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. If We Can’T Tell What Theism Predicts, We Can’T Tell Whether God Exists: Skeptical Theism and Bayesian Arguments From Evil.Nevin Climenhaga - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion.
    According to a simple Bayesian argument from evil, the evil we observe is less likely given theism than given atheism, and therefore lowers the probability of theism. I consider the most common skeptical theist response to this argument, according to which our cognitive limitations make the probability of evil given theism inscrutable. I argue that if skeptical theists are right about this, then the probability of theism given evil is itself largely inscrutable, and that if this is so, we ought (...)
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  2. Skepticism and Default Assumptions.Ernest Sosa - 2021 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 45:291-307.
    A telic virtue-theoretic approach to gnoseology is developed. Two new concepts are introduced: the concept of default assumptions, and the concept of secure knowledge full well. A default assumption for a given domain of human performance is an assumption that agents in that domain can make with no negligence or recklessness as they perform in the domain. Knowledge full well is judgment or representation that attains success aptly, and whose aptness is also attained aptly. However, secure knowledge full well requires (...)
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  3. Skepticism, Revisionary Metaphysics, and Why Epistemic Akrasia May Be Good for You.David Shatz - 2021 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 45:257-290.
    One of the most salient features of epistemology in the past two decades—in fact, perhaps the most salient—is the explosion of literature on how higher-order evidence impacts the rationality of one’s first-order beliefs. Higher-order evidence is, primarily, evidence about what one’s evidence supports. An important concept in the debate is epistemic akrasia. Roughly, the akrates believes: “p, but my evidence does not support p.” Criticisms of epistemic akrasia have focused on certain sorts of mundane examples. They have generally scanted the (...)
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  4. The Kind of Blame Skeptics Should Be Skeptical About.Leonhard Menges - forthcoming - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 1:1-15.
    Skepticism about blameworthiness says that there is good reason to doubt that, in our world, humans are ever blameworthy for their deeds. A significant problem for the discussion of this view is that it is unclear how to understand the kind of blame that should be at issue. This paper makes a new proposal. The basic idea is that the kind of blame skeptics should be skeptical about is constituted by responses that can violate the targets’ claims and by the (...)
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  5. Why We Need Skepticism in Argument: Skeptical Engagement as a Requirement for Epistemic Justice.Lucy Alsip Vollbrecht - forthcoming - Argumentation:1-17.
    The Argumentative Adversariality debate is over the question of whether argument must be adversarial. A particular locus of this debate is on skeptical challenges in critical dialogue. The Default Skeptical Stance in argument is a practical manifestation of argumentative adversariality. Views about the on-the-ground value of the DSS vary. On one hand, in “The Social & Political Limitations of Philosophy”, Phyllis Rooney argues that the DSS leads to epistemic injustice. On the other, Allan Hazlett in his recent piece “Critical Injustice” (...)
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  6. Wittgenstein and the Sceptical Tradition.António Marques & Bertrand Romão (eds.) - 2020 - Peter Lang.
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  7. Scepticism as Philosophical Superlative.Jesús Padilla Gálvez - 2020 - In António Marques & Bertrand Romão (eds.), Wittgenstein and the Sceptical Tradition. Bern, Berlin, New York, Oxford: Peter Lang. pp. 113-122.
    The aim of this article is to analyze Wittgenstein's use of the notion of the philosophical superlative by which he describes the problems associated with ostensive definitions and language acquisition. After a brief outline of the research questions posed by Wittgenstein, the philosophical superlative is described and linked to the notion of super-expression. The skeptical argument is then analyzed and the ostensive definition is criticized from a skeptical point of view. In the work, special attention is paid to the analysis (...)
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  8. A Green Theory of Technological Change: Ecologism and the Case for Technological Scepticism.Michael Keary - forthcoming - Contemporary Political Theory:1-24.
    Green political theory has a problem: it fails to account for human ingenuity. As a result, it has always struggled to refute the technologically optimistic notion that, in an era of rapid technological development, new technologies will materialise to resolve environmental ills. From ecologism’s first emergence, this idea has been its opponents’ ultimate recourse. It is especially significant because it denies the constitutive claim of ecologism that environmental problems require political solutions. It is in this claim that the green alternative (...)
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  9. Rationalist Resistance to Disagreement-Motivated Religious Skepticism.John Pittard - 2021 - In Matthew Benton & Jonathan Kvanvig (eds.), Religious Disagreement and Pluralism. Oxford: pp. 180-216.
    Many epistemologists argue that responses to disagreement should exhibit a certain kind of epistemic impartiality. “Strong conciliationists” claim that we ought to give equal weight to the views of those who, judged from a dispute-neutral perspective, appear to be our “epistemic peers” with respect to some disputed matter. Using a Bayesian framework, Chapter 8 considers whether there is a plausible epistemic impartiality principle that would require us to give up confident religious (or irreligious) belief in favor of religious skepticism. It (...)
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  10. Can We Know Substances? Suárez on a Sceptical Puzzle.Dominik Perler - 2020 - Theoria.
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  11. Typologies of Scepticism in the Philosophical Tradition of Kalām.Abdurrahman Ali Mihirig - 2020 - Theoria.
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  12. Epistemological Disjunctivism and the Conditionality Problem for Externalism.Santiago Echeverri - forthcoming - Episteme.
    Epistemological disjunctivism (ED) has been thought to solve the conditionality problem for epistemic externalism. This problem arises from externalists’ characterization of our epistemic standings as conditional on the obtaining of worldly facts which we lack any reflective access to. ED is meant to avoid the conditionality problem by explicating subjects’ perceptual knowledge in paradigmatic cases of perceptual knowledge via their possession of perceptual reasons that are both factive and reflectively accessible. I argue that ED’s account of reflectively accessible factive perceptual (...)
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  13. The Impact of Meta-Induction: From Skepticism to Optimality.Gerhard Schurz - 2021 - Philosophies 6 (95):95.
    In the first section, five major attempts to solve the problem of induction and their failures are discussed. In the second section, an account of meta-induction is introduced. It offers a novel solution to the problem of induction, based on mathematical theorems about the predictive optimality of attractivity-weighted meta-induction. In the third section, how the a priori justification of meta-induction provides a non-circular a posteriori justification of object-induction, based on its superior track record, is explained. In the fourth section, four (...)
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  14. From Space to Movement: The Walk as an Intellectual Dynamic in Diderot's La Promenade du Sceptique.Juliette Fabre - 2021 - Itinera 22.
    Diderot's Promenade du sceptique has sometimes been criticised for a somewhat systematic use of allegory, associated with a tripartite division of space summarising and tracing, between the thorns of devotion, the flowers of worldly life, and the chestnut trees of philosophy, the three paths of life available to men. The work's device is nevertheless much more complex and elaborate, and is affected by a diffuse scepticism from within. Open rather than closed, the space and the places of the walk in (...)
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  15. A New Cartesian Inconsistency: Moral Skepticism, The Excusing Condition, and Progress.Saja Parvizian - manuscript
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  16. Skeptik Teizm ve Kötülük: Peter van Inwagen'ın "Minimum-Yok İddiası".Atilla Akalın - 2021 - Theosophia 3 (3):77-90.
    Skeptical theists are seeking for some reasonable solutions to the evidential problem of evil. One of the most fundamental responses of skeptical theism is that the concept of “gratuitous evil”, which cannot be a proof of the absence of God. Therefore, it is not the existence of God that skeptical theism suspects. Instead, skeptical theism contemplates whether the evil in the world really has a “gratuitous” basis. This paper focuses on Peter van Inwagen's “no-minimum claim”. No-minimum claim” stands in opposition (...)
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  17. Meaning and Definition: Scepticism and Semantics in Twelfth-Century Arabic Philosophy.Fedor Benevich - 2020 - Theoria.
  18. Meaning and Definition: Scepticism and Semantics in Twelfth-Century Arabic Philosophy.Fedor Benevich - 2020 - Theoria.
  19. Skepticism About Reasons for Emotions.Hichem Naar - forthcoming - Philosophical Explorations:1-16.
    According to a popular view, emotions are perceptual experiences of some kind. A common objection to this view is that, by contrast with perception, emotions are subject to normative reasons. In re...
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  20. Quasi-Fideism and Sceptical Fideism.Duncan Pritchard - 2021 - Manuscrito 44 (4):3-30.
    My interest is in the relationship between the contemporary account of the epistemology of religious belief, known as quasi-fideism, and the sceptical fideism that has been so important, historically, in motivating fideistic ideas. I argue that we can profitably construe quasi-fideism along sceptical fideist lines, in that it is a proposal that is naturally understood as both arising within the context of a sceptical investigation and as exhibiting core features that it shares with Pyrrhonian scepticism. Moreover, I suggest that sceptical (...)
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  21. A Defence of Skeptical Theism.Nicola Salvatore - 2021 - Manuscrito 44 (4):293-312.
    According to The Evidentialist problem of Evil, the existence of disproportionate, prima facie gratuitous evil and suffering in the world is enough evidence against the existence of the Omnipotent, Perfectly Loving, Omniscient God of Classical Theism. A contemporary way of dealing with this argument is Skeptical Theism, for which the very fact that there is an huge amount of evil that looks gratuitous to us does not mean that we can reasonably believe whether this evil is indeed gratuitous or not. (...)
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  22. Spirit Calls Nature: Bridging Science and Spirituality, Consciousness and Evolution in a Synthesis of Knowledge.Marco Masi - 2021 - Indy Edition.
    This is a technical treatise for the scientific-minded readers trying to expand their intellectual horizon beyond the straitjacket of materialism. It is dedicated to those scientists and philosophers who feel there is something more, but struggle with connecting the dots into a more coherent picture supported by a way of seeing that allows us to overcome the present paradigm and yet maintains a scientific and conceptual rigor, without falling into oversimplifications. Most of the topics discussed are unknown even to neuroscientists, (...)
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  23. The Concept of Knowledge.Michael Hannon - 2021 - Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Knowledge is central to epistemology. Indeed, the word ‘epistemology’ comes from the Greek word epistêmê, which is often translated as ‘knowledge.’ But what is knowledge? Why do we value it? How is it acquired? And how much of it do we have? This article explores the nature, significance, sources, and extent of human knowledge.
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  24. Descartes’ Foundation and Borges’ Ruins: How to Doubt the Cogito.Uri D. Leibowitz - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    Descartes claimed that the Cogito is ‘so firm and sure that all the most extravagant suppositions of the sceptics were incapable of shaking it’. This paper aims to demonstrate that this claim is false by presenting a sceptical scenario for the Cogito. It is argued that the story ‘The Circular Ruins’ by J. L. Borges illustrates that one can doubt one’s own existence and that pace Descartes (and many others) the claim ‘I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it (...)
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  25. Skepticism and the crisis of criteria.Mašan Bogdanovski - 2021 - In Nenad Cekić (ed.), Етика и истина у доба кризе. University of Belgrade - Faculty of Philosophy. pp. 181-192.
    This paper analyzes the way in which skepticism led to the crisis of the criteria of truth and action that developed in Stoic philosophy. The attempts of the skeptics to escape the difficulties caused by their radical philosophical views are presented. Special attention was paid to the importance that yielding to the customs and traditions of the community in which they lived had in the life of skeptics deprived of these criteria. This approach to action and problem solving in general (...)
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  26. Once Again From the Beginning: On the Relationship of Skepticism and Philosophy in Hegel's System.Miles Hentrup - 2016 - Dissertation, Stony Brook University
    This dissertation examines the relationship of skepticism and philosophy in the work of G.W.F. Hegel. Whereas other commentators have come to recognize the epistemological significance of Hegel's encounter with skepticism, emphasizing the strength of his system against skeptical challenges to the possibility of knowledge, I argue that Hegel develops his metaphysics in part through his ongoing engagement with the skeptical tradition. As such, I argue that Hegel's interest is not in refuting skepticism, but in defining its legitimate role within the (...)
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  27. Inherited Scepticism and Neo-communist CSR-washing: Evidence from a Post-communist Society.Petya Koleva & Maureen Meadows - 2021 - Journal of Business Ethics 174 (4):783-804.
    The sizeable theoretical and empirical literature on corporate social responsibility and business ethics in Western, developed economies indicates that the topic has attracted significant interest from academics and practitioners. There is, however, less evidence of the practice of CSR and business ethics in non-Western, transition economies, as insufficient attention is paid to the contextual specifications and underlying processes that may lead to different versions of CSR. Therefore, this paper examines the practice and sense-making of CSR and business ethics from the (...)
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  28. Editors' Preface. Book Symposium on Ayers’ Knowing and Seeing.Naomi Osorio-Kupferblum & Mira Magdalena Sickinger - 2021 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 98 (4):489–494.
    Editors' preface to the book symposium on Michael Ayers' Knowing and Seeing. Groundwork for a New Empiricism (OUP 2019).
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  29. The Thing Before Us. Agreement and Disagreement Between Travis and Ayers.Sofia Miguens & Naomi Osorio-Kupferblum - 2021 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 98 (4):584-599.
    In this article the authors identify and analyse points of agreement and disagreement between Michael Ayers and Charles Travis, starting from their views on ‘things before us’. The authors then try to spell out what separates these philosophers in matters concerning perception, knowledge and language. In spite of their both being self-professed realists, equally critical of conceptualism and representationalism, Ayers’ empiricism and Travis’ anti-empiricism lead them to different positions in these three areas. It is shown that in the case of (...)
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  30. Desire, Truth, and the Role of Narrative Skepticism in Democratic Experience.Scott R. Stroud - 2021 - Journal of Speculative Philosophy 35 (4):349-370.
  31. Skepticism and the Value of Distrust.Maria Baghramian & Silvia Panizza - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    Faced with current urgent calls for more trust in experts, especially in high impact and politically sensitive domains, such as climate science and COVID-19, the complex and problematic nature of public trust in experts and the need for a more critical approach to the topic are easy to overlook. Scepticism – at least in its Humean mitigated form that encourages independent, questioning attitudes – can prove valuable to democratic governance, but stands in opposition to the cognitive dependency entailed by epistemic (...)
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  32. Nekontekstualistička i kontekstualistička verzija teorije relevantnih alternativa kao moguća rešenja skeptičkog paradoksa.Milica Smajevic Roljic - 2014 - Theoria: Beograd 3 (57):23-41.
    U ovom radu analizira se rešenje skeptičkog paradoksa koje pruža teorija relevantnih alternativa. Ispituju se i upoređuju dve verzije ovog rešenja: nekontekstualistič- ka čiji je tvorac i zastupnik Fred Drecke, i kontekstualistička koju zastupaju autori poput Kita Dirouza i Stjuarta Koena. Uporednom analizom nekontekstualističkog i kontekstuali- stičkog rešenja, dolazi se do zaključka da, iako oba rešenja imaju i povoljne i nepovoljne implikacije, Dreckeova teorija relevantnih alternativa nudi uverljivije objašnjenje, a zatim i rešenje skeptičkog paradoksa.
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  33. Review of Justin Clarke-Doane, Morality & Mathematics[REVIEW]Hallvard Lillehammer - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism.
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  34. Book Review: Jennifer Hockenbery, Wisdom’s Friendly Heart: Augustinian Hope for Skeptics and Conspiracy Theorists. [REVIEW]Nancy Elizabeth Bedford - 2022 - Studies in Christian Ethics 35 (1):193-195.
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  35. The Skeptic.Wendy M. Grossman - 2021 - The Philosophers' Magazine 95:20-21.
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  36. Pragmatic Skepticism.Susanna Rinard - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, EarlyView.
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  37. Akbarian Scepticism in Islam: Qūnawī's Sceptical Arguments From Relativity and Disagreement.Yusuf Daşdemir - forthcoming - Theoria.
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  38. Dialectic and Metaphysical Skepticism in Jacob Anatoli.Yehuda Halper - forthcoming - Theoria.
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  39. On Some Sceptical Elements in Barhebraeus.Jens Ole Schmitt - forthcoming - Theoria.
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  40. Reason, Revelation, and Sceptical Argumentation in 12th‐ to 14th‐Century Byzantium.Jonathan Greig - forthcoming - Theoria.
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  41. Scepticisms in the Formation of Islamic Rational Theology: Abū Al‐Qāsim Al‐Balkhī and Ibn Al‐Malāḥimī Providing a Window on the Transmission of Arguments From Late Antiquity.Heidrun Eichner - forthcoming - Theoria.
  42. Skeptisches Europa? Einige Bemerkungen zum Sechsten Hauptstück: wir Gelehrten.Andreas Urs Sommer - 2007 - In Renate Reschke & Volker Gerhardt (eds.), Nietzsche Und Europa – Nietzsche in Europa. Akademie Verlag. pp. 67-78.
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  43. Do free will skeptics swallow their own medicine?: Daniel C. Dennett and Gregg D. Caruso: Just deserts. Debating free will. Cambridge: Polity, 2021, 223 pp, $15.99 PB.Maarten Boudry - 2021 - Metascience 30 (3):365-369.
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  44. Schelling, Cavell, and the Truth of Skepticism.G. Anthony Bruno - 2021 - Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 9 (9).
    This paper argues that McDowell wrongly assumes that “terror”, Cavell’s reaction to the radical contingency of our shared modes of knowing or our “attunement”, expresses a skepticism that is antinomically bound to an equally unacceptable dogmatism because Cavell rather regards terror as a mood that reveals the “truth of skepticism”, namely, that there is no conclusive evidence for necessary attunement on pain of a category error, and that a precedent for McDowell’s misunderstanding is Hegel’s argument for necessary attunement in a (...)
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  45. Book Review: What Do Philosophers Do?: Skepticism and the Practice of Philosophy. [REVIEW]Theptawee Chokvasin - 2017 - Suranaree Journal of Social Science 11:155-157.
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  46. Until Adolescents Can Consent for Vaccination, Protecting Them From COVID-19 Will Require Counseling Skeptical Parents.Caroline A. Buchanan - 2021 - American Journal of Bioethics 22 (1):68-70.
    Discussion about whether adolescents ought to be able to consent for their own vaccines long predates the COVID-19 pandemic. Providers have been counseling self-identified vaccine skeptics for year...
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  47. Raga Rosaleny, Vicente; Junqueira Smith, Plínio. Sceptical Doubt and Disbelief in Modern European Thought. A New Pan-American Dialogue, Cham/Suiza: Springer, 2020, 339 pp. [REVIEW]Alejandra León Rojas - 2021 - Logos. Anales Del Seminario de Metafísica [Universidad Complutense de Madrid, España] 54 (2):597-600.
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  48. Los nombres del escepticismo antiguo: Aporētikoí, Ephektikoí, Pyrrhōneioi, Skeptikoí y Zētētikoí.Ramón Román Alcalá - 2021 - Anales Del Seminario de Historia de la Filosofía 38 (3):431-439.
    El escepticismo filosófico es identificado por varios signos o nombres: Aporētikoí, Ephektikoí, Pyrrhōneioi, Skeptikoí y Zētētikoí, con significantes todos ellos válidos y una cierta confusión en el significado. El objetivo de este trabajo es triple: primero, aclarar por qué alguno de estos nombres han tenido más éxito que otros, segundo, cuáles son las razones por las que uno de ellos ha quedado fijado como nombre, en general para todos los pertenecientes a este movimiento filosófico, y tercero a qué se debe (...)
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  49. Review of Free Will Skepticism in Law and Society: Challenging Retributive Justice, by Elizabeth Shaw, Derk Pereboom, Gregg D. Caruso (eds.), Cambridge University Press, 2019. [REVIEW]Jelena Mijić - 2021 - Filozofska Istrazivanja 41 (3):672-676.
  50. Buddhism and Scepticism: Historical, Philosophical, and Comparative Perspectives Ed. By Oren Hanner.Davey K. Tomlinson - 2021 - Philosophy East and West 71 (4):1-7.
    The present book is true to its title. A collection of articles that stems from a symposium of the same name at the University of Hamburg in 2017, the authors here bring different perspectives to bear on the philosophical and historical relations between Buddhism and scepticism. Though this is relatively well-trodden ground, the insightful studies here shed new light on the matter. We find historical studies of the possible links between Pyrrhonism and Buddhism ; a defense of Nāgārjuna's philosophical scepticism (...)
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