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.
Fogelin 1994 offers an “updated” version
of Sextus Empiricus's Pyrrhonism so as to make it applicable to contemporary debates about
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.
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 (...) and systematic challenge to any claim to knowledge or rational belief. The challenge had a great influence on the history of philosophy. And it has never been met. This study reflects the growing interest in ancient scepticism. Quotations from the ancient sources are all translated and Greek terms are explained. Notes on the ancient authors give a brief guide to the sources, both familiar and unfamiliar. (shrink)
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 (...) assent to an impression is asymptotally low. (shrink)
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 (...) research of personal and social decision-making can themselves be rationally assessed and improved. Viewing rational methods as guides thus opens a whole field of inquiry, the inquiry into what rational methods are most useful for specific purposes and in specific situations. (shrink)
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.
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 (...) suffered by its having been misunderstood, caricatured, or conflated with contemporary varieties of skepticism. Casey Perin's eloquent little essay is therefore a refreshing contribution to the .. (shrink)
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 (...) philosophy in this light. Bett considers why Pyrrho was adopted as the figurehead for that tradition. Bett also investigates the origins and antecedents of Pyrrho's ideas; in particular, Plato is singled out as an important inspiration. The result is the first comprehensive picture of this key figure in the development of philosophy. The new claims that Bett puts forward have major implications for the history and interpretation of ancient Greek thought. (shrink)
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 (...) thought peace of mind and serious inquisitiveness could be combined. In this article, I introduce some central aspects of Naess's Pyrrhonian scepticism, to illustrate how his philosophy may contribute to a relevant form of anti-dogmatism. (shrink)
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 (...) clearly makes the assertion true, or likely true. (shrink)
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 (...) perceptual beliefs will be apt. Hence, in these conditions, we will have at least animal knowledge, and the conclusion of the dream argument is undermined. In this article, I examine various moves that the skeptic can make to resist Sosa's challenge, and I contrast the proposal to a neo-Pyrrhonian stance. In the end, there is surprisingly little disagreement about the status of ordinary perceptual beliefs in the two stances. (shrink)
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 (...) school closely allied with Pyrrhonism. (shrink)
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 (...) natural outcome of unrestricted exploitation of a feature already present in our everyday concept of knowledge. Specifically, our everyday epistemic practices contain a useful mechanism that raises the level of evidential scrutiny in problematic settings. However, in the absence of psychological constraints (as in Hume) or pragmatic constraints (as in Peirce), this mechanism can generate an ever-widening range of undefeated possible defeaters- and with this, radical forms of scepticism emerge.Scepticism is not the result ofmounting the wronghorse (as Williams thinks),but the result of riding a serviceable horse too hard. With respect to Williams'own contextualist response, it is not clear whether, in the end, he avoids or embraces a strong version of scepticism. He claims that Cartesian doubts arise in a particular context, namely, the context of pursuing an epistemically realistic programme. In that context, according to Williams, Cartesian scepticism is unanswerable. His central claim, I take it, is that nothing compels us to do philosophy under these contextual constraints. In arguingthisway,however,Williamsseemsto have adopted a strongversion of relativism of just the sort traditionally exploited for sceptical purposes. To the claim 'It is all a matter of context', the correct response is, 'It had better not be- at least if you are trying to refute scepticism.'Perhaps Williams can produce a strongly contextualist position that does not slide into scepticism, and perhaps his appeal- rather late his book- to externalist consideration is intended to do this.But just as it is unclear whether contextualism can avoid scepticism, it is also unclear whether externalism has force against sensibly stated (even very strong) versions of scepticism. (shrink)
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, (...) Fogelin shows that the concept of knowledge is unproblematic. The second part of this study, called "Agrippa and the Problem of Justification," examines Agrippa's contribution to Pyrrhonism, a systematic reduction of its procedures which came to be known as the "Five Modes Leading to the Suspension of Belief." These modes present a completely general procedure for refuting any claim a dogmatist might make. Though largely unnoticed, there is, according to Fogelin, an uncanny resemblance between problems posed by Agrippa's "Five Modes" and those that contemporary epistemologists address under the heading of a theory of justification. Fogelin examines the strongest contemporary theories of justification--in both foundationalist and anti-foundationalist forms. The conclusion is that recent philosophical writings on justification have made no significant progress in responding to the Pyrrhonian problems these writings have addressed. (shrink)
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 (...) type of warrant is internalist insofar as it requires that the agent is capable of articulating reasons for her belief. The idea, roughly, is that when one asserts that p, one is supposed to be in a position to give reasons for believing that p. Bonjour’s reliable clairvoyant Norman, for example, is not in an epistemic position to make assertions regarding the president’s whereabouts—even if Norman knows the president’s whereabouts. In conclusion, I briefly consider whether a type of skeptical argument—often labeled Agrippa’s Trilemma—is motivated, at least in part, by the fact that responses to it violate the relevant epistemic norm of assertion. (shrink)
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 (...) the more recent ‘neo-Moorean’ response to skepticism and its development in ‘safety’ theories of knowledge. Part III argues that the skeptical argument set out in SA is not of central importance. Specifically, SA is parasitic on skeptical reasoning that is more powerful and more fundamental than that displayed by SA itself. Finally, Part IV reviews a Pyrrhonian argument for skepticism that is not well captured by SA, and considers a promising strategy for responding to it. (shrink)
A number of contemporary philosophers endorse a Pyrrhonian theme: that one has knowledge only if one knows or understands that one’s beliefs are reliably formed. Otherwise, one is like a man who grasps gold in the dark: such a man is successful, but his success is a matter of luck, and so not creditable to him. It is argued that the skeptical problem and the problem of moral luck share a common structure and a common solution. Specifically, a virtue-theoretic approach (...) helps us to understand important relations among luck, success and credit for success. It is argued that knowledge is an instance of success through virtue, and that, in general, success through virtue is creditable to the virtuous agent. (shrink)