What is the difference between mere doubting and philosophic scepticism

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Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2008 08:34 pm
What is the difference between mere doubting and philosophic scepticism??
 
Aristoddler
 
Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2008 10:48 pm
@Jessica phil,
It's an entirely different thought process...it's the difference between "just because" and "it's because...".


And the reason I thanked you for that post was because sometimes the simplest questions are the hardest ones to answer.
Good question, and I hope that you find the answer so you can share you epiphany with us all. Smile
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 7 Mar, 2008 06:18 am
@Jessica phil,
Jessica wrote:
What is the difference between mere doubting and philosophic scepticism??


Mere (ordinary) doubting is doubt about specific issues (does Esmeralda love me) .

Philosophical skepticism is doubt about whether we have knowledge in certain areas where we think we have knowledge. e.g. whether there is a God, or whether there is anything good or bad. or whether we can know what goes on in the minds of other people (local skepticism) or whether we have any knowledge at all (global skepticism).
 
Quatl
 
Reply Sun 16 Mar, 2008 01:16 pm
@kennethamy,
Doubting is in my opinion a piece of philosophical skepticism. Doubt is the emotion that leads us to skepticism.

There are historical philosophical movements which are called "skeptical." The word is used to refer to some ancient Greek philosophers "The Skeptics" (the term comes from them.) In general they thought that truth was unreachable in principle.

Later philosophers have been called skeptical as well. The label used in a general way can apply to theories that state limits to our ability to gain truth as well, a softer form of skepticism if you will.

The scientific method recruits skeptical concepts by attempting to falsify rather than prove. Scientific skepticism has obvious utility.

I tend to say of an argument that "I am skeptical" when I can explain why it is fragile, rather than when I only feel it is wrong then I'd say "I doubt it."
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 16 Mar, 2008 04:06 pm
@Quatl,
Quatl wrote:
Doubting is in my opinion a piece of philosophical skepticism. Doubt is the emotion that leads us to skepticism.

There are historical philosophical movements which are called "skeptical." The word is used to refer to some ancient Greek philosophers "The Skeptics" (the term comes from them.) In general they thought that truth was unreachable in principle.

Later philosophers have been called skeptical as well. The label used in a general way can apply to theories that state limits to our ability to gain truth as well, a softer form of skepticism if you will.

The scientific method recruits skeptical concepts by attempting to falsify rather than prove. Scientific skepticism has obvious utility.

I tend to say of an argument that "I am skeptical" when I can explain why it is fragile, rather than when I only feel it is wrong then I'd say "I doubt it."


Doubting is skepticism, but the question is how how does philosophical skepticism differ from ordinary skepticism? And he answer seems to lie in what are the sorts of things I doubt. In ordinary skepticism, when I doubt, I doubt the truth of certain particular propositions. My former example is that I may doubt that Esmeralda loves me. I am doubting that it is true that Esmeralda loves me. But the object of philosophical doubt is not the truth of any particular proposition, but the object of doubt is whether there can be knowledge in some particular area where it has been thought that there is knowledge. So, for instance, a philosophical skeptic about God doubt whether anyone can know that there is a God. A philosophical skeptic about God can (perhaps paradoxically) also be a fideist who has faith in the existence of God, and believes very strongly that God exists. But who denies, nevertheless, that anyone can know that God exists.The fideist holds that faith, not knowledge, is the chief thing in religion, and so is a skeptic about the existence of God. Not that he does not believe that God exists. He most certainly believes that God exists. But what he does not believe is that anyone can know that God exists. Therefore, we can say that ordinary skepticism is about truth, but that philosophical skepticism is not about truth, but about knowledge.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Sun 16 Mar, 2008 04:22 pm
@kennethamy,
The difference between mere doubt and philosophic skepticism?

Doubt and skepticism have no necessary differences. To be skeptical of something is to doubt something.

However, there does seem to be some emotional baggage when we use the word "philosophical" - as if philosophy is something apart from more mundane contemplation (whatever that is).

If we are going to differentiate between doubt and skepticism, we should remember that the difference is vague and mostly a manifestation of our need to think of our doubt as somehow more significant than doubting whether or not Jim has a big nose or something like that. If we are going to differentiate between doubt and skepticism, it seems doubt is more general, while skepticism is doubt with a more structured approach.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 16 Mar, 2008 06:31 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
The difference between mere doubt and philosophic skepticism?

Doubt and skepticism have no necessary differences. To be skeptical of something is to doubt something.

However, there does seem to be some emotional baggage when we use the word "philosophical" - as if philosophy is something apart from more mundane contemplation (whatever that is).

If we are going to differentiate between doubt and skepticism, we should remember that the difference is vague and mostly a manifestation of our need to think of our doubt as somehow more significant than doubting whether or not Jim has a big nose or something like that. If we are going to differentiate between doubt and skepticism, it seems doubt is more general, while skepticism is doubt with a more structured approach.


The difference is not vague. In fact I just defined it. Ordinary skepticism is doubt about whether a proposition is true, for instance whether God exists is true. But philosophical skepticism is doubt about knowledge, for instance, whether it is possible to know whether God exists. So a philosophical skeptic may not be an ordinary skeptic. He may have no doubt that it is true that God exists, for he may have strong faith that God exists. But, since he is a philosophical skeptic, he doubts that anyone can know that God exists. So, the person is not an ordinary skeptic about God, but he is a philosophical skeptic about God. Isn't that clear?
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Sun 16 Mar, 2008 06:46 pm
@kennethamy,
Yes, you provided a definition. One we might accept. What you have not done is shown that your distinction is a necessary distinction.

For example, doubting the existence of God can certainly extend to philosophical bounds, yet you call this "ordinary skepticism" because you limit "philosophical skepticism" to epistemology.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 16 Mar, 2008 09:47 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
Yes, you provided a definition. One we might accept. What you have not done is shown that your distinction is a necessary distinction.

For example, doubting the existence of God can certainly extend to philosophical bounds, yet you call this "ordinary skepticism" because you limit "philosophical skepticism" to epistemology.


I don't know what you mean by a "necessary distinction". The OP was a question about the distinction between "mere doubt" which I took to mean ordinary skepticism, and philosophic skepticism. The skepticism is an epistemological view. It it the view that knowledge is impossible. So, therefore, when I discuss skepticism, I have to discuss epistemology.

For instance, from The Skeptic's Dictionary we read:

Philosophical skepticism should be distinguished from ordinary skepticism, where doubts are raised against certain beliefs or types of beliefs because the evidence for the particular belief or type of belief is weak or lacking. Ordinary skeptics are not credulous or gullible. They don't take things on trust, but must see the evidence before believing. Ordinary skeptics doubt the miraculous claims of religions, the claims of alien abductions, the claims of psychoanalysis, etc. But they do not necessarily doubt that certainty or knowledge is possible. Nor do they doubt these things because of systematic arguments that undermine all knowledge claims.

So ordinary skeptics do not doubt that certainty or knowledge is impossible. That is what philosophical skeptics do doubt.

It seems to me that when a person says, in ordinary circumstances that he is a skeptic about God, we take him as saying that he does not believe that God exists. At least that is how I would understand him. But he is not saying anything about the possibility of knowledge that God exists. On the other hand, since skepticism in philosophy since ancient times is the doctrine that knowledge is impossible (global skepticism) or that knowledge is impossible in particular fields; religion, ethics, about the external world, etc. (and this is called "local skepticism" my answer to the question seems to be the standard way in which ordinary and philosophical skepticism is to be distinguished. Doesn't it seem so now to you.
 
Quatl
 
Reply Mon 17 Mar, 2008 04:45 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
Yes, you provided a definition. One we might accept. What you have not done is shown that your distinction is a necessary distinction.

For example, doubting the existence of God can certainly extend to philosophical bounds, yet you call this "ordinary skepticism" because you limit "philosophical skepticism" to epistemology.


I think it is useful to distinguish between disbelief on the basis of the particular facts, and disbelief on the basis of process or principle. The words are used interchangeably though I agree and it's simple enough to elaborate on a case by case basis.

It is not unusual for formal philosophy papers to include definitions for words used in a very specific manner. Which is a very good idea considering the obvious reasons for us to be skeptical of language's ability to transfer ideas to others Wink

Thinking there are limits to our ability to understand phenomena of various kinds with various approaches isn't that unusual, and is certainly not restricted to formal philosophy. "Skepticism" these days is rarely used in it's most extreme sense.

When conversing we have a certain amount of responsibility as listeners, to be cooperative in the sense of trying to understand what meaning the other person is trying to convey. As speakers we have a responsibility to be cooperative with our listener, by trying to use language in a reasonable way, and by attempting to head off semantic confusion.

Language is always somewhat ambiguous, does it strike only me as ironic that we are having a conversation about skepticism?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 17 Mar, 2008 06:58 am
@Quatl,
Quatl wrote:
I think it is useful to distinguish between disbelief on the basis of the particular facts, and disbelief on the basis of process or principle. The words are used interchangeably though I agree and it's simple enough to elaborate on a case by case basis.

It is not unusual for formal philosophy papers to include definitions for words used in a very specific manner. Which is a very good idea considering the obvious reasons for us to be skeptical of language's ability to transfer ideas to others Wink

Thinking there are limits to our ability to understand phenomena of various kinds with various approaches isn't that unusual, and is certainly not restricted to formal philosophy. "Skepticism" these days is rarely used in it's most extreme sense.

When conversing we have a certain amount of responsibility as listeners, to be cooperative in the sense of trying to understand what meaning the other person is trying to convey. As speakers we have a responsibility to be cooperative with our listener, by trying to use language in a reasonable way, and by attempting to head off semantic confusion.

Language is always somewhat ambiguous, does it strike only me as ironic that we are having a conversation about skepticism?


What is the "extreme sense" of skepticism? The OP asked about the difference between philosophical skepticism and ordinary doubt (which I took to be the ordinary sense of skepticism). The notion of skepticism is a very ancient one in Western philosophy, and it very often begins discussion of issues in the theory of knowledge in academic philosophy, since it us usually understood as the view that the achievement of knowledge (for what ever reason) is impossible. Is that what you mean by "the extreme sense"? It is certainly the philosophical sense, which is what the OP asked for. And philosophical skepticism is strong doubt that we knowledge is possible. That is how it has always been understood. Ordinary skepticism is, as I said, doubt about the truth, not the possibility of knowledge, of some common beliefs.

I don't see what is ironic about a conversation about skepticism. What ambiguity do you mean?
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 17 Mar, 2008 07:33 am
@Jessica phil,
kennethamy - I think you missed the point. We can, if we please, accept and use your distinctions - they might be useful. But you have not shown that doubt and skepticism are essentially different, as they are not essentially different given that to doubt something is to be skeptical about it.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 17 Mar, 2008 08:30 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
kennethamy - I think you missed the point. We can, if we please, accept and use your distinctions - they might be useful. But you have not shown that doubt and skepticism are essentially different, as they are not essentially different given that to doubt something is to be skeptical about it.


What I think I have pointed out is that philosophical doubt (philosophical skepticism) and ordinary doubt (ordinary skepticism) are different, since the former is directed at knowledge, and the latter at truth. And that is one way of tackling what is, after all, a fairly unclear distinction as stated. To doubt something is to be skeptical about it. But doesn't it make a different what you are doubting: in this case, whether it is knowledge, or whether it is truth? Why confuse them by saying they are both doubt-which they are, of course?
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 17 Mar, 2008 11:45 am
@kennethamy,
Quote:
What I think I have pointed out is that philosophical doubt (philosophical skepticism) and ordinary doubt (ordinary skepticism) are different, since the former is directed at knowledge, and the latter at truth.


And I do not think you have.

From what I can tell, you have pointed out that we can, if we find use in it, divide doubt into two categories - what you call "philosophical skepticism", which is supposed to be "philosophical doubt", and "ordinary doubt", which is supposed to be "ordinary skepticism".

You say there is doubt about knowledge, and then doubt about truth, and that they are two different things. I agree, we can be skeptical about knowledge, and we can be skeptical about truth. But as to why one such doubt is "philosophical" and another is "ordinary" you have not established at all. From what I can tell, philosophers have a rich history of being skeptical of both knowledge and truth.

Quote:
And that is one way of tackling what is, after all, a fairly unclear distinction as stated.


Earlier you stated the distinction is not vague.

But you are correct here, none the less. Your division is objectively accurate. But as you say, this division is one way - certainly there are others we could invent that would be equally as accurate.

Quote:
To doubt something is to be skeptical about it. But doesn't it make a different what you are doubting: in this case, whether it is knowledge, or whether it is truth?


But the thread started did not ask about knowledge or truth - the question was what is the difference between mere doubt, and philosophical skepticism.

In some cases, your division of the two is spot on, and perhaps useful to some discourse. But we can imagine other ways to divide the two, depending on circumstances and the need for making the distinction.

We should not fall into the trap of thinking that one way to divide doubt/skepticism is the only way, or that they are necessarily different in the first place. Philosophers have often doubted both truth and knowledge.

Quote:
Why confuse them by saying they are both doubt-which they are, of course?


Why confuse doubt by making unnecessary divisions within doubt? If the situation merits a distinction, make one. Otherwise, do not confuse yourself with word play and unnecessary lists of this thing and that thing.

In the corner there is a 6 foot metal pole. Is it a flag pole, or a weapon? I say both. I think I could probably come up with a few other uses.
Similarly, there is doubt. Is it ordinary or philosophical? Is it concerned with truth or knowledge?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 17 Mar, 2008 12:02 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
And I do not think you have.

From what I can tell, you have pointed out that we can, if we find use in it, divide doubt into two categories - what you call "philosophical skepticism", which is supposed to be "philosophical doubt", and "ordinary doubt", which is supposed to be "ordinary skepticism".

You say there is doubt about knowledge, and then doubt about truth, and that they are two different things. I agree, we can be skeptical about knowledge, and we can be skeptical about truth. But as to why one such doubt is "philosophical" and another is "ordinary" you have not established at all. From what I can tell, philosophers have a rich history of being skeptical of both knowledge and truth.





No doubt that is true. Philosophers have held that there is no truth, and, also that there is no knowledge. And furthermore, have held that there is no knowledge just because there is no truth. But, that is skepticism about knowledge. The point is that the term "skepticism" is traditionally an epistemic term. Skepticism is the view that knowledge (whatever that is) cannot be achieved. Perhaps in certain areas, perhaps not at all. Philosophers who are skeptical of the truth hold that knowledge of the truth is impossible. And philosophers who are skeptical of knowledge, hold that knowledge is impossible.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 17 Mar, 2008 12:25 pm
@Jessica phil,
Quote:
The point is that the term "skepticism" is traditionally an epistemic term.


That skepticism often applies to epistemic concerns does not mean skepticism is limited to epistemic concerns. Sure, skepticism often refers to epistemic skepticism, but this does not mean that, traditionally, skepticism has been limited to epistemic concerns. We can be skeptical about whether or not God exists, and not be skeptical about whether or not we can know God exists.

Quote:
Skepticism is the view that knowledge (whatever that is) cannot be achieved.


No.

Philosophical skepticism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Skepticism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 18 Mar, 2008 07:48 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
That skepticism often applies to epistemic concerns does not mean skepticism is limited to epistemic concerns. Sure, skepticism often refers to epistemic skepticism, but this does not mean that, traditionally, skepticism has been limited to epistemic concerns. We can be skeptical about whether or not God exists, and not be skeptical about whether or not we can know God exists.



No.

Philosophical skepticism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Skepticism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Well, of course we can be skeptical about whether God exists. I already pointed that out. That is what I called ordinary skepticism, or skepticism about the truth of the proposition that God exists. And I distinguished it from philosophical skepticism, which is skepticism about whether (for instance) we can know that God exists. If you like, we can call the first kind of skepticism, "truth skepticism", and the second kind, "knowledge skepticism". After all what words we use is far less important than the distinction they mark. As long as we make the distinction, I don't much care what we call it, except, of course, I would like the words to be appropriate for the sake of practicality.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Tue 18 Mar, 2008 01:07 pm
@kennethamy,
Quote:
Well, of course we can be skeptical about whether God exists. I already pointed that out. That is what I called ordinary skepticism, or skepticism about the truth of the proposition that God exists. And I distinguished it from philosophical skepticism, which is skepticism about whether (for instance) we can know that God exists. If you like, we can call the first kind of skepticism, "truth skepticism", and the second kind, "knowledge skepticism". After all what words we use is far less important than the distinction they mark. As long as we make the distinction, I don't much care what we call it, except, of course, I would like the words to be appropriate for the sake of practicality.


Right, and in being skeptical about whether God exists could rightly be called "philosophical skepticism" as the question is a common one to philosophy.

Don't get me wrong, I agree there is a difference between doubting the truth of something, and doubting whether or not we can know the truth of something.

I object to the arbitrary labeling of one of these as "philosophical" and the other as "ordinary". Your suggestion about "truth skepticism" and "knowledge skepticism" is more agreeable, but I would like to point out that if we accept these, your answer to the original question no longer seems accurate at all because both of these types of skepticism are 'philosophical'.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 18 Mar, 2008 02:56 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
Right, and in being skeptical about whether God exists could rightly be called "philosophical skepticism" as the question is a common one to philosophy.

Don't get me wrong, I agree there is a difference between doubting the truth of something, and doubting whether or not we can know the truth of something.

I object to the arbitrary labeling of one of these as "philosophical" and the other as "ordinary". Your suggestion about "truth skepticism" and "knowledge skepticism" is more agreeable, but I would like to point out that if we accept these, your answer to the original question no longer seems accurate at all because both of these types of skepticism are 'philosophical'.


I think this has become trivially verbal, like arguing about whether something should be called a "lift" or an "elevator" What some people like to call "semantics". Not that all linguistic issues are trivial, but this one is.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Tue 18 Mar, 2008 03:08 pm
@Jessica phil,
I see no reason why "ordinary skepticism" would be more appropriate than your later suggestion, "truth skepticism". You suggested that "ordinary skepticism" was different than "philosophical skepticism", even though both kinds of skepticism are common in the history of philosophy. This is why I like your later suggestions of "truth/knowledge skepticism" - they seem to be accurate representations of the concepts.

The problem is if we accept your later terminology, our initial question is now left unanswered. Unless you intend to argue that one kind of skepticism is somehow "ordinary" and the other "philosophical".
 
 

 
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