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An asymmetrical justification of deduction : ending the sceptical debate Edwards, Patrick


The purpose of this paper is to explore the possibility of answering the sceptic's demand for a non-dogmatic beliefs. In order to do justice to the sceptic's demand, we will first take time to carefully develop the strongest sceptical position possible. This will be done by considering a selection of sceptical positions dating from ancient Greece, through the early modern period, to the twentieth-century. We will use the law of non-contradiction both to lend structure to this historical taxonomy, and to act as a measure of sceptical rigour. It will be argued that Arcesilaus's scepticism marks the closest approximation of the sceptical ideal, yet, he, too, remains dogmatic to some extent. The twentieth-century discussion will focus on Susan Haack's investigation into the justification of deduction. It will be argued that her treatment of the justifications of deduction and induction as symmetrical is misguided: there is an asymmetry between the two justifications. Next, it will be shown that this asymmetry results from the permissibility of a circular justification of deduction. We will examine the implications of such a circular justification and how they relate to the sceptical debate. Ultimately, it will be shown that the sceptic's demand for justification without dogmatic beliefs is itself dogmatic and circular. Thus, it will be shown that the sceptic need not be answered for the plain fact that no such non-dogmatic sceptic could exist.

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