Michael Williams (philosopher)

Michael Williams (born July 6, 1947) is a Kreiger-Eisenhower Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. Williams is a noted epistemologist, and has significant interest in the philosophy of language, Wittgenstein, and the history of modern philosophy. Other scholars know him particularly for his work on philosophical skepticism. In his books (1992) and (2001), Williams performs what he calls a "theoretical diagnosis" of skepticism, according to which the soundness of skepticism presupposes a realist view of knowledge itself; that is, skepticism presupposes that knowledge is a context-invariant entity rather like a natural kind. By dispensing with this realist assumption that distinguishes the epistemological context from other contexts, the skeptical argument becomes unsound and can therefore be rejected. With this solution to the skeptical problem, Williams thereby defends a contextualist view of knowledge, but one that differs considerably from other contextualists such as Stewart Cohen and Keith DeRose. In addition to working on skepticism as a theoretical problem, Williams has a strong interest in the historical development of the skeptical tradition and defends the view that skeptical arguments in modern and contemporary philosophy differ in fundamental ways from similar or related arguments developed in antiquity.

He received his BA from the University of Oxford and his PhD. from Princeton University under the direction of Richard Rorty. He taught at Yale University, the University of Maryland, and Northwestern University.

He is married to philosopher and noted Wittgenstein scholar Meredith Williams, also a member of the Johns Hopkins philosophy faculty.

In 2007, he was admitted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


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