The exorcist's nightmare: A reply to Crispin Wright

Mind 101 (403):543-552 (1992)
Crispin Wright tried to refute classical 'Cartesian' skepticism contending that its core argument is extendible to a reductio ad absurdum (_Mind, 100, 87-116, 1991). We show both that Wright is mistaken and that his mistakes are philosophically illuminating. Wright's 'best version' of skepticism turns on a concept of warranted belief. By his definition, many of our well-founded beliefs about the external world and mathematics would not be warranted. Wright's position worsens if we take 'warranted belief' to be implicitly defined by the general principles governing it. Those principles are inconsistent, as shown by a variant of Godel's argument. Thus the inconsistency Wright found has nothing to do with the special premises of Cartesian skepticism, but is embedded in his own conceptual apparatus. Lastly, we show how a Cartesian skeptic could avoid Wright's critique by reconstructing a skeptical argument that does not use the claims Wright ultimately finds objectionable.
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DOI 10.1093/mind/101.403.543
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