Universal Hinges and the Bounds of Sense

Philosophia 48 (3):967-979 (2020)
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Abstract

According to Danièle Moyal-Sharrock, Wittgenstein’s On Certainty presents a theory of hinges, and hinges have a role to play in a foundationalist epistemology. Williams and Coliva have claimed that the hinges are not suitable to play such a role as they are not shared universally. Moyal-Sharrock has replied that a subset of the hinges is suitable to play such a role: the “universal” hinges, an account of which she developed in her 2004 book Understanding on Certainty. I argue that for Moyal-Sharrock’s reply to be sustained, she must construe the set of universal hinges much more narrowly than she does currently. For instance, Moyal-Sharrock claims that “I have a brain” is a universal hinge, which consigns people who know nothing about brains to stand outside the bounds of sense. I also provide a novel way of thinking about the universal hinges, which I argue is better textually motivated than Moyal-Sharrock’s own way, and which provides a set of hinges more suitable to play a role in foundationalist epistemology.

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Mark Fortney
Dalhousie University

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