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Scepticism Reconsidered

  • Hugo Meynell (a1)


Some years ago, it was fashionable for philosophers not to take sceptica arguments seriously. Now, it seems no longer so.



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1 For Hume's views on the topic, see especially his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section V, part i, and Section XII, part i. For those of Nāgārjuna, see Nagarjuna, by K. Satchinanda Murty (New Delhi: National Book Trust, 1971).

2 For an excellent defence of the anti-foundationalist position, see M. E. Williams, Groundless Belief (Oxford: Blackwell, 1977).

3 Williams, op. cit 23 and chapter 4.

4 Cf. Kekes, J., ‘The Case for Scepticism’, Philosophical Quarterly (1975),

5 Of course there is a sense, as Karl Popper has emphasized, in which one should do the very opposite of attempting to ‘justify’ one's beliefs and assumptions if one aspires to come closer to the truth (see Objective Knowledge (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), 29–30). But I believe that what I am arguing here is in merely verbal disagreement with Popper on this point

6 Kekes, art. cit. 35

7 Ibid. 36. Cf. A. J. Ayer, The Problem of Knowledge (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1956), 78–83.

8 Stroud, Barry, ‘Transcendental Arguments’, Journal of Philosophy (1968), a propos of P. F. Strawson, Individuals (London: Methuen, 1958),

9 J. Kekes, A Justification of Rationality (State University of New York Press, 1976); cited by Corbin Fowler, ‘Kekes and Johnson on Rationality’,Philosophical Quarterly (1978), 259.

10 Fowler, art. cit. 259–260.

11 Ibid. 264.

12 See R. M. Chisholm, Theory of Knowledge (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1966), 6–7.

13 For a useful account of Russell's theory of knowledge, see A. J. Ayer, Russell (London: Collins, 1972), Ch. 3.

14 See L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (Oxford: Blackwell, 1958), Il.xi.

15 This paragraph is, it need hardly be said, only a sketch of the manner in which I think the problem of foundations ought to be handled. For the infinite regress argument, see Williams, op. cit. Ch. 3.

16 For the importance of such propositions for the theory of knowledge, see G. Grisez, Beyond the New Theism (Notre Dame University Press, 1975). But their most thorough and ingenious exploitation is to be found in B. J. F. Lonergan, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1957), especially Ch. xi.

17 Hume, Enquiry, Section IV, part 1.

18 See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, B.ix–x, xvi–xix

19 For an extensive discussion, see Lonergan, op. cit. xxvi, 252, 272–278, 282–283, etc-

20 Hume, Enquiry, Section IV, part 2.

21 See especially T. S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago University Press, 1962); and P. K. Feyerabend, Against Method (London: New Left Books, 1975).

22 The fact that the process of coming to know involves such ‘leaps’, which cannot be reduced to logic or experience, seems to account for a great deal of contemporary scepticism and anti-foundationalism.

23 Stroud, art. cit. 253.

25 Loc. cit.

26 Ibid. 254–255.

27 Ibid. 255.

28 For an example of this pattern of argument, see Lonergan, Method in Theology (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1972), 16–17.

29 P. 436 above.

30 Kekes, art. cit. 38.

31 Hume, Enquiry, Section V, part 2.

Scepticism Reconsidered

  • Hugo Meynell (a1)


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