• It comes from the Greek word skeptikoi which means “seekers” or “inquirers.” • It refers to the critical attitude wherein a man questions different things including the well-known absolute truth or knowledge. • Note that skepticism (philosophical that is) should be contrasted with philosophical dogmatism wherein the latter is the direct opposite of the former. Philosophical dogmatism refers to an attitude wherein a man believes to have absolute truth/knowledge ("dogma,” meaning strict rules).
Short History of Skepticism
• A Sophist who believed that nothing really exists.
• He lived from 483-376 B.C. (Leontini, Italy). He went to Athens to fulfill his mission as an ambassador. He was a student of Empedocles. • In Greece, he was the mentor of Thucydides (author of the Peloponnesian War) and Isocrates. • His issue with regard to the philosophy of existence can be understood by having a full grip on the logical contradiction. • His whole idea of existence commences from the premise that nothing exists. Or, if something exists, it must come from another beginning. The origin of the existence of “something” is said to be unknowable. • Also, Gorgias postulated that a “being” should come from another being. It is impossible for this being to come from nothing. • We can regard Gorgias as a Sophist rather than a skeptic. It should be noted, however, that early skepticism came from the early perceived philosophy, and that is Stoicism.
The following are the philosophical inquiries of the skeptics:
• Can man attain absolute knowledge?
• Where does the absolute knowledge come from?
• How does sense perception operate in the service of achieving knowledge?
• What is/are the composition/s of the universe?
• What are the distinguishing features of human nature? • Does God exist?
• What should be the qualifying factors to assess human conduct? • Is it possible for man to determine whether an action is morally right or wrong?
• Is Philosophy significant to human life?
• What are the proper aims and goals of philosophical inquiry?
Phyrro and Stoicism
• He is considered as the earliest philosophical skeptic in Western philosophy. He lived from 360 to 270 B.C. • Some scholars find a political origin of Phyrro’s skepticism in this: on the theory that traumatic periods produce disillusionment and resignation, the souring and obsolescence of traditional beliefs, a tenacious relativism of beliefs, virtues, and habits that will not assign absolute superiority to any, and a need for new methods of coping in a hectic world. • Taught that peace of mind was the highest end of life and that knowledge of truth was required to attain and maintain it. • Phyrro accordingly sought truth, however for every philosophical question that the Stoic philosophy answers; it is being contradicted by several other schools of thought. • What was worse was that each position had reasons and evidence to support itself and to subvert and refute its opponents. • He gave up in despair and admitted to himself that he could not decide among them and did not know what was true.
The Stoics were accused by the Greeks as proponents of dogmatism: • It is the direct opposite of skepticism.
• A dogmatist is certain that knowledge is possible, because he is certain that he have some. • A person is still a dogmatist even if he is not certain, but still asserts something to be true, whether on a hunch, an intuition, and a perceived plenitude of evidence, mystical impulses, blatant prejudice, or idiotic repetition.
A. Academic Skepticism
• Asserts that at least some truths are completely unknowable. • Cicero postulated that: “Nothing could be known...