Neta on Warrant Transmission

Here’s a draft of a new paper by Ram on warrant transmission, engaging a debate between Crispin Wright and Jim Pryor/Martin Davies. It concerns Moore’s proof of an external world and the question of what epistemic value the proof could have.


Neta on Warrant Transmission — 2 Comments

  1. Hi everybody,
    I am a phd student and I would like to leave some comments on Neta’s paper.I agree the dogmatists position about Moore’s proof should be turned upside down: the proof is not correct, in that it begs the question against the sceptic. Nonetheless, it is dialectically effective. It does convince rational people that there is an external world. How could this be possible? My answer to this question is the following: The proof begs the question against the sceptic because she will forcefully deny that I have hands. Remember the case in which I am claiming that there are typographical errors in a book, pointing at some. My opponent could claim that those are not real errors; they are a trick of the author, who wants his book (perhaps a post-modern novel) to look like there are some typographical errors in it. If my opponent is seriously convinced of this, then I cannot continue looking for words in the text that are not correctly spelled; it would beg the question. I have to look for evidence outside the text itself. The problem is that, when discussing with the sceptic, there is no outside to look for in search of evidence. Why is it then that I wish to claim the proof is dialectically effective? Because it shows that it is not the case that the sceptic is seriously convinced of what is claiming, and probably nobody can be.
    This sort of reaction to scepticism is similar to the one developed by Strawson, along Humean and Wittgensteinean lines. It might seem a sort of irony that Wittgenstein developed those ideas exactly trying to explain what was wrong with Moore’s proof; and it might also seem evidence (from authority) that my position is not defendable. Although I do not at all intend to advance an exegesis, and I only claim my position to be Wittgensteinean, and not Wittgenstein’s, I think, on the contrary, it is not by chance that Wittgenstein found Moore’s proof so stimulating. Moore proof shows, rather than demonstrate, that “there are external things” is a hinge proposition, just like, in appropriate context, “here is a hand” is. Any attempt to justify a proposition of this sort is senseless, because this sort of propositions is a presupposition of the activity of justifying (and probably of any other human activity).

  2. I am afraid I will have to defend the New Mooreans against what I feel is some unfair criticism, particularly regarding the different types of dependency (types 4 and 5 discussed in the article) and the issue of the cogency of Moore’s argument.

    Firstly, it seems that there are two elements to Prior’s claim that Moore’s argument can avoid the ‘epistemic vice’ of type 5 dependence. 1. That it is possible for an argument to display type 4 dependence without type 5 dependence and 2. that Moore’s argument is one of these. One the first point I would draw attention to the difference between a ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ approach to ‘undermining evidence’. For sure, it can be the case that we are justified in requiring the elimination of ‘undermining evidence’ in order to assent to a proposition, but why can’t we simply turn on the skeptic and assent to the proposition until undermining evidence is provided. I feel that too much ground is conceded; though we need to maintain standards for ‘knowledge’, surely knowledge of the external world is our very foundation.

    This brings me to my second point, about the cogency of Moore’s argument. Contrary to the author, I do not believe that Moore thought his argument could convince the staunchest of skeptic, indeed it would be foolish to attempt to ‘prove’ anything to one being so elusive. However, I believe that the author comes close to pinpointing the source of the argument’s apparent cogency when talking about appealing to our “antecedent knowledge of the truth of the conclusion”. I am not sure that the skeptic would admit to having knowledge of the external world, but with some doubts; and would certainly disapprove of the analogy with the (unreasonable) doubts you would have about when the universe was created if someone suggested it was only 5 minutes ago. The skeptic that the argument would not convince would be the true skeptic, the unyeilding, sketpic.

    But what would it take to be such a skeptic, to insist that one can have no knowledge, and to act according to this belief? As Pryor discusses in the article referred to by the author, this kind of skepticism would be akin to madness…and how can one persuade madmen?!

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