Waldomiro José Silva Filho[1]

Marcos Antonio Alves[2]


It is with great happiness and honor that we present this special issue of Trans/Form/Ação: Unesp journal of philosophy in honor of Ernest Sosa. One of the most influential voices in the contemporary philosophy, Ernest Sosa was born in Cárdenas, Cuba, on June 17, 1940. He earned his Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Master of Arts (M.A.) from the University of Miami and his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) from the University of Pittsburgh in 1964. Since 2007, he has been Board of Governors Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University.

There is no doubt that Sosa is responsible for one of the revolution in Epistemology that will mark the history of philosophy. However, he also opened new paths in several central issues of philosophy, such as Metaphysics, Philosophy of Language and Philosophy of Mind.

In 2020, the world philosophical community on all continents joined with his close friends and family to celebrate Ernie’s 80th birthday. Dozens of publications, books, journals, and webinars were held, even amidst the humanitarian devastation of the pandemic. The journal Trans/Form/Ação joins this celebration and makes the present tribute to Ernest Sosa. We do this in recognition of the great influence of his work on philosophical culture in Brazil and Latin America.

This special issue gathers contributions by Brazilian philosophers and others that deal mainly with epistemological themes. Initially, Waldomiro José Silva Filho pays tribute in honor of Sosa, writing a text entitled “Ernest Sosa: a philosophy for the 21st century”.

We open this special issue just with a Sosa paper, entitled “Representations, judgments, and the swamping problem for reliabilism: why the problem applies to process reliabilism, but not to virtue reliabilism”. In this this article, our honoree argues for a way out of the swamping problem by showing where his virtue epistemology substantially departs from traditional process reliabilism and how such departure is enough to protect the former from issues that affect the way the latter accounts for the value of knowledge over mere true belief. Breno R. G. Santos comments this paper.

Juan Comesaña writes the second article: “An appraisal of the evolution of some of the main themes in Sosa’s epistemology”. In this article, Comesaña suggests to trace the evolution of three central concepts in Sosa’s epistemology: the distinction between animal and reflective knowledge, closure principles, and the safety condition. The author remember that these three planks played a central role in the early presentations of Sosa’s epistemology, but have recently undergone interesting changes.

In third place we publish “Sosa, general assumptions, and the skeptical Trojan Horse”, by Modesto Gómez-Alonso. According to Gómez-Alonso, for many hinge epistemologists, general, background assumptions are principles that help providing default or presumptive justification to our empirical beliefs. However, the “blanketing” nature of a priori arguments to the end of supporting the rationality of general assumptions might be seen as the Trojan horse through which radical scepticism threatens the common sense picture of the world. Sosa’s recent distinction between background presuppositions and domain-defining conditions, as well as his claim that agents are not negligent for dismissing global scenarios as irrelevant to epistemic normativity, are instrumental to avoid an epistemic construal of über hinges, and thus, to a reassessment of the function they really perform in regards to ordinary practices of judgment.

João Carlos Salles signs the article “A gnoseologia segundo Ernest Sosa”. For Salles, Sosa emphasizes the difference between the theory of knowledge (or, simply, gnoseology) and intellectual ethics, within an epistemology. Indeed, such a distinction acquires strategic importance in his work, serving well the characterization of the tasks of his unique epistemology of virtues, particularly in its most recent, improved and telic version. Salles explores the meaning proper of a gnoseology adjusted to a reliabilist view. The author aims at showing how this taxonomic requirement is also associated with the analysis of the telic normativity of human performances, through which Sosa offers a unified response to the two classic Platonic questions on the nature and the value of knowledge, as well as to the challenges posed by Gettier’s problem. For such a response, he will thus tries to show, it is relevant to examine the relationship between the notions of “performance” and “luck,” as applied to the evaluation of the phenomenon of knowledge.

Florencia Rimoldi presents “Epistemología del desempeño e intrusión pragmática: algunas conexiones generales aplicadas a la teoría de Sosa”. Rimoldi explores the connections between two salient positions in contemporary epistemology: Performance-based epistemology and pragmatic encroachment in epistemology, paying special attention to Sosa’s theory of knowledge and the arguments put forward by Jason Stanley (in his Knowledge and Practical Interests) and Jeremy Fantl and Matthew McGrath (in the Knowledge in an Uncertain World). In the first section, the author reviews both positions. In the second section, she tries to answer a question that has been barely explored in the literature on virtues: Can a performance-based theory make room for pragmatic encroachment? Rimoldi claims that there are at least two ways in which this could occur. In the third section she takes Sosa’s discussion on the topic of pragmatic encroachment found in chapter eight of the Sosa’s Judgment and Agency; she argues that while Sosa’s rejection of pragmatic encroachment forces him to assume unnecessarily deep theoretical problems that are hard to solve, his theory can accommodate pragmatic encroachment in a natural way.

The sixth article, written in Portuguese, is “Externalizando a reflexão”, by Ernesto Perini-Santos. The main problem for externalism in epistemology, says Perini-Santos, is to avoid making knowledge the result of processes of which the subject herself is unaware. Sosa accommodates this demand in his theories, but some tensions remain. As we try to understand how we think about our own beliefs, we find mechanisms that are external to the subject and cannot be internalized. The externalization of knowledge has a very large scope. A person who accepts only what she can prove is someone who refuses a large body of human knowledge. For a layperson – that is, for everyone, in some domain or other –, to assume what is the product of culture is to accept contents that remain opaque. The externalization of knowledge is a deep feature of human culture. It is maybe less usual to connect the evolution of culture with traditional concerns in epistemology.

“Memory and reflection” by Chienkuo Mi is presented in seventh place. Guadalupe Reinoso comments this article. In this article, the author establishes an encounter between Sosa’s epistemology and traditional Chinese thought. Chienkuo Mi has argued that the Analects of Confucius presents us with a conception of reflection with two components, a retrospective component and a perspective component. The former component involves hindsight or careful examination of the past and as such draws on previous learning or memory and previously formed beliefs to avoid error. The latter component is foresight, or forward looking, and as such looks to existing beliefs and factors in order to achieve knowledge. In this paper, the author raises the problem of forgetting and argues that most of contemporary theories of knowledge have to face the problem and deal with the challenge seriously. In order to solve the problem, Mi suggests a bi-level virtue epistemology, which can provide us with the best outlook for the problem-solving. He correlates two different cognitive capacities or processes of “memory” (and “forgetting”) with the conception of reflection, and evaluate them under two different frameworks, a strict deontic framework (one that presupposes free and intentional determination) and a more loosely deontic framework (one that highlights functional and mechanical faculties). Mi aims to show that reflection as meta-cognition plays an important and active role and enjoys a better epistemic (normative) status in our human endeavors (cognitive or epistemic) than those of first-order (or animal) cognition, such as memory, can play.

Ana Margarete Barbosa de Freitas e Felipe Rocha Lima Santos write “A brief discussion of the empirical plausibility of the reflective epistemic agency”. This paper aims to discuss one specific feature of Sosa’s performance epistemology, which is what we call Reflective Epistemic Agency. The authors argue that Sosa defends a problematic version of epistemic agency on its reflective level. They contrast Sosa’s idea of reflective epistemic agency with Proust’s theory of metacognition to argue that the argument in favor of Reflective Epistemic Agency may lack some empirical plausibility, thus, it should be either revised or abandoned.

We finish this issue presenting another article in Portuguese: “A relação entre competência epistêmica e conhecimento na teoria de Ernest Sosa”, by Kátia M. Etcheverry. The author focuses on the attribution relation between competence and true belief present in epistemic virtue accounts of knowledge such as Sosa’s theory. The core idea is that in cases of knowledge the fact that the agent gets a true belief is attributable to her cognitive competence, and not to some lucky factor. Critics have presented cases where, purportedly, the agent can either have knowledge without satisfying the competence condition (therefore, the competence condition would not be necessary for knowledge), or, despite the satisfaction of the competence condition, the agent has no knowledge (therefore, the competence condition would not be sufficient for knowledge). The crux of the matter lies in how to conceive properly the competence condition for knowledge, and the underlying relationship between competence and success in the epistemic domain. Etcheverry explores Sosa’s view of this relationship in terms of “cognitive success that manifests the agent’s competence”, and proposes that it provides a more direct answer to the critics than do other epistemic virtue accounts of knowledge.

With these nine papers, we close our tribute to Sosa. With this manifestation, Trans/Form/Ação expresses its recognition of the great value of Ernest Sosa’s oeuvre. We hope that this academic contribution can also help to improve the philosophical issues and problems investigated by our honoree. Thanks professor Sosa!


Received: 20/4/2021


Approved: 25/4/2021


[1] Full Professor at the Philosophy Department of Federal University of Bahia (UFBA), Salvador, BA – Brazil. Researcher of the CNPq, Brazil. ORCID: E-mail:

[2] Editor da Trans/Form/Ação: Unesp journal of Philosophy. Professor at the Philosophy Department of and Coordinator of Post Graduation Program in Philosophy – São Paulo State University (UNESP), Marília, SP – Brazil. Researcher of the CNPq. ORCID: E-mail: marcos.a.alves@unesp. br.