SS: Reviews from NDPR


Aaron Rizzieri, Pragmatic Encroachment, Religious Belief, and Practice, Palgrave MacMillan, 2013, 167pp, $95.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781137009401.

Reviewed by Justin P. McBrayer, Fort Lewis College

Suppose you and your spouse pack up the car and leave for a vacation. On your way out of the driveway, you have the following conversation:

Spouse: Did you remember to turn the stove off after breakfast?

You: Yes.

Spouse: You know you forgot to turn it off the other day. If we leave it on over our vacation, our house will burn down.

You: You’re right. I’d better go back and check.

Epistemically speaking, what happened in this scenario? One plausible analysis is as follows. Under ordinary circumstances, you know claims like ‘my stove is turned off’. But it would make little sense to go back to the house to verify something that you already knew to be the case, and so in cases like this where the cost of being mistaken rises significantly, your knowledge is lost. This, in a nutshell, is the claimed insight of pragmatic encroachment.

‘Pragmatic encroachment’ denotes a range of views united in claiming that the conditions under which true belief counts as knowledge include at least some pragmatic conditions. In other words, practical considerations are “encroaching” upon the territory traditionally occupied by truth-directed conditions on knowledge. What you know or are justified in believing may depend on the existential import of such beliefs.

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