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Skepticism from Ancient Times to Today

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Skepticism, basically, is to remove disturbances that result from confronting incompatible views of the world. As one begins to ponder philosophy’s and perspectives, one finds that for each account that purports to establish something true about the world there is another equally persuasive force that purports equipollence. You are then unable to assent to either of the opposed accounts which first leads to suspense and then, one shall find tranquility, supposedly. This process forms the foundation for the philosophy of skepticism. A skeptic (one who believes in skepticism) is supposed to live without belief (adoxastôs), all certainties are labeled unreasonable and barrier from a tranquil piece of mind, such as building a house on a sand pit.

From ancient times onward, skeptics have developed arguments to undermine the contentions of dogmatic philosophers and theologians. A unifying feature, common between all ancient skepticisms is that they all emphasize recognizing our epistemic limitations. Skepticism throughout ancient history has played a dynamic role in forcing dogmatic philosophers to find stronger bases for their views. It enforces re-examination of prior knowledge claims and has stimulated thinkers to work out new theories to meet skeptical problems. Unlike other proclaimed philosophers at the time like Plato and Aristotle, the most extreme skeptics avoided holding opinions and basically, not believing their senses in any aspect. Pyrrho of Elis, one of the founding fathers of skepticism (creating a form later know as Pyrrhonean), explores ideas that one should refrain from the truth and avoid postulation of final truths for a calm and mindful life. Pyrrho mistrusted his senses to an extreme extent, he was allegedly indifferent to certain norms of social behavior. Pyrrho thought since appearances are often deceptive he couldn’t be sure that any harm would even come from it. He thought it was best if we distance ourselves from firm beliefs because firm beliefs always involve delusion. He mentions “why to be afraid of savage dogs, just because they are barking and baring their teeth at you, doesn’t mean they are going to run at you and bite you, and if they do it won’t necessarily hurt, it’s just your senses thinking it hurts”. It is noted that the history of philosophy can be seen, in part, as a struggle with skepticism, both developing each other through history to the extent we see them today.

Although, there are contemporary skeptics, who are, thankfully, much less extreme. In western thought, skepticism has raised basic epistemological issues. In view of the varieties of human experience, it has questioned whether it is possible to determine which experiences are veridical. Skepticism In the contemporary form has a range of variants, all of which attempt to gradually erode the metaphysical and theological bases of all historical and ancient theories. Although the modern skeptics are of less extreme nature may have been affected by historical extreme skeptics and are beginning to abandon the search for certain and indubitable foundations of human knowledge.

Ultimately, Skeptical questioning formed the foundations of philosophy. Philosophers challenge dogma and it is through this that all philosophers become skeptics. The antics of skepticism can be defined and refined by these three questions; what are things really like? What attitude should we adapt to them? What will happen if we don’t adopt that attitude? it is apparent that the final source of truth for a skeptic is a personal experience. For me, Rather than trying to uncover some hidden reality, we should accept our limitations, operate in accordance with custom and habit, and not be disturbed by what we cannot know. Yet skepticism remains robust after more than 2,500 years.

Skepticism has influenced historical discussions. It touches on the idea of always going back and asking “why?”. Historians follow the line of skeptics, they are always questioning so they aren’t hung up on the way things are or holding onto things they believe are truths, truths aren’t necessarily true and we should be open to ever-changing ideas, paths and evidence.

Many scientists contemporarily are struggling to persuade the ever-skeptical public that science itself is a skeptical enterprise. Science is driven off the ideas of disapproving and finding faults in previous research and evidence. As new scientific ideas and papers are released people are becoming more and more skeptical of what scientists say which causes problems in society. However, science is based on a firm foundation which already involves a series of questions to confirm and further prove theories.

Today we are all skeptics. Or are we? Contemporary skepticism is shy compared to its ancient form. Skeptics are always questioning, it’s important that as modern members of society we continue to question our beliefs and morals, so we can further evolve. I believe it’s important that we are all skeptics in some sense, not to the extreme form where disciples follow us around to ensure our skepticism doesn’t kill us, but in a modern way which allows us to become more assured people that create their own beliefs rather than following that of our parents or the society around us. What if our problem today is that we are not skeptics enough? Or what if we are too skeptic? How will we know unless we question it? 

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