Presentation on theme: "Doubts: suspending judgments The skeptic strategy: doubting is an attitude that can be made global. It contrasts with the attitude of believing (and."— Presentation transcript:
Doubts: suspending judgments The skeptic strategy: doubting is an attitude that can be made global. It contrasts with the attitude of believing (and also with the attitude of accepting). Many strategies, many modes. One frequent feature: the argument from illusion (I): (P) I can doubt anything (C) I can doubt everything (at once) Usual anti-skeptic strategies: deny (P), deny (I) is valid. Suspending each judgment vs suspending every judgment. Usual anti-skeptic way: biting the bullet of the second, the fourth or the fifth of Agrippa’s modes. The reverse skeptical argument: if there could be beliefs that are self-evident, there could also be doubts that are self-standing; if there could be beliefs grounded on infinite chains, there could also be infinite sequences of doubts; if beliefs could be justified by a circle of other beliefs, doubts can also be prompted by a circle of other doubts.
Aenesidemus and response- dependence Aenesidemus first modes: “yes, for you this wine is sweet but for other humans (or other animals) it is bitter (or repulsive)”. A typical counter (response-dependence): one has to have the right perception apparatus (or epistemic virtue, or conceptual capacity) in order to grasp right. Another (perverse) counter: the wine is not determinately sweet (or bitter, or repulsive). What is the right response to the wine? What if there is more than one right attitude?
What do doubts reveal Extract impossibilities from doubts (Sextus’ neopyrronism) Doubting as a path towards knowledge (Descartes) Doubts as attitudes with content: the contrast between the content of a doubt and the content of a belief. Belief and determination: beliefs have a content of the form of a fact (of the kind “s is P”); think of identity theories of truth etc. If beliefs access determinations, one could feel tempted to wonder what doubts (could) access.
Aenesidemus goes astray In PH 1, 210-12, Sextus criticized Aenesidemus for his late adoption of the Heraclitean doctrine of the polemos. Doubts, complains Sextus, led him to dogma. He had done something other than extract impossibilities from doubts. Why did Aenesidemus go astray: Sextus, Pyrro, Heraclitus. The polemos as an element of ontology. Aenesidemus saw doubts as moving us away from conceiving the world as made of (among other things) determinations – or facts – and not from knowing the determinations that are out there.
Wittgensteinian interlude PU 352: That is to say: "God sees—but we don't know." But what does that mean?—We use a picture; the picture of a visible series which one person sees the whole of and another not. The law of excluded middle says here: It must either look like this, or like that. So it really—and this is a truism— says nothing at all, but gives us a picture. On certainty: the game of doubting and the appeal to hinge propositions that make them possible.
The ontology of doubts (OD) Aenesidemus challenged the assumption that when we doubt we are not in contact with the world (while when we believe we could be). Ontological doubts: doubts could be part of the furniture of the universe (along with determinations, or not). When one is in doubt about whether Schrödinger’s cat is alive or not, one is arguably in a virtuous cognitive position. Doubts reveal something about the world: they could enable us to make a direct access to the indeterminations of the world. Diaphonia as a (possibly) epistemically virtuous position: not as something that distances us from what there is, but rather the opposite.
Doubts from an ontological point of view Doubts interplay with determinations: doubts are often disjunctive structures where each clause is itself a determination. Determinations can co-exist with doubts: OD could be realist about them, or not. (Naïve) Antirealism: doubts could be self-standing. Genuine doubts need no ground. Instrumentalism concerning hinges: doubts make use determinations just to get off the ground. Determinations could be just useful hinges. Realism: positing a real board of doubts and determinations where they interact quite independently of our thinking (doubting and believing).
Skepticism in the open field The skeptic argues, like Sextus, that OD is dogmatism: it is a metaphysical thesis about the furniture of the universe. OD can reply saying that the skeptic has tacitly accepted the metaphysical thesis that determinations are in the furniture of the universe. Therefore, it is metaphysics against metaphysics. Further, OD can insist that dogma is somehow unavoidable (pick your favorite Heil & Martin argument for the indispensability of metaphysics). The skeptic presents OD with an open field battle: let’s play within this board (of doubts and determinations) for nothing but a play within this board can establish whether the board is in the world of simply in our thinking. The skeptic hopes that doubts will proliferate indefinitely but never establish themselves as ontological (for that would have to be a move beyond the game of doubting, a move towards dogma).
Recoil into dogma? The OD could say that Aenesidemus was actually improving on Sextus’ position: epokhé should not be accepted as manque de mieux, as a second best. That is, doubts are here to stay, no matter how much we investigate. They are here, in principle, to stay; there is no ontology beyond them. Further, OD can argue that the existence of doubts out there is not something we can safely believe, it is rather itself the object of doubt (of suspension of judgment).
OD in a skeptical scenario Perhaps OD should be seen as a therapy to the skeptic’s tendency to locate doubt within the our thought. OD as a further challenge for dogmatists: is the world really made (only) of determinations? A deflated OD: doubts can be known, but the path is itself also full of doubts. There are no dogmas, not even about doubts themselves (about whether they are solely in our thoughts).
Skepticism after OD The skeptic should then suspend judgment about whether there are doubts in the world (or about whether the world is made solely of determinations). Can she do that? If the aim is simply to proliferate doubts, yes. Then, the conflict is not skepticism against metaphysics, for the skeptic could have been doing metaphysics all along. Skeptic metaphysics: one cannot be sure that one is thinking about the world. Not that truth is indeterminate, but rather that something other than determinacy could be true.