Reading Questions for Roderick Chisholm: The Problem of the Criterion



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Reading Questions for Roderick Chisholm: The Problem of the Criterion



  1. Chisholm describes an analogy between good and bad apples and good and bad belief. In this analogy, what exactly was a “good belief” supposed to be? Why is it easier to tell when you have a good apple than when you have a good belief?

  2. In his essay, Chisholm ask the question “How do we know that the procedures of science, reason, and common sense are the best methods that we have?” Suppose someone asked you this question in a normal context – by which I mean: not in a philosophy class. What would be your answer? Write it in your notebook.

  3. What is, according to Chisholm, unsatisfactory about the answer you just gave? Why would he think you’re not entitled to use the reasons you gave in your answer to 2. (at least not without further justification – but can you provide further justification for the reasons you mentioned in 2.)?

  4. What is the skeptic’s position regarding the following pair of questions:

A) What do we know? What is the extent of our knowledge?”

B) “How are we to decide whether we know? What are the criteria of knowledge?”



  1. Try to state what you think would be the skeptic’s justification for their position in 4.

  2. What is Empiricism? Why is it a species of “methodism” (in Chisholm’s special sense)?

  3. What are Chisholm’s two objections to Empiricism?

  4. In footnote 5, Chisholm describes Cardinal Mercier’s interpretation of Thomas Reid. Why does Mercier’s interpretation make Reid look like a “methodist”? What is Chisholm’s (different) interpretation of Reid?

  5. Suppose some Particularists (Reid or Moore) insist that they know that they have a hand. Now, imagine someone comes up to them and asks them: “How do you know you have a hand?” What will be their answer?

  6. In Section 10, Chisholm gives a rough sketch of how he thinks the Problem of the Criterion should be solved. What is that solution? Do you think there is space for the skeptic to attack Chisholm’s solution?

  7. What is Chisholm talking about here? (Quote from the end of his conclusion):


What few philosophers have had the courage to recognize is this: we can deal with the problem only by begging the question. It seems to me that if we do recognize this fact, as we should, then it is unseemly for us to try to pretend that it isn’t so.


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