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Truth and Skepticism

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Truth and Skepticism

Post by OULGOUT Abdelouahed on Mon Nov 28, 2011 2:21 pm

Man is skeptic in nature. He can never lead his life without questioning his surrounding, which never stops bombarding him with questions and doubts. He is not totally free to make up his choice, but he is rather driven, to an uncertain extent, to confront the manifold contradictions in his culture- attitudes, beliefs, and values- which is not at all a completely independent entity. Man, being pressed like this, tends to express his mind in reaction to the incoming issues of our everyday life. The degree of such reactions varies in accordance with the personality, mentality, and the beliefs of people.

Some turn to be cool, easy going, and tolerant; yet others, if not most, behaves in a dogmatic and fanatic way. Is it possible, in such cases, for someone to be a non-dogmatic skeptic by simply withholding belief in cases where we appear to be confronted with compelling arguments in support a particular issue? Can one simply live his life merely according to appearances while being completely noncommittal with respect to the truth of a particular issue? To begin to examine these questions one has to eventually be at a loss as to what one should believe.

Truth is what we live for. Every person in every culture struggles to find a sense to his existence. His happiness lies in finding consistency between himself and his surroundings. For this reason, one always tends to accommodate the knowledge of the world through a variety of (re)actions and processes with respect to the truth of a particular issue. When confronted with arguments in support of an issue, people have more than a way to express their position. One can specifically list two kinds of people: dogmatic, non-dogmatic.

As for dogmatic people, the truth is always on their side, the arguments are there to support their point. The other is wrong no matter what his evidence looks like. Therefore truth is a pre-set value judgment which can never be subject to skepticism or counter argument. It’s idealistic, certain, top-down, and unquestionable.

Non-dogmatic, however, looks to this issue from a different wide angle. For a non-dogmatic skeptic, it’s not that necessary to show off his beliefs and precepts when confronted by some compelling arguments of a particular issue, for he can simply live his life merely according to appearances while being completely noncommittal with respect to the truth of that issue. In this way, one can simply maintain an internal happiness because he has built in a reasonable criterion (wisdom) to conduct his life. In this respect, Sextus remarks that

inasmuch as it was necessary . . . to investigate also the conduct of life, which cannot, naturally, be directed without a criterion, upon which happiness-that is, the end of life-depends for its assurance, Arcesilaus asserts that he who suspends judgment about everything will regulate his inclinations and aversion and his actions in general by the rule of “the reasonable [to eulogon],” and by proceeding in accordance with this criterion he will act rightly; for happiness is attained by means of wisdom, and wisdom consists in right actions, and the right action is that which, when performed, possesses a reasonable justification. He, therefore, who attends to “the reasonable” will act rightly and be happy (M 7.158, translated by Bury).

Withholding one’s belief or suspend our judgment in cases where we appear to be confronted with compelling arguments in support of a particular issue is therefore a sort of wisdom, and it’s likely to make a person happy and satisfied.

Well it’s not so important for me to let others see and believe that "X is always Y" or "X is never Y" to lead a happy and satisfactory life, for I can simply continue to believe what I believe while my belief is kept secret. Yes, it’s possible; If I want I can. This is a conditional principle and everyone can put it into action, a normally right action.

It’s true however, that culture - because of its transitional nature- might turn the individual into a power-driven, dogmatic skeptic, struggling to embody his beliefs to be seen and adopted by anyone, yet history has proved that culture is not nature as the first is subject to change, especially as our awareness continues to grow and melt in the pluralism of the diverse universe and human community. So no one has ever had a right to be so dogmatic, yet anyone, on the other hand, might be so for a reason or for no reason at all.

For this reason, Aristocles argues, neither our sensations nor our opinions tell us truths or falsehoods. For this reason we should not put our trust in them one bit, but we should be unopinionated, uncommitted and unwavering, saying concerning each individual thing that it no more is than is not, or it both is and is not, or it neither is nor is not. The outcome for those who actually adopt this attitude, says Timon, will be first speechlessness, and then freedom from disturbance.

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