Research Interests and Papers

Pierre Le Morvan

Research Interests:


"Privacy, Secrecy, Fact, and Falsehood" (forthcoming), The Journal of Philosophical Research.

Abstract. Deploying distinctions between ignorance of a proposition and ignorance that it is true, and between knowledge of a proposition and knowledge that it is true, I distinguish between propositional privacy and factive privacy. While the latter is limited to personal facts, the former encompasses personal falsehoods as well. I argue that propositional privacy is both broader and deeper than factive privacy, and accordingly that conceiving of the nature of privacy in terms of propositional privacy has important advantages over conceiving of it solely in terms of factive privacy. I draw similar lessons with regard to secrecy.

“Why the Standard Conception of Ignorance Prevails” (2013), Philosophia 41(1): 239-256.

Abstract. In this article, I continue a debate started in my 2011 Ignorance paper and continued in my 2012 Ignorance paper (see below) with the Dutch philosopher Rik Peels of the Free University of Amsterdam. I defend against Peels the Standard View of Ignorance according to which ignorance is the absence of knowledge. The article thus addresses a central (though neglected) topic in my field (epistemology) concerning how knowledge is related to ignorance.

"On Ignorance: A Vindication of the Standard View" (2012), Philosophia 40(2): 379-393.

Abstract. Rik Peels has once again forcefully argued that ignorance is not equivalent to the lack or absence of knowledge. In doing so, he endeavors to refute the Standard View of Ignorance according to which they are equivalent, and to advance what he calls the "New View" according to which ignorance is equivalent (merely) to the lack or absence of true belief. I defend the Standard View against this new attempted refutation.

"Healthy Skepticism and Practical Wisdom" (2011), Logos & Episteme II, 1: 87-102.

Abstract. This paper explores and articulates an alternative to the two main approaches that have come to predominate in contemporary philosophical discussions of skepticism. These may be called the 'Foil Approach' and the 'Bypass Approach' respectively. On the Foil Approach, skepticism is treated as a problem to be solved, or challenge to be met, or threat to be parried; skepticism's value, insofar as it deemed to have one, accrues from its role as foil contrastively illuminating what is required for knowledge or justified belief. On the Bypass Approach, skepticism is bypassed as a central concern of epistemology. In this paper, I articulate an alternative to both these approaches, one that explores when skepticism is healthy and when it is not. I call it the 'Health Approach' to skepticism.

"On Ignorance: A Reply to Peels" (2011), Philosophia 39(2): 335-344.

Abstract. Rik Peels has ingeniously argued that ignorance is not equivalent to the lack or absence of knowledge. In this response, I defend the "Standard View of Ignorance" according to which they are equivalent. In the course of doing so, some important lessons will emerge concerning the nature of ignorance and its relationship to knowledge.

"Knowledge, Ignorance, and True Belief" (2010), Theoria 76: 309-318.

Abstract. Suppose that knowledge and ignorance are complements in the sense of being mutually exclusive: for person S and fact p, either S knows that p or is ignorant that p. Understood in this way, ignorance amounts to a lack or absence of knowledge: S is ignorant that p if and only if it is not the case that S knows that p. Let us call the thesis that knowledge and ignorance are opposites the “Complement Thesis”. In this article, I discuss its deployment in an ingenious new argument advanced by Alvin Goldman and Erik Olsson (2009) which, if sound, establishes that there is a kind of knowledge that amounts to nothing more than true belief. I rebut their argument and in doing so delineate some important epistemological lessons brought to light by the contrast between ignorance and knowledge.

"Selfishness, Altruism, and our Future Selves" (2009), Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87(3): 409-424.

Abstract. In this article, I defend the thesis that selfishness and altruism can be intrapersonal. In doing so, I argue that the notions of intrapersonal altruism and selfishness usefully pick out behavioural patterns and have predictive value. I also argue that my thesis helps enrich our understanding of the prudential, and can subsume some interesting work in economic and psychological theory.

"Sensory Experience and Intentionalism" (2008), Philosophy Compass 3: 1-18.

Abstract. Increasingly prominent in the recent literature on the philosophy of perception, Intentionalism holds that sensory experience is inherently intentional, where to be intentional is to be about, or directed on, something. This article explores Intentionalism’s prospects as a viable ontological and epistemological alternative to the traditional trinity of theories of sensory experience: the Sense-Datum Theory, the Adverbial Theory, and the Theory of Appearing.

"Epistemic Means and Ends: A Reply to Hofmann" (online 2007, print 2008), Synthese 162: 252-264.

Abstract. How is epistemic justification related to knowledge? Is it, as widely thought, constitutive of knowledge? Is it merely a means to knowledge, or merely a means to something else, such as truth? In a recent article in this journal, Hofmann (2005) addresses these questions in attempting to defend an important argument articulated by Sartwell (1992) and reconstructed and criticized by Le Morvan (2002). This Sartwellian argument purported to show that, since epistemic justification is of merely instrumental value, it is not constitutive of knowledge.  In this paper, I argue that Hofmann’s defense of Sartwell fails, but that its failure brings to light some important lessons concerning the nature of justification and its relationship to truth and knowledge.

"A Metaphilosophical Dilemma for Epistemic Externalism" (2005), Metaphilosophy 36(5): 688-707.

Abstract. I argue that the extent of intersubjective disagreement in epistemology poses a serious problem for Epistemic Externalists. I put the problem in the form of a dilemma: either Epistemic Externalism is not a complete account of epistemic justification or it's implausible to claim that the belief that Epistemic Externalism is true is itself an externalistically justified belief.

"Medical Learning Curves and the Kantian Ideal," co-authored with Barbara Stock (2005), The Journal of Medical Ethics 31:513-518.

Abstract. This paper explores a hitherto unnoticed problem for the Kantian Ideal that medical practitioners should always treat patients as ends in themselves, and never only as a means to other ends. The problem consists of a prima facie conflict between this Kantian Ideal and the reality of medical practice. This conflict arises because, at the present time at least, medical practitioners can only acquire certain skills and abilities by practicing on live, human patients; and given the inevitability and ubiquity of learning curves, this learning requires some patients to be treated only as means to this end. We consider a number of ways of attempting to establish the compatibility of the Kantian Ideal with the reality of medical practice, and find each attempt to be unsuccessful. Accordingly, until a way is found to reconcile them, we are forced to conclude that the Kantian Ideal is inconsistent with the reality of medical practice.

"Intentionality: Transparent, Translucent, and Opaque" (2005), The Journal of Philosophical Research 30:283-302.

Abstract. Exploring intentionality from an externalist perspective, I distinguish three kinds of intentionality in the case of seeing, which I call transparent, translucent, and opaque respectively. I then extend the distinction from seeing to knowing, and then to believing. Having explicated the three-fold distinction, I then critically explore some important consequences that follow from granting that (i) there are transparent and translucent intentional states and (ii) these intentional states are mental states. These consequences include: first, that existential opacity is neither the mark of intentionality nor of the mental; second, that Sellars has not shown that all intentionality is non-relational; third, that a key Quinean argument for semantic indeterminacy rests on a false premise; fourth, that perceptual experience is intentional on Alston's Theory of Appearing, fifth, that either some mental causation is more than internal physiological causation or some mental states are epiphenomenal.

"Goldman on Knowledge as True Belief" (2005) Erkenntnis: An International Journal of Analytic Philosophy 62(2): 145-155.

Abstract. Alvin Goldman contends that, in addition to the familiar sense or use of the term 'knowledge' according to which knowledge is at least true justified belief, there is a weaker yet strict sense or use of the term 'knowledge' according to which knowledge amounts to nothing more than information-possession or mere true belief. In this paper, I argue that Goldman has failed to show that there is such a weaker sense, and that, even if he had shown this, he has not shown that this putative weaker sense is a strict one by his own criterion for strictness.

"Ramsey on Truth and Truth on Ramsey" (2004), The British Journal for the History of Philosophy 12(4): 705-718.

Abstract. According to the received interpretation, Frank Ramsey was the first to defend the so-called Redundancy Theory of Truth. I argue that Ramsey's views on truth were richer than those typically attributed to him. In so doing, I draw a distinction (hitherto unnoted in the literature on theories of truth and their history) between three kinds of Redundancy Theory. I argue that Ramsey's kind may usefully be seen as one intermediate between the Redundancy Theory of the received interpretation at one pole and W.E. Johnson's very different Redundancy Theory at the other.

"Arguments Against Direct Realism and How to Counter Them" (2004), The American Philosophical Quarterly 41(3): 221-234.

Abstract. Since the demise of the Sense-Datum Theory and Phenomenalism in the last century, Direct Realism in the philosophy of perception has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity. Although there have been attempts in the literature to refute some of the arguments against Direct Realism, there has been, as of yet, no systematic treatment of all eight of the main arguments against it. In this paper, I aim to fill this lacuna in the literature by discussing all eight of the main arguments against Direct Realism and the argumentative strategies Direct Realists may deploy to counter them.

"Plantinga on Warranted Christian Belief," co-authored with Dana Radcliffe (2003), The Heythrop Journal: A Quarterly Review of Philosophy and Theology 44(3): 345-351.

Abstract. In Warranted Christian Belief, Alvin Plantinga defends the intellectual respectability of Christian belief. Though sympathetic to his primary objective, we advance two objections which, while not impugning the truth of Christian belief, call into question the model's possibility. We argue, furthermore, that even if Plantinga had shown that Christian belief is warranted if true, the cognitive inaccessibility of the sort of warrant he proposes would mean that it would be of little or no value in defeating an important atheological challenge to the epistemic status of Christian belief.

"Is Mere True Belief Knowledge?" (2002), Erkenntnis: An International Journal of Analytic Philosophy 56(2): 151-168.

Abstract. Crispin Sartwell ingeniously defends the provocative thesis that mere true belief suffices for knowledge. In doing so, he thereby challenges one of the most deeply entrenched of epistemological tenets, namely that knowledge must be more than mere true belief. Particularly interesting is the way he defends his thesis by appealing to considerations adduced by such prominent epistemologists as William Alston, Laurence BonJour, Alvin Goldman and Paul Moser, each of whom denies that knowledge is merely true belief. In this paper, I argue that the case Sartwell presents for his thesis fails. However, by examining why it fails, we may derive at least four important epistemological lessons: (1) being justified does not entail being able to give a justification; (2) we should distinguish between epistemic justification conceived of as intrinsically conducive to truth and conceived of as extrinsically conducive to truth; (3) we should distinguish between epistemic justification conceived of as an essential criterion of knowledge and conceived of as an accidental criterion of knowledge; and (4) epistemologists need to specify how the telos of inquiry involves more than the acquisition of (merely) true beliefs.

"The Converse Consequence Condition and Hempelian Qualitative Confirmation" (1999), Philosophy of Science 66(3): 448-455.

Abstract. In this paper, I critically discuss the Converse Consequence Condition (CCC), a principle of qualitative confirmation. The reasons adduced so far in the confirmation literature for rejecting the CCC depend on accepting one or both of two other principles of qualitative confirmation: the Entailment Condition (EC) and the Special Consequence Condition (SCC). After reviewing these reasons, I argue for a conclusion heretofore unnoted in the confirmation literature, namely, that the CCC is inductively problematic independently of the SCC and/or the EC.

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