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.
It is a common intuition that at least in some cases disagreement has skeptical consequences: the participants are not justified in persisting in their beliefs. I will argue that the currently popular non-dialectical and individualistic accounts of justification, such as evidentialism and reliabilism, cannot explain this intuition and defend the dialectical conception of justification that can explain it. I will also argue that this sort of justification is a necessary condition of knowledge by relying on Craig's genealogy of the concept (...) of knowledge. I will then respond to the accusation that the dialectical conception leads to radical skepticism. My response is partly concessive. It does lead to skepticism in areas where controversy prevails, such as philosophy, politics and religion, but this sort of skepticism is quite intuitive. Finally, I deal with the objection that my defense of skepticism about philosophy is self-refuting. (shrink)
Markus Lammenranta’s essay sheds light on at least one of the reasons for this. Arguing that disagreement plays a key role not only in the Pyrrhonian but also in the Cartesian skeptical arguments, he contends that these arguments are intuitively sound and that their intuitiveness cannot be accounted for unless we assume a dialectical conception of justification. As we saw, this view maintains that one is justified in holding a belief if and only if, when appropriately challenged, one is able (...) to defend it by offering reasons for it. Lammenranta claims that such a conception of justification should be accepted because it is rooted in our ordinary epistemic practices, and that most epistemologists fail to appreciate and explain the strength of disagreement-based skeptical arguments because of their adoption of an individualistic and nondialectical epistemology. (shrink)
How can we ever find out whether our psychological processes are reliable? According to many reliabilists—e.g. Alston, Goldman, Papineau, and Van Cleve —there is no problem: We just use our psychological processes and then arrive at the belief that these very same processes are reliable. If our psychological processes are actually reliable, we can arrive in this way at a justified belief. And, indeed, we can even come to know that they are reliable.
Fogelin’s neo-Pyrrhonism is skepticism about epistemology and philosophy more generally. Philosophical reflection on ordinary epistemic practices leads us to deny the possibility of knowledge and justified belief. However, instead of accepting the dogma that knowledge and justified beliefs are impossible, a neo-Pyrrhonist rejects the philosophical premises that lead to this conclusion. Fogelin argues in particular that contemporary theories of justification cannot avoid dogmatic skepticism, because they are committed to the premises of the skeptical argument deriving from the modes of Agrippa. (...) It is argued against Fogelin that those theories can and typically do deny one or another of the premises and thus can avoid the skeptical conclusion. Neo-Pyrrhonism should rather be defended by arguing that the premises of the Agrippan argument are intuitively plausible and that neo-Pyrrhonism provides the best resolution of the resulting paradox. Only neo-Pyrrhonism both explains the intuitive plausibility of the premises and avoids dogmatic skepticism. (shrink)
The paper defends Cartesian skepticism by an argument relying on internalism and infallibilism. It argues that this sort of skepticism gives the best explanation of our intuitions and ordinary epistemic practices.
In “How Art Teaches: A Lesson from Goodman”, Markus Lammenranta inquires if and how artworks can convey propositional knowledge about the world. Lammenranta argues that the cognitive role of art can be explained by revising Nelson Goodman’s theory of symbols. According to Lammenranta, the problem of Goodman’s theory is that, despite providing an account of art’s symbolic function, it denies art the possibility of mediating propositional knowledge. Lammenranta claims that Goodman’s theory can be augmented by enlarging it with an account (...) of direct reference developed by Bertrand Russell and contemporary philosophy of language. On this basis, an expanded version of Goodman’s theory can explain how artworks can express propositions even without being linguistic, representational, or non-fictive. Lammenranta explicates his theory by explaining how abstract paintings and literary fictions can mediate propositional claims about the actual, everyday world. (shrink)
To solve the ancient Pyrrhonian problematic, it is not enough to show that knowledge and justified belief are possible. They must be shown to be actual. It is argued that the attempts by the main advocates of reliabilism, William Alston, Alvin Goldman, and Ernest Sosa, fail to solve the problematic because they fall under the Agrippan modes of circularity and hypothesis. There is also another sort of response implicit in their discussion. It is not to try to solve the problematic, (...) but to accept the Pyrrhonian moral and to settle for appearances. Finally, a version of Pyrrhonism is given, and it is suggested that reliabilism be understood as a case of this sort of Pyrrhonism. (shrink)
Reliabilists have often noticed a kind of circularity in their reasoning, but they have insisted that the circularity in question is not vicious. On the contrary, they think typically that reliabilism resolves even the traditional problems of circularity. It is argued in the paper that there is a real problem of circularity that relates to the method by which we are supposed arrive at our epistemology. Different methods are considered, including methodism and particularism that Roderick Chisholm distinguishes as possible responses (...) to the problem of the criterion and the method of reflective equilibrium due to Nelson Goodman and John Rawls. It is argued that only the method of wide reflective equilibrium (WRE) doesn't cause serious problems for reliabilism. Then it is argued that the method of WRE can actually be seen as the method of epistemology of which the approaches discussed earlier are just different versions. Finally, it is pointed out that the source of the troubles with circularity lies actually in certain non-epistemic background assumptions, that are therefore discarded. This brings reliabilism closer to the commonsense tradition and its characteristic anti-skepticism. (shrink)
Descartes is traditionally accused of reasoning circularly in the _Meditations. Yet, it seems clear that there is no formal or logical circularity in his reasoning. There is another kind of circularity that William Alston calls epistemic circularity, and Descartes's reasoning seems to be circular in this sense. The question is whether this makes his reasoning viciously circular. It is argued that it does if we assume that his aim was to resolve the ancient Pyrrhonian problematic. Because of epistemic circularity, the (...) problematic cannot be resolved by his project. (shrink)
Alvin I. Goldman sees epistemology as a multidisciplinary enterprise that needs help, e.g., from empirical psychology (or cognitive science). He thinks also that such an epistemology should be able to give a response to scepticism without just assuming that scepticism is false. I show here that Goldman's version of naturalistic epistemology can't give such a response. His attempt either leads to circularity or makes psychology irrelevant to epistemology. In other words, it is impossible for his naturalism to give an adequate (...) answer to the question whether our psychological processes are reliable and whether our beliefs are thus justified. (shrink)
As Paul Feyerabend once remarked, philosophy of science is a subject with a great past. Let me for the moment leave aside his disillusioned impression that it had only a sad present and no future and concentrate on its past. It is surprising indeed that much has been published on the history of science in the last few decades, while only very few efforts have been made to give an overall description of the history of philosophy of science. That of (...) course presupposes a defi nition or at least a rough idea of the subject. And along with that goes an answer to the question when it started and what has been part of it during its development. Some seem to think that philosophy of science already began with Aristotle’s Analytica Posteriora, while others would be inclined to have it start more than 2000 years later, let’s say with the Vienna Circle. (shrink)
Naturalistic epistemology is accused of ruling out the normative element of epistemology. Different naturalistic responses are considered. It is argued that the content of attributions of knowledge is best understood in purely descriptive terms. So their normative force is merely hypothetical. Attributions of justified belief, on the other hand, do have intrinsic normativity. This derives from their role in our first-person deliberation of what to believe. It is suggested that the content of them is best captured in naturalistic terms by (...) accepting a dispositional analysis of justification that is a species of the generic dispositional conception of value. (shrink)
William Alston argues that there is no way to show that any of our basic sources of belief is reliable without falling into epistemic circularity, i.e. relying at some point on premises that are themselves derived from the very same source. His appeal to practical rationality is an attempt to evaluate our sources of belief without relying on beliefs that are based on the sources under scrutiny and thus without just presupposing their reliability. I argue that this attempt fails and (...) that Ernest Sosa’s appeal to the coherence theory of justification fails, too, if it is understood as an attempt to find a similar external evaluation of our sources of belief that does not just assume their reliability. I concluded that there is no alternative to taking an internal view to our own reliability and embracing epistemic circularity. (shrink)