Revisiting Moore’s Anti-Skeptical Argument in “Proof of an External World"

International Journal for the Study of Skepticism (2021)
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This paper argues that we should reject G. E. Moore’s anti-skeptical argument as it is presented in “Proof of an External World.” However, the reason I offer is different from traditional objections. A proper understanding of Moore’s “proof” requires paying attention to an important distinction between two forms of skepticism. I call these Ontological Skepticism and Epistemic Skepticism. The former is skepticism about the ontological status of fundamental reality, while the latter is skepticism about our empirical knowledge. Philosophers often assume that Moore’s response to “external world skepticism” deals exclusively with the former, not the latter. But this is a mistake. I shall argue that Moore’s anti-skeptical argument targets an ontological form of skepticism. Thus, the conclusion is an ontological claim about fundamental reality, while the premises are epistemic claims. If this is correct, then the conclusion outstrips the scope of its premises and proves too much.

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Christopher Stratman
University of Texas at San Antonio


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