External Coherentism

Robert J. Fogelin

in Pyrrhonian Reflections on Knowledge and Justification

Published in print December 1994 | ISBN: 9780195089875
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833238 | DOI:
External Coherentism

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This chapter examines Davidson's attempt to develop a coherentist response to skepticism within an externalist or reliabilist framework. His position has two main components. The first depends on the principle of charity: In interpreting the utterances of others, we must assume that most of that person's beliefs are true. It thus makes no sense to attribute massive error to people whose utterances we are trying to interpret. (The third‐person argument.) For similar reasons, it is incoherent to entertain the possibility that one's own beliefs are massively in error. (The first‐person argument.) The second component in Davidson's response to skepticism involves his externalist semantics. In a context where one person is acquiring a concept from someone who already possesses it, the conditions for a belief's being the belief it is can be the same as the conditions for the belief's being true. Beliefs of this kind, Davidson thinks, are immune to skeptical attack. In response, the chapter challenges the transition from the third‐ to the first‐person argument and notes that the semantic argument provides only limited protection from skepticism.

Keywords: charity; Davidson; externalism; interpretation; massive error; skepticism

Chapter.  9388 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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