The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism

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The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism In answer to the question 'What can we know?' anyone who gives a pessimistic answer is labelled a sceptic. Scepticism is associated with incredulity. A sceptic is someone who questions things (particularly received opinions) and also practices suspension of judgement. This questioning outlook has been labelled by some as practical scepticism. However, philosophical scepticism involves more than this. Its essential element is a general view about human knowledge. In the broadest terms, philosophical scepticism holds, or at least finds irrefutable, the view that knowledge is impossible. There are two features of philosophical scepticism which differentiate it from everyday 'sceptical' outlooks. The first has to do with its strength. The more challenging sceptical arguments do not depend on imposing high standards for knowledge or justification. Rather, the scepticism they imply is radical. It is not just the case that we can have all kinds of good reasons for what we believe, though those reasons do not quite measure up to the standards required by genuine knowledge. The radical sceptic questions whether we ever have the slightest reason for believing one thing rather than another, so we can never even get to the point of justified belief, never mind whether our justifications are sufficient for knowledge, in some more restricted sense. The second crucial feature of philosophical scepticism concerns its scope. The philosophical sceptic's negative verdict on human knowledge is highly general. This generality explains why philosophical scepticism formulates its challenge in terms of the possibility of knowledge. it is not merely the case that we in fact know a good deal less t... ... middle of paper ... ...sophy. Penguin Reference.(1996). pp. 502-503. Morton, Adam. Philosophy in Practice %#151; An Introduction to the Main Questions. Blackwell.(1996). Chapter 1. pp. 3-35. Moser, Paul. The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology. (Eds. Greco, J. and Sosa, E.). Blackwell.(1999). Chapter 2. pp. 70-91. Scruton, Roger.Modern Philosophy — An Introduction and Survey. Mandarin.(1994). Chapter 2. pp. 16-22. Shermer, Michael. A Skeptical Manifesto. The Skeptic, vol. 11, Spring 1992. pp. 15-21. Warburton, Nigel. Philosophy — The Basics. Routledge.(1992). Chapter 4. pp. 93-111. Williams, Michael. The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology. (Eds. Greco, J. and Sosa, E.). Blackwell.(1999). Chapter 1. pp. 35-69. Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. (Translated by Pears, D.F. and McGuinness, B.F.). Routledge. (1961). Section 6.51, p73.
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