Cartesian Skepticism and Internal Realism


  • Nicholas Tebben Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies Towson University 8000 York Rd. Towson, Maryland 21252 USA



The Cartesian skeptic’s strategy is to tell a story about the world that is entirely consistent with all of the empirical evidence that we do, or can, have, but according to which many or all of our ordinary beliefs are false. He then suggests that, since we cannot show that his story is false, we ought to surrender those beliefs. In this paper I offer a decisiontheoretic response to skepticism. Say that a cognitive attitude is a propositional attitude that may be true or false. I argue that rejecting the skeptic’s story, and so retaining our ordinary opinions, will yield for us true cognitive attitudes, no matter whether the skeptic’s story is true or false, and that the best any alternative can do is yield no cognitive attitudes at all. Hence, it is rational to retain our ordinary opinions. One may be concerned that I can maintain this surprising conclusion because the cognitive attitudes at issue are not real beliefs, and do not represent the real world. I conclude the paper by arguing that this concern is misplaced.