Questions tagged [skepticism]

The tag has no usage guidance.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
83 votes
20 answers
50k views

Could 'cogito ergo sum' possibly be false?

I've heard it postulated by some people that "we can't truly know anything". While that does seem to apply to the vast majority of things, I can't see how 'cogito ergo sum' can possibly be false. ...
  • 1,939
72 votes
12 answers
9k views

How can an uneducated but rational person differentiate between science and religion?

I recently found myself unable to respond to the statement "But the big bang theory is just another creation myth!" during a science vs. religion argument. I found it very difficult to explain the ...
24 votes
12 answers
16k views

Are there any philosophical arguments to disprove or weaken solipsism?

My philosophy professor once told our class: The only people who believe in solipsism are infants and madmen. I was inclined to agree at the time. Yet years later, I have still not encountered any ...
's user avatar
22 votes
5 answers
5k views

Is Skepticism the most rational standpoint?

Is Philosophical Skepticism - the one that advocates true knowledge is impossible, the most rational standpoint? I am asking this based on the observation that there are very few things whose ...
  • 1,471
21 votes
8 answers
12k views

Is 1+1=2 true by definition ?

Is 1+1=2 true by definition ? Or, is there a way to prove it? I'm trying to understand how do we know it's true, and how to reply if someone is skeptical or denies that 1+1=2.
  • 481
19 votes
12 answers
14k views

What are some arguments against the brain-in-a-vat thought experiment?

I read this article about how this guy in Switzerland did an experiment that he thought proved the Simulation Hypothesis of reality (link: http://arxiv.org/abs/1210.1847). I have also been reading ...
18 votes
15 answers
7k views

Why is the Münchhausen trilemma an unsolved problem?

Why is the Münchhausen trilemma unsolved? Couldn't anybody find some reasons for proving/disproving it? Or are there other reasons for it being called "unsolved"? the trilemma If we ask of ...
  • 309
17 votes
7 answers
873 views

Is it possible for a layperson to suitably evaluate scientific disputes?

As a layperson, I try not to fall victim to the Dunning-Kruger effect. As an example, one area where I know that I am vulnerable is when biochemistry intersects with nutrition and disease. Is it ...
16 votes
4 answers
2k views

Does skepticism inevitably lead to ethical relativism?

In this question, I will make a slippery slope argument. It's probably fallacious, but your task is the identify the point where one step does not inevitablly lead to the next step and explain why ...
  • 6,943
14 votes
6 answers
2k views

"I trust my senses" — Why does this tend to be restricted to the external senses?

I routinely come across mini-epistemologies that start with something like: Cogito ergo sum. (presupposes "I", oops!) My senses are sufficiently reliable. These days, it is often admitted that we ...
  • 2,961
11 votes
8 answers
5k views

Is watching an amputated limb regrow proof of the supernatural?

A typical challenge skeptics present when confronted with claims of alleged miracles is "why won't God Heal amputees?". But, would that do the job? Consider the following thought experiment: ...
11 votes
7 answers
3k views

How can a non-religious person justify or rationalize hope or optimism in an absurd world?

I don't mean to make this post too personal, but I've been in the midst of the first kind of existential funk in my life. A bunch of negative things have happened around me recently, and as a pretty ...
  • 947
11 votes
9 answers
487 views

What epistemic principle allows us to be certain that highly improbable events will never occur in real life?

Consider the following scenario: I am alone at home and I accidentally spill a bottle of ketchup on my kitchen floor, and the ketchup splatters across the floor in such a way as to form the words "...
10 votes
6 answers
2k views

Is there any counterexample given against radical skepticism?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_skepticism I am thinking that simple statement such as "I am", "I think" are all beliefs that are also knowledge and conditional statements ...
  • 1,737
10 votes
5 answers
931 views

How far can/should one press philosophical doubt?

Should we keep on questioning until nothing is left to question or is there a point on which we need to stand (which we often tend to do)? Descartes used 'I think' as this fixed point where the ...
9 votes
6 answers
876 views

Claims that we know (virtually) nothing - can they be refuted?

Here's an argument that I've heard a number of times from friends and on the Internet: "The ratio of what we know about the universe to what we have yet to discover is so small - it is therefore ...
8 votes
16 answers
4k views

Can we doubt all knowledge?

Can we doubt all knowledge from all sources (perception, reports, and reason)? Regarding doubting reason, reason can't be proven, it is preceived and judged instantly by our logic, but what if our ...
  • 288
8 votes
5 answers
615 views

Epistemic value of multiple eyewitness accounts: single event vs. multiple events given a fixed number of eyewitnesses?

Intuitively speaking, multiple independent eyewitness accounts of a single event are more convincing than a single eyewitness account. For example, multiple independent eyewitness accounts of a loud ...
7 votes
6 answers
664 views

Philosophical assumptions underlying science

I am a medical student and have been interested lately in the foundations of the scientific research method I have been taught. I've read that there is in fact no such thing as a unique scientific ...
  • 123
7 votes
1 answer
390 views

Hume on infinity

I know Hume argued against dividing finite space into infinitely many regions, but I can't seem to find anything regarding his thoughts on infinity itself. From his Enquiry you sort of get that he ...
6 votes
1 answer
1k views

Was the Brain-in-a-Vat thought experiment explored philosophically before Putnam?

On SciFi.SE there's a question about the origins of "captive brains" in literature. Upon seeing the question I presumed it originated as a philosophical thought experiment (and then made it's way to ...
  • 1,097
6 votes
4 answers
781 views

Why is "the problem of criterion" problematic?

If I understand it correctly, the problem of criterion is essentially that you can only identify knowledge if you have the criteria for knowledge, but that you can only have the criteria for knowledge ...
  • 63
6 votes
2 answers
2k views

Was Karl Popper a "dedicated opponent of all forms of scepticism"? If so, why, or how?

While reading the Wikipedia article on Karl Popper, I was surprised to find that one of the article's sources, in its lede paragraph, claims that Karl Popper was a "dedicated opponent of all forms of ...
6 votes
3 answers
196 views

Do we cause words to mean things, or do words cause us to mean things?

This question occurred to me while reviewing a skeptical argument from Kripke regarding semantics: Suppose that I’ve never dealt with numbers larger than 57. (Given our finite nature and the ...
6 votes
4 answers
208 views

Question about Cogito, ergo sum

As far as I know Decartes tried to prove that he existed from the fact that he was thinking. And he thought this was only proof. My question is following: -- why is the argument brought up above, ...
  • 69
6 votes
1 answer
170 views

How are the assumptions underlying logic chosen?

Logic works based on certain assumptions about its rules. How are these axiomatic assumptions selected in the first place, given that a system of logic does not exist prior to the point of selection? ...
  • 61
6 votes
2 answers
857 views

Kant vs Brain in the vat

If my interpretation is correct, Kant argued in the Critique of pure reason and Prolegomena that: The existence of an external world guarantees that we can intuit, conceive, etc internally. This ...
5 votes
3 answers
1k views

Did Wittgenstein's maxim about doubt and knowing originate from Descartes?

Wittgenstein said, "If you cannot doubt a thing, you cannot know it." For example he said that you cannot know your pain because you cannot doubt that you are in pain. I don't quite understand this ...
  • 502
5 votes
1 answer
450 views

How does Descartes make contact with the world?

Descartes' cogito allows him to deny extreme sceptism; but then how does he actually make contact with the world as opposed to saying - I exist and the world is my (unconscious) invention -, i.e. ...
5 votes
2 answers
1k views

Convincing a brain in a vat of reality

Pondering at the arguments at wiki: In other words, if a brain in a vat stated "I am a brain in a vat", it would always be stating a falsehood. If the brain making this statement lives in the "...
's user avatar
5 votes
2 answers
372 views

Does externalism solve the Münchhausen trilemma?

In traditional (access-)internalist epistemology, justification is a relation between beliefs, or sets of beliefs. My belief that it will rain today is justified by beliefs about the season, my ...
  • 3,758
5 votes
3 answers
432 views

Serious arguments against skepticism about the external world?

As we all know, Kant wrestled with Cartesian skepticism for a long time. And of course, Descartes himself did, but he appeals to a version of the ontological argument which is not very persuasive. ...
  • 3,951
4 votes
11 answers
1k views

Shouldn't fallibilism be a reason to abandon science?

The Wikipedia page on Fallibilism (currently) makes the intriguing claim that "Fallibilism is related to Pyrrhonistic Skepticism, in that Pyrrhonists of history are sometimes referred to as ...
  • 1,229
4 votes
5 answers
180 views

Arguments against agnosticism/skepticism and for gnostic atheism?

In agnosticism/skepticism, we can't say we know there's no god, soul, afterlife, etc because "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence", also known as "just because you haven't ...
  • 1,184
4 votes
1 answer
415 views

An Argument against Descartes's radical doubt

Reflecting on Descartes's evil genius, I came up with an argument to use against his radical skepticism, that is, when he doubts even the basic laws of logic and basic mathematics (3 + 2 = 5). The ...
4 votes
5 answers
1k views

Is this a legitimate solution to the brain in a vat problem?

The problem: "Since the brain in a vat gives and receives exactly the same impulses as it would if it were in a skull, and since these are its only way of interacting with its environment, then it is ...
  • 379
4 votes
2 answers
3k views

What is Kant’s strategy to overcome Humean skepticism without having recourse to the metaphysical excesses of rationalism?

I understand that by metaphysical excesses, he meant supernatural entities, such as God, or the soul, to explain things in the phenomenal world. Also, to my understanding, Hume's skepticism boils ...
  • 141
4 votes
1 answer
1k views

What are the skepticism ideas Nagel refers to in "The Absurd"?

In Thomas Nagel's article "The Absurd", there's this note: I am aware that skepticism about the external world is widely thought to have been refuted, but I have remained convinced of its ...
  • 1,082
4 votes
1 answer
145 views

An Argument that Knowledge is a Matter of Choice

I have met someone who argues as follows: What I know depends on what axioms I take. As these axioms are left unjustified, I have as much justification for them as for their negations, so I could ...
3 votes
3 answers
177 views

Who was the first (philosopher/scientist?) to say that we can't know much about the outer world?

Kant was always talking about the 'ding an sich', that we can't know what such a thing is in reality. But from Descartes we already have the thesis that we can only really know our perceptions, while ...
  • 999
3 votes
4 answers
715 views

Slippery slope fallacy, clarification on its correct use

I was having a discussion with some friends about Charlottesville, (BTW We're from and live in Ireland) My friend was supporting the idea of physically assaulting Neo Nazi's. My argument was number ...
3 votes
6 answers
2k views

Is there any connection between mental illness and philosophical thought?

Philosophical position like solipsism are well thought out and definitely rational. Nevertheless it's unusual from practical commoner's point of view. Is it possible that mental condition like de-...
3 votes
2 answers
195 views

Should a skeptic consider anecdote as evidence?

I asked this question on Skeptics SE, and they referred me here. I've heard some skeptics say that any anecdotal evidence should be dismissed immediately, as anecdote is notoriously unreliable. ...
  • 133
3 votes
2 answers
3k views

Inductive reasoning and justification

Most people agree that knowing something one acquired from inductive reasoning is knowledge, that is justified true belief. For example we observed for years, that Sun rises from the East, we still ...
3 votes
1 answer
89 views

Is Dennett what Williamson calls a Judgement Skeptic?

Timothy Williamson in Evidence in Philosophy, chapter 7 section 3 of his book "Philosophy of Philosophy" (2007), conveys the notion of the Judgement Skeptic - e.g. (bold emphasis is mine) ...
3 votes
1 answer
102 views

What is the name of the school of thought that holds "humans did it"?

My world view is that there is no way to peek behind the curtains of the universe to reveal its truths-- whether spiritual, religious, or even scientific. I don't think the word to describe this is ...
3 votes
2 answers
2k views

Is Universal Skepticism self-defeating? [duplicate]

Universal Skepticism seems to boldly claim certainty in the knowledge that knowledge is impossible. The obvious contradiction here is that if they really believe their own theory, it should force ...
3 votes
3 answers
298 views

Regarding Atheism and skeptics

Do there exist non-religious or non-christian writers or philosophers that analyse Atheism from a skeptical point of view?
  • 307
3 votes
1 answer
272 views

Is philosophical (total) skepticism compatible with the modern scientific world view?

I've been interested in philosophical skepticism lately as I've just recently learned about the close relationship between certain schools of ancient skepticism and fallibilism, which I'm told is the ...
  • 1,229
3 votes
1 answer
288 views

What do Montaigne, Paine, and Wittgenstein have in common?

What do philosophers Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), Thomas Paine (1736-1809), and Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) have in common? I found this question scribbled in the margin of a library copy ...
  • 1,644