Unnatural Doubts

Unnatural Doubts : Epistemological Realism and the Basis of Skepticism

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Description

In Unnatural Doubts, Michael Williams constructs a masterly polemic against the very idea of epistemology, as traditionally conceived. Although philosophers have often found problems in efforts to study the nature and limits of human knowledge, Williams provides the first book that systematically argues against there being such a thing as knowledge of the external world. He maintains that knowledge of the world consitutes a theoretically coherent kind of knowledge, whose possibility needs to be defended, only given a deeply problematic doctrine he calls "epistemological realism." The only alternative to epistemological realism is a thoroughgoing contextualism.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 416 pages
  • 152 x 235 x 25.4mm | 595g
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 069101115X
  • 9780691011158
  • 1,151,520

Back cover copy

"Exceptionally well-argued. . . . Williams's Unnatural Doubts is a major contribution to epistemology--or, rather, to the discussion of the possibility of epistemology. It includes some excellent discussions of Nozick, Dretske, Davidson, and other important contemporary philosophers."--Richard Rorty

"Williams makes a good case for the view that skepticism as it is usually presented and defended is not a presuppositionless doctrine. He argues compellingly that if we examine its presuppositions, then quite often the case made for epistemological skepticism loses much of its persuasiveness. These points are well worth considering and discussing."--Ernest Sosa
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Table of contents

Contents Preface xii I Pessimism in Epistemology I 1.1 Unnatural Doubts? 1 1.2 Philosophy versus Common Life 2 1.3 The New Humeans 10 1.4 The Epistemologist's Dilemma 17 1.5 Unusual Questions 22 1.6 Definitive Refutation 31 1.7 The Burden of Theory 40 2 The Priority of Experience 47 2.1 Epistemology and Radical Scepticism 47 2.2 Scepticism and Epistemological Priority 51 2.3 Presupposition or By-product? 57 2.4 Agrippa's Trilemma 60 2.5 Knowledge and the Senses 68 2.6 The Neutrality of Experience 73 2.7 Sceptical Hypotheses 79 2.8 Dreaming and Knowing 84 3 Epistemological Realism 89 3.1 Generality and Epistemic Priority 89 3.2 Externalism and Traditional Epistemology 93 3.3 Knowledge as an Object of Theory 101 3.4 Explanation or Deflation? 3.5 Foundationalism 114 3.6 Methodological Necessity 121 3.7 Priority Reconsidered 125 3.8 Scepticism in Context 129 4 Examples and Paradigms 4.1 The Best-case Argument 4.2 Knowledge by Example 4.3 Generic and Specific 4.4 Knowing and Claiming 4.5 The Scope of Knowledge 4.6 Examples and Paradigms 161 4.7 Ordinary Language and Philosophical Diagnosis 166 5 Scepticism and Reflection 172 5.1 Philosophy as Reflective Understanding 172 5.2 Diagnosis and Disappointment 175 5.3 Reflection and Detachment 18 5.4 Relevant Alternatives and Epistemic Closure 185 5.5 The Two-factor Theory 191 5.6 Error and Estrangement 201 5.7 Practical Knowledge and Radical Doubt 205 5.8 Epistemology as Pure Inquiry 211 5.9 The Unreality of Knowledge 218 6 Scepticism and Objectivity 225 6.1 Realism and Scepticism 225 6.2 Truth and justification 228 6.3 Scepticism without Truth 237 6.4 Objectivity and Progress 217 6.5 Epistemology Naturalized 4 6.6 Truth and Context 7 Coherence and Truth 7.1 What is a Coherence Theory? 267 7.2 Radical Holism 267 7.3 Coherence and Explanation 272 7.4 Local and Global 279 7.5 Internalism and Epistemic Priority 292 7.6 Criterial justification 299 7.7 Scepticism and Charity 306 8 The Instability of Knowledge 317 8.1 Closure Again 317 8.2 Knowledge and Reliability 318 8.3 Context and Closure 322 8.4 Knowing and Telling 326 8.5 Relevant Alternatives 330 8.6 Tracking the Truth 336 8.7 Closure Regained 346 8.8 The Instability of Knowledge 350 8.9 The Humean Condition 355 Notes 360 Index 383
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Review quote

"[Many readers] will find their thoughts on the topic deepened and challenged by Williams's powerful and penetrating inquiry."--Marie McGinn, The Journal of Philosophy "Williams has a feeling for the larger intellectual significance of skepticism and for its phenomenology. He attacks the skeptic's citadel with boldness, determination, and strategic sense... [H]is treatment of a large range of other writings on the subject ... combines sympathy with acute criticisms."--John Skorupski, Mind
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About Michael Williams

Michael Williams is Morrison Professor of Humanities and Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University. He is the author of Groundless Beliefs.
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Rating details

6 ratings
4.33 out of 5 stars
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4 33% (2)
3 17% (1)
2 0% (0)
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