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Skepticism about Reasoning

Roush, Sherrilyn and Allen, Kelty and Herbert, Ian (2012) Skepticism about Reasoning. New Waves in Philosophical Logic. pp. 112-141.

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Less discussed than Hume’s skepticism about what grounds there could be for projecting empirical hypotheses is his concern with a skeptical regress that he thought threatened to extinguish any belief when we reflect that our reasoning is not perfect. The root of the problem is the fact that a reflection about our reasoning is itself a piece of reasoning. If each reflection is negative and undermining, does that not give us a diminution of our original belief to nothing? It requires much attention to detail, we argue, to determine whether or not there is a skeptical problem in this neighborhood. For consider, if we subsequently doubt a doubt we had about our reasoning, should that not restore some confidence in our original belief? We would then have instead an alternating sequence of pieces of skeptical reasoning that cancel each others’ effects on our justification in the original proposition, at least to some degree. We will argue that the outcome of the sequence of reflections Hume is imagining depends on information about a given case that is not known a priori. We conclude this from the fact that under three precise, explanatory, and viable contemporary reconstructions of what this kind of reasoning about reasoning could be like and how it has the potential to affect our original beliefs, a belief-extinguishing regress is not automatic or necessary. The outcome of the sequence of reflections depends on further information whose character we will explain.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Allen, Kelty
Herbert, Ian
Subjects: General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
General Issues > Evidence
Depositing User: Sherrilyn Roush
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2020 03:24
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2020 03:24
Item ID: 17395
Journal or Publication Title: New Waves in Philosophical Logic
Publisher: Palgrave
Official URL:
DOI or Unique Handle: 978-1-137-00372-0
Subjects: General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
General Issues > Evidence
Date: 2012
Page Range: pp. 112-141

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