I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Contra Skepticism per Epicurus

While looking into Epicurus’ “no subject of harm” argument against the fear of death (odd, I know; it’s for a developmental psychology project), I stumbled across the top three arguments against epistemological skepticism in the helpful article over at IEP.  Because our post-modern culture glibly embraces garden variety skepticism, it is prudent to keep a battery of such arguments handy.  Granted, Epicurean philosophy is presuppositionally antithetical to Christian theism.  However, we may “spoil the Egyptians” (Ex. 3:22), so to speak, and bring such arguments into the holy service of the kingdom and her King by means of apologetical application.  The second one is a common one in material addressing relativism today.  The first argument, though, is fresh (for me anyways) and has a profundity beneath its playful tone.   
I. The “Lazy Argument”
Epicurus says that it is impossible to live as a skeptic. If a person really were to believe that he knows nothing, then he would have no reason to engage in one course of action instead of another. Thus, the consistent skeptic would engage in no action whatsoever, and would die.

II. The Self-refutation Argument
If a skeptic claims that nothing can be known, then one should ask whether he knows that nothing can be known. If he says ‘yes,’ then he is contradicting himself. If he doesn’t say yes, then he isn’t making a claim, and we don’t need to listen to him.

III. The Argument from Concept-formation
If the skeptic says that nothing can be known, or that we cannot know the truth, we can ask him where he gets his knowledge of concepts such as ‘knowledge’ and ‘truth.’ If the senses [better, cognitive faculties – KLS] cannot be relied on, as the skeptic claims, then he is not entitled to use concepts such as ‘knowledge’ and ‘truth’ in formulating his thesis, since such concepts derive from the senses.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. Skeptics often make statements like, "we can't know." The obvious question to them is, "how do you know we can't know? What inside information, or what great wisdom do you possess that enables you to make that statement?"