Chapter 14 Skepticism II: The Defense of Common Sense in the Face of Fallibility

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This page is part of my self study project into philosophy. What is written are my own personal notes taken as a means of formalizing what I've read and/or learned. The information may not be accurate, as I may have took away the wrong points. Also the information could be basic or partial - as learning requires taking on small parts before getting deeper. The content may be a tad scatterbrain as well. Either way, it should be an interesting read and maybe you'll learn something with me.

The previous chapter essentially illustrated a skeptical case against epistemological common sense.

Negative Versus Positive Defenses of Common Sense

In the context of thinking about skepticism, knowing something does not require being able to show that one knows it.

A negative defense - one that seeks to show that skeptical arguments do not justify the skeptic’s conclusion, does not require accomplishing the second-order task of showing that there is knowledge or justified belief.

A positive defense - one that seeks to show that we have the kinds of knowledge and justified beliefs common sense takes us to have.

Deducibility, Evidential Transmission, and Induction

Skeptics seem to have a big issue with induction. There view was that knowledge can be transmitted only deductively. Induction, to them, can not reach it’s conclusion. Why should we accept this?

Epistemic and Logical Possibility

Induction does bring in possibility/probability of the conclusion.

Entailment, Certainty, and Fallibility

The view that we are fallible, so we cannot really know anything - has a really high standard of certainty. Absolute certainty is a high ideal, but not adequate to the concept of knowledge.

The Authority of Knowledge and the Cogency of its Grounds

Another principle to consider: if you know something than you have a certain authority regarding it.

Epistemic Authority and Cogent Grounds

Cogency principle: with the possible exception of beliefs of certain self-evident propositions and certain propositions about one’s current consciousness, one knows that something is so only if one grounds for it on the basis of which one can (in principle) argue cogently for it.

Being unable to present an argument for something you know, doesn’t preclude you from knowing.

Grounds of Knowledge as Referring Epistemic Authority

Skeptics ask ‘how do you know’, they’re asking to have it shown/proved/argued. As explained before, not being able to show doesn’t mean you don’t know. Taking a step further, it doesn’t mean you don’t have authority in testimony.

Exhibiting Knowledge versus Dogmatically Claiming it

With the above, it would seem this is an endorsement of dogmatism. Someone could just declare it. But really, saying it cites a ground for my belief which suggests that I am not being dogmatic in taking myself to know.

Refutation & Rebuttal

Have we refuted skepticism? No. Presented here was a a rebuttal to it.

Prospects for a Positive Defense of Common Sense

How would an argument for a positive defense of common sense go?

A Case for Justified Belief

1. An attentively held belief to the effect that one is now in an occurrent mental state, such as thinking, is (prima facie) justified. 2. I have an attentive belief that I am now in such a state, namely thinking. 3. My belief that I am thinking is (prima facie) justified.

The Regress of Demonstration

The problem becomes that whatever one’s justification or epistemic achievement justifiably saying or even justifiably believing that one has succeeded in it requires justification or knowledge at the next higher level.

Regress of demonstration: if one shows anything at all and can be asked to show that, then there will be either an infinite regress of demonstration, or a circle of them, or there will be some on shown shower.

A Case for Knowledge

The crucial principles of justification are a priori, and believing them is justified by reflection. Suppose the principles are empirical. See next…

A Circularity Problem

There would be a circularity problem if we had to justify our crucial principles inductively. One could determine this through experience.

The Challenge of Rational Disagreement

Skepticism as a whole may be easier to deal with than a small bite in a casual discussion - say about the existence of God.

Intellectual Pluralism

There’s a great diversity of views on many important matters. All this can lead to much disagreement, but this doesn’t mean there is no knowledge.

Epistemic Parity

When dealing with disagreement presupposes a measure of non-skeptical confidence. When facing a challenge one should consider both their experience and intellectual position.

Dogmatism, Fallibilism, and Intellectual Courage

The conclusion of the experience of critically seeking to establish the epistemic parity of a disputant may give a rational person a justificatory advantage in the dispute.

Sometimes our plausible challenged beliefs should, on balance, be retained; sometimes our unchallenged beliefs should be given up. There is no simple formula here in ethics, philosophy, religion or any other domain.