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Epistemic Luck$
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Duncan Pritchard

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199280384

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2005

DOI: 10.1093/019928038X.001.0001

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Epistemic Angst

Epistemic Angst

(p.225) 9 Epistemic Angst
Epistemic Luck

Duncan Pritchard (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

I discuss the difficulty posed by the ineliminability of reflective epistemic luck and offer one way of responding to this difficulty. I begin by considering Wittgenstein’s remarks on knowledge from On Certainty and consider, in particular, the specific claims he makes about the so-called ’hinge’ propositions that contextually determine the nature of epistemic evaluation. I claim that what underlies Wittgenstein’s remarks in this respect is a certain view about the ultimately groundless nature of our reason-giving practices. This way of thinking about the structure of reasons is, I argue, correlative to the thesis described here regarding the ineliminability of reflective luck. Moreover, I contend that it is our implicit philosophical recognition of this problem that gives rise to a certain kind of general anxiety about our epistemic position that I refer to as epistemic angst. This contention is further illustrated by critically evaluating John McDowell’s content externalist response to scepticism that incorporates a strongly anti-sceptical account of reasons. I close on a positive note by arguing that while there is no epistemic response available to the problem posed by reflective luck, there is a plausible pragmatic resolution to this difficulty. Indeed, I claim that an anti-sceptical thesis of this sort can be discerned from Wittgenstein’s own fragmentary remarks on scepticism, and I develop such a view in the light of Hans Reichenbach’s pragmatic response to the problem of inductive scepticism, which I maintain is cast along similar lines.

Keywords:   assertion, content externalism/internalism, epistemic externalism/internalism, epistemic luck, epistemology, hinge propositions, induction, pragmatism, scepticism, Wittgenstein, Ludwig

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