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SCEPTICISM


asserted by later writers are not borne out on investiga.tion. But the attitude maintained by the Academics was chiefly that of a negative criticism of the views of others, in par-The

Aademx ticular of the somewhat crude and imperious dogmatism of the Stoics. They also, in the absence of certainty, allowed a large scope to probability as a motive to action, and defended their doctrine on this point with greater care and skill. The whole position was stated with more urbanity and culture, and was supported, by Carneades in particular, by argumentation at once more copious and more acute. It seems also true that the Academics were less overborne than the Pyrrhonists by the practical issue of their doubts (imperturbability); their interest was more purely intellectual, and they had something of the old delight in mental exercitation for its own sake (see ARCESILAUS, CARNEADES, AENESIDEMUS, AGRIPPA and SEXTUS EMPIRICUS). Both Zeller and Hegel remark upon the difference between the calm of ancient scepticism and the perturbed state of mind Ancient evinced by many modern sceptics. Universal doubt md was the instrument which the sceptics of antiquity modem recommended for the attainment of complete peace

Sith of mind. By the moderns, on the other hand, doubt

is portrayed, for the most part, as a state of unrest and painful yeaming. Even Hume, in various passages of his Treatise, speaks of himself as recovering cheerfulness and mental tone only by forgetfulness of his own arguments. His state of universal doubt he describes as a “malady” or as “ philosophical melancholy and delirium.” The difference might easily be interpreted either as a sign of sentimental weakness on the part of the moderns or as a proof of the limitation of the ancient sceptics which rendered them more easily satisfied in the absence of truth. It seems to prove, at all events, that the ancient sceptics were more thoroughly convinced than their modern successors of the reasonableness of their own attitude. It may be doubted whether the thoroughgoing philosophical scepticism of antiquity has any exact parallel in modern times, with the single exception possibly of Hume's Treatise on Human Nature. It is true we find many thinkers who deny the competency of reason when it ventures in any way beyond the sphere of experience, and such men are not infrequently called sceptics. This is the sense in which Kant often uses the term, and the usage is adopted by others-for example, in the following definition from Ueberweg's History of Philosophy: “ The principle of scepticism is universal doubt, or at least doubt with regard to the validity of all judgments respecting that which Lies beyond the range of experience.” The last characteristic, however, is not enough to constitute scepticism, in the ancient sense. Scepticism, to be complete, must hold that even within experience we do not rationally conclude but are irrationally induced to believe. “ In all the incidents of life, " as Hume puts it, “ we ought still to preserve our scepticism. If we believe that fire warms, or water refreshes, 'tis only because it costs us too much pains to think otherwise” (Treatise, bk. i. iv. 7). This tone, which fairly represents the attitude of ancient sceptics, is rare among the moderns, at least among those who are professed philosophers. It is more easily matched in the unsystematic utterances of a man of the world like Montaigne. 2. One form of scepticism, however, may be claimed as an exclusively modern growth, namely, philosophical scepticism gcepg. in the interests of theological faith. These sceptics asm in the are primarily Apologists. Their scepticism is simply

  • "¢"”' °f a means to the attainment of a further end. They

"lu" find that the dogmas of their church have often been attacked in the name of reason, and it may be that some of the objections urged have proved hard to rebut. Accordingly, in an access of pious rage, as it Were, they turn upon reason to rend her. They endeavour to show that she is in contradiction with herself, even on matters non-theological. Thus the “ imbecility” of reason becomes their warrant for the reception by another organ-i.e. faith-of that to which reason had raised objections. The Greeks had no temptation to divide man in two in this fashion. Their scepticism was an end in itself. But this line of argument was latent in Christian thought from the time when St Paul spoke of the “ foolishness ” of preaching. So Tertullian: “ Crucifixus est Dei filius; non pudet, quia pudendum est. Et mortuus est Dei filius; prorsus credible est, quia ineptum est. Et sepultus resurrexit; certum est, quia impossible est.” But, as Christianity became firmly established, Christian writerslbecame more tolerant of speculation, and laboured to reduce the doctrines of the church to a rational system. This was the long task essayed by Scholasticism; and, though the great Schoolmen of the 13th century refrained from attempting to rationalize such doctrines as the Trinity and the Incarnation, they were far from considering Theo” gf them as essentially opposed to reason. It was not till the two towards the close of the middle ages that a sense f°1d"1'f'"'¢ oftrutlz.

of conflict between reason and revelation became widely prevalent and took shape in the essentially sceptical theory of the twofold nature of truth. Philosophical truth, as deduced from the teaching of Aristotle, it was said, directly contradicts the teaching of the church, which determines truth in theology; but the contradiction leaves the authority of the latter unimpaired in its own sphere. It is difficult to believe that this doctrine was ever put forward sincerely; in the most of those who professed it, it was certainly no more than a veil by which they sought to cover their heterodoxy and evade its consequences. Rightly divining as nuch, the church condemned the doctrine as early as 1276. Nevertheless, it was openly professed during the period of the break up of Scholastic Aristotelianism (see PoMPoNAzz1).

The typical and by far the greatest example of the Christian sceptic is Pascal (1623-1662). The form of the Pehsées forbids the attempt to evolve from their detached utterances a completely y coherent system. For, though he declares at times “ Le pyrrhonisme est le vrai, ” “ Se moquer de la philosophies c'est vraiment philosopher, ” or, again, “ Humiliezvous, raison impuissante, taisez-vous, nature imbécile, ” other passages might be quoted in which he assumes the validity of reason within its own sphere. But what he everywhere emphatically denies is the possibility of reaching by the unassisted reason a satisfactory theory of things. Man is a hopeless enigma to himself, till he sees himself in the light of revelation as a fallen creature. The fall alone explains at once the nobleness and the meanness of humanity; Jesus Christ is the only solution in which the baffled reason can rest. These are the two points on which Pascal's thought turns. Far from being able to sit in judgment upon the mysteries of the faith, reason is unable to solve its own contradictions without aid from a higher source. In a somewhat similar fashion, Lamennais (in the first stage of his speculations, represented by the Essai sur l'indijYé1'ence en. matiére religieuse, 1817-1821) endeavoured to destroy all rational certitude in order to establish the principle of authority; and the same profound distrust of the power of the natural reason to arrive at truth is exemplified (though the allegation has been denied by the author) in Cardinal Newman. In a different direction and on a larger scale, Hamilton's philosophy of the conditioned may be quoted as an example of the same religious scepticism (see HAMILTON, SIR WILLIAM). The theological application and development of Hamilton's arguments in Mansel'S Bampton Lectures On the Limits of Religious Thought marked a still more determined attack, in the interests of theology, Pascal.

upon the competency of reason.-Passing

from this particular vein of sceptical or sem thought, we find, as we should expect, that the downfall of cism, and the conflict of philosophical theories and rei-sceptical Scholasti-

ligious confessions which ensued, gave a decided impetus to sceptical reflection. One of the earliest instances of and "th this spirit is afforded by the book of Agrippa of Nettesheim centuries (1487-1535), De incertitudine et vanitate scientiarum. ° 1 This turn of thought is not confined, however, to Christian thinkers; it appears also in the Arabian philosophy of the East. Ghazali (q.v.) in his Tahrifot al-Fillisifa (“ The Collapse of the Philosophers ”) is the advocate of complete philosophical scepticism in the interests of orthodox Mahommedanism—an orthodoxy which passed, however, in his own case into a. species of mysticism. He did his work of destruction so thoroughly that Arabian philosophy

died out after his time in the land of its birth.