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Why Reasons Skepticism is Not Self-Defeating



Abstract: Radical meta-normative skepticism is the view that no standard, norm, or principle has objective authority or normative force. It does not deny that there are norms, standards of correctness, and principles of various kinds that render it possible that we succeed or fail in measuring up to their prerogatives. Rather, it denies that any norm has the status of commanding with objective authority, of giving rise to normative reasons to take seriously and follow its demands. Two powerful transcendental arguments challenge this view. First, skepticism is said to be self-defeating: Settling what to accept, and in particular whether to accept skepticism, appears to be a reason-guided enterprise. How can skeptics coherently support their view by citing reasons in their favor after they just rejected them throughout? Second, there is the practical-deliberative version, most recently developed by David Enoch: We are essentially deliberative creatures. Yet deliberation appears to require that there are correct answers in the form of normative reasons to our practical questions. Thus confidence in the sensible nature of deliberation should inspire confidence in reasons. The essay undermines both transcendental arguments by demonstrating, first, how to support skepticism without deserting its tenets, and, second, how to deliberate in skeptical fashion.