Title

The Skeptic way as a religious way: A meditation on religion and Pyrrhonian spirituality

Date of Award

5-2000

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Religion

Advisor(s)

James B. Wiggins

Keywords

Skeptic, Religion, Pyrrhonian, Spirituality

Subject Categories

Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion

Abstract

Skepticism, throughout much of the history of Western religio-philosophical thought, has been portrayed by its detractors as an irreligious or antireligious philosophy that doubts/denies all belief, truth and knowledge. Consequently, it has been diagnosed as the etiology of a spiritual disease that leads to an aporetic abyss of indeterminacy and undecidability incompatible with or detrimental to religion and spirituality.

In contradistinction to this historically perpetuated misrepresentation, this dissertation suggests that the Skeptic way of Pyrrhonism may be read as religion (interpreted as a spiritually therapeutic 'way' of life and thought ) by virtue of a formal, functional and analogical isomorphism between Pyrrhonism and religion. Unlike the spiritually denuded, unmitigated 'skepticism' with which it is conventionally confused and conflated, Pyrrhonian 'Skepticism' is not the cause of, but rather, the spiritually therapeutic remedy for the spiritual disease of anxiety brought on by dogmatic desire. Indeed, it proffers a nondogmatic, ataraxic antidote with(in) and by means of the very aporetic abyss of indeterminacy and undecidability diagnosed as the contagion by traditional religion and philosophy. This dissertation is a story of Skeptic religiosity and a Pyrrhonian hermeneutic of appearance engendered by a suspension of judgment regarding essentialist, realist truth in the absence of an experience of a metacriterion of judgment.

The first chapter explores historical diagnoses vis-à-vis Skepticism, religion and the spiritual dilemma; the second chapter provides a hermeneutic of religion and spirituality based on formal, functional and analogical formulations of religion as 'story,' 'existential hermeneutic' and 'way'; the third chapter surveys various traditional religious and philosophical instantiations of the way to which it conjoins the Skeptic way of Pyrrhonism; the fourth and fifth chapters focus on similar remedial functions within religion and philosophy as 'therapy' for the soul (e.g., sage, philosopher, priest as 'physician of the soul'); the fifth chapter closes with the religious implications of this reading of Pyrrhonism for contemporary religious thought in terms of a 'profane' religiosity.

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