Skepticism About the External World

  • Kevin McCain
Part of the Springer Undergraduate Texts in Philosophy book series (SUTP)


One way to challenge our scientific knowledge is to challenge all of our knowledge of the world around us. This chapter explores the classic philosophical problem of external world skepticism. This philosophical problem challenges whether we can know anything at all about the world outside of our own minds. In the process of examining and responding to arguments for external world skepticism important insights about the nature of scientific knowledge are revealed. One of the foremost of these insights is that knowledge in general does not require evidence that makes the believed proposition absolutely certain—beyond all possible doubt. Instead, significant, yet fallible, evidence is all that is required for knowledge, both scientific and mundane. Another insight is that the explanationist account of evidential support developed in the previous chapter helps to show that, despite initial appearances, external world skepticism is not a significant threat to our knowledge after all. We do have good evidence for believing the world is roughly the way we commonsensically take it to be.


Scientific Knowledge Good Explanation External World Visual Experience Sensory Experience 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin McCain
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA

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