Verification of Beliefs

Henry Sidgwick

in Essays on Ethics and Method

Published in print December 2000 | ISBN: 9780198250234
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598432 | DOI:

Series: British Moral Philosophers

 Verification of Beliefs

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Sidgwick offers an account of how to verify our beliefs, both factual and normative. He maintains that, although utter scepticism cannot be confuted, it also cannot be defended because, as soon as the sceptic tries to justify himself, he invariably limits himself by assuming the truth of certain premises and the validity of a particular method of inference. If it is possible to establish a criterion of truth for a given domain, then within that domain we may possess a set of beliefs that are certain and never found to be erroneous. Sidgwick distinguishes between intuitive certainty and discursive certainty, the latter involving the apprehension of a belief in conjunction with other beliefs. He holds that intuitive verification is not entirely trustworthy, and so must be supplemented by discursive verification.

Keywords: belief; certainty; method; normative; scepticism; Sidgwick; truth; validity; verification

Chapter.  4093 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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