September 19, 2006

Certainty Miraculously Rescued From the Jaws Skepticism!

In my recent post on the inerrancy of the autographs, I made the following passing comment:

There is uncertainty everywhere in this world. If we are (rationally, justifiably) certain about anything at all, it is only about very elementary logically necessary propositions like '2+2=4', and even here there is some question (uncertainty!) about whether we are, or ought to be, truly certain.

I'm (maybe - it's a long story) taking a course on analytic epistemology this semester and, in the course of doing my course reading this evening, I came across a spectacular refutation of the statement above, proving once and for all that there is absolute certainty in the world:
"no one can mistakenly believe that there are beliefs"
    - Richard Feldman, Epistemology, p. 125

Well, isn't that impressive. I guess I am certain (and certain that I'm certain) about something!

Posted by Kenny at September 19, 2006 10:06 PM
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There are also all the things that you can be certain about because you are directly aware of them, as Augustine noticed long before Descartes became famous for them. You can be certain that you seem to be experiencing things through sense perception. You can be certain that you feel warm even when you can't be certain that there is anything like warmness causing that feeling. You can be certain that you seem to see a computer screen in front of you, even if you can't be certain that there is one. You can be certain that you believe things, that you doubt things, and so on. You can be certain that you seem to remember waking up this morning, even if there's no such event that you're remembering.

Posted by: Jeremy Pierce at September 21, 2006 9:09 PM

Well, yes. I'm familiar with those cases, and they are certainly (!) philosophically important. I just hadn't heard this one before and found it quite amusing.

Posted by: Kenny at September 21, 2006 11:33 PM

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