Knowledge Under Threat



Many contemporary epistemologists hold that a subject S’s true belief that p counts as knowledge only if S’s belief that p is also, in some important sense, safe. I describe accounts of this safety condition from John Hawthorne, Duncan Pritchard, and Ernest Sosa. There have been three counterexamples to safety proposed in the recent literature, from Comesaña, Neta and Rohrbaugh, and Kelp. I explain why all three proposals fail: each moves fallaciously from the fact that S was at epistemic risk just before forming her belief to the conclusion that S’s belief was formed unsafely. In light of lessons from their failure, I provide a new and successful counterexample to the safety condition on knowledge. It follows, then, that knowledge need not be safe. Safety at a time depends counterfactually on what would likely happen at that time or soon after in a way that knowledge does not. I close by considering one objection concerning higher-order safety.