Transmission of warrant-failure and the notion of epistemic analyticity


Ebert P (2005) Transmission of warrant-failure and the notion of epistemic analyticity. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 83 (4), pp. 505-521.

In this paper I will argue that Boghossian’s explanation of how we can acquire a priori knowledge of logical principles through implicit definitions commits a transmission of warrant-failure. To this end, I will briefly outline Boghossian’s account, followed by an explanation of what a transmission of warrant-failure consists in. I will also show that this charge is independent of the worry of rule- circularity which has been raised concerning the justification of logical principles and of which Boghossian is fully aware. My argument comes in two steps: firstly, I will argue for the insufficiency of Boghossian’s template which is meant to explain how a subject can acquire a warrant for logical principles. I will show however that this insufficiency of his template can be remedied by adopting what I call the Disquotational Step. Secondly, I will argue that incorporating this further step makes his template subject to a transmission of warrant-failure, assuming that certain rather basic and individually motivated principles hold. Thus, Boghossian’s account faces a dilemma: either he adopts the Disquotational Step and subjects his account to the charge of a transmission of warrant-failure, or he drops this additional step leaving the account confronted with explaining the gap that has previously been highlighted. I will then suggest various rejoinders that Boghossian might adopt but none of which—I will argue—can resolve the dilemma. Lastly, I will raise and briefly discuss the question whether this worry generalizes to other accounts, such as Hale and Wright’s that aim to explain our knowledge of logic and/or mathematics in virtue of implicit definitions.

epistemic; analyticity; implicit definitions; knowledge; a priori

Australasian Journal of Philosophy: Volume 83, Issue 4

Publication date31/12/2005
Publication date online19/08/2006
PublisherTaylor & Francis