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Philosophy Outside-InA Critique of Academic Reason$
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Christopher Norris

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748684557

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748684557.001.0001

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How Not to Defeat Scepticism

How Not to Defeat Scepticism

Why Anti-realism Won’t Do the Trick

(p.33) Chapter 1 How Not to Defeat Scepticism
Philosophy Outside-In

Christopher Norris

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter explains what I take to be wrong with anti-realism when marshaled against the threat of wholesale epistemological scepticism and also, for similar reasons, when advanced as a putative checkmate defence against relativism in its various (wholesale or other) forms. Its failure in this role comes about through a basic confusion between ontological and epistemological issues, and also – I suggest – through the anti-realist habit of conflating metaphysics with epistemology in such a way as to ignore certain crucial lessons imparted by modal realists like Kripke and early Putnam. Indeed the anti-realist position itself very easily leans over into scepticism and relativism once it yields vital ground by renouncing the prime objectivist axiom that truth might always elude the compass of best judgment or optimized epistemic warrant. Anti-realism then comes down to the assertion, with whatever technical refinements, that we can only mean by ‘truth’ whatever now passes muster or in future might enjoy that status as judged by our present-best or future-best-achievable methods of proof or ascertainment. I conclude that anti-realism is both ill-conceived as a matter of positive doctrine and wholly incapable of doing its work as a means of defence against scepticism and relativism.

Keywords:   anti-realism, epistemology, Kripke, modality, ontology, Putnam, realism, relativism, scepticism

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