Why the ascriber contextualist solution to the sceptical paradox is unnecessary
A widely discussed philosophical puzzle in contemporary epistemology is the so-called sceptical “paradox.” Ascriber contextualism has taken centre stage as the anti-sceptical theory that purportedly offers the best solution to the sceptical “paradox.” Ascriber contextualists Stewart Cohen (1988, 1999) and Keith DeRose (1995) advertise their anti-sceptical theory as the one that exclusively explains and solves it. This is false advertising, however. My thesis, which has been greatly influenced by the critical work of Michael Williams (1991) and Duncan Pritchard (2005), is that the generation of the sceptical “paradox” depends on whether the epistemologist is an internalist or externalist about knowledge, and that the ascriber contextualist attempt to solve the sceptical “paradox” rests on a long history of mistakes concerning internalist assumptions made by externalists Fred Dretske (1970) and Robert Nozick (1981). By applying the semantic thesis of ascriber contextualism to epistemology, ascriber contextualists seek to emend the rejection of the closure principle made by these externalists. This rejection came from these externalists mistakenly making internalist assumptions when facing sceptical hypotheses. Unfortunately, ascriber contextualists leave much unfixed, and end up inheriting and suffering from the serious mistake about internalist assumptions that had plagued the epistemologies of these externalists and now infects the ascriber contextualist “solution” to the sceptical “paradox.” With the help of hindsight to examine this history and an appreciation of how the adoption of one of these respective views about knowledge makes all the difference for whether the sceptical “paradox” arises, we come to see that the contextualist “solution” to the sceptical “paradox” is unnecessary.
contextualism, scepticism, closure, tracking, indexicality
Master of Arts (M.A.)