The literature on perception and skepticism can be helpfully organized around two skeptical arguments: closure arguments and underdetermination arguments. Where H = I have hands and ~BIV = I am not a handless brain in a vat, one familiar closure argument proceeds as follows:
(1) If I am justified in believing H, then I am justified in believing ~BIV.
(2) But I am not justified in believing ~BIV.
(3) So, I am not justified in believing H.
The popular response is to reject (2). According to liberal Mooreans, (2) is false because one’s perceptual experience gives one immediate justification for H and thus mediate justification for ~BIV (by closure). According to conservatives, we lack immediate perceptual justification for H. Non-skeptical conservatives reject (2) by arguing that our justification for H partly consists in some antecedent justification for ~BIV. According to some non-skeptical conservatives, the antecedent justification is an a priori entitlement. According to others, the justification is inferential—say, an abductive argument from the patterning of our perceptual experience to the probable truth of our perceptual beliefs. While liberal Mooreanism and conservatism are often taken to be the only ways to deny (2), the liberal rationalism of Silins (2008) affords a subtle compromise.
Some other important work in the literature on perception and skepticism responds to the following underdetermination argument:
(A) I have the same perceptual evidence whether ~BIV or BIV is true.
(B) So, my evidence does not favor believing ~BIV over BIV.
(C) But if (B) is true, then I am not justified in believing H.
(D) So, I am not justified in believing H.
Epistemological disjunctivists reject (A). Although epistemological disjunctivism has gained adherents in recent years, it is not a majority view. Most epistemologists reject either (C) or the inference from (A) to (B). Some externalists reject (C) by denying that justification supervenes on evidence and holding that non-evidential factors justify our belief in H. Some conservatives reject the move from (A) to (B) by insisting that there is a non-skeptical alternative to BIV that better explains one’s perceptual evidence.
Key works. The locus classicus of liberal Mooreanism is Moore (1939). A key contemporary liberal Moorean is Pryor (2000, 2004). Wright (2002, 2004) is a central conservative who appeals to entitlement. Vogel (1990) is a major conservative who appeals to abduction. Iconic epistemological disjunctivists include McDowell (1982, 2008) and Pritchard (2012); key critics include Comesaña (2005) and Conee (2007).
Introductions. Fumerton (1985), Pryor (2000) and Huemer (2001) serve as great introductions to skeptical issues in the epistemology of perception. BonJour (2007) and Siegel and Silins (forthcoming) provide introductory discussions of skeptical problems in connection with other issues in the epistemology of perception. Millar (2008) offers an overview of the literature on epistemological disjunctivism and skepticism. Brueckner (1994) clarifies the relationship between the closure and underdetermination arguments.
- Discriminability (53)
- Dogmatism about Perception (31)
- Epistemic and Non-epistemic Perception (27)
- Naive and Direct Realism (158)
- Perceptual Evidence (27)
- Perceptual Justification (138)
- Perception and Knowledge, Misc (112)
- Sense-Datum Theories (217)
- Speckled Hen Problem (0)
- The Given (84)
Graduate studies at Western
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David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Catarina Dutilh Novaes
Jack Alan Reynolds
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