Scepticism
Overview
Notes and thoughts on scepticism.
Scepticism has a long history.
Open scepticism is a kind of theoretical scepticism, an anti-dogmatic philosophy in respect of knowledge, which enjoins suspension of judgement in all matters, accepting only that things appear to be as they do.
pragmatic scepticism is a variant of practical scepticism, an anti-dogmatic philosophy in relation to what should be done. It is a personally liberating philosophical position, liberating through the denial that logic (or anything else) provides conclusive grounds for any particular course of action.
Pragmatic scepticism sees uncertainty as liberating rather than paralysing, and hence is sympathetic rather than antagonistic to creative and utopian thinking, at least so far as these are openly rather than dogmatically speculative. Sceptical nescience is no barrier to the synthesis of an open-minded weltanshauung, or to the expression of that creative synthesis in some work of philosophy, of art, of life.
Notes and thoughts on positivism (in philosophy).
Historical Notes on Scepticism
Scepticism has a long history.
Introduction to Sceptical Thought
Ancient and modern scepticism in a nutshell.
Pre-Socratic Scepticism
There was a great deal of sceptical thought in ancient Greece before scepticism became a self conscious philosophical stance. Here are one or two examples.
Socrates and Plato
Socrates and Plato contributed some significant elements to the development of sceptical thought, without themselves being full-blooded sceptics.
Greek Scepticism Proper
Scepticism proper may be considered as falling into four principle stages, the practical scepticism of Pyrrho of Elis, academic scepticism, pyrrhonean scepticism, and empiric scepticism.
Academic Scepticism
Academic scepticism is that of Plato's academy and occurs in several phases.
Pyrrhonean Scepticism
A pyrrhonean sceptic is one whose doubts are universal and who therefore makes no claims to knowledge.
Scepticism before the Enlightenment
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, from the beginning of the reformation to the dawn of the enlightenment, pyrrhonean scepticism was a significant influence on European philosophy.
Positivist philosophy in its broadest sense is a general tendency in philosophy which embraces aspects of the thought of many philosophers including Humean scepticism, the work of Comte (who coined the term), elements of utilitarianism and pragmatism, and logical positivism.
Open Scepticism
Open scepticism is a kind of theoretical scepticism, an anti-dogmatic philosophy in respect of knowledge, which enjoins suspension of judgement in all matters, accepting only that things appear to be as they do.
Scepticism has a long history.
Some Kinds of Scepticism and Speculation
An analysis tailored to explication of our preferred varieties.
Elements of Open Scepticism
Open scepticism is extreme in its avoidance of dogma, but prefers the ongoing search for (tentative) knowledge rather than collapsing into an exercise in refutation of dogma. It rejects the demonstration of equipollence as itself dogmatic and emphasises the usefulness of refined elaborations of appearances. The combined effect of these features is to make open scepticism appear moderate, perhaps even vacuous.
An introduction to dogma, the distinction between positive and negative dogma, and some examples of each.
Benefits of Scepticism and Dogmatism
Provocation to Doubt
Doubt occurs at many levels and in many domains. The most fundamental and general doubt flows from the argument from regress of justification, which suggests that absolutely certain knowledge is not to be had. The doubt thus established is general but academic, and of little practical significance. Doubts of greater practical impact are obtained by more special arguments at higher levels.
Pragmatic Scepticism
pragmatic scepticism is a variant of practical scepticism, an anti-dogmatic philosophy in relation to what should be done. It is a personally liberating philosophical position, liberating through the denial that logic (or anything else) provides conclusive grounds for any particular course of action.
Practical Roots of Pyrrhonean Scepticism
Pyrrhonean scepticism was in its beginnings as much a practical as a theoretical enterprise.
Elements of Pragmatic Scepticism
Pragmatic scepticism is optimistic, constructive and liberating, rather than resignedly pessimistic.
Bacon on Sources of Error
Here I outline what I consider the most important sources of confusion, error and irrelevance, and mention some possible remedies.
Scepticism, Creativity and Utopian Thought
Pragmatic scepticism sees uncertainty as liberating rather than paralysing, and hence is sympathetic rather than antagonistic to creative and utopian thinking, at least so far as these are openly rather than dogmatically speculative. Sceptical nescience is no barrier to the synthesis of an open-minded weltanshauung, or to the expression of that creative synthesis in some work of philosophy, of art, of life.
Scepticism and Open Speculation
One may naturally expect scepticism to be contrary to speculation, but these are two sides of the same coin. To deny certainty is to affirm possibility, and therefore speculation about possibilities is a part of scepticism about the contrary certainties.

The denial of expressive freedom is a kind of dogmatism, and its affirmation may therefore be consistent with a thoroughgoing open scepticism.

To deny the possibility of an anarchist society (for example) is dogmatic, to doubt its impossibility is sceptical.

Scepticism and Creativity
Scepticism may be seen as liberating the individual from dogmatic constraints on his personal creativity.
Scepticism and Utopianism
Possibly the single greatest impediment to social progress is the dogmatic belief that undesirable features of our society are unavoidable. Scepticism about such dogmas paves the way for open debate about the future of society. Utopianism can itself be dogmatic, but is not so of necessity.
Positivism
Notes and thoughts on positivism (in philosophy).
Positivist philosophy in its broadest sense is a general tendency in philosophy which embraces aspects of the thought of many philosophers including Humean scepticism, the work of Comte (who coined the term), elements of utilitarianism and pragmatism, and logical positivism.
A philosophical synthesis from elements of the rational/empiricist and the romantic/existential aspects of western philosophy, overlaid on a substratum (naive philosophy) which is sceptical and expressionistic. In its less romantic elements the position is sceptical and in some respects positivistic, but the philosophy is also I hope, positive in a more ordinary sense.
Metaphysical Positivism is systematic constructive positivist philosophy. We present here sketches of Metaphysical Positivism together with some related historical material which might possibly help the reader come to an understanding of this system and its place in the history of ideas.
Existential positivism is positive practical philosophy. It builds from a base of pragmatic scepticism, and is closely related to, though not strictly dependent on existential expressionism. It bears on philosophical matters which depend in some way on subjective values, or upon some other kind of essential reference to our personal feelings and intutions.


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