Section  5. Moral Skepticism

Moral "skepticism"

Skepticism is an epistemological* position -- not a moral one. A skeptic believes that humans cannot have knowledge. There are radical skeptics and there are moderate skeptics. If you are a radical skeptic you might think that no one ever can attain knowledge of anything. If you are a moderate skeptic you might believe that most people cannot have knowledge of most things, even though some people might have knowledge of some things.

You can also be a skeptic about one domain, but not about another. In other words, you might think that we can have knowledge about the physical world, but we cannot have knowledge about moral reality, or spiritual reality. Thus, a moral skeptic is someone who thinks that knowledge of moral reality is rare and difficult, or simply impossible.

Sometimes people think that skeptics believe that these realms aren't real at all. It is rather common to think that a religious skeptic feels safe in denying the existence of God, or immortality. But this is not what the term means. Just as a religious skeptic does not say "there is no god", a moral skeptic does not say "there are no objective moral values", or "there are no objective moral principles", or "there are no moral truths." Instead, a moral skeptic says "we cannot have knowledge of moral values, principles, or truths."

*Epistemology: the study of human knowledge. Epistemology is the inquiry into the nature, kinds, and limits of knowledge.

See: Skepticism in the  Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy


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Copyright Stephen O Sullivan and Philip A. Pecorino  2002. All Rights reserved.

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