Pragmatic Encroachment: Its Problems are Your Problems

Matthew McGrath

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The thesis of pragmatic encroachment about knowledge holds that whether a subject knows that p can vary due to differences in practical stakes, holding fixed the strength of the subject’s epistemic position with respect to p. Strength of epistemic position is a matter of the subject’s standing on purely epistemic factors such as whether one’s true belief is reliably formed, safe, based on evidence giving it a certain high probability. Accepting pragmatic encroachment about knowledge brings with it a significant explanatory burden: if knowledge varies like this with the stakes, why does knowledge show so many signs of staying fixed with variations in the stakes? This paper argues that explanatory burdens of this general kind are harder to avoid than is commonly thought: even if you deny the stakes-sensitivity of knowledge, you will be stuck accepting the stakes-sensitivity of other statuses which, like knowledge, show the same signs of staying fixed with variations in the stakes. In this paper, I discuss two such statuses: reason-worthiness (i.e., being sufficiently warranted in a proposition p to have p as a practical reason) and emotion-worthiness (i.e., being sufficiently warranted in a proposition p appropriately to have factive emotions that p). If I am right, then, we’re all stuck with the explanatory burdens faced by pragmatic encroachment theorists, and in that sense the problems of pragmatic encroachment are everyone’s problems.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNormativity: Epistemic and Practical
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages16
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 20 Jul 2016


  • pragmatic encroachment
  • knowledge
  • reasons
  • Reasoning


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