Talk:Philosophical skepticism

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Do not describe arbitrary probabilities when discussing possibilities[edit]

An example of this would be saying, "even though there is a very very slight possibility that we are dreaming..."

Who's to say that it is slight at all? Avoid saying this. DeLoRtEd1 02:07, 21 August 2007 (UTC)

Bertrand Russell should be included here[edit]

See Sceptical Essays...

Outer-world scepticism disproved[edit]

Two recently published books by a German philosopher who in them disproves outer-world scepticism can be found here: [[1]]. I think I already added the link (some time ago), but if so, it has been removed. I'm not a Wikipedia expert, so I won't be so bold as to simply re-add it. It really is a serious philosophical work (based on Putnam's arguments, but transcrding them), probably quite state-of-the-art. It is in German, though, but we don't have a policy against linking to foreign-language sites, do we? 00:10, 4 November 2005 (UTC)

Interesting argument, actually. Basically, Olaf L. Müller argues that the Brain In The Vat can justify its assumption of "I have a hand" by asserting "I am where I am". That means that, in the context of the brain-in-a-vat-experience, it is actually experiencing and describing its brain-in-a-vat-hand, which, although it is still an assembly of bits and bytes in the context of a higher reality, truly exists in the context of its current residence in the simulation. What this means for us is that when we say "I have a hand," the assertion that we have a human-on-planet-earth hand is fully correct, although it may in another higher reality be something completely else that could not be described as a "hand" as we mean it. Which would, in effect, mean that we can truly assert facts about the place we are currently experiencing, and the "reality/simulation" dichotomy becomes meaningless.
Of course, this doesn't, like you mistakenly said, "disprove" outer-world scepticism. It only means that the question becomes irrelevant, since, although we may still be brains-in-vats in another place, we know we experience as a reality the place where we are right now as humans-on-planet-earth. Compare that to the five minute hypothesis. --TheOtherStephan 16:02, 1 April 2006 (UTC)
I wouldn't say the question becomes irrelevant. It just addressed and answers a different question. The argument merely states the basic truism that we can have contextual, subjective "knowledge" (i.e., that we possess information). It does not address the basic outer-world scepticism claim, which is concerned with absolute, objective knowledge (i.e., the external validity of that information). Scepticism does not and never has denied such contextual "knowledge." Unended 19:31, 8 April 2006 (UTC)
My point exactly. Putnam explains away the question, but he does not really give an answer. In effect it is merely a play with semantics - and a rather trivial one at that, too. Then of course I am no full-time philosopher, so I may just be missing his point. --TheOtherStephan 01:41, 20 April 2006 (UTC)

I think Müller thinks that this "contextual knowledge" is what knowledge is all about. It's quite a time that I read his book, but I think his point is also that the sceptic question just cannot be worded in a non-trivial way, and the trivial answer (ie, "false") is thus the only answer the question is begging. (Calling this "contextual knowledge" we have subjective knowledge means again assuming a higher-reality position.) / 12:15, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

From what I've recently read on his homepage this is not quite what he says, but I think that giving this exact answer would be begging the question. It somehow looks like a kind of circular argument. "How do we objectively know this reality and why is outer-world scepticism trivially false? Because it is trivially false, and it is trivially false because we obviously DO know stuff about this reality. Thus the question becomes a non-problem." Does that really lead anywhere?
BTW, I think you CAN have objective knowledge about a "lower reality". Isn't knowledge about a simulation objectively true in context to the simulation? --TheOtherStephan 03:08, 30 April 2006 (UTC)

Are Wikipedia articles supposed to be so chatty and "I" driven? I thought that was a bad idea. Likewise, the writer very blithely dismisses eleatic skepticism and acts as if academic skepticism is the only form worth considering. And what about intellectual anarchism, fideism, pragmatism, and other non-dogmatic philosophies? Indeed, the skeptical concept of "dogmatic" isn't even addressed. Dogface

This article seems almost to be setting the skeptic against only the Reliabilist, ignoring other theories (even the mention of foundationalism seems to be described somewhat in Reliabilist terms.) Am I imagining this simply because I'm prejusticed against the word "reliable", or do others see this too? -- General Wesc

This is a school of thought in which people choose to critically examine whether the knowledge and perceptions they have are actually true, and whether or not one can ever be said to have true knowledge.

Isn't that rather a formulation of a task of the epistemologist which might but need not lead to a skeptical position? Andres 06:39, 18 Nov 2003 (UTC)

Good point. Philosophical skepticism doesn't just ask whether or not. It says not. :-) Evercat 21:52, 24 Nov 2003 (UTC)

Not necessarily. It can say "not as far as I can determine, given my apparently limited resources and an apparently much larger, if not necessarily unlimited universe, but the possibility may or may not exist, regardless of my own apparent inability to determine." Do not make the very simplistic mistake of presuming that Academic skepticism is the only type of Skepticism that exists. Dogface

Most (of what I bothered with) was off-topic and clearly biased...[edit]

First, I can't say I've seen anyone who

If we assume that foundationalism is true, then we have basic beliefs

Most (of what I bothered with) was off-topic & clearly biased...[edit]

First, I have to say it *wasn't* just slightly "talks a lot, says very little"; it was PAINFUL waiting to get to the next 'point'.

Worse, it told me very little about *why* the skeptics believe what they do (and indeed, I'm familiar with *some* of their reasons, which made a lot of sense to me so far); instead, it was simply, "Here's 5 sentences about what they believe, amongst 500 saying why they're wrong," ...Usually in a debate you're supposed to at least let those who believe in 'the affirmative' state their case - in this case, the skeptics - BEFORE critiquing their case. (and honestly, LOL, I'm not sure why you felt the need to start debates in REFERENCE SECTION books, of all places :-) ) Well, between that, and so-called encyclopedia articles from someone who doesn't even know "epistemic" isn't even a word, I'm outta here. ;-) I've only read about 10 articles here, AND I HAVE TO GIVE CHEERS TO MOST OF YOU (!!!) - great writing - but it doesn't take long fer a stinkah like this dude to chase me back to a real encyclopaedia. But one last thing...

And yet, your own anaysis of why they're wrong makes no sense (sorry, if there were other analyses, I just didn't get to them)...

"If we assume that foundationalism is true, then we have basic beliefs" But why would we - or even better, full-force skeptics - ASS-u-me YOUR epistemology? ;-)

Also, there are MANY skeptics, despite your completely unsupported claim: Hindu & Buddhism, with nearly two billion followers and most sects emphasizing the humility of saying "I just don't know," are far from a small portion of people... You may wanna try reading a bit, THEN writing -- cuz then, maybe your writings won't be so factually-lacking. ;-)


I've started banging away on this horribly chatty, incomplete, and very slanted piece of work. It's going to take time, and my knowledge of non-Western systematic skepticism is very weak. Dogface 17:20, 5 Jan 2004 (UTC)

It's great you are doing this. The initial version of the article was just a lecture.
It seems to me that in the first paragraph you dropped the variants of the statements skepticism makes, and kept only a general epistemological inquiry that need not lead to the skeptical position. Do you mean that skeptics have no definite answer to their problem? Andres 19:13, 5 Jan 2004 (UTC)
Indeed, many skeptics do not have a "definite answer" to their "problem", since adopting any "definite" answer means they have abandond skepticism. 20:23, 5 Jan 2004 (UTC)
I also feel that the newer opening statement isn't as good. Scepticism is the position that we don't/can't have knowledge; epistemology is the general study of whether we have/can have knowledge and what knowledge. Scepticism makes an actual claim: we don't. -- General Wesc 20:11, 5 Jan 2004 (UTC)
The most extreme form of skepticism can only claim that "I" do not have knowledge or at the very least am not aware of having knowledge and makes no claims at all about "we" or the possibility of knowledge. Any claims about "we" or the possibility of knowledge ultimately dilute the skepticism, as these claims are inherently dogmatic. 20:23, 5 Jan 2004 (UTC)
I think it is important to stress that there are different versions of skepticism, and additionally, Skepticism is a name referring to some ancient Greek philosophical schools. Therefore I propose the following beginning (which I invite you to edit):

In philosophy, skepticism (US spelling) or scepticism (UK spelling) is the view that there is no knowledge. In its stronger version, scepticism holds that knowledge is impossible.

Skepticism may concern either all knowledge (universal skepticism) or some special field of knowledge (special skepticism). The consequent skeptic (the proponent of skepticism) is bound to suspend judgment in issues in the field in which she denies knowledge. In particular, the universal skeptic, if consequent, is to suspend judgment of the skeptical view itself.

Often, skeptics suggest that where there is no knowledge it is preferable not to believe in either way. This state of absence of belief is usually characterized as doubt.

In history of philosophy, Skepticism usually refers to some ancient Greek philosophical schools, including Pyrrho's doctrine (Pyrrhonism), the Academic Skepticism of the Middle Academy, and the philosophy of Sextus Empiricus. Andres 04:03, 6 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Skepticism does not necessarily hold the view that "there is no knowledge". Indeed, some skeptics would go so far as to say that the statement "there is no knowledge" is a dogma, not a skeptical position. These skeptics would maintain that, as far as they can tell, they have not yet encountered anything they can conclusively say is true, but that does not necessarily mean that it is impossible to know anything at all. In addition, "doubt" is not the appropriate term. "Isosthenia" or "equipollence" is the appropriate term. "doubt" implies "I think it is false" rather than "I have not decided whether or not it is true."
Do not mistake skepticism (it may not be true) for nihilism (it is false).

Dogface 17:05, 8 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Scepticism says we do not know (that is, we have no knowledge of X). This is certainly different from saying 'X is false', but Scepticism does state the clear position that we do not (often, cannot) have knowledge about something. (Such as the external world, or non-a priori truths, or everything.) Quoth Ralph Baergen's book Contemporary Epistemology: 'Sceptics are those who say that some specified body of belief is doubtful to some degree and so cannot be justifyably accepted or qualify as knowledge'. I'm sure I can come up with papers from respected philosophers if better sources are needed. -- General Wesc 18:27, 9 Jan 2004 (UTC)

As I have attempted to make clear in my edit, the position of the Academics that we cannot know was in no way the position of (at least the Pyrrhonian) skeptics. Greek skeptics distinguished between three schools of thought, the dogmatic Stoics, the (also dogmatic) Academics and those who 'suspended judgement', the Skeptics. Although the Academic and Skeptic positions appear superficially similar, the distinction is important and is not acknowledged in most of the article. Lots of work to do, so I'll have to stop there! Sextus 20:47, 14 Feb 2005 (UTC)


Hello, I'm new here and made a change in 'Objections to skepticism'. Please don't bite my head off. But please feel free to correct my edit if you believe I'm mistaken, or to reword what I wrote. Basically, I just pointed out that Thomas Reid's objection to skepticism is invalid because Reid uses reasoning himself to refute the reliability of the skeptic's reason, and is thus using circular logic.

I enjoyed the rest of the article though, especially the great description of Descartes dreaming doubt.

redsake March 18, 3:50am (PST)

I changed it back to the way it was before I edited it. I gave it some thought and liked what the previous chap put.
redsake March 24, 10:05pm (PST)

Oh well, I liked your version. The article is too long and needs more factual statement, less long-winded argument. Feel free to edit anything you think is either unsupportable or opinion based, and add anything you think has been missed out. Nice to have someone edit something anyway! Sextus 18:14, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Shouldn't this: “the Academic school in Ancient Greece” be: “the Academy” which would link it to the article on Plato's Academy? Jim 20:37, 21 Jun 2005 (UTC)

This article is due for a major overhaul[edit]

Any suggestions to rid this of the rampant first-person POV? Edwardian 8 July 2005 22:22 (UTC)

The reason this is so non-wiki is because it is Larry's Text. Major rewrite is suggested for any such article. KSchutte 23:01, 22 July 2005 (UTC)
Thanks. That link helps me to understand how it got to be the way it is. Edwardian 23:13, 22 July 2005 (UTC)

The History part could really be tightened up. I tweaked it a bit for clarity, but there's still a lot of work to do. It's annoying when people just dump in their college prof's lecture notes wholesale. --Spudstud 03:39, 13 December 2006 (UTC)


"So what if I can't prove, to Descartes' skeptic, that I'm not dreaming? Who cares if there is a very, very slight possibility that I'm dreaming right now? Does that really matter to my knowledge-claims?"

A lot of the objections seem written or put very childishly, warranting a rewrite I think.

Critical of the Criticism[edit]

"The form of Reid's argument is a dilemma, like this: if P, then Q; if not-P, then Q; either P or not-P; therefore, in either case, Q. Either the skeptic is right, in which case we can't trust our ability our reason and so can't trust the skeptic's conclusion; or the skeptic is wrong, in which case again we can't trust the skeptic's conclusion. In either case we don't have to worry about skepticism!"

While this particular argument does make sense, it does not warrent the conclusion "In either case, we do not have to worry about skepticism." The whole idea behind skepticism is a lack of trust, which includes questioning one's own reasoning. From a skeptical point of view, this particular argument makes perfect sense in saying that one cannot trust one's ability to reason, but this does not mean that "we do not have to worry about skepticism," it simply means that skeptics are also skeptical of their own skepticism. Also, from the skeptical argument, a skeptic would question the conclusion arrived at by this persona. Therefore, I would call into question the neutrality of the final section, as (while I remain a skeptic myself) the logic arrived at by the persona seems flawed. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 2006-04-25 03:06:56 (UTC)

Misleading information[edit]

"Buddhism places less emphasis on truth and knowledge than western philosophical skepticism." This is not true. The foundation of Buddhism is based on truth and knowledge.[citation needed] For example, Buddhist logics based on truth and knowledge. Also Buddhists do not depend on God because there are no proofs of super power... Gods just exist, but do not have any powers. Buddhism is based on truth... in able to achive englightment, you have to undertadnd the truth of life. Someone please check this and edit the article.

Or is it?[edit]

Buddhism relies not on building up truths, but on eliminating delusions.

Arguements against philosophical skepticism[edit]

In the section regarding arguements supposedly "against" skepticism, the arguements do not seem to even remotely provide a reason skepticism could be wrong. In attepting to say "if you don't know that the external world is real, than how to you know your thoughts are rational either" or ultimately apply philosophical skepticism disprove philosophical skepticism, the "opposing viewpoints" effectively reinforcing the position they are trying to disprove. Further, the arguements do not try to even point out reasons why skepticism is wrong, instead diverting the question from the validity of the external world to the validity of the internal mind, which does not provide an antithesis for philosophical skepticism. The methods of the listed objections consist of attacking the logical validity of the opposing arguments, which is effective against almost all other arguements which claim a preposition to be true, but not against this form of arguement, which is based not in the validity of an arguement, but rather in the invalitity of ALL other claims. Perhaps it would be accurate to change the title of the section "objections to philosophical skepticism" to something of a different nature, as an adaquate arguement against skepticism would be one that attempts to validate the arguement skepticism is opposing, such as the notion of an objective reality, rather than arguements attacking the validity of skepticism, which reinforces the notion that one cannot have true knowledge. -- 01:59, 15 July 2006 (UTC)


in the absolute certainty part, there seems to be a bias towards absolutism, because it kind of makes fun of skepticism... just read the no absolutist will be happy with the answer that skepticism is probably true by the skeptic... isn't that biassed? come on... that shows some opinion on the part of who wrote it, this should be 'absolutely' (lol) imparcial.--Cosmic girl 14:52, 15 July 2006 (UTC)


this page is badly in need of a rewrite, and doesn't seem to have gotten one since it was last proposed. The ancient eastern bit is bad, POV, and incomplete and that's just for starters. Bmorton3 19:51, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

I'm giving it a try but it will be an enormous amount of work. Right now, it reads like a D-grade (or failing) freshman philosophy paper. We almost might do better to just delete the article entirely. Better a blank page than what currently is here.Dogface 20:36, 28 July 2006 (UTC)
The article gives a lot of information, it's the writing that seems to be exceedingly long-winded for the amount of information in it. The part about Descartes dream uses the phrase "begging the question" so many times I wanted to scream. 02:00, 6 October 2006 (UTC)

Complete Rewrite Needed.[edit]

"We can't prove that we're not dreaming. We can't prove that perception, or memory, is reliable. But now ask yourself: just because you can't prove something, does that mean that you don't know it? Or that you aren't justified in believing it? Take Descartes' dreaming doubt as an example."

This is not written from an encyclopedic POV. It gives commands and asks questions of the reader.

The article needs to be completely rewritten. Steevven1 13:29, 28 November 2006

I agree that a lot of work needs to be done to fix the POV. An encyclopedia article should never use the words 'we,' 'you,' or 'I,' except in quotations. Everything should be third person. The tone also needs to change: it sounds like an informal conversation in some parts. I not sure if a complete rewrite is necessary, but considering the state this article is in I may soon agree with you. Galanskov 10:42, 7 January 2007 (UTC)
I am in total agreement about the re-write. A few considerations for whoever takes it on ( I would, however being a victim of public schools my grammer may not be up to snuff ;)) 1. an entire article on sceptisism w/out mention of Michel de Montaigne, Voltaire, Seneca, or other true sceptics is in-excusable. 2. there is no school of sceptical thought. Pyrrho was only trying to show the fallibility of certainty, not trying to say that suspended judgement is the goal, but modifying the way in wich we interact with each other i.e. is the death penalty o.k., while this can be a very philosophic discussion, the sceptic only cares about the application, i.e. how can you do something so final w/out complete knowledge of all the factors and would opt for imprisonment instead, or possibly vice-versa (I don't claim to know). 3. the lack of mention of the man who, while not nessecarilly a "Sceptic", definatly proved the point, Zeno with his paradoxes. 4. being a sceptic, I would say that it is not a philosophy as a search for the truth, but a practicle mindset when studiying anything that puts experiance, conveinince, practicality, and reasonableness, not pure a-priori reason, as the hallmark for workable ideas. The other half of scepticism involves humane treatment of all people and beings in the veain that since certainty is impossible taking certain actions is very rash at best. 4. YOU CANNOT DISPROVE SCEPTISISM AS IT IS NOT A PHILOSOPHY, but a very sensible position to take until you have enough experiance to make a value judgement about the world. 5. I can find nothing like what was attributed to D. Hume in this article in his actual writings, perhaps the author was thinking of Kant? 6. very sophomoric tone to the entire article, one only need explain a philosophical position and its demonstrations or proofs using the author's own works, i.e. refer to Voltaire or Occam etc. no need to give critisism or plain language explanations as these always detract and mis-represent the material one is trying to learn about. In short, finally, this article is why I am a sceptic. There is no real information, there seems to be an agenda, and it isn't even accurate or factual in its percieved agenda. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 18:37, 15 January 2007 (UTC).

Right, I'll have a go. At least at massive amounts of deletion. ParvatiBai 22:46, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

This article still really needs a rewrite. Too bad it's 4:00am. -- 08:05, 3 July 2007 (UTC)

I am not a technical expert. I came reading this page to learn. I think that most of it's purpose has been taken by the more general 'skepicism' entry, and this page has recieved rather less attention. If I was an expert with the time, I would start any re-write with a critical consideration of what it already in the general page, ask how to expand on that, and consider whether my proposed improvements would be best in this specialised page.

I have rewritten some of the language in the first sections of this page, to make it more fluent english. I do not believe that I changed the sense, but there were a few places where I was having difficulty following the sense so I had to guess.Jhunt29 (talk) 23:07, 17 March 2017 (UTC)

Epistemology and skepticism[edit]

First, epistemology and skepticism are inextricably linked, with much broader connotations than just epistemological nihilism. So this section title may be too general for this article. I think they should be merged, and I will do so within a week if nobody comments. It seems fairly obvious. II | (t - c) 03:17, 10 July 2008 (UTC)

Done. II | (t - c) 18:48, 13 July 2008 (UTC)

Descartes a skeptic?[edit]

Why is Descartes being depicted at the very top of the article as "one of the most famous skeptics in Western philosophy," when Descartes is perhaps the most famous anti-skeptic in the history of philosophy, and considered even the slightest degree of doubt and uncertainty to be, upon reflection, logically untenable? -Silence (talk) 05:45, 19 February 2009 (UTC)

Moron's rant[edit]


so far the users with admin rights are either not intelligent enough to see their own hypocrisy relative to the skeptic's argument...or they are intelligent enough to be jealous for not being able to condense it to such a coherent proof themselves. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:26, 14 March 2009 (UTC)

I think the header may violate WP:NPA, but I doubt anyone will complain. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 22:04, 14 March 2009 (UTC)

Cārvāka school of Philosophical Skepticism in Hinduism[edit]

Hi everyone,

I was thinking it might be good to include a link to Hindu skepticism, namely the Cārvāka school. There's already a good Wikipedia article on it. I'll admit I don't know enough about Hindu philosophical skepticism to write an overview of it, but a link might be a good starting point! (talk) 06:20, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

Plato's cave[edit]

Shouldn't there be some reference to Plato's Allegory of the Cave? The motivation of the allegory may be different from Descartes' evil demon, but the conclusion seems to be the same. -- NoahSpurrier (talk) 12:10, 9 February 2012 (UTC)

do our brain know that there is a brain inside our head..?? i still wonder to get this explanation.... can anyone please help me to understand..?? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:59, 4 October 2012 (UTC)

do our brain know that there is a brain inside our head..?? i still wonder to get this explanation.... can anyone please help me to understand..?? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:03, 4 October 2012 (UTC)

Why mention scientific scepticism in the first paragraph?[edit]

I fail to see why scientific scepticism should be mentioned in the first paragraph. I didn't think that was a kind of philosofic scepticism. Mick3 (talk) 16:08, 23 December 2012 (UTC)