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
Radical skepticism or radical scepticism is the philosophical position that knowledge is impossible. 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”.
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.”
– Source: Radical Skepticism, Wikipedia. Last accessed Wednesday, February 24, 2010 – 5:21 AM CET
In Part Four here in a long series, we’re supposed to be talking about the historical reliability of the Gospels. But those title questions take us into the realm of hyper-skepticism and far away from the commonsense world of time and space and history that we are used to. […]
The larger context of hyper-skepticism: René Descartes (1596-1650) sat alone in a room and conducted an experiment, of sorts. He wondered how far he could get if he were to doubt everything – and I mean everything: his five senses; the existence of his own body; the truths of mathematics and science; God’s existence; whether Descartes was awake or asleep, dreaming; and whether a malicious deity were deceiving him.
What did he come out with? He is a thing that thinks. “I think, therefore I am.” Even when he doubts, his mind exists. Even if he lives in a dream, then his mind exists. Even if he is deceived by a malicious deity, then there is a mind that can be deceived. He can even be a disembodied thinking thing. To his credit, however, he tried to rebuild secure knowledge in the rest of his Mediations, but today’s philosophers conclude that he was naïve in his rebuilding project. He let the hyper-skeptical genie out of the bottle.
Descartes is considered the founding father of modern philosophy, and the hyper-doubt goes on today.
So, to ask whether an historical figure like Jesus even existed is child’s play for the hyper-skeptics, if they can doubt basic and commonsense truths right in front of their faces, before their eyes.
At the end of this article, see a series on postmodernism, which further analyzes the origins of hyper-skepticism, among other things.
Over the last two decades believers on the Internet have been subjected to many and various specious arguments by hyper-skeptics challenging the central tenets of the Christian Faith, and even going so far as to deny the very existence of Jesus. Their arguments, for the most part, are little more than smoke and mirrors, which theologians label ” pettifogging.”
Many well-meaning Christians, out of their love for the Lord, have gently responded to these individuals attempting to display the reason for the hope that is within them. Rarely have these believers realized they are walking into a diabolically conceived trap. While on the surface the hyper-skeptics appear to be interested in engaging in reasonable debate, such is not their actual intention. Rather, their intention is to subtly lure a believer into a logical trap from which most Christians have difficulty extracting themselves. While the walls of this trap are logically and theologically errant, they are expressed in such a way as to appear sound. The unstated intention of this activity is to convert Christians into atheists, hence atheistic evangelism.
The purpose of this website is to expose these hyper-skeptics, their errant methodologies, erroneous arguments, and amateur sources.
– Source: Welcome to the Errant Skeptics Institute website. Last accessed Wednesday, February 24, 2010 – 6:17 AM CET