Abstract

This paper argues that a necessary condition on inferential knowledge is that one knows all the propositions that knowledge depends on. That is, I will argue in support of a principle I call the Knowledge from Knowledge principle:

(KFK) S knows that p via inference or reasoning only if S knows all the propositions on which p depends.

KFK meshes well with the natural idea that (at least with respect to deductively valid or inductively strong arguments) the epistemic status of one’s belief in the conclusion of an argument is a function of the epistemic status of the attitudes one has to the premises of that argument. One gets what one puts in: S’s belief in the conclusion C of an argument A has epistemic status E for S only if S’s belief in each of the premises C depends on also has epistemic status E. This is compatible, of course, with the epistemic status of S’s conclusion being greater than the epistemic status of the premises on which the conclusion of her reasoning depends. Furthermore, even though KFK applies more straightforwardly to non-suppositional inferences, we can also plausibly apply the principle to sup-positional reasoning if we treat S’s assuming for the sake of argument that p, as S assuming for the sake of argument that she knows that p.

Although extremely plausible, philosophers have failed to present a concerted case in support of KFK. Most of their energy goes to articulating and/or defending some form of closure principle for knowledge. What is more, recently versions of this principle have been dismissed as problematic but I think without the reasons in its support been fully appreciated. This paper is an e fort to change the current state of affairs. Its focus is positive, however: my goal is to make the best case I can in support of KFK.⁵ To that end, the paper presents the reasons we have to accept KFK (§1), considers an objection to the principle (§2), and situates the principle in the broader normative context of knowledge norms (§3).

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