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Skepticism (American English) or scepticism (British English) is generally any questioning attitude or doubt towards one or more items of putative knowledge or belief.[1][2] It is often directed at domains, such as the supernatural, morality (moral skepticism), religion (skepticism about the existence of God), or knowledge (skepticism about the possibility of knowledge, or of certainty).[3] Formally, skepticism as a topic occurs in the context of philosophy, particularly epistemology, although it can be applied to any topic such as politics, religion, and pseudoscience. Philosophical skepticism
Philosophical skepticism
comes in various forms. Radical forms of skepticism deny that knowledge or rational belief is possible and urge us to suspend judgment on many or all controversial matters. More moderate forms of skepticism claim only that nothing can be known with certainty, or that we can know little or nothing about the "big questions" in life, such as whether God exists or whether there is an afterlife. Religious skepticism
Religious skepticism
is "doubt concerning basic religious principles (such as immortality, providence, and revelation)".[4] Scientific skepticism
Scientific skepticism
concerns testing beliefs for reliability, by subjecting them to systematic investigation using the scientific method, to discover empirical evidence for them.


1 Definition 2 Philosophical skepticism 3 Religious skepticism 4 Scientific
skepticism 5 See also 6 Notes 7 Sources 8 Further reading 9 External links

Definition[edit] In ordinary usage, skepticism (US) or scepticism (UK) (Greek: 'σκέπτομαι' skeptomai, to search, to think about or look for; see also spelling differences) can refer to:

an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object; the doctrine that true knowledge or some particular knowledge is uncertain; the method of suspended judgment, systematic doubt, or criticism that is characteristic of skeptics (Merriam–Webster).

In philosophy, skepticism can refer to:

a mode of inquiry that emphasizes critical scrutiny, caution, and intellectual rigor; a method of obtaining knowledge through systematic doubt and continual testing; a set of claims about the limitations of human knowledge and the proper response to such limitations.

Philosophical skepticism[edit] Main article: Philosophical skepticism As a philosophical school or movement, skepticism originated in ancient Greece. A number of Greek Sophists held skeptical views. Gorgias, for example, reputedly argued that nothing exists, that even if there were something we couldn’t know it, and that even if we could know it we could not communicate it.[5] Another Sophist, Cratylus, refused to discuss anything and would merely wriggle his finger, claiming that communication is impossible since meanings are constantly changing.[6] The Sophists’ leading critic, Socrates, also had skeptical tendencies, claiming that he knew nothing, or at least nothing worthwhile.[7] There were two major schools of skepticism in the ancient Greek and Roman world. One was Pyrrhonian skepticism, which was founded by Pyrrho of Elis
Pyrrho of Elis
(c. 360–270 BCE). The other was Academic skepticism, so-called because its two leading defenders, Arcesilaus
(c. 315–240 BCE) and Carneades
(c. 217–128 BCE) were Heads of Plato’s Academy. Both schools of skepticism denied that knowledge is possible and urged suspension of judgment (epoche) for the sake of mental tranquility (ataraxia). The major difference between the schools seems to have been that Academic skeptics claimed that some beliefs are more reasonable or probable than others, whereas Pyrrhonian skeptics argued that equally compelling arguments can be given for or against any disputed view.[8] Nearly all the writings of the ancient skeptics are now lost. Most of what we know about ancient skepticism is due to Sextus Empiricus, a Pyrrhonian skeptic who lived in the second or third century A.D. His major work, Outlines of Pyrrhonism, contains a lucid summary of stock skeptical arguments. Ancient skepticism faded out during the late Roman Empire, particularly after Augustine
(354–430 CE) attacked the skeptics in his work Against the Academics (386 CE). There was little knowledge of, or interest in, ancient skepticism in Christian Europe during the Middle Ages. Interest revived during the Renaissance and Reformation, particularly after the complete writings of Sextus Empiricus
Sextus Empiricus
were translated into Latin in 1569. A number of Catholic writers, including Francisco Sanches
Francisco Sanches
(c. 1550–1623), Michel de Montaigne
Michel de Montaigne
(1533–1592), Pierre Gassendi
Pierre Gassendi
(1592–1655), and Marin Mersenne
Marin Mersenne
(1588–1648) deployed ancient skeptical arguments to defend moderate forms of skepticism and to argue that faith, rather than reason, must be the primary guide to truth. Similar arguments were offered later (perhaps ironically) by the Protestant thinker Pierre Bayle
Pierre Bayle
in his influential Historical and Critical Dictionary (1697–1702).[9] The growing popularity of skeptical views created an intellectual crisis in seventeenth-century Europe. One major response was offered by the French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes (1596–1650). In his classic work, Meditations of First Philosophy (1641), Descartes sought to refute skepticism, but only after he had formulated the case for skepticism as powerfully as possible. Descartes argued that no matter what radical skeptical possibilities we imagine there are certain truths (e.g., that thinking is occurring, or that I exist) that are absolutely certain. Thus, the ancient skeptics were wrong to claim that knowledge is impossible. Descartes also attempted to refute skeptical doubts about the reliability of our senses, our memory, and other cognitive faculties. To do this, Descartes tried to prove that God exists and that God would not allow us to be systematically deceived about the nature of reality. Many contemporary philosophers question whether this second stage of Descartes’ critique of skepticism is successful.[10] In the eighteenth century a powerful new case for skepticism was offered by the Scottish philosopher David Hume
David Hume
(1711–1776). Hume was an empiricist, claiming that all genuine ideas can be traced back to original impressions of sensation or introspective consciousness. Hume argued forcefully that on empiricist grounds there are no sound reasons for belief in God, an enduring self or soul, an external world, causal necessity, objective morality, or inductive reasoning. In fact, he argued that “ Philosophy
would render us entirely Pyrrhonian, were not Nature too strong for it.”[11] As Hume saw it, the real basis of human belief is not reason, but custom or habit. We are hard-wired by nature to trust, say, our memories or inductive reasoning, and no skeptical arguments, however powerful, can dislodge those beliefs. In this way, Hume embraced what he called a “mitigated” skepticism, while rejecting an “excessive” Pyrrhonian skepticism that he saw as both impractical and psychologically impossible. Hume’s skepticism provoked a number of important responses. Hume’s Scottish contemporary, Thomas Reid
Thomas Reid
(1710–1796), challenged Hume’s strict empiricism and argued that it is rational to accept “common-sense” beliefs such as the basic reliability of our senses, our reason, our memories, and inductive reasoning, even though none of these things can be proved. In Reid’s view, such common-sense beliefs are foundational and require no proof in order to be rationally justified.[12] Not long after Hume’s death, the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
(1724–1804) argued that human moral awareness makes no sense unless we reject Hume’s skeptical conclusions about the existence of God, the soul, free will, and an afterlife. According to Kant, while Hume was right to claim that we cannot strictly know any of these things, our moral experience entitles us to believe in them.[13] Today, skepticism continues to be a topic of lively debate among philosophers.[14] Religious skepticism[edit] Main article: Religious skepticism Religious skepticism
Religious skepticism
generally refers to doubting given religious beliefs or claims. Historically, religious skepticism can be traced back to Socrates, who doubted many religious claims of the time. Modern religious skepticism typically emphasizes scientific and historical methods or evidence, with Michael Shermer
Michael Shermer
writing that skepticism is a process for discovering the truth rather than general non-acceptance[clarification needed]. For example, a religious skeptic might believe that Jesus
existed while questioning claims that he was the messiah or performed miracles (see historicity of Jesus). Religious skepticism
Religious skepticism
is not the same as atheism or agnosticism, though these often do involve skeptical attitudes toward religion and philosophical theology (for example, towards divine omnipotence). Religious people are generally skeptical about claims of other religions, at least when the two denominations conflict concerning some stated belief. Additionally, they may also be skeptical of the claims made by atheists.[15] The historian Will Durant
Will Durant
writes that Plato
was "as skeptical of atheism as of any other dogma." Scientific
skepticism[edit] Main article: Skeptical movement §  Scientific
skepticism A scientific or empirical skeptic is one who questions beliefs on the basis of scientific understanding. Scientific skepticism
Scientific skepticism
may discard beliefs pertaining to purported phenomena not subject to reliable observation and thus not systematic or testable empirically. Most scientists, being scientific skeptics, test the reliability of certain kinds of claims by subjecting them to a systematic investigation using some type of the scientific method.[16] As a result, a number of claims are considered as "pseudoscience", if they are found to improperly apply or ignore the fundamental aspects of the scientific method. See also[edit]

A Brief History of Disbelief – 3-part PBS
series (2007) Critical thinking Debunker
(one who exposes claims as being false) Denialism Doubt Richard Popkin Pseudoskepticism Scientific
skepticism Scientism Trivialism
(opposite of skepticism) Transactionalism List of topics characterized as pseudoscience The Skeptic (UK magazine), founded by Wendy M. Grossman, examines secularism and the paranormal Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a non-profit organization to encourage the investigation of paranormal and fringe-science Skeptical Inquirer, magazine published by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry The Skeptics Society, a nonprofit organization devoted to resisting the spread of pseudoscience, superstition, and irrational beliefs Skeptic (U.S. magazine), magazine of The Skeptics Society Skepticality
a biweekly podcast of US The Skeptics Society's Skeptic magazine The Skeptic's Dictionary, a collection of essays by Robert Todd Carroll Skeptical movement, a movement based on scientific skepticism, a term introduced by Carl Sagan Skeptics in the Pub, a social meet-up group The Amaz!ng Meeting, an annual conference on science, skepticism, and critical thinking


^ Popkin, R. H. The History of Skepticism from Erasmus to Descartes (rev. ed. 1968); C. L. Stough, Greek Skepticism (1969); M. Burnyeat, ed., The Skeptical Tradition (1983); B. Stroud, The Significance of Philosophical Skepticism (1984).  ^ "Philosophical views are typically classed as skeptical when they involve advancing some degree of doubt regarding claims that are elsewhere taken for granted." ^ Greco, John (2008). The Oxford Handbook of Skepticism. Oxford University Press, US. ISBN 9780195183214.  ^ "Definition of SKEPTICISM". Retrieved 2016-02-05.  ^ W. T. Jones, A History of Western Philosophy. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1952, p. 60 n. 45. ^ Richard H. Popkin, "Skepticism," in Paul Edwards, ed., The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 7. New York: Macmillan, 1967, p. 449. ^ Allan Hazlett, A Critical Introduction to Skepticism. London: Bloomsbury, 2014, p. 5. ^ Popkin, "Skepticism" p. 450. ^ Richard H. Popkin, The History of Skepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza, rev. ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979, chaps 1 and 2. ^ See, e.g., Popkin, The History of Skepticism, p. 210. ^ Quoted in Popkin, "Skepticism," p. 456. ^ Popkin, "Skepticism," p. 456. ^ Popkin, "Skepticism," p. 457. ^ See, e.g., John Greco, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Skepticism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. ^ Mann, Daniel. "Skeptical of Atheism". Apologetics for Today. Retrieved 2 December 2013.  ^ What is skepticism?


A Greek-English Lexicon, Henry George Liddell
Henry George Liddell
and Robert Scott, revised and augmented throughout by Sir Henry Stuart Jones, with the assistance of Roderick McKenzie, Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK, 1940. Online, Butchvarov, Panayot, Skepticism About the External World (Oxford University Press, 1998). Daniels, M.D., D.; Price, PhD, V. (2000), The Essential Enneagram, New York: HarperCollins  Richard Hönigswald, Die Skepsis in Philosophie und Wissenschaft, 1914, new edition (ed. and introduction by Christian Benne and Thomas Schirren), Göttingen: Edition Ruprecht, 2008, ISBN 978-3-7675-3056-0 Keeton, Morris T., "skepticism", pp. 277–278 in Dagobert D. Runes (ed.), Dictionary of Philosophy, Littlefield, Adams, and Company, Totowa, NJ, 1962. Le Morvan, P. Healthy Skepticism and Practical Wisdom," Logos & Episteme II, 1 (2011): 87–102 (PDF).  Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition, Unabridged, W.A. Neilson, T.A. Knott, P.W. Carhart (eds.), G. & C. Merriam Company, Springfield, MA, 1950.

Further reading[edit]

Wilson, Richard (2009). Don't Get Fooled Again: A Sceptic's Handbook. Icon. ISBN 9781848310520.  Popkin, Richard H. (2003). The History of Scepticism : From Savonarola to Bayle. Oxford University Press, US. ISBN 9780198026716.  Bury, Robert Gregg (1933). Sextus Empiricus: Outlines of Pyrrhonism. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674993013.  Empiricus, Sextus; Annas, Julia; Barnes, Jonathan (2000-07-20). Sextus Empiricus: Outlines of Scepticism. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521778091.  Burnyeat, Myles (1983). The Skeptical Tradition. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520037472.  Emily Rosa: A Close Look at Therapeutic Touch[1]

External links[edit]

Look up skepticism in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Skepticism

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Skeptics.

Skepticism at PhilPapers Skepticism at the Indiana Philosophy
Ontology Project Klein, Peter. "Skepticism". In Zalta, Edward N. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  Vogt, Katja. " Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Skepticism". In Zalta, Edward N. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  Thorsrud, Harald. " Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Skepticism". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  Bolyard, Charles. "Medieval Skepticism". In Zalta, Edward N. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  Pritchard, Duncan. "Contemporary Skepticism". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  Skeptical Inquiry
at Curlie (based on DMOZ) "Most Scientific
Papers are Probably Wrong", NewScientist, 30 August 2005 Classical Skepticism by Peter Suber "Outstanding skeptics of the 20th century" – Skeptical Inquirer magazine

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Thomas Aquinas Augustine
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A priori knowledge Analysis Analytic–synthetic distinction Belief Causality Common sense Descriptive knowledge Exploratory thought Gettier problem Justification Knowledge Induction Objectivity Problem of induction Problem of other minds Perception Proposition Regress argument Simplicity Speculative reason Truth more...

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List of books about skepticism List of notable skeptics List of skeptical conferences List of skeptical magazines List of skeptical organizations List of skeptical podcasts

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of science


Analysis Analytic–synthetic distinction A priori and a posteriori Causality Commensurability Consilience Construct Creative synthesis Demarcation problem Empirical evidence Explanatory power Fact Falsifiability Feminist method Ignoramus et ignorabimus Inductive reasoning Intertheoretic reduction Inquiry Nature Objectivity Observation Paradigm Problem of induction Scientific
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Immanuel Kant Friedrich Schelling William Whewell Auguste Comte John Stuart Mill Herbert Spencer Wilhelm Wundt Charles Sanders Peirce Wilhelm Windelband Henri Poincaré Pierre Duhem Rudolf Steiner Karl Pearson

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Alfred North Whitehead Bertrand Russell Albert Einstein Otto Neurath C. D. Broad Michael Polanyi Hans Reichenbach Rudolf Carnap Karl Popper Carl Gustav Hempel W. V. O. Quine Thomas Kuhn Imre Lakatos Paul Feyerabend Jürgen Habermas Ian Hacking Bas van Fraassen Larry Laudan Daniel Dennett

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^ Rosa L; Rosa E; Sarner L; Barrett S (1998-04-01). "A close look at therapeutic touch". JAMA. 279 (13): 1005–1010. doi:10.1001/jama.279.13.1005. ISSN 0098-7484. PMID 95