Seminar: Ancient Skepticism

We all believe certain things to be true, but are we ever justified in doing so? Ancient skeptics attempted to examine all beliefs (the word skepsis means examination). When faced with any dogmatic claim - for example, that the world is made of atoms and void - the skeptic constructs an argument for the opposite claim, resulting in suspended judgement. The seminar will begin with an investigation of the roots of Hellenistic skepticism in Socrates' techniques for questioning beliefs. We will then trace two strands of ancient skeptical thought, Academic skepticism and Pyrrhonian skepticism, attending throughout to two questions: Can the skeptic advance her own skepticism without being dogmatic and thereby contradicting herself? Can the skeptic live her skepticism; is it possible to act if one suspends judgement?

Units: 1

Max Enrollment: 16

Prerequisites: PHIL 201 or permission of the instructor.


Distribution Requirements: EC or HS - Epistemology and Cognition or Historical Studies

Semesters Offered this Academic Year: Not Offered