Metaphysics and Epistemology: A Guided Anthology (Blackwell Philosophy Anthologies)

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Epistemology An Anthology Blackwell Philosophy Anthologies

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Checking the Web We must try to understand that the common cold is the effect of a virus transmitted by an already infected person. And Originally published in B. Stroud, The Significance of I also believe that one is more vulnerable to colds Philosophical Skepticism Oxford: Clarendon Press, when over-tired, under stress, or otherwise in less , ch. Perhaps they could be, but I knowledge on some particular matter or in some acknowledge that there is much I do not under- general area I do not mean to suggest that it is stand.

If I sit back and try to think about all my always easy to settle the question. Depending on "knowledge" of the common cold, then, I might the nature of the case, it might be very difficult, easily come to wonder how much of it really perhaps even impossible at the time, to reach a amounts to knowledge and how much does not. For example, it would probably What do I really know about the common cold? If be very difficult if not impossible for me to trace I were sufficiently interested in pursuing the and assess the origins of many of those things I matter it would be natural to look into the source believe about the common cold.

But it is equally of my beliefs. Has there ever been any good reason true that sometimes it is not impossible or even for thinking that colds are even correlated with especially difficult to answer the question. We do wet hair in cold weather, for example, or with sit- sometimes discover that we do not really know ting in a draught? Are the people from whom I what we previously thought we knew. I might learned such things likely to have believed them find that what I had previously believed is not for good reasons? Are those beliefs just old wives' even true - that sitting in draughts is not even tales, or are they really true, and perhaps even correlated with catching a cold, for example.

Or I known to be true by some people? These are ques- might find that there is not or perhaps never was tions I might ask myself, and I have at least a any good reason to believe what I believed - that general idea of how to go about answering them. I could reasonably con- ity of all my beliefs about the common cold being clude in each case that I, and everyone else for true together, I have not mentioned any other that matter, never did know what I had previously reason for being interested in investigating the thought I knew.


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We are all familiar with the ordi- state of my knowledge on that subject. But for the nary activity of reviewing our knowledge, and moment that does not seem to affect the intelligi- with the experience of reaching a positive verdict bility or the feasibility of the reflective project. There is nothing mysterious about it. It is the sort Descartes's own interest in what he knows and of task we can be led to undertake for a number how he knows it is part of his search for what he of reasons, and often very good reasons, in so far calls a general method for "rightly conducting as we have very good reasons for preferring knowl- reason and seeking truth in the sciences".

I think we do not need to endorse the knowledge need not always extend to a wide area of wisdom of that search or the feasibility of that interest. It might be important to ask whether some programme in order to try to go along with quite specific and particular thing I believe or have Descartes in his general assessment of the posi- been taking for granted is really something I know. As a member of a jury I might find that I have been He comes to find his putative knowledge wanting ruling out one suspect in my mind because he was a in certain general respects, and it is in the course thousand miles away, in Cleveland, at the time of the of that original negative assessment that the prob- crime.

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But I might then begin to ask myself whether lem I am interested in arises. I call the assessment that is really something that I know. I would reflect "negative" because by the end of his First on the source of my belief, but reflection in this case Meditation Descartes finds that he has no good need not involve a general scrutiny of everything I reason to believe anything about the world take myself to know about the case. Re-examining around him and therefore that he can know noth- the man's alibi and the credentials of its supporting ing of the external world.

Indeed How is that assessment conducted, and how I might find that its reliability on those counts is closely does it parallel the familiar kind of review precisely what I had been going on all along. The question in one form or the addition of the number one to a given number; another will be with us for the rest of this book. It I would still have to do the same for the addition is the question of what exactly the problem of our of two, and then the addition of three, and so on. The source of the problem is to be found not to mention all the rest of my knowledge, somewhere within or behind the kind of thinking would remain so far unexamined.

Obviously the Descartes engages in. Some One way Descartes's question about his knowl- method must be found for assessing large classes edge differs from the everyday examples I consid- of beliefs all at once. How does one go common sources or channels or bases of our about assessing all of one's knowledge all at once?

But in Cleveland. Descartes describes such a search as although I can certainly list a number of the a search for "principles" of human knowledge, things I believe, and I would assent to many more "principles" whose general credentials he can of them as soon as they were put to me, there then investigate HR, If some "principles" obviously is no hope of assessing everything I are found to be involved in all or even most of our believe in this piecemeal way. For one thing, it knowledge, an assessment of the reliability of probably makes no sense, strictly speaking, to talk those "principles" could be an assessment of all or of the number of things one believes.

If I am most of our knowledge. If I found good reason to asked whether it is one of my beliefs that I went to doubt the reliability of the suspect's alibi, for see a film last night I can truly answer "Yes". If I example, and that was all I had to go on in my were asked whether it is one of my beliefs that belief that he was in Cleveland, then what I earlier I went to the movies last night I would give the took to be my knowledge that he was in Cleveland same answer.

Have I thereby identified two, or would have been found wanting or called into only one, of my beliefs? How is that question ever question. Its source or basis would have been to be settled? If we say that I identified only one of undermined. Similarly, if one of the "principles" my beliefs, it would seem that I must also be said or bases on which all my knowledge of the world to hold the further belief that going to see a film depends were found to be unreliable, my knowl- and going to the movies are one and the same edge of the world would to that extent have been thing.

So we would have more than one belief found wanting or called into question as well. The prospects of arriving even at a prin- Are there any important "principles" of human ciple for counting beliefs, let alone at an actual knowledge in Descartes's sense? It takes very little number of them, seem dim. Descartes puts the point be indefinitely large and so an assessment of our most strongly when he says that "all that up to the beliefs one by one could never be completed present time I have accepted as most true and anyway. This is easily seen by considering only certain I have learned either from the senses or some of the simplest things one knows, for through the senses" HR, Exactly what he example in arithmetic.

One thing I know is that would include under "the senses" here is perhaps one plus one equals two. Another thing I know is somewhat indeterminate, but even if it is left that one plus two is three, and another, that one vague many philosophers would deny what plus three is four. Obviously there could be no Descartes appears to be saying.

They would hold end to the task of assessing my knowledge if I had that, for example, the mathematical knowledge I to investigate separately the source of each one of mentioned earlier is not and could not be acquired my beliefs in that series. And even if I succeeded I from the senses or through the senses, so not every- would only have assessed the things I know about thing I know is known in that way. Descartes is really denying the views of those who really are a certain way, I might still be wrong.

Should we not moment. It is clear that the senses are at least very conclude, then, that as a general source of know1- important for human knowledge. Even restrict- edge the senses are not to be trusted? As Descartes ing ourselves to the traditional five senses we can puts it, is it not wiser never "to trust entirely to begin to appreciate their importance by reflect- any thing by which we have once been deceived" ing on how little someone would ever come to HR, ?

Don't we have here a quite general know without them. A person blind and deaf way of condemning as not fully reliable all of our from birth who also lacked taste buds and a sense beliefs acquired by means of the senses? To imagine him also do not", and I think Descartes would agree with anaesthetized or without a sense of touch is per- that answer. It is true that he does talk of the haps to stretch altogether too far one's conception senses "deceiving" us on particular occasions, and of a human organism, or at least a human organ- he does ask whether that is not enough to con- ism from whom we can hope to learn something demn the senses in general as a source of knowl- about human knowledge.


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The importance of the edge, but he immediately reminds us of the senses as a source or channel of knowledge seems obvious fact that the circumstances in which the undeniable. It seems possible, then, to acknowl- senses "deceive" us might be special in certain edge their importance and to assess the reliability ascertainable ways, and so their occasional fail- of that source, quite independently of the difficult ures would not support a blanket condemnation question of whether all our knowledge comes to of their reliability.

We would then be assessing the Sometimes, to give an ancient example, a credentials of what is often called our "sensory" or tower looks round from a distance when it is "experiential" or "expirical" knowledge, and that, actually square. If we relied only on the appear- as we shall see, is quite enough to be going on with.

We ciple" or source of our knowledge, how can we also know that there are many small organisms investigate or assess all the knowledge we get from invisible to the naked eye. If the table before me is that source? As before, we are faced with the prob- covered with such organisms at the moment but lem of the inexhaustibility of the things we believe I look at it and say there is nothing on the table at on that basis, so no piecemeal, one-by-one proce- all, once again I will be wrong.

But all that follows dure will do. But perhaps we can make a sweeping from these familiar facts, as Descartes points out, negative assessment. It might seem that as soon as is that there are things about which we can be we have found that the senses are one of the wrong, or there are situations in which we can get sources of our beliefs we are immediately in a false beliefs, if we rely entirely on our senses at position to condemn all putative knowledge that moment.

So sometimes we should be careful derived from them. Some philosophers appear to about what we believe on the basis of the senses, have reasoned in this way, and many have even or sometimes perhaps we should withhold our supposed that Descartes is among them. The idea assent from any statement about how things are - is that if I am assessing the reliability of my beliefs when things are too far away to be seen properly, and asking whether I really know what I take for example, or too small to be seen at all.

But that myself to know, and I come across a large class of obviously is not enough to support the policy of beliefs which have come to me through the senses, never trusting one's senses, or never believing I can immediately dismiss all those beliefs as anything based on them. Nor does it show that I unreliable or as not amounting to knowledge can never know anything by means of the senses. Nor does it show that the senses. What is true of a representative case, if I can never know whether my car will ever start it is truly representative and does not depend on again.

It shows only that there are certain circum- special peculiarities of its own, can legitimately stances in which my otherwise fully reliable car support a general conclusion. A demonstration might not start. So the fact that we are sometimes that a particular isosceles triangle has a certain wrong or "deceived" in our judgements based on property, for example, can be taken as a demon- the senses is not enough in itself to show that the stration that all isosceles triangles have that prop- senses are never to be trusted and are therefore erty, as long as the original instance was typical or never reliable as a source of knowledge.

Whether Descartes's negative assessment of all of his Descartes's investigation of the general reliability sensory knowledge does not depend on any such of the senses really does follow that familiar pat- reasoning. He starts his investigation, rather, in tern is a difficult question. Whether, or in pre- what would seem to be the most favourable con- cisely what sense, the example he considers can be ditions for the reliable operation of the senses as a treated as representative of our relation to the source of knowledge. While engaging in the very world around us is, I believe, the key to under- philosophical reflections he is writing about in standing the problem of our knowledge of the his First Meditation Descartes is sitting in a warm external world.

But if it turns out that there is room, by the fire, in a dressing gown, with a piece nothing illegitimate about the way his negative of paper in his hand. He finds that although he conclusion is reached, the problem will be prop- might be able to doubt that a distant tower that erlyposed.

He chooses his dressing gown with a piece of paper in his the situation in which he finds himself as repre- hand. The fire and the piece of paper are not too sentative of the best position we can be in for small or too far away to be seen properly, they are knowing things about the world in the sense that, right there before his eyes; it seems to be the best if it is impossible for him in that position to know kind of position someone could be in for getting that he is sitting by the fire with a piece of paper in reliable beliefs or knowledge by means of the his hand then it is also impossible for him in other senses about what is going on around him.

That situations to know anything about the world is just how Descartes regards it. Its being a best- around him on the basis of his senses. A negative possible case of that kind is precisely what he verdict in the chosen case would support a nega- thinks enables him to investigate or assess at one tiveverdict everywhere else. The example Descartes fell swoop all our sensory knowledge of the world considers is in that sense meant to be the best kind around us. The verdict he arrives at about his of case there could be of sensory knowledge about putative knowledge that he is sitting by the fire the world around us.

I think we must admit that it with a piece of paper in his hand in that particu- is very difficult to see how Descartes or anyone lar situation serves as the basis for a completely else could be any better off with respect to know- general assessment of the senses as a source of ing something about the world around him on the knowledge about the world around us. How can he so easily reach ers.

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But if no one could be in any better position a general verdict about all his sensory knowledge for knowing, it seems natural to conclude that any on the basis of a single example? Obviously not negative verdict arrived at about this example, any simply by generalizing from one particular exam- discovery that Descartes's beliefs in this case are ple to all cases of sensory knowledge, as one might not reliable or do not amount to knowledge, could wildly leap to a conclusion about all red-haired safely be generalized into a negative conclusion men on the basis of one or two individuals.

Rather, he takes the particular example of his If candidates with the best possible credentials conviction that he is sitting by the fire with a piece are found wanting, all those with less impressive of paper in his hand as representative of the best credentials must fall short as well. It will seem at first sight that in conceding that With this thought, if he is right, Descartes has the whole question turns on whether Descartes lost the whole world.

He knows what he is experi- knows in this particular case we are conceding encing, he knows how things appear to him, but very little; it seems obvious that Descartes on that he does not know whether he is in fact sitting by occasion does know what he thinks he knows the fire with a piece of paper in his hand.

It is, for about the world around him. But in fact Descartes him, exactly as if he were sitting by the fire with a finds that he cannot know in this case that he is piece of paper in his hand, but he does not know sitting by the fire with a piece of paper in his whether there really is a fire or a piece of paper hand. If the case is truly representative of our sen- there or not; he does not know what is really hap- sory knowledge in general, that will show that no pening in the world around him. He realizes that one can know anything about the world around if everything he can ever learn about what is hap- us.

But how could he ever arrive at that negative pening in the world around him comes to him verdict in the particular case he considers? How through the senses, but he cannot tell by means of could anyone possibly doubt in such a case that the senses whether or not he is dreaming, then all the the fire and the piece of paper are there? The sensory experiences he is having are compatible paper is in Descartes's hand, the fire is right there with his merely dreaming of a world around him before his open eyes, and he feels its warmth.

That is why he thinks he can know something about what is going on must find some way to tell that he is not dream- around him in those circumstances? Descartes ing. Far from its being mad to deny that he knows first answers "Yes". He says that if he were to in this case, he thinks his recognition of the pos- doubt or deny on that occasion that he is sitting sibility that he might be dreaming gives him "very by the fire with a piece of paper in his hand he powerful and maturely considered" HR, would be no less mad than those paupers who reasons for withholding his judgement about how say they are kings or those madmen who think things are in the world around him.

He thinks it is they are pumpkins or are made of glass. But his eminently reasonable to insist that ifhe is to know reflections continue: that he is sitting by the fire he must know that he is not dreaming that he is sitting by the fire. That At the same time I must remember that I am a is seen as a necessary condition of knowing some- man, and that consequently I am in the habit of thing about the world around him. And he finds sleeping, and in my dreams representing to myself that that condition cannot be fulfilled.

On careful the same things or sometimes even less probable reflection he discovers that "there are no certain things, than do those who are insane in their indications by which we may clearly distinguish waking moments. How often has it happened to wakefulness from sleep': He concludes that he me that in the night I dreamt that I found myself knows nothing about the world around him in this particular place, that I was dressed and because he cannot tell that he is not dreaming; he seated near the fire, whilst in reality I was lying cannot fulfil one of the conditions necessary for undressed in bed!

At this moment it does indeed knowing something about the world. But in thinking over this I says they give us? What we gain through the senses remind myself that on many occasions I have in is on Descartes's view only information that is com- sleep been deceived by similar illusions, and in patible with our dreaming things about the world dwelling carefully on this reflection I see so mani- around us and not knowing anything about the festly that there are no certain indications by world.

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How then can we know anything about the which we may clearly distinguish wakefulness world by means of the senses? The Cartesian argu- from sleep that I am lost in astonishment. And my ment presents a challenge to our knowledge, and astonishment is such that it is almost capable of the problem of our knowledge of the external world persuading me that I now dream. HR, is to show how that challenge can be met. When I speak here of the Cartesian argument they accept it. There seems to me no doubt about or of Descartes's sceptical conclusion or of his the force and the fascination - I would say the negative verdict about his knowledge I refer of almost overwhelming persuasiveness - of his course only to the position he finds himself in by reflections.

That alone is something that needs the end of his First Meditation. Having at that accounting for. I cannot possibly do justice to all point discovered and stated the problem of the reasonable reactions to them here. In the rest of external world, Descartes goes on in the rest of his this chapter I want to concentrate on deepening Meditations to try to solve it, and by the end of the and strengthening the problem and trying to Sixth Meditation he thinks he has explained how locate more precisely the source of its power.

So when I ascribe to could be pressed. Is the possibility that Descartes Descartes the view that we can know nothing might be dreaming really a threat to his knowl- about the world around us I do not mean to sug- edge of the world around him? Is he right in gest that that is his final and considered view; it is thinking that he must know that he is not dream- nothing more than a conclusion he feels almost ing if he is to know something about the world inevitably driven to at the early stages of his around him?

And is he right in his "discovery" reflections. But those are the only stages of his that he can never know that he is not dreaming? If thinking I am interested in here. That is where the Descartes were wrong on any of these points it philosophical problem of our knowledge of the might be possible to avoid the problem and per- external world gets posed, and before we can con- haps even to explain without difficulty how we sider possible solutions we must be sure we know things about the world around us.

On the first question, it certainly seems right I have described it as that of showing or to say that if Descartes were dreaming that he is explaining how knowledge of the world around sitting by the fire with a piece of paper in his hand us is possible by means of the senses.

It is impor- he would not then know that he is sitting by the tant to keep in mind that that demand for an fire with a piece of paper in his hand. When you explanation arises in the face of a challenge or dream that something is going on in the world apparent obstacle to our knowledge of the world. The possibility that he is dreaming is seen as an Most often, of course, what we dream is not even obstacle to Descartes's knowing that he is sitting true; no one is actually chasing us when we are by the fire, and it must be explained how that lying asleep in bed dreaming, nor are we actually obstacle can either be avoided or overcome.

It climbing stairs. But although usually what we must be shown or explained how it is possible for dream is not really so, that is not the real reason us to know things about the world, given that the for our lack of knowledge. Even if Descartes were sense-experiences we get are compatible with our in fact sitting by the fire and actually had a piece merely dreaming.

Explaining how something is of paper in his hand at the very time he was nevertheless possible, despite what looks like an dreaming that he is sitting by the fire with a piece obstacle to it, requires more than showing merely of paper in his hand, he would not thereby know that there is no impossibility involved in the he was sitting there with that paper. He would be thing - that it is consistent with the principles of like a certain Duke of Devonshire who, according logic and the laws of nature and so in that sense to G. Moore, once dreamt he was speaking in could exist.

The mere possibility of the state of the House of Lords and woke up to find that he affairs is not enough to settle the question of how was speaking in the House of Lords. But even if what you understand how the apparent obstacle is to be are dreaming is in fact so you do not thereby got round. Even if we allow that when you are Descartes's reasoning can be examined and dreaming that something is so you can be said, at criticized at many different points, and has been least for the time being, to think or to believe that closely scrutinized by many philosophers for cen- it is so, there is still no real connection between turies.

It has also been accepted by many, perhaps your thinking or believing what you do and its by more than would admit or even realize that being so. So the way things are which the child does not know. Descartes's first step relies on what seems to be an If the man also dreams that things are that way he undeniable fact about dreams: if you are dream- can once again be said to be dreaming that some- ing that something is so you do not thereby know thing is so and also to know that it is so.

There is that it is so. That is true, but I do not think it carefully explained, but I do not think that will affects Descartes's argument. He is led to consider diminish the force of the point for Descartes's how he knows he is not dreaming at the moment purposes. Sometimes what is going on in the by reflecting on how he knows at that moment world around us has an effect on what we dream; that he is sitting by the fire with a piece of paper for example, a banging shutter might actually in his hand.

If he knows that at all, he thinks, he cause me to dream, among other things, that a knows it on the basis of the senses. But he real- shutter is banging. If my environment affects me izes that his having the sensory experiences he is in that way, and if in dreams I can be said to think now having is compatible with his merely dream- or believe that something is so, would I not in that ing that he is sitting by the fire with a piece of case know that a shutter is banging? It seems to paper in his hand. So he does not know on the me that I would not, but I confess it is difficult to basis of the sensory experiences he is having at say exactly why I think so.

That is probably the moment that he is sitting by the fire. Nor, of because it is difficult to say exactly what is required course, did the man in my examples know the for knowledge. We use the term "know" confi- things he was said to know on the basis of the sen- dently, we quite easily distinguish cases of knowl- sory experiences he was having at that moment. I think that in the case of the banging shut- But as long as we allow that the sleeping man ter it would not be knowledge because I would be does know certain things about the world around dreaming, I would not even be awake.

At least it him, even if he does not know them on the basis can be said, I think, that even if Descartes's sitting of the very dreams he is having at the moment, by the fire with a piece of paper in his hand like isn't that enough to show that Descartes must the banging shutter is what in fact causes him to nevertheless be wrong in his conclusion that no dream that he is sitting by the fire with a piece of one can know anything about the world around paper in his hand, that is still no help to him in him?

It shows at most that we were hasty or coming to know what is going on in the world were ignoring Descartes's conclusion in conced- around him. He realizes that he could be dream- ing that someone could know something about ing that he is sitting by the fire even if he is in fact the world around him. If Descartes's reasoning is sitting there, and that is the possibility he finds he correct the dreaming physicist, even when he is has to rule out.

In order to Suppose a man and a child are both sleeping. I say know them on the basis of the senses there would of the child that it is so young it does not know have to have been at least some time at which he what seven times nine is, whereas the grown man knew something about what was going on around does know that.

If the man happens at that very him at that time. But if Descartes is right he could moment to be dreaming that seven times nine is not have known any such thing unless he had sixty-three perhaps he is dreaming that he is established that he was not dreaming at that time; computing his income tax , then he is a man who and according to Descartes he could never estab- is dreaming that something is so and also knows lish that.

So the fact about dreams that Descartes that it is so.

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The same kind of thing is possible relies on - that one who dreams that something is for knowledge about the world around him. I say he might be dreaming Descartes seems to be rely- it is very plausible; of course I cannot prove it to ing on some knowledge about how things are or be true.

But even if it is not true with complete were in the world around him. He says "I remind generality, we must surely grant that it is possible myself that on many occasions I have in sleep been to dream that one is sitting by a fire with a piece deceived by similar illusions", so he seems to be of paper in one's hand, and possible to dream of relying on some knowledge to the effect that he countless other equally obvious and equally mun- has actually dreamt in the past and that he remem- dane states of affairs as well, and those possibili- bers having been "deceived" by those dreams.

That ties are what Descartes sees as threatening to his is more than he actually needs for his reflections knowledge of the world around him. He does not need to support his judgement it is simply not possible for Descartes to dream that he has actually dreamt in the past. The only that he is sitting by the fire with a piece of paper thought he needs is that it is now possible for him in his hand. Nor is it any more promising to say to be dreaming that he is sitting by the fire, and that even if he were dreaming it would not follow that if that possibility were realized he would not that he did not know that he was sitting there.

Of course it was I think both those steps or assumptions of no doubt true that Descartes had dreamt in the Descartes's reasoning are perfectly correct, and past and that his knowledge that he had done so further defence of them at this stage is unneces- was partly what he was going on in acknowledg- sary. If his argument and the problem to which it ing the possibility of his dreaming on this partic- gives rise are to be avoided, it might seem that the ular occasion.

But neither the fact of past dreams best hope is therefore to accept his challenge and nor knowledge of their actual occurrence would show that it can be met. That would be in effect to seem to be strictly required in order to grant what argue that Descartes's alleged "discovery" is no Descartes relies on - the possibility of dreaming, discovery at all: we can sometimes know that we and the absence of knowledge if that possibility are not dreaming. The thought that he might be This can easily seem to be the most straight- dreaming that he is sitting by the fire with a piece forward and most promising strategy.

It allows of paper in his hand, and the fact that if he were that Descartes is right in thinking that knowing he wouldn't know he was sitting there, is what that one is not dreaming is a condition of know- gives Descartes pause. That would worry him in ing something about the world around us, but the way it does even if he had never actually had wrong in thinking that that condition can never any dreams exactly like it in the past - if he had be met. And that certainly seems plausible. Surely never dreamt about fires and pieces of paper at it is not impossible for me to know that I am not all.

In fact, I think he need never have actually dreaming? Isn't that something I often know, and dreamt of anything before, and certainly needn't isn't it something I can sometimes find out if the know that he ever has, in order to be worried in question arises?

Metaphysics and Epistemology: A Guided Anthology

If it is, then the fact that I must the way he is by the thought that he might be know that I am not dreaming if I am to know dreaming now. Descartes needs to appeal to brings out another However obvious and undeniable it might be truth about dreams that his argument depends that we often do know that we are not dreaming, on - that anything that can be going on or that I think this straightforward response to Descartes's one can experience in one's waking life can also challenge is a total failure.

In calling it straightfor- be dreamt about. This again is only a statement of ward I mean that it accepts Descartes's conditions possibility - no sensible person would suggest for knowledge of the world and tries to show that that we do at some time dream of everything that they can be fulfilled. That is what I think cannot actually happens to us, or that everything we be done.

To put the same point in another way: dream about does in fact happen sometime. Since he thinks the pos- sleep", and so we could never tell we are not sibility of his dreaming must be ruled out in the dreaming, ifhe were also right that knowing that case he considers, and the case he considers is one is not dreaming is a condition of knowing regarded as typical and without special character- something about the world around us. That is istics of its own, he thinks that the possibility that why I think one cannot accept that condition and he is dreaming must be ruled out in every case of then go on to establish that one is not dreaming.

But I do want to argue that either we thing about the world, I think it can be shown can never know that we are not dreaming or else that Descartes is right in holding that it can what Descartes says is a condition of knowing never be fulfilled. That is what the straightfor- things about the world is not really a condition in ward response denies, and that is why I think general of knowing things about the world.

The that response must be wrong. We cannot accept straightforward strategy denies both alternatives. Suppose Descartes tries to determine that he is When Descartes asks himself how he knows not dreaming in order to fulfil what he sees as a that he is sitting by the fire with a piece of paper necessary condition of knowing that he is sitting in his hand why does he immediately go on to ask by the fire with a piece of paper in his hand.

How himself how he knows he is not dreaming that he is he to proceed? He realizes that his seeing his is sitting by the fire with a piece of paper in his hand and seeing and feeling a piece of paper hand? I have suggested that it is because he recog- before him and feeling the warmth of the fire - in nizes that ifhe were dreaming he would not know fact his getting all the sensory experiences or all on the basis of his senses at the moment that he is the sensory information he is then getting - is sitting there, and so he thinks he must know that something that could be happening even if he that possibility does not obtain if he is to know were dreaming.

To establish that he is not dream- that he is in fact sitting there. But this particular ing he would therefore need something more example was chosen, not for any peculiarities it than just those experiences or that information might be thought to possess, but because it could alone. He would also need to know whether those be taken as typical of the best position we can experiences and that information are reliable, not ever be in for coming to know things about the merely dreamt. If he could find some operation world around us on the basis of the senses. What or test, or if he could find some circumstance or is true of this case that is relevant to Descartes's state of affairs, that indicated to him that he was investigation of knowledge is supposed to be true not dreaming, perhaps he could then fulfil the of all cases of knowledge of the world by means condition - he could know that he was not dream- of the senses; that is why the verdict arrived at ing.

But how could a test or a circumstance or a here can be taken to be true of our sensory state of affairs indicate to him that he is not dream- knowledge generally. But what Descartes thinks ing if a condition of knowing anything about the is true of this particular case of sensory knowl- world is that he know he is not dreaming? It could edge of the world is that he must know he is not not.

He could never fulfil the condition. That is which a person can perform successfully only if required, not because of any peculiarities of this he is not dreaming, or some circumstance or state particular case, but presumably because, accord- of affairs which obtains only if that person is not ing to Descartes, it is a necessary condition of any dreaming. Of course for that test or state of affairs case - even a best possible case - of knowledge of to be of any use to him Descartes would have to the world by means of the senses.

That is why I know of it. How could that in turn be known? To have Obviously the particular test or state of affairs acquired that information he would at some already in question cannot serve as a guarantee of time have to have known more than just some- its own authenticity, since it might have been thing about the course of his sensory experience, merely dreamt, so some further test or state of since the connection between the performance of affairs would be needed to indicate that the origi- a certain test, or between a certain state of affairs, nal test was actually performed and not merely and someone's not dreaming is not itself just a dreamt, or that the state of affairs in question was fact about the course of that person's sensory actually ascertained to obtain and not just dreamt experience; it is a fact about the world beyond his to obtain.

But this further test or state of affairs is sensory experiences. Now strictly speaking if it is subject to the same general condition in turn. This second test or state of affairs obstacle to Descartes's ever having got the infor- will therefore be of use only if Descartes knows mation he needs about that test or state of affairs. And so on. At no dreaming - and that cannot be done. He can therefore state of affairs that unfailingly indicates that he is never fulfil what Descartes says is a necessary not dreaming.

Still, there is an obstacle to his ever condition of knowing something about the world using that test or state of affairs to tell that he is around him. He can never know that he is not not dreaming and thereby fulfilling the condition dreaming. The test would have I must emphasize that this conclusion is to be something he could know he had performed reached only on the assumption that it is a condi- successfully, the state of affairs would have to be tion of knowing anything about the world around something he could know obtains.

If he com- us on the basis of the senses that we know we are pletely unwittingly happened to perform the test, not dreaming that the thing is so. I think it is his or if the state of affairs happened to obtain but he acceptance of that condition that leads Descartes didn't know that it did, he would be in no better to "see so manifestly that there are no certain position for telling whether he was dreaming than indications by which we may clearly distinguish he would be if he had done nothing or did not wakefulness from sleep". And I think Descartes is even know that there was such a test.

But how is absolutely right to draw that conclusion, given he to know that the test has been performed suc- what he thinks is a condition of knowledge of the cessfully or that the state of affairs in question world. But all I have argued on Descartes's behalf does in fact obtain? Anything one can experience he never spells out his reasoning is that we in one's walking life can also be dreamt about; it is cannot both accept that condition of knowledge possible to dream that one has performed a cer- and hope to fulfil it, as the straightforward tain test or dream that one has established that a response hopes to do.

And of course if one of the certain state of affairs obtains.