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Skepticism

Edited by John Greco (Saint Louis University)
Assistant editor: Krista Hyde (Saint Louis University)
About this topic
Summary Skepticism involves doubt, or at least a reluctance to commit. For example, some philosophers are moral skeptics, claiming that no one can know what is right or wrong. Skepticism about the "external world" is more general, denying that there is knowledge of the world “outside our minds.”  Even more generally, some skeptics claim that there is no knowledge at all.  Philosophers have long explored reasons for and against various skeptical positions and argued about the consequences of adopting various skeptical stances.   In the ancient world, skepticism was recommended as a way of life.  The general claim was that living with an attitude of skeptical doubt is superior (morally and/or practically) to living with an attitude of dogmatic certainty.  In the modern world (i.e., the 1600s through the 1800s), skepticism was more often treated as something to be avoided, and considerable philosophical energy was put into strategies for doing so.  In contemporary philosophy, skepticism is typically framed as a theoretical problem rather than a practical one. The concern is to closely consider the best arguments for skepticism and to explore how best to respond to them.  Attempts to answer skeptical arguments have inspired philosophers to adopt substantive positions in epistemology, but also in ontology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and moral philosophy.  
Key works The Oxford Handbook of Skepticism provides a comprehensive introduction to skeptical arguments and responses to skepticism.  Influential volumes include Popkin 1964Unger 1975Stroud 1984; and Williams 1991.   
Introductions Useful introductory articles include DeRose 1995; Greco 2007Pritchard 2002.
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Subcategories:See also:History/traditions: Skepticism
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  1. Robert Almeder (2010). Truth and Skepticism. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
    Robert Almeder provides a comprehensive discussion and definitive refutation of our common conception of truth as a necessary condition for knowledge of the world, and to defend in detail an epistemic conception of truth without falling into the usual epistemological relativism or classical idealism in which all properties of the world turn out to be linguistic in nature and origin. There is no other book available that clearly and thoroughly defends the case for an epistemic conception of truth and also (...)
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  2. Robert P. Amico (2003). Is a Fully General Theory of Knowledge Possible? Southern Journal of Philosophy 41 (3):307-322.
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  3. M. Cristina Amoretti (2008). Davidson, Self-Knowledge, and Skepticism. In M. Cristina Amoretti & Nicla Vassallo (eds.), Knowledge, Language, and Interpretation: On the Philosophy of Donald Davidson. Ontos Verlag.
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  4. Ferenc András (2010). A Kommunikációs Tér Filozófiája. Gondolat.
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  5. Julia Annas (1996). Scepticism, Old and New. In Michael Frede & Gisela Striker (eds.), Rationality in Greek Thought. Oxford University Press. 239--54.
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  6. Lance Ashdown (2002). Anonymous Skeptics Swinburne, Hick, and Alston. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).
    My theses are that skepticism is a deep philosophical doubt about the sense of language, that it is a necessary consequence of a pervasive philosophical picture of human life that can be called "externalism," that this picture is a confusion based on a misunderstanding of what it is for human beings to speak a language, and that Richard Swinburne, John Hick, and William Alston are three contemporary philosophers who are externalists and so are "anonymous skeptics," i.e., philosophers whose theories unwittingly (...)
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  7. Alex Astrov (2005). The Sceptical Idealist: Michael Oakeshott as a Critic of the Enlightenment. Contemporary Political Theory 4 (2):211.
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  8. Philip Atkins & Ian Nance (2014). A Problem for the Closure Argument. International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 4 (1):36-49.
    Contemporary discussions of skepticism often frame the skeptic’s argument around an instance of the closure principle. Roughly, the closure principle states that if a subject knows p, and knows that p entails q, then the subject knows q. The main contention of this paper is that the closure argument for skepticism is defective. We explore several possible classifications of the defect. The closure argument might plausibly be classified as begging the question, as exhibiting transmission failure, or as structurally inefficient. Interestingly, (...)
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  9. Peter Augustine & King (1995). Against the Academicians the Teacher. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).
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  10. Alan Bailey (unknown). Rediscovering Scepticism. Eidos: The Canadian Graduate Journal of Philosophy 8.
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  11. Micah Baize (2012). The Skeptic's Predicament. Southwest Philosophy Review 27 (1):147-155.
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  12. T. Bandyopadhyay (1995). Fallibilism and Putnam. Indian Philosophical Quarterly 22 (4):313-326.
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  13. Alex Barber (2008). Sentence Realization Again. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 8 (2):233-240.
    Against criticism from Georges Rey I defend both my earlier account of sentence realization and my objection to his own ‘folie-a-deux’ account. The latter has two components, one sceptical (sentences and other standard linguistic entities are rarely if ever realized [‘produced’, ‘tokened’, ‘uttered’]) and the other optimistic (this is a benign outcome since communication is unaffected by our being mistaken in assuming that they are realized). Both components are flawed, notwithstanding Rey’s defence. My non-sceptical account of sentence realization avoids the (...)
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  14. Jonathan Barfield (2014). Sceptical Hypotheses and Transcendental Arguments. Philosophy Now 104:30-32.
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  15. L. Bargeliotes (1995). Roots, Rising and Versions of Skepticism. Skepsis 6.
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  16. Yuri Barn (2000). Disquotation and Substitutivity, Bryan Frances. The Monist 83 (3).
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  17. Jonathan Barnes (2014). Proof, Knowledge, and Scepticism: Essays in Ancient Philosophy Iii. Oup Oxford.
    Proof, Knowledge, and Scepticism is the third volume of Jonathan Barnes' papers on ancient philosophy. It contains twenty-two pieces on epistemological matters, some of them revised, and one or two which appear for the first time in English. Anyone with an interest in ancient philosophy will find them enriching and amusing.
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  18. Jonathan Barnes (1990). Some Ways of Scepticism.“. In Stephen Everson (ed.), Epistemology. Cambridge University Press. 204--224.
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  19. Charles E. Bashaw (2001). Montaigne and the Skeptical Tradition. Dissertation, The University of Wisconsin - Madison
    The "skeptical crisis" of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is widely believed to have been brought on by the Protestant Reformation and fueled primarily by the "rediscovery" of ancient skeptical teachings, particularly those found in the second-century writings attributed to Sextus Empiricus. In truth, however, the basic arguments of the ancient skeptics were known throughout the Middle Ages, and the flowering of skepticism in the early modern period was essentially the reaffirmation of a long-standing Christian commitment to the primacy of (...)
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  20. Kelly Becker (2014). Scepticism and Reliable Belief. Philosophical Review 123 (2):241-244.
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  21. P. Beeley (1997). Scepticism and the Continuum. Skepsis 8.
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  22. Paul Benacerraf (1985). Skolem and the Skeptic. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 59:85-115.
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  23. Lisa Dianne Bendixen (1998). A Phenomenological Study of Epistemic Doubt. Dissertation, The University of Nebraska - Lincoln
    This study is an exploration of the experience of epistemic doubt. Since the pioneering work of Perry educators have been interested in epistemic beliefs. Perry and a number of other theorists have proposed that individuals pass through a developmental sequence of epistemic growth, moving from dichotomous views of knowledge, to relativistic views, and then to post-relativism in which an evaluation of different viewpoints is considered. Chandler, Boyes, and Ball proposed that the relativistic thought and "epistemic doubt" that results from this (...)
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  24. Boran Berčić (2001). Skepticism. Theoria 44 (1-4):7-94.
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  25. David Rhodes Berry (1998). The Body of Art: Style and Skepticism in Pater. Dissertation, Harvard University
    "The empirical philosophy of our day has triumphed," Pater asserts, over "the a priori, or absolute, or Platonic, view of things," and over its modern "expansion," the "recent metaphysics of Germany." Yet he writes an entire book about Plato, while the influence of Hegel's Aesthetics, and of German Romanticism generally, pervades all Pater's work. To the Germans he owes his idea that art founds itself in separation from external interests and purposes. Yet Pater's empirical skepticism ironically transforms the idea of (...)
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  26. Benjamin Bertram (2004). The Time is Out of Joint Skepticism in Shakespeare's England.
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  27. Bhaswati Bhattacharya (1974). The Concept of Existence and Absolute Skepticism. Indian Philosophical Quarterly 1 (3):241-266.
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  28. Peter Bieri, Rolf-Peter Horstmann & Lorenz Kruger (1982). Transcendental Arguments and Science. Journal of Philosophy 79 (1):45-50.
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  29. Telma Souza Birchadel (2008). A figura do filósofo: ceticismo e subjetividade em Montaigne. Kriterion 49 (117):243-248.
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  30. Andrzej Biłat (2012). Dubito Ergo Non Sum or the Logic of Skepticism. Polish Journal of Philosophy 6 (2):7-14.
    The paper analyses three versions of skepticism: the attitude of a general withholding of belief; the attitude of general doubt and the view that all beliefs are unjustified. It is shown on the basis of epistemic logic that only the first of these versions can be deemed not to be self-contradictory.
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  31. Thomas Blackson (2005). In Defense of an Unpopular Interpretation of Ancient Skepticism. Logical Analysis and History of Philosophy 8.
    There is a set of texts in the history of ancient skepticism that have not been widely understood. Michael Frede has done much to set these texts in their proper context, but his work has not gotten the appreciation it deserves. Historians have tended to think that ancient skepticism in the Clitomachian-Pyrrhonian tradition is the suspension of belief on all matters and that Frede’s attempt to show otherwise is confused. This may turn out to be correct, but Frede’s interpretation, as (...)
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  32. Laurence BonJour (1987). Nozick, Externalism, and Skepticism. In Luper-Foy Steven (ed.), The Possibility of Knowledge: Nozick and His Critics. Rowman & Littlefield.
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  33. Thomas Bonk (2003). Scepticism Under New Colors? Stroud's Criticism of Carnap. In Language, Truth and Knowledge. Kluwer. 133--147.
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  34. Andrea Borghini (2014). A Critical Introduction to Skepticism by Allan Hazlett. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (2):408-409.
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  35. Cristina Borgoni (2014). Debating Self-Knowledge, by Anthony Brueckner and Gary Ebbs. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (1):204-204.
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  36. Richard Bosley (1993). On Knowing That One Knows the Logic of Skepticism and Theory.
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  37. Aryeh Botwinick (1990). Skepticism. Temple University Press.
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  38. E. Brandon (2002). Michael Williams And The Hypothetical World. Minerva 6:151-161.
    Michael Williams has frequently considered and rejected approaches to “our knowledge of the external world”that see it as the best explanation for certain features of experience.This paper examines the salience of his position to approaches such as Mackie’s that do not deny thepresentational directness of ordinary experience but do permit a gap between how things appear and how theyare that allows for sceptical doubts.Williams’ main argument is that, to do justice to its place in a foundationalist strategy, the external world (...)
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  39. Tad Brennan (2013). Casey Perin's The Demands of Reason. International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 3 (4):283-293.
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  40. Jochen Briesen (2012). Skeptische Paradoxa –– Die philosophische Skepsis, kognitive Projekte und der epistemische Konsequentialismus. Mentis.
    Die These der philosophischen Skepsis besagt, dass Menschen über keinerlei Wissen bzw. Rechtfertigung verfügen. So unplausibel diese These klingen mag, so überraschend ist es, dass sie gleich durch eine Vielzahl an Argumenten verteidigt werden kann. Die besten dieser Argumente lassen sich in gewisser Hinsicht als Paradoxa verstehen: Aus äußerst plausiblen Prämissen werden in logisch einwandfreier Weise Konklusionen abgeleitet, die sehr unplausibel – ja, geradezu absurd sind. Befriedigende Lösungen skeptischer Paradoxa sind daher unerlässlich, um ein kohärentes Verständnis von Wissen und Rechtfertigung (...)
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  41. C. D. Broad (1921). The External World. Mind 30 (120):385-408.
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  42. Gayle Maria Brown (1999). Skepticism, Externalism and the Nature of the Mind-World Relation. Dissertation, University of Florida
    Externalism about thought content is the view that the identity conditions for the contents of propositional attitudes include facts about the external world and one's causal interaction with the world. This view seems to offer a promising new strategy for dealing with the problem of skepticism about the external world. The promise, however, is empty. ;Argumentatively, this dissertation is divided into two main parts. The first part aims to clarify the skeptical challenge and to set down some plausible success conditions (...)
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  43. Stuart C. Brown (1981). Philosophical Skepticism and Ordinary Language Analysis. Philosophical Books 22 (1):48-50.
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  44. Brown, S. J. Case & S. J. Brown (1925). Sir William Bragg and Scepticism. Modern Schoolman 2 (2):23-26.
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  45. Anthony Brueckner (2011). A Defense of Burge's "Self-Verifying Judgments". International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 1 (1):27-32.
    People have worried about the compatibility of anti-individualism and knowledge of the contents of one's thoughts. Skepticism about such knowledge rears its ugly head. The first—classic—response to such worries was Tyler Burge's contention that a subclass of judgments about one's own mental states are cogito-like: they are self-verifying, thereby guaranteed to be true. Finn Spicer has recently put forward an interesting argument against Burge's claim. In this paper, I defend Burge's account of self-verification against Spicer's argument.
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  46. Patrick Burke (1996). Skepticism and the Question of Community. Research in Phenomenology 26 (1):98-115.
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  47. A. Burri (2001). Tolerant Anti-Scepticism. Philosophisches Jahrbuch 108 (1):79-96.
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  48. John Mcknight Brayton Bush (1970). Scepticism: A Critical Investigation. Dissertation, University of Washington
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  49. Börje Bydén (2002). To Every Argument There Is a Counter—Argument”: Theodore Metochites' Defence of Scepticism (Semeiosis 61). In Katerina Ierodiakonou (ed.), Byzantine Philosophy and its Ancient Sources. Clarendon Press. 183--217.
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  50. Scott Calef (2007). Distorted View : A Saucerful of Skepticism. In George A. Reisch (ed.), Pink Floyd and Philosophy: Careful with That Axiom, Eugene! Open Court.
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