(Published in The History of Philosophy
Quarterly 14 (1997), pp. 275- 86.
The Mythology of the Given1
Central European analytic philosophy in
the first half of this century focused on the relation between science
and experience. Controversies extended beyond the philosophy of science,
and shook philosophy to its foundations, affecting every part of the discipline:
from aesthetics and philosophy of religion to metaphysics and epistemology.
The issue of how experience relates to thought and language had two components:
First, how does it relate to meaning? Second, how does it relate to knowledge?
Controversy raged over the empiricist criterion of meaningfulness, which
set the positivists against all others but brought them together as their
emblem. On the second issue, by contrast, they were divided. What is the
epistemological bearing of experience on scientific knowledge? On this
question Otto Neurath and Moritz Schlick had a famous controversy. According
to Neurath, our ship of knowledge must be rebuilt at sea, and only its
coherence really matters. This Schlick rejected, however, as "an astounding
error." Schlick saw coherentism as adrift, and insisted on experiential
This controversy, though hardly novel with
the Vienna Circle, much exercised them, and soon involved Rudolf Carnap
and Carl Hempel and, eventually, Hans Reichenbach. With these it crossed
the Atlantic, and with Karl Popper the Channel. In the second half of the
century it has been a central issue in epistemology, where it has attracted
Quine, Sellars, Chisholm, Davidson, Rescher, Rorty, and many others.
It is this second issue that I would like
to take up: What is the epistemological bearing of sensory experience on
The idea of epistemically foundational
status appears already in Carnap's The Unity of Science (1932),
where a "protocol" statement is defined as a "direct record of a scientist's
experience." A "primitive" protocol is then said to be one that excludes
"... all statements obtained indirectly by induction or otherwise."
In the middle decades of our century, the
doctrine of foundationalism took a radical form, a throwback to Cartesian
epistemology. Schlick, for example, required indubitable and incorrigible
foundations. Soon thereafter , C.I. Lewis also adopted that requirement,
thus recanting his earlier "conceptualistic pragmatism."
Many others also adopted a radical foundationalism
of certainty. "This doctrine," says Nicholas Rescher, "insists on the ultimate
primacy of absolutely certain, indefeasible, crystalline truths, totally
beyond any possibility of invalidation." But Rescher himself rejects the
quest for absolute foundations as "quixotic."2
Eventually a more moderate foundationalism
is suggested by Hempel, who writes: "When an experiential sentence is accepted
'on the basis of experiential evidence', it is indeed not accepted arbitrarily;
but to describe the evidence in question would simply mean to repeat the
experiential statement itself. Hence, in the context of cognitive justification,
the sentence functions in the manner of a primitive sentence."3
If put in terms of beliefs rather than
sentences, Hempel's point appears thus:
(H) Beliefs held on the basis of direct
experiential evidence are not arbitrary. Yet to
state the evidence for such a
belief is just to voice the belief. Hence, in the context of cognitive
justification, these beliefs function as primitive or basic.
Roderick Chisholm credits Hempel for this
insight, and makes it central to his own epistemology. Chisholm defends
a form of foundationalism that admits apprehensions of the given at the
foundation of empirical knowledge, and conceives of that foundation in
line with Hempel's insight H.4
Among the foundations defended by Chisholm,
early and late, are sensory foundations-or apprehensions of the given-as
well as knowledge of one's own beliefs and other propositional attitudes,
which are also said to satisfy Hempel's conditions for being primitive
Such foundationalism was attacked famously
by Wilfrid Sellars, another philosopher influenced by German philosophy,
from Kant and Hegel through Carnap and logical positivism. Two main issues
divided Sellars from Chisholm and fueled their long and widely followed
controversy. Their disagreement involved, first, the relation of thought,
or intentionality, to language, and, second, the relation of experience
to empirical knowledge. On this second issue they thus continued the controversy
of their predecessors from Central Europe: Neurath, Schlick, Carnap, and
Sellars seems right in saying that Hempel's
thesis points to inferences of the form:5
(a) It is a fact that a is F;
So, it is reasonable (for me) to believe
that a is F.
But his objection is now that any such
argument as a will do its job only if the premise has authority, only if
it is something which it is reasonable to believe. According to Sellars,
this leads from a to the following alternative argument schema:
(b) It is reasonable to believe it to be
a fact that a is F; So, it is reasonable to believe that a is F.
And this is of course, just as Sellars
says, "obviously unilluminating."
That, again, is Sellars's critique. But
the sort of problem he raises is not unique to his critique. A main theme
of Richard Rorty's attack on foundationalism is the alleged "confusion
of causation with justification" that he attributes to Locke and others.
Donald Davidson also adds his voice:
As Rorty has put it, "nothing
counts as justification unless by reference to what we already accept,
and there is no way to get outside our beliefs and our language so as to
find some test other than coherence." About this I am, as you see, in agreement
Just how damaging is that line of objection
against experiential foundations? Doesn't it beg the question against Hempel's
insight H? The insight, recall, is that certain beliefs have authority
simply in virtue of being true. It is their truth that makes them
reasonable. The believer thus becomes reasonable (or at least nonarbitrary)
in so believing, simply because of the truth of his specific belief (which
is of course not to say that any true belief would be equally reasonable
since true). Therefore the believer does not need to employ any such reasoning
as a or b. The believer does not need to adduce reasons in order to be
reasonable in such a belief. That is indeed what makes it a foundationally
justified (or reasonable) belief, according to Hempel. Inferential backing
is here not needed. Truth alone is sufficient (given the belief's content).
Hempel's insight hence appears to survive
the sort of objection urged by Sellars, Rorty, and Davidson. But does it
yield an acceptable foundationalism, as Chisholm believes? More specifically,
does it adequately explain how it is that experience bears on knowledge?
Shall we say that experientially given facts justify beliefs directly,
merely through their truth? Shall we say, for example, that the mere fact
that I have a headache suffices to justify my belief that I do?
What is the alternative to such foundationalism
concerning how one is justified in believing that p? Circular or regressive
reasoning will not adequately explain how that belief is justified. How
could the belief that p derive its justification entirely from such reasoning?
There is much to be said about this, but little time to say it here. So
let me just gesture towards the problems involved by asking how, in either
a pure regress or a pure circle, justification ever enters in the first
place. Inferential reasoning serves to transfer justification but this
presupposes that justification is already there in the premises of the
reasoning, and that is precisely what neither the pure circle nor the pure
regress is able to explain.7 A full explanation of how one's
belief that p gets to be justified must apparently take us back to ultimate
premises that do not get all their justification from further premises
yet. Must there not be ultimate premises that somehow get some of their
justification by means other than reasoning from further premises? If not,
it is hard to see how justification ever appropriately enters the line
of reasoning (regressive or circular) that leads to one's being eventually
justified in believing that p.
That sketches an argument in favor of the
appeal to foundations. But note well the highly determinable character
of these foundations. All we have a right to suppose about our foundational
beliefs, on the basis of our elimination of the circle and the regress,
is that they are justified noninferentially. Any more determinate and
positive thesis would require further defense. In particular, we are in
no position to conclude that the foundation must be constituted by direct
apprehensions of the experiential given.
We have been considering how sensory experience
bears on our empirical knowledge and justification. And we have found two
opposing positions. On one side are Neurath, Sellars, Rorty, and Davidson,
among others. According to this side, experience bears causally on our
beliefs, but it is a serious mistake to confuse such causation with justification.
Experience bears at most causally on our beliefs about external reality,
even on our simplest perceptual beliefs. We do not infer such perceptual
beliefs from beliefs about our sensory experience, nor is the justification
for such beliefs a matter of their coherence with appropriate beliefs
about our experience.
On the other side are Schlick, Hempel,
C.I. Lewis, and Chisholm, among others. For these it is an "astounding
error" to suppose that the mere coherence of a self-enclosed body of beliefs
might suffice to confer justification on its members. And it is hard to
see what, other than sensory experience, could serve to supplement coherence
appropriately so as to explain empirical justification. Accordingly, they
prefer rather to postulate beliefs about such experience, the takings or
apprehensions of the given, through inference from which, or by coherence
with which, one must attain one's empirical justification. But this side
notoriously fails to find foundations contentful enough to found our rich
knowledge of an external world.
As so often in philosophy, this controversy
leaves middle ground untouched. Our coherentists and foundationalists share
(A) Experience can bear epistemically on
the justification of belief only by presenting itself
to the believer in such a way
that the believer directly and noninferentially believes it to be present,
and can then use this belief as a premise from which to reach conclusions
about the world beyond experience.
We can go beyond the traditional controversy
by rejecting assumption A. Experience can bear epistemically on the justification
of a perceptual belief by appropriately causing that belief.8
Thus, while viewing a snowball in sunlight I may have visual experience
as if I saw something white and round, which may prompt the corresponding
perceptual belief. In that case it will be an important part of what makes
my perceptual belief epistemically justifiedÑand indeed of what
makes it a perceptual beliefÑthat it is caused by such experience.
But does that serve to provide foundational
justification for perceptual beliefs? Take a perceptual belief prompted
appropriately by a corresponding experience. Take a belief that this is
white and round, one prompted by visual experience of a sunlit snowball
in plain view. Is that perceptual belief foundationally justified
simply in virtue of its causal aetiology? When Sellars inveighs against
the myth of the given, he targets not only the radical version of the myth
involving direct apprehensions of given experience. He objects also to
the more moderate version that postulates foundational knowledge through
perception. Indeed the key passage that encapsulates his opposition to
a foundational epistemology targets not a foundation of introspective direct
apprehension but a foundation of perception.
Here I avoid issues about the nature of
thought and its relation to language and society. So I will take the liberty
of transmuting Sellars's argument into one pertaining directly to belief,
justification, and knowledge, leaving aside whether to understand these
in terms of moves in a language game governed by social rules. I am not
denying that our main epistemic concepts are to be understood thus
in terms of language and society. I am simply not joining Sellars in affirming
it. Thus my preference for the transmuted argument that does not prejudge
these issues. So transmuted, here then is the Sellarsian refutation of
the epistemology of foundations:
We have seen that to constitute
knowledge, an observational belief must not only have a certain
epistemic status; this epistemic status must in some sense be recognized
by the person whose belief it is. And this is a steep hurdle indeed. For
if the positive epistemic status of the observational belief that this
is green lies in the fact that the existence of green items appropriately
related to the perceiver can be inferred from the occurrence of such observational
beliefs, it follows that only a person who is able to draw this inference,
and therefore has not only the concept green, but also the concept
of an observational belief that this is greenÑindeed the concept
of certain conditions of perception, those which would correctly be called
'standard conditions'Ñcould be in a position to believe observationally
that this is green in recognition of its epistemic status.9
In arguing thus, Sellars is of course rejecting
externalist reliabilism. It is not enough that an observational belief
manifest a tendency to believe that one faces a green object "if and only
if a green object is being looked at in standard conditions." This may
give the belief a certain minimal epistemic status. But if the belief is
to constitute real knowledge then "...this epistemic status must in
some sense be recognized by the person whose belief it is." And this
is the hurdle that Sellars regards as "steep indeed." It is this hurdle
that in his eyes dooms foundationalism. If the hurdle is steep for the
foundationalist, however, it seems no less steep for anyone else. How could
anyone avoid the threatening circle or regress? How could one acquire the
required knowledge about which conditions are standard, and the knowledge
that those conditions are present, without already enjoying a lot
of the observational knowledge the possibility of which is under explanation?
Here now is Sellars's proposed solution (transmuted):
All the view I am defending requires
is that no belief by S now that this is green is to count as observational
knowledge unless it is also correct to say of S that he now knows
the appropriate fact of the form X is a reliable symptom of Y, namely
that the observational belief that this is green is a reliable indicator
of the presence of green objects in standard conditions of perception.
And while the correctness of this statement about Jones requires that Jones
could now cite prior particular facts as evidence for the idea that
such belief is a reliable indicator, it requires only that it is
correct to say that Jones now knows, thus remembers, that these
particular facts did obtain. It does not require that it be correct
to say that at the time these facts did obtain he then knew them
to obtain. And the regress disappears.10
By this stage Sellars had highlighted inadequacies
not only of traditional givenist foundationalism, but also of a more recent
externalist reliabilismÑa neat trick since, at the time he wrote,
such reliabilism had not yet appeared in print. Nevertheless, Sellars's
positive proposal is problematic. In the first place, how realistic is
it to suppose that at the later time one remembers that the particular
facts in question did obtain? Think of any perceptual knowledge
that you can attribute to yourself now. Think, perhaps, of your knowledge
that you are perceiving a rectangular sheet of paper with a certain pattern
of marks on it. Is it realistic to suppose that, in believing perceptually
that before you there lies such a sheet, you are relying on recollected
incidents in which you succesfully perceived thus?
And there is a further problem. Our later
access to earlier observational reactions is an exercise of memory. But
memory itself seems to require, no less than perception, some meta-awareness
of its reliability when exercised in circumstances of the sort in which
it is now exercised.11 And if there was a problem of regress
attaching to the exercise of perception there would seem to be an equally
disturbing problem of regress attaching to the exercise of memory. Perhaps
the response would be that just as earlier proto- perceptions can
become data supportive of generalizations about our perceptual reliability,
generalizations that underlie later perceptual knowledge; so, similarly,
earlier proto-memories can become data supportive of generalizations about
our memorial reliability, generalizations that underlie later memorial
knowledge. Perhaps, but this raises even more poignantly an objection akin
to that raised earlier about perceptual knowledge: namely, that we cannot
plausibly be said to remember particular earlier exercises of memory constitutive
of a data bank which can later support our underwriting generalizations.
For a better solution we must go back,
ironically, to a philosopher long miscast as the archetypal foundationalist
and givenist. It is, I suggest, in Cartesian epistemology that we find
a way beyond our regress or circle.
In the barest sketch, here is how I see
Descartes's epistemological project. First he meditates along, with the
kind of epistemic justification and even "certainty" that might be found
in an atheist mathematician's reasonings, one deprived of a world view
within which the universe may be seen as epistemically propitious. Descartes's
reasoning at that stage can be evaluated, of course, just as can
an atheist mathematician's reasoning. After all, atheist mathematicians
will differ in the worth of their mathematical reasonings. Absent an appropriate
world view, however, no such reasoning can rise above the level of cognitio.
If we persist in such reasoning, nevertheless, eventually enough pieces
may come together into a view of ourselves and our place in the universe
that is sufficiently comprehensive and coherent to raise us above the level
of mere cognitio and into the realm of higher, reflective, enlightened
knowledge, or scientia. There is in none of that any circle that
vitiates the project.12
Ancient skepticism, as represented by Pyrrhonism,
and modern skepticism, as presented by Descartes, have been regarded as
radically different. How plausibly? Descartes does raise a certain skeptical
problem that is limited by comparison with the radical skepticism
of the ancients: namely, the problem of the external world. But this is
by no means the only skepticism of interest to Descartes. It is obvious
in the Meditations that his concerns are much broader, as when he
wonders how he can know the truth even when he adds three and two or when
he considers how many are the sides of a square. It is precisely the radical
skepticism of the ancients that mainly concerns Descartes (and not only
Hegel, who is emphatic on the point). Moreover, this skepticism is best
seen in the light of the epistemic problematic found already in Aristotle's
Posterior Analytics,13 where it is given a foundationalist
resolution, and, more famously, in the five modes of Agrippa. To the latter
incarnation of that problematic the Stoics, in kinship with Aristotle,
offer a foundationalist response. Where Aristotle appeals to rational intuition
as a way to found scientific knowledge, the Stoics appeal to natural, animal
perception as a way to found ordinary and empirical knowledge.
The Pyrrhonists find such externalism unacceptable
because it dignifies mere "groping in the dark" with the title of knowledge.14
The Pyrrhonists highlight enlightened knowledge, which must be acquired
and sustained in awareness of one's epistemic doings. Only this is "knowledge"
worthy of the title. Sadly, they would prefer in their own practice to
suspend judgment in specific case after specific case, with few if any
exceptions, partly because they reject blind foundations. In their view,
moreover, any attempt to move beyond foundations only misleads us into
circles or regresses, viciously either way.
Descartes's response is balanced and sensitive
to this Pyrrhonian dialectic. It grants the truth in foundationalism by
allowing room for an inference-independent epistemic state of cognitio.
Intuition gives us foundational cognitio, as suggested by Aristotle, and
such unreflective knowledge is open even to the atheist mathematician.
There is however a higher state of knowledge, reflective knowledge. Attaining
such knowledge requires a view of ourselvesÑof our beliefs, our
faculties, and our situationÑin the light of which we can see the
sources of our beliefs as reliable enough (and indeed as perfectly reliable
if the scientia desired is absolute and perfect).
It is important to recognize, in assessing
this Cartesian strategy, that while we do need to underwrite, at the later
stage, the reliability of our faculties, what enables us to do so is the
appropriate use of those very faculties in yielding a perspective from
which reality may be seen as epistemically propitious. But we need not restrict ourselves to the use of rational intuition and deduction as the
only faculties of any use in that endeavor. Descartes himself surely needed memory as well. And memory, by definition, operates over time. It is not
a present-time-slice faculty. Nor, indeed, is deduction itself such a faculty, except where the whole proof can be seen in a flash. So memory, as a cognitio-level mechanism can join cognitio-level intuition and perception in yielding
the pieces that, once present with sufficient comprehensiveness and coherence, can boost us to the level of reflective scientia able to underwrite
all such faculties. This means that we need not later exhume from memory any particular cases of reliable perception or reliable memory in order
to support inductively the generalizations about the reliability of our faculties. It is enough that such generalizations be present because of
the combined operation of past perception and memory (and, perhaps,
a gradual "induction" over time, and/or appropriate innate principles). If through such cognitio-level cognitive processing enough of a
coherent and comprehensive picture comes together, such a picture can still underwrite the continued use of those very faculties, now with reflective
assurance, and now at the level of enlightened scientia.15
We have gone beyond the mythology of the given, first by rejecting the assumption that experience can bear on the epistemic justification of our beliefs only by providing premises yielding knowledge of a world external to experience. Here is a better way to think of the epistemic efficacy of experience. Visual experience as if this is white and round may cause belief that this is white and round in the absence of any special reason for caution. That can yield perceptual knowledge that this is white and round, with no need to postulate any inference from one's experience to what lies beyond. Maybe there are such inferences, lightning inferences unconsciously or subconsciously yielding our perceptual beliefs as conclusions. But we need not enter that issue. It is enough that experience cause belief in some appropriate, standard way. Whether it does so via a lightning, unconscious inference we can leave open. Whether it does so or not, it may still endow the perceptual belief with appropriate epistemic status to constitute perceptual knowledge.
Nevertheless, a mere thermometer reaction to one's environment cannot constitute real knowledge, regardless of whether
that reaction is causally mediated by experience. It is not enough that one respond to seeing white and round objects in good light with a "belief"
or "proto- belief" that there is something white and round. Suppose one asks oneself "Do I know that this is white and round?" or "Am I justified
in taking this to be white and round?" and has to answer "Definitely not" or even "Who knows? Maybe I do know, maybe I don't; maybe I'm justified,
maybe I'm not." In that case one automatically falls short, one has attained only some lesser epistemic status, and not any "real, or enlightened,
or reflective" knowledge. The latter requires some awareness of the status of one's belief, some ability to answer that one does know or that one
is epistemically justified, and some ability to defend this through the reliability of one's relevant faculties when used in the relevant circumstances.
But this leads to a threat of circle or regress, a main problematic, perhaps
the main problematic of epistemology. Surprisingly, already in Descartes
himself, in the founder of modern epistemology, we find a way beyond that
1Paper for a conference sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Philosophy of Science: "German-American
Interaction in Scientific Philosophy After 1933," and held in March of 1996.
2Methodological Pragmatism (New York: NYU Press, 1977), p. 210. Rescher proposes to replace such foundations
with "presumptions" accepted prima facie and subject to refutation. And he goes on to distinguish the rationality of practice from the rationality of theory, and to argue that the former permits a "...presumption in favor
of established methods...[that] tilts the burden of proof in this context
against a sceptical opponent" (p. 233). Rescher has developed this idea
into an important version of pragmatism, but one that differs in kind from
those I take up here.
3"Some Theses on Empirical Certainty,"
Review of Metaphysics 5 (1952); 621-29; p. 621. Carnap had spoken
already in 1936 of the "confrontation of a statement with observation,"
and had proposed "acceptance rules" for such confrontation: "If no foreign
language or introduction of new terms is involved, the rules are trivial.
For example: 'If one is hungry, the statement "I am hungry" may be accepted'...."
(From "Truth and Confirmation," in Readings in Philosophical Analysis,
ed. Herbert Feigl and W.S. Sellars (Appleton, 1949), p. 125. These claims
appeared first in "Warheit und Bewhrung," Actes du congres internationale
de philosophie scientifique, Vol. 4 (Paris, 1936), pp. 18-23
4In "The Theory of Knowledge,"
in Philosophy: The Princeton Studies: Humanistic Scholarship in America
(Garden City, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1964), Chisholm cites Hempel's work,
and also an earlier paper by C.J. Ducasse, "Propositions, Truth, and the
Ultimate Criterion of Truth," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
1 (1939): 317-40.
5See Sellars's "Epistemic Principles,"
in his lecture series, "The Structure of Knowledge," in H.N. Castaneda,
ed., Action, Knowledge, and Reality (Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill,
1975), pp. 337-8.
6"A Coherence Theory of Truth
and Knowledge," in Kant oder Hegel?, ed. Dieter Henrich (Stuttgart:
Klett-Cotta, 1983), reprinted in Ernest LePore, Truth and Interpretation
(Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), pp. 307-20; p. 310.
7Again, I do not pretend that this is an adequate analysis of our issue (which I myself regard as quite
complex); but here it will have to serve.
8Actually this sort of approach is defended already by Thomas Reid.
9"Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind," Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. I,
ed. H. Feigl and M. Scriven (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1956), pp. 253-329. Reprinted in R.M. Chisholm and R.J. Swartz, Empirical Knowledge (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1973), pp. 471-541; p. 512.
10Ibid., p. 513. In the version of Science, Perception, and Reality published by Ridgview
Press in 1963, Sellars added the following footnote, on p. 169: ÒMy thought was that one can have direct (non-inferential) knowledge of a past fact which one did not or even (as in the case envisaged) could not conceptualize at the time it was present.Ó
11This requirement is defended in my Knowledge in Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 1991),
12Among the pieces that need to come together in order to raise the belief that p above the level of
cognitio, to the level of scientia, may well be found appropriate cognitio that one enjoys cognitio that p. In discussion at the Pittsburgh
conference it was objected that comprehensiveness and coherence are matters of degree while it is very hard to see how to draw a line above which lie
the degrees of comprehensiveness and coherence that suffice for knowledge, though it was also suggested that we might do better by appealing to practical considerations and not just to comprehensiveness and coherence. However: (a) it is not clear how appeal to practical considerations will really help with the problem of drawing a line. Moreover: (b) compare a concept like that of being tall. That is presumably to be defined in some such
way as this: being sufficiently taller than the average. Presumably someone just infinitesimally taller than the average is not tall. One has
to be taller than the average by some margin, one has to be "sufficiently" taller than the average. But how do we define that margin? Is there, even
in principle, some way to capture our actual concept of tallness by means of some such definition? There seems no way. Yet we do surely
have and use a concept of tallness, do we not? Why can't we view epistemic justification similarly in terms of "sufficient" comprehensiveness and
14Sextus, in particular, invokes similes that illuminate our issue, such as the following: "Let us imagine
that some people are looking for gold in a dark room full of treasures....[N]one of them will be persuaded that he has hit upon the gold even if he has in fact hit upon it. In the same way, the crowd of philosophers has come into the world, as into a vast house, in search of truth. But it is reasonable that the man who grasps the truth should doubt whether he has been successful." (Against the Mathematicians, VII 52, in the Teubner text, edd. H. Mutschmann (Leipzig, 1914).)
The combination of coherence and comprehensiveness comports with a concept of epistemic justification
that is "internal." But it remains to be seen just where to draw the relevant boundaries: At the skin? At the boundaries of the "mind"? At the present-
time-slice? At the boundaries of the subject's lifetime? Using some combination of the above? If so, which? And why? And why do we and should we care whether people are thus "internally" justified? My own answers would rest on a subject-centered conception of epistemic justification as intellectual virtue, and on the importance to a social species of keeping track of the epistemic aptitude or ineptitude of oneself and one's fellows, especially where it is possible to exercise some measure of control, however indirect.
15Many others since Descartes have groped for a similar way: from Hegel through Sellars; much work on
epistemic circularity has also appeared of late, and I try to come to terms with some of the most important in "Philosophical Scepticism and Epistemic
Circularity," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, supp. vol. 68 (1994): 268- 90. In "How to Resolve the Pyrrhonian Problematic: A Lesson from Descartes," forthcoming in Philosophical Studies, I develop the suggestion here that Descartes shows us the way beyond that problematic.