HandoutSkepticism - Handout Skepticism We have an...

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Handout: Skepticism We have an overriding concern to acquire knowledge and justified beliefs. Plausibly, this is because we have an overriding concern to hold true beliefs. We need to clearly distinguish two questions that arise about knowledge and justified belief. One is: what is knowledge, or justified belief? The other is: what knowledge, or justified belief do we have? It is important to recognize these questions are different. Later, we will be concerned with the first. For now, our concern is with the second, what can we know or justifiably believe? In the First Meditation Descartes addresses the second question as it arises about knowledge: what can we know? We gain most of our knowledge through the senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. Descartes begins by observing that our senses sometimes deceive us. For example, looking at distant objects we occasionally mistake their size, shape or color. But, Descartes remarks that just because our senses sometimes deceive us, that is no reason not to trust them most of the time. It would be like distrusting what anybody says just because people occasionally lie. Descartes next considers a more powerful argument for generally distrusting our senses. This is the famous dream argument. Dreams are often vivid and coherent. How do I know I am not now dreaming? If I am dreaming, I do not know that any of the things I take myself to be seeing, such as a word processor, telephone, desk, lamp, exist. But, I cannot know that I am not now dreaming. So, I do not know that the word processor etc. exist. In
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This note was uploaded on 02/27/2012 for the course PHI 107 taught by Professor Mattskene during the Spring '08 term at Syracuse.

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HandoutSkepticism - Handout Skepticism We have an...

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