Skepticism is the questioning of knowledge, fact, or opinion. Skepticism is an interesting view because it can take form in many different ways. We are all skeptical, or doubtful, of many things in life. For instance, if somebody came up to you and claimed that the grass was no longer green, but purple, you should be very skeptical of this assumption. However, what I want to focus on is philosophical skepticism. Can we really “know” anything at all? Does it really matter if we know anything at all? Now, there are a couple of important things that we need to establish before we dive into the problems with this view.
First, we need to define the term “knowledge.” Knowledge is the information, understanding, or skill that you get from experience or education. There are really two levels that we can know certain things on. You can know something beyond a shadow of a doubt, and you can know something beyond a reasonable doubt. If I know something beyond a shadow of a doubt, I know it with absolute 100% certainty. There are only a couple of things that I can actually know beyond a shadow of a doubt. I can know that I exist, because I can think (“I think therefore I am”). I can also know that truth exists. I may not be able to know what is true for certainty, but I can know that truth in it of itself exists, because even if truth didn’t exist, that would still be a true thing. And the final thing that I MIGHT be able to say beyond a shadow of a doubt is that God exists, because without God I don’t think there could be anything at all. That is really it. Everything else is subject to knowledge beyond a reasonable doubt. Two movies that come to mind when discussing this issue are The Matrix and The Truman Show. Both of these movies are centered around one or more people that think they are living in the real world, but it turns out that the world they are living in is not necessarily what they think it is. Now, we can watch a movie like The Matrix and not really think anything of it. But is there a logical possibility that the Matrix is true for us? Yes. There is a logical possibility that it is true, but there is not a reasonable possibility that it is true. We have absolutely no reason at all to assume that it is true. So, now that we have established the difference between reasonable possibility and logical possibility, I want to answer the big question that separates skeptics from non-skeptics. Can knowledge beyond a reasonable doubt be counted as real knowledge, even though there is a logical possibility that we could be wrong? The skeptic says that there is no way to know something unless you can establish it beyond a shadow of a doubt, the non-skeptic says otherwise. I will answer this question in Part 2 of this post.