The overarching aim of this paper is to persuade the reader that radical scepticism is driven less by independently plausible arguments and more by a fear of epistemic limitation which can be overcome. By developing the Kierkegaardian insight that knowledge requires courage, I show that we are not, as potential knowers, just passive recipients of a passing show of putatively veridical information, we also actively need to put ourselves in the way of it by learning to resist certain forms of epistemic temptation: the Cartesian thought that we could be ‘imprisoned’ within our own representations, and, hence permanently ‘out of touch’ with an ‘external’ world, and the Reasons Identity Thesis, which has us believe that whether we are in the good case or in the bad case, our epistemic grounds are the same.
This introduction provides an overview of the content of the papers published in the special issue on epistemic vice and forms of scepticism.
Is there something wrong with the way we form beliefs about our surroundings? Most people assume not. But there is a character, the skeptic, who disagrees. What, exactly, is this skeptic claiming, and why should this concern us? We are, after all, just humans doing what humans do: forming beliefs on the basis of our faculties. In what sense could this be wrong, and how could it matter if it is? By considering the way in which the notions of vice and criticism can express these questions, we can clarify them and discern some potential answers. These answers, I will suggest, can explain not only why we shouldn’t worry too much, but also the lasting appeal of skeptical problems. The idea is that we can accept, or grant for the sake of argument, that we fall short of some important standard while insisting that it is entirely unreasonable to criticize people, or ourselves, on that basis.
J. Adam Carter
The lack of knowledge—as Timothy Williamson famously maintains—is ignorance. Radical sceptical arguments, at least in the tradition of Descartes, threaten universal ignorance. They do so by attempting to establish that we lack any knowledge, even if we can retain other kinds of epistemic standings, like epistemically justified belief. If understanding is a species of knowledge, then radical sceptical arguments threaten to rob us categorically of knowledge and understanding in one fell swoop by implying universal ignorance. If, however, understanding is not a species of knowledge, then three questions arise: (i) is ignorance the lack of understanding, even if understanding is not a species of knowledge? (ii) If not, what kind of state of intellectual impoverishment best describes a lack of understanding? (iii) What would a radical sceptical argument look like that threatened that kind of intellectual impoverishment, even if not threatening ignorance? This paper answers each of these questions in turn. I conclude by showing how the answers developed to (i–iii) interface in an interesting way with Virtue Perspectivism as an anti-sceptical strategy.
My aim in this paper is to closely examine José Medina’s account of socially-situated knowledge and ignorance in terms of epistemic virtues and vices in his 2013 book The Epistemology of Resistance. First, I’ll offer a detailed examination of the similarities and differences between Medina’s account and both standpoint epistemology and epistemologies of active ignorance. Medina presents his account as capturing and integrating the insights of both, but I will argue that, for better or worse, his account differs from familiar forms of standpoint epistemology in significant respects, and so should be treated as related but distinct. Second, I’ll expand on Medina’s brief suggestion that his vice-theoretic account of active ignorance reveals interesting analogues of traditional forms of skepticism about the external world, comparing and contrasting Medina’s proposal with both other analogues of skepticism found in the philosophical literature on oppression and with traditional forms of skepticism inspired by Descartes.
Pierre Le Morvan
I articulate and defend a conception of skepticism inspired by Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean. On it, skepticism is vicious when deficient (as in gullibility) and when excessive (as in closedmindedness). Virtuous skepticism lies as a mean between these two extremes.
Descartes’s meditator thinks that if she does not know the existence of God, she cannot be fully certain of anything. This statement seems to contradict the cogito, according to which the existence of I is indubitable and therefore certain. Cannot an atheist be certain that he exists? Atheistic knowledge has been discussed almost exclusively in relation to mathematics, and the more interesting question of the atheist’s certainty of his existence has not received the attention it deserves. By examining the question of atheistic knowledge in relation to the cogito, I articulate the advantage Descartes sees in having knowledge of God. I challenge a long-held reading of the cogito where “I exist” is the first full certainty and argue that while atheistic cogito is more certain than atheistic knowledge in mathematics, it cannot be a starting point for lasting and stable science, because science requires knowing the existence of the non-deceiving God.
This paper explores how hinge epistemology (specifically, Duncan Pritchard’s brand of hinge epistemology) might fruitfully be applied not only to the problem of radical skepticism, but also to certain domain specific (or ‘local’) skepticisms, and in particular, moral skepticism. The paper explains the idea of a domain specific skepticism, and how domain specific skepticisms contrast with radical skepticism. I argue that a domain specific skeptical problem can be resolved in just the same way as radical skepticism, if there are hinge commitments within that domain. I then suggest that there are hinge commitments in the moral domain, and use this to address a moral skeptical problem due to our apparent inability to know moral nihilism to be false.