Wittgenstein's On Certainty and Contemporary Anti-Scepticism

In D. Moyal-Sharrock & W. H. Brenner (eds.), Investigating On Certainty: Essays on Wittgenstein's Last Work. Palgrave-Macmillan (2005)
This paper examines the relevance of Wittgenstein’s On Certainty to the contemporary debate regarding the problem of radical scepticism. In particular, it considers two accounts in the recent literature which have seen in Wittgenstein’s remarks on “hinge propositions” in On Certainty the basis for a primarily epistemological anti-sceptical thesis—viz., the inferential contextualism offered by Michael Williams and the ‘unearned warrant’ thesis defended by Crispin Wright. Both positions are shown to be problematic, both as interpretations of Wittgenstein and as anti-sceptical theses. Indeed, it is argued that on a reading of On Certainty which has Wittgenstein advancing a primarily epistemological thesis, there is in fact strong evidence to suggest that Wittgenstein thought that no epistemic response to the sceptic was available—at best, it seems, only a pragmatic antisceptical thesis is on offer. Such a conclusion is not without import to the present debate regarding radical scepticism, however, since it poses a general challenge for how the sceptical argument is conceived in the contemporary literature.
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