The Argument from Skepticism for Contextualism
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- Newhard, J. Philosophia (2012) 40: 563. doi:10.1007/s11406-011-9338-1
Epistemic contextualism was originally motivated and supported by the response it provides to skeptical paradox. Although there has been much discussion of the contextualist response to skeptical paradox, not much attention has been paid to the argument from skepticism for contextualism. Contextualists argue that contextualism accounts for the plausibility and apparent inconsistency of a set of paradoxical claims better than any classical invariantist theory. In this paper I focus on and carefully examine the argument from skepticism for contextualism. I argue not only that the prima facie advantage of contextualism is specious, but also that contextualism is in fact at a competitive disadvantage with respect to two classical invariantist views. I also argue that contextualism takes an arbitrary and unsatisfying strategy in its response to skepticism. That contextualism is alone in taking this arbitrary strategy marks a second competitive disadvantage for it. In addition, I argue that the contextualist response to skeptical paradox regenerates a skeptical paradox which contextualism is powerless to solve. Consequently, the argument from skepticism for contextualism fails. Furthermore, this feature of the contextualist response to skeptical paradox completely undermines the motivation and support for contextualism deriving from its treatment of skeptical paradox. I conclude that the argument from skepticism for contextualism fails, and that the contextualist response to skeptical paradox fails to motivate contextualism, pending the success of another argument for the contextualist thesis.