How many papers on
externalism and self-knowledge can we possibly be expected to read? I just opened
three recent journals at random, Analysis,
AJP and Synthese, and every one of
them had one of these. Michael McKinsey
has a lot to answer for. It’s almost enough to stop me thinking about anything
to do with the subject. But not quite.
The Synthese paper (“McKinsey Paradoxes,
Radical Scepticism, and the Transmission of Knowledge across Known Entailments”
Pritchard, Feb 2002) was all about the Wright-Davies line of blocking
McKinsey’s argument by sort-of-denying closure for reflective knowledge. The
line is that you aren’t meant to be able to infer
(3) from (1) and (2) because it would be question-begging.
(1) A hand is here.
(2) If a hand is here, then the external world
(3) The external world exists.
It turns out that on
their view though, you can properly deduce (4) from (1) and (2). (This is definitely
true for Davies, I think it is true for Wright as well.)
(4) The external world exists and a hand is
If Moore had just
tried to prove that, rather than
taking the risky step of inferring the truth of one of the conjuncts, nothing
would be wrong with his argument. Somehow this doesn’t feel like it gets to the
heart of what’s wrong with Moore. So I refuse to read anything more on that
line of work until I see a reason for thinking that the problematic step here
is from (4) to (3), rather than from (1) and (2) to (4). Now at least I have a
principled reason for not reading all
the McKinsey papers.