By David Lewis
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year: 1999
Online Publication Date:February 2010
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511625343.026
Subjects: Epistemology and metaphysics
We know a lot. I know what food penguins eat. I know that phones used to ring, but nowadays squeal, when someone calls up. I know that Essendon won the 1993 Grand Final. I know that here is a hand, and here is another.
We have all sorts of everyday knowledge, and we have it in abundance. To doubt that would be absurd. At any rate, to doubt it in any serious and lasting way would be absurd; and even philosophical and temporary doubt, under the influence of argument, is more than a little peculiar. It is a Moorean fact that we know a lot. It is one of those things that we know better than we know the premises of any philosophical argument to the contrary.
Besides knowing a lot that is everyday and trite, I myself think that we know a lot that is interesting and esoteric and controversial. We know a lot about things unseen: tiny particles and pervasive fields, not to mention one another's underwear. Sometimes we even know what an author meant by his writings. But on these questions, let us agree to disagree peacefully with the champions of ‘post-knowledgeism’.
The most trite and ordinary parts of our knowledge will be problem enough.
For no sooner do we engage in epistemology - the systematic philosophical examination of knowledge - than we meet a compelling argument that we know next to nothing. The sceptical argument is nothing new or fancy. It is just this: it seems as if knowledge must be by definition infallible.