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Pyrrhonian Reflections on Knowledge and Justification$
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Robert J. Fogelin

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780195089875

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195089871.001.0001

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External Coherentism

External Coherentism

(p.170) 9 External Coherentism
Pyrrhonian Reflections on Knowledge and Justification

Robert J. Fogelin (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

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

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