A competent understanding of the demarcation of what constitutes skepticism, is absolutely essential to the ethical skeptic’s ability to spot agency and agency’s poseur. I don’t know exactly how to define skepticism, but I know it when I am in it. This is the purpose of the four demarcation boundaries of skepticism.
While significant debate exists as to what indeed constitutes a suitable definition of skepticism, meantime this does not prevent flurries of false definitions to be bandied about by social skeptics, featuring intimidating equivocal concepts such as ‘doubt’, ‘scrutinizing claims’ or ‘applying the methods of science’. While such constructs involve failed attempts to define skepticism on the part of agenda-laden amateurs, these are not concepts which actually pertain to, nor more importantly serve to demark what is indeed skepticism.
Skepticism is not ‘doubt’ as doubt is a destination and attitude toward a construct, observation or idea; skepticism is not a destination nor attitude toward anything (except agency) – rather it is the journey.
Skepticism is not ‘scrutiny’ as scrutiny is applying one’s existing knowledge in attempt to force inference. Such is foolishness. Skepticism is going and looking; an innate dissatisfaction with existing knowledge and breached critical inference.
Nor is skepticism ‘applying the methods of science’. Skepticism is philosophy, whereas it is science which ‘applies of the methods of science’ and not skepticism. Philosophy cannot step in and pretend to act in lieu of science.
Thus the ethical skeptic faces the realization that most of the skeptic world is composed of fakers, amateurs, agenda pushers and poseurs. A sad matter of affairs. However, perhaps we can outline certain precepts which serve to demark true skepticism, rather than define it per se. This according to the Popper principle that a demarcation can be identified, even in absence of a suitable definition to which all agree, about that which resides on either extreme of the demarcation itself.1
I may not be able to define love, but I know when I am in it.
This familiar quip concerning love, is a great example of the principle of a demarcation (albeit a personal observer-effected version of one). Of such fabric of quandary is the nature of skepticism as well. Moreover, this visceral boundary is laid to threshold by means four key indicators (below). Flags which serve to elicit whether the arguer is operating inside of, or outside of, skepticism. The four demarcations can be condensed into these handles:
- Skepticism cannot act in lieu of science.
- When precaution is involved the null hypothesis is reversed
- The burden of the debunker is they must be 100% correct at all times – anything short of this makes them worse than what they are debunking
- If you do not visibly critique your own club then none of you are skeptics.
Although I am of the opinion that skepticism can be objectively defined, sometimes a demarcation guideline is much more effective in highlighting the chicanery those who have mis-defined it, for sordid purposes – warning flags for the ethical skeptic.
The Demarcation of Skepticism
I. Once plurality is necessary under Ockham’s Razor, it cannot be dismissed by means of skepticism alone.
II. Casual Inference and Risk – once plurality of risk is necessary under Ockham’s Razor, he who aspires to dismiss it must be 100% rigorous on the strength of the critical logic, supporting study as well as probative strength of the mode and form of inference draw.
a. There is no such thing as casual or ad hoc plausible denial under Ockham’s Razor plurality.
b. There is no such thing as casual, ad hoc nor virtuous dismissal of precaution under Ockham’s Razor plurality. When an innocent stakeholder is placed at risk, this must be done under a condition of 100% knowledge of such risks, combined with the vigilance to recognize and measure the impact of hazard outcomes.
c. Virtue and the presence of other theoretical counter-risks, are not sufficient rationale to abandon a. and b. under a condition of Ockham’s Razor plurality.
III. Corber’s Burden – the mantle of ethics undertaken when one claims the role of representing conclusive scientific truth, ascertained by means other than science, such as ‘rational thinking,’ ‘critical thinking,’ ‘common sense,’ or skeptical doubt. An authoritative claim or implication as to possessing knowledge of a complete set of that which is incorrect. The nature of such a claim to authority on one’s part demands that the skeptic who assumes such a role be 100% correct. If however, one cannot be assured of being 100% correct, then the poseur must tender a similitude of such.
a. When one tenders an authoritative claim as to what is incorrect – one must be perfectly correct.
b. When a person or organization claims to be an authority on all that is bunk, their credibility decays in inverse exponential proportion to the number of subjects in which authority is claimed.
c. A sufficiently large or comprehensive set of claims to conclusive evidence in denial, is indistinguishable from an appeal to authority.
IV. If one exclusively fails to police one’s own groupthink, one is not a skeptic.
For the ethical skeptic, these are the indicators of true skepticism. Clumsy doubters who regularly stumble across these demarcation lines, are not skeptics – rather most often, clowns and celebrities, pushing agency and targeting those they hate.
The Ethical Skeptic, “The Demarcation of Skepticism”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 22 June 2019; Web, https://wp.me/p17q0e-9WC