The skepticism of radical skeptics who demand a Cartesian point from which to examine any question, at least any question that has any bearing on how they ought to conduct themselves, varies according to subject matter. Very few are so skeptical that they doubt that the sun will rise tomorrow, even though they might have difficulty offering evidence for the heliocentric (or any other) theory of the solar system. These skeptics believe that when they turn the light switch, the light will come on, even though their grasp of the theory of electricity might not be strong. A ferocious and insatiable spirit of inquiry overtakes them, however, the moment they perceive their interests are at stake - their interests here being their freedom, or license, to act upon their whims. Then all the resources of philosophy are available to them in a flash, and are used to undermine the moral authority of custom, law, and the wisdom of ages.
Monday, June 15, 2015
One of the main topics of Theodore Dalrymple's In Praise of Prejudice is pointing out the many weaknesses and hypocrisies of those arguments which purport to only believe those things which are based on evidence. In fact no one does this, but picks and chooses instead. I had not known that the word nihilism comes from this determination to reject all inherited authority and belief, in favor of those things one can either prove with one's own eyes, or deduce from facts known to him. (Coined by Ivan Turgenev.) The current meaning is a bit different, but I think a natural result of the original philosophy.
Posted by Assistant Village Idiot at 7:54 PM