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.
J. Adam Carter
Recently, much work has been done on G.E. Moore’s proof of an external world with the aim of diagnosing just where the Proof ‘goes wrong’. In the mainstream literature, the most widely discussed debate on this score stands between those who defend competing accounts of perceptual warrant known as dogmatism (i.e. Pryor and Davies) and conservativism (i.e. Wright). Each account implies a different verdict on Moore’s Proof, though both share a commitment to supposing that an examination of premise-conclusion dependence relations will sufficiently reveal what’s wrong with the Proof. Parallel to this debate on Moore stands perhaps an equally interesting (though less discussed) debate within which the Proof is critiqued as it stands in the context of the skeptical debate. On this score, Michael Fara and Ernest Sosa have weighed in with a markedly different take on Moore’s anti-skeptical ambitions and on the nature of skeptical challenges more generally. The aim of this paper will be to critically evaluate these two very distinct strands of recent work on Moore’s Proof. Part I of the paper will focus on the mainstream debate, and in Part II of the paper, I’ll focus on the parallel debate about skepticism. My critical discussion will be aimed throughout at showing how the various proposals I’ve taken as representative of these two parallel debates surrounding Moore’s Proof ultimately fall short—each for different reasons—of what a satisfactory diagnosis of the Proof would require.