The Aims of Skeptical Investigation
Recently, scholars of ancient skepticism have raised what I call the Tranquility Charge: skeptical investigation aims at tranquility rather than at the discovery of truths; therefore it cannot count as genuine investigation. I argue that the Tranquility Charge, which was not raised in antiquity, rests on too simple a notion of investigation. Investigation need not aim at the discovery of truths. It must, however, be guided by epistemic norms that respond to the value of truth. On this premise, Pyrrhonian investigation can count as genuine investigation. First, it inherits a complex conception of investigation shaped by Socrates and Plato, whose philosophizing does not always immediately aim at the discovery of truths, though it certainly responds to the value of truth. Second, the motivation of investigation can be distinct from its aim. The Pyrrhonist’s motivation, namely that the mind is disturbed by discrepancy, reflects by itself concern with the truth. Third, it is a commonplace that the value of truth is associated with two aims rather than one: the acceptance of truths and the avoidance of falsehoods. The latter is prominent in skeptical investigation. The skeptics’ interlocutors share this preoccupation with the avoidance of the false, a preoccupation that, in its own way, reflects the value of truth.
KeywordsTrue Belief Sense Perception Epistemic Norm Skeptical Argument Truth Premise
This paper started as a guest presentation on “Socrates and the Skeptics” in Philip Mitsis’ graduate seminar on Socrates in the Fall 2007 (NYU). I am indebted to the students and faculty who attended the seminar meeting, as well as to the students in my Spring 2009 Skepticism class and reading group for very helpful discussion. Jens Haas provided valuable feedback on the written version of the paper, as did Diego Machuca and the referee of the press; I am very grateful to all of them.
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