Disbelieving the sceptics without proving them wrong


It is true of many truths that I do not believe them. It is equally true, however, that I cannot rationally assert of any such truth both that it is true and that I do not believe it. To explain why this is so, I will distinguish absence of belief from disbelief and argue that an assertion of “p, but I do not believe that p” is paradoxical because it is indefensible, i.e. for reasons internal to it unable to convince. A closer examination of the irrationality involved will show that such is the skeptic’s predicament, trying to convince us to bracket knowledge claims we have good grounds to take ourselves to be entitled to. Even if the sceptic cannot be proven wrong, his challenge still demands an answer, if not a treatment. In this paper, I argue that the cure lies in epidemiology rather than epistemology: instead of attacking the sceptic head-long, I commend guerilla tactics, vaccinating our fellow non-sceptics against the sceptical virus. I will not argue that the sceptic is wrong, necessarily wrong or that he cannot be believed, but that he cannot convince. Scepticism requires a leap of faith: something we may justifiably refrain from even on the sceptic’s own standards


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