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Colloquium: Grace Helton

October 18, 2017 @ 4:15 pm - 6:00 pm

Each colloquium will be held on Wednesday at 4:15 P.M. in GC rooms 9204/9205 (except as otherwise noted).


October 18th
Grace Helton (Princeton)
“Skepticism and Solipsism”



David Chalmers has argued that there are no (probable) skeptical scenarios because in all such scenarios, most of our beliefs would turn out to be true. This is because most of our beliefs are about things like tables, chairs, and football games, and in putative skeptical scenarios, there will be tables, chairs, and football games; it’s just that such things will have a different underlying nature than we suppose them to have.

I accept Chalmers’ claim that many putative skeptical scenarios are not genuine skeptical scenarios, but I reject his claim that there are no (probable) skeptical scenarios. I argue in particular that scenarios in which you are the only sentient creature are skeptical scenarios. In such scenarios, a surprisingly vast range of your beliefs will turn out to be false, including many of your beliefs about: interpersonal relations, political realities, social structures, historical facts, artistic movements, and cultural traditions.

By combining Chalmers’ claim that the standard scenarios epistemologists have discussed are not skeptical scenarios with my claim that certain solipsistic scenarios are skeptical scenarios, we have some reason to think that philosophers from Descartes to the present have failed to appreciate the real source of skeptical worries. It is not evil demons or brains in vats per se which threaten to deprive us of knowledge of the world. Rather unexpectedly, it is solipsism that stands the best chance of anchoring skepticism.


October 18, 2017
4:15 pm - 6:00 pm
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