Shedding Light on Keeping People in the Dark

Don Fallis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We want to keep hackers in the dark about our passwords and our credit card numbers. We want to keep potential eavesdroppers in the dark about our private communications with friends and business associates. This need for secrecy raises important questions in epistemology (how do we do it?) and in ethics (should we do it?). In order to answer these questions, it would be useful to have a good understanding of the concept of keeping someone in the dark. Several philosophers (e.g., Bok, 1983; Carson, 2010; Mahon, 2009; Scheppele, 1988) have analyzed this concept (or, equivalently, the concept of keeping secrets) in terms of concealing and/or withholding information. However, their analyses incorrectly exclude clear instances of keeping someone in the dark. And more important, they incorrectly focus on possible means of keeping someone in the dark rather than on what it is to keep someone in the dark. In this paper, I argue that you keep X in the dark about a proposition P if and only if you intentionally cause X not to have a true belief that P. In addition, I show how this analysis of keeping someone in the dark can be extended from a categorical belief model of epistemic states to a credence (or degree of belief) model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)535-554
Number of pages20
JournalTopics in Cognitive Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • Concealing information
  • Conceptual analysis
  • Credences
  • Deception
  • Epistemic goals
  • Secrecy
  • Withholding information

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence


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