The History of Scepticism: From Savonarola to Bayle

The History of Scepticism: From Savonarola to Bayle

The History of Scepticism: From Savonarola to Bayle

The History of Scepticism: From Savonarola to Bayle

Synopsis

This is the third edition of a classic book first published in 1960, which has sold thousands of copies in two paperback edition and has been translated into several foreign languages. Popkin's work has generated innumerable citations, and remains a valuable stimulus to current historical research. In this updated version, he has revised and expanded throughout, and has added three new chapters, one on Savonarola, one on Henry More and Ralph Cudworth, and one on Pascal. This authoritative treatment of the theme of scepticism and its historical impact will appeal to scholars and students of early modern history now as much as ever.

Excerpt

As a teenager growing up in the late thirties in New York, I became sceptical about a lot of ideologies then being discussed. It was only when I went to college at Columbia in the early 1940s that I became acquainted with the actual arguments of the Greek sceptics. I was a student in the course of the history of philosophy, then being given by John Herman Randall. The materials we were asked to read by Plato and Aristotle were very tough going for me at the time. After that we were assigned to read a section of the writings of the Greek sceptic Sextus Empiricus. I remember taking the book off the shelf in the philosophy library and finding it amazingly lucid and exciting. I read it on the subway ride back to my home in the Bronx and read it with much joy in the days thereafter. This text, plus the later readings from the Scottish sceptic David Hume, were the most interesting for me. In 1944 I took a seminar in post-Aristotelian Greek philosophy, given by Paul Oskar Kristeller. This was, in fact, the first course he gave in the United States. There were just two students attending. He would lecture from a podium for an hour and a half and then say, β€œAre there any questions, gentlemen?” Of the fifteen weeks of the course, two were devoted to Sextus Empiricus. This greatly increased my interest in Greek scepticism. When I asked Professor Kristeller years later why he devoted so much time to Sextus, whose ideas . . .

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