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The University of Southampton
PhilosophyPart of Humanities

Justification - Scepticism

Radical scepticism is a very counterintuitive view, but there do seem to be powerful arguments for it, and some philosophers have concluded that we should accept those arguments.

Ancient thinkers like Pyrrho and Sextus Empiricus seem to have suggested that none of our beliefs are justified. More recently, Richard Fumerton argues that direct acquaintance provides the foundation for all other justified beliefs, but that we are directly acquainted only with facts about our current mental states. Fumerton suggests that it is doubtful that many of the beliefs that we ordinarily regard as justified can be justified simply on the basis of facts about our current mental states.

Most philosophers, however, do not think that scepticism is a plausible view. Many of your ordinary beliefs - e.g. that Southampton is in England, or that the sky is blue - seem obviously justified. Can the sceptical argument really be so compelling that it would lead us to reject such beliefs as unjustified? Shouldn’t we instead reject one of the assumptions that led us to such a counterintuitive conclusion?

Do such considerations make you want to reconsider the argument that led to scepticism?

1. Perhaps this convinces you to reject foundationalism after all.

2. Or perhaps you think that foundationalism must be right, but scepticism can’t be, and so you want to consider the more liberal version of foundationalism.

3. Finally, perhaps you maintain that common sense is totally mistaken, and you want to stick with scepticism.

Answer 1Answer 2Answer 3
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