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McDowellian Neo-Mooreanism?

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image of International Journal for the Study of Skepticism

In a series of recent articles, Duncan Pritchard argues for a “neo-Moorean” interpretation of John McDowell’s anti-sceptical strategy. Pritchard introduces a distinction between “favouring” and “discriminating” epistemic grounds in order to show that, within the radical sceptical context, an absence of “discriminating” epistemic grounds allowing one to distinguish brain-in-a-vat from non-brain-in-a-vat scenarios does not preclude possessing knowledge of the denials of sceptical hypotheses. I argue that Pritchard’s account fails. First, the distinction between “favouring” and “discriminating” epistemic grounds only works for “mules-disguised-as zebras” examples, but breaks down in the radical sceptical case. Second, McDowellian disjunctivism neutralizes the radical sceptical threat, but does not refute it. Third, the “highest common factor” conception is itself responsible for generating the sceptical problem and once this is undermined by McDowellian disjunctivism, scepticism no longer stands in need of direct refutation. I conclude by showing that one can either be a McDowellian disjunctivist or a neo-Moorean, but not both.

Affiliations: 1: University of Southampton,


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