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Scepticism and the Possibility of Knowledge Paperback – 26 Nov 2009

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum; Reprint edition (26 Nov. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1441154361
  • ISBN-13: 978-1441154361
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.7 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,095,977 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


'Grayling (philosophy, Birkbeck Coll., Univ. of London) sets himself the goal of refuting or at least of attempting to refute the philosophical doctrine that absolute knowledge is impossible. To do so, he considers two sets of arguments from major antiskeptical philosophers Berkeley and Russell in one tradition and Quine and Wittgenstein in another and argues that the strategies the aforementioned philosophers used to accomplish their goals are 'not so much incorrect as incomplete.' He thereupon argues in extensive, closely reasoned, if often turgid detail, his own stratagem which, he believes, 'is the right one overall.' Because of the fecundity of the argument, readers will have a difficult time deciding if he has succeeded. This is not a book for beginners in philosophy: it deals with an issue most philosophers consider the central one in philosophy and requires extensive familiarity with the discipline, both current and historical. Recommended for academic collections.' --Leon H. Brody, Falls Church, VA Library Journal

About the Author

A.C. Grayling is Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has written and edited numerous works of philosophy and is the author of biographies of Descartes and William Hazlitt.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is not for laymen with a casual interest in the topic. It is for readers with at least basic knowledge of epistemological issues. I am a graduate student of philosophy, and epistemology is one of my subject areas.

The book is a collection of essays by AC Grayling on the question of scepticism in epistemology: namely, the question of whether knowledge is possible (or whether we can know that we know). He explores the question by tracing the thought of four philosophers - the table of contents is as follows:

i. Berkeley's Immaterialism
ii Russell, Experience, and the Roots of Science
iii Russell's Transcendental Argument in An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry

i. Wittgenstein On Certainty
ii. Quine's Naturalistic Assumptions


These essay titles alone should show that this book is best-suited for someone already well-versed in epistemological issues. It is sporadically helpful for someone looking for an overview of the sceptical problem. The essays on Berkeley, Wittgenstein and Quine are useful, as they necessarily engage with major streams of epistemological thought. However, the two essays on Bertrand Russell's approach to epistemology spend a lot of their time discussing the evolution of Russell's thought and ideas, which largely prove rather irrelevant for someone interested in the bigger sceptical problem (though they might prove interesting for a historian of philosophical thought).
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Format: Paperback
I am a fan of A.C.Grayling having read a few of his other books and heard him on the radio and T.V. several times. If I have a criticism about this particular work it is possibly also as much against myself as the book. I am a general reader with an interest in philosophy and popular science. I like a challenge and taking on things that are a little outside my normal comfort zone. However I did find this a bit heavy going. What I was after was more a beginners guide to the general concepts of Scepticism. I think this would suit someone at a more advanced stage as it went into a rareified atmosphere with repeated references to phenomenalism, epistemology, modality, neutral monism etc. Whilst I have heard some of the terms used in other publications I did find myself reaching for the dictionary several times. That might not be such a bad thing of course and if like me you are from the slow class but prepared to stick it out, you could still gain some insights into the subject. I would save it until you have read some simpler stuff first though.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Clearly argued case in not too technical language. Gets the subject up to date having reviewed the main points at issue.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extreme Skepticism 22 Jun. 2009
By D. S. Heersink - Published on
Format: Hardcover
No question about it, the philosophical method of positing extreme skepticism is often difficult for a credible social network. IF you can think outside the box you've been cornered into, Grayling should work to open new vistas.

A. C. Grayling is a "professional philosopher," and those of us that enjoy all that professional philosophy bring us are easily happy with this and his other books.

BUT, this book, like a series of publications storming the citadel, are not of the "professional" arcane nuanced kind. These short essays go directly to most of our practical concerns, without the arcane language of epistemology, axiology, praexeology, ontology, and more sophisticated subjects.

BUT don't think this material "light weight." It's merely accessible, in ways that professionals get tongue-tied using the Greek fundamentals. Following the success of Robert Solomon's corpus, Grayling is more succinct, just as valuable, and even more accessible.

Maybe, now, we can engage metaphysics of psychology, religion, superstition, voodoo, and chiropractic -- with the hard facts, the known classical values, and even upend the "traditional biblical moral values" and all the hypocrisy with humanistic values. If any two philosophers can, Solomon and Grayling are it.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit more academic than some of his other recent works... 3 Mar. 2010
By Saganite - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
...but still accessible enough for a non-academic.

Grayling is to philosophy popularizing what Richard Dawkins is to science popularizing, and his works--Scepticism included--have a breezy, conversational feel, even when addressing the most esoteric and sophisticated of topics. "Scepticism" takes on epistemology, the branch of philosophy concerned with the truth and how we identify it. With reviews of Wittgenstein, Russell, Quine, and Descartes (with forays into the ideas of supporters and detracters), Grayling presents a well-thought-out, balanced, and ultimately convincing case about what can be known and how.

If you are mainly interested in reading Grayling and are not especially drawn to epistemology, I recommend his excellent and thoroughly popular book, The Choice of Hercules: Pleasure, Duty and the Good Life in the 21st Century. It is a more practical and entertaining book that draws from philosophy to make points about the well-lived life. "Scepticism," while an exemplar of its type, is a much more academic and theoretical work.
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