Doubt undogmatized: pyrrhonian scepticism, epistemological externalism and the 'metaepistemological' challenge


  • Duncan Pritchard University of Stirling



It has become almost a conventional wisdom to argue that Cartesian scepticism poses a far more radical sceptical threat than its classical Pyrrhonian counterpart. Such a view fails to recognise, however, that there is a species of sceptical concern that can only plausibly be regarded as captured by the Pyrrhonian strategy. For whereas Cartesian scepticism is closely tied to the contentious doctrine of epistemological internalism, it is far from obvious that Pyrrhonian scepticism bears any such theoretical commitments. It is argued here that by viewing the Pyrrhonian style of sceptical argument in terms of this contemporary epistemological externalist/internalist distinction one can gain a new insight into some of the more problematic elements of this variety of classical thought and also get a handle on certai contemporary worries that have been raised regarding the anti-sceptical efficacy of externalist theories of knowledge.

Author Biography

Duncan Pritchard, University of Stirling

Duncan Pritchard (PhD, St. Andrews) joined the Department in July 2007 as the new Chair in Epistemology. Before coming to Edinburgh, he was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Stirling. In 2007 he was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize. Research Interests: Duncan's research is mainly in epistemology with particular focus on the following issues: the problem of scepticism, the epistemic externalism/internalism distinction; the rationality of religious belief; testimony; the relationship between epistemic and content externalism; virtue epistemology; epistemic value; modal epistemology; the history of scepticism; and epistemological contextualism. Some of these themes in his work are brought together in his book, entitled Epistemic Luck (Oxford UP, hardback 2005, paperback 2007), which is concerned with the role of luck within knowledge acquisition. More recently, he has co-authored (with Adrian Haddock and Alan Millar) a new monograph, The Nature and Value of Knowledge: Three Investigations, which is now published by Oxford University Press. He is currently working on a new book which will be on epistemological disjunctivism. This book is under contract with Oxford University Press for the Lines of Thought series that they jointly run with the Aristotelian Society. Duncan is also the author of Knowledge (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), What is this Thing Called Knowledge? (Routledge, 1st ed. 2006, 2nd ed. 2009), Epistemology A-Z (Edinburgh UP/Palgrave Macmillan, 2005, with M. Blaauw), and editor or co-editor of more than a dozen volumes and journal special issues (for more details about Duncan's publication record, see below). He is the editor-in-chief of Oxford Bibliographies Online: Philosophy and (with Diego Machuca) International Journal for the Study of Skepticism, and he is the series editor (with V. F. Hendricks) of the New Waves in Philosophy book series. He also administers the weblog, Epistemic Value. Aside from epistemology, Duncan is also interested in the philosophy of science, the philosophy of mind and language, the philosophy of religion, and, increasingly, ethics and value theory.
Duncan is part of the Department of Philosophy's Epistemology research cluster.