What is Skepticism? This series aims to make learning about philosophy as easy as possible by bringing together the best videos, podcasts, and articles from across the internet and allowing you to choose the type of content that best suits your learning style. Simply choose one of following links to get started:
If you want a comprehensive overview of the idea of skepticism:
- Read the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Skepticism. However, you should keep in mind that the Stanford Encyclopedia in often quite technical and this article may be difficult for beginners. It’s also quite long at around 18,000 words. Here’s a short excerpt that introduces the idea of skepticism:
“Even before examining the various general forms of skepticism, it is crucial that we distinguish between philosophical skepticism and ordinary incredulity because doing so will help to explain why philosophical skepticism is so intriguing. . . .
To clarify the distinction between ordinary incredulity and philosophical doubt, let us consider two movies: The Truman Show and The Matrix. In the former, Truman is placed, without his knowledge, in a contrived environment so that his “life” can be broadcast on television. But he begins to wonder whether the world surrounding him is, in fact, what it appears to be. Some events seem to happen too regularly and many other things are just not quite as they should be. Eventually, Truman obtains convincing evidence that all his world is a stage and all the men and women are merely players. The crucial point is that even had he not developed any doubts, there is, in principle, a way to resolve them had they arisen. Such doubts, though quite general, are examples of ordinary incredulity.
Contrast this with the deception depicted in The Matrix. When everything is running as programmed by the machines, there is no possible way for the “people” in the matrix to determine that the world as experienced is only a “dream world” and not the real world (the world of causes and effects). The only “reality” that it is possible to investigate is a computer generated one.
The Truman Show is a depiction of a case of ordinary incredulity because there is some evidence that is, in principle, available to Truman for determining what’s really the case; whereas The Matrix depicts a situation similar to that imagined by a typical philosophical skeptic in which it is not possible for the Matrix-bound characters to obtain evidence for determining that things are not as they seem (whenever the virtual reality is perfectly created). . . .”
If you’re looking for a somewhat shorter and and more engaging introduction:
- Read Laura D’Olimpio’s article: How do you know you’re not living in a computer simulation? [700 words]
If you’d prefer a video introduction:
If you prefer audio and podcasts:
If you’d just like to casually browse a few quotes: