Philosophical Studies

, Volume 71, Issue 1, pp 33-58

First online:

Switched-words skepticism: A case study in semantical anti-skeptical argument

  • David ChristensenAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Vermont

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Semantically based arguments play a crucial role in responding to a certain sort of skeptical strategy, a strategy that is widely generalizable, and which is otherwise peculiarly difficult to answer. The anti-skeptical arguments we have been studying do this while avoiding reliance on the insupportable linguistic claims of co-optionism. Instead, they rely on the prevalence of a certain plausible general feature of the semantics of our language. Not surprisingly, this epistemologically important feature is itself frankly epistemological: in essence, we must (typically) be able to tell what a word refers to, in a way independent of the beliefs we use the word to express. In addition to rendering valuable anti-skeptical service, then, the arguments we have been studying display an additional dimension of interest, for they help to illuminate the ways in which our knowledge of the world at large is bound up with our knowledge of a particular part of that world — the language we use to describe it.