Skeptical Certainty

Topics: Epistemology, Truth, Critical thinking Pages: 3 (1103 words) Published: March 5, 2013
What is it that I mean to say when I claim to know something? In general usage, the word knowledge has a comparatively low value as a threshold for acceptance. When using the word ‘knowledge’ in a philosophical context, however, it is necessary to delineate the boundaries of its definition. It is in this context that I will discuss knowledge in the sense that implies certainty as the level of confidence I hold in its ability to reflect reality. Hereafter I will defend the notion that certain knowledge is impossible, as delineated by the theory of skepticism, and conclude by asserting that certainty is an unnecessary quality of knowledge in non-philosophical use. Let’s begin by examining the skeptic’s argument. Someone who holds the skeptic’s position on the issue of knowledge would posit that certain knowledge is impossible because it is not possible for us to ascertain objectively the verity of what we call knowledge about the world external to our own minds. The skeptical claim advances as its first premise the statement that knowledge requires certainty, however the skeptic also posits as the second premise of the argument that our ideas about the external world lack certainty and could be mistaken; we therefore must conclude that we cannot have knowledge about the external world. Next we will scrutinize the premises of this argument. In examining the first premise of the skeptic’s argument we must ask ourselves: Why do skeptics think knowledge requires certainty? One reason is the fact that certainty is the distinguishing factor between knowledge and mere belief. Interpreting the two terms in the context of their daily use, knowledge requires a basis in verifiable fact, while belief requires only a likelihood of the factual truth of its accurate representation of reality. An example of belief as opposed to knowledge would be upon waking in the morning, I believe it is raining outside based upon the fact that it was raining when I went to bed last...
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