This radical reading of Wittgenstein's third and last masterpiece, On Certainty, has major implications for philosophy. It elucidates Wittgenstein's ultimate thoughts on the nature of our basic beliefs and his demystification of scepticism. Our basic certainties are shown to be nonepistemic, nonpropositional attitudes that, as such, have no verbal occurrence but manifest themselves exclusively in our actions. This fundamental certainty is a belief-in, a primitive confidence or ur-trust whose practical nature bridges the hitherto unresolved categorial gap between belief (...) and action. (shrink)
As is well known, Wittgenstein pointed out an asymmetry between first- and third-person psychological statements: the first, unlike the latter, involve observation or a claim to knowledge and are constitutionally open to uncertainty. In this paper, I challenge this asymmetry and Wittgenstein's own affirmation of the constitutional uncertainty of third-person psychological statements, and argue that Wittgenstein ultimately did too. I first show that, on his view, most of our third-person psychological statements are noncognitive; they stem from a subjective certainty: (...) a certainty which, though not the result of an epistemic process, is not invulnerable to error in that it is a kind of assumption. I then trace Wittgenstein's realization that some third-person psychological certainties are not merely subjective but 'objective' (which means, as he uses the word, that they are logically indubitable): in some cases, we can be as logically certain that someone else is in pain than we are about ourselves being in pain. This positively reinforces Wittgenstein's rebuttal of other mind scepticism. I conclude with a response to objections about the legitimacy of calling an assurance that is logical (i.e., that does not have uncertainty or doubt on its flipside) a 'certainty', by suggesting that the flipside is to be found in pathological cases, and most pertinently here, in cases of dyssemia: a rare disorder affecting the ability to properly express or recognize basic physical expressions of feeling. (shrink)
Ludwig Wittgenstein's On Certainty was finished just before his death in 1951 and is a running commentary on three of G.E. Moore's greatest epistemological papers. In the early 1930s, Moore had written a lengthy commentary on Wittgenstein, anticipating some of the issues Wittgenstein would discuss in On Certainty. The philosophical relationship between these two great philosophers and their overlapping, but nevertheless differing, views is the subject of this book. Both defended the existence of certainty and thus opposed (...) any form of skepticism. However, their defenses and conceptions of certainty differed widely, as did their understanding of the nature of skepticism and how best to combat it. Stroll's book contains a careful and critical analysis of their differing approaches to a set of fundamental epistemological problems. (shrink)
This anthology is the first devoted exclusively to On Certainty. The essays are grouped under four headings: the Framework, Transcendental, Epistemic and Therapeutic readings, and an introduction helps explain why these readings need not be seen as antagonistic. Contributions from W.H. Brenner, Alice Crary, Michael Kober, Edward Minar, Howard Mounce, Daniele Moyal-Sharrock, Thomas Morawetz, D.Z. Phillips, Duncan Pritchard, Rupert Read, Anthony Rudd, Joachim Schulte, Avrum Stroll, Michael Williams.
Most philosophers, including all materialists I know of, believe that I am a complex thing?a thing with parts?and that my mental life is (or is a result of) the interaction of these parts. These philosophers often believe that I am a body or a brain, and my mental life is (or is a product of) brain activity. In this paper, I develop and defend a novel argument against this view. The argument turns on certainty, that highest epistemic status that (...) a precious few of our beliefs enjoy. For example, on the basis of introspection, I am certain that I am not in fierce pain right now. But if I am a complex thing like a body or a brain, then introspection might be a causal series of events extended in time. And any such process could go awry. So, if introspection is such a process, then I could gain good evidence that the introspective process has gone awry and that I am, contrary to appearances, feeling fierce pain right now. Therefore, the view that I am a complex thing like a body or a brain forces open the possibility that I cannot be certain that I am not feeling fierce pain right now. Since that is clearly not an open possibility, it follows that I am not a complex thing. I conclude by responding to three objections. (shrink)
In On Certainty, Wittgenstein’s reflections bring into view the phenomenon of basic certainty. He explores this phenomenon mostly in relation to our certainty with regard to empirical states of affairs. Drawing on these seminal observations and reflections, I extend the inquiry into what I call “basic moral certainty”, arguing that the latter plays the same kind of foundational role in our moral practices and judgements as basic empirical certainty does in our epistemic practices and judgements. (...) I illustrate the nature and significance of basic moral certainty via critical examination of contemporary philosophical “explanations” of the wrongness of killing. These pseudo explanations, as I show them to be, will be seen to founder in a similar manner to Moore’s “Proof” of an external world, that is, in a manner that discloses the phenomenon of basic (moral) certainty. (shrink)
While Cavell is well known for his reinterpretation of the later Wittgenstein, he has never really engaged himself with post-Investigations writings like On Certainty. This collection may, however, seem to undermine the profoundly anti-dogmatic reading of Wittgenstein that Cavell has developed. In addition to apparently arguing against what Cavell calls ‘the truth of skepticism’ – a phrase contested by other Wittgensteinians – On Certainty may seem to justify the rejection of whoever dares to question one’s basic presuppositions. According (...) to On Certainty, or so it seems, the only right response to someone with different certainties is a reproach like ‘Fool!’ or ‘Heretic!’. This article aims to show that On Certainty need not be taken to prove Cavell wrong. It explains that Wittgenstein, in line with the first two parts of The Claim of Reason, does not reject scepticism out of hand but rather questions the sceptic’s self-understanding. Using arguments from Part Three of The Claim, the article moreover argues that a confrontation with divergence calls for self-examination rather than self-righteousness. Precisely because Wittgenstein acknowledges ‘the groundlessness of our believing’ or, in Cavellian terms, ‘the truth of skepticism’, he is not the authoritarian thinker that some have taken him to be. (shrink)
Giaquinto’s book is a philosophical examination of how the search for certainty was carried out within the philosophy of mathematics from the late nineteenth to roughly the mid-twentieth century. It is also a good introduction to the philosophy of mathematics and the views expressed in the body of the book, in addition to being thorough and stimulating, seem generally undisputable. Some doubts, however, could be raised about the concluding remarks concerning the present situation in the philosophy of mathematics, specifically (...) Zermelo's iterative concept of set as a foundation for set theory, Simpson's reverse mathematics, Feferman’s Predicativist Programme, and the cognitive foundations of mathematics. (shrink)
Hume appeals to different kinds of certainties and necessities in the Treatise. He contrasts the certainty that arises from intuition and demonstrative reasoning with the certainty that arises from causal reasoning. He denies that the causal maxim is absolutely or metaphysically necessary, but he nonetheless takes the causal maxim and ‘proofs’ to be necessary. The focus of this paper is the certainty and necessity involved in Hume’s concept of knowledge. I defend the view that intuitive certainty, (...) in particular, is certainty of the invariability or necessity of relations between ideas. Against David Owen and Helen Beebee, I argue that the certainty involved in intuition depends on the activity of the mind. I argue, further, that understanding this activity helps us understand more clearly one of Hume’s most important theses, namely that experience is the source of a distinct kind of certainty and of necessity. (shrink)
In this paper, I propose a comparison between some widely accepted Quinian views and Ludwig Wittgenstein's remarks on the logical and the empirical in On Certainty. While Quine's perspective and Wittgenstein's aare not thorougly dissimilar (so that the question of which influence Wittgenstein's thought might have had on the thought of some contemporary philosopher like Quine is both interesting and relevant), there is at least one important difference between them. I submit that Wittgenstein's view on this crucial distinction are (...) more general but ultimately more plausible than the nowadays popular Quinian view. (shrink)
If we agree, along with Arnauld, Berkeley, Descartes, Hume, Leibniz, and others that our occurrent phenomenal states serve as sources of epistemic certainty for us, we need some explanation of this fact. Many contemporary writers, most notably Roderick Chisholm, maintain that there is something special about the phenomenal states themselves that allows our certain knowledge of them. I argue that Chisholm's view is both wrong and irreparable, and that the capacity of humans to know these states with certainty (...) has to do with the contingent cognitive capacities and abilities people have. (shrink)
In this paper Peter Klein's criticism of Wittgenstein in "Certainty: A Refutation of Scepticism" is addressed. Klein claims that, according to Wittgenstein, we attribute knowledge of a proposition p to a person only if that person is not certain of p. I argue that a careful reading of Wittgenstein's On Certainty reveals that there are two kinds of objective certainty that Wittgenstein had in mind; propositional objective certainty and normative objective certainty. Klein fails to distinguish (...) between the two and uses what I call propositional objective certainty to make his point against Wittgenstein. I claim that when Wittgenstein said that knowledge and certainty belong to different categories he was talking of normative objective certainty and, therefore, that Klein's criticism is misplaced and attributes to Wittgenstein a position that is not his. (shrink)
In his article, “Wittgenstein and Basic Moral Certainty,” Nigel Pleasants argues that killing an innocent, non-threatening person is wrong. It is, he argues, “a basic moral certainty.” He believes our basic moral certainties play the “same kind of foundational role as [our] basic empirical certaint[ies] do.” I believe this is mistaken. There is not “simply one kind of foundational role” that certainty plays. While I think Pleasants is right to affiliate his proposition with a Wittgensteinian form of (...)certainty, he exposes himself to a tension that exists in On Certainty regarding how we acquire it: is certainty natural, is it social? In this paper, I present two ways in which we come to possess certainty: a bottom-up approach, where certainty is part of our instinctual predisposition, and a top-down approach, where certainty is acquired through positive reinforcement by family and culture. (shrink)
Certainty: a contemporary question -- Beginnings: questions and debates in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries -- Abba Father: the certainty of salvation -- The spiritual man judges all things: the certainty of exegetical authority -- Are you alone wise?: the Catholic response -- Experientia: the great age of the Spirit -- Unmasking the angel of light: the discernment of the spirits -- Men should be what they seem: appearances and reality.
This paper defends a position that parts ways with the positivist view of legal certainty and reasonableness. I start out with a reconstruction of this view and move on to argue that an adequate analysis of certainty and reasonableness calls for an alternative approach, one based on the acknowledgement that argumentation is key to determining the contents, structure, and boundaries of a legal system. Here I claim that by endorsing a dialec-tical notion of rationality this alternative account espouses (...) an ambitious approach to rea-soning in law and conceives of the theory of legal argumentation as the vantage point from which to analyze legal systems and tackle the main problems connected with their existence. Next, I look at what this alternative approach does for the way we should go about treating certainty and reasonableness, considered singularly as well as in their recip-rocal relationship. I conclude on this basis that when argumentation receives its due emphasis in law we have to redefine certainty and reasonableness and recast their connection as non-conflictive. (shrink)
The article discusses the issue of realisation of the principles of legitimate expectations, legal certainty and legal security in the specific area of administrative activity – detailed territorial planning process. During this long and complex process, it is very important to ensure the protection of personal constitutional rights and guarantee the security of legitimate expectations, legal certainty and other essential principles. The article analyses the circumstances conditioning violation of the principles of legitimate expectations, legal security and legal (...) class='Hi'>certainty and provides suggestions on the improvement of legal framework in order to avoid these violations. (shrink)
In this paper, I survey the way Wittgenstein reacts to radical philosophical doubt in his On Certainty. He deems skeptical doubt in some important cases idle, pointless or otherwise negligible. I point out that several passages of On Certainty make it difficult to judge whether Wittgenstein intends to address a skeptic or a metaphysical idealist. Drawing attention to the anti-skeptical nature of Berkeley's idealism, I go on to argue that the question is far from trivial: rather, it affects (...) the way we should evaluate Wittgenstein's arguments in On Certainty in general. I finally attempt to explain why Wittgenstein remained ambiguous about the target of his arguments, and discuss the possibility of making room for the idealism/skepticism distinction in On Certainty's framework. (shrink)
The senses can completely dispel rational grounds for a certain kind of doubt, empirical doubt, but they cannot dispel another kind, sceptical doubt. In the first part of this paper, a hitherto unrecognized kind of knowledge-gathering activity, called sensory exploration, is described and discussed. It is argued, further, that sensory exploration eliminates a certain kind of doubt. In the second part, two kinds of doubt are distinguished in an original way. It is argued that only one of these kinds of (...) doubt can be eliminated by sensory exploration. (shrink)
I argue that being wide awake is an epistemic virtue which enables me to recognize immediately that I'm wide awake. Also I argue that dreams are imaginings and that the wide awake mind can immediately discern the difference between imaginings and vivid sense experience. Descartes need only pinch himself.
CHAPTER I FRANCIS BACON AND SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE Of the great scientific figures of early seventeenth century England - Harvey, Gilbert, and Bacon - none was so often referred to by members of the Royal Society for a statement of the ...
Bringing the views of Grayling, Moyal-Sharrock and Stroll together, I argue that in On Certainty, Wittgenstein explores the possibility of a new kind of foundationalism. Distinguishing propositional language-games from non-propositional, actional certainty, Wittgenstein investigates a foundationalism sui generis . Although he does not forthrightly state, defend, or endorse what I am characterizing as a "new kind of foundationalism," we must bear in mind that On Certainty was a collection of first draft notes written at the end of (...) Wittgenstein's life. The work was unprogrammatic, sometimes cryptic. Yet, his exploration into areas of knowledge, certitude and doubt suggest an identifiable direction to his thoughts. (shrink)
: In his autobiographical account, the Munqidh min al-Dalāl, al-Ghazālī reflects on his conversion from skepticism to faith. Previous scholarship has interpreted this text as an anticipation of Cartesian positions regarding epistemic certainty. Although the existing similarities between al-Ghazālī and Descartes are striking, the focus of the present essay lies on the different philosophical aims pursued by the two thinkers. It is thus argued that al-Ghazālī operates with a broader notion of the Self than Descartes, because it is inclusive (...) of the body. And it is shown that the two philosophers use completely diverging paradigms. While Descartes models his notion of evidence after mathematical certainty, al-Ghazālī draws his famous 'ilm al-yaqīnī (certain knowledge) from a religious context. (shrink)
Coping with everyday life limits the extent of one’s scepticism. It is practically impossible to doubt the existence of the things with which one is immediately engaged and interacting. To doubt that, say, a door exists, is to step back from merely using the door (opening it) and to reflect on it in a detached, theoretical way. It is impossible to simultaneously act and live immersed in situation S while doubting that one is in S. Sceptical doubts—such as ‘Is this (...) really a door?’, ‘Am I really walking?’ — require a reflective withdrawal in thought from the situation at hand. Maintaining sceptical doubt while coping with everyday life requires a split consciousness, a bad faith, with one part of consciousness doubting the existing of things that the other part takes forgranted. For this reason, a sustained lived sceptical doubt is sometimes thought to be impossible. -/- In this article, I examine Wittgenstein's response to scepticism in "On Certainty". I argue that one of his responses is "the response based on action", which is (as other Wittgenstein interpreters have noted) a characteristically pragmatist response. I then evaluate the quality of this pragmatist response to scepticism, noting that actions just as much as representations are susceptible to mis-interpretation. It is argued that despite the insights contained in it, Wittgenstein's contextualism about meaning is inadequate to rescue the Wittgensteinian response to scepticism. (shrink)
Like many discussions on the pros and cons of epistemic foundationalism, the debate between C.I. Lewis and H. Reichenbach dealt with three concerns: the existence of basic beliefs, their nature, and the way in which beliefs are related. In this paper we concentrate on the third matter, especially on Lewis’s assertion that a probability relation must depend on something that is certain, and Reichenbach’s claim that certainty is never needed. We note that Lewis’s assertion is prima facie ambiguous, (...) but argue that this ambiguity is only apparent if probability theory is viewed within a modal logic. Although there are empirical situations where Reichenbach is right, and others where Lewis’s reasoning seems to be more appropriate, it will become clear that Reichenbach’s stance is the generic one. This follows simply from the fact that, if P(E|G) > 0 and P(E|not-G) > 0, then P(E) > 0. We conclude that this constitutes a threat to epistemic foundationalism. (shrink)
Alice Crary claims that “the standard view of the bearing of Wittgenstein's philosophy on ethics” is dominated by “inviolability interpretations”, which often underlie conservative readings of Wittgenstein. Crary says that such interpretations are “especially marked in connection with On Certainty”, where Wittgenstein is represented as holding that “our linguistic practices are immune to rational criticism, or inviolable”. Crary's own conception of the bearing of Wittgenstein's philosophy on ethics, which I call the “intrinsically-ethical reading”, derives from the influential New Wittgenstein (...) school of exegesis, and is also espoused by James Edwards, Cora Diamond, and Stephen Mulhall. To my eyes, intrinsically-ethical readings present a peculiar picture of ethics, which I endeavour to expose in Part I of the paper. In Part II I present a reading of On Certainty that Crary would call an “inviolability interpretation”, defend it against New Wittgensteinian critiques, and show that this kind of reading has nothing to do with ethical or political conservatism. I go on to show how Wittgenstein's observations on the manner in which we can neither question nor affirm certain states of affairs that are fundamental to our epistemic practices can be fruitfully extended to ethics. Doing so sheds light on the phenomenon that I call “basic moral certainty”, which constitutes the foundation of our ethical practices, and the scaffolding or framework of moral perception, inquiry, and judgement. The nature and significance of basic moral certainty will be illustrated through consideration of the strangeness of philosophers' attempts at explaining the wrongness of killing. (shrink)
This paper compares Wittgenstein's conception of ?objective certainty? with Descartes's ?metaphysical certainty?. According to both conceptions if you are certain of something in these senses, then it is inconceivable that you are mistaken. But a striking difference is that for Descartes, if you are metaphysically certain of something it follows both that the something is so and that you know it is so; whereas on Wittgenstein's conception neither thing follows. I try to show that there is a form (...) of ?scepticism? in Wittgenstein's outlook on the concept of certainty, although it is not the familiar Philosophical Scepticism. The Appendix takes issue with a recent essay by John Cook which argues that the ?hinge propositions? of On Certainty are based on ?the metaphysics of phenomenalism? (shrink)
We ordinarily assume that we have reliable knowledge of our immediate surroundings, so much so that almost all the time we entrust our lives to the truth of what we take ourselves to know, without a moment’s thought. But if, as Karl Popper and others have maintained, all our knowledge is conjectural, then this habitual assumption that our common sense knowledge of our environment is secure and trustworthy would seem to be an illusion. Popper’s philosophy of science, in particular, fails (...) to do justice to the distinction we ordinarily draw between secure knowledge and mere conjecture. But Popper’s philosophy of science, in particular his attempted solution to the problem of induction, is defective. It fails to take into account that physics, in only accepting unified theories, even though endlessly empirically more successful disunified rivals are always available, makes the persistent metaphysical assumption that all disunified theories are false. Once this point is acknowledged, it becomes clear that a new conception of scientific method is required which sees science as making a hierarchy of metaphysical assumptions concerning the comprehensibility and knowability of the universe. This provides a framework of relatively unproblematic assumptions and associated methods of science within which much more problematic assumptions and associated methods can be critically assessed and improved. This hierarchical view seems at first to intensify the problem of distinguishing certainty from conjecture, in that it emphasizes that scientific knowledge, and even humble common sense knowledge, contain usually unacknowledged cosmological conjectures. But actually it explicates the basis we have for drawing the distinction between trustworthy knowledge and mere conjecture, and even goes some way towards providing a rationale for this distinction, in so far as one exists. (shrink)
J. H. Lambert proved important results of what we now think of as non-Euclidean geometries, and gave examples of surfaces satisfying their theorems. I use his philosophical views to explain why he did not think the certainty of Euclidean geometry was threatened by the development of what we regard as alternatives to it. Lambert holds that theories other than Euclid’s fall prey to skeptical doubt. So despite their satisfiability, for him these theories are not equal to Euclid’s in justification. (...) Contrary to recent interpretations, then, Lambert does not conceive of mathematical justification as semantic. According to Lambert, Euclid overcomes doubt by means of postulates. Euclid’s theory thus owes its justification not to the existence of the surfaces that satisfy it, but to the postulates according to which these “models” are constructed. To understand Lambert’s view of postulates and the doubt they answer, I examine his criticism of Christian Wolff’s views. I argue that Lambert’s view reflects insight into traditional mathematical practice and has value as a foil for contemporary, model-theoretic, views of justification. (shrink)
§1 Simple Seeing and its Relations §2 Acquaintance, Apprehension, Belief, Knowledge, Action & Externalism §3 Simple Seeing, Sense and Meaning §4 Simple Seeing and Primitive Certainty ...at one time they dispute eagerly over certainty of thought, though certainty is not a habit of the mind at all, but a quality of propositions, and the speakers are really arguing about certitude... (James Joyce, 1903, Occasional, Critical and Political Writing, ed. Kevin Barry, 2000, OUP, 69) Like many others, I (...) believe that to see is not, in the simplest cases, to believe or judge. This is a purely negative thesis. What sort of attitude, then, is involved in simple seeing? The answer set out here is that to see is typically to enjoy a form of primitive certainty which is not any type of belief. In order to make the answer plausible it is important to set out also the relations between seeing, belief, knowledge, and certainty. (shrink)
The Opening Chapter of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, called "Sense Certainty," is brief: 283 lines or about seven and a half pages in the critical edition of Hegel's works (GW 9:63–70). Just over half the text is devoted to a series of thought experiments1 that focus on "the Here" and "the Now" as the two basic forms of immediate sensuous particularity Hegel calls "the This." The chapter's main goal is to demonstrate that, in truth, the object of sense (...) class='Hi'>certainty is precisely the opposite of what it purports to be: "the This" is mediated abstract universality. However, not just the truth of Hegel's claim but its very meaning has been the subject of dispute from early on.2 A currently influential interpretive .. (shrink)