Theory of Change #077: Richard Bett on skepticism and the Zombie Socratic Method
The ancient Greco-Roman philosophical tradition of Pyrrhonism is surprisingly relevant in the age of search engines and Wikipedia
History, as the old saying goes, repeats itself. There are many reasons why, but one of them is that philosophy is actually far more important than many people may realize.
We live during a time in which search engines and AI have made it so that anyone has access to information on any field of human knowledge. But having knowledge available to you does not mean you understand it.
Where we think knowledge originates impacts our ability to perceive the world. And we can't make sound conclusions about reality if our process of thinking is unsound. Unfortunately, a lot of people have broken epistemologies and as a result they practice a counterfeit form of skepticism in which they question everyone--except for themselves.
Believe it or not, our current moment in which everyone claims to know everything about the world has some commonalities with the intellectual climate of ancient Greece. Then as now, lots of people called themselves experts on biology, astronomy, medicine, and a whole lot more—and many of their theories were simply incorrect.
During a times of uncertainty, learning how to distinguish between ignorance and skepticism is a tremendous skill to develop.
In this episode, we're featuring Richard Bett, a professor of philosophy at Johns Hopkins University and the author of a number of books on Greco-Roman skepticism, including "How to Keep an Open Mind: An Ancient Guide to Thinking Like a Skeptic," which is an edited translation of the works of Sextus Empiricus, one of the most famous members of the ancient Skeptic traditions.
This is a free episode of Theory of Change, but in order to keep the show sustainable, the transcript is for paid subscribers only.
The deep conversations we bring you about politics, religion, technology, and media take great time and care to produce. Your subscriptions make Theory of Change possible and we’re very grateful for your help. If you’re not a member, please join today on Substack or Patreon to get full access.
Listen to this episode with a 7-day free trial