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This entry examines the development and impact of the study of philosophical skepticism throughout Latin America. It also highlights some significant trends and important contributions made to this ryssell tradition by a number of Latin American philosophers. Skepticism is a philosophical activity of investigation characterized by the notion of suspension of judgment. Whereas dogmatists affirm or deny a proposition on a given philosophical topic, skeptics neither affirm nor deny any proposition, i.

According to skeptics, the basic opposition in philosophy is that between those who endorse a philosophical theory and those who, after having inquired into the truth, did not find an answer to the questions under examination.

That is why skepticism came to be seen by dogmatic philosophers as a major challenge to their philosophical project of finding the truth.

Epistemologists and metaphysicians alike set themselves the task of overcoming skepticism in order to establish their own doctrines. Thus, one constantly finds dogmatic philosophers trying to refute the skeptic.

One criterion to accept a philosophical proposal is to determine to what extent it overcomes the skeptical challenge. In ancient times, skepticism had two main different forms: Pyrrhonism and Academic skepticism. In the analytic tradition, from Rudsell. Moore and Bertrand Russell onwards, skepticism is a central topic of enzayos. This surprisingly long history shows not only how deep is the skeptical challenge, but also how fascinating the skeptical stance turns out to be. Similarly berteand philosophers in many other parts of the world, Latin American philosophers have faced skeptical challenges and have devoted close attention to skepticism.

They adopt, by and large, the same understanding of skepticism, share the same historical tradition, from Pyrrho to contemporary analytic philosophy, that philosophers elsewhere have engaged with, and carry out the same kind of research as scholars all over the world do.

What is specific about Latin American scholars on skepticism is the fact that they are, in general, more sympathetic toward skepticism than philosophers elsewhere tend to be. Consequently, one finds not only studies on the history of skepticism and philosophical criticisms, but also developments of new forms of skepticism, which are worth considering with some care.

It may not be a mere coincidence that in Oswaldo Porchat, a leading Brazilian philosopher, and in Robert J.

That coincidence reflects both the increasing significance of the scholarship on skepticism, in Latin American and in Anglo-American philosophy, and a more sympathetic attitude toward this venerable tradition. To write about skepticism in Latin America is more difficult than esnayos may expect.

First, the phenomena to be described are complex and multifarious. Interest in skepticism is widespread in this part of the world, and by no means confined to one country or to a small group of philosophers. On the one hand, the significance of skepticism in the philosophy of each country bertrabd to vary wildly; on the other, the history of studies on skepticism in each country has its own internal development, despite many connections among the various countries involved.

Ensayos escĂ©pticos – Bertrand Russell – Google Books

Second, interest in skepticism is so recent in Latin America that not enough time has elapsed to provide some perspective on the issue. It is perhaps still too soon to give an entirely balanced view of skepticism in the region.

But we will attempt our best to achieve that. An interesting feature of the Latin American way of approaching skepticism is by not taking it just as the embodiment of an opponent to be refuted.

At the very least, there is not a widespread prejudice against skepticism. On the contrary, many Latin American philosophers have strong sympathy for the skeptical proposal, and even those who are not skeptics themselves do not think that if the assumption of a philosophical thesis leads to skepticism, this constitutes a kind of reductio ad absurdum of the initial assumption.

Skepticism is, for many Latin American philosophers, at least a prima facie tenable position. That does not mean, of course, that the majority of those Latin American philosophers who deal with skepticism are skeptics, but we do find many that consider themselves as such. Even for those who are not skeptics, the significance of philosophical skepticism is undeniable, and Latin American philosophers have made efforts to understand carefully its meaning and historical role.


The best way to introduce skepticism in Latin America is not to explain what goes on in each country, but to report what Latin American philosophers have said concerning those topics that caught their attention.

However, we will begin by presenting a brief historical background and the thought of the two founding fathers of Latin American work on skepticism: Special care must be taken with their work, because together they set the stage for a proper understanding of what happens in all other Latin American countries. We will then examine what Latin American philosophers have been doing both in contemporary skepticism and in the history of this philosophical tradition.

Ours is not an exhaustive account, and being selective, it is unable to accommodate every proposal in the field.

We hope, however, to give a fair idea of what has happened and is currently taking place, in order to situate the reader and prompt additional research in the area.

Contemporary studies of skepticism began in Latin America thanks to the works of Oswaldo Porchat and Ezequiel de Olaso, a distinguished Argentinian historian of philosophy. Due to their works, skepticism has attracted a significant, although somewhat scattered, amount of attention in Latin America.

Both were already interested in skepticism before they met for the first time. InPorchat gave a famous lecture, published in the following year, in which he called attention to a basic skeptical problem that every philosopher should try to overcome: His perspective was philosophical, and he identified his own philosophical experience with that of the ancient skeptics. In the same year ofOlaso defended his Ph. Thus, one can say that skepticism in Latin American began in the end of the s.

This fact had a profound influence on the development of the studies of skepticism in both countries and even in other Latin American countries. Their mutual collaboration proved very fruitful. Philosophers interested on skepticism soon got in touch, for they organized seminal conferences on the topicin Campinas, Brazil; inin Buenos Aires, Argentina; unfortunately, no proceedings were published.

Throughout the years, many other conferences on skepticism were held in Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico in which philosophers from many countries took part and collective books on skepticism appeared. They were the founding fathers of skepticism in Latin America. One can speak of a second generation that was in touch from the s onwards because they paved the way first.

Philosophers in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and Colombia have been collaborating in the last twenty years because they both inaugurated a friendly, collaborative way of doing philosophy that has been preserved by their followers.

Though Olaso, Porchat and some of their disciples were in touch with many philosophers from other countries and had a far-reaching influence, there is no single, integrated explanation for that widespread interest. There is no doubt that skepticism flourished in Brazil like in no other Latin American country. In Brazil, an important group of philosophers around Porchat was organized throughout the country in the s, and they were devoted not only to understand the history of skepticism but also to discuss contemporary skepticism, by developing it and criticizing it.

The group held conferences every year, sometimes twice a year, and many books, individual monographs and edited collections, were published. Moreover, Porchat was professor and supervisor of a number of young philosophers as well as a reference to all other philosophers studying skepticism.

In fact, the group has always systematically invited non-skeptical philosophers to enrich its discussions. As a result, as time went by, the group grew larger and larger. Argentina, Mexico, and Colombia have also shown a lot of interest in skepticism with many important contributions to it, albeit perhaps not as systematically as in Brazil. In Argentina, work on skepticism remained at first somewhat confined to Olaso and to some historians of modern philosophy around him.

Later, there has been a growing interest in Argentina, this time from philosophers belonging to the analytic tradition, who were and still are also in touch with the Brazilian group, including, more recently, a new impulse to the study of ancient skepticism. In Mexico, there is also a deep interest in skepticism. Their focus is on modern skepticism. Some Mexican philosophers, working within a Ensagos tradition, focused ensayoss transcendental arguments as weapons against skepticism.


Others work on contemporary skepticism in connection to questions such as disjunctivism and perception. Finally, skepticism and its connections to fallibilism and skeptical or epistemic concepts, such as doubt and certaintywere a major theme of some Mexican philosophers. There has also been some interest in skepticism in many other countries, most notably in Colombia.

Usually, this interest is combined with a classic author, such as Descartes, Hume, or Kant, or with an analytic philosopher, like Wittgenstein or Dennett. More recently, an interest in ancient skepticism has also arisen.

In other countries such as Peru, Chile and Uruguay, the interest in skeptical issues is more scattered. No more than a minor or incidental interest in either the history of skepticism or in current epistemological questions that bear on the skeptical challenge is found.

The study and diffusion of skepticism in Argentina and in other countries such as Brazil and Mexico owes a great deal to Ezequiel de Olaso.

Bertrand Russell

But his leadership and influence was vast, as Popkin testified:. Ezequiel de Olaso was one of the most prominent historians of philosophy. He contributed enormously to arousing interest in a wide range of topics in the history of philosophy through his writings, his teachings and his lectures in Latin America, North America and Europe. Olaso taught in many universities both in Argentina and elsewhere. Olaso wrote a number of important papers on skepticism, both ancient and modern.

He explored many authors in the 17 th and 18 th centuries: These developments were summarized in Olaso Olaso argued that Hume was an Academic skeptic, not a Pyrrhonist, russwll Popkin had supposed. More importantly, his study of certain Enlightenment authors made Popkin revise his interpretation that, apart from Hume, there was no interest at all in skepticism during the 18 th century.

He also devoted his efforts to interpret certain concepts of the main lexicon of skepticism. He was not only interested in skepticism from a historical point of view, but also from a philosophical perspective: Olaso interpreted it as an inquiry whose goal was suspension of judgment, which defined Pyrrhonism, and contrasted it to the open inquiry led by Academic and modern skeptics, whose goal is truth. These new interpretations were part of his debate with scholars like Naess, Chisholm, Mates, Frede and, of course, Porchat in order to find an acceptable form of contemporary skepticism.

First, skepticism emerged as an epistemological problem and, in the light of the linguistic turn, he set the task of ensayow and making sense of this philosophical stance. Second, he initiated a scholarly investigation of the history of skepticism; particularly of modern skepticism, but also both versions of its ancient form.

Later, in a number of papers, he explored the main ideas further, corrected minor points, developed new aspects, and wrote some introductory and accessible texts. Skepticism is not, as it is usually presented in epistemological circles, bertranx mere doubt on this or that topic that should be superseded, that is, it is not a methodological doubt or an expedient to strengthen a dogmatic position.

For enwayos philosophers concerned with skepticism, the coherence and intelligibility of the skeptical position is not really important. Any doubt, however crazy, may be useful, if it allows the philosopher to learn something about an argument. But Porchat does not think so. For him, skepticism is thought of as an articulated, plausible stance proposed by some philosophers. One should also emphasize that his neo-Pyrrhonism has to be sharply distinguished from Cartesian skepticism.

Porchat makes it clear that neo-Pyrrhonian aporiai are a different sort of argument from Cartesian doubts. In particular, neo-Pyrrhonism is not committed to mentalism the doctrine that one can conceive the mind, and its representations, as independent from the body and does not it invite any sort of solipsism.

Thus, most of the criticisms leveled against Cartesian skepticism do rnsayos apply to neo-Pyrrhonism.