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In Defense of a Critical Commonsensist Conception of Knowledge

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image of International Journal for the Study of Skepticism

Questioning doubt is much more recent than questioning knowledge, and may be traced back to Charles Sanders Peirce and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Both have a close pragmatist strategy and reject the relevance of the radical Cartesian scenario. However, despite a common diagnosis of what goes wrong with the sceptic and of some illusions he entertains about thinking, knowledge, and the way they are related to practice and action, the replies are not the same. Whereas Wittgenstein wavers between a realistic reaction and a neo-Pyrrhonian attitude, Peirce’s offensive attack strongly relies on a metaphysical and scientific version of realism and on a critical Common Sensist method of inquiry. Both philosophers insist on relying on first principles or hinge propositions, but also illustrate rather different views about these. The aim of this paper is to try and show how and why, in the end, Peirce’s Critical Commonsensist and fallibilistic attitude seems a better strategy, both as an account of the logic of our epistemic practices and as a convincing parry to scepticism.

Affiliations: 1: Collège de France and Institut Jean Nicod, Paris, France,


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