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Skepticism

Edited by John Greco (Saint Louis University)
Assistant editor: Everett Fulmer (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. Jonathan E. Adler (1976). Evaluating Global and Local Theories of Induction. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1976:212-223.
    This paper explores the implications of the epistemic distinction between the grounds that are relevant for justification in normal knowledge-claim contexts and those that are relevant in philosophical knowledge-claim contexts for inductive logics.
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  2. Robert Amico (1993). The Problem of the Criterion. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
    Selected by CHOICE as an Outstanding Academic Book for 1995.
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  3. Bryan C. Appley, Inference to the Best Explanation and the Challenge of Skepticism.
    In this dissertation I consider the problem of external world skepticism and attempts at providing an argument to the best explanation against it. In chapter one I consider several different ways of formulating the crucial skeptical argument, settling on an argument that centers on the question of whether we're justified in believing propositions about the external world. I then consider and reject several options for getting around this issue which I take to be inadequate. I finally conclude that the best (...)
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  4. Bruce Aune (2014). Knowledge of the External World. Routledge.
    Many philosophers believe that the traditional problem of our knowledge of the external world was dissolved by Wittgestein and others. They argue that it was not really a problem - just a linguistic `confusion' that did not actually require a solution. Bruce Aune argues that they are wrong. He casts doubt on the generally accepted reasons for putting the problem aside and proposes an entirely new approach. By considering the history of the problem from Descartes to Kant, Aune shows that (...)
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  5. Bruce Aune (2006). Knowledge of the External World. Routledge.
    Many philosophers believe that the traditional problem of our knowledge of the external world was dissolved by Wittgestein and others. They argue that it was not really a problem - just a linguistic `confusion' that did not actually require a solution. Bruce Aune argues that they are wrong. He casts doubt on the generally accepted reasons for putting the problem aside and proposes an entirely new approach. By considering the history of the problem from Descartes to Kant, Aune shows that (...)
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  6. Guy Axtell (2006). Blind Man’s Bluff: The Basic Belief Apologetic as Anti-Skeptical Stratagem. Philosophical Studies 130 (1):131-152.
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  7. Jonathan Barnes (1990). Pyrrhonism, Belief and Causation. Observations on the Scepticism of Sextus Empiricus. In Wolfgang Haase (ed.), Philosophie, Wissenschaften, Technik. Philosophie. De Gruyter. pp. 2608-2695.
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  8. Paul Benacerraf & Crispin Wright (1985). Skolem and the Skeptic. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 59 (1):85-138.
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  9. A. Bird (2001). Scepticism and Contrast Classes. Analysis 61 (2):97-107.
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  10. Matthew Bixby, Is Belief In God A Hinge Proposition?
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  11. Carolyn Black (1982). Doubts. Philosophical Investigations 5 (3):205-214.
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  12. 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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  13. Laurence BonJour (1982). Review of James Cornman, Skepticism, Justification, and Explanation. [REVIEW] Philosophical Review 91 (4):612-615.
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  14. Laurence BonJour & James W. Cornman (1982). Skepticism, Justification, and Explanation. Philosophical Review 91 (4):612.
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  15. Aryeh Botwinick (1990). Skepticism. Temple University Press.
    Aryeh Botwinick argues for the recovery of a radical democratic tradition that emphasizes the role of individual participation in the development and control of social and political institutions. Such involvement implies philosophical skepticism—the assumption that the truth about what is the best course of action cannot be known with certainty and that, therefore, every person’s opinion has an equal claim to be considered. The crucial stumbling block to reappropriating this radical egalitarian tradition is the supposed unviability of a consistent skepticism. (...)
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  16. A. Brant William (2013). Levelling the Analysis of Knowledge Via Methodological Scepticism. Logos and Episteme 4 (3):293-304.
    In this essay I provide one methodology that yields the level of analysis of an alleged knowledge-claim under investigation via its relations to varying gradations of scepticism. Each proposed knowledge-claim possesses a specified relationship with: a globally sceptical argument; the least sceptical but successful argument that casts it into doubt; and the most sceptical yet unsuccessful argument, which is conceivably hypothesized to repudiate it but fails to do so. Yielding this specified set of relations, by means of proceeding from global (...)
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  17. 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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  18. Anthony Brueckner (1992). Problems with the Wright Route to Skepticism. Mind 101 (402):308-317.
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  19. Reid Buchanan (2004). Natural Doubts: Williams's Diagnosis Of Scepticism. Synthese 131 (1):57-80.
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  20. H. G. Campbell (1905). Ogers on Scepticism. [REVIEW] Journal of Philosophy 2 (3):80.
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  21. L. S. Carrier & P. F. Strawson (1986). Skepticism and Naturalism: Some Varieties. Philosophical Review 95 (3):437.
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  22. Quassim Cassam, Reply to Barry Stroud.
    (Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, forthcoming).
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  23. Stanley Cavell (1999). The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy. Oxford University Press USA.
    This handsome new edition of Stanley Cavell's landmark text, first published 20 years ago, provides a new preface that discusses the reception and influence of his work, which occupies a unique niche between philosophy and literary studies.
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  24. George Chatalian & Roderick M. Chisholm (1991). Epistemology and Skepticism: An Enquiry Into the Nature of Epistemology. Southern Illinois University.
    Convinced that both epistemology and philosophy have gone astray in the twentieth century, George Chatalian seeks to restore the classical tradition in both, in part by marshaling a mass of data about philosophical skepticism throughout the history of philosophy, data which taken as a whole are not to be found in any other work. Despite the extensive historical and linguistic investigations, however, the work is essentially a philosophical one. After outlining the theses he sees as central to the epistemology of (...)
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  25. Ross E. Cheit (1999). Junk Skepticism and Recovered Memory: A Reply to Piper. Ethics and Behavior 9 (4):295-318.
  26. Leo K. C. Cheung (2016). Three Sosaian Responses and a Wittgensteinian Response to the Dream Argument in the Zhuangzi. Philosophia 44 (3):721-743.
    Ernest Sosa has proposed at least three responses to the dream argument for skepticism in his writings in the past decade. The first and the main purpose of this paper is to critically examine the three Sosaian responses, as well as a Wittgensteinian response Sosa would endorse, by investigating whether they can refute the six different versions of the dream argument found in a passage in the Zhuangzi. The second purpose of this paper is exactly to offer an exposition of (...)
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  27. Michael Clark (1967). Review of E. Laszlo, Beyond Scepticism and Realism. [REVIEW] Philosophical Quarterly 17.
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  28. James Cleve (1977). Probability and Certainty: A Reexamination of the Lewis-Reichenbach Debate. Philosophical Studies 32 (4):323 - 334.
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  29. Tammy clewell (2004). Cavell and the Endless Mourning of Skepticism. Angelaki 9 (3):75 – 87.
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  30. Andrew D. Cling (1994). Posing the Problem of the Criterion. Philosophical Studies 75 (3):261 - 292.
    Although it has been largely neglected in contemporary philosophy , the problem of the criterion raises questions which must be addressed by any complete account of knowledge . But the problem of the criterion suffers not onl.
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  31. Lorraine Code (2006). Skepticism and the Lure of Ambiguity. Hypatia 21 (3):222-228.
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  32. Stewart Cohen (1991). Skepticism, Relevance, and Relativity. In Brian P. McLaughlin (ed.), Dretske and His Critics. Blackwell. pp. 17--37.
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  33. David John Cole (1979). Skepticism and Meaning. Dissertation, University of California, San Diego
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  34. Annalisa Coliva (2012). Scetticismo: Dubbio, Paradosso E Conoscenza. Laterza.
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  35. Juan Comesar'ia (2013). Reply to Pryor. In Matthias Steup & John Turri (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Epistemology. Blackwell. pp. 239.
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  36. Earl Conee (2015). Debasing Skepticism Refuted. Episteme 12 (1):1-11.
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  37. S. C. Coval (1966). Scepticism and the First Person. London: Methuen.
    Originally published in 1966. This book considers the perceived asymmetries between the self and others, or between self and things. An indepth analysis of scepticism, dualism, belief, knowledge and semantics. A topic which is central to both epistemology but also the whole of contemporary philosophy.
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  38. Samuel Charles Coval (2015). Scepticism and the First Person. Routledge.
    Originally published in 1966. This book considers the perceived asymmetries between the self and others, or between self and things. An in-depth analysis of scepticism, dualism, belief, knowledge and semantics. A topic which is central to both epistemology but also the whole of contemporary philosophy.
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  39. Frederick Crews, José Guilherme Merquior, Rafe Champion, Leslie Graves & G. B. Madison (1990). Correspondence. Critical Review 4 (1-2):284-294.
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  40. Troy Cross (2007). Comments on Vogel. Philosophical Studies 134 (1):89 - 98.
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  41. Joseph Cruz (2010). 12 Is There a Reason for Skepticism? In Joseph Keim Campbell, Michael O.’Rourke & Harry S. Silverstein (eds.), Knowledge and Skepticism. MIT Press. pp. 287.
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  42. G. Watts Cunningham & Adrian Coates (1930). A Sceptical Examination of Contemporary British Philosophy. Philosophical Review 39 (3):317.
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  43. Fred D'Agostino & John Watkins (1987). Science and Scepticism. Philosophical Quarterly 37 (146):104.
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  44. J. Dancy (1986). Grayling, A. C., "The Refutation of Scepticism". [REVIEW] Mind 95:263.
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  45. Tenney L. Davis (1926). The First Edition of the Sceptical Chymist. Isis 8 (1):71-76.
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  46. Mario De Caro & Emidio Spinelli (eds.) (2007). Scetticismo: Una Vicenda Filosofica. Carocci.
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  47. Helen De Cruz (2015). Disagreement, by Bryan Frances. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 94 (1):207-207.
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  48. Maximilian De Gaynesford, Scepticism in the Sonnets.
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  49. Manuel de Pinedo & Hilan Bensusan (2009). The Sceptic as an Alarm Clock for Dreams in the Third Person. Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 28 (1):68-74.
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  50. Douglas J. den Uyl (1995). Between Universalism and Skepticism. Review of Metaphysics 49 (1):150-151.
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