Philosophy Skeptic theories

Topics: Truth, Sextus Empiricus, Skepticism Pages: 6 (2113 words) Published: September 30, 2013
Knowledge is defined as Justified True Belief. A belief can be anything from the belief in my own existence to the belief that I will get good grades in the course. No one can argue what a person believes. But for a belief to be accepted as knowledge, it needs to be justified and be true. Skeptics raised a question as to how can you justify anything being true. The common answer was: based on our senses, but then who is to say the senses are true? To be clearer, for me to claim that the existence of this term paper is a truism, I will be able to justify it only by saying that you read it, hence the term paper must exist and hence the claim must be true. But, the fact that you read it in its true form is itself a non-justifiable belief. For here we are “assuming” that what we read is in fact what is and our eyesight is not playing tricks on us. The same follows for all other senses. Hallucination, for instance, makes a person believe the person he is imagining is actually there. For him, the belief is justified based purely on his senses, but it is still not true. The other method of justifying any claim or any “Truth” is by virtue of reason as was supported by the stoics who claimed reason not only meant using logic, but also understanding the processes of nature. This too was criticized by the skeptics as the logical mode of argument was untenable, as it relied on propositions which could not be proved to be true or false without relying on some further propositions. This was the regress argument, or a never ending series. Also, two propositions could not rely on each other as this would create a circular argument. To state an example, we believe in the “truth” that fire is hot. One way is to say I feel hot around fire, hence it must be hot. This is argued against as shown earlier that your skin feelings might be deceiving or not true. The other argument is the logic based argument. In a same question asked by a person on a question answering forum1, considering only the logical serious responses not relying on senses, one had to say “Fire MUST be exothermic - gives off heat - by definition: "noun 1 the state of burning, in which substances combine chemically with oxygen from the air and give out bright light, heat, and smoke."” He defined fire to be hot, hence proving it is hot, falling in circular fallacy. Another logical argument which was given was “I know that fire is the rapid oxidation of carbon molecules. Such energy is released as heat.” Again, he relied on a presupposed knowledge that the energy released during oxidation of carbon is heat. This argument was of the regressing form. So, logic as a form of justification of truth was also denied by Skeptics. Skeptics were themselves divided into two major views, the Academic skepticism and the Pyrrhonian Skepticism or Pyrrhonism. Academic skeptics (like Carneades) denied knowledge altogether due to these problems with justification of truth. Pyrrhonian Skeptics on the other hand refrain from making truth claims. They do not claim truth is impossible. In other words they do not hold assent with regard to non-evident propositions and remain in a state of perpetual enquiry. They will not claim fire is not hot. Nor will they claim fire is hot. In words of Sextus Empericus (160-210 AD), a Greek Physician and philosopher, “Those who claim for themselves to judge the truth are bound to possess a criterion of truth. This criterion, then, either is without a judge's approval or has been approved. But if it is without approval, whence comes it that it is truthworthy? For no matter of dispute is to be trusted without judging. And, if it has been approved, that which approves it, in turn, either has been approved or has not been approved, and so on ad infinitum”2 Sextus also criticizes the Academic skeptic’s claim that nothing is knowable as an affirmative belief. According to one interpretation of Sextus as provided by Myles Burnyeat3, Jonathan Barnes4 and Benson Mates5 he...
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