TH E TH REAT O F SCE PTICI S M
immediate experience, conceived purely subjectively, must provide the secure, independent base for all his knowledge of reality. His system of beliefs about the objective world will prove well-grounded, therefore, only if the sceptic is able to show that experience, conceived in this purely subjective manner, can support claims about how things stand in objective reality. The sceptic’s former acceptance of the objective judgements that formed an unquestioned framework for confirming and disconfirming beliefs must now be supposed to lie on the previously unexamined assumption that experience, in the sense outlined, provides a reliable guide to the nature of reality. Suitably reformulated to the problem of other minds this sketch must undergo some significant changes: The sceptic is led to construct a conception of the evidence for all his knowledge claims [about Others] that is, in a crucial sense, purely [objective], that is, its description is allowed to incorporate no assumption that this evidence is revelatory of [inner states of Others]. What he is led to, in other words, is the idea that his experience [of the behaving body] must provide the secure, independent base for his knowledge of [Others]. His system of beliefs about [Others] will prove wellgrounded, therefore, only if the sceptic is able to show that experience [of behaviour], conceived in this purely [objective] manner, can support claims about [Others]. The sceptic’s former acceptance of the judgements that formed the unquestioned framework for confirming and disconfirming [claims about Others] must now be supposed to lie on the previously unexamined assumption that experience [of behavior], in the sense outlined, provides a reliable guide to the [inner states of Others]. Clearly, the conversion of external world scepticism to other minds scepticism can be made quite cleanly. However, for Stanley Cavell the differences here are sufficient to call into question the idea that there is a strictly philosophical or sceptical problem of other minds at all – a problem which might stand in contrast to our pre-reflective or prephilosophical attitude (see Cavell, 1979, p. 432). According to Cavell there is no ‘best case of knowing’ in relation to others comparable to the ‘best case of knowing’ that can motivate philosophical doubts about the external world. The thought here is that, while, say, a tomato can at least seem to be present, I cannot be present to another’s experience. For Cavell this is sufficient to suggest that there are no doubts which can be adduced about others that stand in conflict with an everyday alternative. And this would imply that the reformulated argument does not present a strictly or merely sceptical problem – i.e. one which might be removed by philosophical clarification: there is, Cavell supposes, ‘no everyday alternative to scepticism concerning other minds’ (ibid.).