Monday, December 17, 2012

Skepticism and Rationality and Partial Interlude

I have to admit upfront that in a way I have disdain for this kind of reasoning about what amounts to good reasons for belief. It's not so much that I don't think there could be good reasons for beliefs, but it's just that I think it's more a process of reflective equilibrium. We develop some theory in our heads for everyday understanding of what counts as good reasons for belief, or scientists do so professionally, and when we discover that this theory doesn't account for the range of beliefs we could have, we modify our theory--or we modify our beliefs. This back-and-forth dialectical approach is, I think, on the right track. But I'll continue further with this BS.

Philosopher Richard Foley argues that we should not so much try to make our beliefs match the real world, since the real world is not knowable anyway, but just try to make our beliefs rational. He calls his position egocentric rationality. It sounds really Ayn Randian but I don't think that's exactly what he's going for. I'll try to explain what he means throughout the course of this.

Foley writes that Cartesian skepticism alerted us to the problem that we can't know anything outside of ourselves.
From your skin in, everything about these situations is as it is now. And yet, from your skin out, things are drastically different from what you take them to be in the current situation. Still, you would have egocentric reasons in such situations to believe exactly what you do now.
But he thinks Cartesian skepticism, and examples about possible situations like you dreaming and so on, make it impossible for you to have knowledge.

You can only have knowlege, Foley thinks, if the reasons you have for beliefs match up with the way the world really is. "Knowledge, then, requires an element of luck," he writes. He continues.
Just as you can be rational and yet lacking in virtue, so too you can be rational and yet lacking in knowledge. Appreciating this can help cure the preoccupation with skepticism that has dominated modern epistemology. It can allow egocentric epistemology to be done non-defensively.
So this is where we come to egocentric rationality. Egocentric rationality is relying upon the beliefs that you have despite whether these beliefs will provide you with proof against Cartesian style skepticism. So it's basically a fancy name for something really common. Blah blah. Kind of boring to me. But I'm moving through the positions to see where we arrive.

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