The Unboundedness of the Plain; or the Ubiquity of Lilliput? How to Do Things with Thompson Clarke?

in International Journal for the Study of Skepticism
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In this essay, we focus primarily on Moore’s “Proof of an External World” and Kant’s “Refutation of Idealism.” We are not exactly commenting on Clarke’s “The Legacy of Skepticism,” interpreting it, although what we do involves us in (some of) that. Instead of directly commenting on it, we do things with Legacy; we read Moore’s Proof and Kant’s Refutation with Clarke in mind. And by way of doing this, we bring onto the stage a post-Legacy Moore, and a post-Legacy Kant. We do not claim to present Moore and Kant per se (to use Clarke’s term); we do not portray Moore and Kant as they are independently of “The Legacy of Skepticism.” We propose instead Moore and Kant as we read them after Legacy, i.e., in light of the pure/plain distinction.

The Unboundedness of the Plain; or the Ubiquity of Lilliput? How to Do Things with Thompson Clarke?

in International Journal for the Study of Skepticism



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Consider Austin’s (1962) comment that an experience can be “dream-like.” Is that meant to deny the Design of Dream? Is it a mark or feature of Dream? Or is it instead meant to suggest something else? At any rate there have been many philosophers whose strategy for responding to the skeptic crucially involves denying Design (Schopenhauer for example).


Moore (1993b) and (1993c) are his great contributions to metaphilosophy. Not so much because he is doing metaphilosophy in them but rather because in them he shows us how difficult it is to philosophize. For Moore the philosophical is not free. It must be earned step by dogged step. And part of the cost of earning each step is rightly measuring the significance of the distance between the purposed footfall and the propositions of common sense plainly understood. Since those propositions can and are to be plainly understood even when they are quite general they cannot and are not to be treated as philosophical. But that means that they are not open to treatment as theses. As plain they are non-theses even anti-theses. And if one tried to advance the plain propositions as theses in philosophy it would not be possible to debate them because everyone would already agree to them (Wittgenstein 1953: §128). We take this to mean that rightly measuring the significance of the distance between each purposed philosophical footfall and the propositions of common sense is a matter of attempting to remain in agreement with oneself to keep one’s understanding in agreement with itself.

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