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Cornerstones: You'd better believe them

Giorgio Volpe
Synthese
Vol. 189, No. 2, SKEPTICISM AND JUSTIFICATION (November 2012), pp. 317-336
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41681681
Page Count: 20
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Cornerstones: You'd better believe them
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Abstract

Crispin Wright's "Unified Strategy" for addressing some familiar sceptical paradoxes exploits a subtle distinction between two different ways in which we can be related to a proposition: (full-blown) belief and (mere) acceptance. The importance of the distinction for his strategy stems from his conviction that we cannot acquire any kind of evidence, either empirical or a priori, for the "cornerstones" of our cognitive projects, i.e., for those basic presuppositions of our inquiries that we must be warranted to endorse if we are to claim warrant for any of the beliefs formed as a result of such inquiries: regarding the idea of a non-evidential warrant to believe a proposition as a kind of "conceptual solecism", he doesn't set himself the task of showing that we are evidentially warranted to believe such presuppositions, but only that of showing that we are non-evidentially warranted to accept them. In the present paper, I argue that such choice involves a fatal departure from a basic principle governing doxastic commitment—a principle that requires that we regard cornerstones propositions as propositions we are rationally committed to believe, not just entitled to accept. I press the point by presenting the Acceptance Argument, a sceptical paradox whose consideration leads to the conclusion that the Unified Strategy is caught between the Scylla of incoherently invoking a rather dubious form of epistemic alchemy and the Charybdis of placing an unexpected and apparently ad hoc restriction on the doxastic commitments we undertake by believing the things we believe. My final suggestion is that the Unified Strategy might be spared this dilemma only by undergoing a rather radical revision—a revision that would require setting aside the distinction between belief and acceptance to re-conceptualise its goal unabashedly in terms of (non-evidentially) warranted belief.

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