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. Debunking Interface Theory: Why Hoffman's Skepticism (Really) is Self-Defeating.Jeffrey N. Bagwell - 2023 - Synthese 201 (25).
    Cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman and others have recently advanced an evolutionary debunking argument aimed at our perceptual beliefs in ordinary objects, based on the Interface Theory of Perception. In contrast with most recent criticisms of Interface Theory, which have targeted its characterizations of perception and veridicality, I raise a broad dialectical problem for Hoffman’s debunking argument. I show that the argument is self-defeating, and that responding to this problem by appealing to Universal Darwinism leads to a fatal dilemma for the (...)
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  2. Responding to how things seem: Bergmann on skepticism and intuition.Jennifer Nagel - forthcoming - Analysis.
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  3. Skepticism, naturalism, pyrrhonism.Otávio Bueno - 2022 - Philosophical Issues 32 (1):148-163.
    Skepticism and naturalism bear important connections with one another. Do they conflict or are they different sides of the same coin? In this paper, by considering the ways in which Sextus and Hume have examined these issues, I offer a Pyrrhonian response to Penelope Maddy's attempt to reject skepticism within the form of naturalism that she calls “second philosophy” (Maddy, 2007, 2017) and to Timothy Williamson's attempt to avoid skepticism from emerging within his knowledge-first approach (Williamson, 2000). Some lessons about (...)
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  4. Spontaneity as a Concept of General Significance: The Austrian School on Money and Economic Order.Scott Scheall - forthcoming - In Joseph Tinguely (ed.), Palgrave Handbook of Philosophy and Money. London: Palgrave.
    I examine the history of the concept of spontaneity in philosophy and the social sciences, particularly as it relates to monetary phenomena. I then offer an argument for the general significance of spontaneity. The essay concludes that scholars across the humanities and social sciences, whatever their (disciplinary, political, ideological, etc.) persuasion, would be well-served to further develop the theory of spontaneity and its social effects.
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  5. Fully Caused and Flourishing? Incompatibilist Free Will Skepticism and Its Implications for Personal Well-Being.Stephan Tegtmeier - forthcoming - Review of Philosophy and Psychology:1-18.
    Previous research associates free will skepticism with adverse well-being effects. However, it is doubtful that skeptical participants in these studies disbelieved in the incompatibilist notion of what it means to have free will. This is one of the first studies to exclusively examine such skeptics. A sample of 167 participants who claimed to believe that there is no free will responded to an online survey. After examining whether participants in fact disbelieved in the incompatibilist concept, they were asked to describe (...)
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  6. Practising "Dissentient Philosophical Counselling" Underpinned by African Conversationalism and Pyrrhonian Scepticism: Provisional Theory and Practice.Jaco Louw - 2022 - Stellenbosch Socratic Journal 2 (1):63-76.
    Method in philosophical counselling is still a contentious topic. That is, there is no consensus on whether the philosophical counsellor should have a method in her practice to help the counsellee resolve philosophical problems. Some philosophical counsellors claim that there should not be any rigid adherence to method(s) as this will render philosophy too dogmatic. Philosophical counselling, in light of this view, promotes a kind of mutual philosophising sans definite goal with the counsellee. What I call "dissentient philosophical counselling" takes (...)
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  7. Must Skepticism Remain Refuted? Inheriting Skepticism with Cavell and Levinas.Alexander Altonji - forthcoming - Topoi:1-12.
    This article defends Cavell and Levinas’ view that anti-skeptical arguments cannot attain universal assent. In the first half of the article, I argue that Conant’s reading of Cavell is mistaken in two respects: he ignores Cavell’s inheritance of Kant as well as the differences Cavell emphasizes between external world and other minds skepticism. In the second half of the paper, I examine affinities between Cavell and Levinas’ thought, viz., acknowledging the facticity of the other and their remarks on skepticism. I (...)
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  8. Nietzsche versus Kant on the possibility of rational self-critique.Markus Kohl - forthcoming - In Edgar J. Valdez (ed.), Rethinking Kant: Volume VII.
    I consider an epistemological, methodological dispute between Nietzsche and Kant about the possibility of rational self-critique: an activity where the intellect reflects on its cognitive powers, demarcates the proper use and limitations of these powers, and thereby achieves a systematically complete insight into what we can and cannot know. Kant affirms whereas Nietzsche denies that we can successfully conduct such a self-directed rational enquiry. By reconstructing the central argumentative moves that Nietzsche and Kant do or could make to defend their (...)
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  9. Hegel’s Metaphysical Alternative to the Choice between an Unrealistic Platonic Realism and an Opposing Skeptical Anti-realism.Paul Redding - 2022 - In Jure Simoniti & Gregor Kroupa (eds.), Ideas and Idealism in Philosophy. De Gruyter. pp. 151-170.
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  10. Anti-skepticism under a linguistic guise.Jumbly Grindrod - forthcoming - Topoi:1-12.
    In this paper I consider the plausibility of developing anti-skepticism by framing the question in linguistic terms: instead of asking whether we know, we ask what falls within the extension of the word “know”. I first trace two previous attempts to develop anti-skepticism in this way, from Austin (particularly as presented by Kaplan) and from epistemic contextualism, and I present reasons to think that both approaches are unsuccessful. I then focus on a more recently popular attempt to develop anti-skepticism from (...)
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  11. Epistemologia (o della Conoscenza).Luca Moretti & Tommaso Piazza - forthcoming - In Filosofia Contemporanea. Roma: Carocci.
    L’epistemologia (detta anche filosofia della conoscenza o gnoseologia) è la disciplina filosofica che studia come gli esseri umani si rapportano da un punto di vista cognitivo alla realtà che li circonda. Le questioni fondamentali che la interessano sono principalmente di natura normativa. Riguardano il modo in cui dovremmo regolare le nostre credenze alla luce dell’informazione in nostro possesso, e la natura della conoscenza umana ed i suoi limiti. Questo capitolo è organizzato in modo corrispondente. La prima sezione tratta della nozione (...)
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  12. Epistemic Sanity or Why You Shouldn't be Opinionated or Skeptical.Danilo Fraga Dantas - 2022 - Episteme:1-20.
    I propose the notion of ‘epistemic sanity’, a property of parsimony between the holding of true but not false beliefs and the consideration of our cognitive limitations. Where ‘alethic value’ is the epistemic value of holding true but not false beliefs, the ‘alethic potential’ of an agent is the amount of extra alethic value that she is expected to achieve, given her current environment, beliefs, and reasoning skills. Epistemic sanity would be related to the holding of (true or false) beliefs (...)
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  13. Skepticism: Historical and logical forms and perspectives.Vadim Mikhailovich Maslov - 2022 - Известия Саратовского Университета: Новая Серия. Серия Философия. Психология. Педагогика 22 (3):257-261.
    Introduction. The permanent relevance of skepticism is due to its ancestral connection with philosophy. The problematic nature of the definition of «skepticism» in the conditions of post-non-classical ambiguity of modern social development determines the immediate relevance of the analysis of skepticism. The complexity and novelty of the goal determine the choice of the historical and logical method of research and the emphasis on its logical component. Theoretical analysis. A consistent analysis identifies three main historical and logical forms of philosophical skepticism: (...)
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  14. Two challenges for 'no-norms' theism.James Reilly - 2022 - Religious Studies 1 (1):1-8.
    A number of theistic philosophers have recently denied that God is subject to moral and rational norms. At the same time, many theists employ epistemological and inductive arguments for the existence of God. I will argue that ‘no-norms’ theists cannot make use of such arguments: if God is not subject to norms – particularly rational norms – then we can say nothing substantive about what kind of worlds God would be likely to create, and as such, we cannot predict the (...)
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  15. Full Blooded Conceptual Realism as a Response to Skeptical Relativism.Micah Phillips-Gary - 2021 - Stance 14 (1):53-65.
    In this paper, I discuss full-blooded Platonism as a response to the skeptical problem in the philosophy of mathematics as to how empirical beings can cognize non-empirical mathematical objects. I then attempt to develop an analogous position regarding the applicability of concepts to reality in response to the skeptical problem regarding how we can cognize an objective reality through human-constructed concepts. If all concepts meeting certain minimal conditions structure reality under some aspect, then objective knowledge is possible, regardless of how (...)
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  16. The Appearance of Skepticism: Possibility, Conceivability and Infinite Ascent.Sorin Bangu - 2021 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 51 (2):94-107.
    The paper articulates a novel strategy against external world skepticism. It shows that a modal assumption of the skeptical argument cannot be justified.
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  17. Thomas Pölzler, Moral Reality and the Empirical Sciences. [REVIEW]Michael Klenk - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 11 (1):78-86.
    Thomas Pölzler’s book offers the first detailed study that focuses explicitly on the promise of science-based arguments for and against moral realism (of both the natural and non-natural kind). His two central claims are that sound arguments bearing on the realism/anti-realism debate are possible, and, yet, that four central attempts to derive metaethical conclusions from science-based arguments uniformly fail. The book then provides several recommendations for future science-based contributions to the realism/anti-realism debate to do better. The book is a valuable (...)
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  18. Wittgenstein, Quasi-Fideism, and Scepticism.Robert Vinten - 2022 - Topoi 41 (5):1-12.
    In the discussion of certainties, or ‘hinges’, in Wittgenstein’s On Certainty some of the examples that Wittgenstein uses are religious ones. He remarks on how a child might be raised so that they ‘swallow down’ belief in God (§107) and in discussing the role of persuasion in disagreements he asks us to think of the case of missionaries converting natives (§612). In the past decade Duncan Pritchard has made a case for an account of the rationality of religious belief inspired (...)
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  19. Marie McGinn, Wittgenstein, Scepticism and Naturalism: Essays on the Later Philosophy.Anna Boncompagni - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-7.
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  20. Nietzsche's Political Skepticism.Saul Tobias - 2008 - Journal of Nietzsche Studies 35-36 (1):177-179.
  21. Katja Maria Vogt, Belief and Truth: A Skeptic Reading of Plato (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), ix + 209 pp., $55.00, ISBN 9780199916818 (hbk). [REVIEW]Harald Thorsrud - 2013 - Polis 30 (2):364-369.
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  22. A Very Short Introduction to Scepticism.Francisco Angel P. Socrates - 2021 - Roczniki Filozoficzne 69 (2):352-358.
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  23. Naturalizmus a skepticizmus.Mariana Szapuová & Martin Nuhlíček - 2020 - Filozofia 75 (9):760-775.
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  24. Kybernétés’ Skeptical Shadow: On the Nature of Lem’s Silence.Radim Brázda - forthcoming - Pro-Fil:3-17.
    Formálním cílem předloženého textu je připomenout sté výročí narození Stanisława Lema prostřednictvím jedné z dimenzí jeho díla. Dosažení tohoto cíle má podobu reflexe dostupných důvodů, které by objasnily, proč se Lem ve své literární formě v určitém období odmlčel a poté se již nevrátil k psaní literárních textů a dále psal již pouze teoretické a filozofické úvahy o tématech, která dosud byla předmětem jeho literární tvorby. Pokusil jsem se mapovat a shromáždit důvody, které Lem explicitně uvádí, a rovněž možné důvody, (...)
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  25. Hegel and the Problem of Beginning: Scepticism and Presuppositionlessness.Robb Dunphy - 2023 - Lanham, MD 20706, USA: Rowman and Littlefield.
    Hegel opens the first book of his Science of Logic with the statement of a problem: “The beginning of philosophy must be either something mediated or something immediate, and it is easy to show that it can be neither the one nor the other, so either way of beginning finds its rebuttal.” Despite its significant placement, exactly what Hegel means in his expression of this problem and exactly what his solution to it is, remain unclear. -/- In this book, Robb (...)
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  26. The Systematicity of Davidson’s Anti-skeptical Arguments.Nathaniel Goldberg - forthcoming - Topoi:1-13.
    Donald Davidson contributed more deeply to our understanding of language, thought, and reality than perhaps any other recent philosopher. His discussions of skepticism are sometimes seen as peripheral to those contributions. As I read him, Davidson argued against three skeptical worries. First, beliefs are true or false relative to a conceptual scheme. Second, beliefs generally are false. Third, other minds and an external world do not exist. Call those worries ‘conceptual relativism’, ‘falsidicalism’, and ‘solipsism’, respectively. I investigate how Davidson’s arguments (...)
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  27. The Threat of Solipsism: Wittgenstein and Cavell on Meaning, Skepticism, and Finitude by Jônadas Techio.Richard Eldridge - 2021 - Review of Metaphysics 74 (4):640-642.
  28. The Threat of Solipsism: Wittgenstein and Cavell on Meaning, Skepticism, and Finitude by Jônadas Techio.Richard Eldridge - 2021 - Review of Metaphysics 74 (4):640-642.
  29. Austin’s Way with Skepticism: An Essay on Philosophical Method by Mark Kaplan.Jason Bridges - 2021 - Review of Metaphysics 74 (3):410-412.
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  30. Robert Greystones on Certainty and Skepticism. Selections from His Works ed. by Robert Andrews, Jennifer Ottman and Mark Henninger.Severin V. Kitanov - 2021 - Review of Metaphysics 75 (1):137-138.
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  31. Does Every Genuine Philosophy Have a Skeptical Side?Michael Neil Forster - 2021 - Review of Metaphysics 75 (2):219-264.
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  32. No Morality, No Self: Anscombe's Radical Skepticism by James Doyle.Jude P. Dougherty - 2018 - Review of Metaphysics 72 (2):376-378.
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  33. Meta‐Skepticism.Olle Risberg - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    The epistemological debate about radical skepticism has focused on whether our beliefs in apparently obvious claims, such as the claim that we have hands, amount to knowledge. Arguably, however, our concept of knowledge is only one of many knowledge-like concepts that there are. If this is correct, it follows that even if our beliefs satisfy our concept of knowledge, there are many other relevantly similar concepts that they fail to satisfy. And this might give us pause. After all, we might (...)
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  34. Meta‐Skepticism.Olle Risberg - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    The epistemological debate about radical skepticism has focused on whether our beliefs in apparently obvious claims, such as the claim that we have hands, amount to knowledge. Arguably, however, our concept of knowledge is only one of many knowledge-like concepts that there are. If this is correct, it follows that even if our beliefs satisfy our concept of knowledge, there are many other relevantly similar concepts that they fail to satisfy. And this might give us pause. After all, we might (...)
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  35. Hume’s Transformation of Academic Skepticism.Aaron Alexander Zubia - 2022 - Hume Studies 47 (2):171-201.
    Abstract:Hume described himself as an Academic skeptic and aligned himself with the skepticism of Socrates and Cicero. I argue, though, that Hume transformed the meaning of Academic skepticism by associating it with an experimental rather than dialectical method. In this essay, I distinguish between those aspects of Cicero’s Academic skepticism that Hume adopted and those he discarded in his presentation of mitigated skepticism in the first Enquiry. I then consider the implications of Hume’s transformation of Academic skepticism for Hume’s polite (...)
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  36. A Paradox About Our Epistemic Self-Conception: Are You an Über Epistemic Superior?Mark Walker - 2022 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 12 (4):285-316.
    I hope to show that each of 1, 2, and 3 are plausible, yet we can derive 4: 1. It is epistemically permissible to believe that our preferred views in multi-proposition disputes are true, or at least more likely true than not. 2. If it is epistemically permissible to believe that our preferred views in multi-proposition disputes are true, or at least more likely true than not, then it is epistemically permissible for us to believe that we are über epistemic (...)
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  37. The Legacy of Descartes’ Skepticism.Suck-Young Won - 2015 - Philosophical Analysis 32:39-64.
    In a series of writings Barry Stroud construes the refutation of (Descartes’s) skepticism (developed in the first Meditation of Meditationes de Prima Philosophia) as the main concern and aim of Kant’s transcendental philosophy, namely the refutation of the thesis that we can know nothing about the world around us. Stroud’s assessment of the result of Kant’s transcendental philosophy so understood is that it fails to achieve its goal. However, apart from whether or not it fails, I am very skeptical of (...)
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  38. Practical scepticism of life. Theoretical scepticism of fiction in ancient skepticism.Ramón Román Alcalá - forthcoming - Revista de Filosofía (Madrid):1-14.
    It is a natural fact that life, unlike judgments, cannot be suspended. We accept that we must decide in life, and that we move, or have impulses, towards certain things. Hence, we act in one way or another, drawing on and assigning a certain validity to impressions detected by our senses, while deeming others unreliable. This is what Sextus means, when he states that the sceptic applies criteria not to distinguish the true from the false, but rather to deal with (...)
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  39. Skepticism, relativism, and religious knowledge: a Kierkegaardian perspective informed by Wittgenstein's philosophy.Michael G. Harvey - 2013 - Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications.
    Skepticism, Relativism, and Religious Knowledge shows where responses to skepticism and relativism by Karl Barth and Reformed epistemology have led to impasses, and reconstructs their insights in a more robust response that does not depend on making excessive claims about our epistemic capacities. This response is based on a more nuanced conception of the relationship between trust, doubt, faith, and reason, and a Kierkegaardian perspective on religious knowledge that stresses the role of the will and the intellectual and theological virtues.
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  40. Theism, atheism, and skepticism : Bayle's background to Hume's Dialogues.Gianni Paganini - 2013 - In W. Schröder (ed.), Gestalten des Deismus in Europa. Harrassowitz Verlag.
  41. I know: modal epistemology and scepticism.Wolfgang Freitag - 2013 - Münster: Mentis.
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  42. Wahrheit, Gewissheit, Zweifel: Theologie und Skepsis: Studien zur theologischen Auseinandersetzung mit der philosophischen Skepsis.Walter Dietz - 2013 - Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Edition.
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  43. ch. 34. Scepticism and knowledge : Moore's proof of an external world.Annalisa Coliva - 2013 - In Michael Beaney (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of The History of Analytic Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
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  44. Reliabilism and First- and Second-Order Skepticism.Byeong D. Lee - 2016 - Philosophical Analysis 35:27-49.
    One reliabilist option against the problem of bootstrapping is to argue that circular reasoning is bad, but reliabilism can avoid circular reasoning. Vogel dismisses this option on the grounds that reliabilists need circular reasoning in order to circumvent skepticism. Briesen argues, however, that although reliabilists need circular reasoning to block second-order skepticism, they do not need it to block first-order skepticism. But I argue in this paper that reliabilists cannot legitimately reject first-order skepticism unless they can block second-order skepticism. In (...)
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  45. Les certitudes d'un sceptique: Emil Cioran.Marius Dobre - 2013 - Iași: Editura Junimea.
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  46. Hume's radical scepticism and the fate of naturalized epistemology.Kevin Meeker - 2013 - New York, NY: Palgrave-Macmillan.
    Was David Hume radically sceptical about our attempts to understand the world or was he merely approaching philosophical problems from a scientific perspective? Most philosophers today believe that Hume's outlook was more scientific than radically sceptical and that his scepticism was more limited than previously supposed. If these philosophers are correct, then Hume's approach to philosophy mirrors the approach of many contemporary philosophers. This similarity between Hume and many aspects of contemporary philosophy suggests that we should try to understand Hume (...)
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  47. Scepticism in the Eighteenth Century: Enlightenment, Lumières, Aufklärung.Sébastien Charles & Plínio J. Smith (eds.) - 2013 - Dordrecht: Imprint: Springer.
    Often portrayed as a period bound by the dogma of slavish obedience to the diktats of reason and progress, the Age of Enlightenment is revealed by this profound analysis to have been riddled with skeptical attitudes and characters, even in the Enlightenment's most codified locations, such as Germany. Most philosophers of the period are still widely regarded today as having been dominated by a core triple nexus of optimism, dogmatism and rationalism, and despite a growing body of literature exploring the (...)
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  48. The scepticaemic surgeon: how not to win friends and influence people: a collection of essays.Michael Baum - 2014 - New York: Nova Publishers.
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  49. Skeptical doubts concerning the operations of the understanding".David Hume - 2013 - In Jeffrey E. Foss (ed.), Science and the World: Philosophical Approaches. Broadview Press.
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  50. The quicksands of belief: the need for skepticism.Janet Winn - 2014 - New York: Peter Lang.
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1 — 50 / 4663