Truth and Skepticism: On the Limits of a Philosophical Refutation of Skepticism

Diogenes 33 (132):95-106 (1985)
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Abstract

What is truth? This famous question does not express merely the anguish—or the detachment—of the person who, at the moment of choosing, hesitates between deciding for one or the other of the contradictory theses being presented. At a second level, the question no longer concerns merely the content but the very conditions for the decision: in what name, by virtue of what criterion do we say that a given assertion is true while its contrary is false? We could limit ourselves to recognizing in this second phase a particular species of philosophical questioning, which proceeds reflexively from the constituted to the constituent, from the given of the experience to the conditions for the possibility of the experience in general. But in the question about truth, a prejudicial difficulty inevitably arises which is proper to this question and makes it incomparable to any other. How can I be assured of the truth of my assertions about truth without presupposing at the same time a theory for that truth which I am in tact in the process of seeking? In other words, any question about truth moves in a circle since, by demanding a true answer, just like every question it implies that the questioner already knows what is truth at the very moment when he is asking what it is.

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