Skepticism and the Skeptics

A skeptic is defined as being "one who doubts the truth and reality of any principle or system of principles or doctrines. In philosophy, a Pyrrhonist or follower of Pyrrho, the founder of a sect of sceptical philosophers, who maintained that no certain inferences can be drawn from the reports of the senses, and who therefore doubted of everything. In theology, a sceptic is a person who doubts the existence and perfections of God, or the truth of revelation; one who disbelieves the divine original of the Christian religion."

“Suffer not your faith to be shaken by the sophistries of skeptics.”

Skepticism includes "the doctrines and opinions of the Pyrrhonists or sceptical philosophers; universal doubt; the scheme of philosophy which denies the certainty of any knowledge respecting the phenomena of nature. In theology, scepticism is a doubting of the truth of revelation, or a denial of the divine origin of the christian religion, or of the being, perfections or truth of God."

To say that you are skeptical is to say that you are "doubting; hesitating to admit the certainty of doctrines or principles; doubting of everything; doubting or denying the truth of revelation." Skepticism is a spectrum that occupies a vast gray area between verifiable certainty and reasonable doubt.

Noah Webster said, "The skeptical system subverts the whole foundation of morals." Atheism begins with skepticism, but all souls are free to think and choose as they will, right or wrong. In dealing with skeptisim, your own or another's, let your motto be "Experientia docet," "experiemce teaches."

Belief is defined as "a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing; something that is accepted, considered to be true, or held as an opinion; conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence." Sadly, mere belief is the basis for "faith" to most souls. Belief is another spectrum, ranging from unquestioning acceptance of whatever one has been taught from birth to virulent atheism.

Ancient Skepticism

Katja Vogt has written, "The Greek word skepsis means investigation. By calling themselves skeptics, the ancient skeptics thus describe themselves as investigators. They also call themselves 'those who suspend' (ephektikoi), thereby signaling that their investigations lead them to suspension of judgment. They do not put forward theories, and they do not deny that knowledge can be found. At its core, ancient skepticism is a way of life devoted to inquiry. Also, it is as much concerned with belief as with knowledge. As long as knowledge has not been attained, the skeptics aim not to affirm anything. This gives rise to their most controversial ambition: a life without belief.

"Ancient skepticism is, for the most part, a phenomenon of Post-Classical, Hellenistic philosophy. The Academic and Pyrrhonian skeptical movements begin roughly in the third century BCE, and end with Sextus Empiricus in the second century CE. Hellenistic philosophy is a large-scale conversation, not unlike philosophy today. The skeptics (among them Pyrrho, Timon, Arcesilaus, Carneades, Aenesidemus, and Sextus Empiricus) do engage with Pre-Socratic philosophy, Socrates, Protagorean relativism, Plato, and perhaps Aristotle. But their contemporary and principal interlocutors are Epicureans, Stoics, Cynics, and Megarian logicians (cf. Long 2006, ch. 4 and 5)." – Katja Vogt

We recommend Katja Vogt's excellent Essay on Ancient Skepticism. She writes, "Ancient debates address questions that today we associate with epistemology and philosophy of language, as well as with theory of action, rather than specifically with the contemporary topic of skepticism. They focus on the nature of belief, the way in which belief figures in our mental lives, and the relationship of belief to speech and action." Ms. Vogt is a Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Classical Studies Graduate Program, Columbia University.

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Etymology of skeptic: "member of an ancient Greek school that doubted the possibility of real knowledge," from French sceptique and directly from Latin scepticus "the sect of the Skeptics," from Greek skeptikos (plural Skeptikoi "the Skeptics, followers of Pyrrho"), noun use of adjective meaning "inquiring, reflective" (the name taken by the disciples of the Greek philosopher Pyrrho, who lived c. 360-c. 270 BCE.), related to skeptesthai "to reflect, look, view".


Harper, Douglas. "Skeptic," Etymology online. Accessed March 12, 2021.

Vogt, Katja, "Ancient Skepticism",The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Fall 2018 Edition, Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Accessed March 12, 2021.

Webster, Noah. "Sceptic," Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language. Two volumes. New York: S. Converse, 1828. This work is in the public domain.

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