I am skeptical about skepticism.

It seems to me that (too much) skepticism keeps people from trying out ideas or engaging in activities that might be beneficial to them and to others. In a sense, they have cold feet. A less rigid skeptic might be more willing to try something and put it to a pragmatic test.

As an example, it could be that we are programmed for religiousity and religious ideas or participating in religious activities such as prayer might be helpful to us, but if we are too skeptical, we don’t try them.

Or, I might be skeptical about the value of travel and therefore never travel, thus depriving me of even knowing what the experience of travel could bring to me.

In this sense, isn’t septicism just a synonym for being “closed” to many possibilities.

Would not a pragmatic approach be preferable???

Hmm…, open septicism doesn’t sound too fun.

Seriously, my perception of skepticism is not that of being closed; it is more one of requiring credibility.

“It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas… If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you… On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful ideas from the worthless ones.”

–Carl Sagan

skepticism is derived from the greek word, “skepsis” which means thought. In application, it means thinking whether or not what you are dealing with is true, and not just automatically accept any assertions because “I read it in a book”, or “I saw it on the internet”, or “they wouldn’t be allowed to say it if it weren’t true”.

This is opposed to cynicism, which immediately assumes that whatever information is presented is not true, until proven otherwise. I try to avoid this, except when I’m dealing with certain patients of mine, whom I know are probably lying, because I can see their lips moving.

In today’s modern world of unfiltered and highly questionable information, I consider skepticism to be the way to go. When provided with “facts”, I like to know:

  1. Who says so?
  2. Who are they?
  3. How do they know?

So in answer to your question, I feel that skepticism is the pragmatic approach, but too often gets confused with cynicism.

For the record, here’s the lowdown on the orgins of “cynic”

The Greek word kunikos, from which cynic comes, was originally an adjective meaning “doglike,” from kun, “dog.” The word was probably applied to the Cynic philosophers because of the nickname kun given to Diogenes of Sinope, the prototypical Cynic. He is reported to have been seen barking in public, urinating on the leg of a table, and masturbating on the street.


They also define skeptic as deriving from skepticos, “to examine”

You know, it is possible to be skeptical about the status quo. In fact that’s how things change. Somebody is skeptical about our current methods and says, “There’s got to be a better way.”

Galileo was skeptical about the physics of Aristotle, and about the cosmology of Ptolemy.

So skepticism isn’t confined merely to doubt about new ideas, it cuts both ways.

I’ll just add to be skeptical about the skeptics.

Who says so?
Who are they?
How do they know?

“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”
–Terry Pratchett, Diggers