Skepticism as Dogmatism, Possibilism

In an article on music, of all topics (“Musical Standards as Function of Musical Accompaniment,” in Krausz, ed., The Interpretation of Music: Philosophical Essays, Clarendon Press), James Ross brilliantly exposes the possibilism, and hence self-refuting dogmatism, at the heart of epistemological skepticism:

Sceptical challenges are typically based on ‘but what if … not’ suppositions, proposed counter-possibilities, like ‘Maybe you were asleep’, ‘Maybe you miscounted’, ‘Maybe you forgot’. One can reply, ‘Maybe; but that’s not what happened. Besides, logical consistency is a poor guide to real possibility, and imaginability is worse; so your hypotheses as to what might have happened have to be based on some additional knowledge. Therefore, a general sceptical attack fails. For you can only know what might have happened if you know to a considerable extent what does happen.’
   The sceptics’ trick is to get you to admit that, given how things seem to you, they might still have been otherwise, and get you to attempt to show that what might have happened instead did not happen at all, but without your using your knowledge of what did happen as part of your reasoning. Thus, the game is fixed.
  So, take the questioner on a tour of his twisted thinking. How does he know such a thing, or anything else, might have happened? It is possible because it is imaginable? It is possible because it is semantically consistent? Or it is possible because I know it sometimes happens? Imaginability does not assure possibility; neither does consistency. The third option defeats the global attack because it grants that we sometimes know what is the case. So it is  with our musical knowledge. Because possibility with content is not prior to what is, but is consequent on it, scepticism, by counter-possibilities, is cognitively parasitic on knowledge of what is, and is, thus, self-refuting. (100-1) 
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s