Knowledge is defined as Justified True Belief. A belief can be anything from the belief in my own existence to the belief that I will get good grades in the course. No one can argue what a person believes. But for a belief to be accepted as knowledge, it needs to be Justified and be true. Skeptics raised a question as to how can you Justify anything being true. The common answer was: based on our senses, but then who is to say the senses are true?
To be clearer, for me to claim that the existence of this term paper is a truism, I will be able to Justify it only by saying that you read it, hence he term paper must exist and hence the claim must be true. But, the fact that you read it in its true form is itself a non-Justifiable belief. For here we are “assuming” that what we read is in fact what is and our eyesight is not playing tricks on us. The same follows for all other senses. Hallucination, for instance, makes a person believe the person he is imagining is actually there. For him, the belief is Justified based purely on his senses, but it is still not true.
The other method of Justifying any claim or any “Truth” is by virtue of reason as was supported by the stoics who claimed season not only meant using logic, but also understanding the processes of nature. This too was criticized by the skeptics as the logical mode of argument was untenable, as it relied on propositions which could not be proved to be true or false without relying on some further propositions. This was the regress argument, or a never ending series. Also, two propositions could not rely on each other as this would create a circular argument. To state an example, we believe in the “truth” that fire is hot.
One way is to say I feel hot around fire, hence it must be hot. This is argued against as shown earlier that your skin feelings might be deceiving or not true. The other argument is the logic based argument. In a same question asked by a person on a question answering forums , considering only the logical serious responses not relying on senses, one had to say “Fire MUST be exothermic – gives off heat – by definition: “noun 1 the state of burning, in which substances combine chemically with oxygen from the air and give out bright light, heat, and smoke. “” He defined fire to be hot, hence proving it is hot, falling in circular fallacy.
Another logical argument which was given was “l know that fire is the rapid oxidation of carbon molecules. Such energy is released as heat. ” Again, he relied on a presupposed knowledge that the energy released during oxidation of carbon is heat. This argument was of the regressing form. So, logic as a form of Justification of truth was also denied by Skeptics. Skeptics were themselves divided into two major views, the Academic skepticism and the Pyromania Skepticism or Byronism. Academic skeptics (like Serenades) denied knowledge altogether due to these problems with Justification of truth.
Pyromania Skeptics on the other hand refrain from making truth claims. They do not claim truth is impossible. In other words they do not hold assent with regard to non-evident propositions and remain in a state of perpetual enquiry. They will not claim fire is not hot. Nor will they claim fire is hot. In words of Sextets Imperious (160-210 AD), a Greek Physician and philosopher, “Those who claim for themselves to judge the truth are bound to possess a criterion of truth. This criterion, then, either is without a Judge’s approval or has been approved. But if it is without approval, without Judging.
And, if it has been approved, that which approves it, in turn, either has been approved or has not been approved, and so on ad infinitum”2 Sextets also criticizes the Academic skeptic’s claim that nothing is knowable as an affirmative belief. According to one interpretation of Sextets as provided by Males Burnett, Jonathan Barnes and Benson Mates he advocates simply giving up belief that is suspending Judgment whether anything is knowable or not. Only then we can attain peace of mind. He did not think of such a suspension to be impractical, since then we may live without any beliefs and be acting by habit.
It does not deny us the capability of experiencing things. We can still feel the fire to be hot, but that belief will now be subjective and we and only claim that our person feels the heat, and this need not mean in reality fire is hot. Another interpretation is provided by Michael Feared, according to which Sextets does allow belief, as long as they are NOT derived from reason or philosophizing. This claim, for instance, may then well entertain the belief that God does or does not exist or that virtue is good, but he may not claim such beliefs are true on the basis of reason.
Byronism is more of a mental attitude than theory. According to the Proportions, it is our opinions or unwarranted Judgments about things which turn them into desires, painful effort, and disappointment. From all this a person is delivered who abstains from Judging one state to be preferable to another. But, as complete inactivity would have been synonymous with death, the skeptic, while retaining his consciousness of the complete uncertainty enveloping every step, might follow custom (or nature) in the ordinary affairs of life.
This lucid state, characterized by freedom form worry or any other preoccupation was termed as Tartaric. Sextets Imperious merely recorded the Byronism thoughts of skepticism but this school was founded by the Greek philosopher Insipidness in the first century BCC. It was named after the philosopher Pyrrhic BCC). Insipidness was a member of Plat’s academy, but due to his rejection of their theories he revived the principle of epoch, or suspended Judgment, originally proposed by Pyrrhic, as a solution to what he considered to be the insoluble problems of epistemology or explanations by reasoning.
Insipidness chief work “Pyromania discourses” dealt with suspending Judgment due to our epistemological limitations. It as divided in eight books but the works have not survived. This was developed in response to the various theories which his contemporaries in the academy had strongly affirmed, and Insipidness found this unjustified. He argued that one should “determine nothing”, meaning that nothing should be affirmed or denied. More formally, statements like “A is always B” or “A is never B” cannot be asserted.
Only statements like “It is not the case that A is always B” or “It is not the case that A is never B” and other such negative statements held meaning for him. He gave ten arguments or tropes or modes to argue this epoch. The ten tropes are as stated below with examples from every-day life: 1 . Different animals manifest different modes of perception; Dogs being color blind will not perceive the same blue or red shade as we do. 2. Similar differences are seen among individual men; A taller person can feel the length of the building not as intimidating as shorter 3.
For the same man, information perceived with the senses is self-contradictory; You sometimes think you heard a familiar person, but do not see him anywhere. 4. Furthermore it varies from time to time with physical changes; The same florescent eight appears to glow in the dark or night time. 5. In addition, this data differs according to local relations; If I am closer to a house, it appears bigger than what it did from far away. 6. Objects are known only indirectly through the medium of air, moisture, etc. ; A stick appears bent in water. . These objects are in a condition of perpetual change in color, temperature, size and motion; The yellow appearing sun is actually white, and due to the atmosphere appears yellow or red depending on the time of the day. 8. All perceptions are relative and interact one upon another. We say a bird is smaller hen it is far, cozy we compare it with its size when near us. 9. Our impressions become less critical through repetition and custom. The sun is more curiosity generating than a comet, but due to its rarity, comets excite us more. 10.
All men are brought up with different beliefs, under different laws and social conditions. Some people see gay marriage as a beautiful bonding, while others are “disgusted”. The result of these tropes is that it opens up a lot of possibilities. For instance, as every individual has different experiences, you cannot comment on whether everyone is living the same reality or not. There could be a possibility that I as an individual could be living a life where English is no language, and I communicate with you in gibberish, but due to your perception of reality, you understand me in English.
Rene Descartes, a French philosopher, argued one belief that he could seemingly Justify. Thought exists. To disagree is also a matter of thought and hence proves the statement in an attempt to disprove it. Descartes continues to argue: Thought cannot be separated from me, therefore I must exist. Combining this and taking an extended version of the possibility as a result of the tropes, another philosophical dead is generated, that of Solipsism. Solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one’s own mind is sure to exist.
The external world and the other minds cannot be known and might not exist outside the mind. Metaphysical solipsism maintains that the self is the only existing reality and all other reality, including the external world and other persons, are representations of that self, and have no independent existence. Epistemological Solipsism is a variety of “Idealism” according to which only the directly accessible mental contents of the solipsistic philosopher can be known. Unnecessary hypothesis rather than actually false. To understand this, we need to understand a bit of idealism.
Idealism is a group of philosophies which assert that reality, or reality as we know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. The famous Schrodinger’s cat example where you are not sure if the cat in the box is alive or dead is also an example of idealism where the existence of the cat depends on your viewing it. Till you do not see it, that reality is immaterial, and you cannot speak about it. Another example was provided by Albert Einstein when he asked us to prove that when no one looks at the moon, or no one observes it, how can one be sure it really exists?
Reality thus according to the idealists is subject to the mind of the observer or a mental construct. Methodological Solipsism is the extreme position that states that the content of someone’s beliefs about, say, water has absolutely nothing to do with the substance water in the outside world, nor with the commonly accepted definition of the society in which that person lives. Everything is determined internally. Moreover, the only things that people have to go on in ascribing beliefs to someone else are the internal states of is or her physical brain. These are the various forms of Solipsism.
As we can see from the arguments given in the various skeptic theories mentioned above, reality is not as straight forward as expected. Our senses cannot be trusted, nor can be the existence of others. The possibilities of our existence are infinite, and we might be living in one of the many realities of our mental construct. One cannot deny the possibility that all of reality is Just a dream, and the reader has been dreaming this since the age of 3. When he started dreaming, he had no knowledge of his life, and al theories and all “knowledge” given to him are from his own imagination.
This could be also the reason why the reader does not have good memories of his childhood. Because they were in the “Awake” state, and the dream is unable to recall it. Any moment now, the dream will shatter and the reader might wake up crying. If discussed otherwise, all these ideas seem to be far-fetched, but the theories which are given above do not take away the possibility of this food for thought actually being true.! In concise, as in all of philosophy, everything comes down to one single word “MAYBE”.