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Synthese

, Volume 158, Issue 1, pp 19–39 | Cite as

The theoretical diagnosis of skepticism

  • Peter J. GrahamEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

Radical skepticism about the external implies that no belief about the external is even prima facie justified. A theoretical reply to skepticism has four stages. First, show which theories of epistemic justification support skeptical doubts (show which theories, given other reasonable assumptions, entail skepticism). Second, show which theories undermine skeptical doubts (show which theories, given other reasonable assumptions, do not support the skeptic’s conclusion). Third, show which of the latter theories (which non-skeptical theory) is correct, and in so doing show that all of the rival theories of justification, skeptical and non-skeptical alike, are mistaken. Fourth, explain why skeptical doubts are sometimes (or sometimes merely seem) intuitive, and thereby accommodate skeptical doubts without capitulation. Michael Williams has pioneered the very idea of a theoretical reply. A theoretical diagnosis consists in just the first two stages. An adequate reply, which is correct at each stage, would rebut the skeptic entirely. Williams’ own reply, I argue, is inadequate. I offer in its place an exhaustive and accurate diagnosis of skepticism. I distinguish four kinds of skepticism and five theories of justification. I then show which theories do, and which theories do not, support which kinds of skepticism.

Keywords

Skepticism Epistemic Justification Reliabilism Contextualism Michael Williams 

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References

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of CaliforniaRiversideUSA

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