Epistemic Justification and the Limits of Pyrrhonism
The argument in “chapter XV” of Book I of the Outlines of Pyrrhonism presenting Agrippa’s five modes leading to suspension of judgment is puzzling. First, it seems to use premises that only a dogmatist should use because they are far from evident, and, second, it relies heavily on the Aristotelian account of epistemic justification. I argue that the two puzzles can be solved by recognizing that the skeptic is dialectically entitled to premises and views that the dogmatist would accept. In particular, the dogmatist that Sextus (or Agrippa) has in mind is Aristotle, and, thus, the Pyrrhonian is entitled to and did, in fact, employ some important features of the Aristotelian account of what, today, we call epistemic justification. But this solution to the puzzle brings with it a price, namely that the generality of the epistemic regress argument is compromised. At best, it is effective only against accounts of epistemic justification that employ the relevant features of the Aristotelian account of epistemic justification. In particular, Aristotle holds that demonstration cannot produce epistemic warrant, it can only transmit it from first principles. If one holds that epistemic justification or at least some aspects of epistemic justification arise or emerge through reasoning, then foundational propositions are not necessary to provide the basis for the origin of warrant (or at least some aspects of it). Thus, infinitism (and contemporary forms of coherentism) can avoid the problems posed by the regress argument.
KeywordsJustify Belief Epistemic Justification Posterior Analytics Basic Proposition Circular Reasoning
I want to thank Anne Ashbaugh and Diego Machuca for their useful comments and important suggestions for improving this paper.
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