That is certainly in the same train of thought that I had.
Although, I'm not entirely sure what he means in the quote
by: "Accordingly, universal Skepticism, in the Greek sense, is a possible philosophical position
Unless, it is possible in the same sense as someone sawing off the branch that they're sitting on, or someone planting their feet in mid-air or the like.
Skepticism would at some stage have to turn in upon itself.
This is where it collapses and one is left in a state of Epistemic Nihilism -- that nothing can be known even that fact included... indeed even Ontological Nihilism -- reality doesn't exist.
In a state of true
Nihilism, one is at an eternal crossroad of embracing reality and not embracing reality -- because an extreme Universal Skepticism leaves us with an inability to know one way or the other.
Atheists stop short of this however. They want to criticize others but then eat their own cake of personal beliefs that they have -- whatever they might be.
They then become incoherent and unable to establish their own position of the world based upon logic and reason, and so it really becomes built upon their own subjective tastes.
In other words, they are really only utilising a selective
Skepticism -- an extreme skepticism as a form of epistemic justification where it suits their tastes.
They all the time double-talk by claiming they are skeptical of everything, while accepting many unprovable beliefs that would fail the same standards of skepticism that they apply to others.
This is not logical. It is not rational. It is not consistent. Therefore, as I argue and you correctly understand, it doesn't lead to any coherent view of the world.
In fairness to both you and Owens, I suspect you don't own the book in question and only have access to the snippet we both linked to. He added the qualifier "in the Greek sense" I think precisely because of some of what you have pointed out here. In that section, he has been discussing the fact that our initial judgments are subject to correction. As such, he wants to know if we can "ever arrive by this process at judgments that are not subject to correction and cannot be doubted?" In this context, he first turns to look at Descartes, noting that Descartes says,
- "I will proceed onwards until I come to something certain, or if nothing else until I know this for certain, that nothing is certain." . . . The initial methodic doubt, accordingly, was never envisaged by Descartes as "universal," though it is so interpreted by Mercier. . . . It was merely to continue until something certain was reached. It was artificial, because, except for ulterior purposes in Descartes' philosophy, it could have stopped at any of the immediately evident common notiongs (see Principia, I,13-15 . . .) just as easily as at the Cogito
So Descartes' real problem was that it was arbitrary
. For him, "doubt" did not
mean something like "a lack of conviction." All he
meant (and, by the way, all that Aquinas and Aristotle before him meant when they employed the same approach; so they spoke of universalis dubitatio de vertate
("the universal doubting of truth"; see Metaphysics
III) was that judgments must be questioned until they are no longer open to correction. In this way, we may "doubt" God's existence up until we have done the work to show that the statement "God exists" is not open to correction lest we imply some self-contradiction, which the First Way most certainly does. Going back to Descartes, he could have stopped at many other points. He could have held the existence of the external world as just such a point much as where he did choose to stop.
Now, Owens notes your argument, I believe, when he goes on to say, "Taken literally, a "universal" doubt would eave nothing upon which ny certitude could be built, not even the tenet that nothing is certain. The latter tenet was not exempt from Skeptical epoche. . . . It has generally been combated. . . . Parker had maintained an initial state of certitude in regard to immediate judgments and of doubt in regard to "mediate propositions." (p.266-67)
So with that in mind, we can see why he says that GREEK skepticism is philosophically permissible, even if it is little more than a parasite. The whole idea is that this kind of Skepticism--and this in the Greek sense in particular--does not and cannot doubt the existence of what is immediately perceived (although it CAN doubt that what is being perceived is being properly interpreted). That s obviously not MODERN skepticism. Modern skepticism is just stupid for a host of reasons, not the least of them being precisely what you have noted. But there seems to be nothing self-contradictory about the claim that while our immediate judgments are unquestionable, the fact that all interpretations of those judgments are open to correction means that all philosophical knowledge is open to correction. The skepticism, then, does not extend to existence itself, but only to how one interprets existence.
I'm certainly not saying that I agree with that position. I'm saying that it can be held without self-contradiction. It's just that it is little more than a parasite, philosophically speaking. It cannot, by its nature, make any philosophical
claims--not even the claim that no philosophical knowledge is possible. The only thing it can do is respond to philosophical claims and charge that all such claims are based on what are fundamentally and necessary questionable claims, and therefore those claims must be "doubted" in the sense above (that is, as held to be open to correction--not that they cannot be held with conviction). As such, a Greek skeptic may hold with conviction the idea that philosophical truth cannot be known, but even that claim is not certain, because that itself is open to correction.
All in all, it's a much more nuanced position than modern skepticism, which is rather childish. But is it at all fulfilling or are we warranted in holding to it? I don't think so! But if we are going to argue against it, I think we should make good arguments against it rather than conflate it with something it isn't (modern skepticism).
Going back to my original point, btw, I think this discussion is helpful because it shows that modern atheism is at best
little more than Greek skepticism, which is boring at best and parasitic at worst and in either case almost certainly inconsistently applied; or at worst it is the type of skepticism you have identified, universal in the modern, rather childish sense, which is ultimately self-contradictory and plainly stupid.