External world skepticism

Philosophy Compass 2 (4):625–649 (2007)
Recent literature in epistemology has focused on the following argument for skepticism (SA): I know that I have two hands only if I know that I am not a handless brain in a vat. But I don't know I am not a handless brain in a vat. Therefore, I don't know that I have two hands. Part I of this article reviews two responses to skepticism that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s: sensitivity theories and attributor contextualism. Part II considers the more recent ‘neo-Moorean’ response to skepticism and its development in ‘safety’ theories of knowledge. Part III argues that the skeptical argument set out in SA is not of central importance. Specifically, SA is parasitic on skeptical reasoning that is more powerful and more fundamental than that displayed by SA itself. Finally, Part IV reviews a Pyrrhonian argument for skepticism that is not well captured by SA, and considers a promising strategy for responding to it.
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