, Volume 189, Issue 2, pp 235-254
Date: 10 Sep 2011

Varieties of failure (of warrant transmission: what else?!)

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Abstract

In the contemporary expanding literature on transmission failure and its connections with issues such as the Closure principle, the nature of perceptual warrant, Moore’s proof of an external world and the effectiveness of Humean scepticism, it has often been assumed that there is just one kind of it: the one made familiar by the writings of Crispin Wright and Martin Davies. Although it might be thought that one kind of failure is more than enough, Davies has recently challenged this view: apparently, there are more ways in heaven and earth that warrant can fail to transmit across valid inference from one (set of) belief(s) to another, than have been dreamt of in philosophy so far. More specifically, Davies thinks that a second kind of transmission failure has to be countenanced. He connects each kind of failure of transmission of warrant with two different kinds of epistemic project, respectively, and with the exploration of whether the current dispute between conservatives such as Wright, and liberals such as Jim Pryor, on the nature of perceptual warrant, would have a bearing on them. I point out why Davies’s second kind of transmission failure is indeed no such thing. I then move on to canvass another kind of transmission failure, different from the one studied by both Wright and Davies, and dependent on an alternative conception of the structure of empirical warrants, which I dub “moderatism”. I then consider how this alternative notion of transmission failure fares with respect to Moore’s proof, its relationship with Wright’s kind of transmission failure and with the Closure principle. In closing, I defend it from criticisms that can be elicited from Pryor’s recent work.