This radical reading of Wittgenstein's third and last masterpiece, On Certainty, has major implications for philosophy. It elucidates Wittgenstein's ultimate thoughts on the nature of our basic beliefs and his demystification of scepticism. Our basic certainties are shown to be nonepistemic, nonpropositional attitudes that, as such, have no verbal occurrence but manifest themselves exclusively in our actions. This fundamental certainty is a belief-in, a primitive confidence or ur-trust whose practical nature bridges the hitherto unresolved categorial gap between belief (...) and action. (shrink)
This paper presents a new approach to resolving an apparent tension in Descartes’ discussion of scientific theories and explanations in the Principles of Philosophy. On the one hand, Descartes repeatedly claims that any theories presented in science must be certain and indubitable. On the other hand, Descartes himself presents an astonishing number of speculative explanations of various scientific phenomena. In response to this tension, commentators have suggested that Descartes changed his mind about scientific theories having to be certain and indubitable, (...) that he lacked the conceptual resources to describe the appropriate epistemic attitude towards speculative theories, or that the presence of geometrical principles in these explanations guarantee their certainty. I argue that none of these responses is satisfactory and suggest a different resolution to the tension by examining Descartes’ notion of explanation. On Descartes’ view, providing an adequate explanation does not require being certain of the theories that constitute the explanans. Relatedly, the purpose of Cartesian explanations is not to discover the truth about the various underlying mechanisms that such explanations appeal to, but to support his general philosophical thesis that all natural phenomena can be explained by appealing to the extension of matter. (shrink)
Hume appeals to different kinds of certainties and necessities in the Treatise. He contrasts the certainty that arises from intuition and demonstrative reasoning with the certainty that arises from causal reasoning. He denies that the causal maxim is absolutely or metaphysically necessary, but he nonetheless takes the causal maxim and ‘proofs’ to be necessary. The focus of this paper is the certainty and necessity involved in Hume’s concept of knowledge. I defend the view that intuitive certainty, (...) in particular, is certainty of the invariability or necessity of relations between ideas. Against David Owen and Helen Beebee, I argue that the certainty involved in intuition depends on the activity of the mind. I argue, further, that understanding this activity helps us understand more clearly one of Hume’s most important theses, namely that experience is the source of a distinct kind of certainty and of necessity. (shrink)
While Cavell is well known for his reinterpretation of the later Wittgenstein, he has never really engaged himself with post-Investigations writings like On Certainty. This collection may, however, seem to undermine the profoundly anti-dogmatic reading of Wittgenstein that Cavell has developed. In addition to apparently arguing against what Cavell calls ‘the truth of skepticism’ – a phrase contested by other Wittgensteinians – On Certainty may seem to justify the rejection of whoever dares to question one’s basic presuppositions. According (...) to On Certainty, or so it seems, the only right response to someone with different certainties is a reproach like ‘Fool!’ or ‘Heretic!’. This article aims to show that On Certainty need not be taken to prove Cavell wrong. It explains that Wittgenstein, in line with the first two parts of The Claim of Reason, does not reject scepticism out of hand but rather questions the sceptic’s self-understanding. Using arguments from Part Three of The Claim, the article moreover argues that a confrontation with divergence calls for self-examination rather than self-righteousness. Precisely because Wittgenstein acknowledges ‘the groundlessness of our believing’ or, in Cavellian terms, ‘the truth of skepticism’, he is not the authoritarian thinker that some have taken him to be. (shrink)
Ludwig Wittgenstein's On Certainty was finished just before his death in 1951 and is a running commentary on three of G.E. Moore's greatest epistemological papers. In the early 1930s, Moore had written a lengthy commentary on Wittgenstein, anticipating some of the issues Wittgenstein would discuss in On Certainty. The philosophical relationship between these two great philosophers and their overlapping, but nevertheless differing, views is the subject of this book. Both defended the existence of certainty and thus opposed (...) any form of skepticism. However, their defenses and conceptions of certainty differed widely, as did their understanding of the nature of skepticism and how best to combat it. Stroll's book contains a careful and critical analysis of their differing approaches to a set of fundamental epistemological problems. (shrink)
This anthology is the first devoted exclusively to On Certainty. The essays are grouped under four headings: the Framework, Transcendental, Epistemic and Therapeutic readings, and an introduction helps explain why these readings need not be seen as antagonistic. Contributions from W.H. Brenner, Alice Crary, Michael Kober, Edward Minar, Howard Mounce, Daniele Moyal-Sharrock, Thomas Morawetz, D.Z. Phillips, Duncan Pritchard, Rupert Read, Anthony Rudd, Joachim Schulte, Avrum Stroll, Michael Williams.
When we engage in practical deliberation, we sometimes engage in careful probabilistic reasoning. At other times, we simply make flat out assumptions about how the world is or will be. A question thus arises: when, if ever, is it rationally permissible to engage in the latter, less sophisticated kind of practical deliberation? Recently, a number of authors have argued that the answer concerns whether one knows that p. Others have argued that the answer concerns whether one is justified in believing (...) that one knows that p. Against both of these, this paper argues that the answer concerns whether p is ‘practically certain’—that is, whether the actual epistemic probability that p differs from epistemic certainty that p only in ways that are irrelevant to the decision one currently faces. (shrink)
Most philosophers, including all materialists I know of, believe that I am a complex thing?a thing with parts?and that my mental life is (or is a result of) the interaction of these parts. These philosophers often believe that I am a body or a brain, and my mental life is (or is a product of) brain activity. In this paper, I develop and defend a novel argument against this view. The argument turns on certainty, that highest epistemic status that (...) a precious few of our beliefs enjoy. For example, on the basis of introspection, I am certain that I am not in fierce pain right now. But if I am a complex thing like a body or a brain, then introspection might be a causal series of events extended in time. And any such process could go awry. So, if introspection is such a process, then I could gain good evidence that the introspective process has gone awry and that I am, contrary to appearances, feeling fierce pain right now. Therefore, the view that I am a complex thing like a body or a brain forces open the possibility that I cannot be certain that I am not feeling fierce pain right now. Since that is clearly not an open possibility, it follows that I am not a complex thing. I conclude by responding to three objections. (shrink)
During the 1630s Descartes recognized that he could not expect all legitimate claims in natural science to meet the standard of absolute certainty. The realization resulted from a change in his physics, which itself arose not through methodological reflections, but through developments in his substantive metaphysical doctrines. Descartes discovered the metaphysical foundations of his physics in 1629-30; as a consequence, the style of explanation employed in his physical writings changed. His early methodological conceptions, as preserved in the Rules and (...) sketched in Part Two of the Discourse, pertained primarily to his early work in optics. By the early 1630s, Descartes was concerned with new methodological problems pertaining to the postulation of micro-mechanisms. Recognition of the need to employ a method of hypothesis led him to lower the standard of certainty required of particular explanations in his mature physics. (shrink)
The prestige of science, derived from its claims to certainty, has adversely affected the humanities. There is, in fact, a “politics of certainty”. Our ability to predict events in a limited sphere has been idealized, engendering dangerous illusions about our power to control nature and eliminate time. In addition, the perception and propagation of science as a bearer of certainty has served to legitimate harmful forms of social, sexual, and political power. Yet, as Ilya Prigogine has argued, (...) renewed attention to the irreducible reality of time has brought us to “the end of certainty”. As we enter the age of uncertainty, there is disagreement about how science should be understood and communicated. Some scientists cling to the ideal of certainty, while others emphasize the creative potential of spontaneity, novelty, and surprise. (shrink)
In On Certainty, Wittgenstein’s reflections bring into view the phenomenon of basic certainty. He explores this phenomenon mostly in relation to our certainty with regard to empirical states of affairs. Drawing on these seminal observations and reflections, I extend the inquiry into what I call “basic moral certainty”, arguing that the latter plays the same kind of foundational role in our moral practices and judgements as basic empirical certainty does in our epistemic practices and judgements. (...) I illustrate the nature and significance of basic moral certainty via critical examination of contemporary philosophical “explanations” of the wrongness of killing. These pseudo explanations, as I show them to be, will be seen to founder in a similar manner to Moore’s “Proof” of an external world, that is, in a manner that discloses the phenomenon of basic (moral) certainty. (shrink)
As is well known, Wittgenstein pointed out an asymmetry between first- and third-person psychological statements: the first, unlike the latter, involve observation or a claim to knowledge and are constitutionally open to uncertainty. In this paper, I challenge this asymmetry and Wittgenstein's own affirmation of the constitutional uncertainty of third-person psychological statements, and argue that Wittgenstein ultimately did too. I first show that, on his view, most of our third-person psychological statements are noncognitive; they stem from a subjective certainty: (...) a certainty which, though not the result of an epistemic process, is not invulnerable to error in that it is a kind of assumption. I then trace Wittgenstein's realization that some third-person psychological certainties are not merely subjective but 'objective' (which means, as he uses the word, that they are logically indubitable): in some cases, we can be as logically certain that someone else is in pain than we are about ourselves being in pain. This positively reinforces Wittgenstein's rebuttal of other mind scepticism. I conclude with a response to objections about the legitimacy of calling an assurance that is logical (i.e., that does not have uncertainty or doubt on its flipside) a 'certainty', by suggesting that the flipside is to be found in pathological cases, and most pertinently here, in cases of dyssemia: a rare disorder affecting the ability to properly express or recognize basic physical expressions of feeling. (shrink)
The ways in which Wittgenstein was directly influenced by William James (by his early psychological work as well his later philosophy) have been thoroughly explored and charted by Russell B. Goodman. In particular, Goodman has drawn attention to the pragmatist resonances of the Wittgensteinian notion of hinge propositions as developedand articulated in the posthumously edited and published work, On Certainty. This paper attempts to extend Goodman’s observation, moving beyond his focus on James (specifically, James’s Pragmatism) as his pragmatist reference (...) point. It aims to articulate the affinity between Wittgenstein’s thought on the topic of certainty and that of the neglected pragmatist thinker, George Santayana. -/- The paper draws on Duncan Pritchard’s recent reading of Wittgenstein’s On Certainty in order to articulate the concept of certainty involved in the notion of hinge propositions. It identifies two important and related points of affinity between this Wittgensteinian line of thought on certainty and the line of thought on the same topic articulated in Santayana’s Scepticism and Animal Faith. The paper argues, firstly, that, both lines of thought reflect a pragmatist concept of certainty, according to which our most fundamental certainties are not conceived as purely theoretical objects of belief or knowledge but rather as thearational presuppositions of beliefs and practical action. Secondly, it examines the way inwhich the pragmatist concept of certainty functions, for the two thinkers as a response to scepticism. It argues that although the two thinkers’ responses are very different, they are mutually compatible and, together, point towards the possibility of a distinctively pragmatist response to scepticism, which involves an anti-epistemological model of the intimate relation of the human self to the world. (shrink)
Giaquinto’s book is a philosophical examination of how the search for certainty was carried out within the philosophy of mathematics from the late nineteenth to roughly the mid-twentieth century. It is also a good introduction to the philosophy of mathematics and the views expressed in the body of the book, in addition to being thorough and stimulating, seem generally undisputable. Some doubts, however, could be raised about the concluding remarks concerning the present situation in the philosophy of mathematics, specifically (...) Zermelo's iterative concept of set as a foundation for set theory, Simpson's reverse mathematics, Feferman’s Predicativist Programme, and the cognitive foundations of mathematics. (shrink)
We ordinarily assume that we have reliable knowledge of our immediate surroundings, so much so that almost all the time we entrust our lives to the truth of what we take ourselves to know, without a moment’s thought. But if, as Karl Popper and others have maintained, all our knowledge is conjectural, then this habitual assumption that our common sense knowledge of our environment is secure and trustworthy would seem to be an illusion. Popper’s philosophy of science, in particular, fails (...) to do justice to the distinction we ordinarily draw between secure knowledge and mere conjecture. But Popper’s philosophy of science, in particular his attempted solution to the problem of induction, is defective. It fails to take into account that physics, in only accepting unified theories, even though endlessly empirically more successful disunified rivals are always available, makes the persistent metaphysical assumption that all disunified theories are false. Once this point is acknowledged, it becomes clear that a new conception of scientific method is required which sees science as making a hierarchy of metaphysical assumptions concerning the comprehensibility and knowability of the universe. This provides a framework of relatively unproblematic assumptions and associated methods of science within which much more problematic assumptions and associated methods can be critically assessed and improved. This hierarchical view seems at first to intensify the problem of distinguishing certainty from conjecture, in that it emphasizes that scientific knowledge, and even humble common sense knowledge, contain usually unacknowledged cosmological conjectures. But actually it explicates the basis we have for drawing the distinction between trustworthy knowledge and mere conjecture, and even goes some way towards providing a rationale for this distinction, in so far as one exists. (shrink)
This paper considers certain aspects of Aarnio’s theory of legal reasoning. Criticism is limited to the notion of legal certainty and to the related notions of the justification and reasonable acceptability of interpretative standpoints.
In this paper, I survey the way Wittgenstein reacts to radical philosophical doubt in his On Certainty.He deems skeptical doubt in some important cases idle, pointless or otherwise negligible. I point out that several passages of On Certainty make it difficult to judge whether Wittgenstein intends to address a skeptic or a metaphysical idealist. Drawing attention to the anti-skeptical nature of Berkeley’s idealism, I go on to argue that the question is far from trivial: rather, it affects the (...) way we should evaluate Wittgenstein’s arguments in On Certainty in general. I finally attempt to explain why Wittgenstein remained ambiguous about the target of his arguments, and discuss the possibility of making room for the idealism/skepticism distinction in On Certainty’s framework. (shrink)
In this paper, I propose a comparison between some widely accepted Quinian views and Ludwig Wittgenstein's remarks on the logical and the empirical in On Certainty. While Quine's perspective and Wittgenstein's aare not thorougly dissimilar (so that the question of which influence Wittgenstein's thought might have had on the thought of some contemporary philosopher like Quine is both interesting and relevant), there is at least one important difference between them. I submit that Wittgenstein's view on this crucial distinction are (...) more general but ultimately more plausible than the nowadays popular Quinian view. (shrink)
If we agree, along with Arnauld, Berkeley, Descartes, Hume, Leibniz, and others that our occurrent phenomenal states serve as sources of epistemic certainty for us, we need some explanation of this fact. Many contemporary writers, most notably Roderick Chisholm, maintain that there is something special about the phenomenal states themselves that allows our certain knowledge of them. I argue that Chisholm's view is both wrong and irreparable, and that the capacity of humans to know these states with certainty (...) has to do with the contingent cognitive capacities and abilities people have. (shrink)
In this paper Peter Klein's criticism of Wittgenstein in "Certainty: A Refutation of Scepticism" is addressed. Klein claims that, according to Wittgenstein, we attribute knowledge of a proposition p to a person only if that person is not certain of p. I argue that a careful reading of Wittgenstein's On Certainty reveals that there are two kinds of objective certainty that Wittgenstein had in mind; propositional objective certainty and normative objective certainty. Klein fails to distinguish (...) between the two and uses what I call propositional objective certainty to make his point against Wittgenstein. I claim that when Wittgenstein said that knowledge and certainty belong to different categories he was talking of normative objective certainty and, therefore, that Klein's criticism is misplaced and attributes to Wittgenstein a position that is not his. (shrink)
In his article, “Wittgenstein and Basic Moral Certainty,” Nigel Pleasants argues that killing an innocent, non-threatening person is wrong. It is, he argues, “a basic moral certainty.” He believes our basic moral certainties play the “same kind of foundational role as [our] basic empirical certaint[ies] do.” I believe this is mistaken. There is not “simply one kind of foundational role” that certainty plays. While I think Pleasants is right to affiliate his proposition with a Wittgensteinian form of (...)certainty, he exposes himself to a tension that exists in On Certainty regarding how we acquire it: is certainty natural, is it social? In this paper, I present two ways in which we come to possess certainty: a bottom-up approach, where certainty is part of our instinctual predisposition, and a top-down approach, where certainty is acquired through positive reinforcement by family and culture. (shrink)
This paper defends a position that parts ways with the positivist view of legal certainty and reasonableness. I start out with a reconstruction of this view and move on to argue that an adequate analysis of certainty and reasonableness calls for an alternative approach, one based on the acknowledgement that argumentation is key to determining the contents, structure, and boundaries of a legal system. Here I claim that by endorsing a dialec-tical notion of rationality this alternative account espouses (...) an ambitious approach to rea-soning in law and conceives of the theory of legal argumentation as the vantage point from which to analyze legal systems and tackle the main problems connected with their existence. Next, I look at what this alternative approach does for the way we should go about treating certainty and reasonableness, considered singularly as well as in their recip-rocal relationship. I conclude on this basis that when argumentation receives its due emphasis in law we have to redefine certainty and reasonableness and recast their connection as non-conflictive. (shrink)
The article discusses the issue of realisation of the principles of legitimate expectations, legal certainty and legal security in the specific area of administrative activity – detailed territorial planning process. During this long and complex process, it is very important to ensure the protection of personal constitutional rights and guarantee the security of legitimate expectations, legal certainty and other essential principles. The article analyses the circumstances conditioning violation of the principles of legitimate expectations, legal security and legal (...) class='Hi'>certainty and provides suggestions on the improvement of legal framework in order to avoid these violations. (shrink)
Exploring Certainty: Wittgenstein and Wide Fields of Thought considers how, where, and to what extent the thoughts and ideas found in Wittgenstein’s On Certainty can be applied to other areas of thought, including: ethics, aesthetics, religious belief, mathematics, cognitive science, and political theory. Robert Greenleaf Brice opens new avenues of thought for scholars and students of the Wittgensteinian tradition, while introducing original philosophies about human knowledge and cognition.
Certainty : a contemporary question -- Beginnings: questions and debates in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries -- Abba Father: the certainty of salvation -- The spiritual man judges all things: the certainty of exegetical authority -- Are you alone wise?: the Catholic response -- Experientia: the great age of the Spirit -- Unmasking the angel of light: the discernment of the spirits -- Men should be what they seem: appearances and reality.
Two seemingly contradictory tendencies have accompanied the development of the natural sciences in the past 150 years. On the one hand, the natural sciences have been instrumental in effecting a thoroughgoing transformation of social structures and have made a permanent impact on the conceptual world of human beings. This histori¬cal period has, on the other hand, also brought to light the merely hypothetical validity of scientific knowledge. As late as the middle of the 19th century the truth-pathos in the natural (...) sciences was still unbroken. Yet in the succeeding years these claims to certain knowledge underwent a fundamental crisis. For scientists today, of course, the fact that their knowledge can possess only relative validity is a matter of self-evidence. The present analysis investigates the early phase of this fundamental change in the concept of science through an examination of Hermann von Helmholtz's conception of science and his mechanistic interpretation of nature. Helmholtz (1821-1894) was one of the most important natural scientists in Germany. The development of this thoughts offers an impressive but, until now, relatively little considered report from the field of the experimental sciences chronicling the erosion of certainty. (shrink)
I argue that being wide awake is an epistemic virtue which enables me to recognize immediately that I'm wide awake. Also I argue that dreams are imaginings and that the wide awake mind can immediately discern the difference between imaginings and vivid sense experience. Descartes need only pinch himself.
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. (shrink)
The paper provides an interpretation of Wittgenstein’s claim that a mathematical proof must be surveyable. It will be argued that this claim specifies a precondition for the applicability of the word ‘proof’. Accordingly, the latter is applicable to a proof-pattern only if we can come to agree by mere observation whether or not the pattern possesses the relevant structural features. The claim is problematic. It does not imply any questionable finitist doctrine. But it cannot be said to articulate a feature (...) of our actual usage of the word ‘proof’. The claim can be dissociated, however, from two tenable doctrines of Wittgenstein, namely that proofs can be used as paradigms for corresponding proof concepts and that a proof is not an experiment. (shrink)
CHAPTER I FRANCIS BACON AND SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE Of the great scientific figures of early seventeenth century England - Harvey, Gilbert, and Bacon - none was so often referred to by members of the Royal Society for a statement of the ...
Wittgenstein scholars have tended to interpret the acquisition of certainties, and by extension, of a world-picture, as the achievement of a state in which these certainties are assimilated in a seemingly unconscious way as one masters language-games. However, it has not been stressed that the attainment of this state often involves facing a series of challenges or difficulties which must be overcome for the development of the world-picture and therefore the socialization process to be achieved. After showing, on the one (...) hand, how a world-picture is usually developed, and on the other hand, why a child who seemingly found itself trapped in a precocious skepticism might have serious problems in assimilating certainties, in this paper, I describe some of the challenges children often meet as they acquire a world-picture. Since the overcoming of these challenges is often needed for children to develop a world-picture, I aim at raising the awareness of the necessity of ‘learning to believe’, that is, of developing a series of skills that allow children to undertake the challenges described in this paper. (shrink)