Occam’s Razor, Dogmatism, Skepticism, and Skeptical Dogmatism

in International Journal for the Study of Skepticism
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


Underdetermination arguments for skepticism maintain that our common sense view of the external world is no better, evidentially speaking, than some skeptical competitors. An important and well-known response by dogmatists, those who believe our commonsense view is justified, appeals to abduction or inference to the best explanation. The predominant version of this strategy, going back at least to Locke, invokes Occam’s razor: dogmatists claim the common sense view is simpler than any of its skeptical alternatives and so has more to recommend it, evidentially speaking. This dispute has overshadowed another possible view: skeptical dogmatism. Skeptical dogmatists hold that we are justified in believing that the common sense view is probably false. I argue that skeptical dogmatism presents some interesting complications to the dialectic between the dogmatist and the skeptic. On the one hand, even if the dogmatist’s use of Occam’s razor is sufficient to rebut skepticism, in itself it is not sufficient to refute skeptical dogmatism. On the other hand, skeptics themselves, ironically, must, given the assumptions of the paper, appeal to something like Occam’s razor in order to avoid capitulating to skeptical dogmatism.

Occam’s Razor, Dogmatism, Skepticism, and Skeptical Dogmatism

in International Journal for the Study of Skepticism



AyerA. J. (1956). The Problem of Knowledge. London: Macmillan.

BakerA. (2010). “Simplicity” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2010 Edition) ed. E. N. Zalta.

BeebeJ. (2009). “The Abductivist Reply to SkepticismPhilosophy and Phenomenological Research 79: 605636.

BerkeleyG. (1982). A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.

Bird-DavidN. (1999). “Animism Revisited: Personhood, Environment, and Relational EpistemologyCurrent Anthropology 40: 6791.

BonJourL. (1998). In Defense of Pure Reason. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

———. (1999a). “Foundationalism and the External WorldNoûs 33: 229249.

BonJourL. and SosaE. (2003). Epistemic justification: Internalism vs. externalism foundations vs. virtues. NewYork: Blackwell Publishing.

BroadC. D. (1925). The Mind and Its Place in Nature. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

BruecknerA. (1994). “The Structure of the Skeptical ArgumentPhilosophy and Phenomenological Research 54: 827835.

CohenS. (1988). “How to Be a FallibilistPhilosophical Perspectives 2: 91123.

———. (1999b). “Contextualism, Skepticism, and the Structure of ReasonsNoûs 33: 5789.

CornmanJ. W. (1975). Perception Common Sense and Science. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

DickP. K. (2010). Time Out of Joint. London: Hachette uk.

EganG. (2010). Permutation City. London: Hachette uk.

FoleyR. (1983). “Epistemic ConservatismPhilosophical Studies 43: 165182.

FumertonR. (1992). “Skepticism and Reasoning to the Best ExplanationPhilosophical Issues 2: 149169.

———. (2005a). “The Challenge of Refuting Skepticism.” In Steup and Sosa (2005) 8597.

GoldmanA. H. (1988). Empirical knowledge. Berkeley: University of California Press.

HazlettA. (2006). “How to Defeat Belief in the External WorldPacific Philosophical Quarterly 87: 198212.

HintikkaJ. (1999). “What is Abduction? The Fundamental Problem of Contemporary Epistemology.” In his Inquiry as Inquiry: A Logic of Scientific Discovery 91–113. Dordrecht: Springer.

HuemerM. (2009). “When is Parsimony a Virtue?The Philosophical Quarterly 59: 216236.

LockeJ. (1975). An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

LycanW. G. (1988). Judgement and Justification. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

MackieJ. L. (1976). Problems from Locke. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

———. (1977). Inventing Right and Wrong. London: Penguin.

PritchardD. (2005). Epistemic luck. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

PryorJ. (2000). “The Skeptic and the DogmatistNoûs 34: 517549.

RussellB. (1948). Human Knowledge: its Scope and Limits. London: Simon & Shuster.

———. (1988). The Problems of Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

———. (1992). The Analysis of Matter. New York: Routledge.

EmpiricusSextus. (1996). The Skeptic Way: Sextus Empiricus’s Outlines of Pyrrhonisim. Translated with a commentary by B. Mates. New York: Oxford University Press.

SteupM. and SosaE. (eds.) (2005). Contemporary Debates in Epistemology. Malden, ma: Wiley-Blackwell.

SwinburneR. (1997). Simplicity as Evidence of Truth. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press.

ThorburnW. M. (1918). “The Myth of Occam’s RazorMind 27: 345353.

VogelJ. (1990). “Cartesian Skepticism and Inference to the Best ExplanationJournal of Philosophy 87: 658666.

———. (2004). “Varieties of SkepticismPhilosophy and Phenomenological Research 68: 1-37.

———. (2005). “The Refutation of Skepticism.” In Steup and Sosa (2005) 7284.

WalkerM. (2015). “Underdetermination Skepticism and Skeptical Dogmatism” International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 5: 218–251.

WinklerK. P. (1989). Berkeley: an Interpretation. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

YalçinÜ. D. (1992). “Skeptical Arguments from UnderdeterminationPhilosophical Studies 68: 134.


Beebe (2009) convincingly demonstrates that the abductivist response has a long history with many illustrious proponents. It is worth citing some of his evidence (Beebe 2009: 606) here to convince ourselves of its pedigree: Locke (1975) Russell (1948 1988 1992) Broad (1925) Ayer (1956) BonJour (1998 1999) Mackie (1976) BonJour and Sosa (2003) Cornman (1975) Goldman (1988) Lycan (1988) and Vogel (1990 2005).


In Walker (2015) I explore various moves the skeptic might make to avoid or ­answer this dilemma.


 Again see Walker (2015) for a conditional defense of skeptical dogmatism.


Huemer (2009) questions whether philosophical applications of or can be made on analogy with scientific uses of or.


 See Beebe (2009) for some discussion of such virtues.

Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 17 17 3
Full Text Views 14 14 13
PDF Downloads 2 2 2
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0