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Philosophy. “Scepticism” by Anthony Clifford Grayling Essay (Critical Writing)

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This article deals with the various theoretical aspects governing scepticism and tries to throw light on the contentions of the various schools of thoughts regarding their perception and perspective of what constitutes scepticism in the context of epistemological studies and how it impacts the existence of we human beings and our perennial quest for “knowledge of the world beyond our minds.” Nagel Thomas, What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy.

Area of debate

It has also referred to the works of Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650), whose works are considered of special significance in epistemological studies. In his work, Descartes has mentioned the presence of the ‘evil demon hypothesis ‘residing in the minds of humans, which seeks to contaminate the reasoning powers of human beings into taking unreasonable or irrational viewpoints on many matters affecting our daily lives. (A.C.Grayling: Scepticism: P 468: Methodological and problematic scepticism).

An absorbing duel

The basic fundamental of scepticism is the question of how the truth of the stated hypothesis or postulate has been gained or arrived at. Scepticism, in its positive connotation, is just a seeking mind, which does not accept facts as they are put across, but seeks to judge the rationale and reasoning behind such postulates. By assuming an attitude of mild expostulation, scepticism seeks to seek the truth behind beliefs and attitudes and thus conquer the frontiers of our own minds through rational thinking.

As described in this article, epistemological studies could be of two types: through reasoning or through empirical studies or experience. The harvesting of knowledge through reasoning reconciles with the laws of sciences, like Mathematics, Logic and so on. Such scientific knowledge can be imbibed only through reason and logical deductions.

Empirical knowledge, on the other hand, seeks to inculcate knowledge through the use of instrumental use and our five sense organs. (A.C.Grayling : Scepticism: P. 464: The nature of sceptical arguments ).

Since both these forms of epistemological studies are relevant and interrelated, it has been rightly stated in this article that no one form could claim supremacy over the other, and both must co-exist as forms of seeking knowledge.

Issues involved

This article forms a lively and interesting discussion because of two reasons. Firstly, it questions the validity of many who accept postulates as the Gospel Truth without an enquiring and childishly inquisitive mind. It is not the fact or postulate that is important but its foundation, sources and origin.

Secondly, in this article, however, it is seen that to a certain extent, dreams have been invalidated from the scope of factual content. But the fact remains that what a person cannot imagine or visualize, he may not be able to dream. The basis of many intricate reasonings and solving of complex mathematical problems have been done during dream sequences, and to a large extent, dreams could be extensions of waking thoughts and reasons. What a person may not be able to conceptualise or visualize during waking time could be done through his dreams and their interpretations. This has empirical validations.

Sceptics have argued that perception being is feigned by artificial inducements and external stimuli, and therefore cannot be a truthful representation of a man’s mind. But it is also true that by using external inducements, the bare truths lurking in the minds of alleged malcontents may be exposed, which are contraindicative in this article.

Impact of scepticism on Epistemology

“Why should there be a discipline such as epistemology? Aristotle (384–322 BC) provided the answer when he said that philosophy begins in a kind of wonder or puzzlement. Nearly all human beings wish to comprehend the world they live in, and many of them construct theories of various kinds to help them make sense of it.” (Encyclopedia Britannica: Epistemology : Epistemology as a discipline.

The reasoning powers of a person expressed above can be reinforced by his perspective of his mental state and physical surroundings. But he could also feign scepticism when actually his mind is in favour of the extended reason or content. A man may mentally give himself the experience of luxurious comforts of his palatial house when he is actually in the midst of dry and barren desertland. Such is the powerful significance of internal perceptions.

Thus it is seen that the main issue involved in this article is to gain an overview of what the fundamentals of scepticism are in the context of human existence. Many old theories in terms of seeking out the most plausible contentions in order to escape the act of reasoning or deducing facts have been rendered invalidated, and the modern approach is in terms of gaining knowledge through a process of conceptual polarities. (A.C.Grayling: Scepticism : P 467: Methodological and problematic scepticism)

In other words, what is important is that when both aspects are considered, the reason becomes more cogent and illustrative. We appreciate the importance of light because we know what darkness is. An able-bodied person is able to understand the plight of a handicapped person; having knowledge about other planets and their impacts helps us to know more about our own planet.

Aspects of healthy scepticism

The relevant question that this article has raised is with respect to not only what has been known but also how it has been known. Healthy scepticism goes out to seek the fundamentals and basics of facts, its benefits, limitations and validity and how it could possibly enhance previous knowledge and experiences.


As has been rightly posed by the article, the challenge of scepticism to justify is not a case that needs to be demonstrated; it could be either accepted or refused. The main aspect that needs to be considered is there is no need to refute scepticism on a case-to-case basis since it would be an exercise in futility. What needs to be done is to be able to offer substantive and powerful counterarguments to the question of how the subject knowledge has been acquired.

Works Cited

Thomas Nagel, What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy. Web.

Encyclopedia Britannica : . Web.

A.C. Grayling : Scepticism : Burr And Goldinger: Philosophy And Contemporary Issues : 9th Edition : NJ Pearson : 2004 ( Attachment provided by customer ).

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