Cartesian/Radical Scepticism: On-Going Epistemological Research

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“Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd” - Voltaire Cartesian/radical scepticism (RS) is not a philosophical position but rather a paradox which permeates the on-going epistemological debate and poses a severe problem for the existence of knowledge. The paradox leads us, on surface value, to believe that we don’t actually know anything at all. This is because, as Descartes says, we cannot rule out the possibility that we are victims of sceptical hypotheses (SH) - “scenarios in which one’s experiences are subjectively indistinguishable from normal experiences, but where one’s beliefs are radically error.” (Pritchard, 2014, 104). There are a myriad of counter-arguments to RS, though in this essay the focus will be on (attributor) contextualism (CO) as a plausible anti-sceptic argument (specifically the ‘brain-in-a-vat’ (BIV) argument). Ultimately I will show that CO fails to provide a convincing argument, and thus under CO we cannot know for certain that we’re not BIV’s - and because of this, RS inevitably follows.…show more content…
1. I don’t know that I’m not a BIV 2. If I don’t know that I’m not a BIV, then I don’t know ‘O’ ------------------------------------------------------------------------- C. I don’t know ‘O’ (by modus ponens) Where ‘O’ stands for any apparently ‘common sense’ propositional fact, like “I have hands”. RS expands this to suggest that we can’t know anything if we cannot find a way to disprove this

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