The self-defeating character of skepticism

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52 (1):67-84 (1992)
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An important source of doubt about our knowledge of the "external world" is the thought that all of our sensory experience could be delusive without our realizing it. Such wholesale questioning of the deliverances of all forms of perception seems to leave no resources for successfully justifying our belief in the existence of an objective world beyond our subjective experiences. I argue that there is there is a fatal flaw in the very expression of philosophical doubt about the "external world." Therefore, no such justification is necessary. The feature of skepticism which I believe renders it vulnerable is the assumption that each of us has a right to be certain of his own existence as a subject of conscious experience even in the face of comprehensive doubt about our empirical beliefs.

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Douglas C. Long
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


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