The Quest for Certainty

Kriterion - Journal of Philosophy 35 (1):71-95 (2021)
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Abstract

The aim of this paper is to vindicate the Cartesian quest for certainty by arguing that to aim at certainty is a constitutive feature of cognition. My argument hinges on three observations concerning the nature of doubt and judgment: first, it is always possible to have a doubt as to whether p in so far as one takes the truth of p to be uncertain; second, in so far as one takes the truth of p to be certain, one is no longer able to genuinely wonder whether p is true; third, to ask the question whether p is to desire to receive a true answer. On this ground I clarify in what sense certainty is the aim of cognition. I then argue that in judging that p we commit ourselves to p’s being certain and that certainty is the constitutive norm of judgment. The paper as a whole provides a picture of the interplay between doubt and judgment that aims at vindicating the traditional insight that our ability to doubt testifies our aspiration to know with absolute certainty.

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Luca Zanetti
University of Bologna

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References found in this work

The Structure of Empirical Knowledge.Laurence BonJour - 1985 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.
Cartesian Meditations.Edmund Husserl - 1960 - [The Hague]M. Nijhoff.
The Possibility of Practical Reason.David Velleman - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
Doxastic deliberation.Nishi Shah & J. David Velleman - 2005 - Philosophical Review 114 (4):497-534.

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