Contextualism and global doubts about the world

Synthese 129 (3):381 - 404 (2001)
Abstract
Several recent contextualist theorists (e.g. David Lewis, Michael Williams, andKeith DeRose) have proposed contextualizing the skeptic. Their claim is that oneshould view satisfactory answers to global doubts regarding such subjects as theexternal world, other minds, and induction as requirements for justification incertain philosophical contexts, but not in everyday and scientific contexts. Incontrast, the skeptic claims that a satisfactory answer to a global doubt in eachof these areas is a context-invariant requirement for justified belief. In this paper,I consider and reject the arguments Michael Williams develops in his bookUnnatural Doubts that are intended to show that the skeptic's interpretationof the significance of global doubts is mistaken. In addition, I argue that Williams'general strategy in opposing the skeptic is extremely interesting and worth furtherinvestigation, even if his particular execution of it is unsuccessful. To this end, Iclarify the general strategy, distinguish it from a variety of others, and discuss itsprospects as an answer to the skeptic.
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