New Perspectives on External World Scepticism

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Idea and Motivation

Is the external world largely as it appears to be? How can we rule out the possibility that we are constantly deceived by a vicious demon or the Matrix? In response to the global sceptic, contemporary epistemologists claim - for example - that perceptual justification is immediate in that it doesn't require independent reason for rejecting sceptical alternatives. Others contend that we are a priori entitled to trust "cornerstone" propositions that guarantee the reliability of our perceptions. Another view is that ordinary hypotheses are preferable to sceptical alternatives because they better explain our experiences. All these responses have been challenged with informal and formal objections. Bayesian methodology seems to vindicate entitlement theories but it is arguably unsuitable to model the initial state of radical ignorance presupposed by the sceptic. Immediate justification theories are affected by gruelling difficulties, like the bootstrapping and the cognitive penetrability problem. The thesis that explanatory force produces justification is controversial and - some contend - incompatible with formal representations of rational belief.

The workshop focuses on these and other interesting responses to external world scepticism. It aims to gather together traditional and formal epistemologists to foster collaboration between researchers working from a variety of perspectives.

This workshop as well as the MCMP are generously funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Here you learn more about the MCMP's agenda and goals.