I found it odd being recently called a skeptic. The oddity is compounded because you have, on one end of the spectrum, some Clarkians complaining that I allow too much to be given the honorific title, "knowledge." Hence, for some, my epistemology is not skeptical enough. Given that I afford a whole lotta propositions to be serious candidates for knowledge, I'm incredulous that I'm a skeptic--or that my epistemology is skeptical.
However, I had a phone conversation today with someone who thought that the label 'skeptic' should stick. Based on a slightly edited reproduction, here's why:
i) I was given two candidates for knowledge:
(*) S's wife testifies to S that p, S believes that p, p is true.
(**) S, who knows me, meets me on the street and forms the belief : I am meeting Paul Manata right now.
ii) I was then told that (*) cannot rise to the level of knowledge while (**) can.
iii) Putting aside questions regarding knowledge by testimony and its transitive character, I queried why (*) could not be a candidate for knowledge while (**) could be such a candidate.
iv) I was told that the reason why (**) could be known while (*) could not be, is because it is possible for (*) to turn out false. More clearly, the reason why (*) cannot rise to the level of knowledge, ever, is because it is possible that the wife could be lying. This would mean that p would be false and, following the received view, you cannot know that which is false.
v) This means that the constraint on knowledge expressed in (iv) is what is known as an infallibilist constraint. This means that S cannot know that p if it is possible that p be false. I, and quite understandably, find this hard to swallow.
vi) Without getting into a discussion on infallibilism as such, I wondered how (**) could be known given that epistemic infallibilism is the position of my correspondent. So, "How is it that you know (**)?" I asked.
viii) The response given to me was that God's revelation was infallible and I, being created, indeed; bearing the imago dei, am revelation.
ix) Okay, let's put aside analyzing all of this for the moment, it is still unclear to me how S could know in situation (**). Just as it is possible that S's wife could be lying about p, the below also seem possible when it comes to the situation in (**).
(***) S was dreaming when he "saw" me.
(****) Unbeknownst to S, I have a twin brother, and it is he that S sees, not me.
x) Thus, it seems clear to me that given considerations like (***) and (****) my correspondent cannot know (**) given the reasons he has given for why he cannot know (*). Indeed, with a small amount of effort one can show that someone, S, doesn't "know" things like: (1) Calvinism, (2) paedobaptism, (3) theonomy, (4) etc., all things my correspondent strongly endorses. Perhaps he would bite these bullets. However, it remains why he would claim that he knows (**) but doesn't know, say, Calvinism.1 And, it also remains how he even knows (**) given his strictures.
One might also point out that S might later obtain a defeater for his belief in (**)--say, S comes to believe he is a brain in a vat--and thus lose his knowledge due to the no-believed-defeater constraint.2
Anothe problem is his belief that I, the person he meets on the street, am "revelation," being created and an image bearer. Perhaps I'm a cleverly constructed robot, and hence, not an image bearer. To respond that since I am created I am still revelatory doesn't get you to the claim you said you knew, namely, "I met Paul Manata."
Therefore, and quite ironically, the "kick me, I'm a skeptic" sign has been pulled off of my back and placed on his. Am I off here?
1 See Certainty, Irrevisability, and Theological Beliefs by Michael Sudduth.
2 See Epistemic Defeaters by Michael Sudduth.