The Hypocrisy of Skepticism

“hôsper oun ouk oida, oude oiomai.” – Socrates Apolgy 21D

I know nothing.

Isn’t Skepticism the ultimate hypocrisy?

If one knows nothing, how can one know that one knows nothing? Since knowing that one knows nothing is surely knowing something.

Skeptics are the most dogmatic hypocrites of all. Sophists one and all from Socrates to Sextus Empiricus to David Hume – complete Hypocrites, Sophists, and Enemies of the Truth.

Word play, in this instance.

I think the idea of knowing nothing is an ideal, not truly achieveable. Don’t take it so literal. I just means it’s a new way of thinking about yourself. Place your ego on the side because nothing is absolutely certain.

But who knows, I’m probably wrong? I know nothing.

Good point, though.

Greetings Warrior Monk. Your fallacy consists in assuming that the statement “i know nothing” completely embodies the ancient noble ideal known as Skepticism.


doubting becomes the efficient cause, not the final cause as you would have it.
As you can see above, skepticism consists, not in knowing nothing, but in examining, questioning, considering, and observing, and for that, one must first assume an attitude of humble ignorance as a vantage point.

That is probably a very valid definition of Skepticism but that is not what I meant which is why I specified the three names that I did – Socrates, Sextus Empiricus, and David Hume.

If you are not happy with the word Skepticism encompasssing these three individuals perhaps I should pick another word to encompass them. Maybe you could suggest one.

I inadvertently edited my last post unaware that meanwhile you were authoring yours.

I think the attitude “i know nothing” completely reverant, some would call it humility, but as you so lucidly pointed out, it fails from an epistemological standpoint.

What characteristic do you see Socrates, sextus Empiricus, and Hume sharing?

Do you not think the person who demolishes the building just as important as the one who builds afterwards?

Well I was calling it Skepticism but I guess I should just call it what it is – IGNORANCE.

Emphatically I do not. Destroyers are Evil (Satan) and Creators are Good (God).

As I have already pointed out elsewhere, a person who claims he does not know anything need not be claiming that he knows he does not know anything, but only that he believes it. Thus the paradox and hypocrisy both vanish.

Great point, Ken. But when Socrates says, “I know nothing”, he’s using hyperbole to begin with. What he’s really saying is that he’s open to the possibilty that everything he believes is wrong. He’s saying that he will commence the study of Philosophy with humility, and take other viewpoints seriously. That’s what it means to “love wisdom.”

Without destroyers there would be no creators, without death there would be no room for life, without shit, the flowers would have no fertilizer.

Some people are incapable of humility, their ego gets between themselves and wisdom. It’s like you’re looking in a mirror at reality behind you, but your own self blocks the view, or you look at reality, but you have to look at yourself in the picture. The recursion distorts the view.

Good point Kennethamy.

Warrior Monk said:

I was hoping you could be more specific. Every philosopher has been ignorant about something. It is the nature of reality.

You may be right. But it is irrelevant to the issue under discussion.

I was thinking about this myself lately. As per our theories about the world and their truth we can say, or rather I can say that, I am never exactly sure if the way i see things is the right way to see them as the world is indefinitely deep although, I think you have to trust your thoughts to a certain extent, but not too far because our minds are indeed fallible. Is the world a chess game or a randomized event machine? Probably a little of both. When Socrates says “I know nothing” he indeed means it but that does not mean that his thoughts have no power in representing or illuminating reality, it is just that philosophic thought unlike scientific thought promises no ultimate veracity (although it is likely that scientific thought can not truly deliver here either).

My point is that there are always other equal and valid observations and opinions or not necessarily equal but there are definitely other valid points and perspectives. I think the most important thing is that Socrate’s wisdom is in the end lacking in certitude but possibly abundent with usefulness. Trying to find absolute certainness is thought’s trap and essense, its check and balance. “The questioner always questions”, which is another idea that was first brought to light by Socrates. Thought itself is a challenge, and if you follow Hannah Arendt’s thesis about the “banality” and “thoughtlessness” of evil, then you will realize that the Nazi mindset was nothing other than an attempt to kill philosophy, to solidify mankind in stone. That is why Hannah Arendt and other scholars realized that what the Nazi’s aimed at was a kind of Nihilism, not a conquering of the world so much as a conquering of society, an attempt to turn society into a radical machine whose gears would spin to a final halt one day not only turning men and their society into a stone monument but eventual turing the world itself a monument to be veiwed from a vantage point that is beyond. Man’s dream is to build a dream and view it under a microscope. Under such a dynamic, science which eternally lies to itself is at war with philosophy, which is nothing more than the spirit of man. The spirit of man lives through thought. The spirit of technology lives through science. That is the essential tension of our day and its final outcome will make Star Wars or Terminator (which in some respects are polar opposites) or some other vision of the future come to life.

So what I am saying is that the search to find an absolute truth is really an attempt to stop thinking, to win the argument forever and anon, to build yourself a monument to your deed, and as such is really not so high minded at all, but in some respects the penultimate form of narcissistic personality disorder. Shame on you!

Theoryof exist stated:

Exactly! a thinly veiled attempt to rest on your laurels in some respects. “the questioner always questions”, i like that. In a lot of respects one must adopt an attitude of ignorance to attain truth.

Your one of a kind. :wink:

Worrier monk said [Destroyers are evil (Satan) and creators are good (God)]. On a human level often things need to be destroyed before something can be created. Thus creation and destroyal are opposite sides of the same coin.

Skepticism on a complete basis is not only hipocritical but also impossible. How can someone not know anything?

Just a point about a sextus, he didn’t say ‘I know nothing’ which would have been highly dogmatic, instead he chose to suspend judgement.

He also didnt argue directly for scepticism. Instead he took other non-sceptic arguments and followed them through to their paradoxical conclusions.

i dunno…have you met any christians lately. man they’re so trying to save that dying religion that they just make things up left and right. i also know nothing though…he’s lousy in the sack.

:laughing: :laughing: :laughing:

Dying religion? Can 2 billion Christians really be considered a dying religion?


I’m not confirming or denying your assertion, but I would very much appreciate a reference. I’ve been curious to studies that have evaluated the religious make-up at an international level.

Here’s one of the few I found:

Thanks for any direction you may provide.

Here’s one of the few I found:

“Democracy is the merely Misuse of Statistics.”
2 billion…pffftt. how many of us worship celebrities and world leaders compared to the two billion. the christian god is just another person who’ll pickpocket ya and leave ya in the ditch only to wind up giving you the room next to the noisy ice machine in heaven.

Articles that i have read in Free inquiry tend to corroborate Enigma’s link.