Skepticism and Political Thought in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

Edited by John Christian Laursen and Gianni Paganini

© 2015

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.

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Product Details

  • Series: UCLA Clark Memorial Library Series
  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 304 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.4in x 1.0in x 9.3in
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Quick Overview

Surveying the use of skepticism in works by Hobbes, Descartes, Hume, Smith, and Kant, among others, these essays demonstrate the pervasive impact of skepticism on the intellectual landscape of early modern Europe.

Skepticism and Political Thought in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

Edited by John Christian Laursen and Gianni Paganini

© 2015

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.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: UCLA Clark Memorial Library Series
  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 304 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.4in x 1.0in x 9.3in
  • Reviews

    ‘The volume features thorough, well documented, and wide-ranging scholarship on both primary and secondary texts, drawing from literature, political treatises, moral theory and of course philosophy.’


    Kristen Irwin
    International Journal for the Study of Skepticism vol 7:2017

    “An excellent collection of original scholarly studies on skepticism and politics in the European enlightenment, Skepticism and Political Thought in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries is an authoritative account of the skeptical current running through European political thought in this era.”
    Elisabeth Ellis, Department of Philosophy, University of Otago
  • Author Information

    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 Università del Piemonte Orientale and a Member of the Research Center of the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome.
  • Table of contents

    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 Sorbière (Sylvia Giocanti)

    6. Bernard Mandeville’s Skeptical Political Philosophy (Rui Romão)

    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 (María José 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 Brandão)

    12. From General Skepticism to Complete Dogmatism: Jacques-Pierre Brissot de Warville (Sébastien Charles)

    13. Karl Friedrich Stäudlin’s Diagnosis of the Political Effects of Skepticism in Late 18th Century Germany (John Christian Laursen)