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The Skeptic's Language Game



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Stance Volume 3 April 2010 The Skeptic s Language Game Does Sextus Empiricus Violate Normal Language Use ABSTRACT This paper seeks to critique Pyrrhonean skepticism by way of language analysis Linguistic aspects of Pyrrhonism are first examined utilizing the later writing of Wittgenstein Pyrrhonean languageuse is then critiqued using H P Grice s concept of implicature to demonstrate shared knowledge between speakers Finally a teleological model of communication is sketched using ideas from Jerry Fodor If the Pyrrhonist denies speaking to communicate mental states we are justified in questioning why we should listen to what she says Kyle Shaffer is a senior attending the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire studying Philosophy and Literature His philosophical interests are in philosophy of language epistemology and philosophy of mind He hopes to continue his philosophical studies in graduate school focusing on reference theory consciousness and the semantics of propositional attitudes I ntroduction and Preliminaries Near the end of the introduction to his translation of Sextus Empiricus s Outlines of Pyrrhonism Benson Mates considers two charges that are brought against the Pyrrhonean skeptic The first concerns the plausibility of living as a Pyrrhonist 1 The second concerns a popular tactic for refuting contemporary skepticism the charge that skeptics unnecessarily abuse normal language use and in so doing make their position nearly unintelligible due to confusion over meaning That is the philosophers of language might say if we could simply get clear on proper word usage we would be able to make progress on genuine philosophical problems and discard those pseudo problems such as skepticism that arise as by products of lazy communication Mates regards the first charge as a sound way to critique Pyrrhonism but dismisses the second as too strong a position to take against the skeptic 2 1 It should be noted that hereafter Pyrrhonist Pyrrhonean skeptic and skeptic will be



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