In a recent paper McCain (2012) argues that weak predictivism creates an important challenge for externalworld scepticism. McCain regards weak predictivism as uncontroversial and assumes the thesis within his argument. There is a sense in which the predictivist literature supports his conviction that weak predictivism is uncontroversial. This absence of controversy, however, is a product of significant plasticity within the thesis, which renders McCain’s argument worryingly vague. For McCain’s argument to work he either needs a stronger version (...) of weak predictivism than has been defended within the literature, or must commit to a more precise formulation of the thesis and argue that weak predictivism, so understood, creates the challenge to scepticism that he hopes to achieve. The difficulty with the former is that weak predictivism is not uncontroversial in the respect that McCain’s argument would require. I consider the prospects of saving McCain’s argument by committing to a particular version of weak predictivism, but find them unpromising for several reasons. (shrink)
One of the most important and perennially debated philosophical questions is whether we can have knowledge of the externalworld. Butchvarov here considers whether and how skepticism with regard to such knowledge can be refuted or at least answered. He argues that only a direct realist view of perception has any hope of providing a compelling response to the skeptic and introduces the radical innovation that the direct object of perceptual, and even dreaming and hallucinatory, experience is always (...) a material object, but not necessarily one that actually exists. This leads him to a metaphysics in which reality is ultimately constructed by human decisions out of objects that are ontologically more basic but which cannot be said in themselves to be either real or unreal. (shrink)
Moore's proof of an externalworld is a piece of reasoning whose premises, in context, are true and warranted and whose conclusion is perfectly acceptable, and yet immediately seems flawed. I argue that neither Wright's nor Pryor's readings of the proof can explain this paradox. Rather, one must take the proof as responding to a sceptical challenge to our right to claim to have warrant for our ordinary empirical beliefs, either for any particular empirical belief we might have, (...) or for belief in the existence of an externalworld itself. I show how Wright's and Pryor's positions are of interest when taken in connection with Humean scepticism, but that it is only linking it with Cartesian scepticism which can explain why the proof strikes us as an obvious failure. (shrink)
There are a number of apparent parallels between belief in God and belief in the existence of an externalworld beyond our experiences. Both beliefs would seem to condition one's overall view of reality and one's place within it – and yet it is difficult to see how either can be defended. Neither belief is likely to receive a purely a priori defence and any empirical evidence that one cites either in favour of the existence of God or (...) the existence of the externalworld would seem to blatantly beg the question against a doubter. I will explore just how far this parallel can be pushed by examining some strategies for resisting externalworld scepticism1. (shrink)
: In Contra Academicos 3.11.24, Augustine responds to skepticism about the existence of the externalworld by arguing that what appears to be the world — as he terms things, the "quasi-earth" and "quasi-sky" — cannot be doubted. While some (e.g., M. Burnyeat and G. Matthews) interpret this passage as a subjectivist response to global skepticism, it is here argued that Augustine's debt to Epicurean epistemology and theology, especially as presented in Cicero's De Natura Deorum 1.25.69 - (...) 1.26.74, provides the basis for a much more plausible, realist interpretation of Augustine's argument. (shrink)
Realism, defined as a justified belief in the existence of the externalworld, is jeopardized by ‘meaning rationalism,’ the classic theory of meaning that sees the extension of words as a function of the intensions of individual speakers, with no way to ensure that these intensions actually correspond to anything in the externalworld. To defend realism, Ruth Millikan ( 1984 , 1989a , b , 1993 , 2004 , 2005 ) offers a biological theory of (...) meaning called ‘teleosemantics’ in which words, without requiring any contribution from the speaker’s intensions, are supposedly matched directly with their extensions by external norms. But even if one granted as a theoretical possibility that word meaning might possibly be stabilized through an external process, nonetheless, realists who wish to appeal to teleosemantics for a semantic proof of the externalworld must be capable of identifying these external norms, something that Millikan describes as highly fallible. Furthermore, because they can be aware of these norms only as these are internally represented, it would also be necessary for realists to verify that these internal representations accurately reflect the norms as they occur in the externalworld. But given that this is virtually the same stumbling block to realism found in meaning rationalism, it is concluded that teleosemantics is not likely to restore faith in this worldview. (shrink)
I defend the view that there is a privileged class of propositions – that there is an externalworld, among other such 'hinge propositions'– that possess a special epistemic status: justified belief in these propositions is not defeated unless one has sufficient reason to believe their negation. Two arguments are given for this conclusion. Finally, three proposals are offered as morals of the preceding story: first, our justification for hinge propositions must be understood as defeatable, second, antiskeptics must (...) explain our knowledge in the face of 'actual world' skepticism (like dreaming skepticism) as much as in the face of the usual sort (like brain-in-vat skepticism), and, finally, our justification for hinge propositions is basic (i.e. non-inferential). (shrink)
Contemporary philosophy is marked by a setting aside or dissolution of the traditional problems of modern philosophy. Thus the problem of our knowledge of the externalworld is widely believed to have been disposed of or dissolved by Wittgenstein and others. In this book, Bruce Aune challenges this assumption. In the first half of Knowledge of the ExternalWorld , Aune considers the history of the problem in the work of the great modern philosophers, Descartes, Locke, (...) Berkeley, Kant, and Mill. Then turning to current debates, he argues that the problem has re-emerged and that an entirely new approach is needed. By examining the attempted dissolutions, Aune shows that the fundamental problem remains as a serious intellectual issue: one concerning the nature of permissible experimental or `inductive' inference. To resolve this issue, he undertakes a revision of empiricist epistemology and the development of the required theory of inference. Knowledge of the ExternalWorld is an excellent historical systematic analysis of a central problem of philosophy and a fine introduction to the theory of knowledge. It will be essential reading for students of epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy. (shrink)
This study presents a substantial and often radical reinterpretation of some of the central themes of Locke's thought. Professor Alexander concentrates on the Essay Concerning Human Understanding and aims to restore that to its proper historical context. In Part I he gives a clear exposition of some of the scientific theories of Robert Boyle, which, he argues, heavily influenced Locke in employing similar concepts and terminology. Against this background, he goes on in Part II to provide an account of Locke's (...) views on the externalworld and our knowledge of it. He shows those views to be more consistent and plausible than is generally allowed, demonstrating how they make sense and enable scientific explanations of nature. In examining the views of Locke and Boyle together, the book throws new light both on the development of philosophy and the beginnings of modern science, and in particular it makes a considerable and original contribution to our understanding of Locke's philosophy. (shrink)
A skeptic claims that I do not have knowledge of the externalworld. It has been thought that the skeptic reaches this conclusion because she employs unusually stringent standards for knowledge. But the skeptic does not employ unusually high standards for knowledge. Rather, she employs unusually restrictive standards of evidence. Thus, her claim that we lack knowledge of the externalworld is supported by considerations that would equally support the claim that we lack evidence for our (...) beliefs about the externalworld. These considerations do not threaten the truth of our ordinary attributions of evidence, however, for such attributions are context-sensitive in their semantics. It is argued that this solution to the problem of the externalworld enjoys all of the benefits, and suffers none of the problems, of other solutions to the problem of the externalworld. (shrink)
My critical comments on Part I of P. J. E. Kail's Projection and Realism in Hume's Philosophy are divided into two parts. First, I challenge the exegetical details of Kail's take on Hume's important distinction between natural and philosophical relations. I show that Kail misreads Hume in a subtle fashion. If I am right, then much of the machinery that Kail puts into place for his main argument does different work in Hume than Kail thinks. Second, I offer a brief (...) criticism of Kail's argument for reading Hume "as a realist about the externalworld" (Kail, 67). The two parts are (loosely) tied together because it turns out that Kail and I disagree about how Hume thinks of philosophers' activity generally.One caveat: .. (shrink)
Is there a plausible argument for externalworld skepticism? Robert Nozick’s well–known discussion focuses upon arguments which utilize the Sensitivity Requirement and the Closure Principle. Nozick claims, correctly, that no such argument succeeds. But he gets almost all the details wrong. The Sensitivity Requirement and the Closure Principle are compatible; the Sensitivity Requirement is incorrect; and even if true, the Closure Principle is structurally incapable of generating a plausible and valid global skeptical argument. It is therefore a (...) mistake to take the Closure Principle as central in discussions of skepticism. The paper concludes by examining the prospects for a plausible skeptical argument. (shrink)
Philosophy, from the earliest times, has made greater claims, and achieved fewer results, than any other branch of learning. In Our Knowledge of the ExternalWorld , Bertrand Russell illustrates instances where the claims of philosophers have been excessive, and examines why their achievements have not been greater.
This paper is a sympathetic critique of the argument that Reichenbach develops in Chap. 2 of Experience and Prediction for the thesis that sense experience justifies belief in the existence of an externalworld. After discussing his attack on the positivist theory of meaning, I describe the probability ideas that Reichenbach presents. I argue that Reichenbach begins with an argument grounded in the Law of Likelihood but that he then endorses a different argument that involves prior probabilities. I (...) try to show how this second step in Reichenbach’s approach can be strengthened by using ideas that have been developed recently for understanding causation in terms of the idea of intervention. (shrink)
Moore’s proof consists of the inference of both “Two hands exist at this moment” and “At least two external objects exist at this moment” from the premise “Here is one hand and here is another.” The paper claims that the proof succeeds in refuting both idealism (“There are no external objects”) and skepticism (“Nobody knows that there are external objects”). The paper defends Moore’s proof against the following objections: Idealism does not deny that there is an (...) class='Hi'>externalworld so Moore’s proof is beside the point; Moore may be mistaken about the premise; Moore has failed to prove the premise; Moore has failed to show how he knows the premise; the proof leads to an infinite regress; the proof begs the question because the premise assumes what needs to be proved; the premise depends upon a shaky inference; the premise rests upon evidence of the senses and thus begs the question; the proof fails to convince the skeptic. (shrink)
A common view about Moore’s Proof of an ExternalWorld is that the argument fails because anyone who had doubts about its conclusion could not use the argument to rationally overcome those doubts. I agree that Moore’s Proof is—in that sense—dialectically ineffective at convincing an opponent or a doubter, but I defend that the argument (even when individuated taking into consideration the purpose of Moore’s arguing and, consequently, the preferred addressee of the Proof) does not fail. The key (...) to my defence is to conceive the Proof as addressed to subjects with a different epistemic condition. To sustain this view I formulate some hypothesis about the common general purpose of arguing and I defend that it can be fulfilled even when the addressee of an argument is not someone who disbelieves or doubts its conclusion. (shrink)
Vision scientists standardly assume that the goal of vision is to recover properties of the externalworld. Lehar's “miniature, virtual-reality replica of the externalworld inside our head” (target article, sect. 10) is an example of this assumption. I propose instead, on evolutionary grounds, that the goal of vision is simply to provide a useful user interface to the externalworld.
Shepard's approach is regarded as an attempt to rescue, within an evolutionary perspective, an empiricist theory of mind. Contrary to this, I argue that the structure of perceptual representations is essentially co-determined by internal aspects and cannot be understood if we confine our attention to the physical side of perception, however appropriately we have chosen our vocabulary for describing the externalworld. Furthermore, I argue that Kubovy and Epstein's “more modest interpretation” of Shepard's ideas on motion perception is (...) based on unjustified assumptions. [Kubovy & Epstein; Shepard]. (shrink)
Simply stated, Pragmatic Invariantism is the view that the practical interests of a person can influence whether that person’s true belief constitutes knowledge. My primary objective in this article is to show that Pragmatic Invariantism entails externalworld skepticism. Toward this end, I’ll first introduce a basic version of Pragmatic Invariantism (PI). Then I’ll introduce a sample skeptical hypothesis (SK) to the framework. From this I will show that it is extremely important that the phenomenally equivalent skeptical scenarios (...) generated by SK are actually false. We’ll then see that by combining PI and SK, the effect will be to place extremelyhigh demands upon evidence for ~SK. It will finally be observed that, while we may have good evidence for ~SK, we do not have extremely strong evidence sufficient for establishing ~SK. This supports my conclusion that any standard version of Pragmatic Invariantism ultimately entails externalworld skepticism. If successful, my conclusion will critically undermine the current view that Pragmatic Invariantism is actually a skeptically resistant position. (shrink)
In this paper I call attention to the fact that Lonergan gives two radically opposed accounts of how sense perception relates us to the externalworld and of how we know that this relation exists. I argue that the position that Lonergan characteristically adopts is not the one implied by what is most fundamental in his theory of cognition. I describe the initial epistemic position with regard to the problem of skepticism about the external material world (...) that is in fact implied by his theory of cognition, and I sort out some confusion about various forms of direct and representative perceptual realism. The paper concludes with a critique of Lonergan’s theory of description and explanation in empirical science that makes evident the difficulties into which he is led by lack of clarity in his theory of perception. (shrink)
We introduce the Relational Blockworld (RBW) as a paradigm for deflating the mysteries associated with quantum non-separability/non-locality and the measurement problem. We begin by describing how the relativity of simultaneity implies the blockworld, which has an explanatory potential subsuming both dynamical and relational explanations. It is then shown how the canonical commutation relations fundamental to non-relativistic quantum mechanics follow from the relativity of simultaneity. Therefore, quantum mechanics has at its disposal the full explanatory power of the blockworld. Quantum mechanics exploits (...) this expanded explanatory capability since event distributions among detectors per the density matrix follow from spacetime relations (symmetry group) alone. Thus, the event distributions of non-relativistic quantum mechanics follow from a blockworld wherein spacetime relations are fundamental. Per RBW "quantum mysteries" are deflated and the implications for consciousness and the perception of temporal flow and absolute becoming are explored. We conclude that given RBW, consciousness is no less fundamental than any "physical" feature of the world such as brain states. Further, active consciousness is needed to explain the illusion that it is a dynamical world and consciousness in its most fundamental state is relational and non-local. (shrink)
In part 1 of Enquiry 12, Hume presents a skeptical argument against belief in external existence. The argument involves a perceptual relativity argument that seems to conclude straightaway the double existence of objects and perceptions, where objects cause and resemble perceptions. In Treatise 1.4.2, Hume claimed that the belief in double existence arises from imaginative invention, not reasoning about perceptual relativity. I dissolve this tension by distinguishing the effects of natural instinct and showing that some ofthese effects supplement the (...) Enquiry’s perceptual relativity argument. The Enquiry’s skeptical argument thus reveals the fundamental involvement of natural instinct in any belief in external existence. (shrink)
How does the mind attribute external causes to internal sensory experiences? Adam Smith addresses this question in his little known essay ‘Of the External Senses.’ I closely examine Smith's various formulations of this problem and then argue for an interpretation of his solution: that inborn perceptual mechanisms automatically generate external attributions of internal experiences. I conclude by speculating that these mechanisms are best understood to operate by simulating tactile environments.
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. (shrink)
Kant's transcendental idealism is often praised for resolving antinomies and attacked for representationalism. Such an attitude prevailed even among Kant's contemporaries. As early as 1787 Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi noted that the "main advantage" of the doctrine that we cognize only appearances and not things in themselves is that it resolves the antinomical conflicts in which previous metaphysics was embroiled and thus "sets reason at rest." Yet, at the same time, Jacobi bemoaned that the transcendental idealist cannot consistently uphold the positive (...) consequences of his "transcendental ignorance" without likewise accepting the negative consequence that his doctrine is tantamount to "speculative egoism,"1 insofar .. (shrink)
A critical discussion of selected chapters of the first volume of Scott Soames’s Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century. It is argued that this volume falls short of the minimal standards of scholarship appropriate to a work that advertises itself as a history, and, further, that Soames’s frequent heuristic simplifications and distortions, since they are only sporadically identified as such, are more likely confuse than to enlighten the student. These points are illustrated by reference to Soames’s discussions of Russell’s logical (...) system and the place of the theory of descriptions in his ontological development. It is then argued that Soames’s interpretation of the point of G.E. Moore’s famous “proof” of an externalworld, while not straightforwardly undermined by the textual evidence, is nonetheless questionable, and plausibly overlooks what is novel in Moore’s discussion. This, it is argued, in his attempt to offer a common sense “refutation of idealism”, rather than (as is more commonly supposed) an anti-skeptical argument “from differential certainty”. (shrink)
I give a brief precis of Lyons' book. I discuss the problem of delineating basic from non-basic beliefs. I argue that one of Lyons' possible solutions doesn't work - his definition of a perceptual module does not allow us to decide which beliefs are basic. And I argue that another possible solution undermines some of Lyons' motivation. The intuitive understanding of belief may not generate the Clairvoyancy troubles he fears.
Pedagogical description and reflection upon an activity focusing on the use of a questioning game to display epistemological uncertainty and the impact of a possible Cartesian evil demon on the game’s players’ ability to come to have knowledge.