Institut Jean Nicod

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Directeur de thèse : Claudine Tiercelin

PhD Project : Entitlement to doubt : An analysis of doubt as an epistemic feeling and its contribution to knowledge, inquiry and justification 


The aim of the project is to determine and evaluate the precise nature, scope and normative function of doubt and to highlight the positive and crucial role it plays, mainly as an epistemic feeling, at various stages in the process of knowledge acquisition and justification.

The project will first analyze the nature and role of doubt in the context of the various doubting strategies that have been presented in contemporary epistemology. It will evaluate their relevance or irrelevance as genuine challenges to knowledge. It will then argue in favor of a necessary rejection of radical skepticism (along the lines of the Cartesian scenario), but also of other problematic epistemic standpoints, such as contextualism or various reductionist forms of naturalistic replies, which will be shown to amount to mere cleverly disguised forms of implicit skepticism.

In so doing, we will show that part of the failure, both of the various doubting strategies, and of the suggested replies to contemporary philosophical skepticism comes : 1) from a wrong conception of knowledge itself, 2) from a distorted view of doubt, taken less as an active and powerful instrument issuing from reflexion and argumentation than as a necessary constraint or limitation, 3) from a failure to realize that doubt has to be overcome in order for the epistemic agent to have full and comfortable control over his beliefs in order to reach full justification and knowledge.