How to Be a Reasonable Dogmatist

Dissertation, Princeton University (1997)

James Pryor
New York University
Suppose we meet a skeptic who doubts whether any of the beliefs we form about the external world, on the basis of perception, are justified. How can we defend these beliefs? The skeptic thinks these beliefs aren't justified unless we can give them some non-question-begging defense. A dogmatist rejects this assumption. According to the dogmatist, our perceptual beliefs are justified even though it is impossible to give them any non-question-begging defense. ;In this thesis, I first argue that we have good reason to believe that our perceptual beliefs are immediately justified, that is, justified in a way that doesn't derive from our having other justified beliefs, and I argue that if our perceptual beliefs are immediately justified, this commits us to a form of dogmatism. ;I then argue that the skeptic has an extremely powerful argument against the possibility of perceptual justification, and that this argument can be resisted only if one is a dogmatist. ;Finally, I argue for an account of what it is to have a perceptual experience. On the account I defend, to have an experience as of the world's being a certain way is nothing more than having a certain sort of immediate justification for believing that the world is that way. If this account of experience is correct, that would partly explain why some of our perceptual beliefs have the justificatory status I claim for them
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