Fallibilism and Epistemology Essay

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Fallibilism and Epistemology The quest for certainty has gotten epistemology into a lot of hot water, and I propose we give it up as a mistake. We should freely admit we can’t be certain of anything, and move on. It is, of course, a reasonable question whether we can consistently get along without certainty, and even if it is possible, whether there is some terrible price to be paid if we do. I will argue that it is indeed possible to do without any epistemologically useful notion of certainty. I will also argue that, while there may be prices to be paid, they are by no means as high as the prices to paid by those who wish to keep certainty as a viable epistemological concept. But first, let me make good my claim that a lot of trouble…show more content…
Even his senses sometimes deceive him, when he experiences an illusion or hallucination. Because of this, he came to realize he is not at all sure what he knows and what he doesn’t, so he tried to sort out the true knowledge from everything else. The only way to do this, he thought, is to try to doubt everything, to see if there is anything that cannot be doubted. In other words, he applied a very strong test of certainty; all knowledge is certain, so if there is any real knowledge, it will have to be something that is absolutely immune to doubt. To check his beliefs to see if they were certain, he devised his famous two tests: the Dream test and the Evil Genius test. Everyone who has passed Beginning Philosophy knows how it goes from here. The only things that are absolutely immune to doubt are that I exist and that the current contents of my consciousness are whatever they are. A strong requirement for certainty--namely indubitability--seems to leave us trapped in our own heads, unable to acquire knowledge of an external world at all. Indeed the straits are so desperate that Descartes has to enlist God’s help in getting out, by way of one of the most dubious arguments for the existence of God ever offered in the history of philosophy. But even empiricists are not immune to the charms of certainty. Like Descartes, Hume is interested in discovering the extent of human knowledge. Unlike Descartes, Hume doesn’t

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