April 17th Wednesday 16:45 – 18:30 DZ152 Alan Thomas (Tilburg)Posted: March 4, 2013
‘McDowell on Transcendental Arguments, Scepticism and Error Theory’
John McDowell has recently argued that his earlier attempt therapeutically to dissolve the challenge from scepticism needs revision. We can, instead, go sufficiently deeply into the sceptic’s motivations to identify assumptions that she makes that offer the basis for a transcendental argument that undermines radical scepticism about our knowledge of the external world. In this new strategy McDowell’s disjunctivism (non-conjunctivism) now plays a local and tactical role. This paper examines this change of strategy and argues that the only puzzle about McDowell’s position is the “modesty” he claims for his results. An analogy is described between McDowell’s case against the sceptic and one response to an error theory about ethics. A general commitment to interpretationism shows that the interpretation of all ethical thought and talk as truth-apt, but globally false, is unstable. Similarly, the sceptic’s description of all our perceptual states as apt to be perceptual knowledge, but globally false, is unstable. Scepticism arises from the original description of our epistemic situation as a predicament; as resting on a failure to appreciate that there is a class of mental states for which the idea of “having the world in view” is constitutive of the class.