Why Philosophy Can Overturn Common Sense

In Tamar Szabo Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Oxford Studies in Epistemology Volume 4. Oxford University Press. pp. 185 (2013)
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In part one I present a positive argument for the claim that philosophical argument can rationally overturn common sense. It is widely agreed that science can overturn common sense. But every scientific argument, I argue, relies on philosophical assumptions. If the scientific argument succeeds, then its philosophical assumptions must be more worthy of belief than the common sense proposition under attack. But this means there could be a philosophical argument against common sense, each of whose premises is just as worthy of belief as the scientist’s philosophical assumptions. If so, then the purely philosophical argument will also succeed. In part two I consider three motivations, each of which comprises a distinct philosophical methodology, for the opposing view: (1) the Moorean idea that common sense enjoys greater plausibility than philosophy; (2) case judgments should trump general principles; (3) reflective equilibrium and conservatism. I argue that all three motivations fail.

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Susanna Rinard
Harvard University


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