Is Skepticism Really A Defeated System?

July 29, 2018

 

Ben.

 

Thanks for writing your interesting article: "Why I Am Not A Skeptic." You've certainly managed to "grab" the attention of your Christian readers. There are some interesting points in what you have written and it's all very fascinating to me. However, I want to say that I am not convinced. In fact, to me, you make some extremely strange claims. It's almost as though you honestly believe that skepticism is virtually philosophically debunked. Frankly, I have no idea to what you are referring when suggesting that skepticism might be on the verge of collapse (as you have attempted to claim in some of your social media discussions). This is all quite foreign to me. In point of fact, I can't even comprehend acceptance of ideas and claims without the advantage of skepticism. I'll ponder your points a little more of course. But I'd like you to answer a question for me: What it would take for you to be convinced that Christianity is false? I appreciate any answer that you might offer. Thanks again. 

 

Frank

Hey Frank,

 

Thanks for writing! I appreciate having the opportunity to speak into these kinds of issues. You've certainly raised some important questions. So let me handle them in in reverse order, beginning with what it would take for me to surrender my faith in the Christian gospel. 

 

In order for me to outright disbelieve in Christianity, I would first need some kind of strong basis for granting the arguments of academic skepticism. But that system, as I have already pointed out, currently lies in a state of disarray. As I have shown, Academic skepticism as a formal system of thought may now be in epistemic failure. This is due to the fact that multiple secular philosophers have persuasively argued that there are no non-question begging grounds for motivating philosophical skepticism. Allow me to explain...   

 

Skeptical arguments against the resurrection are typically formulated in such a way that we cannot claim to have historical knowledge of the event until we have eliminated all possible naturalistic contraries to the position. But, as notable secular philosopher Peter Klein has demonstrated, if it were required that belief in some hypothesis must necessarily entail the denial of all its contraries, it is clear that the evidence would have to presuppose that the given hypothesis in question is already true. 

 

To see that, just symbolize the skeptic’s hypothesis that the resurrection did not happen as "nr". Next, symbolize the evidence that proves that this is true as "e". Finally, consider that "e" would have to presuppose that nr is true if nr it is going to eliminate all contraries to itself. This is fairly obvious because it is not possible for "(〜r)" [i.e. no resurrection] to be true and "nr" to be false. In point of fact, "(〜r)" and "nr" are logically equivalent! Obviously this is a circular argument. 

 

For this and other reasons, Peter Klein writes: “[The eliminate all contraries first principle] seems to be too strong for many, if not most, empirically justified propositions. Hence, it could be plausibly argued that this is an inappropriate way to motivate skepticism because in so far as skepticism remains an interesting philosophical position, the skeptic cannot impose such an outrageous departure from our ordinary epistemic practices.” [1]

 

What this means is that relative to the resurrection debate,  the skeptic must admit that he is either (1) assuming the conclusion of his own argument or else (2) reluctantly concede that it is not necessary for the Christian to eliminate all possible contraries to the resurrection hypothesis prior to demonstrating that the resurrection is a reasonably justifiable belief. Rather, all that is needed is to show that the resurrection is the best explanation of all the historical evidence that we have. Bear in mind that this is but one of the reasons why Academic Skepticism is no longer taken as seriously as it once was amongst professional philosophers.

 

Now, for a fuller treatment of this and other arguments against Academic Skepticism, watch our website for a release of our upcoming article interacting with the work of leading atheist thinker, Richard Carrier. And thanks for writing! 

 

Ben Fischer <><

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End Notes:

[1]. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism/#FurClaClo

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