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Skepticism (or sceptism) and Hyper-Skepticism (or Radical skepticism or radical scepticism)

Philosophical views are typically classed as skeptical when they involve advancing some degree of doubt regarding claims that are elsewhere taken for granted. Varieties of skepticism can be distinguished in two main ways, depending upon the focus and the extent of the doubt.

As regards the former, skeptical views typically have an epistemological form, in that they are focused on the epistemic status of certain beliefs. For example, one common variety of skepticism concerns our beliefs about the past and argues that such beliefs lack positive epistemic status – that they are not justified, or are not rational, or cannot constitute knowledge (and perhaps even all three). Where skepticism does not have this epistemological focus, then it tends to be of an ontological form in that it is directed at beliefs about the existence of some supposedly problematic entity, such as the self or God. Here the target of the skepticism is not so much one’s putative knowledge of these entities (though it may be that as well), but rather the claim that they exist at all.

As regards the latter, one can differentiate between skeptical views that are either local or radical. Local varieties of skepticism will only concern beliefs about a certain specific subject matter, such as beliefs in abstract objects or the conclusions of inductive arguments. Since ontological varieties of skepticism tend to be concerned with the existence of particular sorts of entities, they are usually (though not always) of this local form. In contrast, radical forms of skepticism afflict most of our beliefs and thus pose, at least potentially, the most pressing philosophical challenge. […]

– Source: Contemporary Skepticism, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Last accessed Wednesday, February 24, 2010 – 5:03 AM CET

Hyper-Skepticism / Radical Skepticism

Radical skepticism or radical scepticism is the philosophical position that knowledge is impossible.[1] Radical skeptics hold that doubt exists as to the veracity of every belief and that certainty is therefore never justified. To determine the extent to which it is possible to respond to radical skeptical challenges is the task of epistemology or “the theory of knowledge”.[2]

The Ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Pyrrho as well as Roman philosopher Sextus Empiricus are among those who expounded theories of radical skepticism. As radical skepticism can be used as an objection for most or all beliefs, many philosophers have attempted to refute it. Although these attempts at refutation have not been deemed authoritative, few philosophers take radical skepticism seriously. For example, Bertrand Russell wrote “Skepticism, while logically impeccable, is psychologically impossible, and there is an element of frivolous insincerity in any philosophy which pretends to accept it.”[3]

– Source: Radical Skepticism, Wikipedia. Last accessed Wednesday, February 24, 2010 – 5:21 AM CET

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