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.
Following Wittgenstein’s lead, Crispin Wright and others have argued that hinge propositions are immune from skeptical doubt. In particular, the entitlement strategy, as we shall refer to it, says that hinge propositions have a special type of justification (entitlement justification) because of their role in our cognitive lives. Two major criticisms are raised here against the entitlement strategy when used in attempts to justify belief in the external world. First, the hinge strategy is not sufficient to thwart underdetermination skepticism, since underdetermination considerations lead to a much stronger form of skepticism than is commonly realized. Second, the claim that hinge propositions are necessary to trust perception is false. There is an alternative to endorsing a particular hinge proposition about the external world, external world disjunctivism, which permits us to trust perception (to a point), while skirting the difficulties raised by skepticism.
Pyrrhonian skepticism is usually understood as a form of quietism, since it is supposed to bring us back to where we were in our everyday lives before we got disturbed by philosophical questions. Similarly, the ‘therapeutic’ and ‘resolute’ readings of Wittgenstein claim that Wittgenstein’s ‘philosophical practice’ results in the dissolution of the corresponding philosophical problems and brings us back to our everyday life. Accordingly, Wittgenstein is often linked to Pyrrhonism and classified as a quietist. Against this reading, I will employ Laurie Paul’s notion of epistemically transformative experience and argue that Pyrrhonian skepticism and Wittgenstein’s philosophy can be interpreted as a philosophical practice that changes our self-understanding in significant ways. I will argue that this practice can evoke transformative experiences and is thereby able to yield a non-propositional insight into the finitude of the human condition. This shows that Pyrrhonian skepticism and Wittgenstein’s philosophy go beyond quietism.
This article discusses Keith DeRose’s treatment of the lottery problem in Chapter 5 of his recent The Appearance of Ignorance. I agree with a lot of it but also raise some critical points and questions and make some friendly proposals. I discuss different ways to set up the problem, go into the difference (quite relevant here) between knowing and ending inquiry, propose to distinguish between two different kinds of lotteries, add to the defense of the idea that one can know lottery propositions, give a critical discussion of DeRose’s contextualist solution to the problem, and support his defense against an absurdity objection with additional arguments.
The paper focuses on the problem of how to account for the phenomena of disagreement and retraction in disputes over skepticism in a contextualist framework. I will argue that nonindexical versions of contextualism are better suited to account for those phenomena than DeRose’s indexical form of contextualism. Furthermore, I will argue against DeRose’s “single scoreboard” semantics and against his solution of ruling that in a dispute over skepticism, both parties to the conversation are expressing something truth-valueless. At the end, I will briefly address the question of whether DeRose’s contextualism combined with his double-safety account and his rule of sensitivity provide an epistemically satisfying answer to the skeptical challenge. It will be argued that by merely explaining (away) the attractiveness of skeptical arguments, DeRose’s contextualism seems to lack the resources to explain some important epistemic issues, as, for example, the question of what knowledge is and when a true belief turns into knowledge.
The epistemology of disagreement examines the question of how an agent ought to respond to awareness of epistemic peer disagreement about one of her beliefs. The literature on this topic, ironically enough, represents widespread disagreement about how we should respond to disagreement. I argue for the sceptical conclusion that the existence of widespread disagreement throughout the history of philosophy, and right up until the present day indicates that philosophers are highly unreliable at arriving at the truth. If truth convergence indicates progress in a field, then there is little progress in philosophy. This sceptical conclusion, however, need not make us give up philosophizing: That we should currently be sceptical of our philosophical beliefs is a contingent fact. We are an intellectually immature species and given the existence of the deep future we have some reason to think that there will be truth-convergence in philosophy in the future.
Keith DeRose’s new book The Appearance of Ignorance is a welcome companion volume to his 2009 book The Case for Contextualism. Where latter focused on contextualism as a view in the philosophy of language, the former focuses on how contextualism contributes to our understanding of (and solution to) some perennial epistemological problems, with the skeptical problem being the main focus of six of the seven chapters. DeRose’s view is that a solution to the skeptical problem must do two things. First, it must explain how it is that we can know lots of things, such as that we have hands. Second, it must explain how it can seem that we don’t know these things. In slogan form, DeRose’s argument is that a contextualist semantics for knowledge attributions is needed to account for the “appearance of ignorance”—the appearance that we don’t know that skeptical hypotheses fail to obtain. In my critical discussion, I will argue inter alia that we don’t need a contextualist semantics to account for the appearance of ignorance, and in any case that the “strength” of the appearance of ignorance is unclear, as is the need for a philosophical diagnosis of it.