Neil Gascoigne
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 225
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Gascoigne explores the challenge to epistemology itself and considers two contemporary responses: the turn against foundationalist epistemology in favour of more naturalistic conceptions of inquiry, and the resistance to this response by non-naturalistically inclined philosophers. This contextualization of the sceptical debate gives students a better appreciation of the methodological importance of sceptical reasoning, an analytic understanding of the structure of sceptical arguments (including an assessment of whether the theoretical burden lies with the sceptic or anti-sceptic), and an awareness of the significance of scepticism for other areas of philosophical inquiry.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8197-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Introduction: The whimsical condition of mankind
    (pp. 1-5)

    It seems reasonable to open a book such as this with a simple question: What is scepticism? According to Webster’s, it is “an attitude of doubt or disposition toward incredulity in general or in regard to something particular”. So scepticism relates to doubt; but what is it to ‘doubt’ or to have a ‘doubting attitude’? Mention scepticism to anyone who has been subjected to an introductory course on ‘The Problems of Philosophy’ and they will probably recall that there are a number of arguments that seem to show that we can doubt, and therefore don’t know, many if not all...

  5. 1 Scepticism and knowledge
    (pp. 6-30)

    The aim of this chapter is to provide a preliminary introduction to the problem of scepticism as a contemporary epistemologist would see it; namely, as a problem that emerges when one adopts the theoretical attitude towards knowledge claims. In pursuit of this aim, the chapter has three main objectives: first, to enquire into what it is that the sceptic doubts and therefore discover to what aspect of our human self-understanding that doubt poses a threat; secondly, to examine two ways in which the sceptic goes about generating her doubt, the so-called ‘argument from ignorance’ and the ‘Agrippan argument’; and finally,...

  6. 2 The legacy of Socrates
    (pp. 31-67)

    Hitherto we have encountered scepticism as presenting epistemologists with a certaintheoreticalproblem; namely, to show that our empirical beliefs are held on rational grounds by demonstrating that distinction between being justified in believing thatqand merely assuming thatqis legitimate. Although the sceptic who uses philosophical arguments to generate doubt about our practices of justification was contrasted with thepk-sceptic who challenges the possibility of philosophical knowledge, the latter too was seen as a theoretical obstacle, in the form of the radical version of the Agrippan argument with which we concluded Chapter 1. In both then, scepticism...

  7. 3 Demons, doubt and common life
    (pp. 68-99)

    For most philosophers, theMeditations on First Philosophy(1641) marks the beginning of a new phase in the long history of scepticism. As we saw in Chapter 1, foundationalism is one attempt to respond to the Agrippan argument, which threatens the idea that any of our beliefs are justified. Descartes’s ‘First Philosophy’ is the original systematic attempt to formulate such a response. Crucially, he uses scepticism in a methodologically constructive way to advance his foundational project and in doing so gives rise to another sort of sceptical problem, which we have associated with the argument from ignorance. The task for...

  8. 4 Transcendental meditations
    (pp. 100-132)

    In Hume’s hands it turns out that if Descartes’s sceptical possibilities ultimately don’t worry us, it is not because we have areasonnot to worry; rather, it is simply that confronted with the exigencies of life away from the study our natural ‘instinct’ to believe reasserts itself. This limitation on reason is double-edged, however, for it is also why we can’t showas a rulewhy weought notto be worried. As a result we cannot vindicate what we otherwise take to be uncontentious features of our experience - that they are of an external world of causally...

  9. 5 Un/natural doubtss
    (pp. 133-164)

    In common life we all have lots of beliefs, many of which are true and the majority of which amount to cases of knowing. I know that New York is east of Chicago, my car is parked in front of the house and that Karen is afraid to wear a hat. If asked why I think I know these things (by myself or another), I have a pretty clear idea how to respond: grab an atlas; point to the dilapidated Ford outside; explain the strange circumstances attending Karen’s upbringing. Pushed for evidence beyond a certain point I’m likely to become...

  10. 6 Internalisms and externalisms
    (pp. 165-197)

    We ended Chapter 5 with a contrasting pair of evaluations of the problem of Cartesian scepticism. According to the ‘intuitive’ account of the ‘New Sceptics’ theoretical attitude doubt arises ‘naturally’ as result of a special sort of reflection on our epistemic concepts. Although it has no effect on the everyday use or application of these concepts, its formal truth nevertheless denies us a fully articulated grasp of what we take to be a central feature of our conceptual scheme: a full-blooded concept of objectivity (of the world being in some respects the way it is independently of our thoughts about...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 198-206)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 207-212)
  13. Index
    (pp. 213-218)