Sunday, May 17, 2015

"The Backward Clock, Truth-Tracking and Safety" in Journal of Philosophy

I got some good news a little while ago from the Journal of Philosophy, which accepted "The Backward Clock, Truth-Tracking and Safety", a note from me and fellow Singapore philosopher John Williams.

There's a wacky story behind the paper. 2012 was my first time teaching intro epistemology, and I wanted a new Gettier case on the exam. So I modified the old stopped clock case so that the clock was running backwards, and asked the students what Nozick's truth-tracking view of knowledge said about it. I expected Nozick's view to correctly say that it wasn't knowledge. But as I graded, students showed me that Nozick's view incorrectly treated your belief about the time as knowledge! So I went back and re-graded all the papers I'd already graded. I was generous, because I'd messed it up too.

That would've been the end of it if my student Bernadette Chin hadn't talked about the case with his student Min Ying Lee, who discussed it with him. John (who teaches at Singapore Management University) emailed Weng Hong since he usually teaches epistemology, and then the message came to me. Soon John was telling me that he was abandoning Nozick's view because of the example, and I should write a paper on it! But I've never written anything about this, so I suggested co-authoring. To my surprise, he sent me a short Analysis-length version of the paper a few weeks later.

Two years later, we're revising this for our JPhil R&R and watching it cut through every analysis of knowledge we put in front of it. Every safety condition we've found in the literature is useless against this stupid clock! You can check it out and tell us what you think.

Section 1 has the backward clock example. Section 2 of the paper displays John's mastery of the literature; you'll see more of my handiwork in the basis-related stuff in section 3. When you're a young guy doing creative stuff outside your area, it's nice to have a co-author who published his first epistemology paper before you were born. 


Tristan Haze said...

This is really cool!

I fairly recently became a supplier on the truth-tracking counterexample market with this blog post. I should try to see how it fares with safety accounts, and your paper will help me with this since it handily gathers a bunch of other analyses.

Neil Sinhababu said...

Wow, yeah, we're doing some very similar things! Thanks for showing me the post.