Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"Here is a hand" - the argument against skepticism

Today, I came across an amazing idea by G.E. Moore regarding an argument against skepticism. The reason why I find this interesting is that in the religious world "skeptics" is typically a term used to describe those who reject the "miraculous" claims of religion, the 20 foot tall Moshe, or the talking donkey. Yet, in Moore's case, the skeptics are people that are basically questioning the "common sense" view of reality, such as asking "How do you know we are not all brains in a vat?" or "How do you know that the Universe is not 5 minutes old?".

From Wikipedia:
Moore famously put the point into dramatic relief with his 1939 essay Proof of an External World, in which he gave a common sense argument against skepticism by raising his right hand and saying "here is a hand," and then raising his left and saying "and here is another". Here, Moore is taking his knowledge claim (q) to be that he has two hands, and without rejecting the skeptic's premise, proves the we can know the skeptical possibility (sp) to be not true.
In his 1925 essay A Defence of Common Sense he argued against idealism and skepticism toward the external world on the grounds that they could not give reasons to accept their metaphysical premises that were more plausible than the reasons we have to accept the common sense claims about our knowledge of the world that skeptics and idealists must deny. In other words, he is more willing to believe that he has a hand than believe the premises of a strange argument in a university classroom. "I do not think it is rational to be as certain of any one of these ... propositions".

Not surprisingly, not everyone inclined to skeptical doubts found Moore's method of argument entirely convincing. Moore, however, defends his argument on the surprisingly simple grounds that skeptical arguments seem invariably to require an appeal to "philosophical intuitions" that we have considerably less reason to accept than we have for the common sense claims that they supposedly refute.

I am no baki in philosophy, but it seems to me that many of the philosophical concepts are irrelevant to the questions asked by the "religious skeptics". I am not saying that they are completely bogus, but I think that most of the time the various philosophers are brought up as a defense against common sense questions, it is an attempt to obfuscate questions that have answers as simple as the blade of Occam's razor - was Moshe 20 feet tall? Did a donkey speak with a human voice? Did the Red Sea split because God commanded it to do so and the Israelites walk across it on dry land?


Blogger Lubab No More said...

Interesting post. I'm going to have to read up on this guy.

October 17, 2007 11:05 AM  

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