The skeptic disposition in contemporary criticism


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Is there something wrong with the way we form beliefs about our surroundings? Most people assume not.


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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 and criticism can express these questions, we can clarify them and discern some potential answers. The idea is that we can accept, or grant for the sake of argument, that we fall short of some important standard while insisting that it is entirely unreasonable to criticize people, or ourselves, on that basis.

Alfano Mark. Avnur Yuval. Barnett David James. Battaly H. The Ethics of Belief 51 — Oxford : Oxford University Press. Medina J. The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice — New York : Routledge. Cassam Quassim. Coliva Annalisa. Extended Rationality: A Hinge Epistemology. Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan. Fletcher George P.

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Gardner John. Goldman Alvin.

My Problem with The Skeptics™

Epistemology: An Anthology — London : Blackwell. Horder Jeremy. Excusing Crime. McCormick Miriam Schleifer. Montmarquet J. Lanham, MD : Rowman and Littlefield. Moore Michael. Pritchard Duncan. Princeton : Princeton University Press. Ripstein Arthur. In this context, scholars paid attention to Sextus Empiricus in an attempt to explore the question of the possibility of knowledge.

However, the Western Europeans misperceived classical skepticism as being dogmatic, and even worse, the influence of Eastern Europe during the Renaissance reinforced this view. In brief, Frede concluded that the widespread misunderstanding of skepticism was partly owing to its Medieval heritage. In a similar vein to Frede, Groarke was also disappointed by the fact that many scholars, such as Russell, misinterpreted the position taken by the classical Skeptic school as the dogmatic one.

Like Frede, Groarke asserted that classical skeptics had no difficulty in accepting the appearance, and not surprisingly, he associated modern anti-realism with ancient skepticism. But unlike Frede, Groarke gave a different explanation to the widespread misunderstanding of the classical skeptic school:. Given the plausibility of scepticism, one must wonder why it has been so drastically misinterpreted, misunderstood, and underestimated, and why the notion that we must defeat the sceptic has become such a central feature of philosophical inquiry.

The answer has more to do with the social forces that shape philosophical inquiry that with the logic of sceptic views. Scepticism is dismissed, not because it has been studied carefully and found wanting, but because it goes against the spirit of Western thought as modern philosophy has portrayed it.

That account glorifies the use of reason, the possibility of science, and the human ability to establish truth, and has no patience with skeptics to attack these ideas. Instead of trying dispassionately to understand the skeptics or the subtleties of their views…philosophers treat them the way most heretics are treated—with little emphasis on the details of their views, with little or no reserve in exploiting the misunderstanding this encourages, and with rhetorical appeals to the notion that truth and reason must be saved.

Even when philosophers argue for positions that resemble skepticism, they present their views as an attack on it. Not surprisingly, the resulting picture of the sceptic is an easy target and a focus of bad feeling. While both Frede and Groarke, to some certain extent, gave plausible explanations of the widespread misunderstanding of classical skepticism, their account may not adequately illustrate the complexity of this issue.

To be specific, although St. Augustine was influential throughout the Middle Ages, there was more than one interpretation of skepticism in the Latin West and the Greek East. For example, Romans treated skepticism as an ally of atheism; Christian apologetics cited skepticism to support anti-intellectualism.

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During the reformation, the Catholic Counter-Reformation movement viewed skepticism as a weapon against Protestantism that emphasizes personal judgment; certain Protestants also employed skepticism to promote religious toleration and to challenge the infallibility of the Catholic Church. More importantly, these skeptic orientations held by Christians were not dogmatic, because it is impossible for Christians, who have a firm belief in God, to subscribe to a worldview that nothing can be known.

Rather, they replace the objective notion of truth with the subjective one. Even though modern science rose in the West since the 17 th century, embracing reason and science does not seem to be the primary motive for rejecting skepticism or misinterpreting classical skepticism as being dogmatic. For example, Hume adopted a naturalistic approach to reject dogmatic skepticism because believing is said to be our undeniable and natural inclination.

In other words, Hume misinterpreted and refused classical skepticism on psychological rather than philosophical ground. Interestingly enough, in the early 20 th century thinkers who were sympathetic to empiricism, logical positivism, and anti-realism did not see skepticism as anti-reason or anti-science.

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Instead, classical skepticism was praised as a precursor to the anti-metaphysic position embraced by empiricism, behaviorism, pragmaticism, and logical positivism. In brief, acceptance, rejection, and distortion of ancient skepticism could not be simplified to the influence of St. Augustine and its Medieval heritage or an obsession with reason, objectivity, and scientific knowledge. This objective of this article is to illustrate how skepticism was interpreted by different people throughout different periods of history, including thinkers who were in rival parties. Actually, different eras generate different central issues, and as a result, different concerns lead to different conclusions based on the same ancient philosophy.

However, certain inherent properties of classical skepticism play a major role in inviting this wide spectrum of interpretation and misinterpretation. To be specific, the skeptic is a disposition rather than an assertion; the skeptical goal of mental tranquility is virtually unattainable. Tertullian and Anti-intellectualism. Although the Roman Empire inherited the Greek culture, Romans were much less interested in intellectual inquiry than Greeks, and not surprisingly, classic texts were not seriously studied by Romans. Skepticism was mentioned in only a few lines by Emperor Julian and was treated negatively, since he viewed skepticism as an ally of atheism.

On the contrary, Tertullian borrowed the notion of skepticism to downplay the value of secular knowledge. His anti-intellectualism was manifested in the following passage:. Indeed heresies are themselves instigated by philosophy… What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What has the Academy to do with the Church? What have heretics to do with Christians? Our instruction comes from the porch of Solomon, who had himself taught that the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart. Away with all attempts to produce a Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic Christianity!

We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after receiving the gospel! When we believe, we desire no further belief. For this is our first article of faith, that there is nothing which we ought to believe besides emphasis added.

As the preceding passage illustrates, Tertullian was hostile to Stoics and Plato, but not Pyrrhonians. For Tertullian the state of ignorance of secular knowledge was compatible with the final aim of ataraxia--mental transquality—proposed by Pyrrhonians. Curiosity is a vice that could disturb the mental tranquility achieved by knowing nothing except God.

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Skepticism

However, Floridi pointed out that the differences between classical skepticism and Christianized skepticism are substantial. Once doubt has been instilled, classical skepticism steps back into suspension of judgment while Christianized skepticism leaps forward into faith. The Christian thinker did not deny the full intelligibility of the ultimate reality, which is the spiritual realm; rather he ranked the pursuit of secular knowledge much less valuable than the love and worship of God.

Agathias and Anti-metaphysics. At the end of the fourth century, Academic skepticism transmitted in Latin had become the brand of skepticism known to philosophers and theologians, at the expense of classical skeptics. Greek texts became inaccessible to most people, and as a result, the classical skeptic work was largely forgotten by the Latin West throughout the Middle Ages. Fortunately, scholars in the Orthodox East were versed in the Greek language, and occasionally the work by classical skeptics was cited in intellectual debate.

For example, in the 6 th century Byzantine historian Agathias praised Pyrrho and Sextus Empiricus for their dismissive attitude toward useless and endless debates over unsolvable questions.

Ancient Skepticism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

At the age of thirty Agathias turned to the writing of history and composed a five-volume book entitled On the Reign of Justinian , which relates to the events of , such as the wars with the Goths, Vandals, and Franks, as well as those against the Persians and the Huns. As a prudent historian, he relied on eyewitness accounts as well as other verifiable sources as the basis of reconstructing historical facts, and thus he saw the classical skeptic school as his ally in opposition to metaphysical speculations.

Obviously, he did not read the classical text carefully enough to learn that even eyewitness accounts are doubted as genuine knowledge by classical skeptics.

The skeptic disposition in contemporary criticism The skeptic disposition in contemporary criticism
The skeptic disposition in contemporary criticism The skeptic disposition in contemporary criticism
The skeptic disposition in contemporary criticism The skeptic disposition in contemporary criticism
The skeptic disposition in contemporary criticism The skeptic disposition in contemporary criticism
The skeptic disposition in contemporary criticism The skeptic disposition in contemporary criticism
The skeptic disposition in contemporary criticism The skeptic disposition in contemporary criticism
The skeptic disposition in contemporary criticism The skeptic disposition in contemporary criticism
The skeptic disposition in contemporary criticism The skeptic disposition in contemporary criticism

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