Which brand of skepticism is the hardest to refute or argue against? What argument has given the other theories of knowledge the hardest time?

  • 1
    As requested, I deleted your previous question since you already posted this one. But please note that in the future, you're encouraged to edit your existing question to clarify things or add new information, rather than asking a new one. – Cody Gray Apr 18 '12 at 20:00
  • 1
    This might be a good time to try out that editing thing, while taking into account some of the criticism that Michael Dorfman has offered in the comments to his answer. It appears that you haven't put much time/effort into researching this question for yourself. Questions that are one or two sentences tend to leave a bad impression in the minds of the expert users who answer questions around here. It would be best if you could add some more information on what schools of skepticism you've considered thus far, and what general categories of weaknesses that you think they're vulnerable to. – Cody Gray Apr 20 '12 at 2:21

Which brand is hardest to refute is going to depend on what epistemological standpoint one is arguing from, but I imagine that Pyrrho and Sextus Empiricus represent two of the most enduring proponents of skepticism; certainly, anyone attempting to "refute" skepticism would have to grapple with Agrippa's Trilemma.

EDIT: Just to flesh out the link a bit--

Agrippa's Trilemma argues that all attempts at justification resolve to one of three cases: an infinite regression (e.g., we justify A by B, which is in turn justified by C, etc., with no end); a circular argument (e.g., we justify A by B, which is in turn justified by C, which is justified by A); or a set of unjustified axioms (we justify A by B, which is taken as axiomatic.)

In other words: if treated skeptically, nothing can be satisfactorily justified; all attempts at foundation are ultimately either assumed, circular, or deferred.

  • 1
    What is it, specifically, that makes Agrippa's Trilemma a more cohesive skeptical position and/or more difficult to refute? Also, a brief summary of the argument it makes would be useful to include in your answer. (Links are great, especially for those who seek more detailed information, but answers should be able to stand alone in the event that the link becomes unavailable.) – Cody Gray Apr 19 '12 at 2:08
  • 1
    @CodyGray: We've been here before. I agree with you in principal, but the question reduces to "Do my homework", and a pointer to an encyclopedia is, I think, the only appropriate response. If the OP had shown any signs of having spent, say, 10 minutes researching the problem on their own, I'd be happy to engage more substantively. – Michael Dorfman Apr 19 '12 at 6:41
  • @Michael: Implying you know why I asked what I asked. Implying wikipedia is a credible source. Implying you know how long I have spent researching the problem myself. – Kevin Davis Apr 19 '12 at 19:09
  • 1
    Hmm, I'm inclined to say the same thing: "I agree with you in principle, [but not in reality]". The question is indeed a bit sparse and doesn't show much evidence of research effort, but you fix that by A) editing, B) downvoting, and/or C) voting to close. The lowered quality of a question does not justify a lowered quality of answers. I honestly don't know the answers to the questions that I asked in my initial comment, and I didn't really pick up on them from the Wikipedia article. Besides, site policy is that link-only answers are strongly discouraged; that doesn't change for bad questions. – Cody Gray Apr 20 '12 at 2:18
  • @KevinDavis: I don't know why you asked, but your motivation wasn't relevant to my answer (and I assumed that if it was relevant to your question, you would have said so.) I don't think Wikipedia is a particularly good source; certainly the SEP is much better for philosophy, but the point is that any encyclopedia article on skepticism (even in Wikipedia) will give a good basis (and bibliographic pointers) toward an answer. My assessment of how long you researched was based on the question; if you had already researched and found unsatsfactory answers, I imagine you would have said so. – Michael Dorfman Apr 20 '12 at 6:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.