This chapter focuses on the responses that proponents of virtue epistemology (VE) make to radical skepticism and particularly to two related forms of it, Pyrrhonian skepticism and the “underdetermination-based” argument, both of which have been receiving widening attention in recent debate. Section 1 of the chapter briefly articulates these two skeptical arguments and their interrelationship, while section 2 explains the close connection between a virtue-theoretic and a neo-Moorean response to them. In sections 3 and 4 I advance arguments (...) for improving the prospects of virtue-theoretic responses, sketching a particular version of VE that by recasting somewhat how we understand the “externalist turn in epistemology” also suggests ways of improving the adequacy of philosophical diagnoses and responses to skepticism. (shrink)
The main claim of this essay is that knowledge is no more valuable than lasting true belief. This claim is surprising. Doesn't knowledge have a unique and special value? If the main claim is correct and if, as it seems, knowledge is not lasting true belief, then knowledge does not have a unique value: in whatever way knowledge is valuable, lasting true belief is just as valuable. However, this result does not show that knowledge is worthless, nor does it undermine our knowledge gathering practices. There (...) is, rather, a positive philosophical payoff: skepticism about knowledge is defused. Assuming one can have lasting true belief, then even if one cannot have knowledge, one can have something just as valuable. . (shrink)
In this paper I criticize libertarianism and skepticism about free will. The criticism of libertarianism takes some steps towards filling in an argument that is often mentioned but seldom developed in any detail, the argument that libertarianism is a scientifically implausible view. I say "take some steps" because I think the considerations I muster (at most) favor a less ambitious relative of that argument. The less ambitious claim I hope to motivate is that there is little reason to believe (...) that extant libertarian accounts satisfy a standard of naturalistic plausibility, even if they do satisfy a standard of naturalistic compatibility. The argument against skepticism about free will tries to show (1) perhaps the most prominent form of skeptical argument against the existence of free will does not work, and (2) there is a good general argument against skepticism about free will. (shrink)
Fallibilism is ubiquitous in contemporary epistemology. I argue that a paradox about knowledge, generated by considerations of truth, shows that fallibilism can only deliver knowledge in lucky circumstances. Specifically, since it is possible that we are brains-in-vats (BIVs), it is possible that all our beliefs are wrong. Thus, the fallibilist can know neither whether or not we have much knowledge about the world nor whether or not we know any specific proposition, and so the warrant of our knowledge-claims is much (...) reduced and second-order skepticism is generated. Since this is the case in both skeptical and everyday contexts, contextualism cannot resolve the paradox. (shrink)
Abstract: In Mind and World, McDowell conceives of the content of perceptual experiences as conceptual. This picture is supposed to provide a therapy for skepticism, by showing that empirical thinking is objectively and normatively constrained. The paper offers a reconstruction of McDowell's view and shows that the therapy fails. This claim is based on three arguments: 1) the identity conception of truth he exploits is unable to sustain the idea that perception-judgment transitions are normally truth conducing; 2) it could (...) be plausible only from an externalist point of view that is in tension with the view of normativity that motivates conceptualism; 3) the identity conception of truth is incompatible with McDowell's recent version of conceptualism in terms of ‘non-propositional intuitive contents’. (shrink)
Reprinted in Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology, Wadsworth, 2013, 6th edition, eds. Michael Rea and Louis Pojman. In this essay, I argue that the moral skepticism objection to what is badly named "skeptical theism" fails.
From a number of quarters have come attempts to answer some form of skepticism—about knowledge of the external world, freedom of the will, or moral reasons—by showing it to be performatively self-defeating. Examples of this strategy are subject to a number of criticisms, in particular the criticism that they fail to shift the burden of proof from the anti-skeptical position, and so fail to establish the epistemic entitlement they seek. To these approaches I contrast one way of understanding Kant’s (...) core anti-skeptical arguments in the Critique of Pure Reason. Kant’s goal is the more modest one of showing the applicability of the concepts of substance and cause to experience, against those who might call such application incoherent, or a category mistake. I explain why this goal makes Kant’s approach more promising than those of neo-Kantian practitioners of otherwise structurally-similar strategies. (shrink)
In the history of philosophical thought, few themes loom as large as skepticism. Skepticism has been the most visible and important part of debates about knowledge. Skepticism at its most basic questions our cognitive achievements, challenges our ability to obtain reliable knowledge; casting doubt on our attempts to seek and understand the truth about everything from ethics, to other minds, religious belief, and even the underlying structure of matter and reality. Since Descartes, the defense of knowledge against (...)skepticism has been one of the primary tasks not just of epistemology but philosophy itself. The Oxford Handbook of Skepticism features twenty-six newly commissioned chapters by top figures in the field. Part One contains articles explaining important kinds of skeptical reasoning. Part Two focuses on responses to skeptical arguments. Part Three concentrates on important contemporary issues revolving around skepticism. As the first volume of its kind, the articles make significant contributions to the debate on skepticism. (shrink)
I argue that Cartesian skepticism about the external world leads to a vicious regress of skeptical attitudes, the only principled and unproblematic response to which requires refraining from taking the very first skeptical step.
Throughout the history of philosophy, skepticism has posed one of the central challenges of epistemology. Opponents of skepticism--including externalists, contextualists, foundationalists, and coherentists--have focussed largely on one particular variety of skepticism, often called Cartesian or Academic skepticism, which makes the radical claim that nobody can know anything. However, this version of skepticism is something of a straw man, since virtually no philosopher endorses this radical skeptical claim. The only skeptical view that has been truly held--by (...) Sextus, Montaigne, Hume, Wittgenstein, and, most recently, Robert Fogelin--has been Pyrrohnian skepticism. Pyrrhonian skeptics do not assert Cartesian skepticism, but neither do they deny it. The Pyrrhonian skeptics' doubts run so deep that they suspend belief even about Cartesian skepticism and its denial. Nonetheless, some Pyrrhonians argue that they can still hold "common beliefs of everyday life" and can even claim to know some truths in an everyday way. This edited volume presents previously unpublished articles on this subject by a strikingly impressive group of philosophers, who engage with both historical and contemporary versions of Pyrrhonian skepticism. Among them are Gisela Striker, Janet Broughton, Don Garrett, Ken Winkler, Hans Sluga, Ernest Sosa, Michael Williams, Barry Stroud, Robert Fogelin, and Roy Sorensen. This volume is thematically unified and will interest a broad spectrum of scholars in epistemology and the history of philosophy. (shrink)
Disjunctivism is the view that perceptual experience is either constituted by fact in the world or mere appearance. This view is said to be able to guarantee our cognitive contact with the world, and thus remove a crucial “prop” upon which skepticism depends. This paper has two aims. First, it aims to show that disjunctivism is a solution to Cartesian skepticism. Cartesian skepticism is an epistemological thesis, not an ontological one. Therefore, if there is an external world, (...) we may well undergo a veridical experience, and thus we can take advantage of disjunctivism to adopt an anti-evidential-skepticism strategy to counter Cartesian skepticism. Second, this paper argues that disjunctivism fails to solve Pyrrhonian skepticism. To counter Pyrrhonian skepticism, one has to give reasons both for his belief and for his believing. But disjunctivism can only account the former, that is, the reason for the content of perceptual belief. Given that one’s experience in good case and bad case is subjectively indistinguishable, one cannot just use his experience to justify his believing. This shows that disjunctivism cannot meet the requirement to provide an adequate account for reflective knowledge. (shrink)
In ' Unnatural Doubts' Michael Williams argues that Cartesian skepticism is not truly an "intuitive problem" (that is, one which we can state with little or no appeal to contentious theories) at all. According to Williams, the skeptic has rich theoretical commitments all his own, prominent among which is the epistemic priority thesis. I argue, however, that Williams's diagnostic critique of the epistemic priority thesis fails on his own conception of what is required for success. Furthermore, in a brief (...) "Afterword" I argue that the later Wittgenstein (to whom Williams sometimes appeals) would concur with my critique of Williams's antiskeptical efforts. (shrink)
Although Kripke’s skepticism leads to the conclusion that meaning does not exist, his argument relies upon the supposition that more than one interpretation of words is consistent with linguistic evidence. Relying solely on metaphors, he assumes that there is a multiplicity of possible interpretations without providing any strict proof. In his book The Taming of the True, Neil Tennant pointed out that there are serious obstacles to this thesis and concluded that the skeptic’s nonstandard interpretations are “will o’ wisps.” (...) In this paper, contra Tennant, I demonstrate how to construct alternative interpretations of the language of algebra. These constructed interpretations avoid Tennant’s objections and are shown to be interdefinable with the standard interpretation. Kripke’s skepticism is, as it were, an incarnate demon. In contrast, it is currently uncertain whether the same technique is generally applicable to the construction of an alternative interpretation of natural language. However, the reinterpretation of those aspects of natural language that directly relate to numbers seems to be a promising candidate for the development of nonstandard interpretations of natural language. (shrink)
In his early writings, Kant says that the solution to the puzzle of how morality can serve as a motivating force in human life is nothing less than the “philosophers’ stone.” In this dissertation I show that for years Kant searched for the philosophers’ stone in the concept of “respect” (Achtung), which he understood as the complex effect practical reason has on feeling. I sketch the history of that search in Chapters 1-2. In Chapter 3 I show that Kant’s analysis (...) in Groundwork I is incomplete because it does not explain how respect functions as a feeling in motivating choice. In Chapter 4 I argue that Kant’s subsequent attempt to sidestep this explanation in Groundwork III is unsuccessful, and that his position remains open to a skeptical threat. The argument in the second Critique, which I reconstruct in Chapters 5-6, overcomes this threat, and in doing so explains how the feeling of respect is both painful and pleasurable. -/- In the course of defending these claims, I provide an alternative reading of the shift in Kant’s ethical project from the Groundwork of 1785 to the second Critique of 1788 Against a common view in the literature, I argue that the shift does not concern the direction of Kant’s deduction (from freedom to morality, or morality to freedom); rather, it concerns his view of human sensibility and the resources he thinks we have to make our practical self-understanding intelligible. In the second Critique, I argue, Kant develops a novel approach to moral feeling from the perspective of the human agent; and this in turn clears room in his ethics for a new kind of a priori knowledge—namely, knowledge of what the activity of practical reason must feel like. By way of conclusion, I offer a few reasons for why the form of Kant’s argument in the second Critique is still relevant today, as it shows why we can only address moral skepticism from a first-personal perspective. (shrink)
People -- Who was Huet? -- The censura : why and when? -- The birth of skepticism -- Malebranche's surprising silence -- The downfall of cartesianism -- Kinds -- Huet a cartesian? -- Descartes and skepticism : the standard interpretation -- Descartes and skepticism : the texts -- Thoughts -- The cogito : an inference? -- The transparency of mind -- The cogito as pragmatic tautology -- Doubts -- The reality of doubt -- The generation of doubt (...) -- The response to doubt -- Rules -- The criterion of truth -- The trump argument -- Circles -- The simple circularity of the meditations -- The inner circle(s) -- Gods -- Gassendist influences -- The objections of objections -- The rejection of intentionality -- Virtues -- Descartes's voice -- Betting the family farm -- The propagation of light -- The heart-beat -- The moving earth -- Faith and reason -- Descartes as methodological academic skeptic. (shrink)
These lectures by one of the most influential and original philosophers of the twentieth century constitute a sustained argument for the philosophical basis of romanticism, particularly in its American rendering. Through his examination of such authors as Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Wordsworth, and Coleridge, Stanley Cavell shows that romanticism and American transcendentalism represent a serious philosophical response to the challenge of skepticism that underlies the writings of Wittgenstein and Austin on ordinary language.
The theory of recognition arises within Hegel's confrontation with epistemological skepticism and aims at responding to the questions raised by modern skepticism concerning the accessibility of the external world, of other minds, and of one's own mind. This is possible to the extent that the theory of recognition is the guiding thread of a critique of the modern foundational theory of knowledge and, at the same time, the point of departure for an alternative approach. In this article I (...) will dwell on six stages of the evolution of Hegel's thought prior to the Phenomenology (1797-1806),stages shed great light on the direction taken by his argumentative strategy. Synthetically, the stages are as follows: 1. Hegel naturalizes the epistemological questions; 2. to do so he critiques foundationalism qua theory of empirical knowledge; 3. and qua theory of epistemic justification; 4. the critique of foundationalism is linked to a critique of the corresponding representationalistic theory of perception; 5. this, in turn, is linked to a critique of the monological theories of self-consciousness and to the development of a model of the rise of self-conscious knowing; 6. finally, Hegel synthesizes these epistemological views in a theory of knowledge qua recognition and in a metaphilosophical theory of philosophical rationality qua self-recognition: knowledge without foundation is thus the condition of possibility of philosophy’s self-justification. (shrink)
Disagreement is a pervasive feature of human life whose skeptical implications have been emphasized particularly by the ancient Pyrrhonists and by contemporary moral skeptics. Although the connection between disagreement and skepticism is also a focus of analysis in the emerging and burgeoning area of epistemology concerned with the significance of controversy, it has arguably not received the full attention it deserves. The present volume explores for the first time the possible skeptical consequences of disagreement in different areas and from (...) different perspectives, with an emphasis in the current debate over the epistemic impact of disagreement. The thirteen new essays collected here examine the Pyrrhonian approach to disagreement and its relevance to the present epistemological discussions of the topic; the relationship between disagreement and moral realism and antirealism; disagreement-based skeptical arguments in contemporary epistemology; and disagreement and the possibility of philosophical knowledge and justified belief. Given the ever-growing interest in both the significance of disagreement and the challenge of skepticism, this volume makes a new contribution by conjugating two important trends in current philosophical research. (shrink)
It may be possible to scientifically test philosophical skepticism; at least this is what I shall maintain. The argument develops the naturalistic insight that there may be no particular reason to suppose that nature has selected Homo sapiens’ epistemic capacities such that we are ideally suited to forming a true theory of everything, or indeed, a true theory of much of anything. Just as chimpanzees are cognitively limited - there are many concepts, ideas, and theories beyond their grasp - (...) so too might our conception of the universe seem limited from the point of view of some creature more “evolved” than humans. On the other hand, some physicists (et al.) have argued that humans are on the verge of discovering a “final theory of everything”. Such epistemic “optimism” seems to directly contradict the idea that we might be cognitively limited. To adjudicate between these views I shall suggest the outlines of several “crucial tests” that involve attempting to create creatures who stand to us, with respect to intelligence and wisdom, as we do to apes. A positive result from any of these experiments will indicate that the skeptical view is correct, while failure to create “higher” intelligences lends support to the epistemic optimists’ position. 2. (shrink)
In this paper I aim to do two things. First, I attempt to illustrate an interesting pattern of argument one can find in Hume's work. Next, I employ this Humean pattern of argument to show that IF there is a cogent and intuitive argument for any form of epistemological skepticism, which despite its cogency and intuitiveness has a (literally) unbelievable conclusion, THEN we lack a very important form of doxastic self-control, which I call rational self-control (RSC), over the beliefs (...) problematized by that skeptical argument. Thus, (1) the challenge posed by skepticism is even deeper and more radical than commonly supposed: If any form of skepticism proves unanswerable and yet unbelievable, then we demonstrably lack RSC in the domain problematized by that form of skepticism. Thus, (2) one's views on skepticism may entail definite views on (at least one form of) doxastic self-control. (shrink)
An apparently increasing number of philosophers take free will skepticism to pose a serious challenge to some of our practices. This must seem odd to many—why should anyone think that free will skepticism is relevant for our practices, when nobody seems to think that other canonical forms of philosophical skepticism (for example, skepticism about induction or other minds) are relevant for our practices? Part of the explanation may be epistemic, but here I focus on a metaethical (...) explanation. Free will skepticism is special because it is compatible with ‘basic moral reasons’—moral reasons acknowledged by all mainstream ethicists—and other minds and induction skepticism are not. One example is our reason not to intentionally harm others. Practical seriousness about other minds and induction skepticism undermines this reason, but practical seriousness about free will skepticism only undermines a potential overrider of this reason, that is, the reason of retribution. (shrink)
This essay deals with a selected part of an epistemological controversy provided by Tūsī in response to the skeptical arguments reported by Rāzī that is related to what might be called "intellectual skepticism," or skepticism regarding the judgments of the intellect, particularly in connection with self-evident principles. It will be shown that Rāzī has cited and exposed a position that seems to be no less than a medieval version of empiricism. Tūsī, in contrast, has presented us with a (...) position that rejects such empiricism. The comparative aim of this essay is to draw attention to some similarities as well as some points of divergence between the kind of skeptical debate we are focusing on here, and some relevant epistemological discussions in the later traditions in the West. ". (shrink)
Stanley Cavell's work is distinctive not only in its importance to philosophy but also for its remarkable interdisciplinary range. Cavell is read avidly by students of film, photography, painting, and music, but especially by students of literature, for whom Cavell offers major readings of Thoreau, Emerson, Shakespeare, and others. In this first book-length study of Cavell's writings, Michael Fischer examines Cavell's relevance to the controversies surrounding poststructuralist literary theory, particularly works by Jacques Derrida, J. Hillis Miller, Paul de Man, and (...) Stanley Fish. Throughout his study, Fischer focuses on skepticism, a central concern of Cavell's multifaceted work. Cavell, following J. L. Austin and Wittgenstein, does not refute the radical epistemological questioning of Descartes, Hume, and others, but rather characterizes skepticism as a significant human possibility or temptation. As presented by Fischer, Cavell's accounts of both external-world and other-minds skepticism share significant affinities with deconstruction, a connection overlooked by contemporary literary theorists. Fischer follows Cavell's lead in examining how different genres address the problems raised by skepticism and goes on to show how Cavell draws on American and English romanticism in fashioning a response to it. He concludes by analyzing Cavell's remarks about current critical theory, focusing on Cavell's uneasiness with some of the conclusions reached by its practitioners. Fischer shows that Cavell's insights, grounded in powerful analyses of Descartes, Hume, and Wittgenstein, permit a fresh view of Derrida, Miller, de Man, and Fish. The result is not only a revealing characterization of deconstruction but a much-needed and insightful introduction to Cavell's rich but difficult oeuvre. (shrink)
This reissue of an American philosophical classic includes a new preface by Cavell, in which he discusses the work's reception and influence. The work fosters a fascinating relationship between philosophy and literature both by augmenting his philosophical discussions with examples from literature and by applying philosophical theories to literary texts. Cavell also succeeds in drawing some very important parallels between the British analytic tradition and the continental tradition, by comparing skepticism as understood in Descartes, Hume, and Kant with philosophy (...) of language as practiced by Wittgenstein and Austin. (shrink)
In this paper, I defend a non-skeptical intuitionist approach to moral epistemology from recent criticisms. Starting with Sinnott-Armstrong's skeptical attacks, I argue that a familiar sort of skeptical argument rests on a problematic conception of the evidential grounds of our moral judgments. The success of his argument turns on whether we conceive of the evidential grounds of our moral judgments as consisting entirely of non-normative considerations. While we cannot avoid skepticism if we accept this conception of our evidential grounds, (...) that's because accepting this conception of our evidential grounds is tantamount to accepting the skeptic's conclusion. We have nothing to fear from arguments for skepticism from skepticism. (shrink)
Keith DeRose’s solution to the skeptical problem is based on his indirect sensitivity account. Sensitivity is not a necessary condition for any kind of knowledge, as direct sensitivity accounts claim, but the insensitivity of our beliefs that the skeptical hypotheses are false explains why we tend to judge that we do not know them. The orthodox objection line against any kind of sensitivity account of knowledge is to present instances of insensitive beliefs that we still judge to constitute knowledge. This (...) objection line offers counter-examples against the claim of direct sensitivity accounts that sensitivity is necessary for any kind of knowledge. These examples raise an easy problem for indirect sensitivity accounts that claim that there is only a tendency to judge that insensitive beliefs do not constitute knowledge, which still applies to our beliefs that the skeptical hypotheses are false. However, a careful analysis reveals that some of our beliefs that the skeptical hypotheses are false are sensitive; nevertheless, we still judge that we do not know them. Therefore, the fact that some of our beliefs that the skeptical hypotheses are false are insensitive cannot explain why we tend to judge that we do not know them. Hence, indirect sensitivity accounts cannot fulfill their purpose of explaining our intuitions about skepticism. This is the hard problem for indirect sensitivity accounts. (shrink)
In his defense of a coherence theory of truth and knowledge, Donald Davidson insists that (i) we must take the objects of a belief to be the causes of that belief, and (ii) given the nature of beliefs, most of our beliefs are veridical. As result, a response to skepticism is provided. If most of our beliefs turn out to be true, global skepticism is ultimately incoherent. In this paper, I argue that, despite the many attractions that a (...) coherence theory has, a response to skepticism is not among them. After distinguishing three forms of skepticism (global skepticism, Pyrrhonian skepticism and lottery skepticism), I argue that none of them is affected by Davidson’s strategy. (shrink)
Recently, new life has been breathed into the ancient philosophical topic of skepticism. The subject of some of the best and most provocative work in contemporary philosophy, skepticism has been addressed not only by top epistemologists but also by several of the world's finest philosophers who are most known for their work in other areas of the discipline. Skepticism: A Contemporary Reader brings together the most important recent contributions to the discussion of skepticism. Covering major approaches (...) to the skeptical problem, it features essays by Anthony Brueckner, Keith DeRose, Fred Dretske, Graeme Forbes, Christopher Hill, David Lewis, Thomas Nagel, Robert Nozick, Hilary Putnam, Ernest Sosa, Gail Stine, Barry Stroud, Peter Unger, and Ted Warfield. The book opens with a thorough introduction that outlines the skeptical problem, explains the dominant responses to skepticism, and discusses the strengths, weaknesses, and unresolved issues of each response, providing undergraduate students and nonphilosophers with the background and context necessary to understand the essays. Skepticism: A Contemporary Reader serves as an ideal text for courses in epistemology and skepticism and will also appeal to professional philosophers and interested general readers. (shrink)
What is skepticism? -- Skepticism as selective doubt -- Scientific method and rational skepticism -- Skepticism and the new enlightenment -- The growth of antiscience -- Skepticism, science, and the paranormal -- Should skeptical inquiry be applied to religion? -- Skepticism and religion -- Are science and religion compatible? -- Skepticism and political inquiry -- Skepticism and ethical inquiry -- Moral faith and ethical skepticism reconsidered -- Skepticism and eupraxsophy -- (...) The new skepticism: a worldwide movement -- Skeptical inquiry: my personal involvement -- Science and the public: summing up thirty years of the skeptical inquirer -- The new skepticism: a statement of principles. (shrink)
Carrier in a recent paper urges for consideration an argument for skepticism which is based on premises one of which in turn is to be defended by yet another principle (the "Janus Principle" of the text). We feel that the latter principle and the way Carrier wants to use it to defend his skeptical argument will find adherents, but we show that this argument rests on an interesting equivocation quite beyond repair even if we accept the "Janus Principle".
This book examines the issue of philosophical skepticism in the light of its relevance for the critique of modernity associated with the Frankfurt School. It situates the problem of skepticism in the context of the history of philosophy and explores its significance for the modern crisis of reason, as manifested in post-Kantian philosophy, which presaged the critical turn toward social theory.
An argument is epistemically self-defeating when either the truth of an argument's conclusion or belief in an argument's conclusion defeats one's justification to believe at least one of that argument's premises. Some extant defenses of the evidentiary value of intuition have invoked considerations of epistemic self-defeat in their defense. I argue that there is one kind of argument against intuition, an unreliability argument, which, even if epistemically self-defeating, can still imply that we are not justified in thinking intuition has evidentiary (...) value. (shrink)
Within much contemporary epistemology, Kant’s response to skepticism has come to be epitomized by an appeal to transcendental arguments. This form of argument is said to provide a distinctively Kantian way of dealing with the skeptic, by showing that what the skeptic questions is in fact a condition for her being able to raise that question in the first place, if she is to have language, thoughts, or experiences at all. In this way, it is hoped, the game played (...) by the skeptic can be turned against herself.1 At the same time, however, this appeal to transcendental arguments is also widely felt to show what is wrong with Kant’s response to skepticism: for, it is suggested, such arguments can only be made to work against the background of his transcendental idealism. As we shall see, what this doctrine amounts to is much disputed; but as with any form of idealism, the worry is that it means compromising the very realism and objectivity we want to defend against skepticism in the first place, so that the price for adopting this Kantian strategy appears too high—the cure of using transcendental arguments in conjunction with transcendental idealism is almost as bad as the disease.2 Faced with this difficulty, two kinds of response have been canvassed. On the first, it is accepted that transcendental arguments do require a commitment to the wider philosophical framework of transcendental idealism, but it is claimed that this framework can and should be defended against the suggestion that it is itself ‘‘quasi-skeptical.’’ On the second, transcendental idealism is indeed abandoned as wrongheaded, but it is held that Kant’s transcendental arguments can be made to.. (shrink)
The paper explains what disjunctivism is and explores its implications for skepticism. Following an account of Paul Snowdon’s conception of a disjunctivist account of perceptual experience the the focus is on how disjunctivism has figured in the epistemological work of John McDowell. A conception of recognitional abilities is deployed to expand on McDowell’s position. Finally, there is consideration of whether McDowell offers a satisfactory response to skepticism, taking account of criticism’s made by Crispin Wright.
In contemporary free will theory, a significant number of philosophers are once again taking seriously the possibility that human beings do not have free will, and are therefore not morally responsible for their actions. Free will theorists commonly assume that giving up the belief that human beings are morally responsible implies giving up all our beliefs about desert. But the consequences of giving up the belief that we are morally responsible are not quite this dramatic. Giving up the belief that (...) we are morally responsible undermines many, and perhaps most, of the desert claims we are pretheoretically inclined to accept. But it does not undermine desert claims based on the sheer fact of personhood. Even in the absence of belief in moral responsibility, personhood-based desert claims require us to respect persons and their rights. So personhood-based desert claims can provide a substantial role for desert in free will skeptics' ethical theories. (shrink)
This paper applies speech-act theory to craft a new response to Pyrrhonian skepticism and diagnose its appeal. Carefully distinguishing between different levels of language-use and noting their interrelations can help us identify a subtle mistake in a key Pyrrhonian argument.
I will compare Lehrer’s anti-skeptical strategy from a coherentist point of view with the anti-skeptical strategy of the Mooreans. I will argue that there are strong similarities between them: neither can present a persuasive argument to the skeptic and both face the problem of easy knowledge in one way or another. However, both can offer a complete and self-explanatory explanation of knowledge although Mooreanism can offer the more natural one. Hence, one has good reasons to prefer Mooreanism to Lehrer’s anti-skeptical (...) approach, if one does not prefer coherentism to foundationalism for other reasons. (shrink)
Robert Abrams argues that new concepts of space and landscape emerged in mid-nineteenth-century American writing, marking a linguistic and interpretative limit to American expansion. Abrams supports the radical elements of antebellum writing, where writers from Hawthorne to Rebecca Harding Davis disputed the naturalizing discourses of mid-nineteenth century society. Whereas previous critics find in antebellum writing a desire to convert chaos into an affirmative, liberal agenda, Abrams contends that authors of the 1840s and 50s deconstructed more than they constructed.
Bacon’s project suggests in theory that the obtaining of absolute certain knowledge is possible but in fact such knowledge is revealed to be impossible. Th e description of the human mind on which Bacon’s account is based seems to imply that the impossibility of obtaining absolute certainty does not depend on the contingent historical situation of a preliminary stage of the scientifi c endeavor. Consequently, a gap emerges between the proposed goal of science and the ways to reach it: Bacon (...) tried to obtain absolute certainty but he only could arrive at degrees of certainty and probability both in theories and in facts. Malgrè lui, Bacon shows himself developing in fact a kind of probabilistic science instead of surpassing the limits to knowledge posed by the skeptical arguments. Th at is the reason why many of his followers could develop a mitigated skepticism in the framework of a Baconian science. (shrink)
In “Perceptual Entitlement, Reliabilism, and Scepticism,“ Frank Barel explores some important and under-discussed questions regarding the relation between Tyler Burge's views on perceptual entitlement, on the one hand, and the problem of skepticism, on the other. In this note, I would like to comment on a couple of aspects of Barel's article. First, I have my own take, different from Barel's, on the question of whether we can sketch an a priori anti-skeptical argument proceeding from perceptual anti-individualism. Second, I (...) discuss the question whether Barel's “Rationalistic“ anti-skeptical argument is successful. (shrink)
O problema do conhecimento fácil tem sido definido na literatura epistemológica contemporânea com um problema que nasce de duas formas distintas. O propósito deste ensaio é mostrar que essas supostas maneiras diferentes de gerar o mesmo problema em verdade originam dois problemas distintos, que requerem respostas distintas. Um deles está relacionado à aquisição fácil (inaceitável) de conhecimento de primeira-ordem e o outro à aquisição fácil (inaceitável) de conhecimento de segunda-ordem. Além disso, é apresentada a maneira como o infinitismo, a teoria (...) epistêmica segundo a qual as razões que justificam uma opinião devem ser infinitas em número e não-repetidas, pode lidar com cada um desses problemas. (shrink)
Michael Williams e Keith DeRose defendem suas diferentes versões de contextualismo com base em que o contextualismo fornece uma explicação melhor do uso ordinário de termos epistêmicos que competidores invariantistas. Um objetivo deste trabalho é explicar por que seus argumentos não têm sucesso. Um objetivo adicional é mostrar que a disputa entre contextualistas e invariantistas tal como apresentada por Williams e DeRose é uma interpretação limitada da disputa: há importantes posições contextualistas e invariantistas que estão fora do alcance de seus (...) argumentos e que deveriam ser consideradas em uma defesa abrangente do contextualismo. DOI:10.5007/1808-1711.2010v14n3p375. (shrink)
This study examines Itō Jinsai’s 伊藤仁斎 (1627–1705) criticisms of the Great Learning (C: Daxue 大學 J: Daigaku). Three primary sources are considered: Jinsai’s Shigi sakumon 私擬策問 (Personal Essays, 1668); the Daigaku teihon 大學定本 (The Definitive Text of the Great Learning, manuscript 1685); and his essay, “Daigaku wa Kōshi no isho ni arazaru no ben” 大學非孔氏之遺書辨 (The Great Learning is not a Writing Confucius Transmitted, 1705), appended to his Gomō jigi 語孟字義. The study suggests that Jinsai’s critical inclinations grew from his (...) acceptance of Zhu Xi’s views about the value of doubt for progress in learning. The study also suggests that Jinsai’s thinking on the Great Learning had political implications derived in many respects from Jinsai’s overall approach to philosophizing via analysis of words and their meanings. (shrink)
Content skepticism about practical reason is doubt about the bearing of rational considerations on the activities of deliberation and choice. Motivational skepticism is doubt about the scope of reason as a motive. Some people think that motivational considerations alone provide grounds for skepticism about the project of founding ethics on practical reason. I will argue, against this view, that motivational skepticism must always be based on content skepticism. I will not address the question of whether (...) or not content skepticism is justified. I want only to establish the fact that motivational skepticism has no independent force. (shrink)
The first part of this article discusses recent skepticism about character traits. The second describes various forms of virtue ethics as reactions to such skepticism. The philosopher J.-P. Sartre argued in the 1940s that character traits are pretenses, a view that the sociologist E. Goffman elaborated in the 1950s. Since then social psychologists have shown that attributions of character traits tend to be inaccurate through the ignoring of situational factors. (Personality psychology has tended to concentrate on people's conceptions (...) of personality and character rather than on the accuracy of these conceptions). Similarly, the political theorist R. Hardin has argued for situational explanations of bloody social disputes in the former Yugoslavia and in Africa, rather than explanations in terms of ethnic hatred for example. A version of virtue ethics might identify virtues as characteristics of acts rather than character traits, as traits consisting in actual regularities in behavior, or as robust dispositions that would manifest themselves also in counterfactual situations. (shrink)
In this paper, the author defends Peter van Inwagen’s modal skepticism. Van Inwagen accepts that we have much basic, everyday modal knowledge, but denies that we have the capacity to justify philosophically interesting modal claims that are far removed from this basic knowledge. The author also defends the argument by means of which van Inwagen supports his modal skepticism, offering a rebuttal to an objection along the lines of that proposed by Geirrson. Van Inwagen argues that Stephen Yablo’s (...) recent and influential account of the relationship between conceivability and possibility supports his skeptical claims. The author’s defence involves a creative interpretation and development of Yablo’s account, which results in a recursive account of modal epistemology, what the author calls the “safe explanation” theory of modal epistemology. (shrink)
My concern in this paper will be to explore and develop a version of nonsocratic skepticism about weakness of will. In my view, socratism is incorrect, but like Socrates, I think that the common understanding of weakness of will raises serious problems. Contrary to socratism, it is possible for a person knowingly to act contrary to his or her better judgment. But this description does not exhaust the common view of weakness. Also implicit in this view is the belief (...) that actions which are contrary to one's better judgment are free in the sense that the agent could have done otherwise. To take seriously the possibility of acting contrary to one's better judgment is at the same time to raise problems about the distinction between weakness and compulsion. I argue that the common view, according to which the differentiating feature is that the weak are able to conform their behavior to their practical judgments, is unjustified. Instead, I have proposed that weakness of will involves the failure to develop certain normal capacities of self-control, whereas compulsion involves desires which even the possession of such capacities would not enable one to resist. (shrink)
Semantic holists view what one's terms mean as function of all of one's usage. Holists will thus be coherentists about semantic justification: showing that one's usage of a term is semantically justified involves showing how it coheres with the rest of one's usage. Semantic atomists, by contrast, understand semantic justification in a foundationalist fashion. Saul Kripke has, on Wittgenstein's behalf, famously argued for a type of skepticism about meaning and semantic justification. However, Kripke's argument has bite only if one (...) understands semantic justification in foundationalist terms. Consequently, Kripke's arguments lead not to a type of skepticism about meaning, but rather to the conclusion that one should be a coherentist about semantic justification, and thus a holist about semantic facts. (shrink)
This essay offers a new interpretation of Nietzsche's argument for moral skepticism (i.e., the metaphysical thesis that there do not exist any objective moral properties or facts), an argument that should be of independent philosophical interest as well. On this account, Nietzsche offers a version of the argument from moral disagreement, but, unlike familiar varieties, it does not purport to exploit anthropological reports about the moral views of exotic cultures, or even garden-variety conflicting moral intuitions about concrete cases. Nietzsche, (...) instead, calls attention to the single most important and embarrassing fact about the history of moral theorizing by philosophers over two millennia: namely, that no rational consensus has been secured on any substantive, foundational proposition about morality. Persistent and apparently intractable disagreement on foundational questions, of course, distinguishes moral theory from inquiry in the sciences and mathematics (perhaps in kind, certainly in degree). According to Nietzsche, the best explanation for this disagreement is that, even though moral skepticism is true, philosophers can still construct valid dialectical justifications for moral propositions because the premises of different justifications will answer to the psychological needs of at least some philosophers and thus be deemed true by some of them. The essay concludes by considering various attempts to defuse this abductive argument for skepticism based on moral disagreement and by addressing the question whether the argument "proves too much," that is, whether it might entail an implausible skepticism about a wide range of topics about which there is philosophical disagreement. (shrink)
I reconstruct and critique two arguments Laurence BonJour has recently offered against skepticism about the a priori. While the arguments may provide anti-skeptical, internalist foundationalists with reason to accept the a priori, I show that neither argument provides sufficient reason for believing the more general conclusion that there is no rational alternative to accepting the a priori.
Penultimate draft; please refer to published version -- especially important in this case, as the official version has been Britishized; even the title's second letter is not the same. Abstract. Ernest Sosa has argued that the solution to dream skepticism lies in an understanding of dreams as imaginative experiences – when we dream, on this suggestion, we do not believe the contents of our dreams, but rather imagine them. Sosa rebuts skepticism thus: dreams don’t cause false beliefs, so (...) my beliefs cannot be false, having been caused by dreams. I argue that, even assuming that Sosa is correct about the nature of dreaming, belief in wakefulness on these grounds is epistemically irresponsible. The proper upshot of the imagination model, I suggest, is to recharacterize the way we think about dream skepticism: the skeptical threat is not, after all, that we have false beliefs. So even though dreams don’t involve false beliefs, they still pose a skeptical threat, which I elaborate. (shrink)
Few philosophers believe that G. E. Moore’s notorious proof of an external world can give us justification to believe that skepticism about perceptual beliefs is false. The most prominent explanation of what is wrong with Moore’s proof—as well as some structurally similar anti-skeptical arguments—centers on conservatism: roughly, the view that someone can acquire a justified belief that p on the basis of E only if he has p-independent justification to believe that all of the skeptical hypotheses that (...) undermine the support lent by E to p are false. In this paper I argue that conservatism does not make trouble for Moore’s proof. I do this by setting up a dilemma concerning the notion of “justification to believe” that figures in conservatism. On one understanding of justification to believe, conservatism is subject to obvious counterexamples. On another understanding of justification to believe, conservatism is consistent with Moore’s “proof” conferring justification upon its conclusion. Since these two understandings exhaust the logical space, the conservative indictment of Mooreanism fails. (shrink)
A few years back, I participated in the Spindell Conference in Memphis, and gave a paper, “How Can We Know That We’re Not Brains in Vats?” (available on-line at: http://pantheon.yale.edu/~kd47/Spindell.htm). The bulk of that paper concerned responses to skepticism. I pursued an unusually radical criticism of the often-criticized “Putnam-style” responses to skepticism. To put it rather enigmatically, I argued that such responses don’t work even if they work! And I compared such responses with the type of response I (...) favor – the “contextualist Moorean” response – to show how these latter responses are of a type that avoids the radical problems that plague Putnam-style responses. But in the final section of the paper, I turned briefly to a different, though related, issue, presenting my proposed solution to what’s often called the “McKinsey problem.”. (shrink)
In the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke insists that all knowledge consists in perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas. However, he also insists that knowledge extends to outer reality, claiming that perception yields ‘sensitive knowledge’ of the existence of outer objects. Some scholars have argued that Locke did not really mean to restrict knowledge to perceptions of relations within the realm of ideas; others have argued that sensitive knowledge is not strictly speaking a form of knowledge for Locke. (...) This chapter argues that Locke’s conception of sensitive knowledge is in fact compatible with his official definition of knowledge, and discusses his treatment of the problem of skepticism, both in the Essay and in the correspondence with Stillingfleet. (shrink)
Abstract: This essay explores the relation between feminist epistemology and the problem of philosophical skepticism. Even though feminist epistemology has not typically focused on skepticism as a problem, I argue that a feminist contextualist epistemology may solve many of the difficulties facing recent contextualist responses to skepticism. Philosophical skepticism appears to succeed in casting doubt on the very possibility of knowledge by shifting our attention to abnormal contexts. I argue that this shift in context constitutes an (...) attempt to exercise unearned social and epistemic power and that it should be resisted on epistemic and pragmatic grounds. I conclude that skepticism is a problem that feminists can and should take up as they address the social aspects of traditional epistemological problems. (shrink)
Hume begins the Treatise of Human Nature by announcing the goal of developing a science of man; by the end of Book 1 of the Treatise, the science of man seems to founder in doubt. Underlying the tension between Hume's constructive ambition – his 'naturalism'– and his doubts about that ambition – his 'skepticism'– is the question of whether Hume is justified in continuing his philosophical project. In this paper, I explain how this question emerges in the final section (...) of Book 1 of the Treatise, the 'Conclusion of this Book', then examine Janet Broughton's and Don Garrett's answers to it, and conclude by sketching a different approach to this question. (shrink)
In this article I investigate a neglected form of radical skepticism that questions whether any of our logical, mathematical and other seemingly self-evident beliefs count as knowledge. ‘A priori skepticism,’ as I will call it, challenges our ability to know any of the following sorts of propositions: (1.1) The sum of two and three is five. (1.2) Whatever is square is rectangular. (1.3) Whatever is red is colored. (1.4) No surface can be uniformly red and uniformly blue at (...) the same time. (1.5) If ‘if p then q’ is true and ‘p’ is true, then ‘q’ is true. (1.6) No statement can be both true and false at the same time and in the same respect. (1.7) If A is taller than B, and B is taller than C, then A is taller than C. (1.8) Everything is identical to itself. (1.9) If the conclusion of an inductive argument is contingent, it is possible for the premises of that argument to be true and its conclusion to be false. (1.10) George W. Bush could have been a plumber. (1.11) George W. Bush could not have been a prime number. (1.12) ‘2 + 3 = 5’ is necessarily true. (shrink)
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)
exactly as the essay appears in Skepticism. It's pretty close, though. In the version that appears in the book, page references to other essays in Skepticism refer to page numbers in the book, while below page references are, for the most part, to the original place of publication of the essays referred to. Also, I below make one correction (in red) of a factual error..
Abū Hāmid al-Ghazālī (1058–1111 c.e .) is well known, among other things, for his account, in al-Munqidh min al-ḍalāl (Deliverance from error), of a struggle with philosophical skepticism that bears a striking resemblance to that described by Descartes in the Meditations . This essay aims to give a close comparative analysis of these respective accounts, and will concentrate solely on the processes of invoking or entertaining doubt that al-Ghazālī and Descartes describe, respectively. In the process some subtle differences between (...) them in this regard will be brought to light that are relevant to the comparative issue of the respective solutions at which they arrive. The latter issue will not be touched upon here, although the present discussion is intended as a prelude to a future treatment of that topic. (shrink)
Skeptical theists purport to undermine evidential arguments from evil by appealing to the fact that our knowledge of goods, evils, and their interconnections is signi cantly limited. Michael J. Almeida and Graham Oppy have recently argued that skeptical theism is unacceptable because it results in a form of moral skepticism which rejects inferences that play an important role in our ordinary moral reasoning. In this reply to Almeida and Oppy's argument we offer some reasons for thinking that skeptical theism (...) need not lead to any such objectionable form of moral skepticism. (shrink)
Recently, Ernest Sosa (2007) has proposed two novel solutions to the problem of dream skepticism. In the present paper, I argue that Sosa’s first solution falls prey to what I will refer to as the conditionality problem, i.e., the problem of only establishing a conditional—in this case, if x, then I am awake, x being a placeholder for a condition incompatible with dreaming—in a context where it also needs to be established that we can know that the antecedent holds, (...) and as such can infer the consequent, i.e., I am awake. Sosa’s second solution, in terms of so-called reflective knowledge, is shown to land him in the dilemma of either facing yet another conditionality problem, or violating an internalist constraint that he explicitly grants the skeptic with respect to what kind of factors can be legitimately invoked in our account of how we may know the relevant antecedent. For these reasons, I conclude that Sosa has not solved the problem of dream skepticism. (shrink)
Abstract: Ernest Sosa has recently articulated an insightful response to skepticism and, in particular, to the dream argument. The response relies on two independent moves. First, Sosa offers the imagination model of dreaming according to which no assertions are ever made in dreams and no beliefs are involved there. As a result, it is possible to distinguish dreaming from being awake, and the dream argument is blocked. Second, Sosa develops a virtue epistemology according to which in appropriately normal conditions (...) our perceptual beliefs will be apt. Hence, in these conditions, we will have at least animal knowledge, and the conclusion of the dream argument is undermined. In this article, I examine various moves that the skeptic can make to resist Sosa's challenge, and I contrast the proposal to a neo-Pyrrhonian stance. In the end, there is surprisingly little disagreement about the status of ordinary perceptual beliefs in the two stances. (shrink)
One of the most important and perennially debated philosophical questions is whether we can have knowledge of the external world. 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)
Modern-day heirs of the Cartesian revolution have been fascinated by the thought that one could utilize certain hypotheses – that one is dreaming, deceived by an evil demon, or a brain in a vat – to argue at one fell swoop that one does not know, is not justified in believing, or ought not believe most if not all of what one currently believes about the world. A good part of the interest and mystique of these discussions arises from the (...) contention that the seeds of such arguments lie in our ordinary epistemic practices, so that external world skepticism can arise “from within”. But is this contention correct? I doubt it. Taking skepticism seriously requires that we address this question head on. To do so, I will approach skeptical arguments from a certain vantage point. I will try to stand, as far as possible, with both feet squarely in ordinary life. I will start out with all of our ordinary commitments about what is the case, about what we know or have reason to believe, about when someone knows, is justified, or has good reason to believe something, and about how one should proceed in deciding what to believe. My question, then, will be this. From within that vantage point can I somehow be moved in a reasonable way to accept the conclusion that I know far less about the world around me than I thought, or that epistemically speaking, I really ought not believe much of what I have believed about the world around me? In order for such movement to take place, I will have to find reason from within my ordinary standpoint to discount or reject much of what I ordinarily accept. And of course, that reason will have to come from some.. (shrink)
: In Contra Academicos 3.11.24, Augustine responds to skepticism about the existence of the external world 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)
Part 1 argues that, despite rhetorical appearances, McDowell accepts a standard version of epistemic externalism. Moreover, epistemic externalism plays an important role in McDowell’s response to skepticism. Part 2 argues that, contra McDowell, epistemic externalism is necessary for rejecting skepticism, and content externalism is not sufficient for rejecting skepticism.
In recent years it has become more and more difficult to distinguish between metaethical cognitivism and non-cognitivism. For example, proponents of the minimalist theory of truth hold that moral claims need not express beliefs in order to be (minimally) truth-apt, and yet some of these proponents still reject the traditional cognitivist analysis of moral language and thought. Thus, the dispute in metaethics between cognitivists and non-cognitivists has come to be seen as a dispute over the correct way to characterize our (...) psychology: are moral judgments beliefs, or a kind of pro-attitude? In this paper, I argue that this distinction, too, is difficult to maintain in the light of a reasonable skepticism about folk psychology. I conclude by suggesting some new possibilities for the analysis of moral language that look beyond this distinction. I begin by briefly reviewing some contemporary positions in metaethics on cognitivism and non-cognitivism, that are intended to emphasize the supposed psychological differences between the two views. I show that the appearance of a clear difference between these views depends on one's having a very strong commitment to the context-independence and completeness of certain concepts of folk psychology. I then argue for a moderate skepticism about folk psychology. I conclude that folk concepts like ?belief? are not sufficiently well-defined to settle this metaethical dispute. (shrink)
Unger (1974/2000) presents an argument for skepticism that significantly differs from the more traditional arguments for skepticism. The argument is based on two premises, to wit, that knowledge would entitle the knower to absolute certainty, and that an attitude of absolute certainty is always inadmissible from an epistemic viewpoint. The present paper scrutinizes the arguments that Unger provides in support of these premises and shows that none of them is tenable. It thus concludes that Unger's argument for (...) class='Hi'>skepticism fails to threaten the possibility of knowledge. (shrink)
A single argument template—the EPH template—can be used to generate versions of the best known and most challenging skeptical problems. In his brilliantly groundbreaking book Knowledge and Its Limits, Timothy Williamson presents a theory of knowledge and evidence which he clearly intends to provide a response to skepticism in its most important forms. After laying out EPH skepticism and reviewing possible ways of responding to it, I show how elements of Williamson’s theory motivate a hitherto unexplored way of (...) responding to EPH-generated skeptical arguments. Then I offer reasons to doubt the correctness of Williamson’s response. (shrink)