People occupy corners and have jurisdiction. Truth, conversely, is sovereign, making contact with all. The necessary, universal, and eternal impose on the contingent, particular, and finite. So truth, once seen, seeks a mandate, demanding to override.

Many try to align themselves with the truth in source of their own. They may claim privileged access to it, fashion themselves as sources of it, or even create personas that present them as embodiments of it. Per Yuval-Harari, you must link yourself to a transcendental thing in any battle of the wills. This will allow you to efficiently co-opt its authority for yourself. 

A contrarian can be defined as someone who deliberately and consistently argues against the standard view. Given any belief, the power rather than the percentage of its adherents will often determine the status of its counter as contrarian. Membership in powerful institutions can give relatively unpopular views the air of a popular mandate, making their foils seem more unconventional than they really are. Influence primes others not to initiate the process of questioning, entrenching non-standard views as uncontroversial. The sociological imagination (what is believed about what is believed, rather than what is believed) governs the day. What is considered the dominant view, rather than the dominant view itself, becomes the standard view. If standard views come from interpretations of dominant views, dominant views come from dominant groups. So those who challenge dominant views challenge dominance itself. Contrarians are always political. Universal freedom of thought has always created a constraint for power.  Conflicts of interpretation continue to recur because the mind is the most impassable barrier to total hegemony.

It is for this reason that contrarian thinkers are the most consistent group of power shifters.

But what makes them who they are? Why do they think the way they do, and what contributes to their way of seeing the world? A brief examination of Ancient Greece, which was rife with some of the earliest high-profile cases, can offer one answer. Although no civilization owns the contrarian psychology, Ancient Greece was where it was first channeled into something large-scale and formalized, as far as we know. Socratics, Eleatics, Academic skeptics, and Pyrrhonian skeptics made an institution of the notions that united most future contrarians. The contrarian tradition seems to have largely started with this civilization’s stirrings. Below, I’ll present a few of its specimens in a brief exhibition. In the section after, I’ll extract some general principles, presenting a rough schematic of contrarian psychology.


Parmenides[a] (6th century BC, Elea)

By building an ontology around the axiom that “nothing comes from nothing”, the monist Xenophanes set off a cascade of metaphysical debates that would continue over the next three millennia. Parmenides, his student, expanded upon and reformulated his doctrines, creating the disruptive Eleatic school of natural philosophy. Displacing primary matter theories and Heraclitan views of ontological flux, he is considered by some to be the best pre-Socratic philosopher.

Parmenides dismissed the existence of non-being as nonsensical, the idea of which often came, he thought, from misperceptions about things like separation and change. Because only being is, he claimed, and all that can be conceived of converts into being, non-being is both inconceivable and impossible. Separation and change, then, are also impossible, as both involve juxtapositions or transitions of non-being and being. As all is one, the senses create the apparitions of plurality, change, and nonexistence. In reality as such, they cannot be found.

Parmenides, in claiming this, challenged some of the most unquestioned notions. In doubting the senses’ testimony, he also was one the first to place reason against shared perception or common opinion. Parmenides saw the reports of the senses as inconsistent and therefore untrustworthy. Only through thought could false appearances be bypassed. The mind was our sole tool for picking up the universal unity that served as the true explanation for all of reality.

Zeno[b] (495 BC – 430 BC, Elea)

Zeno was first active in Greek southern Italy and is known to have spent time in Athens with Parmenides and Socrates. His notoriety stems from a treatise uniting a collection of paradoxes that are credited for the birth of the reductio ad absurdum. All of them took widely-assumed views, such as the notion that there are many things, and unraveled contradictions that rendered them untenable by revealing their absurdity. The etymology of paradoxes, par meaning “contrary to”/”against” and doxa meaning “belief”/“opinion”, exemplifies this function.

Though it is often said that Zeno took up his work to promote Eleatic doctrines, he tied his initial motivations to contentiousness. Sickened by what he saw as inadequate and hasty dismissals of these theories, Zeno was stricken by desires to show critics the “ridiculous consequences” of their unquestioned beliefs. By gratuitously exposing others’ contradictions and inconsistencies, he soon came to be deemed a master of “antilogic”.

Like many sophists, he is known to have accepted money to teach others to hone argumentative expertise. He is also credited with contributing to the rise of eristicism, which can roughly be described as end-in-itself counterargument. Aristotle even bestowed him the name “inventor of dialectic”. Though for good reason linked with sophists, his arguments were in their own right hard to dispute. His antinomies displaced a variety of common sense assumptions, igniting many embers of metaphysical debate.

Socrates (470 BC – 399 BC, Athens)

Socrates was born into a middle class family shortly before the introduction of democratic reforms and the extension of the Athenian Empire. He entered adulthood and was granted citizenship during the Golden Age of Pericles, after likely receiving a formal education. Though inquiry was encouraged within this atmosphere of relative freedom, being a citizen also involved various ritualized obligations to the state, which regulated expressions of both religion and duty.

During the next few decades, Socrates distinguished himself in the courts as a rhetorician, started developing his characteristic method of public debate, and completed compulsory military service. He became particularly popular among the city’s youths despite maintaining anonymity among other citizens until he was featured in Aristophanes’s Clouds. This play gave Socrates a reputation that would one day come to undermine him. A plague, Peloponnesian battles, and the symbolic vandalization of sacred statues eventually strained the democracy, contributing to a climate of lessened freedom and rising hysteria. Exile, execution, and sweeping arrests became a common response to perceived irreverence.

After the empire contracted and an oligarchic group seized power, this environment would become all the more stifling to free thought. Socrates’ continued indiscriminate engagement of the public and courtroom defense of unfashionable principles made him a controversial type. Two oligarchs first tried to silence him by banning him from speaking to men under thirty. When that failed, they also unsuccessfully attempted to implicate him in crimes. Though the oligarchs were soon overthrown themselves, ironically it was afterwards that Socrates really found trouble. In the spring of 399, he was charged with improper piety, a crime of irreverence that carried a capital sentence. Because he introduced new divinities and rejected belief in the Athenian Gods, he was accused of corrupting the city’s youths.

Socrates opted not to challenge the accusation and continued speaking to youths about mathematics and knowledge as the trial process unfolded. He denied intentionally corrupting the young, imploring the council to instruct (rather than prosecute) him if he unknowingly did. On account of his dabblings in natural philosophy and well-known prior questioning of the legal system, the jury convicted him of irreverence. In the penalty determination phase, he lamented the fact that it was “not easy to dispel great slanders in a short time”, accepting his fate in stride before offering to pay a fine in acquiescence to his friends. The jury rejected his offer and condemned him. A few days before his execution, a friend attempted to persuade him to escape. Socrates refused, replying that he always listened to the argument that seemed best upon reflection and had determined that returning a wrong was never acceptable, even under threat of death. Socrates spent his last day urging his friends to look past him and use his words as a guide towards the truth, recollecting his philosophical priorities with friends. Later, when given a cup of hemlock, he accepted it without hesitation and drank.

As much information about Socrates is derived from Plato’s collection, many elements of his true nature are disputable. But Socrates is thought to have rebuffed the tendencies of youths to consider him a teacher and insisted that his role was to give others the tools to teach themselves by dismantling untruths. He is believed to have been driven by both the desire to dispose others of their misguided claims to truth and a devilishly adversarial temperament. Socrates also reported being guided by an inner voice that prohibited him from certain morally neutral actions. Having pursued a nearly compulsive examination of beliefs, his tendency towards negative argumentation dissuades most interpreters from attributing any positive doctrines in Plato’s works to him.

Pyrrho (360 BC – 270 BC, Elis, Greece)

Pyrrho is a somewhat nebulous figure tied to many unverifiably-linked ideas. Living and dying in relative obscurity, he is thought to have written little and has no surviving works. Still, due to one devoted follower and a few high profile connections, Pyrrho eventually garnered the interest of Sextus Empiricus and inspired the most radical form of skepticism seen until his time in Ancient Greece. It is often questioned whether or not Pyrrho himself could be called a Pyrrhonian skeptic. Pyrrhonists not only doubt our ability to discover truth and properties, but the determinate nature of all properties in themselves.

Pyrrho is rumored to have formed his sense-denying and truth-agnostic beliefs after encountering naked wise men on an Indian expedition with Alexander the Great. Two interpretations prevail of his views on the nature of things: the epistemic and the metaphysical. By the former, properties are undifferentiable, indeterminable, and unmeasurable. By the latter, they’re undifferentiated, indeterminate, and unstable. Most claim that only the epistemic interpretation places Pyrrho as a skeptic. Either interpretation leads to the belief that “neither our sensations nor our opinions tell the truth or lie”. He prescribed the adoption of an unopinionated stance and the suspension of judgment about all definite properties. The result meant to follow is aphasia (non-assertion/speechlessness) then ataraxia (freedom from worry), the primary goal of late Pyrrhonists.

Pyrrho’s psychology is difficult to nail down in that the main translations of associated texts are nearly all heavily-disputed. A few conclusions still can be attempted. Pyrrho doubted our ability of our faculties to ascertain the properties of things-in-themselves. Whether he thought this came from changing ontologies or epistemic blindness, our view was the same: an indeterminate reality comprised of things with indeterminate features. Perception, reason, intuition, and belief could not yield any certain information about anything. Was a square really a square? “About each single thing (we must say),” he claimed, “that it no more is than is not or both is and is not or neither is nor is not.” Affirming no properties necessitated that we be left with nothing substantive to say about anything. The result, ideally, would be an energy-preserving cognitive disinvestment that delivered its very own variety of psychological ease.

Pyrrho rejected the testimony of mind and eye both, endorsing his axioms alone and using them to justify unperturbed retraction. Pyrrho mistrusted his senses so much that he was rumored not to move out of the way for oncoming wagons. Anecdotally, due to his indifference, he disappeared for days, ignored taboo tasks like pig washing, and eschewed social conventions by refusing to help a drowning man.

Having dismissed the prospect of acquiring truth, Pyrrho is thought to have abstained from the theoretical debates of his contemporaries. As “no fixed and definite characteristics” could be found, all arguments were thought futile. His skeptical school made a splash in that adherents pursued ataraxia through abstention rather than questioning.

Diogenes[c] (412 BC – 323 BC, Sinope)

It didn’t take long for young Diogenes to get himself exiled from his hometown. His guilt of the vandalism charges that compelled the event is still disputed. Travelling to Athens afterwards, his interests turned to the teachings of Antisthenes, an ascetic rhetorician who tried at first to strongly rebuff him. Even upon being threatened with a beating, the ever-persistent Diogenes refused to stay away. Daring Antisthenes to hit him with a stick to his heart’s content, Diogenes was accepted as a student.

Diogenes sought freedom from the distorting influence of arbitrary and erroneous pleasures, conventions, norms, and false needs. Rejecting the pretensions and slapdash abstractions of academic types, he developed a practical philosophy that was lived and embodied rather than read of. This called for a life of simplicity in adherence to nature, committing him to a way of destitution, vagrancy, non-indulgence, caprice, and disinhibition. Popularly, his squalid quarters, social irreverence, and disregard for decorum granted him the nickname of “dog”. His Cynic ideology called for the rejection of all socially instituted constraints on natural being. No bodily function of Diogenes was a stranger to the public square. And whenever he was called indecent for some action, he replied that it was natural instead. All norms, to Diogenes, were erroneous in that they forced an overriding of original needs and ways. These compartmentalized functions and orientations were done an immense disservice. There was no need to suppress and ritualize the actions that we needed to perform.

Diogenes held virtue to be the sole good and believed that we should align our beliefs and wants in accordance with nature’s laws. These were the only customs with legitimate authority. In forming a Cynic ethos Diogenes was drawn to liberation and self-sufficiency, especially in regards to the will and self-expression. This led him to prescribe a rejection of all political ideologies and social mandates. Additionally, he encouraged a lack of restraint when criticizing others. Pointing out others’ contradictions, moral failures, and misguided ways was not only allowable, but desirable. Dismissively waiving away all metaphysical speculation, he introduced few theories, using rhetoric instead as a tool to undermine.

Arcesilaus [d](315 BC – 240 BC, Pitane, Turkey)

Arcesilaus ascended to Academy head without producing any writing and quickly veered it away from traditional Platonism, initiating the oft-referenced Academic skepticism. His signature dialectical method involved suspending all positive claims and restricting debate exclusively to counterargument. His two doctrines of akatalepsia (“nothing can be known”) and universal epoché (“suspension of assent”) have been both widely adopted by some skeptics and widely criticized by others as self-contradictory.

By adopting a Socratic dialectical approach, he shifted the Academy so it came to be known by its counterpositions against other schools of thought, particularly Stoicism. Arguing against “every philosophical position that came to his notice”, he took a special interest in relentlessly criticizing the Stoic concept of the cognitive impression. Advocating for a life without beliefs and reason-guided action sans assent, he disputed Stoic epistemology and rejected the possibility of finding knowledge through the Socratic method.

Pursuing an approach of negative argumentation, he avoided affirmation and publicized his caveats with cognitive impressions, the basis of Stoic knowledge and assent. The first was that certain things (such as two grains of sand) were indistinguishable and did not create cognitive impressions that would allow for their differentiation. The second was that some mental states, such as bouts of psychosis or dreams, could create false cognitive impressions indistinguishable from real ones. Given that Stoics derived knowledge exclusively from cognitive impressions, which he found unreliable, Arcesilaus determined that it was inaccessible and warranted the blanket withdrawal of assent. These views became definitive of Academic Skepticism and were later preserved by figures such as Sextus Empricus and Cicero. It is believed that Arcesilaus endorsed the same view towards knowledge and assent outside the confines of Stoicism. Against charges of contradictoriness, Arcesilaus partially redeemed himself through his framework of practically-guided action without assent. In aligning with the seemingly-reasonable, these “pre-theoretical commitments” allow for decision without belief.

Carneades (214 BC – 129 BC, Cyrene)

Though Carneades was a well-respected public and Academic figure, he still was no stranger to scandal. By delivering two lectures on two consecutive days, one in defense of justice and one in opposition, he soured many tempers. Carneades believed that the best way to solicit the truth was to argue on behalf of each side. His Socratic skeptical method of negative argumentation had a basis in contradiction-mining and the neutralization of falsity rather than the establishment of truth. This method allowed for a preliminary decontamination of knowledge in the absence of high intellectual stakes.

Carneades like other Academic skeptics took issue with the notion of Stoic cognitive impressions, which were thought to be intellectual intuitions that announced themselves as true by how they struck a person. Stoics believed that avoiding misconceptions only required assenting to these impressions, but academic skeptics raised the possibility of misleading or false impressions, undermining the basis of all assent. If no impressions allowed for infallible assent, suspending judgment was the only reliable way to avoid falsehoods.

Accepting this prescription seems to require assent itself, though some skeptics had methods for displacing this notion or emphasizing their reliance on thought and language structures that weren’t reflective of true sentiment. Carneades, for example, established a moderate skeptical framework on probable impressions and expedient provisional assent or assent-adjacent attitudes, with the proviso that they must be recognized as such. The epistemic doctrines of probabilism and fallibilism had their source here.

Aenesidemus [e](80 BC – 10 BC, Knossos, Greece)

Aenesidemus created a Pyrrhonian revival when new ideas in the Academy beckoned him to rebuke them by writing his Ten Tropes. By pointing out the variation inherent in experience, perception, and belief, the tropes support the case that one must reject the possibility of finding definitive knowledge. This system served his aim of negating any “ground for apprehension, whether through perception or thought.”

Aenesidemus also noted disconnects between perceiver and percept to invalidate the prospect of knowledge attainment. Careful to avoid self-refutation, he declined to acknowledge apprehension of this fact itself by constructing a framework of pseudo-belief based on assent-devoid awareness. This was called sunkatathesis. Awareness and appearances could entirely guide action while the intuition of universal uncertainty was maintained. For the most part, Aenesidemus rejected Academic skeptics as negative dogmatists because of their affirmation that nothing could be known. His tropes represented the first cohesive collection of Pyrrhonian tenets.

Agrippa the Skeptic [f](1st century CE)

Skeptical philosopher Agrippa is best known for his Five Tropes, which revolutionized epistemology and remain today nearly impermeable. The tropes of (1) dissent, (2) progress ad infinitum, (3) relation, (4) assumption, and (5) circularity offer reasons for rejecting all proofs and truths asserted.

Drawing upon Aenesidemus, he claimed that relativities, circularities, conflicting perceptions, and unproven hypotheses undermine all attempts at knowledge establishment. In the absence of a starting point to offer reliable ground for a hypothesis, we must be compelled to suspend judgment on all matters.

Agrippa’s system, which Victor Brochard deemed “irresistible”, is thought by many to evade disproof and offer a basic cheat sheet for lines of skeptical argumentation. Agrippa believed that his tropes both accounted for and obstructed all possible reasons to have certainty. Discrepancies in perception and chains of unsupported hypotheses undermined all proofs.

Agrippa doubted our ability to settle on truth with both the senses and understanding. On the grounds that they were circular, he dismissed any proofs backing the “sensible” with the “intelligible” or vice versa. Because all conclusions relied on hypotheses which themselves sought justification, no ultimate justification could be found. Agrippa’s tropes became dialectical tools that could be employed in any Socratic probe of a dogmatic stance. Many still find them delicious today.


What did these ancient contrarians have in common, and why did they think this way? Here are some common denominators:

Epistemic Doubts

Epistemic uncertainty is a core motivator of skepticism, if not identical to it. Uncertainties about our ability to access knowledge could arise from perceived inconsistencies within reality itself, as a Pyrrhonist might believe, or our perceptual faculties, as an Academic skeptic might believe. For example, given a premise “if A, then B” the delineation between A and B may not exist, changing the meaning, or it may be inaccurate. Either way, the truth value will be altered. Conflicting perceptions and judgments cast doubt on our ability to access knowledge, making an agnostic stance an insurance against error.

Alternative Definitions and Frameworks

Given X and Y, if Y is not accepted based on its original definition, “X is Y” can instantly become “X is not Y” in the absence of intermediate argumentation. And this is not merely a terminological twist, but something with implications on conceptual substance. Alternative frameworks yield alternative definitions, which can make what once appeared true now appear false. Afterwards, a contrarian stance against the original claim is warranted. Altering a terminological boundary can leave different things encompassed or excluded. What was inside may then fall outside, and what was may then be not.

Dissatisfaction With Proof Given

Agrippa found that all axioms failed to be self-justifying and required additional proof, which could not be given. And if an assertion is made for the wrong reasons, an argument against it may be warranted in spite of its truth. When it comes to domain distinctions, such as that between the realm of appearances and things-in-themselves, one may scrutinize the usage of evidence gathered in one towards claims pertaining to the other. In other words, they may find that one cannot extrapolate between evidence from the senses and evidence from the intellect. What appears to be true in one may seem to rest on unreliable assumptions in the other.

Distrust in the Senses or Reason 

Some may be skeptics due to their distrust in one of our two main tools for knowledge acquisition, corresponding to the ideologies of rationalism and empiricism. Intuition, a somewhat intermediate faculty involving unconscious mental operations on sense input, may also not be trusted due to its outputs’ seemingly ex nihilo quality. These three faculties are the same as those in Jung’s cognitive function system. Their ability to capture objective truth is perhaps the main factor governing the prospect of epistemic success.

If the senses are not a source of truth, all information derived from them should be treated as suspect. Since reason can be a check on the senses, arguing against what they yield is one useful method of interrogation. What appears one way to the senses can appear to be the opposite once reason revisits an impression. Seeing this occur many times, it is tempting to infer that it always will and thus must be tested for contradiction.

Those who refuse to put trust in reason itself may suspect that there is no connection between the truth and our faculties. Though most skeptics are less apt to question the legitimacy of reason, that doesn’t mean that they always accept its testimony. A tilt towards eulogon (the reasonable) for practicality’s sake is not the same as a pull towards the truth. If reason is suspected of leading to error, arguing the opposite may cover one’s bases against erroneous views. One can argue the opposite of what is first claimed in case it’s true. However, it is not out of the question that even these arguments could lead to error once again.

Desire to Avoid Error

The desire to avoid error will usually lead to an intolerance for ideas that are taken for granted. This can lead to a desire to vet ideas in attempts to identify and root out error. Arguing the opposite of a position will position many incorporated premises and conclusions against one another, which has the potential to make stark error manifest.

Uncertainty

Uncertainty and ideological non-committal can also lead to skepticism. If you are not sure what to believe, it is best to represent and evaluate all possible views on the spectrum. This amounts to engaging in an act of ontological sampling. Infirm assumptions can be tested at each point along a gradient. Once they’ve all been represented, a choice may appear plausible, but beforehand, judgment will be withheld in case another contender presents. In wanting to avoid dismissing the potentially still-unknown truth, the non-committer must designate all options as provisionally plausible.

Avoidance of Philosophical Arrogance

A desire to avoid philosophical arrogance will lead to an abstinence from dogmatism. The assumption that we shouldn’t assume we know the truth is self-undermining, but the sentiment can be absolved when separated from the belief. Arrogance leads to the premature avoidance of avenues that could lead to truth. This discourages the continuous testing of assumptions, biases judgment, and prevents incremental approaches towards accuracy. One buffer against bias is considering the opposite of a belief. If the relevant range of beliefs can be represented along a spectrum, many intermediate viewpoints will then be covered by proxy. Introducing the assumptions of the opposite view can preemptively negate the error introduced by overconfidence.

Rejection of Convention

The rejection of intellectual and political fashions (or convention) is the most stereotypical motivator of contrarianism. Convention may be rejected out of an instinctive distaste for what it is in itself, or a distrust stemming from its lack of perceived legitimacy and validation. Several assumptions tend to arise from this distrust. One is that conventions, even if originally justified independently, will eventually be maintained because they are conventions themselves. In these cases, it is assumed, they will come to reflect ulterior interpersonal motives that are disconnected from the truth. Those who reject convention out of distaste may be averse to coercion due to individual temperament. Values of individualism, independence, and self sovereignty could factor in here, roughly corresponding to Jung’s Fi and Ti traits. High Openness, a Big 5 trait, may be another factor involved. Others rejecting convention due to distaste may exhibit low Agreeableness and in fact extract joy from being disruptive, antagonistic, or ruinous to the order. In other words, they may be trolls. Attention or even fame-seeking tendencies and narcissism are easy explanations. If you cause trouble, people will pay attention to you. But in combination with distaste, the desire to be provocative and foster interference may also stem from misanthropy or a preference for disharmony. Some gravitations towards chaos can be thought of as aesthetic. Gratuitous subversives savoring disorder are some of the most archetypical contrarians.

Intolerance of Contradictory Reports

Others may interpret the existence of contradictory views as an indication of the unknowability of the truth, in the vein of error theorists and epistemic Pyrrhonists. They may also perceive from them a gap in the prevailing understanding that requires all frameworks to be deemed provisional and supplemented or tested by opposing views. Apparent contradictions call the legitimacy of all views into question. It then becomes pragmatic to oppose them in case these contradictions signal the presence of an underlying deficit.

Shifting Perspectives

Shifting ontological perspectives may play a part in turn. The perception of metaphysical flux or a plurality of alternate stances will support a perception that all dogmatic views should be called into question. Plurality can then come to define a general worldview, where almost every firm claim is undermined either by various alternative perspectives or their mere possibility. These can modulate assumptions, evidence, definitions, ontologies, evaluations, and more. The result will be an imperative to test new views against their changing elements and forms and the preponderance of offshoots that quickly arise from them.

Lack of Available Basis for Knowledge

Some may perceive an Agrippa-mirroring lack of an available basis for knowledge, charges of self-refutation aside. And if there is no basis for knowledge, all claims or arguments will appear to be baseless, requiring counterposition.

Domain Separation

As mentioned, the perception of a domain separation between the realm of observation and the realm of reason can lead to the conclusion that what belongs to the former can’t be extrapolated to the latter. What is gained in one will seem to be a non-exchangeable currency in the other. Arguments resting partially or fully on inapplicable evidence will be suspected of potential falsehood when evaluated on a different basis.

Delegitimization of Others’ Authority

Some may perceive a lack of authority to profess or attain knowledge in others. This will usually relate to other aforementioned factors like the lack of a basis for knowledge, the non truth-trackingness of human perceptual faculties, and so on. An emotionally-derived disdain for those with perceived intellectual arrogance may also give rise to the sense of a duty to undermine others’ illusion of epistemic authority. This will usually be to dispel what is seen as a false belief that any knowledge has been settled, and/or do a service to the potential of reality’s scope by opening up the possibility for new interpretations to be introduced. Zeno, for example, thought that those who were automatically dismissive of Parmenedian doctrines failed to adequately justify their reasons for it. In parroting each others’ unsupported rhetoric, he thought, they revealed themselves to be intellectual frauds with less basis for their claims than the people who they ridiculed.

All in all, many contrarians seem to be united, on the emotional side, by fear (of error), disgust (with those who may be in error but act as if they are not), uncertainty (of their own knowledge), and irreverence (towards established beliefs). On the logical side, they appear to share an inability to fully accept available proof (from reason, sense, and/or intuition) and a belief that ubiquitous contradictions (in perceptions or arguments) cast doubt upon our knowledge. Distrust in our ability to attain knowledge may stem from a suspected domain separation between the observable, the conceivable, and the true. This may give rise to the sense that there is a lack of finality to any justification of a claim. Every time a hypothesis is made, it must be supported by another, and there is never a place to stop. Some may also suspect that the ontology of things makes truth indeterminate. A lack of constancy, unity, and objectivity to things in themselves or the definitions that represent them could jeopardize our firm, unchanging, grounded knowledge. All of these possibilities have repercussions on those who make claims without accounting for them, in other words those who make claims. To the contrarian, all that is stated can be negated.  

 

Notes:

[a]Born Elea, 6th century BC

[b]490 BCE

Born Greek southern Italy

Spent time in Athens with Parmenides and Socrates

[c]Born 417 BCE, Sinope

[d]Born: Pitane, Turkey

Left against his guardian’s consent to study rhetoric in Athens

Pupil of Theophrastus (Aristotle’s successor) and head of Academy

[e]Born Crete, 1st century BC

Thought to have taught philosophy in Alexandra and belonged to the Academy

[f]Born 2nd century AD

*****

Viktoria N., early-career philosophy researcher and blogger.  Areas of specialization include metaphysics, metaethics, and philosophy of mind.

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