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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. Scott Aikin (2010). Invariantism, Skepticism, and Two Senses of Pragmatism. Southwest Philosophy Review 26 (2):5-7.
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  2. 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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  3. Robert P. Amico (2003). Is a Fully General Theory of Knowledge Possible? Southern Journal of Philosophy 41 (3):307-322.
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  4. 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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  5. Ferenc András (2010). A Kommunikációs Tér Filozófiája. Gondolat.
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  6. 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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  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. Alan Bailey (unknown). Rediscovering Scepticism. Eidos: The Canadian Graduate Journal of Philosophy 8.
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  10. Micah Baize (2012). The Skeptic's Predicament. Southwest Philosophy Review 27 (1):147-155.
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  11. T. Bandyopadhyay (1995). Fallibilism and Putnam. Indian Philosophical Quarterly 22 (4):313-326.
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  12. 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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  13. Yuri Barn (2000). Disquotation and Substitutivity, Bryan Frances. The Monist 83 (3).
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  14. 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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  15. Jonathan Barnes (1990). Some Ways of Scepticism.“. In Stephen Everson (ed.), Epistemology. Cambridge University Press. 204--224.
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  16. Kelly Becker (2014). Scepticism and Reliable Belief. Philosophical Review 123 (2):241-244.
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  17. Paul Benacerraf (1985). Skolem and the Skeptic. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 59:85-115.
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  18. Boran Berčić (2001). Skepticism. Theoria 44 (1-4):7-94.
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  19. Peter Bieri, Rolf-Peter Horstmann & Lorenz Kruger (1982). Transcendental Arguments and Science. Journal of Philosophy 79 (1):45-50.
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  20. Telma Souza Birchadel (2008). A figura do filósofo: ceticismo e subjetividade em Montaigne. Kriterion 49 (117):243-248.
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  21. 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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  22. 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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  23. Thomas Bonk (2003). Scepticism Under New Colors? Stroud's Criticism of Carnap. In , Language, Truth and Knowledge. Kluwer. 133--147.
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  24. Andrea Borghini (forthcoming). A Critical Introduction to Skepticism by Allan Hazlett. Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-1.
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  25. Cristina Borgoni (2014). Debating Self-Knowledge, by Anthony Brueckner and Gary Ebbs. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (1):204-204.
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  26. Richard Bosley (1993). On Knowing That One Knows the Logic of Skepticism and Theory.
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  27. Aryeh Botwinick (1990). Skepticism. Temple University Press.
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  28. 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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  29. 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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  30. 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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  31. C. D. Broad (1921). The External World. Mind 30 (120):385-408.
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  32. Stuart C. Brown (1981). Philosophical Skepticism and Ordinary Language Analysis. Philosophical Books 22 (1):48-50.
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  33. Brown, S. J. Case & S. J. Brown (1925). Sir William Bragg and Scepticism. Modern Schoolman 2 (2):23-26.
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  34. 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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  35. Patrick Burke (1996). Skepticism and the Question of Community. Research in Phenomenology 26 (1):98-115.
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  36. A. Burri (2001). Tolerant Anti-Scepticism. Philosophisches Jahrbuch 108 (1):79-96.
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  37. 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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  38. 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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  39. John Callanan (2004). Neil Gascoigne, Scepticism. [REVIEW] Philosophy in Review 24:104-106.
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  40. Charles Arthur Campbell (1931). Scepticism and Construction. London, G. Allen & Unwin, Ltd..
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  41. H. G. Campbell (1905). Ogers on Scepticism. [REVIEW] Journal of Philosophy 2 (3):80.
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  42. Pietro Capitani (2009). Erudizione E Scetticismo in François de la Mothe le Vayer. L.S. Olschki.
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  43. Quassim Cassam, Foreword to P.F. Strawson's Scepticism and Naturalism: Some Varieties.
    In that book I had two different, though not unrelated aims. The first chapter was concerned with traditional scepticisms about, e.g., the external world and induction. In common with Hume and Wittgenstein (and even Heidegger) I argued that the attempt to combat such doubts by rational argument was misguided: for we are dealing here with the presuppositions, the framework, of all human thought and enquiry. In the other chapters my target was different. It was that species of naturalism which tended (...)
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  44. Quassim Cassam (2003). Self-Directed Transcendental Arguments. In Robert Stern (ed.), Transcendental Arguments: Problems and Prospects. Clarendon Press.
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  45. Quassim Cassam (1985). Foreword. In P. F. Strawson (ed.), Scepticism and Naturalism: Some Varieties. Routledge.
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  46. Bhaswati Bhattacharya Chakrabarti (2006). Indian Scepticism and its Refutation. In Pranab Kumar Sen & Prabal Kumar Sen (eds.), Philosophical Concepts Relevant to Sciences in Indian Tradition. Distributed by Motilal Banarsidass. 257.
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  47. Suresh Chandra (1975). Skepticism, Identity and Interrupted Existence. Indian Philosophical Quarterly 2 (2):113-142.
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  48. Erwin Chargaff (1986). Serious Questions: An Abc of Skeptical Reflections. Birkhäuser.
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  49. George Chatalian & Roderick M. Chisholm (1991). Epistemology and Skepticism: An Enquiry Into the Nature of Epistemology. Southern Illinois University.
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  50. Ross E. Cheit (1999). Junk Skepticism and Recovered Memory: A Reply to Piper. Ethics and Behavior 9 (4):295 – 318.
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