The teaching of skeptical philosophy originates in antiquity. Pyrrho from the Peloponnesian Elis is considered to be the forefather of this school of thought. The end of the IV century BC can be considered the date of origin. What was the precursor of the new philosophy? According to one some, the views of the philosopher were influenced by the dialectics of Hellas — Democritus and Anaxarchus. But it is more likely that the Indian ascetic, gymnosophist influenced the thinking of philosopher: Pyrrhon traveled to Asia with Alexander the Great and was deeply impressed by Indian life and thought.
In philosophy, skepticism means one of the following positions:
The fundamental limitation of knowledge
Distrust of the information received and its constant checks
Lack of confidence in the existence of positive motives for human actions (cynicism)
The ideas of skepticism are actively covered on the pages of peer-reviewed scientific and philosophical journals and religious press published on all five continents. The idealistic picture of the world is considered in the framework of TV shows, documentaries and videos shown on scientific and educational channels.
A brief history
According to historians, Pyrrho of Elis, despairing of his inability to rationally determine which of the competing schools of thought of his time was the most correct, formulated the principles of “practical skepticism”. The recognition of the impossibility of making the right choice helped Pyrrho to achieve the inner peace of “ataraxia”, which eventually became the main goal of the teachings of the early skeptics.
Around 266 BC, Arcesilaus became the head of Plato’s Academy in Athens, and he decisively refocused the Academy from platonism to skepticism. One of the most famous early Greek skeptics was Carneades, who argued that “Nothing can be known, even this.”
Later followers of Pyrrho and Carneades developed views of skepticism, in particular, Sextus Empiricus introduced the idea that the source of all knowledge is sensory experience. Sextus and his followers considered both statements about knowledge and ignorance equally dogmatic and did not assert either.
After centuries of religious dogmatism, skepticism was revived in the Age of Reason and Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries. Michel de Montaigne and Francis Bacon took as their starting point the skeptical view that they knew nothing for sure.
By avoiding judgments, the skeptic achieves the ideal of self-control, which for the Greeks is the main condition for happiness. The greek cult of peace and the modern understanding of happiness seem to be diametrically opposed. But in fact, skeptics are trying to tell us something important: how long we can live, but this has nothing to do with philosophy and science
An old skeptic can live like anyone else: eat as much as he wants, sleep as much as he wants, and wear a plaid shirt if he likes the drawing. None of these actions can be justified by thought alone. Theoretically, we can show that there is no movement, as Zeno did in the famous paradox of Achilles and the turtle. But the people about whom Sextus Empiricus wrote, “walked on foot and by sea, built ships and houses, gave birth to children and did not pay attention to movement and origin.” But it is impossible to do this in practice. Skeptics say that people follow events and reflections, not things. Damasio could add that he is guided not by information, but by physical symbols.
In its extreme form, skepticism always leads to irrationality. If nothing is proved, everything is absurd. If everything is absurd, then you can only believe in the truth. It is not surprising that the arguments of skeptics were easily used by the Church fathers against ancient philosophy and pagan beliefs. In the XVI century, the works of some skeptics were published in Europe. This is where the fashion for pyrrhonism begins, which can take various forms. Michel de Montaigne, the author of the famous “Experience”, recognized the weakness of human knowledge and did not exclude faith. Just like Rene Descartes, who used radical methods of skepticism to lay the foundations of the philosophy of science.
Biography of the creators
Pyrrho of Elis (360-270 BC) was a Greek philosopher, the founder of the philosophical school of skepticism. Pyrrho’s own teaching is called Pyrrhonism.
Anesidemus (I century BC) a Greek philosopher, a follower of the skeptic Pyrrho. He came from Knossos on the island of Crete.
David Hume (1711 – 1776) was a Scottish philosopher, historian, and economist. he argued that inductive reasoning and belief in causality cannot be rationally justified; instead, they are the result of customs and mental habits. Hume also believed that a person is more guided by emotions than reason.
Robert Todd Carroll (1945 – 2016) was an American philosopher and writer. Author of a collection of skeptical essays entitled «The Skeptic’s Dictionary: A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions».
Skepticism was criticized by Blaise Pascal in particular due to the fact that, according to him, no skeptic could live their life in accordance with their own theory.