I don’t hesitate to admit that I am almost entirely unlearned in philosophy or science. However anyone can philosophize. Each one of us can observe and reflect. We all want to know. Perhaps some of us more than others, but we can all relate to the desire to know on some level. In addition to observing things and thinking about them we wonder, we ask questions. We seek answers. we seek knowledge.
It seems natural to me therefore that if we want to know we must question. “It seems natural…” I say. This must be questioned. It seems natural, but is it really so? The more we question the notion that it is necessary to question in order to know the more clear it is that indeed we must not only question, but we must question everything. We must even question questioning.
Certainly there is no certainty…or is there?
It is not enough to assume we know, even after rigorous evidence.
In my opinion we must not be immobilized by considering everything to be equally uncertain. Some things seem to be “true enough” to go on.
However, while building on foundations that are “true enough” we still must question these base assumptions. If we accept history as “true enough” we see that our most basic assumptions have been overturned or at least given serious doubt. That the earth is flat seemed to be unquestioningly true in Western culture for centuries. Indeed there was little reason to think otherwise, even upon close examination. For some time it was a base assumption that the cosmos was pervaded by a “luminiferous ether” through which light traveled. Physics has since discarded this assumption.
This overturning process will likely continue. The Big Bang theory is almost an unquestioned assumption today. For reasons too lengthy to explain here (see the “Big Bang Assumption” category) I predict that within a few of decades science will generally leave this idea behind as a wrong answer to a meaningless question. In short, saying that there is a beginning of universe is like saying that there is a beginning or end of a circle. Lines begin and end, like a flat earth. The universe, like a circle, has no beginning or end. But for now science operates on the assumption that there was a beginning to the universe.
The point is that doubt sharpens the wit. We must sharpen our blade of reason with doubt, with skepticism.
Let us not be fooled by the modern misconception that skepticism means to assume that the improbable is untrue. Today the word “skeptic” is often misused to describe one who believes that something is not true. This is not skepticism. Skepticism actively examines and remains undecided. Skepticism does not believe anything. Intelligent skepticism does not assume that something is not true no matter improbable it seems.
It is important to keep questioning. Anything short of perpetual doubt falls short of knowledge. Anything less than (true) skepticism would dull the mind. Question everything, even your questions.
Sooner or later we realize that there seems to be a questioner. Although we question all, something is doing the questioning. Though we should not cease to question it, it does seem that there is a self.
In fact, the deeper we examine “reality”, the more questions we ask, the more it seems that the self is integral to everything we think we know. What do I know? How do I know? These can not be answered without considering the one who knows. All we perceive is perceived. Perception implies a “perceiver”. It seems that there is a self, a psyche, a mind. But with this one tentative assumption – that there all we think we know is through our own perception – implies huge new questions, questions about reality and perception of reality. Is there a reality out there beyond our perceptions? If perceptions are fallible, can we ever be sure of anything?
Oh the questions!
The glorious questions!
Is this a question?
Reason is the discriminating faculty. That is to say that reason detects differences. It discriminates between one thing and an other. It is like a dissecting blade that cuts through murkiness. It separates things to examine them as they are. It pulls things from the background to see them closer. Reason isolates.
To question is to cut through the murk of assumption.
The important thing is not to stop questioning.
– Albert Einstein