Philosophy from a Skeptical Perspective

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One of the questions that philosophers discuss is, How can we avoid - or, at least, reduce - errors when explaining the world? The skeptical answer to this question is that we cannot avoid errors because no statement is certain or even definitely plausible, but we can eliminate some past errors. This book advocates the skeptical position and discusses its practical applications in science, ethics, aesthetics, and politics. It brings philosophy down to Earth and comprises an outline of a skeptical guide to the real world.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521726399
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/2/2008
  • Pages: 190
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Agassi is Professor Emeritus at Tel-Aviv University and York University, Toronto. He is the author of more than 400 contributions, including more than twenty books, on a variety of topics in philosophy.

Abraham Meidan is an independent scholar of philosophy. He is the chief executive officer of WizSoft, a data-mining software company; Chairman of the Board of Afeka Engineering College in Tel Aviv; and Chairman of the Targetech Innovation Center.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Acknowledgments xv

1 Introduction 1

The Practical Side of Philosophy 5

The History of Epistemology 7

Error Avoidance and the Foundations of Knowledge 10

A Word about Metaphysics 21

2 Skepticism 24

The Strange Story of the Idea of Error Avoidance 24

Radical Skepticism 32

The Case of Mathematics and Logic 42

The Skeptical Arguments 45

Skepticism in Epistemology 54

Practical Implications 57

3 Science 60

The Critique of Empiricism 63

The Probability Theory of Rational Beliefs 65

The Minimum Unexpectedness Hypothesis on Beliefs 69

More on the Paradoxes of Empiricism 76

Theories Adjusted Ad Hoc 76

Simplicity and Occam's Razor 78

Predictions and Explanations 80

Tradition 81

Applications 83

4 Ethics 86

Skepticism in Ethics 86

Toward a Psychological Theory of Moral Judgments 90

Maximizing the Welfare of Humanity 93

Liberalism as the Default Option 99

Utilitarian versus Kantian Ethics 102

Sympathy 107

Moral Disputes 108

More Against Reductionism in Ethics 110

5 Politics 112

The Justification of Sovereignty 112

Toward a Psychological Theory of the Morality of Politics 114

The Fear of Social Disorders 118

Political Disputes 119

The Dissolution of the Nation-State 121

Democracy versus Dictatorship 122

6 Aesthetics 126

Skepticism in Aesthetics 126

Aesthetics and Beauty 129

Toward a Psychological Theory of Beauty 130

The Evolution of Art 133

Non-Beautiful Art 134

Beauty and Pleasure 134

Tragedy 136

Repetitions (1) 136

Repetitions (2) 137

Pretty Average Faces 139

Humor 140

Non-Reductionism and Non-Relativism 141

Aesthetic Disputes 143

7 Conclusion 145

The Next Step 145


The Meaning of Life 147

Glossary 151

Further Reading 155

Bibliography 157

Index 159

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