walto’s paper as a failed argument against Cartesian skepticism

TSZ commenter walto published a paper this year in the Journal of Philosophy entitled Epistemic Closure, Home Truths, and Easy Philosophy. Unfortunately, the paper isn’t free — if you want to read it, you’ll either need to pay for it yourself or get it via institutional access (if you’re fortunate enough to have that.)

Regarding his paper, walto made the following remark to commenter Kantian Naturalist:

I don’t know if it counts as “a refutation”–but I think keiths’ version of skepticism requires the closure of knowledge under (known) entailment [which walto refers to as ‘CLR’ in his paper.] And I think that that premise can be shown to be false.

It’s a long story and you’ll have to get my paper to see how, but the abstract is available for a nickel.

I think walto hesitated to use the word “refutation” because he couldn’t rule out the possibility of arguments for skepticism that don’t rely on CLR. Any such arguments would be unaffected by the conclusion of walto’s paper, and skepticism might therefore remain standing.  But any argument that did depend on CLR would be refuted if the conclusion of walto’s paper is correct and CLR is false.

We can (and likely will) discuss many of the technical details in the comments below, but unless I’m missing something fundamental, it appears to me to be surprisingly easy to show why walto’s paper doesn’t work as a refutation of CLR-based arguments for Cartesian skepticism.

His statement of the argument requires the following premise:

(ii) A competent reasoner sometimes knows such things as that she is sitting on a green chair.

That premise effectively amounts to a denial of Cartesian skepticism. So in order to use his argument agains Cartesian skepticism, walto first has to assume the falsehood of Cartesian skepticism just to get the argument off the ground.

The reasoning therefore ends up being circular:

1) assume that Cartesian skepticism is false;
2) using that assumption, deploy the argument laid out in the paper and conclude that CLR is false;
3) use that conclusion — that CLR is false — to negate any argument that requires CLR to be true, including arguments for skepticism.

It looks hopelessly circular to me, but walto is unlikely to take this lying down. Stay tuned for a vigorous debate.

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143 thoughts on “walto’s paper as a failed argument against Cartesian skepticism

  1. walto: For personal reasons, I hope you’re including political scientists in that bunch.

    Who like to picture you-know-who with a Scottish accent?

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  2. Regarding the keiths stuff here, I think–and you may be getting to this–that he’s actually responding to the considerably simpler NEKP argument I summarize on p. 50 (I doubt he got that far). That one is a modus ponens–modus tollens standoff, and he may say that proponents are begging the question without complaint from me.

    But…..that’s NOT my argument. And it’s not anything likely to convince anybody these days–if it ever was.

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  3. Like my students, I haven’t done the reading for today, but I do have a question about “categorialism”. Why is categorialism supposed to be a “heavyweight” philosophical thesis? How “heavyweight” it is seems to be depend on what one takes categories to be, right?

    Suppose, putting on my Sellars hat, that I say, “categories are syntactic statements in the material mode of speech” (a move that Sellars takes from Carnap). On this view, to say “a chair is a substance” is just to say “the word ‘chair’ is a noun”, and to say “red is a property” is just to say “the word ‘red’ is an adjective”. So there’s nothing terribly exciting about categories: they’re just ways of expressing in a metalanguage the grammatical structure of our language.

    It seems that if you want categorialism to be philosophically interesting, you need some account of categories that makes them not boring in the way that Carnap and Sellars did. That would seem to be an important move here. Since I haven’t read your paper, I can’t know if you made it or not. Just wanted to float that concern.

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  4. Kantian Naturalist,

    Good point. That’s definitely an objection I had to anticipate–and maybe could have done a better job responding to. I said this:

    …it is a controversial (and heavyweight) matter whether or not the axioms of conceptual/categorial systems always infuse many of everyday general terms and predicates. I take it that a determination of the truth-value of the thesis would involve an understanding of the process of language acquisition, the nature of assertion and presupposition, the role of concepts in thinking and communication, and countless other extremely perplexing questions.

    And I add this in a footnote:

    *I have considered some of these in my……See also Hall, Philosophical Systems; Putnam, The Many Faces of Realism, particularly the material on Carnap and the Polish Logician; and Horgan and Timmons, “Conceptual Relativity and Metaphysical Realism.” Of course, there are countless classic works on presupposition and conceptual schemes by Russell, Strawson, Wittgenstein, Quine, Davidson, Sellars, Fodor, and many others.

    So I guess in a way I’m just saying, “Well, it’s been treated like a heavyweight matter for a hundred years: it’s as controversial today as it ever was and seems not to be moving anywhere.”

    Which maybe is a cheat. But if it matters, the Thomasson/Yablo debate, which I quote a bit from, is firmly enmeshed in those issues, and neither of them seems to be budging.

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  5. Mung: I agree. And I really appreciate every time you go into the history of an idea in philosophy. The other stuff is usually too technical for me.

    Thank you for saying so! I do like being appreciated from time to time.

    I like to know what the original positions were, how they were addressed, and how they were modified to address the objections. How did we get to where we are today. Have we forgotten the past. Were original objections simply glossed over.

    It seems to me that almost every philosopher was responding to something, and unless we can decipher what position or positions they were responding to we have little hope of understanding them.

    ETA: Context is everything. Especially in philosophy.

    I agree up to a point: the history of philosophy is crucial for understanding philosophy, and that includes understanding who people were responding to. But there are degrees of understanding. One can read Spinoza, and get more out of it if one has read Descartes. And even more if one has read Maimonides and Gersonides. And understand even more if one has read . . . and likewise for Descartes, and Maimonides, and everyone else in the canon.

    (And one needs to also read philosophers who didn’t make it into the canon but who were important interlocutors in those times and places. Very few of us today know who Pierre Gassendi was but Descartes regarded him as one of his most acute critics. Likewise there were many influential women philosophers in the modern period but since they were often prohibited from publishing, their impact is known to us through their private correspondence with Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, etc.)

    But I wouldn’t want to get so attached to the question of origins that it over-rides everything else. I’m suspicious of the very idea that there are origins from which everything else springs. I think that there are multiple lines of influence, often conflicting, that come and go, which can be accepted, criticized, scrutinized, rejected, or endorsed.

    Plato’s originality as a thinker consisted in realizing that the antidote for the moral and spiritual corruption of Athens before, during, and after the Peloponessian War had something to do with what was right and wrong about Parmenides, Heraclitus, and post-Parmenidean philosophers.

    But that’s just specific case — I think that every philosopher who makes a genuine contribution to the conversation of humanity has to do something new with the influences to which he or she is subjected, and often has to reconcile quite different and even opposing influences.

    That said, I do think that ancient Greek and Roman Skepticism is far more fascinating than the Cartesian variant!

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  6. walto: So I guess in a way I’m just saying, “Well, it’s been treated like a heavyweight matter for a hundred years: it’s as controversial today as it ever was and seems not to be moving anywhere.”

    Which maybe is a cheat. But if it matters, the Thomasson/Yablo debate, which I quote a bit from, is firmly enmeshed in those issues, and neither of them seems to be budging.

    Maybe a bit of cheat, yeah, but I’ll allow it. We all need to cheat a little bit just to get the problem down to manageable size! Thanks for that response!

    I asked because my current paper (only six days past due for the edited volume, but it doesn’t matter because I’m the editor) is about Sellars on categories, so I’m really trying to get clear on his views on this stuff. Oy!

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  7. walto:
    Regarding the keiths stuff here, I think–and you may be getting to this–that he’s actually responding to the considerably simpler NEKP argument I summarize on p. 50 (I doubt he got that far). That one is a modus ponens–modus tollens standoff, and he may say that proponents are begging the question without complaint from me.

    But…..that’s NOT my argument. And it’s not anything likely to convince anybody these days–if it ever was.

    Yes, I agree that is an interpretation of his argument, and as you say, that it does refer to a real circularity. I also am convinced by your points that that is not the argument the paper is making.

    To me, in the OP and several follow-ups, Keith is also interpreting your paper as arguing against Cartesian skepticism. But I think such a position is wrong. Neither the informal nor formal statements of your argument in the paper include such a conclusion. Instead, the conclusion is that “CLR is false”.

    Now perhaps Keith is saying that concluding CLR is false along with claiming the existence of easy knowledge amounts to an argument that Cartesian skepticism is false. But that would require an argument that CLR is the only way to get to Cartesian skepticism from easy knowledge. More importantly, as you argue at the top of page 42, the existence of easy knowledge is compatible with both the truth and falsity of CLR. I also think you are making this same point earlier in this thread.So if that is what Keith is arguing, then I would say his position is wrong.

    I do want to acknowledge that my posting this is somewhat unfair to Keith in that he is currently unable to respond. I trust that he will when he can do so

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  8. BruceS I do want to acknowledge that my posting this is somewhat unfair to Keith in that he is currently unable to respond.

    Is he? I haven’t actually been able to follow/understand the dozen or so changes that have been made to his status by Alan, Neil and Jock. I’d thought he could write stuff on this thread…but who the hell knows?

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  9. BruceS: Now perhaps Keith is saying that concluding CLR is false along with claiming the existence of easy knowledge amounts to an argument that Cartesian skepticism is false. But that would require an argument that CLR is the only way to get to Cartesian skepticism from easy knowledge

    Even if you needed CLR, it wouldn’t be enough. So the inference to the falsity of Cartesian skepticism would be fallacious.

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  10. Mung: I agree.

    I like to know what the original positions were, how they were addressed, and how they were modified to address the objections.

    I read and enjoyed these both of these well-rated graphic novelizations (“comic-books” to my generation) giving overviews of events and people in the history of philosophy:

    Heretics! The Wondrous (and Dangerous) Beginnings of Modern Philosophy Interview with the authors here.

    Logicomix: An epic search for truth which is about Russell and his encounters with philosophers he worked with/argued with.

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  11. BruceS: I read and enjoyed these both of these well-rated graphic novelizations (“comic-books” to my generation)

    To your generation “graphic” meant there would be sex, right? 😉

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  12. BruceS: .More importantly, as you argue at the top of page 42, the existence of easy knowledge is compatible with both the truth and falsity of CLR. I also think you are making thissame point earlier in this thread.So if that is what Keith is arguing, then I would say his position is wrong.

    I realized that preceding is not right as worded. I should have said that the referenced page in the paper and linked post show that the existence of easy knowledge on its own does not say anything about CLR and so it cannot be used to claim that easy knowledge on its own leads to Cartesian skepticism through CLR. I do read Keith as sometimes saying easy knowledge is tantamount to Cartesian skepticism.

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  13. walto: To your generation “graphic” meant there would be sex, right?

    Right! Another case of I-know-it-when-I-see-it.

    However, seeing it for that knowledge was hardly easily acquired in the small town where I lived in those days.

    ETA: re-arrange for better comic effect.

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  14. BruceS: I do read Keith as sometimes saying easy knowledge is tantamount to Cartesian skepticism.

    Not sure what you’re here.

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  15. walto: Not sure what you’re here.

    I ws thinkg eg of this in the OP

    (ii) A competent reasoner sometimes knows such things as that she is sitting on a green chair.

    That premise effectively amounts to a denial of Cartesian skepticism

    ETA:
    But to get from that to Cartesian skepticism, Keith seemed to rely on Closure to be true. And references to your material were meant to show that CLR’s truth/falsity was independent of easy knowledge.

    The more I post it, the less I think it was a particularly important point.

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  16. As discussed. His posts on this are pretty confused. I don’t think he really read the paper–just sniffed around a bit for a a couple of remarks he could say begged the question against a view he likes. But, of course I wasn’t claiming or trying to refute cartesian skepticism. That’d be much harder. Sellars tries to do that in empiricism and the philosophy of mind. Tough row to hoe.

    I wasn’t trying to win a Nobel Prize. (I mean if they gave them in philosophy. Weirdly, Russell got one for literature.) I’d have settled for a ‘congratulations!’ thread.

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  17. walto: Is he? I haven’t actually been able to follow/understand the dozen or so changes that have been made to his status by Alan, Neil and Jock. I’d thought he could write stuff on this thread…but who the hell knows?

    There’s only been one status change. Keiths is currently suspended as of 2nd August. It didn’t take effect cleanly for which my apologies. Lizzie is reviewing the situation.

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  18. walto: But, of course I wasn’t claiming or trying to refute cartesian skepticism. That’d be much harder. Sellars tries to do that in empiricism and the philosophy of mind. Tough row to hoe.

    I’d probably say that Sellars’s principle aim in that particularly essay was to refute a certain version of logical positivism, perhaps the Aufbau in particular. I do think that if one were to read a lot of Sellars, a refutation of Cartesianism would eventually come to light. (It has for me.) But man, he is a difficult nut to crack! I’ve been trying to make sense of Sellars for five years and sometimes I think I’ve got it.

    Walto, I apologize for not having congratulated you on a publication in Journal of Philosophy. That’s a really prestigious and difficult journal to get into, and an impressive accomplishment!

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  19. Kantian Naturalist,

    Thanks, man! That Sellars paper is killer. I remember puzzling over some stuff in it about color words for days. I do think he wanted to throw out skepticism–along with the Aufbau–with his “new way of words.’

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  20. Due to moderator interference and censorship, this discussion ground to a halt prematurely in August of 2018.

    Alan is now gone — permanently, if we’re lucky — and the remaining two moderators seem to have been chastened by their experience during the Mung debacle, which was another abuse of moderator privileges.

    Given all that, now seems a good time to post the comments that I was unable to post during the illicit ban. They’ll follow forthwith.

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  21. KN:

    Cartesian skepticism is usually bandied about as “can you trust your senses?” But that’s child’s play. The really interesting questions begin to open up when the question is posed: can you trust your reason? And if not, then what happens to arguments that tell you shouldn’t trust your reason? Or to arguments that tell you that the senses are not reliable?

    Descartes himself raised both issues. Here he addresses the possibility that reason itself might be untrustworthy:

    And, besides, as I sometimes imagine that others deceive themselves in the things which they think they know best, how do I know that I am not deceived every time that I add two and three, or count the sides of a square, or judge of things yet simpler, if anything simpler can be imagined?

    I’ve addressed this in earlier discussions, but I can summarize here: Yes, we might be wrong even about the most seemingly self-evident, seemingly trustworthy deliverances of our reason. That’s why I published an OP on The Myth of Absolute Certainty.

    I already rule out absolute certainty, even of “self-evident” truths, on those grounds. The only reason I don’t rule out knowledge of them, as well, is that the apparent consistency of our reasoning makes it likely to be largely correct, in my estimation. (Consistency has different implications for reasoning than it does for the senses. I can elaborate on that if needed.)

    I could be wrong about that, though, and maybe even knowledge of something as basic as “a thing is identical to itself” is impossible. If so, no crisis. I already attach an implicit “if my senses are veridical” to the word “know” in cases that require it, so I can easily do the same with “if my reasoning is correct”.

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  22. walto:

    You know, it strikes me that I kind of prefer the “Congratulations, Bill…” OP title to this “failed argument” thing.

    Who’s Bill?

    And I did congratulate you on the publication of your paper.

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  23. KN:

    I love that Haugeland paper and it had a huge impact on philosophy of cognitive science. Haugeland is drawing on some phenomenology (Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty) and some robotics work (e.g. Rodney Brooks) to argue against a Cartesian picture of mind — and the attendant possibility of skepticism. I tried raising this point in conversation with keiths last year but he just wouldn’t have it.

    Please provide a link to that conversation, and/or quote it here if you’d like.

    I’m happy to discuss it with you.

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  24. walto,

    He might have asked a question or two if he wasn’t sure about something in the article.

    If I had been unsure about something in the article, and needed clarification, then I would have asked a question or two.

    But he has a religious personality:: He’s decided that his Cartesianism is right, so that anything that conflicts with it simply MUST be wrong.

    It’s the opposite. I accept Cartesian skepticism because the arguments for it are extremely strong, and I am unaware of any refutations. Remember, even you and KN have acknowledged that you cannot refute the arguments for Cartesian skepticism.

    Which of us is being religious? The one who accepts the conclusion of an unrefuted argument, or the one who rejects it? The one who is guided by reason, or the one who appeals to authority?

    keiths:

    But as walto has acknowledged, he can’t refute the arguments in favor of Cartesian skepticism. So he’s denying skepticism not because he can find fault with it, but merely because various epistemologists have denied it.

    It’s a fallacious appeal to authority.

    walto:

    It’s a monarchy man approach to life–and to one’s own personal infallibility

    I’m not infallible, and I’ve never claimed to be. I’m making arguments, and I’m inviting responses from you, Bruce, KN, and anyone else who wants to weigh in. Perhaps I’m wrong, and one of you will find a flaw in what I’m saying and set me straight. If so, great. If you can’t, that’s great too. Either way, we can learn something.

    Anyhow, give it a shot. And if I’m not too crabby (or old) I’ll try to answer.

    At least you’re acknowledging the crabbiness problem. 🙂

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  25. Bruce:

    As I understand it, based solely on this thread, Walt’s paper is a contribution to the philosophical debate about the knowledge closure principle.

    Haugeland’s arguments against Cartesian skepticism belong to a different philosophical approach:

    Yes, which is why Haugeland’s essay doesn’t help walto. The four flaws I identified above remain problems unless walto is willing to abandon his framework.

    One thing I am not clear on is what argument you use to justify your Cartesian Skepticism — infallibility, closure, or something else. There is a nice intro to the relevant philosophy at IEP, if you are interested in relating your approach to the standard philosophical arguments.

    Here’s an old comment that might help, taken from a thread in which you were involved. The comment is effectively about infallibilism, though KN and I didn’t use that term:

    KN,

    If I understand your position, then in cases of simple perceptual beliefs — the noninferential use of high-order and/or low-order concepts guided by occurrences in sensory consciousness — we have something like, “I know* that there’s a glass of water next to me” where

    * unless I’m being deceived by a malign genie, or I’m a brain in a vat, or I’m a Boltzmann brain, or I’m in a hyper-advanced simulation designed by posthuman Engineers, or . . .

    where none of the items in that infinite disjunction can be eliminated on a priori grounds.

    Almost, but not quite. If even one of the items in the infinite disjunction can’t be ruled out as unlikely, then that alone is enough to necessitate the asterisk.

    That’s why your acknowledgement regarding Bostrom’s scenario specifically — that it “has a likelihood of being true that cannot be estimated” — invalidates your claim to know that you are not being fooled in general.

    My stance on closure is that the principle seems both obvious and true, and I haven’t seen an effective argument against it. Walto says this in his paper:

    I will conclude by noting the similarities and differences between what Luper has called “The Argument [against CLR] from Not Easily Knowable Propositions” and what I am up to here. The earlier argument, which Luper attributes to Dretske (and “possibly Nozick”), may be put quite simply: NEKP: I know both that I am sitting in a green chair and that that knowledge entails that I am not a BIV. If CLR is true, I must know that I am not a BIV. But that I am not a BIV is not the sort of thing one can know from only banalities like that I am sitting on a green chair and what such knowledge entails. Therefore, CLR is false. The similarity is clear: both NEKP and my argument utilize the claim that it must be false that we can infer heavyweight truths from trivialities. But NEKP is question-begging. The skeptic will simply counter that no one can know she is sitting in a green chair without thereby knowing that she is not a BIV—so if we cannot easily know the latter, we cannot easily know the former.

    Walto is correct about the skeptic’s response, at least in my case. That is exactly why I say that we can retain CLR if we are willing to acknowledge the truth of Cartesian skepticism. Walto’s entire attempt at refuting CLR is unnecessary. He only thinks its necessary because of the problems created by his unsupported assumption regarding Cartesian skepticism.

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  26. Bruce:

    Have you read Haugeland’s Mind embodied and embedded? Very roughly, he argues there is no principled way to separate mind and world, so Cartesian skepticism cannot get off the ground.

    Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve now read Haugeland’s essay, and while it’s clear that he’s arguing against a sharp line between mind and world — a position I share — it’s not clear at all that this prevents Cartesian skepticism from getting off the ground. At least not the Cartesian skepticism I hold.

    One source of confusion in these discussions is that several distinct positions have come to be labeled “Cartesian”, and people tend to conflate them. Recall, for instance, of walto’s conflation of “Cartesian theaterism” with “Cartesian skepticism” in an earlier thread.

    Descartes thought the mind was immaterial; I obviously don’t. But what I share with Descartes is the belief that there is a causal chain linking things in the outside world, whatever it is, to the beliefs we hold about it. There doesn’t need to be a sharp boundary anywhere along the chain. The important point is that aspects of the external world — say, the existence of a green chair in which I am sitting — are separate and distinguishable from my beliefs about those aspects. The chair might be red, rather than green; or the chair might not exist at all, and I might be suspended in a pod in the Matrix.

    I see nothing in Haugeland that invalidates the kind of skepticism I’ve just described.

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  27. walto,

    Suppose you believe that seeing or sitting in a chair is nothing but having certain sensations. Nothing else. You might then believe that there are chairs but also insist that we cannot know that there are physical objects, perhaps because you think that we cannot know that chairs are physical objects or maybe yous simply deny that they are.

    Again, that doesn’t help you or your paper. You think that there are external objects, that chairs are among them, and that people can know that they are sitting in those external objects. And obviously, what the vast majority of people mean when they say “I know I am sitting in a chair” is that the chair is a physical object in which they are sitting. You say they can know that. That means you are affirming the correctness of the knowledge claim.

    As indicated, you either did not read or could not understand my paper, because your confusion is discussed all over the place in it.

    I understood your paper quite well, and I’ve identified and explicated serious flaws in it and in your argument against CLR-reliant Cartesian skepticism, which depends on the anti-CLR argument you present in the paper.

    There is no circle and you are confused but persistent (in your keithsian way). That’s the sum and substance of this thread so far. About what anyone would have expected.

    1) I’ve shown, in detail, why your argument against CLR-reliant skepticism is circular. You’ve been unable to refute me, so you’re now simply repeating “there is no circle” over and over.

    2) I’ve also shown that your paper depends on an unjustified assumption — namely, that Cartesian skepticism is false. You’ve acknowledged that you cannot refute the arguments for skepticism presented by me and others. Why assume something when you can’t refute the arguments against it? It makes no sense.

    3) I’ve shown that the goal of your paper — to disprove CLR — is misguided. The only reason you are trying to disprove CLR is because you fear that it leads to “Too Easy Heavyweight Knowledge”. As I pointed out above, it isn’t CLR that’s the problem. It’s your assumption that Cartesian skepticism is false.

    4) I’ve shown that your justification for that assumption is merely a fallacious appeal to authority.

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  28. BruceS:

    I do read Keith as sometimes saying easy knowledge is tantamount to Cartesian skepticism.

    Huh? Those are utterly distinct concepts.

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  29. Bruce:

    To me, in the OP and several follow-ups, Keith is also interpreting your paper as arguing against Cartesian skepticism.

    No, not at all. If you reread the OP, you’ll see what I’m actually claiming, which is that walto has made an argument against CLR-reliant Cartesian skepticism. That argument uses the argument from walto’s paper, but it is distinct.

    Now perhaps Keith is saying that concluding CLR is false along with claiming the existence of easy knowledge amounts to an argument that Cartesian skepticism is false.

    That’s not it either. What walto is saying is that if CLR is false, then CLR-reliant arguments for Cartesian skepticism fail. My objection, now and throughout the thread, has been that walto’s reasoning is circular. Why? Because it depends on assuming the falsehood of Cartesian skepticism. Here’s how I put it in an exchange with walto:

    walto:

    There’s no circle. I guess we’re done here.

    keiths:

    Here’s the circle:

    1. Assume, via premise (ii), that Cartesian skepticism is false.

    2. That means, by direct implication, that you are making two sub-assumptions:
    a) that CLR-reliant versions of Cartesian skepticism are false; and
    b) the non-CLR-reliant versions of Cartesian skepticism are false.

    3. Use the assumption to prove that CLR is false.

    4. Conclude that any CLR-reliant version of skepticism must be false.

    So you have a conclusion…

    Any CLR-reliant version of skepticism must be false.

    …that relies on an assumption that includes the thing being concluded:

    a) assume that CLR-reliant versions of Cartesian skepticism are false;

    It’s a textbook case of circular reasoning.

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  30. KN,

    Haugeland is drawing on some phenomenology (Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty) and some robotics work (e.g. Rodney Brooks) to argue against a Cartesian picture of mind — and the attendant possibility of skepticism. I tried raising this point in conversation with keiths last year but he just wouldn’t have it.

    Do you have a link to that conversation? If I “just wouldn’t have it”, I suspect that I gave my reasons.

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  31. walto,

    Regarding the keiths stuff here, I think–and you may be getting to this–that he’s actually responding to the considerably simpler NEKP argument I summarize on p. 50 (I doubt he got that far).

    No, I’m responding to you, not to the NEKP argument you mentioned. The criticisms I’ve given apply to things that you have claimed and arguments that you have made on your own behalf. I haven’t addressed NEKP.

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  32. walto,

    But, of course I wasn’t claiming or trying to refute cartesian skepticism.

    In my OP, I made it clear what you were trying to accomplish and quoted you directly:

    Regarding his paper, walto made the following remark to commenter Kantian Naturalist:

    I don’t know if it counts as “a refutation”–but I think keiths’ version of skepticism requires the closure of knowledge under (known) entailment [which walto refers to as ‘CLR’ in his paper.] And I think that that premise can be shown to be false.

    It’s a long story and you’ll have to get my paper to see how, but the abstract is available for a nickel.

    I think walto hesitated to use the word “refutation” because he couldn’t rule out the possibility of arguments for skepticism that don’t rely on CLR. Any such arguments would be unaffected by the conclusion of walto’s paper, and skepticism might therefore remain standing. But any argument that did depend on CLR would be refuted if the conclusion of walto’s paper is correct and CLR is false.

    As your own words make clear, you were trying to disprove CLR, thus refuting any CLR-reliant arguments for Cartesian skepticism.

    I showed that your argument is circular.

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  33. KN,

    I do think that if one were to read a lot of Sellars, a refutation of Cartesianism would eventually come to light. (It has for me.)

    But not a refutation of Cartesian skepticism. You and walto have both told me that you cannot refute Cartesian skepticism. And I believe you. :-).

    Descartes was a prolific guy, and many distinct ideas get labeled as “Cartesian”. For example, remember how walto kept conflating Cartesian skepticism with “Cartesian theaterism” on the old thread, and how tough it was for us to get him to see his mistake?

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