A Justification of Rationality by John Kekes

By John Kekes

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E. Moore "Some Judgments of Perception" Common Sense A possible way to counter the sceptical challenge is to argue that it goes against common sense and since common sense is rationally justified, scepticism is mistaken. The oustanding contemporary advocate of this approach is G. E. Moore. Moore's defense of common sense has attracted much criticism, and this, in turn, has forced the strengthening of the original position. The view considered here is a strengthened version of Moore's argument. "Common sense" may be used normatively and descriptively.

The implication is that theories must do justice to the data with which they start, and so it is to common sense that such theories must do justice. It cannot be the legitimate result of a theory that it contradicts the data which it is supposed to explain—for such contradiction is an infallible sign of something having gone awry. What is true of theories in general is true also of philosophical theories. If a philosophical theory starts with common sense, it cannot end by going against its own starting point.

The result is that while we may be successful in action, we do not know why we are successful. Is it that science works because it correctly depicts the nature of reality or because God is good or because we are lucky? Are we successful because failure goes unrecognized? Given only pragmatism, these are unanswerable questions. Conclusion The argument between scepticism and pragmatism has now reached the following stage. Carnap's attempt to render harmless the sceptical challenge by interpreting it as posing an external question that has only a practical answer fails.

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