Exploring the Essence and Discussion Around Skepticism
In Philosophy class, I found that learning about skepticism was very interesting. The reason I chose this is because if I enjoyed learning about the topic, then writing a paper would be fun. Skepticism is the superior epistemological position because there is no way to prove that we know anything. What knowledge is exactly is “To realize that you know something when you do, and to realize that you do not when you do not…(Solomon & Higgins, 1982,p. 175, ). In this paper, I will argue that the other beliefs of knowledge cannot be proven.
So, some may ask what is skepticism? Skepticism is the philosophical view that no one knows anything. In order to discuss skepticism, you must know about the skeptical hypothesis. This is a hypothetical situation in where you pretend as if you do not know what it is that you actually do know. (Skepticism, Pete Mandik, 2019). For example, you think you believe that your phone is on you and you think it is vibrating in your pocket, but it turns out that you check your pocket and you actually find out that your phone is not even on you (Pete Mandik, 2019). This is just one scenario, but there are many examples of times where we think we know something, but we are mistaken. Therefore, it is not out of the ordinary to believe that we do not know anything. Also, there is an idea called the two-world assumption. In here, there are two claims. These claims that “there is an external world—that is, a world beyond our beliefs and experiences, which is not affected by what we happen to believe about it, and (2) we cannot ever make direct contact with the world itself but only with the contents of our own minds—with our ideas, our beliefs, our various experiences, and the principles that we find to be necessary truths”(Solomon & Higgins, 1982, p. 156). There are many instances where we falsely remember things, and we cannot know for sure whether they match up with the world at all (Solomon & Higgins, 1982, p. 157). In summation, our world of experiences is not matched up with the real world itself, so it is better to assume that we do not know anything.
There are four major varieties about skepticism. Skepticism about God, causation, other minds, and about the external world. In skepticism about God, theists ponder how we can know God lacks God-justifying reason to allow the evils we observe. (Law, 2017, para. 55). “Similarly, we cannot know God lacks God-justifying reason to allow the evils we observe” (Law, 2017, para. 55). There are several popular arguments that have to do with skepticism. Descartes questions if we are constantly dreaming all time. Although, he responses with that God would not fool him, so he can know the world after all (Solomon & Higgins, 1982, p. 158). It is unlikely, but when in a dream we never know that we are dreaming, so it is possible. Another famous philosopher, David Hume, explains that the most basic principles of our lives are without justification, and we never actually see the cause of events at all, but only that two events are found together (p. 161). Basically, what Hume is trying to say is that the things we think we know for sure, cannot be explained through experience or reason alone. There is no way to actually observe causation. The last philosopher that plays an important role in the development of this ideal, is Hume’s successor, Immanuel Kant. Kant suggests that the world that we know is just a world of our experiences. He calls it a synthetic a priori because like all necessary truths are prior to experience (p. 162-4). There are several instances when with friends, or family members where we attempt to recall past situations. However, it always seems that we never can agree on how events truly went down. With this information, we cannot rule out the possibility that we do not know anything.
Some might say that if we know the world through our experiences, then we know our experiences. However, these experiences could be false because of the brain in a vat theory. To sum it up, this theory states that you cannot rule out the possibility that you are a brain hooked up to a machine being fed created memories, and experiences. Additionally, these BIV’s are actually being created now. These brains have been created very similar to brains of 3 month old fetuses (Bricker, 2019, p. 135). A common rejection to this theory is, If S knows that P, then there are no close possible world in which S falsely believes that P exists. However, cerebral organoids exist, so there are possible worlds in which we are BIV’s. Therefore, there can possibly be a world where S believes that P exists.
Another popular case similar to the brain in a vat, is the Cogito or demon. How it starts is not even a demon could make you think “I am thinking” and make that thought false (Pete Mandik, Skepticism, 2019). The rest of the argument then goes, “Next, you thus know, with certainty, that you are thinking. If you are thinking, it follows that you exist. ‘I think, therefore I exist” (Pete Mandik, 2019). This theory is made by the philosopher Descartes, and he questions if it is possible that a Demon, or a supervillain is utilizing their talents to place false memories in your brain (Pete Mandik, 2019). Empiricists would not be able to defend themselves against this argument because they believe knowledge is based off of your senses. However, the skeptic claims that if your basing things off your sense, then you don’t know anything. Especially, now that it is proven that actual Brain in Vat’s can exist.
There are many that object the skeptics views and believe that there are things that we can know. For example, the Neo-Mooreanism beliefs made by G.E. Moore. His famous objection to skepticism is that we have hands, and we know that we have hands (Skepticism, Pete Mandik, 2019). However, in the article, “There Are Actual Brain in Vats Now”, by Adam Michael Bricker, he explains that this is no longer a valid response. There are already BIVs. Bricker explains that, “There will soon be conscious BIVs, and there is even already talk of connecting ‘numerous human organoids into working complexes’ in the near future (Bricker, 2019, 142). To begin with, this was not a very strong response to skepticism, and now with the creation of cerebral organoids it proves that us having hands does not prove that we exist any longer.
There is an article named, “Skeptical Theism and Skepticism about the external world”, by Stephen Law who rejects the skeptics belief. In the skeptical hypothesis known as Olly’s orange, imagine that there is an orange on the table, now imagine that there is a man named Olly who is projecting an image of the orange there onto the table (Law, 2017, para. 34). Do you really know for sure that there is an orange there on the table? He responds to this by saying that it is “reasonable for us to believe that things are perceptually as they appear to be, given I have good ground to accept, and do accept, that (i) there is a being easily capable of deceiving me perceptually…” (para. 44). This argument is based too much on senses. As I stated before, that once you make an argument based off your senses, you are incorrect. Also, it is not known whether the orange is there, Olly is projecting an image of orange there, or if you are simply a brain being given signals of an appearance of an orange. Therefore, you can only say that you do not know what it is that is appearing in front of you or if there is really anything actually there.
In the same article, skeptics state that is not known why God allows evil to exist (Law, 2017, para. 20). However, Law answers with that “we can also know at least some of God’s reasons by means of some form of direct, divine revelation” (para. 20). Although, this cannot be known because we are not always sure of what God is asking. We can take an educated guess, and attempt to serve him, however we do not know what it is exactly that God wants. Additionally, Law’s argument is based off too much on religion. It is also better to be skeptical about why God allows evil, rather than asking because in Christianity it is a big no-no to question the authority of God. It is much better to go with the flow, and not ask why he allows the events that occurs in our world. He also disagrees with skeptics because he says that they disagree over whether observed evils provides evidence against theism (para. 24). Even so, anyone that uses their senses, or observations as evidence is inherently wrong because our senses cannot be trusted. To conclude, Law’s argument is not strong because it is proven that our sight itself can deceive us.
In summation, skepticism is a very broad philosophical topic. The idea that we have to conclude that we know nothing is confusing, but it is the only effective way to summarize our knowledge. When pondering what we know, we cannot rule out that we are brains in a vat being sent sensations and having created memories. On top of that, there could also be an evil demon placing ideas in your head to make you believe what is that you are thinking. Some might say that skepticism is confusing and dumb so there is no importance in learning this topic. What skepticism does is that it allows us to think through to the point where we can actually defend what it is we believe.
Cite this Essay
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below