Hegel's Solution to the Dilemma of the Criterion

[Revised version.] Contemporary epistemologists, including Chisholm, Moser, Alston and Fogelin, have over-simplified Pyrrhonian scepticism and in particular Sextus Empiricus’ Dilemma of the Criterion. I argue that the central methodological problem Hegel addresses in the Introduction to the Phenomenology of Spirit is the ‘Dilemma of the Criterion’, which purports to show that no criterion for distinguishing truth from falsehood can be established. I show that the Dilemma is especially pressing for any epistemology which, like Hegel’s, rejects ‘knowledge by acquaintance’, aims to avoid dogmatism and retains a realist, correspondence conception of truth. Hegel’s response to the Dilemma appears to beg the question. I argue that careful disambiguation of some of Hegel’s key phrases shows that he developed a sophisticated response to this Dilemma which avoides petitio principii. On Hegel’s view, the internal coherence of a ‘form of consciousness’ (explained in the essay) entails that the principle conceptions of knowledge and of the objects of knowledge comprised by that ‘form of consciousness’ are true of actual knowledge and of the actual objects of knowledge. I indicate why this criterion can be made to work at the broad categorial level of Hegel’s inquiry although it does not apply directly to problems of theory selection faced in philosophy of science. [Original, shorter version published in: The History of Philosophy Quarterly 5.2 (1988):173–188.]
Keywords Pyrrhonian Dilemma of the Criterion  Internal critique  Possibility of Self-Criticism  Possibility of Knowledge  Sextus Empiricus  Roderick Chisholm  Paul Moser  William P Alston  Robert Fogelin  Criteria of truth
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