Right Method or Truth: Which is First? Study Sections

    In my previous post, I discussed the difference between imagining something and knowing something. But we can only be certain of our knowledge of appearances. So we wish to have true beliefs. But if we want true beliefs, then we find a way of distinguishing true beliefs from false beliefs. This will gain us the ability to get more true beliefs. The right way to defeat skepticism is not by beginning with a method to distinguish true beliefs from false nor is it a list of representative true beliefs.

    Finding true beliefs might begin by having a method to determine the difference between true beliefs and false beliefs. Suppose that someone claims to have such a method. We could examine such a method and determine whether or not it actually works. But in order to determine that, we at least need to know some beliefs that are true and some that are false. If we are limited to beliefs about appearances, then we will be unsure of the method. Such beliefs are not representative of truth, but only of a specific kind of truth.

    The other obvious choice is that we will start with a representative list of true beliefs. We compare these true beliefs with their counterparts – which are false – and determine a method that will separate true beliefs from false beliefs. If we had such a representative list of true beliefs, then there is no reason that we could not do so. But we have no such list. All we have is true beliefs about appearances.

    This dilemma has brought about a form of skepticism in which the aim of skepticism is not an end to knowledge but a suspension of belief. We cannot avoid believing in appearances, and our belief in them as appearances is true. But whether or not our appearances represent the world as it really is – that is a different question. Rather than claim we lack knowledge, or even that we lack true belief, this kind of skepticism claims that we simply don’t and can’t know whether or not we have true belief. All we can do is ignore the question and live in the world of the appearances.

    I suggest that such skepticism is not necessary. Such an argument for this kind of skepticism depends on having a good reason to believe that there are only two ways out of the problem. But there is a third way. It is clear that we have knowledge of appearances. We know that our beliefs about appearances are all true without exception. So we can reject the idea that a comprehensive list of true beliefs is necessary in order to gain a method that will distinguish true beliefs from false beliefs. In other words, a representative sample of true beliefs is not required.

    Such a method would require further investigation, but it is not ruled out by the skeptical argument. In fact, the skeptical argument cannot rule it out without begging the question. Since this is the only way to defeat skepticism, it must be examined before declaring that skepticism is correct.

    Next, I will discuss whether or not our minds are blank slates.

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