Should have known

Sanford C. Goldberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


In this paper I will be arguing that there are cases in which a subject, S, should have known that p, even though, given her state of evidence at the time, she was in no position to know it. My argument for this result will involve making two claims. The uncontroversial claim is this: S should have known that p when (one) another person has, or would have, legitimate expectations regarding S’s epistemic condition, (two) the satisfaction of these expectations would require that S knows that p, and (three) S fails to know that p. The controversial claim is that these three conditions are sometimes jointly satisfied. I will spend the majority of my time defending the controversial claim. I will argue that there are (at least) two main sources of legitimate expectations regarding another’s epistemic condition: participation in a legitimate social practice (where one’s role entitles others to expect things of one); and moral and epistemic expectations more generally (the institutions of morality and epistemic assessment being such as to entitle us to expect various things of one another). In developing my position on this score, I will have an opportunity (i) to defend the doctrine that there are “practice-generated entitlements” to expect certain things, where it can happen that the satisfaction of these expectations requires another’s having certain pieces of knowledge; (ii) to contrast practice-generated entitlements to expect with epistemic reasons to believe; (iii) to defend the idea that moral and epistemic standards themselves can be taken to reflect legitimate expectations we have of each other; (iv) to compare the “should have known” phenomenon with a widely-discussed phenomenon in the ethics literature—that of culpable ignorance; and finally (v) to suggest the bearing of the “should have known” phenomenon to epistemology itself (in particular, the theory of epistemic justification).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2863-2894
Number of pages32
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • Culpable ignorance
  • Entitlement
  • Epistemic norm
  • Normative defeater
  • Reasons
  • Responsibility
  • Should have known

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • General Social Sciences


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