Why Disagreement-Based Skepticism cannot Escape the Challenge of Self-Defeat

Episteme:1-18 (2019)
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Global meta-philosophical skepticism (i.e. completely unrestricted skepticism about philosophy) based upon disagreement faces the problem of self-defeat since it undercuts its motivating conciliatory principle. However, the skeptic may easily escape this threat by adopting a more modest kind of skepticism, that will be called “extensive meta-philosophical skepticism”, i.e., the view that most of our philosophical beliefs are unjustified, except our beliefs in epistemically fundamental principles. As I will argue in this paper, this kind of skepticism is well-motivated, does not undercut the conciliatory principle, but still poses a radical challenge to philosophy as a cognitive discipline. Moreover, I will argue that non-global skepticism that is still extensive undermines itself as well. The deeper reason for this is that this more modest kind of skepticism can only be motivated by the assumption that disagreement with philosophical peers is abundant and that we can identify peers only by relying on track-record arguments. But then one can argue for extensive meta-philosophical skepticism only if one presupposes that those philosophical beliefs that form the basis of track-record evaluations are justified. Here, the threat of self-defeat looms again. I will proceed by first defending the premises of this new anti-skeptical argument against standard objections from the literature. Second, I will show in more detail where the epistemic inconsistency arises in the argument for extensive meta-philosophical skepticism. I conclude with an assessment of the scope and the limits of my argument.
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Archival date: 2019-06-18
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