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Radical scepticism: why?!

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    Recently, I've noticed that there have been quite a lot of threads about solipsism, radical scepticism, and the consequences of general doubt about the truth of our experience and its hypothesised relation to a physical world. I apologise for starting yet another one, but I'm hoping that this one will help to tie them all together, summarise, and (preferably) put an end to them.

    I understand there are two radically sceptical positions in this discussion - (1) that the world does not exist, and (2) that we should withhold assent to the claim that the world does exist. Whilst I see the clear and key difference between the two views, it does seem inescapably mad that anybody would take either of them seriously.

    I must ask, can anyone actually come up with any reasons for a sane person to believe either of these positions? I have no understanding of any train of thought that could lead someone to conclude that it is at all sensible to doubt the existence of the world around us. Why would someone do this?
    Please, to the defenders of the doubters - enlighten me!

    I don't know if people who argue that we can't actually be sure of our own existence actually believe what they're saying. Why would they bother with such nonsense when they could be getting on with something that's actually useful?
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    Because skepticism is always the default position?
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    (Original post by Annoying-Mouse)
    Because skepticism is always the default position?
    That is true. Without an explanation to a phenomenon it isn't a great idea to just make stuff up. However the belief that our otherwise unexplainably consistent experience of a seemingly identical world according to whomever is giving an account of it does seem to suggest the explanation that said world is real. Given that we now have a hypothesis that is consistent with the evidence we have (that is, any experience at all), what reason could someone give to doubt it?

    I know I'm not being as strictly empiricist as I usually intend to be, but does it actually seem at all sensible to believe anything else?
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    (Original post by MrHayden)
    Recently, I've noticed that there have been quite a lot of threads about solipsism, radical scepticism, and the consequences of general doubt about the truth of our experience and its hypothesised relation to a physical world. I apologise for starting yet another one, but I'm hoping that this one will help to tie them all together, summarise, and (preferably) put an end to them.

    I understand there are two radically sceptical positions in this discussion - (1) that the world does not exist, and (2) that we should withhold assent to the claim that the world does exist. Whilst I see the clear and key difference between the two views, it does seem inescapably mad that anybody would take either of them seriously.

    I must ask, can anyone actually come up with any reasons for a sane person to believe either of these positions? I have no understanding of any train of thought that could lead someone to conclude that it is at all sensible to doubt the existence of the world around us. Why would someone do this?
    Please, to the defenders of the doubters - enlighten me!
    Prove to me that you exist.
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    (Original post by MrHayden)
    That is true. Without an explanation to a phenomenon it isn't a great idea to just make stuff up. However the belief that our otherwise unexplainably consistent experience of a seemingly identical world according to whomever is giving an account of it does seem to suggest the explanation that said world is real. Given that we now have a hypothesis that is consistent with the evidence we have (that is, any experience at all), what reason could someone give to doubt it?

    I know I'm not being as strictly empiricist as I usually intend to be, but does it actually seem at all sensible to believe anything else?
    How do you know you're not dreaming?
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    (Original post by MrHayden)
    That is true. Without an explanation to a phenomenon it isn't a great idea to just make stuff up. However the belief that our otherwise unexplainably consistent experience of a seemingly identical world according to whomever is giving an account of it does seem to suggest the explanation that said world is real. Given that we now have a hypothesis that is consistent with the evidence we have (that is, any experience at all), what reason could someone give to doubt it?

    I know I'm not being as strictly empiricist as I usually intend to be, but does it actually seem at all sensible to believe anything else?
    Our belief that the world is real isn't proof that it isn't real. I've felt that my dreams were real many times. I think it's kinda worthless discussing whether something is real or not. Who cares? It's just better to assume it's real and work under those premises.
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    Toothache.

    One time it was so bad I literally started banging my head on the wall. It can be a real biotch.
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    (Original post by Tolth)
    How do you know you're not dreaming?
    Oh the joy of Cartesian doubt - I would sell my legs not to have an exam on this in a few days, but alas! I do.

    I am not an idiot - I can tell when I am awake. When I am dreaming I think I can tell when I am awake, but I am wrong. When I am awake, I can tell that I am awake and I know that I can tell that I am awake, and on top of that I can remember having thought that I could tell I was awake when I was dreaming last night, and I can now tell that I could not tell at all. This one is always presented as an argument for scepticism, but is actually very simple. If we stop pretending that all of this philosophical junk is helpful, everyone knows that it is incredibly easy to differentiate being awake and asleep.

    And in response to proving that I exist, my answer is equally as simple: all of the experience that I have ever had in my life consistently and demonstrably points me towards a consistent conclusion that I exist in my perceived form within a real world. If you can present an explanation for my consistent experience of this, which makes more sense than the one I have concluded from said consistent experience, then I will take the position of doubting my own existence seriously.
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    (Original post by Annoying-Mouse)
    Our belief that the world is real isn't proof that it isn't real. I've felt that my dreams were real many times. I think it's kinda worthless discussing whether something is real or not. Who cares? It's just better to assume it's real and work under those premises.
    That's exactly the point I'm trying to make. Which, admittedly, is completely unclear given how I initiated this discussion in the first place...
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    (Original post by MrHayden)
    That's exactly the point I'm trying to make. Which, admittedly, is completely unclear given how I initiated this discussion in the first place...
    There's your answer then. Some people put truth on a pedestal and want to make sure all there premises are truthful and not merely assume.
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    After doubting the reality (maybe after watching Matrix and Inception), you still have to choose which notion is true (the reality VS imaginary), Neither one is absolutely true or false, but choosing one will change your life and your view towards things completely.

    I would say the reality one is better, your life won't be wasted in a stupid idea, and you get more happiness.

    It's about choice, not absolute truth. Who knows the absolute truth?
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    (Original post by MrHayden)
    Oh the joy of Cartesian doubt - I would sell my legs not to have an exam on this in a few days, but alas! I do.

    I am not an idiot - I can tell when I am awake. When I am dreaming I think I can tell when I am awake, but I am wrong. When I am awake, I can tell that I am awake and I know that I can tell that I am awake, and on top of that I can remember having thought that I could tell I was awake when I was dreaming last night, and I can now tell that I could not tell at all. This one is always presented as an argument for scepticism, but is actually very simple. If we stop pretending that all of this philosophical junk is helpful, everyone knows that it is incredibly easy to differentiate being awake and asleep.

    And in response to proving that I exist, my answer is equally as simple: all of the experience that I have ever had in my life consistently and demonstrably points me towards a consistent conclusion that I exist in my perceived form within a real world. If you can present an explanation for my consistent experience of this, which makes more sense than the one I have concluded from said consistent experience, then I will take the position of doubting my own existence seriously.
    Do you not understand that philosophy is not about gut instinct and that 'I personally am almost certain' does not indicate truth? The point of all this isn't that philosophers personally believe they do not exist; indeed, I'm pretty sure I do; the point is that I cannot conclusively prove that the world around me exists as I perceive it to exist. Making silly statements about how all your personal experience leads you to believe that you exist simply shows that you've missed the point of this argument entirely.
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    (Original post by Tolth)
    Do you not understand that philosophy is not about gut instinct and that 'I personally am almost certain' does not indicate truth? The point of all this isn't that philosophers personally believe they do not exist; indeed, I'm pretty sure I do; the point is that I cannot conclusively prove that the world around me exists as I perceive it to exist. Making silly statements about how all your personal experience leads you to believe that you exist simply shows that you've missed the point of this argument entirely.
    I wasn't trying to make the point that it is my personal feelings that matter - indeed the only reason I am arguing at all from that position is the sceptic's attitude regarding our ability to trust communication.
    I will admit that it isn't philosophically certain that reality exists, we cannot conclusively prove it either logically or empirically. However, the hypothesis that we have reached (on an individual and personal level, that being the only one we are allowed given how we cannot trust that other people exist at all, apparently) makes for such a good explanation of our consistent experience that I can't see what would persuade someone that an alternative is more reasonable.

    It's not as if I'm saying "my experience makes me personally feel this way"; my position is: "my every day experience consistently points towards the same conclusion - that it is a veridical and accurate representation of a physical world - due to it's repeatable and testable consistency regarding what I interpret as rules of nature, social interactions etc. Given this, can the sceptic present an explanation of my repeatable and predictable model as an explanation for my consistent experience that makes more sense and provides a better argument for my experience than my conclusion does?"
    The sceptic, thus far, has not presented a better explanation. He has either presented a crazy explanation or just insisted that I can't ever be sure.

    Maybe I am thinking too scientifically, but the alternative seems to be that philosophy is just a waste of time , attempting to answer meaningless and impossible questions that get us nowhere. I certainly hope that this isn't the case, because I really bloody like philosophy and find it very good fun - except when this argument comes up.
    Begs the question as to why I started a thread about it to be honest.
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    (Original post by MrHayden)
    I wasn't trying to make the point that it is my personal feelings that matter - indeed the only reason I am arguing at all from that position is the sceptic's attitude regarding our ability to trust communication.
    I will admit that it isn't philosophically certain that reality exists, we cannot conclusively prove it either logically or empirically. However, the hypothesis that we have reached (on an individual and personal level, that being the only one we are allowed given how we cannot trust that other people exist at all, apparently) makes for such a good explanation of our consistent experience that I can't see what would persuade someone that an alternative is more reasonable.

    It's not as if I'm saying "my experience makes me personally feel this way"; my position is: "my every day experience consistently points towards the same conclusion - that it is a veridical and accurate representation of a physical world - due to it's repeatable and testable consistency regarding what I interpret as rules of nature, social interactions etc. Given this, can the sceptic present an explanation of my repeatable and predictable model as an explanation for my consistent experience that makes more sense and provides a better argument for my experience than my conclusion does?"
    The sceptic, thus far, has not presented a better explanation. He has either presented a crazy explanation or just insisted that I can't ever be sure.

    Maybe I am thinking too scientifically, but the alternative seems to be that philosophy is just a waste of time , attempting to answer meaningless and impossible questions that get us nowhere. I certainly hope that this isn't the case, because I really bloody like philosophy and find it very good fun - except when this argument comes up.
    Begs the question as to why I started a thread about it to be honest.
    You're not thinking too scientifically at all. One of the central points of learning to 'think scientifically' is realizing that our senses are limited and that we can never be absolutely sure of anything based on the evidence available to us. This logically leads to your point - if all of the evidence available points towards a conclusion, why shouldn't we assume it?
    The issue here is that you seem to have missed the point of this question entirely; these sort of things aren't intended as literal questions, they're intended in the style of zen koans to force you to think and question entrenched points of view. No modern philosopher is going to be seriously debating the question you're discussing with this thread because the conclusion was reached several hundred years ago with Descartes.
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    Scepticism is an interesting phenomenon which simply shows that everything can be doubted. Indeed, even if I give you reasons, justification and warrant to believe in scepticism, I could also doubt those reasons as being "good" reasons. The lesson is that human thinking is ill-equipped to provide certain truths; we are creatures of habit, we trust inductive reasoning, we value coherent explanations with strong intuitions that we believe not to be faulted (e.g. consistent sense-experiences, patterns, logical truths), and we move from there. This does not commit people to an instrumental theory of truth, but it does ask deeper metaphysical/ontological questions about what is meant by truth, fact, existence, and so forth, in everyday natural language. Settling these more basic questions is a good way to start settling one's opinions in other fields such as meta-ethics.

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