In search of the best solution to the skeptical puzzle: A comparative analysis of possible responses

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Edward Ervin - Committee Chair


The skeptical puzzle consists of three mutually incompatible, but intuitively acceptable claims: (1) S knows that O, where "O" is an ordinary proposition such as "I have hands", (2) S does not know that ∼SK, where "SK" stands for a suitably chosen skeptical hypothesis, such as "I am a brain in a vat", and (3) for every O and SK, if S knows that O and S knows that O entails ∼SK, then S knows that ∼SK. After specifying the requirements of adequacy and listing all logically possible solutions to the puzzle, I evaluate various solutions with an emphasis on dogmatism, skepticism, contextualism, and subject-sensitive invariantism. Conducting a comparative analysis in the end leads to the following theses: (1) dogmatism is the best solution since it satisfies the requirements of adequacy better than any other logically possible response; (2) any future attempt to find a solution to the puzzle, different from dogmatism, will violate more requirements than dogmatism, and is therefore doomed to failure; (3) no currently available solution to the puzzle satisfies all five requirements of adequacy, and, for that reason, no currently available solution is ultimately satisfactory. For this reason, I call for a future research, suggesting that insights offered by the other solutions to the puzzle, in particular subject-sensitive invariantism, should be unified under the framework of dogmatism.



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