How to resolve the pyrrhonian problematic: A lesson from Descartes [Book Review]

Philosophical Studies 85 (2-3):229-249 (1997)
A main epistemic problematic, found already in Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, presents a threefold choice on how a belief may be justified: either through infinitely regressive reasoning, or through circular reasoning, or through reasoning resting ultimately on some foundation. Aristotle himself apparently takes the foundationalist option when he argues that rational intuition is a foundational source of scientific knowledge. The five modes of Agrippa, which pertain to knowledge generally, again pose the same problematic, the “Pyrrhonian” problematic. And here Galen and the Stoics also opt for foundations. Sections I and II below explore that foundationalist option. Section III draws some lessons. And Section IV uses these to interpret Descartes. I argue that Descartes shows us the way beyond the Pyrrhonian problematic, although his way is not that traditionally attributed to him. On these basic issues of epistemology, Descartes is no Cartesian.
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