Dealing with Skepticism
I started studying Philosophy when I was 11 years old. I found middle school boring and often skipped class to read in the library. A bit arrogant for my age, I asked the Librarian, “What’s the smartest book in here?” She recommended Plato’s dialogues. Socrates begins,
So, I withdrew and thought to myself: “I am wiser than this man; it is likely that neither of us knows anything worthwhile, but he thinks he knows something when he does not, whereas when I do not know, neither do I think I know; so, I am likely to be wiser than he to this small extent, that I do not think I know what I do not know.” – Socrates’s Apology 21d
Paraphrasing, Socrates states: Nothing is truly knowable; therefore, wisdom cannot be obtained. Where a man exclaims to have wisdom; I believe I do not, and it is to that extent I am wise.
It took me 17 years and over 15,000 hours of Philosophical study to begin to understand the depth of Socrates’ words. See, all forms of truth can be rejected. If you accept logic to be a reason for determining truth; one could argue that logic is a man-made construct that may lead to truth according to the human perception, but ultimately lacks any inherent truth. Or, if you accept experience to be a reason for determining truth; one could argue that experience is subjective, and ultimately subjectivity lacks any inherent truth. We could go on and on.
Enter Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. He states, “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” In short, there’s no truth; only experience. Meaning, Philosophy isn’t a game that can be won.
It’s important to notice a critical distinction between Socrates and Kierkegaard. Socrates, in spite of his skepticism, continued to journey on the Philosophical path; whereas, Kierkegaard, in light of his skepticism, journeyed on more personal different path.
Truly, nothing is ever knowable. Not just in knowledge, but also relationships. So, what do we do? How do we deal with our skepticism?
We have two choices. We can remain frightened and constantly question everything or we can run fearlessly into the void. I think the choice is easy, but I’ll let you decide.