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Pyrrhonian Skepticism
2004 W. Beaty

I learned a new word!

Pyrrhonian. Pyrrrrhoooooooooooo-nian.

I'm coming to think that my difficulty with Skeptics on JREF, PhACT, SCI.SKEPTIC, etc., is that I am a Pyrrhonian, and most Skeptics are not. Pyrrhonian Skeptics think that all other skeptics are unabashed dogmatists... and see that dogmatism is the worst sin possible for any follower of Reason.

From Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
Three types of Skepticism:

"Academic" or "Cartesian" Skeptics: followers of Plato's Academy.
Reason is paramount. We cannot know anything about the future, or anything about the contents of someone else's mind, or anything about the past, or anything at all about the "external world."

"Epistemist" Skeptics
We CAN know about the future, we can know about the contents of someone else's mind, or about the past, or about the "external world."

"Pyrrhonian" Skeptics
Inquiry is paramount, and a skeptic is an inquirer. Our position is not doubt or denial or disbelief, but continual inquiry. For example, We do not believe in the reality of a god, but neither do we deny it. Nor do we say that nobody could ever know for certain one way or the other, as agnostics do. Instead we say of god, "I personally do not know at the moment but I am trying to find out."

And like Science in general, Pyrrhonian Skepticism is based on bend-over-backwards honesty, and on tenativeness, neither of which figures largely in other forms of skepticism.

Truzzi's word "Zetectic" is the same as "Pyrrhonian Skeptic."

More about Pyrrhonian Skepticism: Dr. P. Suber
More about Academic Skepticism: Stanford Encyc. of Philos

Heh. I think we should add a fourth type: Kurtzian Skepticism.

Old school CSICOP skepticism doesn't seem to fall under any of the above three classifications. Kurtzian Skepticism is more based on a battle between light and darkness, where Skeptics know the truth about religion, about the paranormal, cryptozoology, etc., and they must fight against hoards of credulous people who 'worship' ignorance, and who threaten to bring down civilization and trigger a new dark age.

A Kurtzian Skeptic knows that alien UFOs are crap. But if a skeptic insists that alien spaceships AREN'T visiting Earth, then that person certainly isn't a Pyrrhonian Skeptic. After all, a portion of the alien encounter reports could be true, yet we'd have little chance of separating them out from a larger number of delusions and fabrications. A Pyrrhonian Skeptic won't deny alien spaceships.

But if a skeptic insists that alien spaceships ARE visiting Earth, then again, that person wouldn't be a Pyrrhonian Skeptic. The evidence for alien visitation is too weak, so we cannot assume that aliens are visiting. (Strong evidence is more along the lines of, say, the existence of cars and computers, or even the existence of the rare Giant Squid. We need a few dead Alien bodies washed up on shore.)

Both sides of the UFO/Paranormal debate seem to hate the Pyrrhonian Skeptics. For example, JREF and online CSICOP people instantly assume that Pyrrhonians are the credulous enemy, and then they leap to attack (after all, Pyrrhonians don't deny Yeti or alien visitation or PSI, so we're obviously on the side of the disgusting "woo-woos.") At the same time, the UFO-believers usually see Pyrrhonians as closed minded debunkers who insist on questioning all their evidence!


On the other hand, most scientists seem to be Pyrrhonians. That's why the typical member of a skeptical organization is NOT a professional scientist. That's also why large numbers of scientists do NOT flock to Kurtzian-dominated skeptic organizations (and why Truzzi loudly objected to skeptical disbelief when was CSICOP first was forming, then dropped out in disgust.)

So... we have dogmatists who are sure that we're being visited by aliens, versus dogmatists who are certain that we're not. It is clear to be that both sides pursue pseudoscience: neither side witholds their belief before studying the evidence (or witholds their disbelief.) Unlike the scientific types, neither side is genuinely curious about whether we're being visited or not. Neither side dares take an unprejudiced look at the evidence, since first they'd have to admit that they don't already know the truth.

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