Evidentialism and skeptical arguments

Synthese 189 (2):337-352 (2012)
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Cartesian skepticism about epistemic justification (‘skepticism’) is the view that many of our beliefs about the external world – e.g., my current belief that I have hands – aren’t justified. I examine the two most influential arguments for skepticism – the Closure Argument and the Underdetermination Argument – from an evidentialist perspective. For both arguments it is clear which premise the anti-skeptic must deny. The Closure Argument, I argue, is the better argument in that its key premise is weaker than the Underdetermination Argument’s key premise. However, it’s also likely that the motivation for accepting both key premises is exactly the same. So there may be a sense in which both arguments provide exactly the same motivation for skepticism. Then I argue that if I I’m right about what the motivation for accepting the arguments’ key premises is, then neither argument succeeds in providing a good reason to accept skepticism. I conclude by explaining why I think epistemologists are right to expend a lot of time and effort on refuting these arguments, even if neither argument provides any motivation for skepticism.

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Dylan Dodd
University of California at Santa Barbara (PhD)

References found in this work

Knowledge and its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
Philosophical Explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Harvard University Press.
Laws and Symmetry.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1989 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Knowledge and Its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Philosophy 76 (297):460-464.

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