Thursday, 17 April 2008
The skeptics of the other side
In the worldview tug-of-war, the position of skeptics always has been clear to me, until recently. I consider myself a skeptic, and I have found myself together with the group of natural scientists, materialists or physicalists, evolutionists, and atheists - as opposed to believers, idealists, creationists, and theists. Until recently, I said.
Until I have dealt with the question of idealism vs. physicalism which is the theme of the 67th Philosophers' Carnival, hosted by Kenny Pearce, a self-declared idealist.
You can read much cloud-headed stuff there, which is my main criticism of this debate. Of course, thoughts are free, and as a self-declared freethinker I am the last one to impose borders to thoughts. I only doubt whether it is wise to start the whole philosophy of the world with the statement "I think, therefore ideas do exist, but everything else may be subject to doubt, even matter." This position, called radical skepticism, is one of the main lines defending idealism. Briefly put: Idealists believe that ideas are the basic essence of all things, and that matter is just sort of an illusion.
And here we have them, the skeptics of the other side: They doubt almost everything, even the existence of matter. Is this a sound position? I guess that skepticism itself should not be excluded from a skeptic view. A real skeptic should always ask himself: Is my skepticism justified?
In the last consequence, a radical, borderless skepticism must lead to a position known as solipsism, that is, I only can be sure that I exist, and all other things and living beings may just be an illusion. This is weird. Of course, we may do philosophy, applying logic in a radical way without accepting borders, and looking where this may bring us. Nothing against that. But when we arrive at a consequence that contradicts every experience of our life and is completely opposed to common sense, we have to decide which of these two possibilities may be more plausible: Either the world in which we live is a complete illusion, or there is something wrong with the reasoning. I take the latter position, definitely.
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/lizandcormac/386382427/