The Suspension of Judgment in Pyrrhonian and Cartesian Scepticism
12. Januar 2021
Foto: UHH/SUB HH
A Maimonides Lecture by Dr. Alexandra Zinke, Junior Professor at Philosophisches Seminar, Universität Tübingen.
Recent years have seen a rapidly increasing interest in the suspension of judgment, usually with a focus on its nature. The now dominant views hold that the suspension of judgment is not to be characterized by the mere absence of doxastic attitudes, but that it either is a sui generis indecision-representing attitude or involves a higher-order belief. These views provide an understanding of suspension in terms of the presence of some mental state that (partly) constitutes the doxastic state of suspension. They describe what I call a “positive” conception of the suspension of judgment. In the history of thought, as in contemporary epistemology, suspension has been of particular interest in relation to scepticism, which considers the suspension of judgment to be the only rational reaction to sceptical arguments. Focusing on Pyrrhonian and Cartesian scepticism, I will argue that sceptical arguments do not speak in favour of adopting a positive mental state (be it a sui generis indecision-representing attitude or a higher-order belief), but demand the absence of judgment alone. Scepticism involves a “privative” notion of suspension. Thus, present characterizations of suspension are at odds with the central role of the notion within the epistemological tradition.