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Skepticism, Suspension of Judgment, and Norms for Belief

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According to Sextus Empiricus, the Skeptic suspends judgment in response to equipollence. This fact has two significant implications. First, the Skeptic has at most indirect control over his suspension of judgment and so does not suspend judgment at will. Second, the skeptic accepts the norm of truth for belief. This is a norm according to which one ought to believe that p only if p is true. However, there are passages in the Outlines of Pyrrhonism that imply the Skeptic accepts the norm of utility for belief. This is a norm according to which one ought to believe that p only if the belief that p promotes one’s tranquility. I first argue that if the Skeptic suspends judgment in response to equipollence, then a pragmatic reason can’t be the reason for which the Skeptic suspends judgment. I then argue that the norms of truth and utility for belief are incompatible just in the sense that the acceptance of the one precludes the acceptance of the other. If Sextus describes the Skeptic as accepting both of these norms for belief, as I argue he does, his conception of Skepticism in the Outlines is not coherent.

Affiliations: 1: University of California, Irvine


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