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Pyrrhonian Skepticism

Edited by Diego E. Machuca (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas)
Assistant editor: Krista Hyde (Saint Louis University)
About this topic
Summary Pyrrhonism is the most prominent and influential form of skepticism in the history of Western philosophy. It was an important philosophical movement in the Hellenistic and Imperial periods, had a tremendous impact on modern philosophy, and some of its arguments continue to be a central topic of discussion in the contemporary scene. This form of skepticism does not deny the possibility of knowledge or justified belief tout court or in a specific area, but recommends across-the-board suspension of judgment. This subcategory covers works that examine the philosophical aspects of ancient Pyrrhonism and/or discuss Pyrrhonian skepticism in relation to current epistemological discussions.
Key works Fogelin 1994 offers an “updated” version of Sextus Empiricus's Pyrrhonism so as to make it applicable to contemporary debates about justification. Sinnott-Armstrong 2004 is a Festschrift for Robert Fogelin. While some of the essays either compare his neo-Pyrrhonism with its ancient ancestor or refer to this interpretation of certain modern and contemporary philosophers, others critically examine his neo-Pyrrhonism as expounded in Fogelin 1994Sinnott-Armstrong 2006 defends a moderate moral skepticism, characterized as Pyrrhonian, that is based on the notion of "contrast class."
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  1. James Allen (2010). Pyrrhonism and Medicine. In Richard Arnot Home Bett (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Scepticism. Cambridge University Press. 232.
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  2. Alan Bailey (2002). Sextus Empiricus and Pyrrhonean Scepticism. Oxford University Press.
    Alan Bailey offers a clear and vigorous exposition and defence of the philosophy of Sextus Empiricus, one of the most influential of ancient thinkers, the father of philosophical scepticism. The subsequent sceptical tradition in philosophy has not done justice to Sextus: his views stand up today as remarkably insightful, offering a fruitful way to approach issues of knowledge, understanding, belief, and rationality. Bailey's refreshing presentation of Sextus to a modern philosophical readership rescues scepticism from the sceptics.
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  3. Alan Bailey (1990). Pyrrhonean Scepticism and the Self-Refutation Argument. Philosophical Quarterly 40 (158):27-44.
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  4. J. Barnes (2006). Review: Pyrrhonian Skepticism. [REVIEW] Mind 115 (457):166-169.
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  5. Jonathan Barnes (2003). Review: Sextus Empiricus and Pyrrhonean Scepticism. [REVIEW] Mind 112 (447):496-499.
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  6. Jonathan Barnes (2001). Against the Sceptics A. Haltenhoff: Kritik der akademischen Skepsis. Ein Kommentar zu Cicero , Lucullus 1–62 . (Studien zur klassischen Philologie 113.) Pp. 226. Berlin, etc.: Peter Lang, 1998. Paper, DM 29. ISBN: 3-631-33440-. [REVIEW] The Classical Review 51 (01):46-.
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  7. Jonathan Barnes (1991). Leo Groarke: Greek Scepticism: Anti-Realist Trends in Ancient Thought. (McGill-Queen's Studies in the History of Ideas.) Pp. Xv + 176. Montreal & Kingston, London and Buffalo: McGill–Queen's University Press, 1990. £33.20. [REVIEW] The Classical Review 41 (02):500-501.
  8. Jonathan Barnes (1990). The Toils of Scepticism. Cambridge University Press.
    In the works of Sextus Empiricus, scepticism is presented in its most elaborate and challenging form. This book investigates - both from an exegetical and from a philosophical point of view - the chief argumentative forms which ancient scepticism developed. Thus the particular focus is on the Agrippan aspect of Sextus' Pyrrhonism. Barnes gives a lucid explanation and analysis of these arguments, both individually and as constituent parts of a sceptical system. For, taken together, these forms amount to a formidable (...)
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  9. Jonathan Barnes (1988). Scepticism and Relativity. Philosophical Studies 32:1-31.
  10. Rachel Barney (1992). Appearances and Impressions. Phronesis 37 (3):283-313.
    Pyrrhonian sceptics claim, notoriously, to assent to the appearances without making claims about how things are. To see whether this is coherent we need to consider the philosophical history of ‘appearance’(phainesthai)-talk, and the closely related concept of an impression (phantasia). This history suggests that the sceptics resemble Plato in lacking the ‘non-epistemic’ or ‘non-doxastic’ conception of appearance developed by Aristotle and the Stoics. What is distinctive about the Pyrrhonian sceptic is simply that the degree of doxastic commitment involved in his (...)
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  11. William Berkson (1979). Skeptical Rationalism. Inquiry 22 (1-4):281 – 320.
    To improve our methods of rational inquiry and decision-making we need to recognize that such methods should guide but not fully determine the choices of individuals. Failure to acknowledge the essential incompleteness of rational methods made the methods of Classical Rationalism quite impractical and opened them to skeptical refutation. Mitigated Skepticism and Fideism failed to correct the error, and as a result put undesirable limits on rational inquiry. When the guiding character of rational methods is recognized, existing methods of scientific (...)
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  12. Jessica Berry (2011). Nietzsche and the Ancient Skeptical Tradition. Oxford University Press.
    Introduction : reading Nietzsche skeptically -- Nietzsche and the Pyrrhonian tradition -- Skepticism in Nietzsche's early work : the case of "on truth and lie" -- The question of Nietzsche's "naturalism" -- Perspectivism and Ephexis in interpretation -- Skepticism and health -- Skepticism as immoralism.
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  13. Jessica N. Berry (2011). The Demands of Reason: An Essay on Pyrrhonian Scepticism (Review). Journal of the History of Philosophy 49 (1):116-117.
    Professional philosophy is overdue for a Pyrrhonian revival. For too long, the skeptic has been either overlooked or regarded as an object of pity (for the feebleness of his arguments) or contempt (for his appearing to thumb his nose at the canons of reason and morality). Even among the most learned and philosophically astute commentators, those who would be best positioned to develop a philosophically sophisticated and compelling interpretation of Pyrrhonism, it has found few defenders, many detractors, and has generally (...)
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  14. Jessica N. Berry (2006). Skepticism in Nietzsche's Earliest Work. International Studies in Philosophy 38 (3):33-48.
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  15. R. Bett (2003). Sextus Empiricus and Pyrrhonean Scepticism. Philosophical Review 112 (1):100-102.
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  16. Richard Bett (2013). A Sceptic Looks at Art (but Not Very Closely): Sextus Empiricus on Music. International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 3 (3):155-181.
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  17. Richard Bett (2007). Sceptic Optics? Apeiron 40 (1):95 - 121.
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  18. Richard Bett (1994). Sextus's Against the Ethicists: Scepticism, Relativism or Both? Apeiron 27 (2):123 - 161.
  19. Richard Bett (1993). Greek Scepticism. Ancient Philosophy 13 (1):243-252.
  20. Richard Arnot Home Bett (ed.) (2010). The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Scepticism. Cambridge University Press.
    This volume offers a comprehensive survey of the main periods, schools, and individual proponents of scepticism in the ancient Greek and Roman world.
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  21. Richard Arnot Home Bett (2000). Pyrrho, His Antecedents, and His Legacy. Oxford University Press.
    Richard Bett presents a ground-breaking study of Pyrrho of Elis, who lived in the late fourth and early third centuries BC and is the supposed originator of Greek scepticism. In the absence of surviving works by Pyrrho, scholars have tended to treat his thought as essentially the same as the long subsequent sceptical tradition which styled itself "Pyrrhonism." Bett argues, on the contrary, that Pyrrho's philosophy was significantly different from this later tradition, and offers the first detailed account of that (...)
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  22. Martijn Blaauw (2008). Contesting Pyrrhonian Contrastivism. Philosophical Quarterly 58 (232):471–477.
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  23. Inga Bostad (2011). The Life and Learning of Arne Naess: Scepticism as a Survival Strategy. Inquiry 54 (1):42-51.
    ABSTRACT It is obvious that Arne Naess had his most important philosophical experience, and quite possibly made his most significant achievement, in confrontation with the variety of philosophical scepticism known as Pyrrhonism. Naess maintained, however, that he did not defend scepticism as a philosophical position, and he was concerned to distinguish Pyrrhonism from the inverse form of dogmatism often associated with the term ?scepticism?. Naess was primarily preoccupied with the practical implications of this radical form of scepticism, in which he (...)
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  24. George Boys-Stones (2000). SCEPTICISM R. J. Hankinson: The Sceptics . Pp. Viii + 376. London and New York: Routledge, 1998 (First Published 1995). Paper, £17.99. ISBN: 0-415-18446-. [REVIEW] The Classical Review 50 (01):155-.
  25. George Boys-Stones (1997). Sceptical Ethics. The Classical Review 47 (02):292-.
  26. Charles Brittain (2003). The Scepticism of Sextus A. Bailey: Sextus Empiricus and Pyrrhonean Scepticism . Pp. XVI + 302. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002. Cased. Isbn: 0-19-823852-. [REVIEW] The Classical Review 53 (02):326-.
  27. Ben Bronner (2013). Assertions Only? Thought 2 (1):44-52.
    It is standardly believed that the only way to justify an assertion in the face of a challenge is by making another assertion. Call this claim ASSERTIONS ONLY. Besides its intrinsic interest, ASSERTIONS ONLY is relevant to deciding between competing views of the norms that govern reasoned discourse. ASSERTIONS ONLY is also a crucial part of the motivation for infinitism and Pyrrhonian skepticism. I suggest that ASSERTIONS ONLY is false: I can justify an assertion by drawing attention to something that (...)
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  28. Otávio Bueno (2009). Sosa on Skepticism. Metaphilosophy 40 (2):195-202.
    Abstract: Ernest Sosa has recently articulated an insightful response to skepticism and, in particular, to the dream argument. The response relies on two independent moves. First, Sosa offers the imagination model of dreaming according to which no assertions are ever made in dreams and no beliefs are involved there. As a result, it is possible to distinguish dreaming from being awake, and the dream argument is blocked. Second, Sosa develops a virtue epistemology according to which in appropriately normal conditions our (...)
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  29. Myles Burnyeat & Michael Frede (1997). The Original Sceptics: A Controversy. Hackett.
  30. Sarah Byers (2003). Sextus Empiricus and Pyrrhonean Scepticism. International Philosophical Quarterly 43 (3):391-392.
  31. Damian Caluori (2007). The Scepticism of Francisco Sanchez. Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 89 (1):30-46.
    The Renaissance sceptic and medical doctor Francisco Sanchez has been rather unduly neglected in scholarly work on Renaissance scepticism. In this paper I discuss his scepticism against the background of the ancient distinction between Academic and Pyrrhonian scepticism. I argue that Sanchez was a Pyrrhonist rather than, as has been claimed in recent years, a mitigated Academic sceptic. In keeping with this I shall also try to show that Sanchez was crucially influenced by the ancient medical school of empiricism, a (...)
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  32. Luca Castagnoli (2007). La Sala (R.) Die Züge des Skeptikers. Der dialektische Charakter von Sextus Empiricus' Werk. (Hypomnemata 160.) Pp. 204. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2005. Cased, €49.90. ISBN: 978-3-525-25259-. [REVIEW] The Classical Review 57 (02).
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  33. Venant Cauchy (1950). The Nature and Genesis of the Skeptic Attitude. Modern Schoolman 27 (3):203-221.
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  34. Juan Comesaña (2005). Review of Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Ed.), Pyrrhonian Skepticism. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2005 (6).
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  35. Garrett Cullity (2008). Pyrrhic Pyrrhonism. [REVIEW] Philosophical Quarterly 58 (233):720-731.
    Journal compilation © 20098 The Editors of The Philosophical Quarterly.
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  36. John Dillon (1992). The Toils of Scepticism. Philosophical Studies 33:328-331.
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  37. Gail Fine (2003). Sextus and External World Skepticism. Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy:341-85.
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  38. Gail Fine (2000). Skeptical Dogmata: Outlines of Pyrrhonism. Méthexis 13:81-105.
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  39. Gail Fine (1996). Scepticism, Existence, and Belief: A Discussion of RJ Hankinson, The Sceptics. Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy:273-90.
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  40. Luciano Floridi (2010). The Rediscovery and Posthumous Influence of Scepticism. In Richard Arnot Home Bett (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Scepticism. Cambridge University Press. 267.
  41. Luciano Floridi (1996). Scepticism and the Foundation of Epistemology: A Study in the Metalogical Fallacies. E.J. Brill.
    This sceptical challenge - known as the "problem of the criterion - is one of the major issues in the history of epistemology, and this volume provides its ...
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  42. Review author[S.]: Robert J. Fogelin (1997). What Does a Pyrrhonist Know? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 57 (2):417-425.
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  43. Robert J. Fogelin (1999). The Sceptic's Burden. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 7 (2):159 – 172.
    The basic thesis ofMichaelWilliams'book Unnatural Doubts is that sceptical doubts, at least of a Cartesian variety, are neither natural nor intuitive, but are, instead, the product of 'contentious and possibly dispensable theoretical preconceptions'. In particular, for Williams, scepticism arises because of a commitment to what he calls 'epistemic realism'. A fundamental thesis of my book Pyrrhonian Reflections on Knowledge and Justification is that scepticism (in its most challenging forms) is not based upon such prior theoretical commitments, but rather is the (...)
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  44. Robert J. Fogelin (1994). Pyrrhonian Reflections on Knowledge and Justification. Oxford University Press.
    This work, written from a neo-Pyrrhonian perspective, is an examination of contemporary theories of knowledge and justification. It takes ideas primarily found in Sextus Empiricus's Outlines of Pyrrhonism, restates them in a modern idiom, and then asks whether any contemporary theory of knowledge meets the challenges they raise. The first part, entitled "Gettier and the Problem of Knowledge," attempts to rescue our ordinary concept of knowledge from those philosophers who have assigned burdens to it that it cannot bear. Properly understood, (...)
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  45. Robert J. Fogelin (1981). Wittgenstein and Classical Scepticism. International Philosophical Quarterly 21 (1):3-15.
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  46. Richard Fumerton (2008). The Problem of the Criterion. In John Greco (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Skepticism. Oxford University Press. 34.
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  47. A. C. Genova (2010). Has Gemes Refuted Global Scepticism? Analysis 70 (1):59-63.
    (No abstract is available for this citation).
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  48. Mikkel Gerken (2012). Discursive Justification and Skepticism. Synthese 189 (2):373-394.
    In this paper, I consider how a general epistemic norm of action that I have proposed in earlier work should be specified in order to govern certain types of acts: assertive speech acts. More specifically, I argue that the epistemic norm of assertion is structurally similar to the epistemic norm of action. First, I argue that the notion of warrant operative in the epistemic norm of a central type of assertion is an internalist one that I call ‘discursive justification.’ This (...)
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  49. David K. Glidden (1998). The Skeptic Way: Sextus Empiricus's "Outlines of Pyrrhonism" (Review). Journal of the History of Philosophy 36 (3):460-462.
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  50. John Greco (2007). External World Skepticism. Philosophy Compass 2 (4):625–649.
    Recent literature in epistemology has focused on the following argument for skepticism (SA): I know that I have two hands only if I know that I am not a handless brain in a vat. But I don't know I am not a handless brain in a vat. Therefore, I don't know that I have two hands. Part I of this article reviews two responses to skepticism that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s: sensitivity theories and attributor contextualism. Part II considers (...)
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