SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

A Taxonomy of Skepticism: On the relationship between Closure and Underdetermination Skepticism
(Epistemology, English)

This presentation will analyze the relationship between the two principles contemporary epistemology considers as the sources of philosophical doubt: Closure ('CP') and Underdetermination ('UP') (Pritchard 2015). It will be argued that, albeit the two kind of arguments are not equivalent, CP skepticism is parasitic on UP, and the two establish different, albeit related, varieties of skepticism.

CP skepticism threatens knowledge of the external world by disarming the proficiency of epistemic deduction, while UP motivates that one can claim knowledge, only if she can non-arbitrarily reject a hypothesis known to be incompatible with the claim (Vogel 2004). Anthony Brueckner (1994) argued that UP and CP are logically equivalent, with UP issuing a deeper challenge due to CP's reliance on it to motivate its premise _K(_SK). Stewart Cohen (1998) has objected to Brueckner, arguing that CP is the most fundamental of the two, logically distinct, arguments.

Cohen's reading will be replied to, by explaining how CP relies on UP. The premise has to be understood as explicating an Ignorance predicament (Pritchard 2005, Kraft 2013, Winters 1981). It will be shown that this entails how CP skepticism doesn't concern exclusively the truth of knowledge claims, but rather the possibility of claiming knowledge in general. This aspect is the hallmark of a variety of skepticism about the ground of our evidence -- called Debasing Skepticism (Schaffer 2010) -- whose source is ultimately UP's attack on the possibility of evidence enjoying meaningful rational support. Closure is thus shown to be parasitic on Underdetermination: the latter's skepticism about the rational support evidence can enjoy supplies CP with the motivation needed to forbid acquisition of knowledge by means of epistemic deduction.

A further differentiation is then drawn. It is argued that the doubt established by UP is of the normative kind associated with the New Evil Demon intuition (Pritchard 2015, Cohen 1984) -- threatening the entailment between evidence and what it should be evidence of (Briesen 2010, Brueckner 1994). This specification allows the relationship between the principles to be traced along James Conant's classification of Cartesian and Kantian varieties of skepticism (Conant 2012). The former grounds the character of Closure skepticism, concerning matters of correspondence between beliefs and facts. The latter issues the normative skepticism that threatens the very possibility of experience ever enjoying factive rational support which is proper of Underdetermination skepticism. The usefulness of this distinction is then shown in motivating replies to objections against UP's alleged reliance on infallibilism (Brueckner 2005, 2011) or on the implausible KK thesis (Vogel 2004, Murphy 2013).


Chair: Madelaine Angelova-Elchinova
Time: 10:00-10:30, 20 September 2019 (Friday)
Location: HS E.002

Guido Tana 
(University of Edinburgh/Universität Leipzig, Germany)

BA in Philosophy (University of Pavia/Universität Konstanz) 2012

MA in Philosophy (University of Pavia/Freie Universität Berlin) 2014

PhD Student - University of Edinburgh 2016-2020

DAAD-Stipendiat: Universität Leipzig 2018-2019

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