Throughout the history of philosophy, skepticism has posed one of the central challenges of epistemology. Opponents of skepticism--including externalists, contextualists, foundationalists, and coherentists--have focussed largely on one particular variety of skepticism, often called Cartesian or Academic skepticism, which makes the radical claim that nobody can know anything. However, this version of skepticism is something of a straw man, since virtually no philosopher endorses this radical skeptical claim. The only skeptical view that has been truly held--by (...) Sextus, Montaigne, Hume, Wittgenstein, and, most recently, Robert Fogelin--has been Pyrrohnian skepticism. Pyrrhonian skeptics do not assert Cartesian skepticism, but neither do they deny it. The Pyrrhonian skeptics' doubts run so deep that they suspend belief even about Cartesian skepticism and its denial. Nonetheless, some Pyrrhonians argue that they can still hold "common beliefs of everyday life" and can even claim to know some truths in an everyday way. This edited volume presents previously unpublished articles on this subject by a strikingly impressive group of philosophers, who engage with both historical and contemporary versions of Pyrrhonian skepticism. Among them are Gisela Striker, Janet Broughton, Don Garrett, Ken Winkler, Hans Sluga, Ernest Sosa, Michael Williams, Barry Stroud, Robert Fogelin, and Roy Sorensen. This volume is thematically unified and will interest a broad spectrum of scholars in epistemology and the history of philosophy. (shrink)
Content skepticism about practical reason is doubt about the bearing of rational considerations on the activities of deliberation and choice. Motivational skepticism is doubt about the scope of reason as a motive. Some people think that motivational considerations alone provide grounds for skepticism about the project of founding ethics on practical reason. I will argue, against this view, that motivational skepticism must always be based on content skepticism. I will not address the question of whether (...) or not content skepticism is justified. I want only to establish the fact that motivational skepticism has no independent force. (shrink)
Skepticism about moral responsibility, or what is more commonly referred to as moral responsibility skepticism, refers to a family of views that all take seriously the possibility that human beings are never morally responsible for their actions in a particular but pervasive sense. This sense is typically set apart by the notion of basic desert and is defined in terms of the control in action needed for an agent to be truly deserving of blame and praise. Some moral (...) responsibility skeptics wholly reject this notion of moral responsibility because they believe it to be incoherent or impossible. Others maintain that, though possible, our best philosophical and scientific theories about the world provide strong and compelling reasons for adopting skepticism about moral responsibility. What all varieties of moral responsibility skepticism share, however, is the belief that the justification needed to ground basic desert moral responsibility and the practices associated with it—such as backward-looking praise and blame, punishment and reward (including retributive punishment), and the reactive attitudes of resentment and indignation—is not met. Versions of moral responsibility skepticism have historically been defended by Spinoza, Voltaire, Diderot, d’Holbach, Priestley, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Clarence Darrow, B.F. Skinner, and Paul Edwards, and more recently by Galen Strawson, Derk Pereboom, Bruce Waller, Neil Levy, Tamler Sommers, and Gregg D. Caruso. -/- Critics of these views tend to focus both on the arguments for skepticism about moral responsibility and on the implications of such views. They worry that adopting such a view would have dire consequences for our interpersonal relationships, society, morality, meaning, and the law. They fear, for instance, that relinquishing belief in moral responsibility would undermine morality, leave us unable to adequately deal with criminal behavior, increase anti-social conduct, and destroy meaning in life. Optimistic skeptics, however, respond by arguing that life without free will and basic desert moral responsibility would not be as destructive as many people believe. These optimistic skeptics argue that prospects of finding meaning in life or of sustaining good interpersonal relationships, for instance, would not be threatened. They further maintain that morality and moral judgments would remain intact. And although retributivism and severe punishment, such as the death penalty, would be ruled out, they argue that the imposition of sanctions could serve purposes other than the punishment of the guilty—e.g., it can also be justified by its role in incapacitating, rehabilitating, and deterring offenders. (shrink)
Support is canvassed for a novel solution to the sceptical problem regarding our knowledge of the external world. Key to this solution is the claim that what initially looks like a single problem is in fact two logically distinct problems. In particular, there are two putative sceptical paradoxes in play here, which each trade on distinctive epistemological theses. It is argued that the ideal solution to radical scepticism would thus be a biscopic proposal—viz., a two-pronged, integrated, undercutting treatment of both (...) putative sceptical paradoxes. A particular biscopic proposal is then explored which brings together two apparently opposing anti-sceptical theses: he Wittgensteinian account of the structure of rational evaluation and epistemological disjunctivism. It is argued that each proposal enables us to gain a purchase on one, but only one, aspect of the two-sided sceptical problem. Furthermore, it is argued that these proposals are not only compatible positions, but also mutually supporting and advanced in the same undercutting spirit. A potential cure is thus offered for epistemic angst. (shrink)
Recently, new life has been breathed into the ancient philosophical topic of skepticism. The subject of some of the best and most provocative work in contemporary philosophy, skepticism has been addressed not only by top epistemologists but also by several of the world's finest philosophers who are most known for their work in other areas of the discipline. Skepticism: A Contemporary Reader brings together the most important recent contributions to the discussion of skepticism. Covering major approaches (...) to the skeptical problem, it features essays by Anthony Brueckner, Keith DeRose, Fred Dretske, Graeme Forbes, Christopher Hill, David Lewis, Thomas Nagel, Robert Nozick, Hilary Putnam, Ernest Sosa, Gail Stine, Barry Stroud, Peter Unger, and Ted Warfield. The book opens with a thorough introduction that outlines the skeptical problem, explains the dominant responses to skepticism, and discusses the strengths, weaknesses, and unresolved issues of each response, providing undergraduate students and nonphilosophers with the background and context necessary to understand the essays. Skepticism: A Contemporary Reader serves as an ideal text for courses in epistemology and skepticism and will also appeal to professional philosophers and interested general readers. (shrink)
The suffering of nonhuman animals has become a noted factor in deciding public policy and legislative change. Yet, despite this growing concern, skepticism toward such suffering is still surprisingly common. This paper analyzes the merits of the skeptical approach, both in its moderate and extreme forms. In the first part it is claimed that the type of criterion for verification concerning the mental states of other animals posed by skepticism is overly (and, in the case of extreme (...) class='Hi'>skepticism, illogically) demanding. Resting on Wittgenstein and Husserl, it is argued that skepticism relies on a misguided epistemology and, thus, that key questions posed by it face the risk of absurdity. In the second part of the paper it is suggested that, instead of skepticism, empathy together with intersubjectivity be adopted. Edith Stein’s take on empathy, along with contemporary findings, are explored, and the claim is made that it is only via these two methods of understanding that the suffering of nonhuman animals can be perceived. (shrink)
This paper outlines a new type of skepticism that is both compatible with fallibilism and supported by work in psychology. In particular, I will argue that we often cannot properly trust our ability to rationally evaluate reasons, arguments, and evidence (a fundamental knowledge-seeking faculty). We humans are just too cognitively impaired to achieve even fallible knowledge, at least for many beliefs.
In this book, Anthony Rudd flouts convention in his approach to the problem of skepticism. He brings Wittgensteinian and analytic philosophy into dialogue with Heidegger's work and the continental tradition, schools of thought that are normally considered antipathetic to one another. Drawing heavily on some often neglected aspects of Wittgenstein and Heidegger, Professor Rudd argues that so long as we consider our knowledge of external realities to be a purely intellectual matter, skepticism will remain irrefutable. Genuine knowledge can (...) be established, though, if we understand it as essentially tied to patterns of practical activity and our emotional lives. (shrink)
It has recently been argued that indeterminacy and indeterminism make most ordinary counterfactuals false. I argue that a plausible way to avoid such counterfactual skepticism is to postulate the existence of primitive modal facts that serve as truth-makers for counterfactual claims. Moreover, I defend a new theory of ‘might’ counterfactuals, and develop assertability and knowledge criteria to suit such unobservable ‘counterfacts’.
The truth of skepticism would be depressing and impractical. Our beliefs would be groundless, we would know nothing (or almost nothing) about the world around us, and epistemic success would likely be impossible. But do these negative consequences have any bearing on the truth of skepticism? According to many scholars, they do not. The impractical consequences of skepticism are typically regarded as orthogonal to its truth. For this reason, pragmatic resolutions to skepticism are regularly dismissed. I (...) will argue, however, that skepticism is implausible because it is impractical. In particular, skepticism is implausible because it goes against the point of epistemic evaluation. (shrink)
_Skepticism and Cognitivism_ addresses the fundamental question of epistemology: Is knowledge possible? It approaches this query with an evaluation of the skeptical tradition in Western philosophy, analyzing thinkers who have claimed that we can know nothing. After an introductory chapter lays out the central issues, chapter 2 focuses on the classical skeptics of the Academic and Pyrrhonistic schools and then on the skepticism of David Hume. Chapters 3 through 5 are devoted to contemporary defenders of skepticism—Keith Lehrer, Arne (...) Næss, and Peter Unger. In chapter 6, author Oliver A. Johnson dons the mantle of skeptic himself and develops and adds theories to the skeptical arsenal. He closes with an examination of the relationship between skepticism and cognitivism, reaching and defending conclusions on the nature and extent of possible human knowledge. This title is part of UC Press's Voices Revived program, which commemorates University of California Press’s mission to seek out and cultivate the brightest minds and give them voice, reach, and impact. Drawing on a backlist dating to 1893, Voices Revived makes high-quality, peer-reviewed scholarship accessible once again using print-on-demand technology. This title was originally published in 1978. (shrink)
The paper deals with a version of the principle that a belief source can be a knowledge source only if the subject knows that it is reliable. I argue that the principle can be saved from the main objections that motivate its widespread rejection: the claim that it leads to skepticism, the claim that it forces us to accept counterintuitive knowledge ascriptions and the claim that it is incompatible with reliabilist accounts of knowledge. I argue that naturalist epistemologists should (...) reject these claims. I introduce my treatment of the principle by considering the analogous situation posed by the closure principle. (shrink)
In this chapter, I present and explore various arguments for skepticism that are related to memory. My focus will be on the aspects of the arguments that are unique to memory, which are not shared, for example, by the more often explored skeptical arguments related to perception. -/- Here are some interesting upshots. First, a particular problem for justifiably concluding that one's memory is reliable is that any reasoning in favor of this conclusion will either result in epistemically circularity (...) or not be sufficient to justify the conclusion. Second, since many beliefs stored in memory do not appear to be based on evidence, it might also appear to follow that they are not justified. Third, although many stored memory beliefs are not based on stored memory experiences in the same way that perceptual beliefs are based on perceptual experiences, skeptical scenarios loom just as problematically for memory beliefs as they do for perceptual beliefs. (shrink)
A new kind of skepticism about philosophy is articulated and argued for. The key premise is the claim that many of us are well aware that in the past we failed to have good responses to substantive objections to our philosophical beliefs. The conclusion is disjunctive: either we are irrational in sticking with our philosophical beliefs, or we commit some other epistemic sin in having those beliefs.
There are many different oughts. There is a moral ought, a prudential ought, an epistemic ought, the legal ought, the ought of etiquette, and so on. These oughts can prescribe incompatible actions. What I morally ought to do may be different from what I self-interestedly ought to do. Philosophers have claimed that these conflicts are resolved by an authoritative ought, or by facts about what one ought to do simpliciter or all-things-considered. However, the only coherent notion of an ought simpliciter (...) has preposterous first-order normative commitments. It is more reasonable to reject the ought simpliciter in favor of the form of normative pluralism advocated in (Tiffany 2007). (shrink)
Keith DeRose’s solution to the skeptical problem is based on his indirect sensitivity account. Sensitivity is not a necessary condition for any kind of knowledge, as direct sensitivity accounts claim, but the insensitivity of our beliefs that the skeptical hypotheses are false explains why we tend to judge that we do not know them. The orthodox objection line against any kind of sensitivity account of knowledge is to present instances of insensitive beliefs that we still judge to constitute knowledge. This (...) objection line offers counter-examples against the claim of direct sensitivity accounts that sensitivity is necessary for any kind of knowledge. These examples raise an easy problem for indirect sensitivity accounts that claim that there is only a tendency to judge that insensitive beliefs do not constitute knowledge, which still applies to our beliefs that the skeptical hypotheses are false. However, a careful analysis reveals that some of our beliefs that the skeptical hypotheses are false are sensitive; nevertheless, we still judge that we do not know them. Therefore, the fact that some of our beliefs that the skeptical hypotheses are false are insensitive cannot explain why we tend to judge that we do not know them. Hence, indirect sensitivity accounts cannot fulfill their purpose of explaining our intuitions about skepticism. This is the hard problem for indirect sensitivity accounts. (shrink)
My concern in this paper will be to explore and develop a version of nonsocratic skepticism about weakness of will. In my view, socratism is incorrect, but like Socrates, I think that the common understanding of weakness of will raises serious problems. Contrary to socratism, it is possible for a person knowingly to act contrary to his or her better judgment. But this description does not exhaust the common view of weakness. Also implicit in this view is the belief (...) that actions which are contrary to one's better judgment are free in the sense that the agent could have done otherwise. To take seriously the possibility of acting contrary to one's better judgment is at the same time to raise problems about the distinction between weakness and compulsion. I argue that the common view, according to which the differentiating feature is that the weak are able to conform their behavior to their practical judgments, is unjustified. Instead, I have proposed that weakness of will involves the failure to develop certain normal capacities of self-control, whereas compulsion involves desires which even the possession of such capacities would not enable one to resist. (shrink)
Abstract Timothy Williamson has recently proposed to undermine modal skepticism by appealing to the reducibility of modal to counterfactual logic ( Reducibility ). Central to Williamson’s strategy is the claim that use of the same non-deductive mode of inference ( counterfactual development , or CD ) whereby we typically arrive at knowledge of counterfactuals suffices for arriving at knowledge of metaphysical necessity via Reducibility. Granting Reducibility, I ask whether the use of CD plays any essential role in a Reducibility-based (...) reply to two kinds of modal skepticism. I argue that its use is entirely dispensable, and that Reducibility makes available replies to modal skeptics which show certain propositions to be metaphysically necessary by deductive arguments from premises the modal skeptic accepts can be known. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-19 DOI 10.1007/s11098-011-9784-4 Authors Juhani Yli-Vakkuri, Wolfson College, Oxford University, Oxford, OX2 6UD UK Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116. (shrink)
Though ancient Pyrrhonian skepticism is apparently based on disagreement, this aspect of skepticism has been widely neglected in contemporary discussion on skepticism. The paper provides a rational reconstruction of the skeptical argument from disagreement that can be found in the books of Sextus Empiricus. It is argued that this argument forms a genuine skeptical paradox that has no fully satisfactory resolution. All attempts to resolve it make knowledge or justified belief either intuitively too easy or impossible.
The epistemological debate about radical skepticism has focused on whether our beliefs in apparently obvious claims, such as the claim that we have hands, amount to knowledge. Arguably, however, our concept of knowledge is only one of many knowledge-like concepts that there are. If this is correct, it follows that even if our beliefs satisfy our concept of knowledge, there are many other relevantly similar concepts that they fail to satisfy. And this might give us pause. After all, we (...) might wonder: What is so great about the concept of knowledge that we happen to have? Might it be more important, epistemically speaking, to investigate whether our beliefs satisfy some other relevantly similar concept instead? And how should questions such as these even be understood? This paper discusses the epistemological significance of these issues. In particular, a novel skeptical stance called ‘meta-skepticism’ is introduced, which is a kind of skepticism about the idea that some knowledge-like concepts are epistemically more important than others. It suggested that it is unclear whether this form of skepticism can be avoided. (shrink)
Skepticism: From Antiquity to the Present is an authoritative and up-to-date survey of the entire history of skepticism. Divided chronologically into ancient, medieval, renaissance, modern, and contemporary periods, and featuring 50 specially-commissioned chapters from leading philosophers, this comprehensive volume is the first of its kind.
The Principle of Sufficient Reason must be justified dialectically: by showing the disastrous consequences of denying it. We formulate a version of the Principle that is restricted to basic natural facts, which entails the obtaining of at least one supernatural fact. Denying this principle results in extreme empirical skepticism. We consider six current theories of empirical knowledge, showing that on each account we cannot know that we have empirical knowledge unless we all have a priori knowledge of the PSR. (...) We consider objections based on Neo-Humeanism and the essentiality of origins, and we consider the possibility that we have empirical knowledge without knowing it. (shrink)
We propose a model of motivated skepticism that helps explain when and why citizens are biased information processors. Two experimental studies explore how citizens evaluate arguments about affirmative action and gun control, finding strong evidence of a prior attitude effect such that attitudinally congruent arguments are evaluated as stronger than attitudinally incongruent arguments. When reading pro and con arguments, participants (Ps) counterargue the contrary arguments and uncritically accept supporting arguments, evidence of a disconfirmation bias. We also find a confirmation (...) bias?the seeking out of confirmatory evidence?when Ps are free to self-select the source of the arguments they read. Both the confirmation and disconfirmation biases lead to attitude polarization?the strengthening of t2 over t1 attitudes?especially among those with the strongest priors and highest levels of political sophistication. We conclude with a discussion of the normative implications of these findings for rational behavior in a democracy. (shrink)
Empirical work on motivated reasoning suggests that our judgments are influenced to a surprising extent by our wants, desires and preferences (Kahan 2016; Lord, Ross, and Lepper 1979; Molden and Higgins 2012; Taber and Lodge 2006). How should we evaluate the epistemic status of beliefs formed through motivated reasoning? For example, are such beliefs epistemically justified? Are they candidates for knowledge? In liberal democracies, these questions are increasingly controversial as well as politically timely (Beebe et al. 2018; Lynch forthcoming, 2018; (...) Slothuus and de Vreese 2010). And yet, the epistemological significance of motivated reasoning has been almost entirely ignored by those working in mainstream epistemology. We aim to rectify this oversight. Using politically motivated reasoning as a case study, we show how motivated reasoning gives rise to three distinct kinds of skeptical challenges. We conclude by showing how the skeptical import of motivated reasoning has some important ramifications for how we should think about the demands of intellectual humility. (shrink)
In this paper, I develop a neglected puzzle for the moral realist. I then canvass some potential responses. Although I endorse one response as the most promising of those I survey, my primary goal is to make vivid how formidable the puzzle is, as opposed to offering a definitive solution.
A 1% skeptic is someone who has about a 99% credence in non-skeptical realism and about a 1% credence in the disjunction of all radically skeptical scenarios combined. The first half of this essay defends the epistemic rationality of 1% skepticism, appealing to dream skepticism, simulation skepticism, cosmological skepticism, and wildcard skepticism. The second half of the essay explores the practical behavioral consequences of 1% skepticism, arguing that 1% skepticism need not be behaviorally (...) inert. (shrink)
This paper applies speech-act theory to craft a new response to Pyrrhonian skepticism and diagnose its appeal. Carefully distinguishing between different levels of language-use and noting their interrelations can help us identify a subtle mistake in a key Pyrrhonian argument.
In this book, Henrik Lagerlund offers students, researchers, and advanced general readers the first complete history of what is perhaps the most famous of all philosophical problems: skepticism. As the first of its kind, the book traces the influence of philosophical skepticism from its roots in the Hellenistic schools of Phyrronism and the Middle Academy up to its impact inside and outside of philosophy today. Along the way, it covers skepticism during the Latin, Arabic, and Greek Middle (...) Ages and during the Renaissance before moving on to cover Descartes's methodological skepticism and Pierre Bayle's super-skepticism in the seventeenth century. In the eighteenth century, it deals with Humean skepticism and the anti-skepticism of Reid and Kant, taking care to also include reflections on the connections between idealism and skepticism. The book covers similar themes in a chapter on G.E. Moore and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and then ends its historical overview with a chapter on skepticism in contemporary philosophy. In the final chapter, Lagerlund captures some of skepticism's impact outside of philosophy, highlighting its relation to issues like the replication crisis in science and knowledge resistance. (shrink)
Epistemic Angst offers a completely new solution to the ancient philosophical problem of radical skepticism—the challenge of explaining how it is possible to have knowledge of a world external to us. Duncan Pritchard argues that the key to resolving this puzzle is to realize that it is composed of two logically distinct problems, each requiring its own solution. He then puts forward solutions to both problems. To that end, he offers a new reading of Wittgenstein's account of the structure (...) of rational evaluation and demonstrates how this provides an elegant solution to one aspect of the skeptical problem. Pritchard also revisits the epistemological disjunctivist proposal that he developed in previous work and shows how it can effectively handle the other aspect of the problem. Finally, he argues that these two antiskeptical positions, while superficially in tension with each other, are not only compatible but also mutually supporting. The result is a comprehensive and distinctive resolution to the problem of radical skepticism, one that challenges many assumptions in contemporary epistemology. (shrink)
The fact of moral disagreement when conjoined with Conciliationism, an independently attractive view about the epistemic significance disagreement, seems to entail moral skepticism. This worries those who like Conciliationism, the independently attractive view, but dislike moral skepticism. Others, equally inclined against moral skepticism, think this is a reductio of Conciliationism. I argue that they are both wrong. There is no reductio and nothing to worry about.
According to Fred Dretske's externalist theory of knowledge a subject knows that p if and only if she believes that p and this belief is caused or causally sustained by the information that p. Another famous feature of Dretske's epistemology is his denial that knowledge is closed under known entailment. I argue that, given Dretske's construal of information, he is in fact committed to the view that both information and knowledge are closed under known entailment. Hence, if it is true (...) that, as Dretske also believes, accepting closure leads to skepticism, he must either embrace skepticism or abandon his information theory of knowledge. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to address the neglected but important problem of differentiating between epistemically beneficial and epistemically detrimental dissent. By “dissent,” we refer to the act of objecting to a particular conclusion, especially one that is widely held. While dissent in science can clearly be beneficial, there might be some instances of dissent that not only fail to contribute to scientific progress, but actually impede it. Potential examples of this include the tobacco industry’s funding of studies that (...) questioned the link between smoking and lung cancer, and the attempt by the petroleum industry and other groups to cast doubt upon the conclusion that human consumption of fossil fuels contributes to global climate change. The problem of distinguishing between good and bad dissent is important because of the growing tendency of some stakeholders to attempt to delay political action by ’manufacturing doubt’. Our discussion in this paper focuses on climate science. This field, in our view, is rife with instances of bad dissent. On the basis of our discussion of climate science, we articulate a set of sufficient conditions for epistemically problematic dissent in general, which we call “the inductive risk account of epistemically detrimental dissent.”. (shrink)
This chapter serves as an opinionated introduction to the problem of convergence (that there is no clear convergence to the truth in philosophy) and the problem of peer disagreement (that disagreement with a peer rationally demands suspending one’s beliefs), and some of the issues they give rise to, namely, philosophical skepticism and progress in philosophy. After introducing both topics and surveying the various positions in the literature we explore the prospects of an alternative, hinge-theoretic account.
The first part of this article discusses recent skepticism about character traits. The second describes various forms of virtue ethics as reactions to such skepticism. The philosopher J.-P. Sartre argued in the 1940s that character traits are pretenses, a view that the sociologist E. Goffman elaborated in the 1950s. Since then social psychologists have shown that attributions of character traits tend to be inaccurate through the ignoring of situational factors. (Personality psychology has tended to concentrate on people's conceptions (...) of personality and character rather than on the accuracy of these conceptions). Similarly, the political theorist R. Hardin has argued for situational explanations of bloody social disputes in the former Yugoslavia and in Africa, rather than explanations in terms of ethnic hatred for example. A version of virtue ethics might identify virtues as characteristics of acts rather than character traits, as traits consisting in actual regularities in behavior, or as robust dispositions that would manifest themselves also in counterfactual situations. (shrink)
A common response to radical skeptical challenges to our knowledge of the external world has been that there are explanatory reasons (e.g., simplicity, coherence, explanatory power, conservatism) for favoring commonsense explanations of our sensory experiences over skeptical explanations. Despite the degree of visibility this class of response has enjoyed, it has often been viewed with skepticism [sic] by the epistemological community because of concerns about the epistemic merits of explanatory reasoning. I argue that skeptical challenges that employ skeptical hypotheses (...) presuppose central explanationist tenets and that this fact should raise one’s estimation of the strength of explanationist responses to skepticism. (shrink)
Stanley Cavell's work is distinctive not only in its importance to philosophy but also for its remarkable interdisciplinary range. Cavell is read avidly by students of film, photography, painting, and music, but especially by students of literature, for whom Cavell offers major readings of Thoreau, Emerson, Shakespeare, and others. In this first book-length study of Cavell's writings, Michael Fischer examines Cavell's relevance to the controversies surrounding poststructuralist literary theory, particularly works by Jacques Derrida, J. Hillis Miller, Paul de Man, and (...) Stanley Fish. Throughout his study, Fischer focuses on skepticism, a central concern of Cavell's multifaceted work. Cavell, following J. L. Austin and Wittgenstein, does not refute the radical epistemological questioning of Descartes, Hume, and others, but rather characterizes skepticism as a significant human possibility or temptation. As presented by Fischer, Cavell's accounts of both external-world and other-minds skepticism share significant affinities with deconstruction, a connection overlooked by contemporary literary theorists. Fischer follows Cavell's lead in examining how different genres address the problems raised by skepticism and goes on to show how Cavell draws on American and English romanticism in fashioning a response to it. He concludes by analyzing Cavell's remarks about current critical theory, focusing on Cavell's uneasiness with some of the conclusions reached by its practitioners. Fischer shows that Cavell's insights, grounded in powerful analyses of Descartes, Hume, and Wittgenstein, permit a fresh view of Derrida, Miller, de Man, and Fish. The result is not only a revealing characterization of deconstruction but a much-needed and insightful introduction to Cavell's rich but difficult oeuvre. (shrink)
This chapter offers a new interpretation of Nietzsche’s argument for moral skepticism, an argument that should be of independent philosophical interest as well. On this account, Nietzsche offers a version of the argument from moral disagreement, but, unlike familiar varieties, it does not purport to exploit anthropological reports about the moral views of exotic cultures, or even garden-variety conflicting moral intuitions about concrete cases. Nietzsche, instead, calls attention to the single most important and embarrassing fact about the history of (...) moral theorizing by philosophers over two millennia: namely, that no rational consensus has been secured on any substantive, foundational proposition about morality. Persistent and apparently intractable disagreement on foundational questions, of course, distinguishes moral theory from inquiry in the sciences and mathematics. According to Nietzsche, the best explanation for this disagreement is that, even though moral skepticism is true, philosophers can still construct valid dialectical justifications for moral claims because the premises of different justifications will answer to the psychological needs of at least some philosophers and thus be deemed true by some of them. The chapter concludes by considering various attempts to defuse this abductive argument for scepticism. (shrink)