Seminar Series in Analytic Philosophy

Fernando Broncano-Berrocal

Autonomous University of Madrid

Lottery Propositions and Unsafe Doubts

19 October 2018, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: It is fair to say that views based on the safety principle (if an agent S knows a proposition p, not easily would S have believed that p without it being the case that p) stand among the most popular in the epistemological landscape. In spite of their many virtues, safety-based views have a pebble in their shoes: the so-called lottery problem. According to one way to understand it, the lottery problem is the problem of explaining why mere reflection on the long odds that one will lose the lottery does not yield knowledge that one will lose. By giving an adequate explanation of why we don’t know that we won’t win the lottery on the basis of statistical evidence, one can thereby explain why the premises of the knowledge version of the lottery paradox are false. Informally, the lottery paradox is generated as follows: if you know that a given lottery ticket will be a loser, then you can know this for every ticket, but since you also know that one ticket will be winner, you know inconsistent propositions, namely that all tickets will lose and that one ticket will be a winner, but knowing inconsistent propositions is not possible. This paper makes a negative and a positive point. The negative point is that no formulation of the safety principle for knowledge is able to explain why we don’t know lottery propositions and hence to solve the lottery problem. The positive point is that the fact that lottery propositions are not known can be still explained in terms of safety and, in particular, in terms of the idea that lottery players have (or should have) unsafe doubts that defeat their knowledge of lottery propositions.

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