A life which does not serve to jar you out of your zombie-mind, is a life not well lived. In recognition of this single day of the year, one in which we celebrate all fools, and our collective levels of ignorance and gullibility, I bring you, The Riddle of Skepticism.
The Riddle of Skepticism
Through claiming skepticism, one has struck the tar baby and can no longer plead denial of their action in contending philosophy. With the exception of man’s inalienable natural rights, the discipline of philosophy, even an examination as to how we go about developing knowledge, cannot be employed as a means to bypass science and pretend to act in its place, as this is not the purpose of philosophy. Skepticism, the philosophy in defense of the knowledge development process (science), is likewise bound by this construct.
As generals are experts at tactics of war and banks expert in the transfer and exchange of money, neither bears the right however to dictate the conduct of their citizens, nor who should be conquered nor what entities are to do with their capital. In similar analogue, an expert inside a subject of science cannot also presume to dictate to at-risk stakeholders what they must enact with regard to that science, nor tamper with the ramifications of its disposition inside the public trust. As a skeptic therefore, I cannot tell science how to do its job, but I can assert my rights as its at-risk stakeholder – even on matters which are metaphysical in nature. Science is the property of us all and it is the job of skepticism to defend that inalienable right.
The question one must ask them self, before venturing into this hall of mirrors called skepticism is not, whether or not I can establish a likelihood of being right or wrong on a matter. The question in the mind of the ethical skeptic should be “If I were wrong, would I even know it?” and “If I were wrong, would I be contributing to harm?” This is the focus of the philosophy of skepticism and not this indolent business of leveraging one’s current limited knowledge into a pretense of doubting or ‘evaluating claims’ demanded upon a silver platter. Such self deception constitutes merely cynicism and a pretense of representing science. Therefore, defending the integrity of the knowledge development process is betrayed once one starts tendering conclusions in lieu of it.
Science is the process of knowledge development and the body of accepted knowledge such process serves to precipitate. Pseudo science is a process of corrupted science method employed inside a pretense of representing science – but inside that same constraint can never be ‘a body of unacceptable knowledge’ as this violates objective logic, domain theory as well as skepticism itself. Pseudo skepticism therefore, is a process of corrupted philosophy employed inside a deciding in lieu of or pretense of representing science.
Doubt, belief, ignorance of risk, along with social pressure to accede to stacked provisional knowledge; therefore, stand as the raw materials which are spun into the fabric of the lie. This is why the ethical skeptic relies upon the suspension of these things – embodied in the philosophy of epoché. Rather than decide for himself what is true and untrue, instead he robs the lie spinner (even if himself) of the raw material he desperately needs. He is not denying knowledge, rather denying the tradecraft of the lie.
Once plurality is established inside an argument, if something indeed be false, it should eventually betray its falsification through accrued intelligence. And in being found wrong, become highly informative in the process. If we choose instead to maintain an a priori intolerance of a subject as being wrong, and then further choose to block its research through the authority of clever apothegm, then no probative critical path development (intelligence) can ever be undertaken consequently. Wrong and seeing, is a world better state than is correct and blind.
This untrod horizon of pure skepticism therefore lies fallow and misunderstood through the sleight-of-hand wherein Pyrrhonistic epoché is straw man defined as a ‘denial of knowledge’. This is philosophical domain ineptness – and creates the false dilemma that methodical cynicism is therefore the only bifurcated alternative offered to the seeker of truth. Much of our ignorance and suffering today stems from a misunderstanding of these key principles.
There are three types of person. Those who create great ideas, those who pan them, and those who take the credit for them. Strive always to be the former. The latter will most often secretly reward an ability to create value through ideas; while at the same time ignoring the midmost: the doubter, debunker and cynic. These characters reside in a perpetual state of resentment towards creatively intelligent minds, accentuated by a ripe frustration over the lack of recognition their ‘critical thinking skills’ beget. Their distress mandates the formation of clubs which offer the means of celebrity and self aggrandizement they so desperately crave. Never fathoming that their ilk come at a dime-a-dozen. Therefore, take this as the lesson of skepticism as well. It is a discipline of value creation, and not one of critique.
The Ethical Skeptic, “The Riddle of Skepticism” The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 1 April 2018, Web; https://wp.me/p17q0e-7sr
Just saw a catchy twitter comment. I have no way of knowing which postulated problem is worse though. Depends though on the situation. “Our problem is not so much the unanswered questions but the unquestioned answers out there.” This saying does though illuminate the need to be cautious about our unknown ignorance .. as you’ve been saying.
It is a great quote. It is not that knowledge is all uncertain – just that pseudo-theory is often never questioned.
The Ethical Skeptic, what strikes me in that quote “pseudo-theory is often never questioned” is that a wrong theory can have some very compelling arguments. For example, we can easily question and see the errors of the flat earth people of the past. However at the time without understanding the law of gravity, numerous very compelling arguments were made against a round rotating earth. One very solid argument is that immense centripetal force of a rapidly world would throw everything off the surface of the planet. Remember if you don’t know about gravity, that would make a great deal of… Read more »
T. E. Skeptic, this is now much easier to read. I have been reading comments in the past, but it required a work-around. I had to scroll the comments … a portion of the background was lighter and I had to scroll comments through the lighter part of the background to read the text. You’ve made some kind replies to the two comments or so that I made in the past … I was just limited in my ability to reply in a way that would have added anything at that time. Most people who write have a lot more… Read more »
Now that I think about it, and you confirm that there was no way to read comments, except by using that illuminated band of sunlight in the background photo, my comment feature was pretty lame and unusable. I get a fair amount of readership nowadays, about 150 or so visitors and 10 or so links to various blogs, forums and comment modules per day – but not a lot of comments here. Maybe this will change.
Charles/Thomas, I also have a couple questions when you get a chance… Are you reading the comments from the hard to read bottom of the blog post page? I have been reading/approving my comments from the Wordpress Comments interface, which is easy to read – but I realize that comments are hard to read at the bottom of my blogs because of lack of contrast with the background. This has not traditionally been a comment heavy blog… UPpdate: I just uploaded a Plugin ‘wpDiscuz’ to manage comments and make them visible at the bottom of each blog. We shall see… Read more »
I meant also to raise one additional point. If, what you say is true – that pseudo-science can never be “a body of unacceptable knowledge” as you put it here, then what do we do with chronic bunk subjects and endless mysteries which fester on and on in blurry photos and hoaxes? Are we not to put these subjects out of their misery, with some sort of official commentary by skeptical scientists on the matter? Does your form of skepticism not tend to leave us in an endless cycle of “Epoche”, which gets us ultimately nowhere? – when resources wasted… Read more »
Hello Charles P. While we wait for the Ethical Skeptic to give his response I have been thinking of some topics that have some bearing on some of the flaws of the skeptical movement. If I give a long answer it isn’t because there is anything particularly provocative about your question, but rather like a baseball player waiting for a particular pitch to cross the plate your expressed thoughts allow me to connect what I’ve been thinking about to what I’ve been pondering commenting about on the TES blog. In particular your thoughts then about when to put a subject… Read more »
Charles, Thomas has done an excellent job in responding to this valid concern you raise. I too am frustrated with chronic bunk subjects which just seem to waste everyone’s time and get us nowhere, decade after decade. But, as a researcher (who has actually funded studies and gets very upset when his money is wasted), and as a former lab head – I have found that, unleashing the dogs of denial by means of authority serves to impart much more damage than does any actual bunk subject itself. The first rationale for this, is exactly what Thomas pointed out. Our… Read more »
Ethical Skeptic, I must offer, that I have read a number of your posts over the last month or so. And while I disagree on several points with respect to the conclusions you draw, in the small number of issues where you do express personal opinions; I remain impressed with both your grasp of, and ability to express, skepticism in a way which I have not seen posed before. I have especially enjoyed this post, The Riddle of Skepticism, as well as your post regarding the nine features on good philosophy. I would say that some of the masters which… Read more »
Charles, I am most flattered by your kind assessment. I do not know much about Hanoverian ‘style’ – but my ancestry is Scottish-Luxembourg, so it is sure to contain some influence in that regard. I am not a student of the classic philosophers. I had the classic courses in undergrad and grad school, but grew weary of Plato, Seneca and Socrates. This as much as anything turned me off to chasing the topic into the middle ages and beyond. While I do regard this as a weakness in my offering, I also consider it an advantage as well to have… Read more »