Expository Essay on Skepticism

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Scepticism describes the tendency of an individual to doubt or disbelieve some knowledge or facts. It is a popular misconception by people that sceptics are people who disbelieve things (Dunning, 2014). More so, the common word “sceptical” supports this misconception. As a result, being sceptical has been wrongly accepted as being negative about things. However, the main concept of the word scepticism and its forms will be discussed in this paper.

The true scepticism has no relationship with disbelief, doubt or negativity (Dunning, 2014). It refers to the process of applying critical thinking and reasoning in order to determine the validity. It means trying to find a supported conclusion, and not trying to justify a preconceived idea or conclusion. Scepticism is the application of critical thinking to different subjects in order to derive a supported conclusion. Scepticism is an extraordinary power that has a positive influence on the world. This is all about redirecting attention, influencing, and avoiding worthless superstitions towards ideas and projects that are believed to be of a significant benefit to humanity, and to the world at large.

Scepticism is divided into two main forms called the Kantian scepticism and Cartesian one. The Cartesian scepticism is an imaginary philosophy that consents to the Cartesian paradox, while more imaginary philosophy that consents to the Kantian paradox is referred to as the Kantian Sceptic. However, based on these concepts, scepticism does not only refer to a particular philosophical position, but rather to a broad dialectical space in which philosophers who occupy a range of opposed positions engage themselves. They do this in a search for a stable way in which they can answer sceptical questions in the affirmative, instead of answering in the negative manner.

Also, the same is applied to the relationship between being concerned with the Kantian Sceptical problem as being a Kantian Sceptic. These forms of scepticism give rise to the two varieties of philosophical problems as a result of trying to address the two forms of scepticism. However, the most familiar method to formulate the contrast between them is that of knowledge versus the conditions of knowledge.

Differences between the Two Types of Scepticism

There are a lot of ways to reveal this difference, but it will be revealed in three possible ways discussed below:

1. Possibility versus Actuality/Reality- In this perspective, Kantian scepticism brings within the scope of its worry that experience has the requisite unit of as much as being able to do something. Thus, it brings about the importance of the word “possible”, which relates to the level of importance attached to “experience” and “possibility”. On the contrary, the Cartesian scepticism does not value the possibility of experience, and it only has to do with the question of actuality. Therefore, according to Cartesian formulations, the importance of the word “real” is based on whether things appear as they really seem to be (Conant, 2012).

2. Being so versus being so- According to this distinction, Cartesian scepticism brings to notice, the question about the truthfulness of one’s experience, while the Kantian scepticism questions the intelligibility of one’s experience. It is associated with the question of how to know that things are as they seem; hence, it focuses on an inferential step from the appearance of things to their reality. On the other hand, Kantian problematic is based on the question: how can things seem to be as much in a certain way? However, it focuses on the sort of unity that must be characterized by a play of presentations (Conant, 2012).

3. Truth versus objective support- In this context, a Cartesian sceptic always wants to know which of his thoughts are true, which of his experiences are truthful, as well as the transition from a sensory experience to a judgement, and from a thought to its true value. Thus, the Cartesian problematic is based on inquiries into the grounds of truth (Conant, 2012). On the contrary, the Kantian sceptic deprives us of the resource we need in order to enjoy an experience such as dreaming or waking. However, it tends to inquire into the grounds of the possibility of enjoying an experience and entertain a thought-consent (Conant, 2012).

Five Applications of Cartesian Scepticism

Scepticism about Perception

The Cartesian scepticism tries to relate the things that happen in one’s senses and the things that are happening in the outside world. People are sometimes faced with the questions of how to know that things are as their senses present them. There are no features or marks that make it possible for one to conclusively distinguish dreaming state from being awake. Therefore, the gap that the Cartesian sceptics try to bridge is from their own minds to the outer world. However, the outer world lies behind the veil of perception (Conant, 2012).

Scepticism about Language

The Cartesian scepticism tries to know the correctness of the interpretation of things, either utterance, text, or sign-post (Conant, 2012). For example, when one sees a sign-post, it might be unclear what it really means; hence the observer tries to interpret the sign which might be right or wrong. There is always a need for people to understand things that are being communicated to them. In order to understand a sign or utterance, one must be able to interpret it, and the interpretation can be right or wrong. Therefore, the Cartesian scepticism seeks to fill the gap of understanding the meaning of a particular sign or utterance and its actual meaning (Conant, 2012).

Scepticism about Intentional Actions

Cartesian scepticism tends to look into the actions of people and their intentions or the motives behind such actions. For example, a person might decide to say a word that could be offensive to someone else without really having the intention to offend that person. However, in such a case, there is a need to understand the intentions of such a person in relation to the offense perceived by the other person, which is sometimes difficult to distinguish. Therefore, the Cartesian Scepticism tries to bridge the gap between mere actions and the intentions behind such actions (Conant, 2012).

Scepticism about Art

Cartesian scepticism about art has to do with human actions in relation to art. For example, while working at home one accidentally turned a can of paint which splashed over a wooden board, creating a pattern of splatter on the board. From one perspective, this seems to be the waste of paint and wooden board, and from another it could be assumed as an intentional artistic design. So, if taken to an art gallery, it might be indistinguishable for a similar artwork in the gallery. However, the Cartesian scepticism is aimed at bridging the gap between the mere physical appearance of the art work and its status as a locus of aesthetic value (Conant, 2012).

Scepticism about Other Minds

Cartesian scepticism about other minds focuses on the processes going on in people’s minds in relation to other people’s actions. This could be the question of people convincingly pretending to be passing through or doing something indistinguishable from the case of others passing through such things. For example, a person might be pretending to feel severe pain, but an observer might find it difficult to know that the person is actually feeling such pain. There is no mark or feature that conclusively distinguishes someone pretending to be in a particular state from being in another state. Therefore, the application of the Cartesian scepticism is to bridge outer bodily movement of others with one’s inner state (Conant, 2012).

Five Applications of Kantian Scepticism

Scepticism about Perception

The Kantian scepticism focuses on the problem of how the sense must be in order to be able to furnish testimony. Sometimes people are faced with challenges of perceiving things just the way they are, how their experience can be as intelligibly as an external world (Conant, 2012). An outer object that is impinging on the sense would appear as a mere transaction in nature, providing anyone with a reason to believe anything. However, the paradox in this form of scepticism is based on how a mystery that impinges on the senses could as much appear to be revelatory to the world (Conant, 2012). Therefore, the Kantian scepticism seeks to overcome the gap between sensory consciousness and sensory blindness (Conant, 2012).

Kantian scepticism and the Philosophy of Language

In this case, Kantian scepticism deals with the way a sequence of signs, utterances or noise can be related to its actual meaning. Signs and utterances are considered mere physical entities which are devoid of any semantic content; hence, how could the meanings derive from these entities. However, the Kantian scepticism seeks to overcome the gap between meaningless sequences of signs and utterances or noise in order to determine thoughtful expressions. This is done form semantic concatenation of sound or scratches made to a legible field of intelligible meanings (Conant, 2012).

Kantian scepticism and the Problem of Intentional Actions

Kantian scepticism attempts to define how mere body movement or physiological events could express the intentions. It determines the internal relation between actions in the natural world and those that happen in the mind (Conant, 2012). However, this form of scepticism seeks to overcome the gap in the movements of tissues, limbs and muscles in order to determine the expressions of human will.

Kantian scepticism and the Philosophy of Art

This application of scepticism deals with ways in which mere configurations that result in some artistic phenomena can become structures of aesthetic significance and value. In other words, it determines how mere configurations of sound and matter can be things that are supposed to possess the features that can be discovered in the works of art. Nevertheless, the Kantian scepticism seeks to overcome the gap between aesthetic appreciations and criticism and aesthetically inert constellations of sound and matter (Conant, 2012).

Kantian scepticism and the Problem of Other Minds

This application of Kantian scepticism is based on how the human body seems to express the mental state of a person. It is related to the way a particular state of the human body can be of such significance as attributed to it, considering someone in pain, angry or happy. However, it is aimed at overcoming the gap between the inexpressive physical entity and the animated field of human expression.

In conclusion, Scepticism generally refers to the tendency of an individual to doubt or disbelieve some knowledge or facts. It is a popular misconception by people that sceptics are those people who disbelieve things. True scepticism has no relationship to disbelief, doubt or negativity. It refers to the process of applying critical thinking and reasoning in order to determine validity of something. However, there are two main forms of scepticism called the Cartesian and Kantian scepticism. The Cartesian sceptic is an imaginary philosopher who acquiesces in the Cartesian paradox while the more imaginary philosopher, the Kantian Sceptic acquiesces in the Kantian paradox. Nevertheless, the main differences between these forms of scepticism and their applications have been discussed in this paper.


Conant, J. (2012). Two varieties of skepticism. University of Chicago.

Dunning, B. (2014). What is skepticism? Skeptoid.

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