The "scope" of Pyrrhonian Skepticism refers to the extent to which Skeptics bear epistemic commitments. There are two respects in which the debate between unmitigated and mitigated interpretations of Skepticism is significant. First, there is the philosophical question of which version of Pyrrhonism is more coherent and compelling when considered on its own merits. Second, there is the historical question of which sort of interpretation accurately characterizes Pyrrhonism itself, as it is presented in the works of Sextus Empiricus.
My own arguments proceed accordingly. On the philosophical front, I argue (primarily in Chapters 2 and 3) that when the force of the Skeptical modes is fully understood, they are unmitigated in scope. On the historical side, I argue (primarily in Chapters 1 and 4) that an unmitigated interpretation of Pyrrhonism is consistent with the Sextan corpus. Throughout, my ultimate aim is to present a vision of unmitigated skepticism that is, if not an expression of the historical reality of Pyrrhonism, at least a direct descendant of it.
The central argument concerns the Five Modes of Agrippa, which are widely regarded as comprising the most powerful argument of Pyrrhonian Skepticism: the "Pyrrhonian Problematic." The intuitive force of the Problematic lies in its generality. It threatens to cast into doubt every claim that can be advanced on every subject. According to the standard interpretation, the Problematic achieves this by constituting a declarative argument that consists of appealing premises and the conclusion that epistemic justification is impossible.
I argue that this interpretation fails to capture the intuitive force of the Problematic in two ways: First, it is a mistake to interpret the scope of the Problematic as being narrowly restricted to the concept of epistemic justification. Second, and more importantly, it is a mistake to assume that the Problematic is an argument in the first place. Understanding its full potential requires that we instead interpret the Problematic procedurally, as a set of instructions that the Skeptic implements in engaging dialectically with an interlocutor’s claims.