Practical vs Philosophic Skepticism

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  1. Philosophic vs Practical Skepticism
  2. Hume’s Articulation of the Two Kinds of Skepticism
  3. Dictionary Definitions of Both Kinds of Skepticism
Philosophic vs Practical Skepticism
  • Practical Skepticism is the disposition to believe based only on rational argument.
  • In contrast, Philosophic Skepticism is a doctrine.  Actually two:
    • Academic Skepticism: few things are known with certainty.
      • For example, the existence of physical objects is not known with certainty, though highly likely.
    • Pyrrhonism: there is no rational foundation for all but a few beliefs.
Hume’s Articulation of the Two Kinds of Skepticism
  • Hume distinguished Philosophic and Practical Skepticism, using the term Mitigated Skepticism for the latter.
    • “But a Pyrrhonian cannot expect, that his philosophy will have any constant influence on the mind: or if it had, that its influence would be beneficial to society. On the contrary, he must acknowledge, if he will acknowledge anything, that all human life must perish, were his principles universally and steadily to prevail. All discourse, all action would immediately cease; and men remain in a total lethargy, till the necessities of nature, unsatisfied, put an end to their miserable existence. It is true; so fatal an event is very little to be dreaded. Nature is always too strong for principle.”
    • “There is, indeed, a more mitigated scepticism or academical philosophy, which may be both durable and useful, and which may, in part, be the result of this Pyrrhonism, or excessive scepticism, when its undistinguished doubts are, in some measure, corrected by common sense and reflection.”
      • An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section XII.
Dictionary Definitions of Both Kinds of Skepticism
    • 1a :  the doctrine that any true knowledge is impossible or that all knowledge is uncertain :  a position that no fact or truth can be established on philosophical grounds
    • 2:  an attitude of doubt or disposition toward incredulity in general or in regard to something particular (such as a supposed fact)
    • 1. A doubting or questioning attitude or state of mind; dubiety. See Synonyms at uncertainty.
    • 2. Philosophy
      • a. The ancient school of Pyrrho of Elis that stressed the uncertainty of our beliefs in order to oppose dogmatism.
      • b. The doctrine that absolute knowledge is impossible, either in a particular domain or in general.
      • c. A methodology based on an assumption of doubt with the aim of acquiring approximate or relative certainty.
    • 1. A skeptical attitude; doubt as to the truth of something.
    • 2. Philosophy: The theory that certain knowledge is impossible.