The Limits of Doubt

The Moral and Political Implications of Skepticism

By Petr Lom

Subjects: History Of Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791450307, 152 pages, July 2001
Hardcover : 9780791450291, 152 pages, July 2001

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Table of contents

List of Abbreviations


1 Skepticism and the Politics of Domination


Machiavelli and Descartes
Pierre Charron
Skepticism and the Politics of Irrational Power
Nietzsche, Atheism, and Cruelty
Nietzsche's Politics of Radical Aristocracy
Skepticism and the Limits of Philosophy
The Instability of Skepticism


2 Ancient Skepticism: Happiness Above Truth


The Thought of Sextus Empiricus
A Life Full of Doubt
Skepticism and Truth: Pyrrho on Ethics
The Life of the Skeptic
Ancient Skepticism and Justice
Skepticism: Tranquillity or Despair?


3 Hobbes and the Peace of Dogmatic Skepticism


The Extent of Hobbes's Skepticism
The Political Necessity of Moral Doubt
The Relativization of Truth
The Hobbesian Citizen


4 Denis Diderot and Doubt: Constructive Skepticism


Ancient versus Modern Skepticism
Skepticism and Eclecticism
Rameau's Nephew
The Limits of Doubt
Diderot's Political Thought


5 Skepticism, Cruelty, Custom, and Toleration: Michel de Montaigne


Skepticism and Cruelty
Skepticism and Custom
Montaigne and Custom
Skepticism and Toleration
From Skepticism to Humanism



Index of Proper Names

Shows how different forms of skepticism can lead to remarkably different moral and political implications.


The Limits of Doubt studies the skepticism of Nietzsche, Sextus Empiricus, Hobbes, Diderot, and Montaigne in order to illustrate how different forms of skepticism can produce remarkably different implications. These include toleration; chastening of character; the prohibition of cruelty; indifference; corrosiveness of liberal principles; and freeing of the will from moral restraint. Demonstrating how skepticism is an underdetermined and unstable category, accompanied by varying unquestioned intentions and beliefs, this book shows how these limits of doubt shape its various possible implications. A unique examination of skepticism from a moral and political perspective, The Limits of Doubt will interest all those concerned with the possibilities for life in an age of doubt.

Petr Lom is Associate Professor in the Nationalism Studies Program at Central European University, Budapest, Hungary.


"The Limits of Doubt is the best book that I have seen in over twenty years on moral-political skepticism. There are fresh insights on every page. This is a superb piece of work, clearly argued and beautifully written." — Patrick Riley, University of Wisconsin-Madison

"This is a useful guide to the tradition of moral skepticism. Lom has crafted a careful, intelligent, and sensitive reading of the texts, with a remarkable command of secondary commentary." — Peter Breiner, author of Max Weber and Democratic Politics