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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-P064-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2017
Retrieved June 18, 2024, from

Article Summary

In almost any domain of endeavour, successes can be attained through skill, but also by dumb luck. An archer’s wildest shots occasionally hit the target. Against enormous odds, some fair lottery tickets happen to win. The same goes in the case of purely cognitive or intellectual endeavours. As inquirers, we characteristically aim to believe truly rather than falsely, and to attain such standings as knowledge and understanding. Sometimes such aims are attained with commendable competence, but of course, not always. Epistemic luck is a species of luck which features in circumstances where a given cognitive success – in the broadest sense, some form of cognitive contact with reality – is attained in a manner that is (in some to-be-specified sense) interestingly lucky – viz., chancy, accidental or beyond our control. In the paradigmatic case, this involves the formation of a belief that is luckily true, and where the subject plausibly deserves little credit for having got things right. Although the literature on epistemic luck has focused predominantly on the relationship between luck and propositional knowledge – which is widely taken to (in some sense) exclude luck – epistemologists are increasingly exploring the compatibility of epistemic luck with other kinds of epistemic standings, such as knowledge-how and understanding.

Citing this article:
Broncano-Berrocal, Fernando and J. Adam Carter. Epistemic Luck, 2017, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-P064-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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