Skepticism

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Skepticism

  1. 1. REASEARCH ON SKEPTICISM, RELATIVISM, HUMAN ACTS AND ACTS OF HUMAN Amanda Rosa Blanca R. Arevalo PROFETH 1 20 September 2012 BSIT – 101P SKEPTICISM Skepticism has many definitions, but generally refers to any questioning attitude of knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere. Skepticism, also known as Pyrrhonism or Pyrrhonic Skepticism, after the early proponent Pyrrho of Elis, is the philosophical position that one should refrain from making truth claims, and avoid the postulation of final truths. This is not necessarily quite the same as claiming that truth is impossible, which would itself be a truth claim, but is often also used to cover the position that there is no such thing as certainty in human knowledge. The term is derived from the Greek verb "skeptomai", which means "to look carefully, to reflect”, and the early Greek Skeptics were known as the Skeptikoi. In everyday usage, Skepticism refers to an attitude of doubt or incredulity, either in general or toward a particular object, or to any doubting or questioning attitude or state of mind. It is effectively the opposite of dogmatism, the idea that established beliefs are not to be disputed, doubted or diverged from. The word may characterize a position on a single matter, as in the case of religious skepticism, which is doubt concerning basic religious principles, such as immortality, providence, and revelation. Philosophical skepticism is an overall approach that requires all new information to be well supported by evidence. Skeptics may even doubt the reliability of their own senses. Most scientists are empirical skeptics who admit the possibility of knowledge based on evidence, but hold that new evidence may always overturn these findings. In philosophy, it can refer to: an inquiry the limitations of knowledge a method of obtaining knowledge through systematic doubt and continual testing the arbitrariness, relativity, or subjectivity of moral values a method of intellectual caution and suspended judgment Page 1
  2. 2. REASEARCH ON SKEPTICISM, RELATIVISM, HUMAN ACTS AND ACTS OF HUMAN PROFETH 1 BRIEF HISTORY OF SKEPTICISM Philosophical Skepticism originated with the Skeptic school of ancient Greece. Pyrrho of Elis, who travelled and studied as far as India, propounded the adoption of what he called "practical skepticism". He became overwhelmed by his inability to determine rationally which of the various competing schools of thought of the time was correct. Upon admitting this to himself, he finally achievedthe inner peace or “ataraxia” that he had been seeking. However, even earlier than this, Gorgias claimed that nothing exists; or, if something does exist, then it cannot be known; or if something does exist and can be known, it cannot be communicated. Gorgias, however, is known primarily as a Sophist rather than as a philosophical skeptic. Socrates claimed that he knew one and only one thing: that he knew nothing. Thus, rather than making assertions or opinions, he set about questioning people who claimed to have knowledge, ostensibly for the purpose of learning from them. Although he never claimed that knowledge is impossible, he never claimed to have discovered any piece of knowledge whatsoever, even at his death. Around 266 B.C., Arcesilaus (c. 316 - 241 B.C.) became head of Plato’s Academy in Athens, and he strongly changed the Academy's emphasis from Platonism to Skepticism, and it remained the centre of "Academic Skepticism" for the next two centuries. During the 1st Century B.C., Aenesidemus rejected many of the theories of the Academy and founded a separate Pyrrhonian Skepticism school, which revived the principle of epoche" or "suspended judgment" originally proposed by Pyrrho, as a solution to what he considered to be the insoluble problems of Epistemology. Towards the end of the 1st Century A.D., Agrippa the Skeptic established five tropes or grounds of doubt : Dissent - the uncertainty of the rules of common life, and of the opinions of philosophers. Progress ad infinitum - all proof requires some further proof and so on, to infinity. Page 2
  3. 3. REASEARCH ON SKEPTICISM, RELATIVISM, HUMAN ACTS AND ACTS OF HUMAN PROFETH 1 Relation - all things are changed as their relations become changed, or as we look upon them from different points of view. Assumption - the truth asserted is merely a hypothesis or assumption. Circularity - the truth asserted involves a vicious circle. Later followers of Pyrrho and Carneades developed more theoretical perspectives, and Sextus Empiricus (c. 200 A.D.) in particular incorporated aspects of Empiricism, the idea that the origin of all knowledge is sense experience, into the basis for asserting knowledge. Sextus and his followers considered both the claims to know and not to know to be equally dogmatic, and claimed neither. Instead, despite the apparent conflict with the goal of ataraxia, they claimed to continue searching for something that might be knowable. Sextus Empiricus listed at least ten modes of skepticism, which can be broken down into three main categories: that of the subjective perceiver - the powers of the senses and of reasoning may vary across persons; that of the objective world - the positions, distances and places of objects would seem to affect how they are perceived by a person; and that of the relation between the perceiver and the world - any given perception will always be perceived within some context or other. After centuries of religious dogmatism throughout the Middle Ages, Skepticism again resurfaced during the late Renaissance, and particularly during the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th Century. Michel de Montaigne (1533 - 1592) in France and Francis Bacon in England both took as their starting point the skeptical viewpoint that they knew nothing for certain, as did Blaise Pascal and René Descartes, although these early pioneers were careful not to discard their Christian beliefs. Descartes established a methodological skepticism, also known as Cartesian Skepticism, in which he rejected any idea that can be doubted, and then attempted to re-establish it in order to acquire a firm foundation for genuine knowledge. His famous formulation "Cogito, ergo sum" is sometimes stated as "Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum” ("I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am"). Page 3
  4. 4. REASEARCH ON SKEPTICISM, RELATIVISM, HUMAN ACTS AND ACTS OF HUMAN PROFETH 1 Descartes also posited the "dream argument", one of the most popular skeptical hypotheses, that the fact that it is so difficult to tell whether one is dreaming or not provides preliminary evidence that the senses that we use to distinguish reality from illusion should not be fully trusted. In addition, he hypothesized the possible existence of an evil demon, which presents a complete illusion of an external world, including other people, to the senses, where in fact no such external world exists. This idea morphed much later into the brain in a vat thought experiment, in which a brain perceived experiences, while held in a mad scientist's vat wired up to a super-computer, cannot be distinguished from the real thing. David Hume, one of the British Empiricists, argued that even the most basic beliefs about the natural world, or even in the existence of the self, cannot be conclusively established by reason, but we accept them anyway because of their basis in instinct and custom. FORMS OF SKEPTICISM Moral Skepticism is the belief that moral knowledge is either nonexistent or unattainable. Many moral skeptics also make the stronger, modal, claim that moral knowledge is impossible. Moral skepticism is particularly opposed to moral realism, which is the view that there are knowable, mindindependent moral truths. Religious Skepticism or Theological Skepticism is Skepticism regarding faithbased claims. It does not necessarily imply either Atheism or Agnosticism. Religious skeptics question religious authority, and are not necessarily antireligious but are those skeptical of a specific or all religious beliefs or practices. Metaphysical Skepticism is a type of local skepticism which denies any metaphysical knowledge. Scientific Skepticism or Empirical Skepticism is the questioning of the reliability of certain kinds of claims by subjecting them to a systematic investigation using the scientific method, the formulation and testing of hypotheses through observation and experimentation. A scientific skeptic merely seeks likely proof before accepting any knowledge, especially in controversial areas such as health claims, environmental claims, parapsychology, the existence of unproven creatures, etc. Page 4
  5. 5. REASEARCH ON SKEPTICISM, RELATIVISM, HUMAN ACTS AND ACTS OF HUMAN PROFETH 1 CRITICISMS OF SKEPTICISM Some critics have suggested that just because something cannot be proven does not necessarily mean that it is not known or that there is no justification in believing it. Descartes wanted absolutely certain knowledge, but that is not the only possibility, and some would argue that well-justified knowledge is sufficient. Others have argued that Skepticism turns its own claims on their heads because a skeptic cannot be certain that Skepticism is true. Thomas Reid (1710 - 1796), founder of the Scottish School of Common Sense, argued that, if perception and the other cognitive processes are not reliable, then the faculty of reasoning which the skeptic uses is also bound to be unreliable too. So, either the skeptic is right, in which case we cannot trust our ability to reason and therefore cannot trust the skeptic's conclusion; or the skeptic is wrong, in which case again we cannot trust the skeptic's conclusion. RELATIVISM Relativism is the concept that points of view have no absolute truth or validity, having only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration. The term is often used to refer to the context of moral principle, where in a relativistic mode of thought, principles and ethics are regarded as applicable in only limited context. There are many forms of relativism which vary in their degree of controversy. The term often refers to truth relativism, which is the doctrine that there are no absolute truths, meaning that truth is always relative to some particular frame of reference, such as a language or a culture. Another widespread and contentious form is moral relativism. Some relativists such as Ludwig Wittgenstein in his Philosophical Investigations claim that humans can understand and evaluate beliefs and behaviors only in terms of their historical or cultural context. BRIEF HISTORY OF RELATIVISM The word ‘relativism’ first appeared in 1859 in the writings Scottish philosopher Sir William Hamilton. More interesting than the origin of the word ‘relativism’ is the fact that the idea goes back long before the 18th-19th centuries. Scholars generally agree that the first ‘relativist’ was the ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras (approximately 490-421 BC). Protagoras was a ‘Sophist’, an itinerant teacher of grammar, literature and Page 5
  6. 6. REASEARCH ON SKEPTICISM, RELATIVISM, HUMAN ACTS AND ACTS OF HUMAN PROFETH 1 philosophy. The opening line in his book called Alētheia (Greek for ‘Truth’) declared: 'Man is the measure of all things: of the things which are, that they are, and of the things which are not, that they are not.' His provocative point was that truth and falsehood are determined not by things outside of a person, but from a person’s own perspective. Plato ( 428-348 BC) provided a devastating critique of Protagoras’ idea that ‘Man is the measure of all things’. If everything is relative to man’s perspective, argued Plato, that must also apply to Protagoras’ own idea that truth is relative. If so his view is just an opinion and so not worth worrying much about. But if Protagoras really thinks it is True that things are only true according to a person’s perspective, then, that would mean Protagoras’ idea is actually false because at least one truth (Protagoras’ idea) would then not be relative. In other words, Plato showed that relativism of the strict kind proposed by Protagoras, refuted itself. As soon as you believe it is True you prove that it isn’t. Most were satisfied with Plato’s response to Protagoras and so it was two millennia before people started to have another serious look at the relativist idea. As time rolled on numerous cultural ripples gathered pace and came together to form a wave which many today enjoy riding. Some important ‘ripples’ in the wave of relativism include the following : Philosophy The German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), argued that the true nature of reality was beyond our human senses. All we can deal with are the phenomena we see, smell, touch and so on. The deeper stuff of life, like God and morality, are inaccessible to us via our human senses. Kant was not rejecting these deeper things, which he called ‘noumena’. He certainly was not a relativist. He believed both in God and in a universal moral law. But the effect of his philosophy was that people who didn’t believe in God and an Absolute moral code started to argue that only things you can see, touch, smell and so on are objectively real; all the other stuff was subjective speculation. Anthropology A major contributor to the wave of relativism was cultural anthropology, the comparative study of human societies. Early Page 6
  7. 7. REASEARCH ON SKEPTICISM, RELATIVISM, HUMAN ACTS AND ACTS OF HUMAN PROFETH 1 anthropologists assumed that Western culture was superior to all others. This assumption began to be challenged, however, by a new breed of anthropologists including the German-born Franz Boas (18581942) and the Americans Ruth Benedict (1887-1948) and Margaret Mead (1901-1978). These anthropologists insisted that no one from one culture has the right to critique another culture. British ways are only ‘truths’ within British culture and have no relevance for assessing the cultures of the Native Americans (studied by Benedict) or the Samoans (studied by Mead). Psychology Modern psychology played a part in the rise of relativism with its key insight that many of our actions and beliefs are determined by patterns of thought which lie beneath the surface of our everyday consciousness. A notable figure is Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), the German father of psychoanalysis. Freud argued that the entire religious sentiment was the result of our infantile longings for a protective father figure and/or a regression to our earliest postnatal feelings of oneness with our mothers. Freud and other early psychologists had a real impact on Western views of religious ‘truth’. It could be argued that religion was an internal psychological phenomenon. Not only are religious beliefs social constructs, that is, ‘true’ only relative to a communal framework, they are psychological constructs as well, meaning ‘true’ only within the framework of the believer’s mind. This relativising of beliefs to a psychological process established Relativism itself. FORMS OF RELATIVISM Anthropological Relativism vs Philosophical Relativism Anthropological Relativism refers to a methodological stance, in which the researcher suspends his or her own cultural biases while attempting to understand beliefs and behaviors in their local contexts. This has become known as methodological relativism, and concerns Page 7
  8. 8. REASEARCH ON SKEPTICISM, RELATIVISM, HUMAN ACTS AND ACTS OF HUMAN PROFETH 1 itself specifically with avoiding ethnocentrism or the application of one's own cultural standards to the assessment of other cultures. Philosophical relativism, in contrast, is the skeptical position that asserts that the truth of a proposition depends on who interprets it because no moral or cultural consensus can or will be reached. Methodological relativism and philosophical relativism can exist independently from one another, but most anthropologists base their methodological relativism on that of the philosophical variety. Descriptive versus normative relativism The concept of relativism also has importance both for philosophers and for anthropologists in another way. In general, anthropologists engage in descriptive relativism, whereas philosophers engage normative relativism. Descriptive relativism assumes that certain cultural groups have different modes of thought, standards of reasoning, and so forth, and it is the anthropologist's task to describe, but not to evaluate the validity of these principles and practices of a cultural group. It is possible for an anthropologist in his or her fieldwork to be a descriptive relativist about some things that typically concern the philosopher, such as ethical principles, but not about others, like logical principles. However, the descriptive relativist's empirical claims about epistemic principles, moral ideals and the like are often countered by anthropological arguments that such things are universal. Normative relativism concerns normative or evaluative claims that modes of thought, standards of reasoning, or the like are only right or wrong relative to a framework. ‘Normative’ is meant in a general sense, applying to a wide range of views; in the case of beliefs, for example, normative correctness equals truth. This does not mean that frameworkrelative correctness or truth is always clear, the first challenge being to explain what it amounts to in any given case. Normative relativism therefore implies that things are not simply true in themselves, but only have truth values relative to broader frameworks. Page 8
  9. 9. REASEARCH ON SKEPTICISM, RELATIVISM, HUMAN ACTS AND ACTS OF HUMAN PROFETH 1 CRITICISMS OF RELATIVISM A common argument against relativism suggests that it inherently contradicts, refutes, or stultifies itself: the statement "all is relative" classes either as a relative statement or as an absolute one. If it is relative, then this statement does not rule out absolutes. If the statement is absolute, on the other hand, then it provides an example of an absolute statement, proving that not all truths are relative. However, this argument against relativism only applies to relativism that positions truth as relative. Another argument against relativism posits a Natural Law. The physical universe works under basic principles: the "Laws of Nature". Some contend that a natural Moral Law may also exist. The philosopher Plato opposed relativism. He criticized the views of the sophist Protagoras in his dialogue Thaetetus where he argued that relativism is self defeating when he said "My opinion is: Truth must be absolute and that you Mr. Protagoras, are absolutely in error. Since this is indeed my opinion, then you must concede that it is true according to your philosophy." An argument made by philosopher Hilary Putnam, among others, states that some forms of relativism make it impossible to believe one is in error. If there is no truth beyond an individual's belief that something is true, then an individual cannot hold their own beliefs to be false or mistaken. A related criticism is that relativizing truth to individuals destroys the distinction between truth and belief. MATRIX : REVOLUTIONS One of the basic philosophical themes of the Matrix movies is skepticism, specifically, philosophical skepticism that questions the nature of reality and whether we can ever actually know anything at all. This theme is played out in the conflict between the "real" world wh ere humans are struggling to survive in a war against the machines and the "simulated" world where humans are plugged into computers in order to serve the machines. Or is it? The character of Morpheus even suggests that what is "real" is open to question, stating: "What is 'real'? How do you define 'real'? If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then 'real' is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain." In the Matrix : Revolutions, Neo was given a gift, a spoon before he left Zion for the final time. This is with reference to the first movie where he learned that the principle of questioning and Page 9
  10. 10. REASEARCH ON SKEPTICISM, RELATIVISM, HUMAN ACTS AND ACTS OF HUMAN PROFETH 1 manipulating the simulated "reality" of the Matrix can be summarized in the phrase, "There is no spoon." In other words, what appears to be real is actually illusion - there is no spoon, just your mind. If the Matrix is a computer simulation that exists within a larger simulation that encompasses Zion, what about the world beyond that? And the world beyond that? Just how deep does the rabbit hole actually go? Once we reject the truth of one utterly convincing reality, we are compelled to doubt and question the reality of any other world presented to us as being "real." There might not be an end to the rabbit hole at all - perhaps that is a message of The Matrix: no matter how deep we delve, we'll never reach an end of illusions, questions, and doubts. THE TRUMAN SHOW The Truman Show is a film that centers on the life of Truman Burbank. At birth, Truman is legally adopted by a major television network to be the unknowing star of a television series, in which his entire life is watched by an audience of millions through an intricate series of hidden cameras. Christof, the main figure behind the con cept of the Truman Show constructs an artificial world, entitled Seahaven, around Truman, which is actually just an extremely large television set. Everyone participating in this created world is an actor except for Truman himself. Truman is the only “authentic” person in this constructed world; even his mother, father, and wife are paid actors/actresses. Throughout his entire life, the television network is on a continual mission to keep Truman in ignorance of his situation through the manipulation of his environment. Truman becomes suspicious of his perceived reality and embarks on a quest to discover the truth about his life. The film follows Truman’s eventual realization of the true nature of his reality and his dramatic escape from the artificial world. Like The Matrix Revolutions, The Truman Show depicts a character who inhabits a false reality and Truman is the only one who is being fooled by this false reality. Truman is surrounded by a false world of false people and gradually starts to realize that things do not add up. HUMAN ACTS AND ACTS OF MAN Acts are termed human when they are proper to man as man; when, on the contrary, they are elicited by man, but not proper to him as a rational agent, they are called acts of man. Human acts and acts of man are two phrases that both pertains to actions executed or done by man. However, not all acts performed by man can be considered as a human act since this classification Page 10
  11. 11. REASEARCH ON SKEPTICISM, RELATIVISM, HUMAN ACTS AND ACTS OF HUMAN PROFETH 1 will depend largely on the degree of consciousness and the will that accompanies it. This means that those acts which involved only the instinct and lack all process of reflection by the subject is considered merely as “acts of man” as they are made automatically and without the intervention of the qualities that differentiate it from other species, such as the will and understanding. To say that a particular action is a human act or an act of man involves a deep analysis of the circumstances behind the execution of the act. The Science of Ethics is greatly concerned with the study of man, particularly with his/her actions. Ethics intends to determine whether the action taken by man is moral or immoral in the grounds of morality. Human action or human act should be investigated because it is being considered that not all human actions are considered as human act. HUMAN ACTS “Human acts,” as defined by the catechism are not merely anything that human beings may causally bring about. Rather, a “human act” is what humans “do” through their free and deliberate choices. All such choices in particular instances can be evaluated as being either morally good or bad choices, and typically lead to good or bad actions respectively. Three factors must be present in order to say that an action by man is a “human act” : Knowledge – You know that you are doing it The Will - the ability to decide the performance of the act knowing the intended purpose. No one forced you to do it. Freedom - The condition of power to do something in a certain way. Referring in this specific case of “human action” to free will. You chose to do it. The act committed must be done knowingly and willfully by any individual before we can declare that he/she is accountable for it. In short, an act committed without the knowledge and consent should not be considered as a human act. To consider that the act is a human act, it should be a voluntary act committed by an individual. The act must also be done with the individual’s knowledge and consent. The act committed should be considered as an act that is proper to man as man. Man alone has the intellect and the freedom of will to do the act. The act should Page 11
  12. 12. REASEARCH ON SKEPTICISM, RELATIVISM, HUMAN ACTS AND ACTS OF HUMAN PROFETH 1 also be committed in a conscious state and under the control of the individual in which he/she is responsible. The act should also be of those events or time that the individual is considered to be as the master, possessing the power to do the act or not as he/she intends to do. ACTS OF MAN Acts of man are acts that can be shared with other animals such as sleeping, eating, and walking. These are acts which man performs without being master of them through his intellect and will, and therefore, they are not voluntary. Some examples of Acts of Man are : The natural acts of vegetative and sense faculties such as digestion, beating of heart, growth, corporal reactions, visual or auditive perceptions. These acts, however, may become human acts when they are performed with malice, or when we are directed by the will, when we look at something or arouse ourselves. Acts of persons without the proper use of reason such as acts performed by children or insane persons Acts of people asleep or under the influence of hypnosis, alcohol or other drugs. Again, there may still be some degree of control by the will, but there is indirect responsibility if the cause of the loss of control is voluntary Primo-primi acts or acts that are quick and nearly automatic reactions, Reflex, and nearly instantaneous reactions without time for the intellect or will to intervene Acts performed under serious physical – or in some cases – moral violence Page 12

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