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Sophomoric Skepticism
December 2, 2008, 1:01 pm
Filed under: Culture, Epistemology

Some skeptics are positively giddy about their skepticism.  These folks understand their skepticism to be a kind of heroic achievement.  They see themselves as shaggy faced prophets or snub-nosed gadflies.  

How hilariously quaint.  You can only become such a person by conversion; a conversion into a tradition with sacred texts and saints and all the rest.  

And to persist in this kind of first-order skepticism is to remain hopelessly shallow.  I find the move into a deeper second-order ‘skepticism in skepticism’ to be irresistible.  What kind of slave to tradition do you have to be in order to stop short of doubting your doubts?  Again, how laughably quaint.

Yes, there is a kind of inevitability to first-order skepticism.  In a certain obvious sense, we do need to be skeptical, right?  But hasn’t it increasingly become clear that we also need to be skeptical of our skepticism?  

It seems to me that these skeptics have set their hearts on returning to an imaginary golden-age.  They are, in this sense, conservatives.  They want to return to a simpler time.   

But if you are brave enough to start doubting your doubts, I think you’ll discover that being a rational person is a matter of being a responsible believer.  Maybe you wish we lived in a simpler and less risky world.  We don’t!!!


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