Skepticism

Edited by Everett Fulmer (Loyola University, New Orleans)
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 1960Unger 1975Stroud 1984; and Williams 1991.   
Introductions Useful introductory articles include DeRose 1995; Greco 2007Pritchard 2002.
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  1. Précis of The Illusion of Doubt.Genia Schönbaumsfeld - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-6.
    The Illusion of Doubt shows that radical scepticism is an illusion generated by a Cartesian picture of our evidential situation—the view that my epistemic grounds in both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ cases must be the same. It is this picture which issues both a standing invitation to radical scepticism and ensures that there is no way of getting out of it while agreeing to the sceptic’s terms. The sceptical problem cannot, therefore, be answered ‘directly’. Rather, the assumptions that give (...)
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  2. Response to Critics.Genia Schönbaumsfeld - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-17.
    In this paper I respond to the objections and comments made by Ranalli, Williams, and Moyal-Sharrock, participants in a symposium on my book on scepticism called The Illusion of Doubt.
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  3. Skepticism, Fallibilism, and Rational Evaluation.Michael Hannon - manuscript
    This paper outlines a new type of skepticism that is both compatible with fallibilism and supported by work in psychology. In particular, I will argue that we often cannot properly trust our ability to rationally evaluate reasons, arguments, and evidence (a fundamental knowledge-seeking faculty). We humans are just too cognitively impaired to achieve even fallible knowledge, at least for many beliefs.
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  4. Sensitivity Principle in Epistemology.Guido Melchior - 2020 - Oxford Bibliographies Online.
    Sensitivity is a modal epistemic principle. Modal knowledge accounts are externalist in nature and claim that the knowledge yielding connection between a true belief and the truthmaker must be spelled out in modal terms. The sensitivity condition was introduced by Robert Nozick. He suggests that if S knows that p, then S’s belief that p tracks truth. Nozick argues that this truth-tracking relation can be captured by subjunctive conditionals. As a first approximation, he provides the following modal analysis of knowledge: (...)
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  5. Are There Heavyweight Perceptual Reasons?Chris Ranalli - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-26.
    Genia Schönbaumsfeld has recently argued for the view that our ordinary perceptual reasons provide support for heavyweight metaphysical and epistemological views, such as that there is a mind-independent physical world. Call this the Heavyweight Reasons Thesis. In this paper, I argue that we should reject the Heavyweight Reasons Thesis. I also argue that the rejection of the Heavyweight Reasons Thesis is compatible with the Factive Perceptual Reasons Thesis, the thesis that our perceptual reasons for our ordinary beliefs can be factive, (...)
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  6. A Sellarsian Transcendental Argument Against External World Skepticism.Marin Geier - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-31.
    This paper investigates the relation between what James Conant has called Kantian and Cartesian varieties of skepticism. It is argued that a solution to the most prominent example of a Kantian variety of skepticism, i.e. Kripkensteinian skepticism about rule-following and meaning, can be found in the works of Wilfrid Sellars. It is then argued that, on the basis of that very same solution to the Kantian problematic of rule-following and meaning, a novel argument against external world skepticism can be formulated. (...)
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  7. Austin’s Way with Skepticism: An Essay on Philosophical Method, by Mark Kaplan.Guy Longworth - 2020 - Mind 129 (513):323-331.
    _ Austin’s Way with Skepticism: An Essay on Philosophical Method _, by KaplanMark. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. 192.
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  8. Why Purists Should Be Infallibilists.Michael Hannon - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (3):689-704.
    Two of the most orthodox ideas in epistemology are fallibilism and purism. According to the fallibilist, one can know that a particular claim is true even though one’s justification for that claim is less than fully conclusive. According to the purist, knowledge does not depend on practical factors. Fallibilism and purism are widely assumed to be compatible; in fact, the combination of these views has been called the ‘ho-hum,’ obvious, traditional view of knowledge. But I will argue that fallibilism and (...)
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  9. (Zen And The Art Of) Post-Modern Philosophy: A Partially Interpreted Model.N. Nyberg - manuscript
    (ZEN AND THE ART OF) POST-MODERN PHILOSOPHY: A PARTIALLY INTERPRETED MODEL -/- Many years have passed since Hilary Putnam first asked us to suppose ourselves to be “brains in a vat.” According to Putnam, we in no way appear to ourselves to be in a vat because we are subjected to a collective hallucination imposed upon us by an evil scientist who has so obliterated our memories that we are unable to recall any other life but that of the vat. (...)
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  10. Probleme der Selbsterkenntnis.Guido Melchior - 2009 - Dissertation, University of Graz
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  11. Der totale Skeptizismus: Eine konsequente Ausweitung des Außenweltskeptizismus.Guido Melchior - 2004 - In Experience and Analysis. Papers of the 27th International Wittgenstein Symposium. pp. 231-234.
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  12. Getting Out From Inside: Why the Closure Principle Cannot Support External World Scepticism.Guido Melchior - 2008 - In A. Hieke and H. Leitgeb (ed.), Reduction and Elimination in Philosophy and the Sciences. Papers of the 31st International Wittgenstein Symposium. pp. 218-220.
    The canonical version of external world scepticism has the following structure: Premise1: If P knows that she is not a brain in a vat, then P does not have knowledge of the external world. Premise2: P does not know that she is not a brain in a vat. Conclusion: Therefore, P does not have knowledge of the external world. Some philosophers attack premise1 by denying the underlying closure principle. I will investigate possible argumentations for and against premise2. I will show (...)
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  13. Skeptical Doubting and Mindful Self-Reflection.Guido Melchior - 2013 - In Mind, Language and Action. Papers of the 36th International Wittgenstein Symposium. pp. 274-276.
    The skeptic argues that we cannot have any external world knowledge because we cannot know that we are not brains in a vat. The intuitive appeal of this skeptical argument is essentially based on the comprehensibility of the process of skeptical doubting, where we focus our attention on our experiences and experience-based beliefs and raise questions about the sources of these experiences. I propose that skeptical doubting is an instance of a mental attitude that contemporary psychology characterizes as mindfulness. I (...)
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  14. Knowledge and Representations: Explaining the Skeptical Puzzle.Guido Melchior - 2017 - In C. Limbeck-Lilienau and F. Stadler (ed.), The Philosophy of Perception and Observation. Papers of the 40th International Wittgenstein Symposium. pp. 150-152.
    (*This paper was awarded the Elisabeth and Werner Leinfellner Award 2017 for outstanding contributions.) -/- This paper provides an explanation of the skeptical puzzle. I argue that we can take two distinct points of view towards representations, mental representations like perceptual experiences and artificial representations like symbols. When focusing on what the representation represents we take an attached point of view. When focusing on the representational character of the representation we take a detached point view. From an attached point of (...)
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  15. Moral Peer Disagreement and the Limits of Higher-Order Evidence.Marco Tiozzo - forthcoming - In Michael Klenk (ed.), Higher-Order Evidence and Moral Epistemology. Routledge.
    Abstract. This paper argues that the “Argument from Moral Peer Disagreement” fails to make a case for widespread moral skepticism. The main reason for this is that the argument rests on a too strong assumption about the normative significance of peer disagreement (and higher-order evidence more generally). In order to demonstrate this, I distinguish two competing ways in which one might explain higher-order defeat. According to what I call the “Objective Defeat Explanation” it is the mere possession of higher-order evidence (...)
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  16. Cicero’s Skepticism and His Recovery of Political Philosophy, Written by Walter Nicgorski. [REVIEW]Harald Thorsrud - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (4):339-344.
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  17. Why Not Persuade the Skeptic? A Critique of Unambitious Epistemology.Michael Veber - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (4):314-338.
    What constitutes a solution to the problem of skepticism? It has been traditionally held that one must produce an argument that would rationally persuade skeptical philosophers that they are mistaken. But there is a trend in recent epistemology toward the idea that we can solve the problem without giving skeptics any good reason to change their minds. This is what I call unambitious epistemology. This paper is a critique of that project.
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  18. No Morality, No Self: Anscombe’s Radical Skepticism, Written by James Doyle. [REVIEW]Rachael Wiseman - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (4):357-363.
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  19. Ideas, Evidence, and Method: Hume’s Skepticism and Naturalism Concerning Knowledge and Causation, Written by Graciela De Pierris.Peter S. Fosl - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (4):345-356.
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  20. Disagreement, Deep Time, and Progress in Philosophy.Kirk Lougheed - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (4):285-313.
    The epistemology of disagreement examines the question of how an agent ought to respond to awareness of epistemic peer disagreement about one of her beliefs. The literature on this topic, ironically enough, represents widespread disagreement about how we should respond to disagreement. I argue for the sceptical conclusion that the existence of widespread disagreement throughout the history of philosophy, and right up until the present day indicates that philosophers are highly unreliable at arriving at the truth. If truth convergence indicates (...)
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  21. Can We Be Skeptical About A Priori Knowledge?Sherif Salem - manuscript
    In this paper, we present a dialectical argument for a priori skepticism (i.e. the thesis that we can be skeptical about a priori knowledge). Then, we propose a framework that combines elements from inferential contextualism and logical conventionalism to offer a weak transcendental argument against a priori skepticism.
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  22. Skepticism: Impractical, Therefore Implausible.Michael Hannon - 2019 - Philosophical Issues 29 (1):143-158.
    The truth of skepticism would be depressing and impractical. Our beliefs would be groundless, we would know nothing (or almost nothing) about the world around us, and epistemic success would likely be impossible. But do these negative consequences have any bearing on the truth of skepticism? According to many scholars, they do not. The impractical consequences of skepticism are typically regarded as orthogonal to its truth. For this reason, pragmatic resolutions to skepticism are regularly dismissed. I will argue, however, that (...)
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  23. Scepticism and Anti-Scepticism in Medieval Jewish Philosophy and Thought, Edited by Racheli Haliva.Shalom Sadik - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-7.
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  24. Debunking Arguments in Ethics, Written by Hanno Sauer.Erik J. Wielenberg - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-6.
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  25. Le Scepticisme: Vivre Sans Opinions, Written by Phane Marchand.Richard Bett - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-6.
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  26. Moral Reality and the Empirical Sciences, Written by Thomas Pölzler. [REVIEW]Michael Klenk - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-9.
  27. The School of Doubt: Skepticism, History and Politics in Cicero’s, Written by Orazio Cappello.Raphael Woolf - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-5.
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  28. The Mystery of Skepticism: New Explorations, Edited by Kevin McCain and Ted Poston. [REVIEW]James R. Beebe - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-5.
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  29. On the Underpinning Mechanisms of Reliable Processes.Majid Davoody Beni - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-25.
    The paper aims to evaluate the success of two different philosophical interpretations of prediction error minimisation theory in dissolving a notorious problem of philosophy, i.e., the New Evil Demon Problem. In this paper, I argue that the inferentialist interpretation could not dissolve the strong form of ned. Alternatively, the embodied construaldissolves ned. However, in doing so, i.e., in dispensing with the cognitive judgment, the embodied construal might also eliminate some basic concepts of epistemology.
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  30. Moral Error Theory, Written by Wouter Floris Kalf.Matthew Lutz - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-7.
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  31. The Point of Moore’s Proof.Charles Raff - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-27.
    The current standard interpretation of Moore’s proof assumes he offers a solution to Kant’s famously posed problem of an external world, which Moore quotes at the start of his 1939 lecture “Proof of an External World.” As a solution to Kant’s problem, Moore’s proof would fail utterly. A second received interpretation imputes an aim of refuting metaphysical idealism that Moore’s proof does not at all achieve. This study departs from received interpretations to credit the aim Moore announced for the proof (...)
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  32. No Commitment to the Truth.Anna-Maria A. Eder - 2020 - Synthese:1-24.
    On an evidentialist position, it is epistemically rational for us to believe propositions that are (stably) supported by our total evidence. We are epistemically permitted to believe such propositions, and perhaps even ought to do so. Epistemic rationality is normative. One popular way to explain the normativity appeals to epistemic teleology. The primary aim of this paper is to argue that appeals to epistemic teleology do not support that we ought to believe what is rational to believe, only that we (...)
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  33. Précis of The Appearance of Ignorance: Knowledge, Skepticism, and Context, Vol. 2.Keith DeRose - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (3):321-323.
    The Appearance of Ignorance develops and champions contextualist solutions to the puzzles of skeptical hypotheses and of lotteries. It is argued that, at least by ordinary standards for knowledge, we do know that skeptical hypotheses are false, and that we’ve lost the lottery. Accounting for how it is that we know that skeptical hypotheses are false and why it seems that we don’t know that they’re false tells us a lot, both about what knowledge is and how knowledge attributions work. (...)
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  34. Replies to Commentators.Keith DeRose - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (3):284-320.
    Replies are given to comments, questions, and objections to The Appearance of Ignorance. The reply to Robin McKenna focuses mainly on his questions of whether, with the skeptical argument I’m focused on, a strong enough appearance of ignorance is generated to require an account of that appearance, and whether, to the extent that we do need to account for that appearance, we might do so without contextualism by adopting a solution proposed by Ernest Sosa. The reply to Michael Blome-Tillman focuses (...)
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  35. Introduction.Genia Schönbaumsfeld - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (3):179-182.
    This introduction provides an overview of the content of the papers published in the special issue on epistemic vice and forms of scepticism.
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  36. The Nature and Limits of Skeptical Criticism.Yuval Avnur - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (3):183-205.
    Is there something wrong with the way we form beliefs about our surroundings? Most people assume not. But there is a character, the skeptic, who disagrees. What, exactly, is this skeptic claiming, and why should this concern us? We are, after all, just humans doing what humans do: forming beliefs on the basis of our faculties. In what sense could this be wrong, and how could it matter if it is? By considering the way in which the notions of vice (...)
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  37. Skepticism as Vice and Virtue.Pierre Le Morvan - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (3):238-260.
    I articulate and defend a conception of skepticism inspired by Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean. On it, skepticism is vicious when deficient and when excessive. Virtuous skepticism lies as a mean between these two extremes.
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  38. Redrawing the Map: Medina on Epistemic Vices and Skepticism.Aidan McGlynn - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (3):261-283.
    My aim in this paper is to closely examine José Medina’s account of socially-situated knowledge and ignorance in terms of epistemic virtues and vices in his 2013 book The Epistemology of Resistance. First, I’ll offer a detailed examination of the similarities and differences between Medina’s account and both standpoint epistemology and epistemologies of active ignorance. Medina presents his account as capturing and integrating the insights of both, but I will argue that, for better or worse, his account differs from familiar (...)
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  39. Epistemic Angst, Intellectual Courage and Radical Scepticism.Genia Schönbaumsfeld - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (3):206-222.
    The overarching aim of this paper is to persuade the reader that radical scepticism is driven less by independently plausible arguments and more by a fear of epistemic limitation which can be overcome. By developing the Kierkegaardian insight that knowledge requires courage, I show that we are not, as potential knowers, just passive recipients of a passing show of putatively veridical information, we also actively need to put ourselves in the way of it by learning to resist certain forms of (...)
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  40. What Shifts Epistemic Standards? DeRose on Contextualism, Safety, and Sensitivity.Michael Blome-Tillmann - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-7.
    In The Appearance of Ignorance, Keith DeRose develops a version of epistemic contextualism that combines aspects of both safety and sensitivity theories of knowledge. This paper discusses some potential problems for DeRose’s account stemming from his Rule of Sensitivity, which is meant to model upwards shifts in epistemic standards.
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  41. Can an Atheist Know That He Exists? Cogito, Mathematics, and God in Descartes’s Meditations.Jan Forsman - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (2):91-115.
    Descartes’s meditator thinks that if she does not know the existence of God, she cannot be fully certain of anything. This statement seems to contradict the cogito, according to which the existence of I is indubitable and therefore certain. Cannot an atheist be certain that he exists? Atheistic knowledge has been discussed almost exclusively in relation to mathematics, and the more interesting question of the atheist’s certainty of his existence has not received the attention it deserves. By examining the question (...)
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  42. Hinge Epistemology, Radical Skepticism, and Domain Specific Skepticism.Drew Johnson - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (2):116-133.
    This paper explores how hinge epistemology might fruitfully be applied not only to the problem of radical skepticism, but also to certain domain specific skepticisms, and in particular, moral skepticism. The paper explains the idea of a domain specific skepticism, and how domain specific skepticisms contrast with radical skepticism. I argue that a domain specific skeptical problem can be resolved in just the same way as radical skepticism, if there are hinge commitments within that domain. I then suggest that there (...)
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  43. Hinge Propositions, Skeptical Dogmatism, and External World Disjunctivism.Mark Walker - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (2):134-167.
    Following Wittgenstein’s lead, Crispin Wright and others have argued that hinge propositions are immune from skeptical doubt. In particular, the entitlement strategy, as we shall refer to it, says that hinge propositions have a special type of justification because of their role in our cognitive lives. Two major criticisms are raised here against the entitlement strategy when used in attempts to justify belief in the external world. First, the hinge strategy is not sufficient to thwart underdetermination skepticism, since underdetermination considerations (...)
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  44. DeRose on Lotteries.Peter Baumann - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-24.
    This article discusses Keith DeRose’s treatment of the lottery problem in Chapter 5 of his recent The Appearance of Ignorance. I agree with a lot of it but also raise some critical points and questions and make some friendly proposals. I discuss different ways to set up the problem, go into the difference between knowing and ending inquiry, propose to distinguish between two different kinds of lotteries, add to the defense of the idea that one can know lottery propositions, give (...)
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  45. Disagreeing with a Skeptic From a Contextualist Point of View.Elke Brendel - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-16.
    The paper focuses on the problem of how to account for the phenomena of disagreement and retraction in disputes over skepticism in a contextualist framework. I will argue that nonindexical versions of contextualism are better suited to account for those phenomena than DeRose’s indexical form of contextualism. Furthermore, I will argue against DeRose’s “single scoreboard” semantics and against his solution of ruling that in a dispute over skepticism, both parties to the conversation are expressing something truth-valueless. At the end, I (...)
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  46. Beyond Quietism: Transformative Experience in Pyrrhonism and Wittgenstein.Rico Gutschmidt - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-24.
    Pyrrhonian skepticism is usually understood as a form of quietism, since it is supposed to bring us back to where we were in our everyday lives before we got disturbed by philosophical questions. Similarly, the ‘therapeutic’ and ‘resolute’ readings of Wittgenstein claim that Wittgenstein’s ‘philosophical practice’ results in the dissolution of the corresponding philosophical problems and brings us back to our everyday life. Accordingly, Wittgenstein is often linked to Pyrrhonism and classified as a quietist. Against this reading, I will employ (...)
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  47. Moral Skepticism: New Essays, Edited by Diego E. Machuca.Neil Sinclair - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (2):173-178.
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  48. Against Those in the Disciplines, Written by Sextus Empiricus.Máté Veres - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (2):169-172.
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  49. Wittgenstein and Dretske on Knowledge and Certainty.Yves Bouchard - 2016 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 6 (2-3):260-273.
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  50. Philosophy Rehinged?Hans-Johann Glock - 2016 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 6 (2-3):274-308.
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