Erasmus University Rotterdam

The Politics of Skepticism

Taught in English

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9,212 already enrolled


Gain insight into a topic and learn the fundamentals

Wiep van Bunge
Tim De Mey

Instructors: Wiep van Bunge


(38 reviews)

Intermediate level
Some related experience required
13 hours to complete
3 weeks at 4 hours a week
Flexible schedule
Learn at your own pace

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There are 8 modules in this course

We will discuss the historical and philosophical backgrounds to Plato's rejection of democracy: they will turn out to be intimately connected to his rejection of Skepticism. In addition we will present Karl Popper's highly critical assessment of Plato's 'totalitarian' alternative.

What's included

3 videos3 readings3 discussion prompts

We will sketch some of the skeptical arguments against Christianity developed by Roman philosophers, but we will also see how Skepticism soon turned into an ally of Christian theology. By the end of the seventeenth century, however, Pierre Bayle turned Skepticism into a highly questionable source of support to revealed religion.

What's included

2 videos1 reading1 discussion prompt

We will turn to the relevance of the early modern natural law tradition, serving as as an antidote to Skepticism. Grotius's efforts will be discussed, and we will see how during the eighteenth century David Hume pushed Skepticism to its ultimate and highly disturbing conclusion.

What's included

2 videos2 readings1 peer review1 discussion prompt

We will focus on the intimate relationship between Skepticism and the origins of eighteenth-century conservatism: Edmund Burke's analysis of the French Revolution will be put into perspective. But we will also pay attention to the way in which Skepticism came to serve as a progressive and liberating force, for instance in its critique of biblical authority.

What's included

2 videos1 reading3 discussion prompts

We will discuss the specific and influential way in which Rene Descartes defined the problems of Skepticism, not only the question whether knowledge is possible, but also the question whether the external world and all the objects and properties in it, really exist. But instead of considering Descartes’ own rationalist response, we will then move on to consider the alternative responses of John Locke, Charles Peirce, and John Austin.

What's included

4 videos3 readings1 peer review3 discussion prompts

We will address the question whether, in what sense, and to what extent, Skepticism provides good reasons to do away with prejudices and to adopt religious tolerance. First we will distinguish carefully between belief and truth. Then we will consider the attitude of the positive Skeptic: truth exists, but all our beliefs are and remain prejudices. Finally, we will investigate the role that this epistemic predicament plays in arguments for toleration.

What's included

4 videos1 reading2 peer reviews1 discussion prompt

We will consider Mill’s argument from “the marketplace of ideas” for both freedom of opinion and freedom of expression of opinion. If ideas can compete freely, truth will emerge. Just as a free market is self correcting, speech should not be restricted, because in a free and open encounter, the true and sound ideas will survive, and the false and unsound ideas will vanquish. We will identify the Skeptical assumptions of Mill’s argument and we will evaluate it.

What's included

3 videos2 readings3 discussion prompts

What is the benefit of the doubt? What good can come from the confrontation with alternative views or rival opinions? First we will learn that one of the most effective ways to boost the carefulness of problem solving processes is by pushing on alternatives. Then we will consider the role of organized doubt in meetings, deliberations or political negotiations; to find a solution or to reach an agreement, the participants should deliberately adopt the perspective of the others and make their rival opinions relevant.

What's included

3 videos1 reading1 peer review1 discussion prompt


Instructor ratings
4.8 (6 ratings)
Wiep van Bunge
Erasmus University Rotterdam
1 Course9,212 learners
Tim De Mey
Erasmus University Rotterdam
5 Courses22,539 learners

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