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Scepticism and LiteratureAn Essay on Pope, Hume, Sterne, and Johnson$
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Fred Parker

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780199253180

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199253180.001.0001

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Rational Ignorance and Sceptical Thinking

Rational Ignorance and Sceptical Thinking

Chapter:
(p.1) I Rational Ignorance and Sceptical Thinking
Source:
Scepticism and Literature
Author(s):

FRED PARKER

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199253180.003.0001

By ‘sceptical thinking’ in the 18th-century is meant a radical scepticism, such as appears to undermine the rational grounds of belief and action, but which nevertheless generates a surprising confidence of assertion, often described in terms of ‘following nature’. Newly alert to questions of epistemology, language use, and the pressures on religious belief, its intellectual sources include Locke, Bayle, and especially Montaigne, who is an influential model as well as a source. It finds the essay form particularly congenial, and depends upon a certain play of irony that flourishes in a space at once imaginative and social. The boundaries of that space can be thought of as marked by separate salient tendencies in the writing of Burke, Rousseau, and Swift.

Keywords:   scepticism, nature, essay, Locke, Bayle, Montaigne, irony

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