Steve Patterson’s book Square One: The Foundations of Knowledge begins with the bold claim: “Truth is discoverable. I’m certain of it.” The rest of the book is an attempt to prove that there are certain truths for which there is not a sliver of doubt.
I am, to say the least, unconvinced. Universal fallibilism – the claim that all knowledge leaves room for doubt – is, ironically enough, a view I’m particularly confident of (though, obviously, not certain of). Indeed, I did a two-part podcast on this topic (Against Certainty: Knowledge and Experience and Against Certainty: Logic). In this interview, I challenge Steve’s claims to certainty with my skeptical doubts. The conversation takes us through the Münhhausen Trilemma, the nature of justification, subjective experience, and, of course, the ever-popular liar paradox.
0:41 – The goal of certainty
2:59 – Agrippan trilemma
6:37 – Certainty v. necessity (epistemology v. metaphysics)
19:08 – Justification (grounds for belief)
25:42 – Certainty about experience v. certainty about logical truths
29:03 – Meditating on experience
31:40 – Presuppositions of skepticism?
41:50 – Negation
43:32 – “Logic and existence are inseparable”
47:28 – Philosophy of language
49:50 – Liar paradox, negation, and the possibility of contradiction