The Failure of Frances’s Live Skepticism

in International Journal for the Study of Skepticism
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In his Scepticism Comes Alive, Bryan Frances contends that his “live skepticism” poses a genuine challenge to claims of knowledge in a way that classic “brain-in-a-vat” skepticism does not. This is mistaken. In this paper, I argue that Frances’s live skepticism dies on the horns of a dilemma: if we interpret a key premise in Frances’s skeptical argument template sociologically, then it undercuts itself, showing that there is no reason to accept it and the argument fails. If we interpret that premise normatively, then the difference in the epistemic threat posed by live hypotheses compared to that of their moribund cousins evaporates, and with it, the purported distinctiveness of the live skeptical argument.

References

BarnesB., BloorD., and HenryJ.. (1996). Scientific Knowledge: A Sociological Analysis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

BloorD. (1991). Knowledge and Social Imagery. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

FrancisB. (2005a). Skepticism Comes Alive. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

FrancisB. (2005b). “ When a Skeptical Hypothesis is Live,” Noûs 39: 559595.

FrancisB. (2010). “ The Reflective Epistemic Renegade,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81: 419463.

HessD. (1997). Science Studies: An Advanced Introduction. New York: New York University Press.

KimJ. (1988). “ What is Naturalized Epistemology?” In TomberlinJ. (ed.), Philosophical Perspectives 2: Epistemology, 381405. Atascadero, ca: Ridgeview Publishing Co.

WilliamsM. (2001). “ Contextualism, Externalism and Epistemic Standards,” Philosophical Studies 103: 123.

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In his (2005b), Frances presents the main line of argument of his (2005a).

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 For example, Kim (1988) contends that our concept of evidence has a normative element.

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