Skeptical Games

(Dissertation Abstract)


It seems an undisputed, fundamental principle that solid philosophical and scientific theories require sufficient reason to support them. Philosophically sufficient reasoning is impossible, however, if it is not backed with strong, undisputed, first principles. This seemingly obvious claim is, nevertheless, not without problems: (i) First, what are the undisputed first principles? (ii) What are the basic – logical/epistemological/ontological – differences between undisputed first principles and other ones? (iii) What can ensure the special status of these first principles?

            Adequate and well-reasoned answers to these questions seem to be essential to establish firm grounds for any philosophical/scientific investigation. But such adequate reasoning seems impossible, since reasoning itself is the object of our investigation. Alternatively, traditional logic cannot offer us any sufficient solution as logic itself relies on undisputed, first principles.

            The failure of traditional logic to justify its own first principles does not necessarily mean that logic itself requires a leap of faith. Instead of accepting our first principles without any dispute, we should find a way to dispute them and to select those which resist all well-founded objections. The central argument of my thesis is that a dialectical theory of philosophical games is able to offer us such a way.

            In the first chapter I present an epistemic meta-theory of philosophical games. I argue that games can replace formal arguments and their introduction into philosophical discourse enlarges and re-innovates our philosophical language with such new terms as winning and losing a game, game rules and movements, etc. Using these terms several basic concepts such as truth and falsity, presupposition, and the burden of proof can be creatively reinterpreted.

            The most fundamental epistemic principles (as e.g. the Conjunction Introduction and the Deduction Elimination Principles) are the topics of the first part. The second part considers circular arguments (as the Problem of the Criterion and the Cartesian Circle); the third focuses on conceivability arguments (as the Zombie argument and the Cartesian argument for dualism) and the last part discusses the famous skeptical argument involving the skeptic’s scenario of brains in a vat. The final chapter summarizes the advantages and shortcomings of the game-theoretical approach.