Crítica, Revista Hispanoamericana de Filosofía, Volume 32, number 96, diciembre 2000
Por qué no soy falibilista
[Why Am I Not a Fallibilist]
Guillermo Hurtado
Instituto de Investigaciones Filosóficas
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

gmhp@servidor.unam.mx

Abstract: Fallibilism —as I understand the term in this essay— is the doctrine that any of our beliefs might turn out be false. This doctrine is considered by many of today's most prominent philosophers as unquestionable. If one is not a fallibilist, they claim, one cannot be but a sceptic or a dogmatic, and both are aberrant positions. Besides, fallibilism has been described as the foundation of the toleration to which we aspire in a democratic society. Anti-fallibilism, according to this view, is philosophically and politically incorrect. My purpose in this essay is to rebut these widespread opinions. I claim that fallibilism goes against our common sense view of knowledge. If this is right, then fallibilism is —like scepticism— a revisionary doctrine and it carries the burden of the proof. However, I claim that all the arguments offered in favour of fallibilism are unsuccessful. Among the arguments I examine are those seeking to derive fallibilism from the riddle of induction, the rejection of the myth of the given and the underdetermination of empirical theories. I also claim that fallibilism must not be seen as the foundation of toleration, for it undermines our defence against the enemies of toleration and democracy. Next, I intend to show that fallibilism suffers from what I call a "dialectical weakness" when confronted against scepticism and dogmaticism. This means that the defender of fallibilism can never —as a result of fallibilism's own internal logic— be in a winning position in a disputation against a sceptic or a dogmatic. This might not be enough to refute fallibilism but, at least, it shows that it is not, as is supposed, the only way out from scepticism and dogmatism. In an appendix I examine an argument that tries to derive scepticism from fallibilism plus another premiss. I conclude that although a defender of fallibilism has enough elements to reject that further premiss, this is not as easy as is often supposed.
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