… skeptical arguments.
A new paper of mine, “Skeptical Appeal: The Source-Content Bias” (forthcoming in Cognitive Science), uncovers a subtle mechanism that triggers knowledge-denial and contributes to the appeal of classic skeptical arguments.
The mechanism is an interaction between two factors. First, people evaluate inferential belief more harshly than perceptual belief. Second, people evaluate inferential belief more harshly when its content is negative (i.e. that something is not the case) than when it’s positive (i.e. that something is the case). That is, our cognitive evaluations are biased against this specific combination of source and content.
The skeptic exploits, perhaps unwittingly, the source-content bias. It just so happens that certain skeptical arguments tend to focus our attention on negative inferential beliefs, and we are especially prone to doubt that such beliefs count as knowledge.
Philosophers have long appreciated that research into features of language might help shed light on skeptical appeal (e.g. Cohen/DeRose/Lewis style contextualism, or invariantist proposals that invoke pragmatics). My New Year’s resolution: to keep firmly in mind that philosophically-informed research into features of our psychology can be equally helpful.
Who’ll join me?