Approaching arguments from the position of blind faith rarely leads to effective decisions, which is why a skeptical attitude toward unsubstantiated claims has been practiced in science for centuries. Dissecting skepticism as a theory of knowledge, one can understand the philosophical ramifications of the specified approach better and, therefore, apply it in good faith to address problems critically. Having been established as the method of evaluating the information received from traditional sources of knowledge, skepticism allows spotting and correcting an error of judgment, thus helping to forward the argument and locate the truth.
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Skepticism takes its origin from the era of Ancient Greece. Traditionally, the creation of the philosophy of skepticism is attributed to Pyrrho, although Socrates’ version of it is most commonly known as the source of the current Western tradition of skepticism (Machuca & Reed, 2018). Implying that every bit of knowledge that comes from one’s sensory perceptions is subjective and, therefore, open to criticism, the notion of skepticism as philosophical framework questions the very possibility of building any knowledge (Dutton, 2016).
Despite its frequent use, skepticism as a philosophical theory is often criticized for its inherent contradiction, specifically, the denying of the absolute truth being an accurate representation of an unquestionable dogma (Kaplan, 2018). Nevertheless, skepticism remains a popular perspective for addressing philosophical dilemmas, especially in regard to the acquisition of knowledge.
One could make an argument that skepticism as a concept denies the possibility of the truth actually existing. Ostensibly, since anything can be questioned, the ultimate truth can never be found since there will always be at least some room for doubt (Dutton, 2016).
The proposed point of view locks one in a perpetual loop of self-doubt, making one fail to evaluate the sensory input critically. Therefore, skepticism should be viewed not as a weapon against the presence of the truth but as the method of selecting the solution that seems to be most appropriate and causing the least negative effect on the situation. In other words, skepticism should be used as the method of damage control instead of being viewed as the means of doubting reality.
It would be wrong to deny skepticism some of the points that it makes. The sources of primary knowledge, specifically, perceptions, memory, introspection, and reasoning are unreliable in their nature. Perceptions are based on senses, which are unique to each being. Memory is selective, as well as introspection, whereas reasoning may be biased due to one’s subjective point of view and the inability to embrace the experiences of others (Kaplan, 2018). Therefore, skepticism is needed to question the feasibility of one’s arguments and isolate the factors that obscure the truth.
In response to skeptics, one will need to focus on the ethics of justice and define the goals of decision-making clearly. Thus, the effects of skeptical attitudes can be localized to address the legitimacy of specific information and the decisions based on it instead of subjecting basic truths to doubt. The suggested response will help to make skepticism productive for theoretical analysis and practical assessment of information as a source of knowledge (Machuca & Reed, 2018).
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With a healthy dose of criticism and doubt, one can locate dents in one’s argument in order to improve the chosen solutions to a problem. However, when failing to contain skepticism to damage control, one will eventually have the argument being hijacked by the necessity to question the existing solutions endlessly.
Helping to correct errors of judgment, skepticism may imply that complete accuracy of stating the truth may never be achieved, yet it sets the course for locating the facts that lie in the closest proximity to the ostensible truth, thus leading to the best solutions that can be applied to a specific scenario. Therefore, in moderation, skepticism represents a healthy attitude toward the analysis of information and the assessment of the available options. While skepticism may imply that the absolute truth cannot be found, it does not encourage one to do so. Instead, skepticism should be used to evaluate information critically and view it from different perspectives, locating its value as the data for decision-making.
Dutton, B. D. (2016). Augustine and academic skepticism: A philosophical study. London, UK: Cornell University Press.
Kaplan, M. (2018). Austin’s way with skepticism: An essay on philosophical method. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Machuca, D., & Reed, B. (2018). Skepticism: From antiquity to the present. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing.