Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Skepticism: The Fountainhead Of Progress

The paradox of skepticism is that its rise coincides with the rise of realism in science and politics. In the last 3000 years, whenever philosophy has taken a skeptical turn, the world has seen a great flowering of innovations, inventions, and discoveries.

Philosophy in Ancient Greece, from 6th to 1st century BCE, was dominated by the skeptics—Xenophanes and Democritus were the first major skeptic philosophers, and after them came the Sophists. In the 4th century BCE, Pyrrho founded the skeptic school of Pyrrhonism which continues to be influential till this day. Ancient Greek skepticism went on to gain massive influence in Ancient Rome and the Roman Empire. When the Roman Empire went into decline in the 4th century, skepticism ceased to be the dominant philosophy, but it got revived in the 15th century through the works of Michel de Montaigne, Pierre Gassendi, and, most importantly, René Descartes. David Hume took skepticism to a new high in the 18th century. The Logical Positivists and the Analytic School, both of which denied the existence of metaphysics, dominated the philosophy of 20th century.

An analysis of the periods that I have mentioned—from Ancient Greece, to Ancient Rome, Roman Empire, Middle Ages, and finally the Modern Age—shows that the rise of skeptic philosophy is concurrent with great advancements in politics, economics, and science. Therefore, I come to the conclusion that skepticism is the fountainhead of progress.

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