In this collection, thirteen distinguished contributors examine the influence of the ancient skeptical philosophy of Pyrrho of Elis and Sextus Empiricus on early modern political thought. Classical skepticism argues that in the absence of certainty one must either suspend judgment and live by habit or act on the basis of probability rather than certainty. In either case, one must reject dogmatic confidence in politics and philosophy. Surveying the use of skepticism in works by Hobbes, Descartes, Hume, Smith, and Kant, among others, the essays in Skepticism and Political Thought in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries demonstrate the pervasive impact of skepticism on the intellectual landscape of early modern Europe. This volume is not just an authoritative account of skepticism's importance from the Enlightenment to the French Revolution, it is also the basis for understanding skepticism's continuing political implications.
John Christian Laursen is a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Riverside. Gianni Paganini is a professor of the history of philosophy at the Universita del Piemonte Orientale and a Member of the Research Center of the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome.
Introduction (John Christian Laursen and Gianni Paganini) 1. Neither Philosophy Nor Politics? The Ancient Pyrrhonian Approach to Everday Life (Emidio Spinelli) 2. La Mothe Le Vayer and Political Skepticism (Daniel Brunstetter) 3. Hobbes and the French Skeptics (Gianni Paganini) 4. Questionnnements sceptiques et politiques de la fable: les "autres mondes" du libertinage erudite (Jean-Charles Darmon) 5. Obeying the Laws and Customs of the Country: Living in Disorder and Barbarity. The Powerlessness of Political Skepticism According to the Discours sceptiques of Samuel Sorbiere (Sylvia Giocanti) 6. Bernard Mandeville's Skeptical Political Philosophy (Rui Romao) 7. David Hume: Skepticism in Politics? (Andrew Sabl) 8. Denis Diderot and the Politics of Materialist Skepticism (Whitney Mannies) 9. Rousseau: Philosophical and Religious Skepticism and Political Dogmatism (Maria Jose Villaverde) 10. Skepticism and Political Economy (Pierre Force) 11. Can a Skeptic be a Reformer? Skepticism in Morals and Politics during the Enlightenment: the Case of Voltaire (Rodrigo Brandao) 12. From General Skepticism to Complete Dogmatism: Jacques-Pierre Brissot de Warville (Sebastien Charles) 13. Karl Friedrich Staudlin's Diagnosis of the Political Effects of Skepticism in Late 18th Century Germany (John Christian Laursen)