Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I think most who have spent any amount of time studying philosophy will have come across philosophical skepticism, the idea that certainty, knowledge, and/or truth is impossible. It is one of the more persistent positions in history. But most people either know or can easily understand that it's also self-defeating. By definition, one can't know that philosophical skepticism is true.

A similarly prevalent claim one will hear, especially in discussions with agnostic atheists, is that the burden of proof is on the one making an assertion (e.g. God is known by His revelation as expressed in the Bible) to show that such is the case. While this is true, it is usually accompanied with confusion if the claimant is asked to give an account of his own worldview. I suspect that this is because the person doesn't understand the following: for one to suspend judgment (assent or dissent) regarding a given proposition is not necessary irrational; however, for one to suspend judgment on every proposition is necessarily irrational:

Clark’s emphasis on the importance of epistemology as a means to a cohesive belief system is warranted, for to any assertion pertaining to science et. al., the question may be "properly ask[ed], How do you know?" This poignant question... exposes as question-begging statements and actions which advocate a so-called suspension of judgment...

Advocating the suspension of judgment on all matters is as self-defeating as asserting philosophical skepticism. And even abstaining from making assertions while commanding or asking questions is a form of question-begging, for as Augustine noted in De Magistro, when one does these things, he is actually attempting to teach another something, i.e. what he wants to be performed or what he wants to be answered. Even merely acting without speaking requires an answer to the problem of suicide. A thinking creature cannot avoid epistemic concerns.

Christians need to recognize when an opponent is attempting to stall or divert attention away from having to explain his own worldview. Ignore rabbit-trails and press the point.

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