Erkenntnis

, Volume 78, Issue 1, pp 59–72

Sceptical Scenarios Are Not Error-Possibilities

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10670-012-9423-2

Cite this article as:
Kraft, T. Erkenn (2013) 78: 59. doi:10.1007/s10670-012-9423-2

Abstract

On a common view of scenario-based sceptical arguments sceptical scenarios are error-possibilities, i.e. their point is to introduce the possibility of having only false beliefs (about the external world). However, global error is impossible for purely logical/conceptual reasons: Even if one’s beliefs are consistent, the negations of one’s beliefs need not be consistent as well. My paper deals with the question of what the consequences of this result are. Two attempts (made by Müller and Genova) at repairing scenario-based sceptical arguments within the framework of understanding sceptical scenarios as error-possibilities are found wanting. Instead, what should be given up is the assumption that sceptical scenarios are error-possibilities. What is thought-provoking about the scenario of the brain in a vat is not that none of its empirical beliefs are true, but that all of its empirical beliefs fall short of knowledge at the same time. Hence, sceptical scenarios are not error-possibilities, but ignorance possibilities. If this is so, both the closure argument and the underdetermination argument commit a subtle mistake and should be replaced by slightly different arguments. The principle of excluded ignorance-possibilities turns out to be an epistemological principle that is faithful to scepticism’s tenets without misinterpreting sceptical scenarios as error-possibilities.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für PhilosophieUniversität RegensburgRegensburgGermany