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Self-Knowledge, Externalism, and Skepticism

Brian P. McLaughlin and David Owens
Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes
Vol. 74 (2000), pp. 93-117+119-142
Published by: Wiley on behalf of The Aristotelian Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4107053
Page Count: 49
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Self-Knowledge, Externalism, and Skepticism
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Abstract

[Brian P. McLaughlin] In recent years, some philosophers have claimed that we can know a priori that certain external world skeptical hypotheses are false on the basis of a priori knowledge that we are in certain kinds of mental states, and a priori knowledge that those mental states are individuated by contingent environmental factors. Appealing to a distinction between weak and strong a priority, I argue that weakly a priori arguments of this sort would beg the question of whether the skeptical hypothesis under assessment is true, and that the prospect of a sound strongly a priori argument of this sort seems dim. \\\ [David Owens] Contemporary discussion of scepticism focuses on the possibility that most or all of our beliefs might be false. I argue that the hypothesis of massive falsity and the associated 'problem of the external world' are inessential to the scepticisms of Descartes and Hume. What drives Cartesian and Humean scepticism is the demand for certainty: any possibility of error, however local, must be ruled out before we can claim either justified belief or knowledge. Contemporary philosophers have ignored this form of scepticism because they doubt that the demand for certainty can be motivated. But Descartes provides a sound motivation for this demand in the Meditations.

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