A Theory of Knowledge Based on Doubt

Stephen C. Pepper approaches a theory of knowledge based not on certainties, but from doubts. > ... why should knowledge begin with certainties? Why should it not dawn like day out of a half-light of semiknowledge and gradually grow to clarity and illumination? [World Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence (1942), p. 39]

The exposition in that book follows from a pragmatist tradition of working from _common sense_, with a sense of skepticism. > The topic of common sense is central to pragmatism, both classical and contemporary. In different ways, Peirce, James and Dewey all wrote extensively on this idea, highlighting its theoretical complexity as well as its heuristic function in philosophical inquiry. [....] > It can well be said, therefore, that common sense represents a pivotal term within the pragmatist tradition in that it intersects with many other key-concepts such as the primacy of practice, contextualism, cognitive pluralism, the implicit knowledge required for action (know-how), the irreducibility of the ordinary world to the descriptions provided by the sciences and pragmatic realism – to name only the most relevant ones. > * Gava, Gabriele, and Roberto Gronda. 2017. “Introduction to Pragmatism and Common-Sense.” _European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy_ IX (2). https://doi.org/10.4000/ejpap.1034.

The lineage back to [Charles Sanders Peirce](https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/peirce/) is referenced in the entry on [Pragmatism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy](https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pragmatism/#SkepVersFall) > The roots of pragmatism’s anti-skepticism can be found in Peirce’s early (1868) paper ‘Some Consequences of Four Incapacities’ (EP1: 28–30). Here he identifies ‘Cartesianism’ as a philosophical pathology that lost sight of certain insights that were fundamental to scholastic thought (for all its faults), and – he argued – more suited to the philosophical needs of his own time. The paper begins by identifying four problematic teachings of modern philosophy: > * (i) One can and should try to doubt all of one’s beliefs at once. > * (ii) The ultimate test of certainty lies in individual consciousness. > * (iii) The ‘multiform argumentation’ characteristic of the Middle Ages is replaced by a single chain of inference. > * (iv) Where scholasticism consciously limited its explanatory capacity (purporting to explain only ‘all created things’), Cartesianism’s stated ambition to explain everything ironically renders its own presuppositions hidden, mysterious and philosophically dangerous.