Radical Scepticism and the Epistemology of Confusion

In: International Journal for the Study of Skepticism
View More View Less
  • 1 University of Glasgow

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.

  • Bondy Patrick , and Carter J. Adam . 2018. “The Basing Relation and the Impossibility of the Debasing Demon,” American Philosophical Quarterly 55 (3): 203216.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Carroll Lewis . 1895. “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles,” Mind 4 (14): 278280.

  • Carter J. Adam . Forthcoming. “Virtue Perspectivism, Externalism, and Epistemic Circularity.” In M. Massimi (ed.), Knowledge from a Human Point of View. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Descartes René . 1641/1984. The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, volume 2. Translated by J. Cottingham , R. Stoothoff , and D. Murdoch . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gordon Emma C. 2017. “Understanding in Epistemology,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

  • Hills Alison . 2009. “Moral Testimony and Moral Epistemology,” Ethics 120 (1): 94127.

  • Kelp Christoph . 2015. “Understanding Phenomena,” Synthese 192 (12): 37993816.

  • Kvanvig Jonathan . 2003. The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Morvan Le , Pierre . 2012. “On Ignorance: A Vindication of the Standard View,” Philosophia 40 (2): 379393.

  • Peels Rik . 2010. “What Is Ignorance?” Philosophia 38 (1): 5767.

  • Peels Rik . 2011. “Ignorance Is Lack of True Belief: A Rejoinder to Le Morvan,” Philosophia 39 (2): 345355.

  • Pritchard Duncan . 2009. “Knowledge, Understanding and Epistemic Value,” Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 64: 1943.

  • Reed Baron . 2002. “How to Think About Fallibilism,” Philosophical Studies 107 (2): 143157.

  • Reed Baron . 2012. “Knowledge, Doubt, and Circularity,” Synthese 188 (2): 273287.

  • Schaffer Jonathan . 2010. “The Debasing Demon,” Analysis 70 (2): 228237.

  • Sosa Ernest . 1997. “Reflective Knowledge in the Best Circles,” The Journal of Philosophy 94 (8): 410430.

  • Sosa Ernest . 2009. Reflective Knowledge: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, volume 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Sosa Ernest . 2010. “How Competence Matters in Epistemology,” Philosophical Perspectives 24 (1): 465475.

  • Sosa Ernest . 2015. Judgment and Agency. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Stroud Barry . 1989. “Understanding Human Knowledge in General.” In M. Clay and K. Lehrer (eds.), Knowledge and Skepticism, 3150. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stroud Barry . 2004. “Perceptual Knowledge and Epistemological Satisfaction.” In J. Greco (ed.), Ernest Sosa and His Critics, 165173. Malden MA: Blackwell.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Williamson Timothy . 1992. “Vagueness and Ignorance,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume 66: 145177.

  • Williamson Timothy . 2000. Knowledge and Its Limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 115 115 5
Full Text Views 12 12 0
PDF Downloads 6 6 0