Philosophy Contemporary Skepticism
by
Duncan Pritchard
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 December 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0109

Introduction

The problem of skepticism is one of the key topics in philosophy, in terms of both the history of the subject and the contemporary literature. This article focuses on the contemporary discussion, which has tended to be largely concerned with the particular skeptical question of whether widespread knowledge of the world is possible.

General Overviews

A number of introductory overviews of the skeptical debate are currently available, though they can vary considerably in terms of what they offer and the extent to which they are up to date on recent developments. Klein 2015 offers a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the contemporary literature on skepticism, and it also has the advantage of being freely available online. Klein 2002 is also fairly current and comprehensive, albeit not to the same degree. Pritchard 2002 offers a comprehensive and up-to-date survey of the contemporary literature on skepticism. Although DeRose 1999 is an introduction to an edited collection, the comprehensive nature of the volume in question means that it covers all the main issues. Williams 1998 offers a quite partisan treatment of the debate, but since Williams is one of the main figures working on these issues, this is nevertheless a helpful contribution. Vogel 2005 offers a critical response to the problem of skepticism, to which Fumerton 2005 responds. Read together, these two articles are useful if one wishes to get a grip on the opposing positions that are available in this respect (i.e., skepticism and anti-skepticism). Cohen 1998 is the shortest of the pieces listed here, but it is still useful if one wants to get a quick grasp of the main issues.

  • Cohen, S. “Scepticism.” In Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Vol. 8. Edited by Edward Craig, 795–796. London: Routledge, 1998.

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    This is a very short introduction to the contemporary debate, and so it leaves a lot out. Still, it flags the main issues, and therefore would be of use to anyone who seeks a quick overview of the topic.

  • DeRose, Keith. “Introduction: Responding to Skepticism.” In Skepticism: A Contemporary Reader. Edited by Keith DeRose and Ted A. Warfield, 1–25. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    A good introduction to the contemporary debate, one that also covers, unusually, semantic externalist responses to the skeptical problem. Also accords more status to skepticism-friendly treatments of the problem than is usual. This is an introduction to an anthology—one of the key anthologies on the contemporary debate regarding skepticism presently available—and so proceeds for the most part by summarizing and discussing the papers collected in this anthology.

  • Fumerton, Richard. “The Challenge of Refuting Skepticism.” In Contemporary Debates in Epistemology. Edited by Matthias Steup and Ernest Sosa, 85–97. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.

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    Essentially a defense of a broadly skepticism-friendly position. Note that this article is a response to Vogel 2005, which offers a defense of the opposing, anti-skeptical, position. Reading the two articles together thus provides a good sense of what is at issue in the debate regarding skepticism.

  • Klein, Peter. “Skepticism.” In The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology. Edited by Paul K. Moser, 336–361. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1093/0195130057.003.0012E-mail Citation »

    A good article on the contemporary literature on skepticism.

  • Klein, Peter. “Skepticism.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2015.

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    A comprehensive state-of-the art entry on the contemporary literature, and freely available online. Note that this article overlaps to a certain degree with Klein 2002, but it covers more ground and is more up to date.

  • Pritchard, Duncan. “Recent Work on Radical Skepticism.” American Philosophical Quarterly 39.3 (2002): 215–257.

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    This is the only formal survey of the recent literature on the skeptical problem, and it offers a fairly comprehensive account of the main views.

  • Vogel, Jonathan. “The Refutation of Skepticism.” In Contemporary Debates in Epistemology. Edited by Matthias Steup and Ernest Sosa, 72–85. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.

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    Essentially a defense of an anti-skeptical stance. Note that a response is to this article is found in Fumerton 2005, which offers a defense of the opposing position. Reading the two articles together thus provides a good sense of what is at issue in the debate regarding skepticism.

  • Williams, Michael. “Skepticism.” In The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology. Edited by John Greco and Ernest Sosa, 35–69. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.

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    This is a somewhat partisan introduction to the debate, but it is nonetheless a very useful account in that it offers an influential perspective on the issues, one informed from a broadly contextualist outlook on the problem.

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