A clear, comprehensive and concise definition of skepticism.

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bluegray (November 05, 2007, 09:18:11 AM):
To answer steveweiss, I thought it best to start a new thread. I would like some input from other members as well please. My definition will surely be different from others'.

My definition, as it is on the main page:
Quote
Modern skepticism is the method of using scientific principles to evaluate claims or ideas. This is a positive action, to separate sense from nonsense. Skepticism is therefore not to be confused with cynicism.

steveweiss (November 05, 2007, 09:49:30 AM):
Skepticism, as I understand it, as a philosophical position (or non-position) is "the theory that knowldege of reality is impossible by any means." In other word, there is no certainty, facts are provisional, and truth is impossible. The equivalent in the religious realm would be agnosticism. Comments?
steveweiss (November 05, 2007, 10:19:06 AM):
There seems to be some confusion between the terms cynicism and skepticism. I have indicated that skepticism questions the possibility of truth, while cynicism questions the honesty of motives (deceit). That both emphasise doubt may be the cause of the confusion, but the distinction is clear and fundamental.
bluegray (November 05, 2007, 10:30:30 AM):
I'm sure that most people would agree that in theory, our knowledge of reality will never be 100% or that we will never grasp the "truth" entirely. Science by definition also does not claim to know all the answers. Religion often does.

The best we can do is to try and get as close to the truth as possible. To do this we need a way to evaluate claims and ideas. Science is the best and most reliable tool we have to do this.

I would say it's reasonable to say knowledge of reality is impossible, especially in the short time we are alive. But impossible is a big word, and forever is a long time, so even that statement might prove to be wrong eventually. I try to stay away from absolute statements like that ;) It would be more honest to say that we just don't know (yet?)

The word 'skeptic' has a lot of negative connotations for some people. Which is why I like to point out the difference between skepticism and cynicism. I will also say, that as a skeptic, I would question a claim, not doubt it. Doubt for me, indicates some sort of certainty of it's invalidity. Of course, after proper evaluation and question, you are certainly entitled to doubt the truth of that claim.
steveweiss (November 05, 2007, 11:40:56 AM):
Your response confirms your skeptical viewpoint. The funny thing is that you have no problem making absolute statements in defense of skepticism. What could the terms truth and reality mean in the skeptical lexicon?

What skeptics fail to grasp is that truth is determined in a specified context. Of course, if one drops or is sloppy about context, no truth or facts can be known, but that does not mean that given the necessary and sufficient information that truth is impossible as you allege.

What skepticism amounts to is a negation of facts, cause and effect, and cognition itself. That makes skeptics the allies of mystics like those who toute religion as the ultimate truth because skeptics do not differentiate beween the valid and the arbitrary, just as agnostics do not.

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