MWP video 2: Scepticism

This is the second video in the Middle Way Philosophy Introductory Course.

Some suggested reflection questions:

  1. Does this present a different view of scepticism to the one you hold or have held? If so, what is or has been your view of it?
  2. Can you suggest an example of a belief in which you have great confidence, but may nevertheless possibly be wrong?
  3. Can you also suggest a belief that you confidently deny, but which may nevertheless possibly be correct?
  4. Can you see a practical value in leaving open that possibility in both cases?

Suggested further reading:

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3 thoughts on “MWP video 2: Scepticism

  1. HI Robert
    In the scepticism video, you say that the chances of finding an Aardvaark living in your house is about 0.0001 percent but nevertheless we should take this possibility seriously. I imagine this is what people who are unfamiliar/suspicious or dismissive of scepticism find particularly difficult to accept. How can you convince people of the importance of being provisional regarding such incredibly unlikely scenarios who think it’s pointless/ silly or impractical to think in this way? For example, to people who would say ‘Of course, we can’t be absolutely sure about anything, but in order to go about living our lives, these distinctions really don’t really matter’

    1. I would agree with them that the possibility of such unlikely scenarios doesn’t practically matter in the ordinary course of events. However, improbable events do still occur. What’s more, our estimates of probability always depend on previous experience, so they may be in turn be wrong. Taking a look at the history of science and technology is informative in terms of reminding ourselves about the ways that what once seemed wildly implausible at a later time may be accepted.

      People in ancient Egypt would have been wasting their time with IT training, and I similarly don’t suggest that we prepare food ready for the aardvark. Nevertheless, the possibility of being wrong makes a difference to the way in which we hold our current beliefs, and whether our attitude to alternatives is dismissive or appropriately balanced. This in turn depends very much on our habitual mental states in relation to the things we do expect to happen, and this can be the focus of practice.

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