PHIL 350A: Study Questions for Week #9
1. What was Sextus Empiricus's formula for skepticism?
2. What is the main difference between the academic and Pyrrhonian skeptics?
3. According to Pojman, what is the main difference between modern skepticism and Pyrrhonian skepticism?
4. What is the traditional meaning of "dogmatist"? How does it differ from the meaning that "dogmatist" has today?
5. What is Descartes's Evil Genius thought experiment? What does it show?
6. Why does Pojman classify Descartes as a global and methodological skeptic? Why does he classify Hume as a local and substantive skeptic?
7. What is Hume's argument that there can be no justification of induction? What do you think? Can we justify induction? Explain.
8. What other domains is Hume skeptical about?
9. What is Hume's solution to his skeptical doubts?
10. The thesis (or principle) of epistemic closure is the claim that knowledge and justification are closed under known entailment. What does this mean? Explain why on Nozick's tracking the truth account, the thesis of epistemic closure is false. Explain why on Dretske's relevant alternatives account, the thesis of epistemic closure is false. How would BonJour reply to Nozick or Dretske?
11. What is a modus ponens argument? What is a modus tollens argument?
12. Suppose that BonJour thinks he has good reason to believe in an external world. The reason would have to be at least part a priori. Why? On his own account, could he be mistaken about the a priori part of the justification? How would he reply to someone who was a skeptic about a priori justification?
13. How does BonJour's discussion of Descartes's "light of nature" show that BonJour is denying that Descartes had it. But if Descartes thought he did have it and did not, then won't any response to skepticism be liable to the same problem?
14. What is Descartes's circle? Why does it show that Descartes fails in his project to justify his a priori beliefs as well as his beliefs about an external world?
15. What are the Principles of Cartesian Epistemology?
16. Explain the following distinctions BonJour makes in classifying different kinds of skepticism: (a) target; (b) strength; (c) scope; (d) character.
17. According to BonJour, what forms of skepticism are impervious to refutation? Explain. Can you add any others? Explain.
18. What is the problem of the criterion for justification? What is the generalist response? What is the particularist response?
19. What is G.E. Moore's response? Is it generalist or particularist? What is BonJour's objection to it?
20. What is contextualism? What is the contextualist reply to skepticism? What is BonJour's objection to contextualism?
21. What is pragmatism with respect to justification? What is the pragmatist response to skepticism? What is BonJour’s response to the pragmatist?
22. What is Rorty’s response to skepticism? What is BonJour’s response to Rorty?
23. What presumption is BonJour making in his understanding of justification? Explain how this presumption makes the other views he discusses seem to be surrendering to skepticism? What alternatives are there to his presumption? How might those who hold the opposing views reasonably deny that they are surrendering to skepticism?
24. What is a pragmatic theory of truth? of justification? According to BonJour, what is the problem with the pragmatic theory of justification? How would a pragmatist respond?
25. Rorty's view has three parts. Explain why the third amounts to a pragmatic theory of truth. What is the general problem for pragmatic theories of truth that we discussed earlier? How does this apply to Rorty's theory?
26. What kinds of skepticism does BonJour accept as unanswerable?
27. On BonJour's account, what would be necessary for someone to be able to have justified beliefs about the external world? Is there anyone in the world who satisfies BonJour's requirements? Explain.