After the Spade Turns: Disagreement, First Principles and Epistemic Contractarianism

in International Journal for the Study of Skepticism
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Reasons, Wittgenstein warned, come to an end; we hit bedrock; the spade is turned. Long philosophical tradition, not to mention common sense, agrees. You can’t justify everything. In this paper, I examine a case where it is not only especially compelling that reasons run out—it is especially troubling. The case is when there is disagreement over explicitly epistemic first principles. Epistemic first principles are principles that announce that basic methods for acquiring beliefs are reliable. Where we disagree over such principles, we face the alarming prospect of being unable to defend them without relying on the very methods whose reliability is in question. I then explore, however briefly, what options remain in such situations for still engaging in what we might call rational persuasion. I suggest our prospects depend on whether we can make sense of giving objective practical reasons for our epistemic first principles.

After the Spade Turns: Disagreement, First Principles and Epistemic Contractarianism

in International Journal for the Study of Skepticism

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References

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2

 See Pritchard (2005) on epistemic ‘angst.’

4

 See also Williams (1995) and Pritchard (ms).

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