Scepticism, epistemic luck, and epistemic angst

Duncan Pritchard

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A commonly expressed worry in the contemporary literature on the problem of epistemological scepticism is that there is something deeply intellectually unsatisfying about the dominant anti-sceptical theories. In this paper I outline the main approaches to scepticism and argue that they each fail to capture what is essential to the sceptical challenge because they fail to fully understand the role that the problem of epistemic luck plays in that challenge. I further argue that scepticism is best thought of not as a quandary directed at our possession of knowledge simpliciter, but rather as concerned with a specific kind of knowledge that is epistemically desirable. On this view, the source of scepticism lies in a peculiarly epistemic form of angst. 1One finds explicit formulations of the sceptical paradox along these lines in, for example, DeRose [1995], Sosa [1999], Vogel [1990], and Pritchard [2002d], and even where the sceptical paradox is not explicitly formulated in this way, it is usually clear that such a formulation is being presupposed. For more on how the sceptical problem is understood in the contemporary debate, see Pritchard [2002c]. It is always by favour of Nature that one knows something. [Wittgenstein 1969: §505]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-205
Number of pages21
JournalAustralasian Journal of Philosophy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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