Sunday, January 3, 2016

An Overview of Skepticism

Skepticism or scepticism  is generally any questioning attitude towards unempirical knowledge or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere.

Philosophical skepticism is a systematic approach that questions the notion that absolutely certain knowledge is possible.  Classical philosophical skepticism derives from the 'Skeptikoi', a school who "asserted nothing".  Adherents of Pyrrhonism (and more recently, partially synonymous with Fallibilism), for instance, suspend judgment in investigations.  Skeptics may even doubt the reliability of their own senses.  Religious skepticism, on the other hand, is "doubt concerning basic religious principles (such as immortality, providence, and revelation)".  Scientific skepticism is about testing beliefs for reliability, by subjecting them to systematic investigation using the scientific method, to discover empirical evidence for them.


In ordinary usage, skepticism (US) or scepticism (UK) (Greek: 'σκέπτομαι' skeptomai, to think, to look about, to consider; see also spelling differences) refers to:

  1. an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object;
  2. the doctrine that true knowledge or some particular knowledge is uncertain; or
  3. the method of suspended judgment, systematic doubt, or criticism that is characteristic of skeptics (Merriam–Webster).
In philosophy, skepticism refers more specifically to any one of several propositions. These include propositions about:

  1. an inquiry,
  2. a method of obtaining knowledge through systematic doubt and continual testing,
  3. the arbitrariness, relativity, or subjectivity of moral values,
  4. the limitations of knowledge,
  5. a method of intellectual caution and suspended judgment.
Scientific Skepticism

A scientific (or empirical) skeptic is one who questions beliefs on the basis of scientific understanding. Most scientists, being scientific skeptics, test the reliability of certain kinds of claims by subjecting them to a systematic investigation using some form of the scientific method.  As a result, a number of claims are considered "pseudoscience" if they are found to improperly apply or ignore the fundamental aspects of the scientific method. Scientific skepticism may discard beliefs pertaining to things outside perceivable observation and thus outside the realm of systematic, empirical falsifiability/testability.

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