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  1. #1
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    Skepticism, take 2

    I haven't really been able to participate in the agnosticism / skepticism is flawed thread as I can't get online as much as I used to and I don't want to sift through the whole thing.

    I'm also not quite sure why agnosticism got lumped in with skepticism.

    I've always thought of skepticism as the notion that it's beneficial to treate any unknown claim as false until proven true with evidence and or logic. The statement applies to itself as it's silly to assume phenomenon are true without proof. It's not something we do.

    What does it mean when we say "I'm skeptical of X"? It means that we haven't seen adequate evidence to convince us that X is true.

    There is nothing flawed about skepticism nor is it the notion that "nothing is knowable". We know that X = X and we know that X =/= Y. A true skeptic will keep digging until he/she is reasonably sure that X is defined, logical and has evidence.

    An indivual who is not a skeptic is someone who assumes X to be true without delving into what X actually is.

  2. #2
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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    Quote Originally Posted by Zhavric
    The statement applies to itself as it's silly to assume phenomenon are true without proof.
    It is equally silly to assume a phenomenon is false without proof.

    If you are attempting to discern whether [x], [y], or [z] happened, it is wrong to presume that because [x] is unproven, [y] or [z] must have occured. In other words, accepting the claim "[x] does not occur" without evidence is poor thinking.
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
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  3. #3
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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    I think non-skeptics carry more weight than skeptics because without non-skeptics, there would be no skeptics. You may argue that the reverse is true - in that case the debate would be over.
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  4. #4
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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples
    It is equally silly to assume a phenomenon is false without proof.
    Why? Can you give an example?

  5. #5
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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    Quote Originally Posted by snackboy
    Why? Can you give an example?
    Let's say you live in 12 million B.C., snackboy. Your buddy Bob "Ooga" Robertson tells you that we're on a big ball that circles around that big bright thing in the sky. You ask for proof, but since you and Bob don't know jack about astronomy or mathematics, you wouldn't even understand the proof if he was able to give it to you. Is it safe to assume that the Earth does NOT circle around the sun, merely because there is no evidence for the fact that it DOES?
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
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  6. #6
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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    Quote Originally Posted by CS
    Let's say you live in 12 million B.C., snackboy. Your buddy Bob "Ooga" Robertson tells you that we're on a big ball that circles around that big bright thing in the sky. You ask for proof, but since you and Bob don't know jack about astronomy or mathematics, you wouldn't even understand the proof if he was able to give it to you. Is it safe to assume that the Earth does NOT circle around the sun, merely because there is no evidence for the fact that it DOES?
    That's a good example, and shows one instance where a fact turns out to be true, and should not be assumed false. However, how does it turn out if we start from a fact/statement/idea that we don't already know to be true. I mean consider:
    1)The capital of Texas is Austin
    2)The capital of Texas is Dallas
    3)The capital of Texas is KB's House
    4)The capital of Texas is NYC
    5)The capital of Texas is Rivendell
    6)The capital of Texas is Wonderland
    ...

    There are an infinite amount of wrong statements in regards to this specific question. There are a much more limited number of correct answers. This is the case for the vast majority of things. Consider your example:
    1)The world is a big ball
    2)The world is a big table-shape
    3)The world is a single flat surface
    4)The world extends forever in all directions, and is flat
    5)The world is the interior of a gigantic cylinder.
    Consider that with no knowledge of mathematics or astrology, any guess is as good as the next. By default, we should assume any given answer to be false until we find some sort of support for it.
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  7. #7
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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    Zhav, the idea of skepticism that has been debated in many other threads uses the philosophical rather than colloquial term. It refers to one who claims that all knowledge of truth is impossible, or that absolute truth does not exist, or something along these lines. Skepticism in the manner which you are referring to is something which I agree is beneficial to human thought.

    Pure skepticism, on the other hand, is something that I believe must be rejected once the philosophy behind skepticism is analyzed. It rejects the roots of logical thought, even rules such as the rule of non-contradiction or statements like A=A.
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    I'll give you a hint. Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.
    - Francisco d'Anconia, Atlas Shrugged

  8. #8
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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    Quote Originally Posted by Iluvatar
    By default, we should assume any given answer to be false until we find some sort of support for it.
    I disagree, but not entirely. We should certainly not assume that any given answer is true until proven false. However, I don't think the only alternative is to assume that any given answer is false until proven true; I think that it's possible to essentially be a "weak atheist". You don't treat the answer as true, but you don't treat it as false either. You treat it as "unknown at this point". Which seems a much more practical way of getting to the correct answers.
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
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  9. #9
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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    As emtee said, the other threads were about the strict philosophical meaning of "skepticism". Though I do think it was worth making this thread. It's important to point out that colloquial "skepticism" is a useful and important way of thinking.

    Clive: I agree that technically we have to treat everything as "unknown" (or in other words, be agnostic about it) until we have some evidence. But there are many things that we have to assume are false, because they would otherwise have a large effect on our daily lives.
    It's possible that there is a powerful alien who'll be angry if we don't bake a muffin every day. We have no evidence either way, but we assume it's false. Even if it was a "maybe", we'd have to conclude that we'd be better off doing it just in case it's true.
    The natural, base state for any possible suggestion is non-belief.

  10. #10
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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    Similarly, we could be postulating right now on the following:

    1) The universe has no dimensions.
    2) The universe is 1-dimensional.
    3) The universe is 2-dimensional.
    4) The universe is 3-dimensional.
    5) The universe is 4-dimensional.
    6) The universe is 5-dimensional or more (call me when you get there).

    What was called the realist (or possibly an idealist) in those threads would say that we should assume that the universe is 3-dimensional since it appears to be from our perspective, and common sense tells us that it is. Apparently the realist likes the odds of the frontrunner -- even if the other choices might cumulatively outweigh it -- and says that's all we should spend our mental energies on, taking things at face value.

    However, the philosophical skeptic says that if we don't know that the universe is 3-dimensional, then we should still consider other choices as real possibilities, and not make definitive statements about a 3-dimensional universe until we are completely certain (whether we ever could be or not).

    The philosophical skeptic says don't make assumptions about something being undisputably true when it has no objective proof. It's OK to postulate that it's true, but don't dismiss the other possibilities. We as humans throughout history have always had just enough intelligence to think we have a handle on the universe, but never quite enough to transcend folly. We always seem to think we have gotten past ignorance. We're always on the cusp of great discovery about the universe. Call me skeptical if I don't believe it till I see it.

    Quote Originally Posted by emtee10
    Pure skepticism, on the other hand, is something that I believe must be rejected once the philosophy behind skepticism is analyzed. It rejects the roots of logical thought, even rules such as the rule of non-contradiction or statements like A=A.
    I wouldn't go that far. It says that we should not assume offhand that logic is the final answer in determining what truths are. It simply says logic may not be complete. Your default view, on the other hand, is that logic is peerless, objective, and beyond reproach.

    By the way, using logic, tell me whether there was a beginning of time or if there was no beginning of time, and give the reasoning behind it. And tell me how it fits into the rule of non-contradiction.
    anything could be an illusion and we wouldn't know the difference... proof schmoof...

  11. #11
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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    Quote Originally Posted by CS
    I disagree, but not entirely. We should certainly not assume that any given answer is true until proven false. However, I don't think the only alternative is to assume that any given answer is false until proven true; I think that it's possible to essentially be a "weak atheist". You don't treat the answer as true, but you don't treat it as false either. You treat it as "unknown at this point". Which seems a much more practical way of getting to the correct answers.
    I suppose we could philosophically consider any unsupported point "unknown at this point." However, we have to actually treat all completely unsupported concepts as false. Consider the invisible flying monkeys that surround us. That concept is completely unproven and undisproven, but we treat it as false. We don't go around trying to dodge thin air for fear of hitting a monkey. We act as though it were false.
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  12. #12
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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    Quote Originally Posted by Iluvatar
    Consider the invisible flying monkeys that surround us. That concept is completely unproven and undisproven, but we treat it as false. We don't go around trying to dodge thin air for fear of hitting a monkey. We act as though it were false.
    Your analogy is flawed.

    "Go[ing] around trying to dodge thin air for fear of hitting a monkey" is acting as though flying monkeys DO exist, not acting as though we don't know if they do. While we may ACT as though the concept is false, we don't TREAT the concept as if it were false or BELIEVE that it is false. We merely fail to believe that it is true, and so therefore do not act on the claim as though it were true. Do you see the difference? A skeptic's answer to the question "Do flying monekys exist?" is "There is no proof", not "No."
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
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  13. #13
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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    Clive:

    Quote Originally Posted by Lucidium
    It's possible that there is a powerful alien who'll be angry if we don't bake a muffin every day. We have no evidence either way, but we assume it's false. Even if it was a "maybe", we'd have to conclude that we'd be better off doing it just in case it's true.
    I'll try and write out my argument more clearly.

    1. There are an infinite number of things that that, if real, would have a major effect on our daily lives.
    2. We have three options to believe in about any of these things. They exist, they don't exist, or we don't know.
    3. We have no evidence either way about these things.


    So, for each of those options:
    They exist. If we choose to believe this, then we'd have to believe this for every possible thing. And for anything I dream up that demands X of us, I can also dream up something that demands the opposite of X. So believing "They exist" is not workable.

    They don't exist. Essentially, we ignore them. As in Iluvatar's example, we don't dodge the monkeys. Note assumption 2, though. If new evidence arose, we wouldn't just carry on ignoring them because we've decided to. This argument wouldn't apply any more, because there would be evidence.

    We don't know. We accept that we can't know either way, so essentially make a non-decision. However, if we're allowing the possibility that these things might be real, then we'd still have to take them into account, just in case. For some things, this is reasonable, such as not walking under ladders because you believe it brings you bad luck. However, for most things, it is not, as in my example of the Muffin Aliens. So, we act as if they don't exist, even though we accept that they might.

    Now, at this point, it pretty much becomes a technicality of words. For all intents and purposes, we're acting as if we believe these things don't exist. But I'd concede that, technically, we should say we don't know.
    However, I'd contend the following. If we behave and act as though something doesn't exist when we say we "don't know", then we might as well simply say "It doesn't exist."



    Edit: Actually, I wonder if this might not be the cause of many disagreements. Where, if we were being completely strict, we should say certain specific things (such as in the Monkey with the typewriter thread). But most people are just talking and thinking in general, everyday terms.

  14. #14
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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    I know that I said I wouldn't be debating this anymore, but the claims that skeptics make frustrate me and I feel compelled to act. The logical man inside of me would cry if I didn't respond.

    Quote Originally Posted by Xanadu
    I wouldn't go that far. It says that we should not assume offhand that logic is the final answer in determining what truths are. It simply says logic may not be complete. Your default view, on the other hand, is that logic is peerless, objective, and beyond reproach.
    Why is the completeness of logic relevant? Let me use an example...

    Both the law of identity and the law of non-contradiction are first principles of logic. Now, let's say that we were aware of the law of non-contradiction, but NOT aware of the law of identity. Our knowledge of logic would, therefore, be incomplete. However, would that make the law of non-contradiction LESS TRUE? Of course not, that wouldn't make sense. We would have a smaller part of the picture, but the part which we have would still be just as clear and true.

    By the way, using logic, tell me whether there was a beginning of time or if there was no beginning of time, and give the reasoning behind it. And tell me how it fits into the rule of non-contradiction.
    The law of non-contradiction, just so you know, is this:

    In logic, the law of noncontradiction states, in the words of Aristotle, that "one cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time."

    The manner it would pertain to this scenario would be to state: "There cannot both be a beginning of time, AND no beginning of time." It basically says that it is either one or the other, as having both would be a contradiction.

    And if you're asking me to pull out a logical rule which states whether or not there was a beginning of time, I don't know that there is one. However, I'm sure that this has been debated with many arguments (not necessarily proofs) throughout many threads at ODN.
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    - Francisco d'Anconia, Atlas Shrugged

  15. #15
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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    Quote Originally Posted by Zhavric
    There is nothing flawed about skepticism nor is it the notion that "nothing is knowable". We know that X = X and we know that X =/= Y. A true skeptic will keep digging until he/she is reasonably sure that X is defined, logical and has evidence.
    I tend to agree.

    However, there are fine distinctions between believing, knowing and acting, which I haven't seen anyone mention yet.

    Believing - You believe something is true, meaning to say that you personally regard something as true, even though it may not actually be true.

    Knowing - You know something is true, meaning to say that you are completely and objectively sure that it is true.

    Acting - You may not believe or know something is true, but for practicality purposes you act as if it is or isn't.

    "Acting" is the part which is problematic. The skeptic's stance that "I don't know" cannot be acted upon - you can only act as if something is true, or as if it isn't true. So, for the case of whether God exists, weak atheists are the ones which acts as if it isn't true, while theists act as if it is true. Atheists "believe" that God doesn't exist but they don't "know", while theists "believe" in God but they can't actually "know" until they have personally seen God and his power.

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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    Quote Originally Posted by Zhavric
    I've always thought of skepticism as the notion that it's beneficial to treate any unknown claim as false until proven true with evidence and or logic. The statement applies to itself as it's silly to assume phenomenon are true without proof. It's not something we do.
    Are you certain?

  17. #17
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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    Quote Originally Posted by Clive
    It is equally silly to assume a phenomenon is false without proof.
    It's important to look at the unspoken claims of an assertion.

    If I say "Someone walked on water" what am I really saying? Have I made just one claim?

    No. I've made many. I've claimed that what we know about the properties of water is incorrect. I've asserted that an existing claim is false.

    So, defaulting to "unknown" isn't appropriate. Any claim which contradicts a previously established claim must default to a position of false.

    If X = proven true then the statement "X = false" defaults to a position of false until it's supported with evidence.

    It's like law, Clive. Just as people are innocent until proven guilty, claims are false until proven true.

    And Kev, please don't spam.

  18. #18
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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    Quote Originally Posted by Zhavric
    And Kev, please don't spam.
    It was a simple and relevant question. Please don't avoid legitimate questions.

  19. #19
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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    Quote Originally Posted by Snoop
    I think non-skeptics carry more weight than skeptics because without non-skeptics, there would be no skeptics. You may argue that the reverse is true - in that case the debate would be over.
    Are you sure about what you said or skeptical, Snoop?
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  20. #20
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    Re: Skepticism, take 2

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinBrowning
    It was a simple and relevant question. Please don't avoid legitimate questions.
    Kevin - when someone asks "are you certain" as you did, you should at least say if you agree or disagree in order to validate your question. Asking someone "are you certain" in any debate is a useless question unless YOU show why YOU are asking the question. It's obvious to a duck that you are uncertain. It is spam.
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