Philosophia 45 (2):503-522 (2017)

David J. Alexander
Iowa State University
In this paper I argue that Cartesian skepticism about the external world is self-defeating. The Cartesian skeptic holds that we are not justified in believing claims about the external world on the grounds that we cannot rule out the possibility of our being in a radical skeptical scenario. My argument against this position builds upon a critique of Wilson in Analysis, 72, 668–673. Wilson argues that the Cartesian’s skeptical reasoning commits him to mental state skepticism and that this undermines his ability to claim that he is truly skeptical about the external world. I show that Wilson’s argument does not succeed. She is correct that the Cartesian is committed to mental state skepticism. However, she is mistaken in thinking that there is anything incoherent about combining the Cartesian position that one ought to doubt external world claims with doubt about whether one is in fact such a skeptic. I propose an alternative explanation as to why mental state skepticism proves to be the Cartesian’s undoing. I suggest that mental state skepticism leads to epistemic skepticism and that this undermines the Cartesian’s position that belief about the external world is unjustified.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11406-017-9849-5
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,436
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
What is Justified Belief?Alvin Goldman - 1979 - In George Pappas (ed.), Justification and Knowledge. Boston: D. Reidel. pp. 1-25.

View all 47 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Living with Existential Self-Doubt.Mordechai Gordon - 2022 - Philosophy of Education 78 (1):20-33.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Disjunctivism and Skepticism.Huaping Wang - 2011 - Frontiers of Philosophy in China 6 (3):443-464.
11 Anti-Individualism, Self-Knowledge, and Why Skepticism Cannot Be Cartesian.Leora Weitzman - 2010 - In Joseph Keim Campbell, Michael O.’Rourke & Harry S. Silverstein (eds.), Knowledge and Skepticism. MIT Press. pp. 263.
On the Possibility of Skeptical Scenarios.Peter Kung - 2011 - European Journal of Philosophy 19 (3):387-407.
Another Failed Refutation of Scepticism.Tom Stoneham & Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2017 - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 36 (2):19-30.
Skepticism, Self-Knowledge and Responsibility.David Macarthur - 2006 - In Stephen Hetherington (ed.), Aspects of Knowing. Elsevier. pp. 97.
Skepticism and Human Values.Brian Clark Ribeiro - 2001 - Dissertation, Vanderbilt University
Evidentialism and Skeptical Arguments.Dylan Dodd - 2012 - Synthese 189 (2):337-352.
In Defense of Piecemeal Skepticism.Philip Atkins - 2017 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 7 (1):53-56.
One More Foiled Defense of Skepticism.Douglas C. Long - 1994 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 54 (2):373-375.


Added to PP index

Total views
36 ( #318,304 of 2,520,420 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #137,518 of 2,520,420 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes