Safety's Coordination Problems

Julien Dutant, Sven Rosenkranz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The safety conception of knowledge holds that a belief constitutes knowledge iff relevantly similar beliefs—its epistemic counterparts—are true. It promises an instructive account of why certain general principles of knowledge hold. We focus on two such principles that anyone should endorse: the closure principle that knowledge is downward closed under competent conjunction elimination, and the counter-closure principle that knowledge is upward closed under competent conjunction introduction. We argue that anyone endorsing the former must also endorse the latter on pains of an unacceptable form of bootstrapping. We devise new formal models to identify necessary and sufficient conditions for these principles to hold on conceptions that construe knowledge in terms of true counterparts. These conditions state that counterparts of premise and conclusion beliefs are coordinated in certain ways whenever these beliefs stand in the relevant inferential relations. We show that the safety conception faces insuperable problems vindicating these coordination principles, because its epistemic counterpart relation is symmetric. We conclude that it thus proves unable to account for minimal closure properties of knowledge. More generally, our formal results establish parameters within which any conception must operate that construes knowledge in terms of true counterparts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1317-1343
Number of pages27
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2024

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