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Philosophical scepticism and the conditions of thought

Levett, Jonathan; (1997) Philosophical scepticism and the conditions of thought. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Scepticism of the External World is a persistent philosophical problem. One characteristic response to scepticism is to argue that such a stance cannot be consistently maintained insofar that a sceptical position involves doubting or denying a necessary condition of thought and/or experience, and hence doubting or denying something which framing the very problem of scepticism itself tacitly takes for granted. Such a line of argument, following Immanuel Kant, is often termed transcendental. This thesis examines the viability of such a response. Transcendental arguments are defended against the charges that they fail to successfully answer the sceptic because (a) they embody a commitment to verificationism, and/or (b) because they attempt to establish the impossible in showing our conceptual scheme to be unique. It is argued, rather, that the essential problem with transcendental arguments is that they fail to grapple with the kinds of reflection which motivate scepticism in the first place. A transcendental argument may show that scepticism involves doubting or denying a condition of thought and/or experience, but if it is just the conclusion of a sceptical argument that is called into question, and not the premises, then this merely sets up a conflict between two ways of arguing, and does not provide an answer to scepticism. That this is a characteristic problem is illustrated by considering various transcendental-sty1e responses to scepticism, drawing on the work of Kant, Strawson, Wittgenstein, and Davidson, It is finally suggested that much of the force of scepticism lies with its being tied to a certain conception of the mind, which sees perceptual experiences and propositonal attitudes as states or events which come within the realms of causal explanation — a picture which is both alluring and perhaps inescapable.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Philosophical scepticism and the conditions of thought
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Philosophy, religion and theology; Skepticism
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10106251
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