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“Knowledge As a Non-factive Mental State” - Mouhamadou El Hady BA (Cheikh Anta Diop University, Senegal/University of Connecticut)

Mouhamadou El Hady BA
Mouhamadou El Hady BA
University of Connecticut & Cheikh Anta Diop University
Peabody Hall, Room 115
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In this talk I will defend Williamson's contention that knowing is a mental state but will argue that such a mental state cannot be factive. I will first develop a mini-formalism showing that to establish knowledge as a factive mental state, not only must Williamson abandon the luminosity thesis of as he is willing to do; but also should he adopt the stronger thesis according to which we are never able to distinguish between what we know and what we think we know. 

This formalization applies differently depending on whether one is an internalist or an externalist. Within an internalist framework, the falsification of Williamson's view is straight: we cannot argue that knowing is a factive mental state without being vulnerable to the simplest skeptical objection. If one is an externalist, the refutation is less striking. An externalist must provide a mechanism for regular covariation between the world and our factive mental states if he doesn't want to sink into skepticism. I will argue that providing such a mechanism is impossible.

Two problems arise if we accept, as I propose to do, that knowledge is a non factive mental state. First there is a problem with the nature of this mental state and second that of the relationship between knowledge and justification. To solve these problems, I will build on Robert Demolombe modal logic formalization of belief and knowledge and on psychological work on metacognition to explain why the illusion of factivity arise and why it is important for the development of scientific practice. 


Mouhamadou El Hady Ba is the head of the Philosophy Department at Cheikh Anta Diop University’s Teachers College (Senegal) and an Associate Research Scholar in the Philosophy Department of the University of Connecticut at Storrs.

Dr. Ba holds a PhD in Cognitive Science from The Jean Nicod Institute in Paris and is a former Fulbright Research Scholar affiliated with UConn’s Philosophy Department and The IAS at Columbia University. He’s been an Invited Professor at the EHESS in Paris, an invited Researcher at the University of Turin, and an International Supporting Faculty at the School of Collective Intelligence of Mohamed 6 Polytechnique University in Morocco. 

Dr. Ba has published research papers in Linguistics, Epistemology, Psychology and Political Philosophy. He’scurrently finishing a book about the so-called ‘epistemologies from the South.’ and has an ongoing project on animal cognition, comparing human and non-human cognition.

During the pandemics, Dr. Ba was a member of the International Collaboration on the Social & Moral Psychology (ICSMP) of COVID-19 that brought together more than 250 scholars from around the globe to examine psychological factors underlying the attitudes and behavioral intentions related to COVID19.

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