Year of Publication

2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Dr. Brandon Look

Abstract

I argue that despite the fact that there can be no strong refutation of skepticism it remains that ignoring skeptical hypotheses and relying on one’s sensory experience are both sound epistemic practices. This argument comes in the form of arguing that we are justified in ignoring skeptical hypotheses on the grounds that (1) they are merely logically possible, and (2) the merely logically possible is rarely relevant in the context of everyday life. I suggest that (2) is true on the grounds that the context of everyday life is one in which our epistemic pursuit of truth is mixed with other pragmatic goals. The result of this mix is that the pursuit of truth can conflict with our goal of avoiding error in such a way that we must choose to prioritize one goal over the other.

The above choice implies that skepticism comes at an epistemic cost not acknowledge in the contemporary literature on external world skepticism. This epistemic cost of skepticism means that the relative risk of error involved in relying on sensory experience is not as epistemically problematic as has often been assumed. These considerations allow an anti-skeptical position in which relying on sensory experience is prima-facie justified despite the possibility of being a brain in a vat. In this paper I explore what such a position might look like and what the implications of such a view might be for relevant alternatives positions, the closure debate, and the concept of differing epistemic perspectives in contemporary epistemology.

Included in

Epistemology Commons

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