The Quarrel Over Ancient And Modern Scepticism: Some Reflections On Descartes And His Context

  • Gianni Paganini
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 198)

Like every original and fruitful research programme, that of Richard Popkin has inspired other interpretations that ended up by appearing as rivals to the History of Scepticism. It is certainly not by chance that only after Popkin had rediscovered the importance played by the rebirth of scepticism, an intense debate rose about the differences, the values and the possible superiority of the moderns over the ancients concerning the extent of doubt: a kind of a querelle des anciens et des modernes in order to establish whether and how the former or the latter outdid each other in coherence and radicality. One could object that this dispute has already been articulated in our modern philosophical archetypes, going back at least to Hegel and his critic Kierkegaard: the first, as is well known, supported the ancients, claiming in his Lectures on the History of Philosophy that Greek scepticism had been much deeper and all-encompassing than Cartesian doubt, whereas the second, starting with Johannes Climacus's pseudoepigraphic work, backed up the moderns, stressing the break between the era of modern and the astonishment or immediacy typical of the Greeks. De omnibus dubitandum est: by this Cartesian quote Kierkegaard characterised the modern age whose novelty could be summarised for him in three sentences: “1) Philosophy starts in doubt; 2) Doubt is required in order to practice philosophy: 3) Modern philosophy begins in doubt”.


Ordinary Life Ancient Philosophy Ancient Source Famous Passage Ethical Goal 
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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gianni Paganini
    • 1
  1. 1.Professor of the History of PhilosophyUniversity of PiedmontItaly

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