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Both idealism and materialism have convincing arguments for me, yet within each

Both idealism and materialism have convincing arguments for me, yet within each argument are refutations of the other. How can I reconcile which to believe when they both seem equally as likely? I've thought that perhaps idealism explains our own subjective worlds, and materialism explains the objective external world, but can both be true when they contain refutations of the other?

I'm not sure what arguments you have in mind for these two views, but I understand, I think, the main feature that raises your question: each implies that the other is false. And yet, as you say, you find that each is equally likely. If each implies that the other is false, then they can't both be true, to answer your last question. One of them, at least, must be false. Perhaps they are both false, if they both rest on a false presupposition, for example. This seems to be the situation with the two views, (a) that the present king of France is bald and (b) that the present kind of France is not bald. They contradict each other, so one, at least, must be false. In fact, it seems they are both false, since there is no present kind of France at all--though I should note that, at one time, more philosophers thought the two views lacked a truth value at all (that is, they were neither true nor false, so on such a view we could say that the two theories you are considering might lack a truth value at all).
So much for that last question, whether they can both be true. They can't. However, there's another interesting question in what you wrote. If you find both theories equally likely, and assuming that there isn't some third theory that is also a competitor, then why not just be equally confident in one as you are in the other? For example, if you think that Idealism and Materialism are the only options, and they are equally likely, then you should think there is a 50% chance, or probability, that each of them is true. This is what you would do when it comes to a coin flip. So why not split your confidence in this way with these theories? Not every contradiction that is unsettled by our evidence is a paradox. Sometimes it makes sense to simply be as confident as our evidence calls on us to be, and no more, in each option. This doesn't mean stop thinking about it. You may, for example, soon discover that the case for Idealism is not as good as you are thinking it is now, and that the case for Materialism is actually better. So you'll get more confident in Materialism.

I'm not sure what arguments you have in mind for these two views, but I understand, I think, the main feature that raises your question: each implies that the other is false. And yet, as you say, you find that each is equally likely. If each implies that the other is false, then they can't both be true, to answer your last question. One of them, at least, must be false. Perhaps they are both false, if they both rest on a false presupposition, for example. This seems to be the situation with the two views, (a) that the present king of France is bald and (b) that the present kind of France is not bald. They contradict each other, so one, at least, must be false. In fact, it seems they are both false, since there is no present kind of France at all--though I should note that, at one time, more philosophers thought the two views lacked a truth value at all (that is, they were neither true nor false, so on such a view we could say that the two theories you are considering might lack a truth value at all). So...

I was talking to a friend the other day about the reasons for, and importance of

I was talking to a friend the other day about the reasons for, and importance of, remembering the dead. His position was that, whilst the act of remembrance was undoubtedly of some importance, the real reasons for doing it were inherently selfish, centred around making the people who are still alive feel better. "How could they be anything else?", he argued, "after all, the dead are not around to benefit, therefore it is only beneficial as a comfort to those still here". Furthermore -- and with particular reference to World War I -- he reasoned that once the direct connection with the generation that fought and died is broken, we are only really using the act of remembrance to glorify what was a terrible episode and to attempt to reflect some of that glory back onto ourselves -- in addition to trying to make ourselves feel better about it all. So, my question is, are there any other reasons for us to remember to dead beyond self-comfort? I'm particularly interested in non-self centred (i.e. self...

Interesting question. Here is just a start of an answer. There are at least two ways in which remembering the dead, and the way they died (as with war memorials, which you mention) might be beneficial for non-selfish reasons, though part of this depends on what counts as "selfish." First, many philosophers think that it is possible to be harmed, and benefited, even once you no longer exist. Imagine that a loving father, who upheld his fatherly duties throughout his life even at great cost, is slandered after he dies. Suppose it is said about him, falsely, that he committed horrendous crimes against his children. Some would argue that this harms him, that it makes his life--which is no temporally over--worse off than it would had the truth come out about his parenting. If that's so, then you might well think that it makes one's life better if one is remembered fondly, or with honor. Imagine you are somehow given a choice of never being remembered or being revered, after your death, as a great human being. I think most people would choose the latter, and one possible reason is that most people recognize that this life, even once it is over, is better off if it is remembered in the right way. I heard a philosopher, David Boonan, give a talk on this topic once, and you might look him up to see if he has it written. Secondly, remembering, and especially officially memorializing, the dead, not only honors them but potentially teaches the living about their lives. Remember victims of WW1 can serve as a deterrent to future wars, and provides opportunities to reflect on our own, relatively privileged or comfortable lives. This may be "selfish" in the sense that it does not directly affect those who died. But it is not selfish in the ordinary sense of the term. That is, you do not merely or only benefit yourself when you remember the dead in such circumstances: you benefit those around you, and future generations, by increasing awareness of, and hopefully decreasing chances are, similar deaths in the future.
Those are just two reasons to remember the dead. I can imagine others. But I'll leave it to the experts (which I am not) in the field to chime in.
Thanks for an interesting question!

Interesting question. Here is just a start of an answer. There are at least two ways in which remembering the dead, and the way they died (as with war memorials, which you mention) might be beneficial for non-selfish reasons, though part of this depends on what counts as "selfish." First, many philosophers think that it is possible to be harmed, and benefited, even once you no longer exist. Imagine that a loving father, who upheld his fatherly duties throughout his life even at great cost, is slandered after he dies. Suppose it is said about him, falsely, that he committed horrendous crimes against his children. Some would argue that this harms him, that it makes his life--which is no temporally over--worse off than it would had the truth come out about his parenting. If that's so, then you might well think that it makes one's life better if one is remembered fondly, or with honor. Imagine you are somehow given a choice of never being remembered or being revered, after your death, as a great human being....

I know that this might be common but I just got interested in philosophy...

I know that this might be common but I just got interested in philosophy... So here it goes, How do we really know if we are Dreaming or Awake right now?

It is indeed a common question, at least in the sense that almost everyone has considered it at some point in life. And yet, as common as it is, it leads directly to some of the most difficult, profound ideas. As Strawson once wrote, there is no shallow end in the philosophical pool. So, it needn't bother us that the question is a common one. However, the question is also a HUGE one, as philosophers have had many, many different ideas about it. I can't possibly summarize all of it here (not that I know all of it!). But I can offer a few different ideas about what direction one might take in thinking about this question.
One idea is that we can somehow tell, given the content and character of our current experiences, that we are awake. Dreams, according to this idea, are seldom if ever this coherent, this consistent, and this integrated with our accessible memories. And experiences in dreams are never this "stable" or lucid. So, we have empirical evidence, or evidence based on our present experience, that we are not now dreaming. One problem with this idea is that we've been convinced before that we are awake and then discover that we were dreaming. And as correct as the idea sounds to us right now, the impression that we were awake during previous dreams have also convinced us of their "correctness." But, perhaps more troubling, we might ask: how do we know that this isn't a dream unlike any we've had before, in that it is more vivid and apparently coherent than any other dream we remember?
Another, second idea in response to the question is that the what we mean by terms like "table," "chair," "body," and even "dreaming" are just whatever we are actually confronted with at this moment. It would follow (though it takes lots more theorizing to get there) that I cannot possibly mean something true by "I am now dreaming" or "this apparent table in front of me is dreamed, and not a real table." However, one may well doubt that this theory of meaning (not that I've given it its most subtle, effective formulation) is true. Couldn't you truly assert, while dreaming, that you are dreaming? Isn't this what sometimes happens when you have a lucid dream (a well-documented phenomenon)? Furthermore, and perhaps more telling, this response to the question doesn't seem to satisfy us even if we grant it is correct. Even if we grant that whatever we mean by "I am dreaming" is false, all this seems to show is that we cannot formulate some troubling hypothesis. That is, we seem to be able to describe a possible situation in which reality is not as it currently seems (notice I didn't exactly use the term 'dream'), and we apparently can't rule that out, even if we can't use our ordinary terms to express the possibility. We are left with a feeling that something inexpressible could be true, and if it were true, reality would be disturbingly disconnected from how things seem to us.
A third way to answer to the question is to suggest that, though it might be the case that I am now dreaming, the best, or simplest explanation of my present experiences is that I am awake. This may sound like the first response, and in some ways it is. But it adds a crucial element: explanatory considerations. By thinking about my experiences and the way they are now unfolding, I conclude--according to this idea anyway--that the simplest explanation for them is that I am now awake. In the first idea, I read my awakeness, as it were, directly off of my experiences. So, does this explanatory addition help? It might, but it all depends on how the many details are filled in. I don't know how to fill all of those details in, and even if I did, it'd be a very long story. We'd need to specify in what sense, exactly, is the awakeness explanation better, or simpler, and why it is that, in this instance, the simpler explanation is the more likely, or rational, one. And, I noticed you asked how we "really know" whether we are awake. Does noticing that an hypothesis is the simplest explanation suffice for KNOWING that that explanation is true? REALLY KNOWING? These are some pretty controversial questions, but anyway that's one direction to explore.
Let me suggest a final sort of reply to you question: we cannot really know whether we are dreaming or awake. This is the "skeptical" reply. From here, things could go in various directions. You might think that therefore you don't know anything at all about the world around you! After all, if you don't know that you're not dreaming, how could you know that there is a table, a poodle, and a computer in your room (as there seems to be, let us suppose)? But you might question that. You might think that, even if you don't know the very large-scale claim that you are not dreaming, you still somehow know that there is a table in front of you. In fact, this is one way to use some of the insights of the second reply, above, in a more skeptical spirit. Tables, for example, are just whatever THIS is (point to the apparent table). But who knows if this is all a dream or not? Another direction to go is to think that you don't know whether you are dreaming this, but that's just because you never really know anything at all. This is just a particular instance of not knowing, or ignorance, which is everywhere. Sure, I don't know whether I'm dreaming. But I don't really know anything, so that's not big news. Knowledge is an impossible standard.
What a strange situation we find ourselves in! It is such a remarkable and yet, as you say, "common" and perhaps obvious thought that this might all be a dream. And it's not at all obvious how we could know whether that is the case. Is this bad news? That's another, related question. Does it matter? Here's a thought: if this is a dream, it doesn't matter whether this is a dream. So it couldn't be a dream while it matters whether it is a dream. I'm not sure that's right, but it can be a tempting thought.
As you can see, there's just so much to say. Great question! As Descartes once observed, consideration of whether you are dreaming makes you feel a little dazed, which makes it seem all the more plausible that you are in fact dreaming. Just don't try this while driving or operating other heavy machinery.

It is indeed a common question, at least in the sense that almost everyone has considered it at some point in life. And yet, as common as it is, it leads directly to some of the most difficult, profound ideas. As Strawson once wrote, there is no shallow end in the philosophical pool. So, it needn't bother us that the question is a common one. However, the question is also a HUGE one, as philosophers have had many, many different ideas about it. I can't possibly summarize all of it here (not that I know all of it!). But I can offer a few different ideas about what direction one might take in thinking about this question. One idea is that we can somehow tell, given the content and character of our current experiences, that we are awake. Dreams, according to this idea, are seldom if ever this coherent, this consistent, and this integrated with our accessible memories. And experiences in dreams are never this "stable" or lucid. So, we have empirical evidence, or evidence based on our present experience, that...

When faced with a lack of any conclusive argument one way or the other, how does

When faced with a lack of any conclusive argument one way or the other, how does one avoid total scepticism?

By 'conclusive' argument, I assume you mean some argument that proves, or guarantees, its conclusion. By 'total skepticism' I assume you mean to have no opinion one way or the other at all, or to completely lack any confidence in both the conclusion and its negation. Now, if I understood that right, I think the answer to your question is: by considering arguments that are not conclusive, or don't absolutely guarantee their conclusions. Often, we have arguments that, while not proving or guaranteeing their conclusions, they do provide some good reason to think that the conclusion is true. For example: My dog almost never barks unless there's someone coming; my dog is now barking; therefore, there is someone coming. This is not conclusive, in the sense that it leaves open some possibility that someone is not coming. But it seems unreasonable for me to be totally skeptical, or to have no opinion, on whether someone is coming. Rather, I should be somewhat confident, but not certain, that someone is coming. We have the capacity to believe things to different degrees, and sometimes we are less confident in what we believe than utter certainty. When an argument indicates, but doesn't guarantee a conclusion, the rational response seems to be some confidence, but not certainty, in the conclusion. Total skepticism seems unreasonable in such cases, or at any rate, avoidable. Finally, notice that some arguments would guarantee their conclusions if their premises were true, but we are uncertain about whether the premises are true. For example: All dogs bark; Fido is a dog; therefore Fido barks. I'm not totally certain--and I don't possess any guarantee--that all dogs bark. So this argument isn't conclusive, and even once I understand it and believe its premises (though not with certainty), it seems I should be neither certain in its conclusion nor totally skeptical about it. The conclusion, I should think, is probably true (insofar as the premises are probably true).

By 'conclusive' argument, I assume you mean some argument that proves, or guarantees, its conclusion. By 'total skepticism' I assume you mean to have no opinion one way or the other at all, or to completely lack any confidence in both the conclusion and its negation. Now, if I understood that right, I think the answer to your question is: by considering arguments that are not conclusive, or don't absolutely guarantee their conclusions. Often, we have arguments that, while not proving or guaranteeing their conclusions, they do provide some good reason to think that the conclusion is true. For example: My dog almost never barks unless there's someone coming; my dog is now barking; therefore, there is someone coming. This is not conclusive, in the sense that it leaves open some possibility that someone is not coming. But it seems unreasonable for me to be totally skeptical, or to have no opinion, on whether someone is coming. Rather, I should be somewhat confident, but not certain, that someone is coming. We...

What would happen to ones mind if they were to experience the sight of an

What would happen to ones mind if they were to experience the sight of an entirely new color never before seen through human eyes?

I don't think anything too spectacular would necessarily happen. One reason is that one might not even notice it when it happens. For example, at some point in history, we can imagine that no one had experienced the sight of the color of coca cola in a green glass being hit by a sunset in the Mediterranean at some specific angle, on a specific day of the year, at a specific time. We can imagine that this specific color cannot be achieved by any natural process, so that until this point in history, no one had experienced this color. However, the color is just barely noticeably different from lava seen through polarized 3-D sunglasses in Hawaii, in certain specific viewing conditions. And, we can imagine, the lava had been seen before in such a way. So, now: what happens to viewer, on a yacht in the Mediterranean, when she sees the coke? Nothing much, I think. She may make a note of the odd color, but why think that anything else would happen?
I think at some point in history, someone was the first to see neon colors (such as glowing neon pink). I think they must have thought it was cool, but I doubt anything truly mind-blowing happened. And neon hues probably should count as entirely new, since they really are distinct from other experienced colors. I might be wrong about that...that's a question for historians.
Now, you're thinking: this panelist has missed my point! I meant, what would happen if it is an ENTIRELY different sort of color, not just barely different from what anyone has happened to see before? I'm not sure I can imagine it (though I can imagine, if David Hume was right, a new shade of a familiar color that I have seen before). I suppose it would be a bit like a blind person seeing colors for the first time. I would, I suppose, thereby acquire new abilities to imagine things in the color. But, again, I don't see a reason to think anything much more than that would happen.

I don't think anything too spectacular would necessarily happen. One reason is that one might not even notice it when it happens. For example, at some point in history, we can imagine that no one had experienced the sight of the color of coca cola in a green glass being hit by a sunset in the Mediterranean at some specific angle, on a specific day of the year, at a specific time. We can imagine that this specific color cannot be achieved by any natural process, so that until this point in history, no one had experienced this color. However, the color is just barely noticeably different from lava seen through polarized 3-D sunglasses in Hawaii, in certain specific viewing conditions. And, we can imagine, the lava had been seen before in such a way. So, now: what happens to viewer, on a yacht in the Mediterranean, when she sees the coke? Nothing much, I think. She may make a note of the odd color, but why think that anything else would happen? I think at some point in history, someone was the first to see...

I've heard many philosophers promote skepticism. But it seems that skepticism is

I've heard many philosophers promote skepticism. But it seems that skepticism is self-defeating, since the skeptics would have to be skeptic about their own doubts. Therefore, by virtue of that, they should not be skeptic. Is this argument valid?

Whether this argument is valid really depends on what you mean by some of the key terms (this happens a lot in philosophy). But first: I don't think that a lot of philosophers promote skepticism. Most philosophers aren't skeptics, in the sense that they don't think that we have no knowledge about the world, or that we should doubt everything. But this gets us to the first term that needs to be clarified: what is skepticism? I gather from what you say later in your question that you take it to be something like the view that one should doubt everything. But then what does it mean to be a skeptic "about your own doubts?" One guess is that it means to doubt whether you should doubt, or to doubt that doubting is the right thing to do. If skeptics are people who doubt everything, that seems compatible with their also doubting whether they should doubt. There doesn't seem to be any contradiction there. We have doubts about what we think, and do, all the time. This would just be another instance of that: I doubt, and also I doubt whether I should doubt. This is especially clear if what we mean by "doubt" is just withholding belief (though I think you didn't mean just that by "doubt"). You can withhold a belief and also withhold the belief that you should withhold belief. This happens sometimes when you just have no idea what to think about some issue at all. So far, no contradiction. If a skeptic is one who doubts everything, then, it seems there is no problem here, with regard to having doubts even about one's doubts. Let's assume, then, that you meant to be talking about those skeptics who hold a theory, the theory that we should doubt everything. So if, instead, a skeptic is someone who believes that we should doubt everything, then that skeptic seems to be in an unstable situation: she believes something, and also believes that she should doubt that thing which she believes (since she believes that she should doubt everything). That seems problematic, as you point out. But you should also appreciate that most sorts of skepticism, at least as they are discussed today, are about a particular subject matter. Two prominent examples are skepticism about the external world and skepticism about morality. In both of those cases, the skeptic (the one who believes that we should doubt everything on such matters) is not in any trouble. She believes that she should have doubts about the external world and morality. But notice that this belief, that she should have doubts about the external world and morality, is not itself about the external world or morality (unless we unnaturally interpret "should" as a moral, rather than an epistemic "should" that concerns our intellectual, rather than our practical, conduct). So, her belief in skepticism is not something that her skepticism requires her to doubt instead.

Whether this argument is valid really depends on what you mean by some of the key terms (this happens a lot in philosophy). But first: I don't think that a lot of philosophers promote skepticism. Most philosophers aren't skeptics, in the sense that they don't think that we have no knowledge about the world, or that we should doubt everything. But this gets us to the first term that needs to be clarified: what is skepticism? I gather from what you say later in your question that you take it to be something like the view that one should doubt everything. But then what does it mean to be a skeptic "about your own doubts?" One guess is that it means to doubt whether you should doubt, or to doubt that doubting is the right thing to do. If skeptics are people who doubt everything, that seems compatible with their also doubting whether they should doubt. There doesn't seem to be any contradiction there. We have doubts about what we think, and do, all the time. This would just be another instance of that: I doubt...

Is it always non-racist to criticize a religion? Even if we disregard ethnic

Is it always non-racist to criticize a religion? Even if we disregard ethnic religions such as Shinto or Judaism, the reality remains that any religion and its branches will always have one predominant majority ethnic group practicing it, usually of the religion's or the branch's founding race. To say that one can simply change to another religion or no religion anytime at will is to assume that one's culture of which race is a central component whether one realizes it or not, and one's religion are mutually exclusive, as if the matter is a logic game. One might argue that it's the culture, not the race that's being criticized, but then culture arises from race (among other factors), doesn't it?

Your opening question, I think, is relatively easy to answer: it's not *always* non-racist to criticize a religion. Sometimes it is racist because the criticism is motivated by racist attitudes. You may, for example, loathe race X, and you know that all of them are, say Christian. With that clearly in mind, you criticize Christianity, and this is an expression of your racism towards X. Another example: you are trying to compare religions, to see which ones you think are particularly "bad." You notice that Religion "R" is practiced predominately by white people, and you hate white people. This biases you to criticize R more harshly than other religions, and you conclude that R is the worst religion. This is again a criticism of a religion that is, at least in some sense, racist. So it is possible to launch a racist criticism of religion.
I'm not so sure about your suggestions relating to this question, though. Consider the two most popular religions on earth (I may actually be wrong about this... but at least some years ago these were the demographic facts as I learned them): Christianity and Islam. Christianity is followed by millions of white and millions of Hispanics (not to mention millions of Africans and millions of Asians...). It started out, of course, in the middle east--we count Semitic peoples as "Caucasian" but that's never stopped white racism against Semitic people. Those are different races, and I don't think it's accurate to say that Christianity is dominantly white or dominantly Hispanic, for example. One may associate Christianity with Europe, so one who is racist may criticize Christianity in a racist spirit; but it doesn't follow that *any* criticism of Christianity is racism against Europeans. One may just criticize the doctrines and policies of Christianity, as they are believed and followed throughout the world's peoples. Now consider Islam. Iranians, East and South Asians, and several African ethnicities are not Arab. Here, though you might think that Islam is "predominantly" an Arab religion, I think the suggestion would go wrong exactly when it comes to the issue at hand: critics of Islam often have the beliefs and policies of practitioners from those other ethnicities in mind. An Indian critic of Islam may well have Pakistanis predominantly in mind, not any of the Arab nationalities. And, while we're at it, we should note that the most populous Muslim country (at least as far as I know) is not an Arab country (it's Indonesia). So, this leads me to have doubts about your assumption, that religions generally are associated with a single ethnicity, especially as we consider religions as the target of criticism. Finally, I also have doubts about the suggestion that culture arises from race, but this is an even larger question, about which many, many more facts would need to be brought to bear.
To sum up: for what it's worth, I think clearly some criticisms of religion are motivated by racism. But we shouldn't dismiss *all* criticism of a religion as mere racism. Other philosophers here may disagree with me, so please don't take what I've written as "the philosophers' view." There has been some discussion about particular cases that may be relevant to your interest here. For example, see the Sam Harris controversy concerning his remarks on Islam (though of course you may have had this in mind originally).

Your opening question, I think, is relatively easy to answer: it's not *always* non-racist to criticize a religion. Sometimes it is racist because the criticism is motivated by racist attitudes. You may, for example, loathe race X, and you know that all of them are, say Christian. With that clearly in mind, you criticize Christianity, and this is an expression of your racism towards X. Another example: you are trying to compare religions, to see which ones you think are particularly "bad." You notice that Religion "R" is practiced predominately by white people, and you hate white people. This biases you to criticize R more harshly than other religions, and you conclude that R is the worst religion. This is again a criticism of a religion that is, at least in some sense, racist. So it is possible to launch a racist criticism of religion. I'm not so sure about your suggestions relating to this question, though. Consider the two most popular religions on earth (I may actually be wrong about this... but at...

I admit that my knowledge of philosophy is very limited; not advanced, yet it is

I admit that my knowledge of philosophy is very limited; not advanced, yet it is my overall second favorite subject after science. If one accepts the proposition, "I do not know anything with absolute certainty," then is it actually self-refuting or logically contradictory? The reason, is that, if one accepts it, then one must know something with absolute certainty, which is the proposition itself. Therefore, one knows with absolute certainty that one does not know anything with absolute certainty. However, it seems to become infinitely (pun intended) problematic if one thinks about it deeply enough. For instance, if one knows with absolute certainty that one does not know anything with absolute certainty, then one must also know with absolute certainty that one knows with absolute certainty that one does not know anything with absolute certainty. I think that one knows where I am going with this. It could be extended ad infinitum. If one, however, accepts that one does not know with absolute certainty...

Nice question! It's one with a long history, as something like what you're saying was one of the main objections to the ancient skeptics and their intellectual decedents. Let me just say a couple of things. First, to answer your question, I don't think your observation would show that skepticism is contradictory or self-refuting, at least not technically. The observation is that some skeptics take themselves to know for certain that nothing can be known with certainty. The view that they take themselves to know with certainty, namely that nothing can be known with certainty, is not thereby shown to be contradictory. It is compatible with that view that some people take themselves to know something for certain. To see this, just notice that it is compatible with the view that no one knows anything that some people, who unlike skeptics don't accept that view, take themselves to know some things. So the mere fact that people take themselves to know (or "accept" that they know) does not show that the view that no one knows is false or contradictory. Nor is the view that nothing can be known for certain thereby shown to be self-refuting, though that may depend on exactly how we understand "self-refuting." A view or position that is self-refuting is one such that, if it is true or correct, then it is false or incorrect. But the view or *position* that nothing can be known for certain does not entail that something can be known for certain. For, that view doesn't say that it (the view) can be known for certain. (Consider the statement "this statement can't be known for certain." That's a weird statement, but it is not self-refuting or a contradiction.) So, it doesn't seem we've found the skeptical view, or claim, to be a contradiction or self-refuting. The key is that what a view, or claim, or position, states need not include that it itself can be known. If the skeptical claim were, instead, that it can be known for certain that nothing can be known for certain, then that would be a contradictory view. However, we must distinguish one's being certain about claim C and the claim that C can be known with certainty. That is, we must distinguish the attitude one has towards a claim or view and the content of that claim or view. As you note, one might also form a further thought: I know for certain that skepticism (the view that nothing can be known for certain) is true. But, the content of that further thought is not skepticism. It is a thought about what one's attitude about skepticism is. This further thought contradicts skepticism, but it is not entailed by skepticism (skepticism, the view, does not imply that this further thought is true). So, that one might have this further thought does not show that skepticism is contradictory, either.
Secondly, now that I've suggested that the view skepticism, is not a contradiction or self-refuting, we should ask whether skeptics, or those who accept skepticism are doing anything irrational. Of course, there does seem to be something incoherent, inconsistent, and perhaps hypocritical with someone who takes herself to know for certain that nothing can be known for certain. Does "acceptance" require taking oneself to know for certain? I doubt it. But let's grant that for a moment. Such a person has contradictory or inconsistent attitudes. Does skepticism, the claim that nothing can be known for certain (at least as you have formulated it) entail that we should accept or take ourselves to know skepticism for certain? I don't see any reason to think that it does. So, even if skeptics are being inconsistent, this doesn't seem to reflect badly on skepticism, the view. Consider a slightly different sort of skepticism though: you should suspend judgment about everything. That view does seem to imply that you should suspend judgment even about it. So anyone who holds that view is doing something that their view says not to do. To hold such a view is, perhaps, irrational, or at least not ideally rational, because such a person has inconsistent or incoherent attitudes. It doesn't, though, seem to show that the view is false. Couldn't it be true, fully coherently, that nothing should be believed at all, not even that nothing should be believed? That could be true, but no one could ever believe it coherently, or while being rational. It seems we accept, generally, that there are truths that are unknowable and not rationally believable (think of all the insanely complex mathematical truths that no one with a human mind ever has good reason to believe). So maybe this skepticism is just another one of those truths. If so, then here is what we can conclude: believing such a skeptical view is irrational.
Ok, where are we? Skepticism, the view, is not contradictory or self-refuting. But, perhaps, being a skeptic, or believing skepticism, may be irrational. This may not be so bad if one specifies how exactly it is irrational: it is irrational only because it is a view that is believed, or a position, not because the content of the view has not been well argued for or has been shown to be false or contradictory. Maybe that takes some sting out of the objection. Skeptics are irrational, but not in the same way that, say, astrologists are irrational. Astrologist believe something on the basis of bad arguments. But nothing of the sort has been shown about skepticism. Skepticism of this sort says that no one should believe anything, not even skepticism. So while skeptics, or those who believe it, are being irrational (though, as I just said, not for the reasons that philosophical or superstitious positions are usually said to be irrational), skepticism as a view may still be true, supported by the best arguments, and so on.
I haven't answered the question, what would the most radical skeptics claim. But maybe they'd point out something like I just did.

Nice question! It's one with a long history, as something like what you're saying was one of the main objections to the ancient skeptics and their intellectual decedents. Let me just say a couple of things. First, to answer your question, I don't think your observation would show that skepticism is contradictory or self-refuting, at least not technically. The observation is that some skeptics take themselves to know for certain that nothing can be known with certainty. The view that they take themselves to know with certainty, namely that nothing can be known with certainty, is not thereby shown to be contradictory. It is compatible with that view that some people take themselves to know something for certain. To see this, just notice that it is compatible with the view that no one knows anything that some people, who unlike skeptics don't accept that view, take themselves to know some things. So the mere fact that people take themselves to know (or "accept" that they know) does not show that the view...

Does one need to consent to a social contract? It seems that they are something

Does one need to consent to a social contract? It seems that they are something people are often born into and while it is sometimes possible to move somewhere else that is not always the case, for example someone who is born somewhere where travel is restricted because of the social contract itself or other circumstances (such as North Korea). How does this affect the nature of the social contract?

Thanks for this question. I'm not an expert in this field but I noticed no one has answered this yet. I will attempt a preliminary answer for you. There are a couple (at least) different kinds of "contract" theories out there. Without going into too much about the varieties, just to give you an idea of how complex this issue is, I'll mention two somewhat specific examples. First, consider Hobbes. His work Leviathan contains a classic formulation of contract theory. In it, he offers three hints at an answer to your question. First, he argues that contracts that you enter into by force are legitimate. So, for example, if someone holds a gun to your head and will shoot you unless you agree to a contract, that's still a valid contract (if you agree to it). You might think that this is a case in which no consent was given. The person agrees, but only because the person was forced or coerced. If that's right, then the answer to your question, on this view, is "no, consent is not required." Another idea in Hobbes is tacit consent. This is explored in more detail, for example, in Kavka's very helpful book on Hobbesian moral theory. The idea is that, by reaping the benefits of our society (resources, security, etc), by following laws, by voting and participating, etc., you are tacitly consenting to the contract. So although you never explicitly say "I agree," you have consented simply by living here and playing along. In that case, the answer to your question is "yes" but it is very easy to count as having consented. Finally, there is inherited consent (though this is tricky in various ways). Hobbes thinks that when you are a child the parent is your sovereign. Suppose your parent has consented to be bound to the ruler, a higher sovereign. Then you are, as a result, also under that sovereign in the contract that your parents effectively made for you. Hobbes thinks that this chain could go back all the way to Adam and Eve, since their child was under their sovereignty. So as long as someone at some point in your lineage agreed to a contract and that contract has not been nullified, you're under it to. In that case, your consent is not needed any more than your being under the power of your parents requires consent.
Those are a few of ideas from Hobbes. A more contemporary contract theory is that of John Rawls. The idea there is that the just arrangement is determined, not by what people actually happen to agree to, but by what rational people *would* or *should* agree to under certain conditions (the conditions include that each person is ignorant of his or her own position in society...this takes a while to explain and there are many complexities and difficulties here). So, the question there may seem to be whether you should, as a rational person, consent, not whether you actually do consent. However, it could be argued that the rational thing to consent to is a system of laws that does not bind people to a contract unless they've explicitly consented. So, in that case, contracts do require actual consent afterall! We've now arrived at some complicated stuff that I will leave to the experts to explain...I hope that at least helps in getting started thinking about consent in contract theories.

Thanks for this question. I'm not an expert in this field but I noticed no one has answered this yet. I will attempt a preliminary answer for you. There are a couple (at least) different kinds of "contract" theories out there. Without going into too much about the varieties, just to give you an idea of how complex this issue is, I'll mention two somewhat specific examples. First, consider Hobbes. His work Leviathan contains a classic formulation of contract theory. In it, he offers three hints at an answer to your question. First, he argues that contracts that you enter into by force are legitimate. So, for example, if someone holds a gun to your head and will shoot you unless you agree to a contract, that's still a valid contract (if you agree to it). You might think that this is a case in which no consent was given. The person agrees, but only because the person was forced or coerced. If that's right, then the answer to your question, on this view, is "no, consent is not required." Another idea in...

I often heard atheists argued that even if a God exists, it does not mean it has

I often heard atheists argued that even if a God exists, it does not mean it has to be a good or infinite or one God. They are implying that it is possible that there be an evil or finite or many gods. Are these reasonable assumptions or is it the case that God has to be necessarily good, infinite and one?

Eugene Marshall's very helpful response explains that many different kinds of Gods, or even many Gods, might be compatible with the various different arguments for God's existence. I'd like to add just a minor, other point. If you take the Hebrew bible (or "old testament") very seriously, you might think there is also a biblical basis for rejecting the idea that God is wholly good, and even (depending on what parts you take seriously) that there is more than one god. So, some people might even think that there is a biblical basis for some of these accounts of God(s). Howard Wettstein has a nice essay on the former (I mean on God's not being wholly good), entitled "God's Struggles." Jeanine Diller also has some stuff on this. As for the idea that multiple Gods can be found in the Hebrew Bible, I think that's more of a stretch but I've heard some atheists appeal to that interpretative possibility.

Eugene Marshall's very helpful response explains that many different kinds of Gods, or even many Gods, might be compatible with the various different arguments for God's existence. I'd like to add just a minor, other point. If you take the Hebrew bible (or "old testament") very seriously, you might think there is also a biblical basis for rejecting the idea that God is wholly good, and even (depending on what parts you take seriously) that there is more than one god. So, some people might even think that there is a biblical basis for some of these accounts of God(s). Howard Wettstein has a nice essay on the former (I mean on God's not being wholly good), entitled "God's Struggles." Jeanine Diller also has some stuff on this. As for the idea that multiple Gods can be found in the Hebrew Bible, I think that's more of a stretch but I've heard some atheists appeal to that interpretative possibility.

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