Aristotle: Discerning the True Skeptic
“…what I find unpleasant about SAM [Skeptic and Atheism Movement]: a community who worships celebrities who are often intellectual dilettantes, or at the very least have a tendency to talk about things of which they manifestly know very little; an ugly undertone of in-your-face confrontation and I’m-smarter-than-you-because-I-agree-with [insert your favorite New Atheist or equivalent]; loud proclamations about following reason and evidence wherever they may lead, accompanied by a degree of groupthink and unwillingness to change one’s mind that is trumped only by religious fundamentalists; and, lately, a willingness to engage in public shaming and other vicious social networking practices any time someone says something that doesn’t fit our own opinions, all the while of course claiming to protect “free speech” at all costs.”
~ Massimo Pigliucci, “Reflections on the skeptic and atheist movements;” Scientia Salon, May 11, 2015.
There exist four domains of virtue/absence of virtue which compose the realm of character. The Aristotelian three character virtues: practical wisdom, morality and benevolence as well as their antithesis, akrasia.¹ A person who acts under a state of akrasia, inside the structures outlined by Aristotle, has surrendered their ethical will to a milieu of passion; ie. reason, abrogated by some emotion, feeling or character flaw. These varieties of character flaw can stem from a number of motivations – anger over past treatment, political correctness and indignance, greed or the desire to control, compensation for a secret doubt or insecurity, arrogance or pathological hatred of those who truly bear the three virtues themselves. Each of these character flaws compose the motivational essence behind Methodical Cynicism and Social Skepticism. It is their application however, in the Aristotelian sense, which is more important than their theory. How each is expressed in practice can be embodied inside a structure of observation, entitled krymméno akrasia, or hidden pathos:
/Ancient Greek : κρυμμένο ἀκρασία, “art of reason by hidden pathos”/ : An akratic person goes against reason as a result of some pathos (“emotion,” “feeling”). Aristotle’s explanation of akrasia is simply that pathos is sometimes a stronger motivational force than full-fledged reason. The person who practices krymméno akrasia hides this pathos and develops it by means of methodically and cynically playing the boundaries of the three Aristotelian virtues, in order to present a façade of character, while at the same time, deriving a more esoteric and occult goal. These goals usually entail some form of religion, fear or desire for power or hatred of those who practice virtue inside of knowledge – all of which stand as a pathos on the part of this actor.¹ ² ³
Now no decent person is going to eschew the character traits of learned wisdom, morality and benevolence. For the most part, setting aside the pathological and sociological sectors of our society, people who willingly give themselves over to the development of an Aristotelian virtuous base of character – will hold these traits paramount. Paramount however, until a self-oriented desire becomes a stronger motivational force. Of particular interest inside this list of pathos is this ‘hatred of those who truly bear the three virtues themselves.‘ Nothing angers a fake skeptic more than a person who has, in their mind, tendered a practical wisdom inside a subject which they, the SSkeptic, disdain. It is the broaching of disliked ideas, which appear to have epistemological backing, which angers a SSkeptic the greatest. This is why fake skeptics are quick to focus on attacking and harming people or declaring something a ‘pseudoscience’ without any investigation – the hallmarks of a person who, in the face of more and more counter-evidence, grows increasingly visible, loud and insistent in their efforts to control what is accepted as truth. This is because a person who is developing a practical wisdom around a subject is exhibiting a keen and powerful form of character: the ethical skepticism, or method of phronêsis. This is what Social Skeptics fear the most: phronêsis, on the part of those they hate.
Just like the proverbial Jane Goodall Chimpanzees of Gombe, of whom one loudly banged an old empty gasoline can in order to intimidate the other chimps and seek dominance,† the goal of the Social Skeptic is to instil an element of fear into the hearts of such people so that they keep quiet. They claim to represent science, but science does not work this way in the least.
/Ancient Greek : φρόνησις : phronēsis/ : Practical, experienced based, impious wisdom. Aristotle contended that all free persons are born with the potential to become ethically virtuous and practically wise. Setting aside the appeals to virtue (moralism), and to goodwill (benevolence), the domain of ethics resides outside and overlaps both; but its signature hallmark is born in those who exhibit practical experience and the wisdom from which it stems. Being practically wise involves the practice of and allegiance to a professionally based set of methodology. A methodology targeting an increase in overall understanding, defense of those processes which enable it and opposition to all forces which seek to establish ignorance.¹ ²
When One Places Desire Over Reason
The key indicators of malphronêsis, or krymméno akrasia on the other hand, as Aristotle might have termed it, stand thusly:
A. aphronêsis – Twisted and Extreme Application of Practical Wisdom
The faking skeptic will trumpet loudly and often about the scientific method and peer review, but somehow will never seem to be able to recount them, or cite examples of their application. The faking skeptic will speak often of ‘proof,’ deny sponsors access to science, and incorrectly cite that denial of access to peer review is indeed – peer review. You will find them endlessly pounding on theology as evil, its evisceration standing as de facto proof of their own beliefs. Vehement skeptics tend to be young and only academically trained to a great degree – their ‘skepticism’ easing most of the time as they gain life experience.
‘Proof’ is the hallmark of religion.
― Bill Gaede
B. aeunoia – False Parsimony and Humility
The faking skeptic will underplay their role in an ontology and falsely cite conformance and ‘Occam’s Razor’ (sic) as a masquerade of parsimony. The faking skeptic will stand calmly and claim that their position represents the prevailing position of science or scientists – or that they are ‘simply following where the facts lead, nothing of a personal nature.’ The faking skeptic will staunchly refuse to consider any contention of an opponent, simply because they are ‘the opponent,’ then habitually spin their allegiance to conformance as a type of objective conservancy on their part. Finally, the fake skeptic is enormously interested in pointing out narcissism as the source of any disagreement that might arise that displeases them. Humility being part of the adornment of facade they wear in rationality.
If you stand up and be counted, from time to time you may get yourself knocked down. But remember this: A man flattened by an opponent can get up again. A man flattened by conformity stays down for good.
― Thomas J. Watson
C. amoral – False and Agenda Driven Morality
The faking skeptic will feign indignance over contentions they do not like as ‘being racist,’ or ‘anti-democratic,’ or ‘backward and violent.’ They will seek to establish a fallacy of composition targeting specific persons and groups, maligning them into a bucket of socially disdained pigeon holes, or incorrect thought. They will inevitably ascribe all wars, murders, thefts and human suffering to be the end result of thinking from, or the direct responsibility of, those camps whom they hate.
All generalizations are false, including this one.
― Mark Twain
D. atéchne, – Misconstruing of Fact and Method
The faking skeptic will sign allegiance to, and ascribe as fact proved by science, an entire ontology of beliefs, doctrines, and religious strictures. However most of these will be hidden, and through a process of inverse negation – every competing person and philosophy will be targeted in a pejorative and excommunicating fashion. There is no argument in the faking skeptic’s mind. They represent science and science agrees with their beliefs. You are against reason, method and rationality.
I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.
― Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason
The Akratic Dance, An Example: Your Freedom Was a Cute Experiment, Now the Big Boys are Back
Thomas Paine understates the underhanded nature of censorship, in that the one who precludes himself of the right to change his mind is the least harmed by censorship. Even today, against Americans’ knowledge, their speech, their emails, their websites, their ideas – if they run counter to the Cabal, are being censored and muted by those in the Cabal who are seeking to circumvent the US Constitution and enact their own Utopia of Morality and Truth. I will not go into the specifics here, as that is not the purpose of this blog. But it is happening, and the incident of its occurrence is growing.
To the Cabal, the US Constitution was simply a grand experiment which failed, and now we should step back into the 600 year old failed socialism of the past. Because socialism is moral and based on scientifically proved principle. My principle. It is this purposeful targeting of persons based on their ideas, which we as a nation feared most in our inception – because unlike in the Thomas Paine scenario, it does not just hurt the one who precludes and denies. Unfortunately the Cabal has adopted this take on our free expression:
- It is abhorrent to a free thinking man that private, non-government e-mail services and ISP’s survey and collect data from the contents of e-mail without a warrant in accordance with the law.
- It is abhorrent to a free thinking man that private, non-government e-mail services and ISP’s disrupt e-mail deliveries based upon the content or incorrectness of those emails or a referenced website URL.
- It is abhorrent to a free thinking man that private, non-government e-mail services and ISP’s selectively delete e-mails delivered between two parties, without their knowledge.
- It is abhorrent to a free thinking man that public information, be filtered, ranked and squelched by ISP’s and forces claiming to represent rationality and the truth.
This principle, the concept that it is experimentally moral to change government and begin to remove ideas based on their ‘truth and reason’ content is no better expressed than by Michael Shermer himself; grand master of social morality and truth enforcement on the populace. A product of religion himself, now spinning his new religion with a blood-thirst by which even Jerry Falwell would be awed. Here is a great example of the Akratic Dance, feigning the application of wisdom, morality and benevolence, when nothing of the sort is entailed in the intent behind such wisdom.
If you want different results [government], change the variables. “The founders often spoke of the new nation as an ‘experiment,’” Ferris writes. “Procedurally, it involved deliberations about how to facilitate both liberty and order…” As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1804: “No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth.”†
~ Michael Shermer, The Work of Michael Shermer, Scientific American, Sept 2010.
- Your freedom of speech, was just an experiment
- Your rights to assemble and communicate, were just an experiment
- Your right to unfiltered information, was just an experiment
- A free press, was just an experiment
- A free capital economy, was just an experiment
- Your right to bear arms, was just an experiment
- Your right to life liberty and pursuit of happiness, was just an experiment
- Your right to thrive, was just an experiment
And since We Are The Science, only We, the Cabal, are authorized to issue Peer Review on this experiment.
We will note with the Cabal that, the only thing which will not be an experiment, is their power. That is absolute and unquestionable. They have made this clear.
Aristotle contended that it is impossible to have phronêsis if one does not possess ethical virtue, and conversely that it is impossible to possess ethical virtue if one does not develop a skilled phronêsis.¹ In similar fashion, the art of ethical goodwill, or benevolence, stands as a key litmus of one who has overcome themselves and exhibits some of the key traits of Ethical Skepticism. Finally, téchne relates to our ability to handle fact and established versus contended principle, in ethical fashion.
The presence of these traits of character, who’s absence is demonstrated in a person’s inability to tolerate opposing and testing ideas, compose the basis of how ethical science and skepticism is conducted. All four stand, when practiced ethically and not in extreme contrivances, as a structure of character which is exhibited by one who is in search of the facts, principles and insights which improve our understanding and lot in this realm.
¹ Kraut, Richard, “Aristotle’s Ethics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2014/entries/aristotle-ethics/>.
² Rosen, Stanley; The Philosopher’s Handbook: Essential Readings from Plato to Kant, Random House Reference, New York, April 2003; pp. xvi-xvii.
³ Kraut, Richard, “Alternate Readings of Aristotle on Akrasia“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2014/entries/aristotle-ethics/>
† Goodall, Jane; Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010; ISBN 9780547488387.
‡ “Democracy’s Laboratory,” The Work of Michael Shermer, September 2010; Scientific American; http://www.michaelshermer.com/2010/09/democracys-laboratory/
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