Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The sceptic refuted?

This is the example from Ken Gemes' paper, "A refutation of global scepticism". On the basis of my experience, I believe two claims:
1. I have a hand.
2. It is not the case that I have a hand with a wart on it.

The negations of 1. and 2. are inconsistent, and so the sceptic cannot be right to say that it's possible that all my experience-based beliefs are false.

You might not know this, but Gemes is also responsible for the best possible response to the argument from evil. (It can be found here.)

This reminds me of a seminar some years back when someone claimed something to the effect some experiences can justify believing p only if some other set of experiences could justify p's denial. (Quine, apparently, said something to that effect.) When I asked about the claims 'This lemon is not killer yellow' and 'It's not the case that I'm a blind man wearing a black blindfold', I remember they weren't particularly amused.* Experience suggests that they were not a referee for Gemes' paper.

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* Yes, I'm sure there's a subjective difference between being blind and wearing a black blindfold, but modify the example as you think is appropriate to make it modestly amusing.

5 comments:

Mike Almeida said...

You can't like that response to tpoe.

Clayton said...

If he's right, I might not actually like that response. But, even if he's right maybe I really like that response?

Mike Almeida said...

What's it mean to propose that this world is not actual? I know (I think) what it means to propose that this world might not be actual. Some world other than @ might have been actual. Ok. But some world other than @ is actual? It doesn't mean anything at all that I can see.
Incidentally, Lewis of course also holds that this world is actual is contingent. That is, even if, as uttered in each world, it's true.

Clayton said...

I don't know what it means to say that this world is not the actual world, I just thought the piece was funnier than anything I've ever read on the topic.

Mike Almeida said...

yeah, now that you mention it, a bit over the top. sorry to go on, must be losing my sense of humor.