Philosophy of Skepticism
Episode #9 of the course “Brief history of Ancient philosophy”
In the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE in ancient Greece, the philosopher Pyrrho promoted a series of beliefs about how to live that came to be known as skepticism. Deriving from the ancient Greek word meaning “to think” or “to consider,” skepticism promotes inquiry and evidence as the basis for knowledge and understanding.
Pyrrho traveled to India, where he studied with a religious group; he returned with the idea that the senses could be fooled and that nothing could be inherently trusted. For about two centuries after Pyrrho founded his skepticism school, Plato’s Academy also enjoyed a period of philosophers who expanded on Pyrrho’s assertions and became known as skeptics. Because of the differences between the two schools of thought, classical skepticism exists in two forms: Pyrrhonian and Academic.
Skepticism became the basis for the scientific method after experiencing a major resurgence beginning in the 16th century and peaking during the 18th century European Enlightenment. Skeptics value questioning as the basis for all knowledge and believe that demonstrable evidence and objective facts should provide the foundation for claims about reality. In classic skeptical philosophy, knowledge obtained through the senses or through reason was not reliable, as it could not be proven or validated by outside means. In order for something to be considered valid, a skeptic believes that it must be well-supported by evidence, not by personal experience or logic.
Skepticism has changed as a system of thought throughout the centuries, but there are societies of people around the world today who consider themselves to be practicing skeptics.
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