Epistemology and Skepticism: An Enquiry into the Nature of Epistemology

Epistemology and Skepticism: An Enquiry into the Nature of Epistemology

Epistemology and Skepticism: An Enquiry into the Nature of Epistemology

Epistemology and Skepticism: An Enquiry into the Nature of Epistemology


Convinced that both epistemology and philosophy have gone astray in the twentieth century, George Chatalian seeks to restore the classical tradition in both, in part by marshaling a mass of data about philosophical skepticism throughout the history of philosophy, data which taken as a whole are not to be found in any other work. Despite the extensive historical and linguistic investigations, however, the work is essentially a philosophical one. After outlining the theses he sees as central to the epistemology of Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, W. V. Quine and those more or less deeply influenced by them, and after tracing these claims to their deeper source in the analytic conception of philosophy, Chatalian assesses the claims such theses make about the Greek skeptics, sophists, and Plato. Such an assessment, Chatalian argues, exposes the false foundations of analytic epistemology. Epistemology and Skepticism outlines a complete epistemology in what, according to its author, is the classical sense.


Roderick M. Chisholm

DURING THE PAST TWENTY-FIVE YEARS THERE HAS BEEN A RENAISSANCE IN epistemology, or the philosophical theory of knowledge. It may well be that during this time more progress has been made with respect to the details of the subject than has been made at any comparable period during its history. Epistemologists have also been concerned with the nature of epistemology and with its relations to science, to the other areas of philosophy, and to our daily life. (To be sure, some have rejected the traditional questions and then, unfortunately, have described quite different questions as constituting the subject matter of epistemology.) Of the many works on the nature of epistemology that have appeared during this period, the present book seems to me one of the most profound and illuminating. It is a contribution of the first importance to the theory of knowledge, both systematically and historically.

Dr. Chatalian is concerned to show the inadequacy of what he calls the "new" conception of epistemology and to provide us with an account of the subject that is more nearly adequate to what epistemologists have been doing for the past 2,500 years. (An indication of his philosophical perspective is the fact that he uses "new" to refer to a conception which, as he says, came to be generally accepted during the first decade of the present century.)

He distinguishes a number of theses that typify this new, twentieth-centuryconception of epistemology. He is concerned to show that each of these is either unfounded or false.

He denies the most fundamental of these theses -- that epistemology "is to be defined and otherwise explained in terms of skepticism." He argues that this thesis, as it is understood by those who defend it, is based upon two quite different misunderstandings -- one pertaining to the nature of epistemology and the other to the nature of skepticism as an actual phenomenon in the history of philosophy.

Most of us, as Chatalian says, are "limited skeptics," but we may not agree about where the limits are to be drawn. The things that you are skeptical about may be quite different from the things that I am skeptical about. This kind of selectivity is especially striking in the case of those who are latitudinarian in assessing the justification of their own beliefs. Different theists may appeal to different ostensible sources of divine revelation; and when this happens, each is likely to be tough-minded with respect to the claims of the other.

It is a mistake to suppose that philosophers may be divided into skeptics . . .

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