Title page for ETD etd-11162005-090455

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Osborne III, William Galloway
Author's Email Address wosbor1@lsu.edu
URN etd-11162005-090455
Title Skepticism about Contextualism
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department Philosophy & Religious Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Jeffrey Roland Committee Chair
Ian Crystal Committee Member
Kevin Elliott Committee Member
  • skepticism
  • Stewart Cohen
  • epistemology
  • contextualism
  • closure
  • induction
Date of Defense 2005-05-13
Availability unrestricted
Contextualism is the epistemological thesis that holds context to significantly affect the truth value of claims such as S knows that p. A shift in context can lead to a shift in the standards by which we evaluate propositional knowledge claims, and thus a shift in the truth values of these claims: a statement S knows that p may be true when evaluated in one context while simultaneously false when evaluated in another context. A contextualist says it is by playing on these shifting standards that the skeptic manages to destroy knowledge with her skeptical arguments. Once this is understood, the contextualist holds, we can see that skeptical arguments like those of external world skepticism do not threaten our ordinary knowledge.

In this thesis I argue that if contextualism is as successful as it claims, then it should be possible to use the techniques of contextualism to solve skeptical problems other than those with which the contextualist is usually concerned; namely it should be possible to solve the problem of induction. Taking Stewart Cohens relevant alternatives derived contextualism as my representative, I show that it is possible to construct such a solution consistent with the tenets of contextualism, but that in doing so certain troubling question-begging assumptions are shown in sharp relief, invalidating the proposed solution. In the end we are left with the question: Can a relevant alternatives contextualism successfully solve any skeptical argument without a proper solution to the problem of induction?

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