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The Philosophy of J. L. Austin$
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Martin Gustafsson and Richard Sørli

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199219759

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199219759.001.0001

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Austin, Dreams, and Scepticism

Austin, Dreams, and Scepticism

(p.78) 4 Austin, Dreams, and Scepticism
The Philosophy of J. L. Austin

Adam Leite

Oxford University Press

Austin maintained that standard waking experience is phenomenologically distinguishable from dreaming. In unpublished lectures delivered at UC Berkeley (one source for Sense and Sensibilia), Austin supported this claim by citing contingent, empirical facts about dreams. This chapter argues that if these factual claims and Austin’s broader epistemological framework are correct, then Austin provides a compelling empirical response to external world scepticism. Given Austin’s account of epistemic reasons and epistemic priority requirements, there is nothing problematic about making use of empirical background knowledge about dreams in the course of determining that we are awake. It might be thought that familiar sceptical arguments would undercut Austin’s position. However, using Barry Stroud’s reconstruction of Descartes’s dream argument as a stalking horse, this chapter argues that if Austin’s factual claims about dreams and his broader epistemological framework are correct, then the dream argument for external world scepticism—and, by extension, several other prominent sceptical arguments—won’t even get off the ground. Any compelling sceptical argument will be an empirical matter.

Keywords:   J. L. Austin, scepticism, dreaming, epistemic priority, Barry Stroud, epistemic reason, Descartes

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