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Between Reason and Common Sense: On the Very Idea of Necessary (though Unwarranted) Belief

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This essay is intended as a companion-piece to my article, “Reality in Common Sense: Reflections on Realism and Anti-Realism from a ‘Common Sense Naturalist’ Perspective.” (Philosophical Investigations, Vol. 25, No. 4 (October 2002). It explores the epistemological dimension of the Common Sense Naturalism that I developed in that earlier, predominantly metaphysical essay; a position that combines the views of David Hume, Thomas Reid, and the Wittgenstein of On Certainty. My ultimate aim is to produce a comprehensive philosophy of common sense, one that with future installments, will come to include an ethical and social-political philosophy as well.

“Between Reason and Common Sense” offers a common sense naturalist reply to the skeptic. My basic argument is that the skeptic makes a Rylean category mistake, when he applies the concept of warrant to epistemologically basic beliefs, such as the belief in the external world or in the continued and distinct existence of bodies. He misidentifies these beliefs as being ordinary, when they are really a part of the framework that make the practices of believing and justifying possible. As a result, they are not themselves open to confirmation or disconfirmation. I also try to characterize the nature of the necessity carried by framework beliefs, in a way that avoids the charge that the common sense naturalist is simply a closet foundationalist.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Southwest Missouri State University

Publication date: 2005-04-01

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