Plugging the leaks in Neurath's ship: A defense of naturalistic epistemology [Book Review]

This paper examines the question whether foundational epistemology (“FE”) can be replaced by naturalized epistemology (“NE”). First, it argues that Quine's defense of NE is inadequate since it is only based on arguments showing the impossibility of the logical empiricist version of FE rather than on arguments for the impossibility of FE as such. Second, it proposes that a more promising argument for the impossibility of FE can be found in the Münchhausen-trilemma which aims at showing that ultimate foundations (and, hence, FE) are unattainable. However, Karl-Otto Apel has shown that this trilemma is unconclusive since it uncritically presupposes the premise that all argumentation is deductive in nature. Apel's argument implies that FE is possible if and only if it is possible to devise a non-deductive foundation (“NDF”). It is argued, however, that the possibility of NDF cannot be demonstrated. This leads to a situation called the Multatuli-dilemma: we cannot prove the possibility of ultimate foundations nor can we prove the impossibility of ultimate foundations. This dilemma shows that the discussion about the possibility of FE is pointless. Thus, it suggests that it is legitimate to replace FE by NE. Barry Stroud and Henri Lauener, however, argue that this replacement is not feasible since NE is not capable of refuting scepticism (Stroud) or justifying methodological rules (Lauener). But these objections are shown to be mistaken: First, epistemological scepticism is practically impossible and, hence, does not pose a serious threat to NE. Second, NE is capable of justifying methodological norms if and only if it makes use of so-called internal justifications. Thus, the final conclusion of this paper is that FE can be replaced by NE.
Keywords foundational epistemology  naturalized epistemology  Münchhausen-trilemma  ultimate foundations  deduction  non-deductive foundations  scepticism  justification of methodological norms   W.V.O. Quine, R. Carnap
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DOI 10.1023/A:1008231408811
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