Skepticism is the rejection of knowledge that is not well supported by evidence. In its extreme form, this can include the denial that knowledge exists at all based on a questioning of reality itself. The following are common types of skepticism.
Philosophical SkepticismA broad range of theories and traditions that question the nature of knowledge. This can take the form of a refusal to be dogmatic about anything with the recognition that evidence always involves some level of uncertainty and possibility of misinterpretation. Some forms of philosophical skepticism amount to a complete rejection of the very idea that anything can be known.
Rational SkepticismThe use of skepticism to seek knowledge that is reasonably likely to be true. This can be described as an open-minded process of using skepticism to validate ideas. For example, a student who is unafraid to challenge the foundational assumptions of a domain but who often finds that professors and other students are able to convince them of such ideas with debate.
Professional SkepticismThe purposeful adoption of a skeptical viewpoint in order to achieve a task. For example, a financial auditor who tries to remain skeptical in order to perform required due diligence.
Scientific SkepticismScientific skepticism is the questioning of claims that can not be demonstrated with empirical evidence using formal methods, particularly the scientific method.
Biased SkepticismA tendency to be biased in your skepticism such that you may be irrationally skeptical about one thing but easy accept other things. For example, an individual who easily accepts anything they perceive as hard science as true and strongly reject ideas from domains they perceive as unscientific such as social sciences. Both cases can occur without reviewing any actual evidence.
Motivated SkepticismUsing skepticism as an excuse to reject ideas you find inconvenient, unappealing or unintuitive. This can include rejection of ideas that are well accepted and supported by evidence with improbable theories or arguments borrowed from philosophical skepticism.
Strategic SkepticismUsing skeptical arguments to generate fear, uncertainty and doubt in order to achieve some goal. For example, a young politician who asks an older opponent to prove that they are healthy in order to sow doubts around the candidate's health and create fears they may have health issues in office.
Pessimism The view that positive hopes, predictions and expectations are mostly irrational thoughts driven by motivated thinking. This may be based on the disposition that life is fundamentally risky, disappointing or absurd such that plans for the future are likely to fail. As such, pessimism can be described as skepticism of future plans with a bias towards overestimating risk and underestimating potential.
CynicismCynicism is a tendency to believe the worst about people, things and plans unless you receive hard evidence that this is not the case. This may be described as skepticism of the fundamental decency and goodness of things. For example, assuming that a new television show will be terrible by default until you receive strong evidence to change your mind.
This is the complete list of articles we have written about thinking.
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Rational thought is often somewhat logical but includes factors such as emotion, imagination, culture, language and social conventions.
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