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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Evidence and Scepticism


Philosophical scepticism continues to be the focus of much contemporary philosophical debate. According to philosophical scepticism about the external world, one lacks knowledge of the existence of such external objects as chairs, tables, trees, valleys and rivers. While it is controversial just what the sceptic’s argument is for this surprising conclusion, one strand of sceptical argument exploits the idea that knowledge demands evidence meeting especially tough standards together with the idea that our evidence is very limited. While perhaps the dominant philosophical response to this kind of sceptical argument has been to reject the suggestion that knowledge is so demanding, I here consider a more recent response which holds that we have much more evidence than the sceptic suggests. I argue that even if we do have much more evidence than the sceptic allows, this will not provide an answer to a range of important sceptical arguments concerning knowledge from testimony, induction and inference to the best explanation. Instead, I suggest we need to reject the idea that knowledge is as demanding as the sceptic suggests. In particular, we need to endorse ‘fallibilism’ according to which a subject can know a claim on the basis of evidence even if that evidence does not guarantee or entail the truth of what is known.

  • Insights Paper

Volume 10 Article 5