Certainty was first published in 1981. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
Philosophers have traditionally used two strategies to refute the sceptical that empirical knowledge is not possible because our beliefs cannot be adequately justified. One strategy rejects the sceptics' position because it conflicts with the supposedly obvious claim that we do have knowledge. The other defends an analysis of knowledge limited to a weak set of necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge or limited to a set of conditions specifically designed to be immune to sceptical attack.
In Certainty: A Refutation of Scepticism, Peter D. Klein uses a third strategy. He argues that scepticism can be refuted even if it is granted to the sceptics that knowledge entails absolute certainty. The argument for his thesis has two parts. He identifies the various types of scepticism and shows that the arguments for them depend upon epistemic principles which, when examined carefully, are unable to support the sceptical conclusions. Klein then argues — contrary to the views of most nonsceptics—that knowledge entails certainty and that some empirical beliefs are absolutely certain. In the course of his argument Klein develops and defends an account of justification, knowledge, and certainty. The result is a theory of knowledge based upon a model of justification designed to be acceptable to sceptics, nonsceptics, foundationalists, and coherentists.
Reviewing Annette Baier’s 1995 work Moral Prejudices in the London Review of Books, Richard Rorty predicted that her work would be read hundreds of years hence; Baier’s subsequent work has borne out such expectations, and this new book further extends her reach. Here she goes beyond her earlier work on David Hume to reflect on a topic that links his philosophy to questions of immediate relevance—in particular, questions about what character is and how it shapes our lives.
Ranging widely in Hume’s works, Baier considers his views on character, desirable character traits, his treatment of historical characters, and his own character as shown not just by his cheerful death—and what he chose to read shortly before it—but also by changes in his writings, especially his repudiation of the celebrated A Treatise on Human Nature. She offers new insight into the Treatise and its relation to the works in which Hume “cast anew” the material in its three books. Her reading radically revises the received interpretation of Hume’s epistemology and, in particular, philosophy of mind.
Some theorists claim that democracy cannot work without trust. According to this argument, democracy fails unless citizens trust that their governing institutions are serving their best interests. Similarly, some assert that democracy works best when people trust one another and have confidence that politicians will look after citizen interests. Questioning such claims, Democracy and the Culture of Skepticism, by Matthew Cleary and Susan Stokes, suggests that skepticism, not trust, is the hallmark of political culture in well-functioning democracies. Drawing on extensive research in two developing democracies, Argentina and Mexico, Democracy and the Culture of Skepticism shows that in regions of each country with healthy democracies, people do not trust one another more than those living in regions where democracy functions less well, nor do they display more personal trust in governments or politicians. Instead, the defining features of the healthiest democracies are skepticism of government and a belief that politicians act in their constituents' best interest only when it is personally advantageous for them to do so. In contrast to scholars who lament what they see as a breakdown in civic life, Cleary and Stokes find that people residing in healthy democracies do not participate more in civic organizations than others, but in fact, tend to retreat from civic life in favor of private pursuits. The authors conclude that governments are most efficient and responsive when they know that institutions such as the press or an independent judiciary will hold them accountable for their actions. The question of how much citizens should trust politicians and governments has consumed political theorists since America's founding. In Democracy and the Culture of Skepticism, Matthew Cleary and Susan Stokes test the relationship between trust and the quality of governance, showing that it is not trust, but vigilance and skepticism that provide the foundation for well-functioning democracies. A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Series on Trust
These lectures by one of the most influential and original philosophers of the twentieth century constitute a sustained argument for the philosophical basis of romanticism, particularly in its American rendering. Through his examination of such authors as Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Wordsworth, and Coleridge, Stanley Cavell shows that romanticism and American transcendentalism represent a serious philosophical response to the challenge of skepticism that underlies the writings of Wittgenstein and Austin on ordinary language.
In Muslim Becoming, Naveeda Khan challenges the claim that Pakistan's relation to Islam is fragmented and problematic. Offering a radically different interpretation, Khan contends that Pakistan inherited an aspirational, always-becoming Islam, one with an open future and a tendency toward experimentation. For the individual, this aspirational tendency manifests in a continual striving to be a better Muslim. It is grounded in the thought of Muhammad Iqbal (1877–1938), the poet, philosopher, and politician considered the spiritual founder of Pakistan. Khan finds that Iqbal provided the philosophical basis for recasting Islam as an open religion with possible futures as yet unrealized, which he did in part through his engagement with the French philosopher Henri Bergson. Drawing on ethnographic research in the neighborhoods and mosques of Lahore and on readings of theological polemics, legal history, and Urdu literature, Khan points to striving throughout Pakistani society: in prayers and theological debates and in the building of mosques, readings of the Qur'an, and the undertaking of religious pilgrimages. At the same time, she emphasizes the streak of skepticism toward the practices of others that accompanies aspiration. She asks us to consider what is involved in affirming aspiration while acknowledging its capacity for violence.
No Morality, No Self
James Doyle Harvard University Press, 2017 Library of Congress B1618.A574D69 2017 | Dewey Decimal 126
Elizabeth Anscombe’s “Modern Moral Philosophy” and “The First Person” have become touchstones of analytic philosophy but their significance remains controversial or misunderstood. James Doyle offers a fresh interpretation of Anscombe’s theses about ethical reasoning and individual identity that reconciles seemingly incompatible points of view.
Annette Baier’s aim is to make sense of David Hume’s Treatise as a whole. Hume’s family motto, which appears on his bookplate, was “True to the End.” Baier argues that it is not until the end of the Treatise that we get his full story about “truth and falsehood, reason and folly.” By the end, we can see the cause to which Hume has been true throughout the work.
Baier finds Hume’s Treatise on Human Nature to be a carefully crafted literary and philosophical work which itself displays a philosophical progress of sentiments. His starting place is an overly abstract intellectualism that deliberately thrusts passions and social concerns into the background. In the three interrelated books of the Treatise, his “self-understander” proceeds through partial successes and dramatic failures to emerge with new-found optimism, expecting that the “exact knowledge” the morally self-conscious anatomist of human nature can acquire will itself improve and correct our vision of morality. Baier describes how, by turning philosophy toward human nature instead of toward God and the universe, Hume initiated a new philosophy, a broader discipline of reflection that can embrace Charles Darwin and Michel Foucault as well as William James and Sigmund Freud. Hume belongs both to our present and to our past.
In Science in the New Age, David Hess explores ideologies of the paranormal in the United States. He offers a map of the labyrinth of views put forward by parapsychologists and skeptical debunkers, spirit channelers and crystal healers, Hollywood poltergeist scripts, and prophets of the New Age. Adopting a cultural perspective, Hess moves beyond the question of who is right or wrong to the cultural politics of how each group constructs its own boundaries of true and false knowledge.
Hess begins by looking at each group’s unique version of knowledge, science, and religion and at its story about the other groups. Comparing the various discourses, texts, writers, and groups as cultures, he shows how skeptics, parapsychologists, and New Agers may disagree vehemently with each other, but end up sharing many rhetorical strategies, metaphors, models, values, and cultural categories. Furthermore, he argues, their shared “paraculture” has a great deal in common with the larger culture of the United States. The dialogue on the paranormal, Hess concludes, has as much to do with gender, power, and cultural values as it does with spirits, extrasensory perception, and crystal healing.
Benson Mates University of Chicago Press, 1981 Library of Congress BD201.M34 | Dewey Decimal 149.73
"In philosophy," the author writes in his preface, "we have learned to get our satisfaction from showing that the other fellow is mistaken rather than from establishing the truth of our own positive tenets." The impeccably professional work of a mature and distinguished logician and scholar, Skeptical Essays propounds the view that the principal traditional problems of philosophy are genuine intellectual knots; they are intelligible enough, but at the same time the are absolutely insoluble.
The problems Mates discusses are: the Liar paradox and Russell's Antinomy of the class of all nonself-membered classes; the problem of determinism and moral responsibility; and the existence of the external world. Clearly written and effectively organized, the book will be an excellent text for advanced students.
Aryeh Botwinick Temple University Press, 1990 Library of Congress JF2051.B67 1990 | Dewey Decimal 323.042
Aryeh Botwinick argues for the recovery of a radical democratic tradition that emphasizes the role of individual participation in the development and control of social and political institutions. Such involvement implies philosophical skepticism—the assumption that the truth about what is the best course of action cannot be known with certainty and that, therefore, every person’s opinion has an equal claim to be considered. The crucial stumbling block to reappropriating this radical egalitarian tradition is the supposed unviability of a consistent skepticism. In an effort to chart a new course of philosophical inquiry into political matters, Botwinick grapples with the formulation of a consistent version of skepticism, claiming that it provides "a continually renewing impetus for the expansion of political participation."
Twentieth-century philosophers have, for the most part, opted for some version of mitigated skepticism, which, the author argues, "has blinded them to the radical political implications of skepticism." Underscoring a pattern of convergence between Anglo-American and Continental philosophy, Botwinick proposes a number of strategies to rehabilitate the rationality of participatory democratic political institutions by articulating an acceptable version of consistent skepticism.
With this book, Richard A. Epstein provides a spirited and systematic defense of classical liberalism against the critiques mounted against it over the past thirty years. One of the most distinguished and provocative legal scholars writing today, Epstein here explains his controversial ideas in what will quickly come to be considered one of his cornerstone works.
He begins by laying out his own vision of the key principles of classical liberalism: respect for the autonomy of the individual, a strong system of private property rights, the voluntary exchange of labor and possessions, and prohibitions against force or fraud. Nonetheless, he not only recognizes but insists that state coercion is crucial to safeguarding these principles of private ordering and supplying the social infrastructure on which they depend. Within this framework, Epstein then shows why limited government is much to be preferred over the modern interventionist welfare state.
Many of the modern attacks on the classical liberal system seek to undermine the moral, conceptual, cognitive, and psychological foundations on which it rests. Epstein rises to this challenge by carefully rebutting each of these objections in turn. For instance, Epstein demonstrates how our inability to judge the preferences of others means we should respect their liberty of choice regarding their own lives. And he points out the flaws in behavioral economic arguments which, overlooking strong evolutionary pressures, claim that individual preferences are unstable and that people are unable to adopt rational means to achieve their own ends. Freedom, Epstein ultimately shows, depends upon a skepticism that rightly shuns making judgments about what is best for individuals, but that also avoids the relativistic trap that all judgments about our political institutions have equal worth.
A brilliant defense of classical liberalism, Skepticism and Freedom will rightly be seen as an intellectual landmark.
The philosophy of Solomon Maimon (1753–1800) is usually considered an important link between Kant’s transcendental philosophy and German idealism. Highly praised during his lifetime, over the past two centuries Maimon’s genius has been poorly understood and often ignored. Meir Buzaglo offers a reconstruction of Maimon’s philosophy, revealing that its true nature becomes apparent only when viewed in light of his philosophy of mathematics.
This provides the key to understanding Maimon’s solution to Kant’s quid juris question concerning the connection between intuition and concept in mathematics. Maimon’s original approach avoids dispensing with intuition (as in some versions of logicism and formalism) while reducing the reliance on intuition in its Kantian sense. As Buzaglo demonstrates, this led Maimon to question Kant’s ultimate rejection of the possibility of metaphysics and, simultaneously, to suggest a unique type of skepticism.
Stanley Cavell's work is distinctive not only in its importance to philosophy but also for its remarkable interdisciplinary range. Cavell is read avidly by students of film, photography, painting, and music, but especially by students of literature, for whom Cavell offers major readings of Thoreau, Emerson, Shakespeare, and others. In this first book-length study of Cavell's writings, Michael Fischer examines Cavell's relevance to the controversies surrounding poststructuralist literary theory, particularly works by Jacques Derrida, J. Hillis Miller, Paul de Man, and Stanley Fish.
Throughout his study, Fischer focuses on skepticism, a central concern of Cavell's multifaceted work. Cavell, following J. L. Austin and Wittgenstein, does not refute the radical epistemological questioning of Descartes, Hume, and others, but rather characterizes skepticism as a significant human possibility or temptation. As presented by Fischer, Cavell's accounts of both external-world and other-minds skepticism share significant affinities with deconstruction, a connection overlooked by contemporary literary theorists.
Fischer follows Cavell's lead in examining how different genres address the problems raised by skepticism and goes on to show how Cavell draws on American and English romanticism in fashioning a response to it. He concludes by analyzing Cavell's remarks about current critical theory, focusing on Cavell's uneasiness with some of the conclusions reached by its practitioners. Fischer shows that Cavell's insights, grounded in powerful analyses of Descartes, Hume, and Wittgenstein, permit a fresh view of Derrida, Miller, de Man, and Fish. The result is not only a revealing characterization of deconstruction but a much-needed and insightful introduction to Cavell's rich but difficult oeuvre.
Traditional approaches to understanding sublimity and skepticism have often asserted the primacy and importance of one concept over the other. However, in Sublimity and Skepticism in Montaigne and Milton, David L. Sedley argues that literary and philosophical notions of skepticism and sublimity simultaneously developed and influenced one another. By exposing the twin origins of skepticism and sublimity, Sedley contributes to ongoing discussions of the origins of modernity and genealogies of modern habits of criticism.
Sedley uses the juxtaposition of Montaigne and Milton to argue that two seminal early modern phenomena, the rise of the sublime as an aesthetic category and the emergence of skepticism as a philosophical problem, are interrelated. The comparison of these two Renaissance writers highlights the traditions that have canonized them and also complicates the canonical views: Sedley's perspective reveals how Montaigne cultivated his famous skepticism in order to produce sublimity, while Milton forged his renowned sublimity through his encounter with skepticism. Sedley's first argument is that sublimity motivated skepticism: the sense that a force existed outside the aesthetic categories conventional in the Renaissance drove authors into a skeptical frame of mind. His second argument is that skepticism created sublimity: the skeptical mind-set offered alternative resources of aesthetic power and enabled authors to fashion a sublime style. These claims revise standard views of skepticism and sublimity, suggesting a mandate for an enriched aesthetics behind late-Renaissance loss of belief and exposing the Renaissance impulse behind modern notions of sublimity.
"Sedley's work takes seriously our ongoing engagement with doubt. It is a brisk and brilliant guide to the disparate pathways through which early modern skepticism made its way to the sublime."
-Eileen Reeves, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Princeton University
"Sublimity and Skepticism in Montaigne and Milton is a powerful piece of revisionist intellectual history. By demonstrating the close links between the rise of skepticism and the power of the sublime, Sedley offers a welcome antidote to the heavily ideological tenor of much recent cultural studies. With clarity and elegance Sedley shows that two of the greatest writers of the late Renaissance, Montaigne and Milton, are haunted by a crisis of authority, which is accompanied by the irruption of the sublime, by an inchoate sense of being overwhelmed by the phenomenal world. Through deft and intelligent readings Sedley shows how key moments in the works of these two great authors are structured by the intersection of the sublime and the skeptical. This book should be of great interest to literary scholars, aestheticians, and intellectual historians working in several languages. It is a very fine piece of work."
-Tim Hampton, Professor of French, UC Berkeley
"A refreshingly modern and elegant understanding of Montaigne and Milton as inaugurating the sublime possibilities of the fragmentary and incomprehensible. Sedley reinserts these writers into a history of the transformation of admiration into awe, and makes us revisit the beginnings and the justifications of our own esthetics of the sublime."
-Ullrich Langer, Professor of French and Italian, University of Wisconsin
Engaging scholars from across humanistic fields grappling with the role and value of theory in our times, Theory's Autoimmunity argues for reclaiming theory's skepticism as a value. To cultivate theory's skeptical impulses is to embrace what Jacques Derrida has termed autoimmunity: a condition of openness to the outside—openness of the self, the community, democracy, or other ideals—that allows for change.
Openness to change comes with risks, and the self-protective temptation to immunize oneself or one's community against these risks is strong. Yet without such risks, without openness to otherness, no encounter with the new, with difference, can ever take place. Without autoimmunity, theory becomes stagnant and programmatic, unable to receive and respond to the other or the event, to address, revise, and produce new meanings.
Taking up the challenge of thinking theory as skepticism, with and against philosophy, this study turns to literature as an interlocutor, investigating the ways theory, like the literary works of Montaigne, Baudelaire, Stendhal, Morrison, or Duras, declines to put on the interpretive brakes, to stop reading at a point of understanding. Undoing and remaking itself, theory—those critical interpretive practices that revel in the creation and proliferation of meaning—becomes autoimmune.