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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