Skepticism and You

Aug 23, 2011 by

A “skeptical” argument might read:  “Person A cannot know that Skepticism is false.  Proposition O implies that Skepticism is false, and Person A knows this.  If Person A knows Proposition O is true, and that Proposition O implies Skepticism is false, then Person A can know Skepticism is false.  Therefore, Person A does not know Proposition O.”*

This phrasing may seem dauntingly confusing, but after analyzing each part of the argument, I believe that the meaning will become clear.  The first part of the argument, “Person A cannot know that Skepticism is false,”  implies that Skepticism is false.  There is no proof that can disprove Skepticism.  The statement, “I see the world around me” does not mean you know there is a world around you.  An Evil Demon could be deceiving you in such a way that you think that there is a world around you.  You could be, theoretically, in a dream world controlled entirely by the evil demon, such as that of the Matrix.  A world that you are born into where everyone is controlled by an outside force.  It may even be everyone except yourself is a creation of the demon’s and does not exist outside the dream world.

Now, onto the second part of this argument, “Proposition O implies Skepticism is false and Person A knows this.”  This is really the main part of the argument.  It is stating that Person A knows that there is an argument that says that Skepticism is false.

The third part states: “If Person A knows Proposition O is true, and that Proposition O implies Skepticism is false, then Person A can know Skepticism is false.”  This is meant to show that no one can know that Skepticism is false. If a person believes a proposition in which Skepticism is false, and it is true, then a person knows Skepticism is false.  But, Part one clearly said Skepticism cannot be known to be true, so, as part four concludes, “Person A does not know Proposition O”

The problem with this argument is that the Skeptic assumes Skepticism is correct.  The way to resolve to conflict between Parts one and two, for the Skeptic, is to say that Person A cannot know that Skepticism is False.  However, it can also be resolved by saying Part one and Skepticism are false.  Thus, by eliminating either parts one or three, we can resolve the conflict.  Either Skepticism is false, or we cannot know that Skepticism is false.

How we answer this question is important.  Our society is based, very much, on our systems of belief.  To be skeptical means that we will never believe that another person knows anything.  Relativism sets in.  If we believe we CAN know things, then we will be more likely to adopt a moral statue of some kind.  Our belief systems naturally want to be coherent, thus, how we decide this will influence our beliefs, and vice-versa.

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*Feldman, Richard.  Epistemology.  Pearson Education, 2003.

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