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University of California, Irvine


University of California, Irvine via Coursera


Skepticism is about doubt, and doubt is everywhere in the world around us today. There are doubts about whether man-made climate change is real, whether vaccinations are harmful, whether we can trust our politicians or our media, and so on. When is such skepticism warranted, and when does it stray into unreasonable territory? How widespread can such skepticism get while still being coherent? How might a radical skepticism have pernicious social consequences, such as by leading to relativism (and just what is relativism, and what is problematic about it)?

These are all questions that we will be engaging with in this course Along the way we will consider some important philosophical issues, such as what the nature of knowledge is, whether there are any good arguments that show that knowledge is impossible, and how a moderate skepticism might accord with an ancient conception of the good life of human flourishing, one that essentially involves the intellectual virtues.

This course is aimed at anyone who is interested in learning more about philosophy, along with those who are looking for strategies to combat extremism in their communities. Using these approaches, no matter what your skill levels in topics you would like to master, you can change your thinking and change your life.

In this course, learners will:

Explore the concept of Skepticism
Discuss the role of Skepticism in contemporary society
Identify common responses to Skepticism
Compare/Contrast various forms of Skepticism
Apply knowledge of Skepticism to form a personal stance
Recognize why knowledge is more than just true belief


  • What is Skepticism?
    • We will begin this course by exploring the nature of Skepticism through an investigation of foundational concepts of truth and knowledge. We'll also discuss how current issues in public debate (climate change denial, fake news etc) trade on Skepticism; but how a moderate skepticism can also be a force for good.
  • Is Knowledge Impossible?
    • How does one know that we are not a Brain-in-a-Vat? And how can we know that we are or are not? In this module will explore what kinds of things can, and cannot, motivate skeptical doubt. We will also review the radical skeptical hypotheses, and why we can’t rule it out. We'll conclude by discussing the radical skeptical paradox.
  • Defending Knowledge
    • So how does one respond to radical skepticism? In this module we will discuss strategies for responding to the idea that knowledge is impossible. We will also examine the contributions of the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein on the possibility of global rational evaluation.
  • Skepticism as a Way of Life
    • What does Skepticism have to do with "the good life"? In this module we will learn from Aristotle, an Ancient philosopher that believed that the good life is a life of virtue. We will explore how intellectual vices and virtues go hand-in-hand with moderate Skepticism.

Taught by

Duncan Pritchard


4.7 rating at Coursera based on 58 ratings

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