Theory of Relevant Alternatives

Discipline: Philosophy

Theory used in defending fallibilism against the charge that it leads to skepticism.

Where P and Q are propositions, P counts for this purpose as an alternative to Q if it is inconsistent with Q, and counts as a relevant alternative if to know that Q we must also know that not-P.

Variant formulations exist, but the point is that if P is a skeptical hypothesis (for example that you are now only dreaming you are reading this entry), it can be ignored if it can be shown to be not 'relevant' in the above sense.

We shall then of course need some way of deciding when P is relevant to Q in this sense.

Source:
S Cohen, 'How to be a Fallibilist', Philosophical Perspectives (1988)

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