When Transmission Fails

Philosophical Review 119 (4):497-529 (2010)
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The Neo-Moorean Deduction (I have a hand, so I am not a brain-in-a-vat) and the Zebra Deduction (the creature is a zebra, so isn’t a cleverly disguised mule) are notorious. Crispin Wright, Martin Davies, Fred Dretske, and Brian McLaughlin, among others, argue that these deductions are instances of transmission failure. That is, they argue that these deductions cannot transmit justification to their conclusions. I contend, however, that the notoriety of these deductions is undeserved. My strategy is to clarify, attack, defend, and apply. I clarify what transmission and transmission failure really are, thereby exposing two questionable but quotidian assumptions. I attack existing views of transmission failure, especially those of Crispin Wright. I defend a permissive view of transmission failure, one which holds that deductions of a certain kind fail to transmit only because of premise circularity. Finally, I apply this account to the Neo-Moorean and Zebra Deductions and show that, given my permissive view, these deductions transmit in an intuitively acceptable way—at least if either a certain type of circularity is benign or a certain view of perceptual justification is false.

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Chris Tucker
William & Mary


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