Skepticism

Edited by Everett Fulmer (Loyola University, New Orleans)
About this topic
Summary Skepticism involves doubt, or at least a reluctance to commit. For example, some philosophers are moral skeptics, claiming that no one can know what is right or wrong. Skepticism about the "external world" is more general, denying that there is knowledge of the world “outside our minds.”  Even more generally, some skeptics claim that there is no knowledge at all.  Philosophers have long explored reasons for and against various skeptical positions and argued about the consequences of adopting various skeptical stances.   In the ancient world, skepticism was recommended as a way of life.  The general claim was that living with an attitude of skeptical doubt is superior (morally and/or practically) to living with an attitude of dogmatic certainty.  In the modern world (i.e., the 1600s through the 1800s), skepticism was more often treated as something to be avoided, and considerable philosophical energy was put into strategies for doing so.  In contemporary philosophy, skepticism is typically framed as a theoretical problem rather than a practical one. The concern is to closely consider the best arguments for skepticism and to explore how best to respond to them.  Attempts to answer skeptical arguments have inspired philosophers to adopt substantive positions in epistemology, but also in ontology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and moral philosophy.  
Key works The Oxford Handbook of Skepticism provides a comprehensive introduction to skeptical arguments and responses to skepticism.  Influential volumes include Popkin 1960Unger 1975Stroud 1984; and Williams 1991.   
Introductions Useful introductory articles include DeRose 1995; Greco 2007Pritchard 2002.
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  1. Erkenntnistheorie.Martin Grajner - 2011 - In Johannes Rohbeck & Peggy Breitenstein (eds.), Einführung in die Philosophie: Epochen – Disziplinen – Kompetenzen. Stuttgart, Deutschland: pp. 147-163.
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  2. The Structure of Thoreau’s Epistemology, with Continual Reference to Descartes.Tim Black - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-20.
    We can find in Henry David Thoreau’s work a response to Cartesian skepticism. Thoreau takes this skepticism to get its start in us only when we are not attuned to the world, that is, only when we lose sight of our being integrated with the world in the way we quite naturally are. Thoreau posits for human beings a natural and unshakeable integration with the world. This develops into an attunement with the world, making us ready to engage with the (...)
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  3. Irrelevant ‘Philosophy’: What is Philosophy by Philosophers.Ulrich De Balbian - 2021 - Oxford, UK: Academic.
    The tools employed might appear appropriate, the reasoning sound and argumentation valid, but the subject-matter, well one wonders what that has to do with philosophy, if anything at all? Viewing some of the topics one really wonders of the notion of philosophy is not stretched too far? So much that is passed off as philosophy itself or some kind of so-called interdisciplinary issues really appear as irrelevant. Topics from the grievance studies especially fall under this. It seems as if individuals (...)
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  4. Stéphane Marchand, Le Scepticisme: Vivre Sans Opinions.Richard Bett - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 11 (1):53-58.
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  5. Racheli Haliva (Ed.), Scepticism and Anti-Scepticism in Medieval Jewish Philosophy and Thought.Shalom Sadik - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 11 (1):59-65.
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  6. Kevin McCain and Ted Poston (Eds.), The Mystery of Skepticism: New Explorations.James R. Beebe - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 11 (1):66-70.
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  7. Thomas Pölzler, Moral Reality and the Empirical Sciences. [REVIEW]Michael Klenk - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 11 (1):78-86.
    Thomas Pölzler’s book offers the first detailed study that focuses explicitly on the promise of science-based arguments for and against moral realism (of both the natural and non-natural kind). His two central claims are that sound arguments bearing on the realism/anti-realism debate are possible, and, yet, that four central attempts to derive metaethical conclusions from science-based arguments uniformly fail. The book then provides several recommendations for future science-based contributions to the realism/anti-realism debate to do better. The book is a valuable (...)
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  8. On the Underpinning Mechanisms of (Epistemically) Reliable Processes.Majid Davoody Beni - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 11 (1):28-52.
    The paper aims to evaluate the success of two different philosophical interpretations of prediction error minimisation theory in dissolving a notorious problem of philosophy, i.e., the New Evil Demon Problem. In this paper, I argue that the inferentialist interpretation could not dissolve the strong form of ned. Alternatively, the embodied construaldissolves ned. However, in doing so, i.e., in dispensing with the cognitive judgment, the embodied construal might also eliminate some basic concepts of epistemology.
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  9. Wouter Floris Kalf, Moral Error Theory.Matthew Lutz - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 11 (1):71-77.
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  10. The Point of Moore’s Proof.Charles Raff - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 11 (1):1-27.
    The current standard interpretation of Moore’s proof assumes he offers a solution to Kant’s famously posed problem of an external world, which Moore quotes at the start of his 1939 lecture “Proof of an External World.” As a solution to Kant’s problem, Moore’s proof would fail utterly. A second received interpretation imputes an aim of refuting metaphysical idealism that Moore’s proof does not at all achieve. This study departs from received interpretations to credit the aim Moore announced for the proof (...)
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  11. A Cumulative Case Argument for Infallibilism.Nevin Climenhaga - forthcoming - In Christos Kyriacou & Kevin Wallbridge (eds.), Skeptical Invariantism Reconsidered. Routledge.
    I present a cumulative case for the thesis that we only know propositions that are certain for us. I argue that this thesis can easily explain the truth of eight plausible claims about knowledge: -/- (1) There is a qualitative difference between knowledge and non-knowledge. (2) Knowledge is valuable in a way that non-knowledge is not. (3) Subjects in Gettier cases do not have knowledge. (4) If S knows that P, P is part of S’s evidence. (5) If S knows (...)
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  12. Non-Evidentialist Epistemology: Introduction and Overview.Nikolaj Jang Linding Pedersen & Luca Moretti - forthcoming - In Luca Moretti & Nikolaj Jang Linding Pedersen (eds.), Non-Evidentialist Epistemology. Leiden: Brill:
    This is the introduction to Moretti, Luca and Nikolaj Pedersen (eds), Non-Evidentialist Epistemology. Brill. Contributors: N. Ashton, A. Coliva, J. Kim, K. McCain, A. Meylan, L. Moretti, S. Moruzzi, J. Ohlorst, N. Pedersen, T. Piazza, L. Zanetti.
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  13. The Normality of Error.Sam Carter & Simon Goldstein - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-25.
    Formal models of appearance and reality have proved fruitful for investigating structural properties of perceptual knowledge. This paper applies the same approach to epistemic justification. Our central goal is to give a simple account of The Preface, in which justified belief fails to agglomerate. Following recent work by a number of authors, we understand knowledge in terms of normality. An agent knows p iff p is true throughout all relevant normal worlds. To model The Preface, we appeal to the normality (...)
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  14. Williams Contextualism as a Critique of Epistemological Realism.Milos Bogdanovic - 2019 - Theoria: Beograd 62 (1):91-102.
    Although Williams’ contextual thesis is above all a critique of one way of interpreting contextualism in epistemology, viz., simple conversational contextualisam, I will argue that this thesis has also been a very successful means for the critique of a standpoint on which that interpretation, and the entire traditional epistemology rests - epistemological realism. Accordingly, in spite of certain weaknesses in Williams’ position pointed out by his critiques, in this paper I will try to show that, by interpreting the problem of (...)
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  15. Notre héritage du scepticisme n'est précédé d'aucun testament.Par-delà les vicissitudes de l'épistémologie traditionnelle et de l'anti-scepticisme, le spectre du "scepticisme à visage humain" selon Thompson Morgan Clarke, entre contextualisme, perspectivisme, pragmatisme et pyrrhonisme.Stéphane Cormier - 2021 - Sképsis 11 ((23)Clarke's Legacy and Hinge Ep):122-147.
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  16. René Lefebvre (trad.), Sextus Empiricus: Contre les Logiciens.Stéphane Marchand - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-8.
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  17. A Regress of Justification? Brandom and Wittgenstein on Certainty and Reasonable Doubt.Sybren Heyndels - 2019 - Disputatio 8 (9):521-539.
    In order to ward off the global threat of a regress of justification, Brandom argues that some claims in our linguistic practices must be treated as “innocent until proven guilty’, i.e. participants must be treated as prima facie entitled when making them. Examples he gives include claims such as “There have been black dogs” and “I have ten fingers”. Brandom calls this idea “the default and challenge structure of entitlement”. In On Certainty, Wittgenstein argues that there are basic certainties (“hinge (...)
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  18. Are There Mathematical Hinges?Annalisa Coliva - 2020 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 10 (3-4):346-366.
    In this paper I argue that, contrary to what several prominent scholars of On Certainty have claimed, Wittgenstein did not maintain that simple mathematical propositions like “2 × 2 = 4” or “12 × 12 = 144,” much like G. E. Moore’s truisms, could be examples of hinge propositions. In particular, given his overall conception of mathematics, it was impossible for him to single out these simpler mathematical propositions from the rest of mathematical statements, to reserve only to them a (...)
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  19. Skepticism and Inquiry.Sanford C. Goldberg - 2020 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 10 (3-4):304-324.
    In this paper, I am interested in skepticism’s downstream effects on further inquiry. To account for these downstream effects, we need to distinguish the reasons for doubting whether p, one’s other background beliefs bearing on the prospects that further inquiry would improve one’s epistemic position on p, and the value one assigns to determining whether p. I advance two claims regarding skepticism’s downstream effects on inquiry. First, it is characteristic of “radical” forms of skepticism that is sufficient to undermine the (...)
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  20. Moral Realism and the Argument From Skepticism.Olle Risberg & Folke Tersman - 2020 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 10 (3-4):283-303.
    A long-standing family of worries about moral realism focuses on its implications for moral epistemology. The underlying concern is that if moral truths have the nature that realists believe, it is hard to see how we could know what they are. This objection may be called the “argument from skepticism” against moral realism. Realists have primarily responded to this argument by presenting accounts of how we could acquire knowledge of moral truths that are consistent with realist assumptions about their nature. (...)
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  21. On Religious Skepticism.J. L. Schellenberg - 2020 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 10 (3-4):268-282.
    I seek to promote a fuller understanding of religious skepticism by defending five theses. These concern, respectively: its breadth, discussed in relation to theism on the one hand and naturalism on the other; why it should be distinguished from a general metaphysical skepticism; how it is supported by the consequences of recent cultural evolution, which at the same time enable new and stronger arguments for atheism; the relations it bears to non-doxastic religious faith; and, finally, its curious capacity in certain (...)
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  22. Isabelle de Charrière and Skepticism in the Literary Life.John Christian Laursen - 2020 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 10 (3-4):256-267.
    This article explores some senses in which Isabelle de Charrière may be understood as a skeptic in her personal life and in her literary life, although the two cannot really be separated since she lived the literary life. She called herself a skeptic a number of times, and also showed some knowledge of the Academic or Socratic and especially of the Pyrrhonian traditions of skepticism in her novels and extensive correspondence. This Dutch-Swiss writer provides an example of what it might (...)
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  23. Scepticism and Self-Detachment.Casey Perin - 2020 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 10 (3-4):235-255.
    This paper takes up two questions. Is there a sense in which the Sceptic as described by Sextus Empiricus is detached from himself? Does this self-detachment by itself make the Sceptic’s way of life undesirable? I sketch two conceptions of self-detachment, and then conclude that the Sceptic faces a dilemma: either he is more detached from himself than the non-Sceptic or he is vulnerable to a non-standard version of the apraxia objection.
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  24. Gorgias’ Περὶ Τοῦ Μὴ Ὄντος and Its Relation to Skepticism.Richard Bett - 2020 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 10 (3-4):187-208.
    The paper examines whether Gorgias’ On What Is Not should be considered an instance of skepticism. It begins with an analysis of the work as reported by the two sources, Sextus Empiricus and the anonymous author of On Melissus, Xenophanes and Gorgias. It is then argued that the Pyrrhonian skeptics did not regard On What Is Not as skeptical. Nonetheless, it is possible to read the work as offering counter-arguments to Parmenides, with a view to inducing suspension of judgment in (...)
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  25. Knowledge and Truth in the Greatest Difficulty Argument: Parmenides 133b4–134b5.Gail Fine - 2020 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 10 (3-4):209-234.
    One of Plato’s central tenets is that we can know forms. In Parmenides 133b4–134b5, Plato presents an argument whose sceptical conclusion is that we can’t know forms. Although he indicates that the argument doesn’t succeed, he also says it’s difficult to explain how it fails. Commentators have suggested a variety of flaws. I argue that the argument can be defended against some, though not all, of the alleged flaws. But I also argue that Plato hints at a crucial distinction that (...)
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  26. Editors’ Note.Diego Machuca & Duncan Pritchard - 2020 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 10 (3-4):185-186.
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  27. A Abordagem Ecológica das Habilidades e a Epistemologia dos eixos.Carvalho Eros - forthcoming - In Plinio J. Smith & Nara Figueiredo (eds.), A epistemologia dos eixos: uma interpretação e debate do Sobre a Certeza, de Wittgenstein. São Paulo:
    Neste texto, discuto a interpretação defendida por Moyal-Sharrock, segundo a qual as proposições eixo são maneiras de agir com o objetivo de oferecer uma proposta sobre como compreendê-las. Sustento que a posição de Moyal-Sharrock deixa algumas lacunas, porque não explica a origem das nossas certezas fundamentais. A sua leitura também carece de recursos para responder ao problema da demarcação, uma vez que não é claro como distinguir maneiras de agir que podem legitimamente cumprir o papel de fundamento não fundamentado das (...)
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  28. The Quest for Certainty.Luca Zanetti - unknown - Kriterion - Journal of Philosophy (AO):AO.
    The aim of this paper is to vindicate the Cartesian quest for certainty by arguing that to aim at certainty is a constitutive feature of cognition. My argument hinges on three observations concerning the nature of doubt and judgment: first, it is always possible to have a doubt as to whether p in so far as one takes the truth of p to be uncertain; second, in so far as one takes the truth of p to be certain, one is (...)
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  29. The Basis Problem of Epistemological Disjunctivism and Paradigmatic Cases.Changsheng Lai - 2020 - Journal of Dialectics of Nature 42 (11):17-24.
    Epistemological disjunctivism argues that one can have perceptual knowledge that p in virtue of being in possession of factive and reflectively accessible rational support, e.g., one’s ‘seeing that p’. A well-known challenge to this view is the so-called basis problem of epistemological disjunctivism, which argues that one’s ‘seeing that p’ cannot constitute the rational support for one’s knowledge that p, as ‘seeing that p’ is just a way of ‘knowing that p’. The basis problem is taken to be based on (...)
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  30. Consciousness's Conceptualizations.Ulrich de Balbian - manuscript
    Exploration of phenomena that need to be considered so as to conceptualize consciousness types of different biological organisms or living things, levels, dimensions, aims, types, stages of the process of consciousness and organs involved.
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  31. Nāgārjuna’s Scepticism About Philosophy.Ethan A. Mills - 2020 - In Oren Hanner (ed.), Buddhism and Scepticism: Historical, Philosophical, and Comparative Perspectives. Freiburg/Bochum: pp. 55-81.
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  32. Some Sceptical Doubts About “Buddhist Scepticism”.Mark Siderits - 2020 - In Oren Hanner (ed.), Buddhism and Scepticism: Historical, Philosophical, and Comparative Perspectives. Freiburg/Bochum: pp. 21-35.
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  33. Descartes Sceptique Malgré Lui?François-Xavier de Peretti - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-16.
    Résumé Descartes a adopté envers le scepticisme une attitude que d’aucuns parmi ses adversaires ont jugée ambiguë voire coupable. Il a recouru à des arguments sceptiques pour mettre en œuvre son célèbre doute qu’il concevait néanmoins comme l’acte inaugural d’une philosophie en quête de certitude scientifique. Descartes rejetait ainsi la fin poursuivie par les sceptiques et entendait user du doute contre le doute. Cette stratégie fondée sur un scepticisme des moyens pour combattre la fin et l’esprit même du scepticisme s’est-elle (...)
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  34. Is Modern Science a Problem for Living as a Pyrrhonist Today? A Discussion of Richard Bett’s “Can We Be Ancient Sceptics?”.Ryan E. McCoy - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-18.
    In the final chapter of his recent book How to Be a Pyrrhonist: The Practice and Significance of Pyrrhonian Skepticism, Richard Bett discusses the possibility of living as a Pyrrhonian skeptic today. Chief among his concerns is the scope of the skeptic’s suspension of judgment and whether or not the skeptic could maintain suspension of judgment in light of the results of modern science. For example, how might the skeptic sustain suspension of judgment in light of overwhelming evidence for climate (...)
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  35. Restoring Certainty.Danièle Moyal-Sharrock - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-16.
    This paper addresses the objections that Genia Schönbaumsfeld makes in The Illusion of Doubt to my view of hinge certainty as a ‘certainty’, and as nonepistemic, nonpropositional and animal. It also addresses her dissatisfaction with Wittgenstein’s notion of ‘the groundlessness of our believing’.
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  36. Does My Total Evidence Support That I’M a Boltzmann Brain?Sinan Dogramaci - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (12):3717-3723.
    A Boltzmann Brain, haphazardly formed through the unlikely but still possible random assembly of physical particles, is a conscious brain having experiences just like an ordinary person. The skeptical possibility of being a Boltzmann Brain is an especially gripping one: scientific evidence suggests our actual universe’s full history may ultimately contain countless short-lived Boltzmann Brains with experiences just like yours or mine. I propose a solution to the skeptical challenge posed by these countless actual Boltzmann Brains. My key idea is (...)
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  37. Scripture and Scepticism in Vasubandhu’s Exegetical Method.Oren Hanner - 2020 - In Buddhism and Scepticism: Historical, Philosophical, and Comparative Perspectives. Freiburg/Bochum: ProjektVerlag. pp. 131-160.
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  38. Who’s Pulling Our Wires?: Are We Living in an Imposed ‘Matrix’ Simulation?I. W. Kelly - manuscript
    The aptly called “simulation hypothesis” is the latest version of the historical skeptical philosophical speculation. The simulation hypothesis in its contemporary form is tied to sense inputs from sources (typically technologically based) other than external objects in the immediate environment. Let’s explore this: so why might some people take the modern-day philosophical simulation hypothesis seriously, and others think it is a bunch of covfefe? A wide-ranging consideration of the belief that we are living in a simulated world. Considers both philosophical (...)
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  39. Sensitivity Principle in Epistemology.Guido Melchior - 2020 - Oxford Bibliographies Online.
    Sensitivity is a modal epistemic principle. Modal knowledge accounts are externalist in nature and claim that the knowledge yielding connection between a true belief and the truthmaker must be spelled out in modal terms. The sensitivity condition was introduced by Robert Nozick. He suggests that if S knows that p, then S’s belief that p tracks truth. Nozick argues that this truth-tracking relation can be captured by subjunctive conditionals. As a first approximation, he provides the following modal analysis of knowledge: (...)
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  40. A Sellarsian Transcendental Argument Against External World Skepticism.Marin Geier - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-31.
    This paper investigates the relation between what James Conant has called Kantian and Cartesian varieties of skepticism. It is argued that a solution to the most prominent example of a Kantian variety of skepticism, i.e. Kripkensteinian skepticism about rule-following and meaning, can be found in the works of Wilfrid Sellars. It is then argued that, on the basis of that very same solution to the Kantian problematic of rule-following and meaning, a novel argument against external world skepticism can be formulated. (...)
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  41. Austin’s Way with Skepticism: An Essay on Philosophical Method, by Mark Kaplan.Guy Longworth - 2020 - Mind 129 (513):323-331.
    _ Austin’s Way with Skepticism: An Essay on Philosophical Method _, by KaplanMark. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. 192.
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  42. Why Purists Should Be Infallibilists.Michael Hannon - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (3):689-704.
    Two of the most orthodox ideas in epistemology are fallibilism and purism. According to the fallibilist, one can know that a particular claim is true even though one’s justification for that claim is less than fully conclusive. According to the purist, knowledge does not depend on practical factors. Fallibilism and purism are widely assumed to be compatible; in fact, the combination of these views has been called the ‘ho-hum,’ obvious, traditional view of knowledge. But I will argue that fallibilism and (...)
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  43. Getting Out From Inside: Why the Closure Principle Cannot Support External World Scepticism.Guido Melchior - 2008 - In A. Hieke and H. Leitgeb (ed.), Reduction and Elimination in Philosophy and the Sciences. Papers of the 31st International Wittgenstein Symposium. pp. 218-220.
    The canonical version of external world scepticism has the following structure: Premise1: If P knows that she is not a brain in a vat, then P does not have knowledge of the external world. Premise2: P does not know that she is not a brain in a vat. Conclusion: Therefore, P does not have knowledge of the external world. Some philosophers attack premise1 by denying the underlying closure principle. I will investigate possible argumentations for and against premise2. I will show (...)
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  44. Skeptical Doubting and Mindful Self-Reflection.Guido Melchior - 2013 - In Mind, Language and Action. Papers of the 36th International Wittgenstein Symposium. pp. 274-276.
    The skeptic argues that we cannot have any external world knowledge because we cannot know that we are not brains in a vat. The intuitive appeal of this skeptical argument is essentially based on the comprehensibility of the process of skeptical doubting, where we focus our attention on our experiences and experience-based beliefs and raise questions about the sources of these experiences. I propose that skeptical doubting is an instance of a mental attitude that contemporary psychology characterizes as mindfulness. I (...)
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  45. Knowledge and Representations: Explaining the Skeptical Puzzle.Guido Melchior - 2017 - In C. Limbeck-Lilienau and F. Stadler (ed.), The Philosophy of Perception and Observation. Papers of the 40th International Wittgenstein Symposium. pp. 150-152.
    (*This paper was awarded the Elisabeth and Werner Leinfellner Award 2017 for outstanding contributions.) -/- This paper provides an explanation of the skeptical puzzle. I argue that we can take two distinct points of view towards representations, mental representations like perceptual experiences and artificial representations like symbols. When focusing on what the representation represents we take an attached point of view. When focusing on the representational character of the representation we take a detached point view. From an attached point of (...)
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  46. Why Not Persuade the Skeptic? A Critique of Unambitious Epistemology.Michael Veber - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (4):314-338.
    What constitutes a solution to the problem of skepticism? It has been traditionally held that one must produce an argument that would rationally persuade skeptical philosophers that they are mistaken. But there is a trend in recent epistemology toward the idea that we can solve the problem without giving skeptics any good reason to change their minds. This is what I call unambitious epistemology. This paper is a critique of that project.
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  47. No Morality, No Self: Anscombe’s Radical Skepticism, Written by James Doyle. [REVIEW]Rachael Wiseman - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (4):357-363.
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  48. Disagreement, Deep Time, and Progress in Philosophy.Kirk Lougheed - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (4):285-313.
    The epistemology of disagreement examines the question of how an agent ought to respond to awareness of epistemic peer disagreement about one of her beliefs. The literature on this topic, ironically enough, represents widespread disagreement about how we should respond to disagreement. I argue for the sceptical conclusion that the existence of widespread disagreement throughout the history of philosophy, and right up until the present day indicates that philosophers are highly unreliable at arriving at the truth. If truth convergence indicates (...)
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  49. Skepticism: Impractical, Therefore Implausible.Michael Hannon - 2019 - Philosophical Issues 29 (1):143-158.
    The truth of skepticism would be depressing and impractical. Our beliefs would be groundless, we would know nothing (or almost nothing) about the world around us, and epistemic success would likely be impossible. But do these negative consequences have any bearing on the truth of skepticism? According to many scholars, they do not. The impractical consequences of skepticism are typically regarded as orthogonal to its truth. For this reason, pragmatic resolutions to skepticism are regularly dismissed. I will argue, however, that (...)
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  50. Le Scepticisme: Vivre Sans Opinions, Written by Phane Marchand.Richard Bett - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-6.
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