virtue epistemology. Here he provides the first comprehensive account of his views on epistemic normativity as a form of performance normativity on two levels. On a first level is found the normativity of the apt performance, whose success manifests the performer's competence. On a higher level is found the normativity of the meta-apt performance, which manifests not necessarily first-order skill or competence but rather the reflective good judgment required for proper risk assessment. Sosa develops this bi-level account in multiple ways, by applying it to issues much disputed in recent epistemology: epistemic agency, how knowledge is normatively related to action, the knowledge norm of assertion, and the Meno problem as to how knowledge exceeds merely true belief. A full chapter is devoted to how experience should be understood if it is to figure in the epistemic competence that must be manifest in the truth of any belief apt enough to constitute knowledge. Another takes up the epistemology of testimony from the performance-theoretic perspective. Two other chapters are dedicated to comparisons with ostensibly rival views, such as classical internalist foundationalism, a knowledge-first view, and attributor contextualism. The book concludes with a defense of the epistemic circularity inherent in meta-aptness and thereby in the full aptness of knowing full well.


This book aims to develop and defend an account of epistemic norma- tivity as a sort of “performance normativity.”

In the first chapter, “Knowing Full Well,” we take up a problem raised by Plato in his Theaetetus: How is knowledge constituted? What are its necessary and sufficient conditions? This problem has been important on the contemporary scene, as the “Gettier problem.” a solution through a kind of performance normativity is surprisingly simple and natural by comparison with the level of technical elaboration reached in much of the Gettier literature. the chapter offers an account of the epistemic normativity constitutive of knowledge, one that recognizes levels of knowledge and corresponding levels of normativity.

Chapter 2, “Epistemic Agency,” considers the aims that someone might pursue in believing a certain way. in what way if at all might truth be an aim, or even the aim, of belief? How does a belief’s having truth as its aim bear on the epistemic assessment of that belief, for ex- ample on whether it amounts to knowledge?

In chapter 3, “Value Matters in Epistemology,” we take up in particu- lar a second Platonic problem concerning knowledge, the Meno prob- lem concerning its value. Is knowledge always, necessarily better than would be its corresponding merely true belief? If so, then how and why? Along the way we consider ways in which knowledge might relate nor- matively to action generally, and to assertion in particular. What if any knowledge do we need in order to act undefectively? Is knowledge a . . .

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