SOPhiA 2017

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Rational Self Doubt, Disagreement and Closure Principles
(Epistemology, English)

Two strands in contemporary epistemology are (1) the discussion surrounding Peer Disagreement (e.g. (Christensen, 2009)), and (2) examples of so called 'closure failures' which appear to undermine what otherwise appear to be natural ways of extending our knowledge.
In this paper, I will present a novel analysis of one case of 'closure failure' in terms of 'Self-Disagreement', a special form of Peer Disagreement.
I will explain what I mean by 'closure failure', focusing on the failures of single premise closure of justification, drawing on an example from Schechter (2013). Schechter's argument relies on, for its force, a plausible epistemic principle of 'rational self doubt'. I will give prima facie reason to accept such a principle.
I will examine the sort of rational self-doubt case Schechter outlines and frame it in terms of a special form of Peer Disagreement - Self-Disagreement. I will then compare this Self-Disagreement to cases of standard Peer Disagreement to reinforce the structural similarity between the two. Schechter's discussion of higher order defeat in the rational self-doubt case parallels Feldman (2009) and his discussion of Peer Disagreement as higher-order evidence, suggesting that the defeat relation in both cases is based on the same epistemic principle of doubt.
Having drawn these parallels, I will draw on work by Pryor (2015), to suggest that there may be a principled way to resist such a closure failure, at the expense of the JJ principle, or something like it -- that each of an agent's justifications for believing some proposition must themselves be justified.
Adopting such a solution to the closure failure problem provides a response to at least some versions of the 'steadfast solution' to Peer Disagreement which suggest that such a solution is untenable.


Chair: Andrea Togni
Time: 11:50-12:20, 14 September 2017 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.005

Paul Conlan 
(St Andrews - Stirling Programme, Scotland)

Paul Conlan is a PhD student on the St Andrews-Stirling joint programme as part of the Templeton Foundation Knowledge Beyond Natural Sciences project. His general philosophical interests are in self-knowledge, broadly construed, the links between peer-disagreement and defeat and the later Wittgenstein.

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