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Scepticism

Duration:
43 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 05 July 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Scepticism, the idea that it may be impossible to know anything with complete certainty. Scepticism was first outlined by ancient Greek philosophers: Socrates is reported to have said that the only thing he knew for certain was that he knew nothing. Later, Scepticism was taught at the Academy founded by Plato, and learnt by students who included the Roman statesman Cicero. The central ideas of Scepticism were taken up by later philosophers and came to the fore during the Renaissance, when thinkers including Rene Descartes and Michel de Montaigne took up its challenge. A central plank of the philosophical system of David Hume, Scepticism had a powerful influence on the religious and scientific debates of the Enlightenment.

With:

Peter Millican
Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford

Melissa Lane
Professor of Politics at Princeton University

Jill Kraye
Professor of the History of Renaissance Philosophy and Librarian at the Warburg Institute, University of London.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

  • FURTHER READING

    Julia Annas and Jonathan Barnes, ‘The Modes of Scepticism: Ancient Texts and Modern Interpretations’ (Cambridge University Press, 1985)

    Pierre Bayle (trans. Richard H. Popkin and Craig Bush), ‘Historical and Critical Dictionary: Selections’ which contains ‘Pyrrho’ by Pierre Bayle (Hackett Publishing Co, 1991)

    Richard Bett (ed.), ‘The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Scepticism’ (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

    Myles Burnyeat (ed.), ‘The Skeptical Tradition: Major Thinkers Series’ (University of California Press, 1983)

    Sextus Empiricus (ed. by Julia Annas and Jonathan Barnes), ‘Outlines of Scepticism: Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy’ (Cambridge University Press, 2000)

    David Hume (ed. Peter Millican), ‘Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding’ (Oxford University Press, 2007)

    Ullrich Langer (ed.), ‘The Cambridge Companion to Montaigne’ which contains ‘Montaigne and Scepticism’ by Anne Hartle (Cambridge University Press, 2005)

    Michel de Montaigne (transl. by M. A. Screech), ‘Complete Essays’, which contains ‘An Apology for Raymond Sebond’ (Penguin Books, 1991)

    Richard H. Popkin, ‘The History of Scepticism from Savonarola to Bayle’ (Oxford University Press, 2003)

    Richard H. Popkin, ‘The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza’ (University of California Press, 1979)

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