Performative transcendental arguments

Philosophia 33 (1-4):69-95 (2005)
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Abstract
  ‘Performative’ transcendental arguments exploit the status of a subcategory of self-falsifying propositions in showing that some form of skepticism is unsustainable. The aim of this paper is to examine the relationship between performatively inconsistent propositions and transcendental arguments, and then to compare performative transcendental arguments to modest transcendental arguments that seek only to establish the indispensability of some belief or conceptual framework. Reconceptualizing transcendental arguments as performative helps focus the intended dilemma for the skeptic: performative transcendental arguments directly confront the skeptic with the choice of abandoning either skepticism or some other deep theoretical commitment. Many philosophers, from Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas to Jaakko Hintikka, C.I. Lewis, and Bernard Lonergan, have claimed that some skeptical propositions regarding knowledge, reason, and/or morality can be shown to be self-defeating; that is to say, they have claimed that the very upholding of some skeptical position is in some way incompatible with the position being upheld, or with the implied, broader dialectical position of the skeptic in question. Statements or propositions alleged to have this characteristic also sometimes are called ‘self-falsifying,’ ‘self-refuting,’ ‘self-stultifying,’ ‘self-destructive,’ or ‘pointless.’ However, proponents of the strategy of showing skepticism to be self-defeating have not in general adequately distinguished between two types of self-defeating proposition: self-falsifying and self-stultifying. In the first part of this paper I distinguish between self-falsifying and self-stultifying propositions, and introduce the notion of performative self-falsification. In the second part I discuss classical transcendental arguments, ‘modest’ transcendental arguments, and objections to each. In the third part I introduce two types of transcendental argument—each labeled “performative”—corresponding to two types of performatively self-falsifying proposition, and I compare them to modest transcendental arguments
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