Sunday, April 23, 2006

"Question everything."
Astronomer Maria Mitchell


TheJollyNihilist said...

I absolutely believe that. In my recent discussion about moral relativism with Aaron Kinney, I stated that I hold NOTHING to be self-evident. That is, anything lacking hard evidence is doubtful. Intangible, gooey concepts like "morality," "spirituality," and "supernatural" are thus incoherent to me, as there is no hard evidence to illuminate potential definitions.

Aaron described me as a nihilist, which I think is probably accurate. I question everything, because I have doubts that fallible humans can rely on perception and reasoning alone to reach Truth. Where hard evidence is not present, no knowledge can be discovered.

Adam Scanlan said...

Yes, if only we gave our kids in schools the ability to do just that.

Stardust said...

I work a temporary job grading essay portions of academic achievement tests and it seems that questions are not a part of the curriculum...merely memorization and regurgitation to be able to spew out "correct" answers that will produce a higher score for the school districts so they can get more government funding to give those school districts more money for all their extra-curricular bullshit. Then, top that off with the stuff these kids have shoved into their brains in their churches, it's no wonder why prescription drugs for depression is so high in today's world, and why drug abuse is such a huge problem.

Jason H. Bowden said...

One can't rationally doubt everything. Kenneth Stern, who lectures on philosophy out in New York, once remarked that

"C.S. Peirce, the greatest and most original American philosopher commented that some philosophers seem to think that all you have to do in order to doubt is to say that you doubt (or think you doubt). So they follow Descartes in holding that it is possible (as least at first) to doubt anything and everything, since you can always just say, "I doubt it" and that would constitute doubting. It is, Pierce says, as if "doubting were as easy as lying." And that "all you have to do is to write down on a piece of paper that you doubt".

Pierce calls that kind of doubt, "paper doubt" and "sham doubt" because such doubts, first, are not backed up by reasons. If you claim to doubt some proposition or other you should be prepared to support your doubt. It isn't as if doubting were one of the Rights of Man. Why do you doubt that there is a table in front of you, for instance? And, second, such paper (sham) doubts, have no consequences in behavior. You can (paper or sham) doubt that you have a book in your hand and doubt there is a table in front of you, while, at the same time, laying the book down on the table. If that is what you do, then why should anyone even believe you when you claim you doubt that there is a book, and there is a table? Why, indeed, should you believe yourself?

One consequence of the problems of possible doubt is the problem of maintaining that knowledge is not possible if it is possible to doubt something or other. Peirce maintains that what undermines knowledge is not possible but actual doubt. Real or actual doubt is supported by reasons for thinking that what is doubted is not true, and real or actual doubt must be consistent with behavior (unless there is some other explanation). If you lay a book on a table, but maintain that you doubt there is a book or a talble, it is not enough simply to maintain you doubt. You have to be prepared to explain why you are doing what you are doing."

Stardust said...


Doubt and questioning are two different things:

question is to subject to analysis - EXAMINE

doubt - to consider unlikely

Adam Scanlan said...

Exactly Stardust,

We teach our kids what to think in school, not how to think. The latter is vastly more important in my view.