Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Does Doubt Prove Truth?

"Again, everyone who doubts knows that he is doubting, so that he is certain of this truth at least, namely the fact that he doubts. Thus every one who doubts whether there is such a thing as truth, knows at least one truth, so that his very capacity to doubt should convince him that there is such a thing as truth." -Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy: Volume II: Medieval Philosophy, p. 53

Was Copleston on to something here? The quote, by the way, appears in his chapter on Augustine and knowledge (Chapter IV).


Luke said...

I doubt it [laughing].

I think the counter point--and I'm no philosopher, so this is very rough and basic--would be:

While it is true that I am doubting, saying that this is evidence of truth is absurd. For my doubts are more indications of my distrust of epistemology and interpretation of data, and not a belief on my end that everything is still completely up for grabs and unknown.

I think the logic Copleston presents is fun and encouraging for the "absolute truthers"--but it doesn't actually address the reality a doubter is working within.


Robert Velarde said...

Thanks, Luke. I found the excerpt a fun thought puzzle. It might have been better to say that doubt proves that we do have the ability to access some knowledge. In this sense, the quote would be helpful in addressing extreme skeptics in relation to epistemology.

If we know we doubt, then we know something. If so, then what other forms of knowledge are possible and to what extent, would be a good question to pursue.

I'd have to re-read Copleston's section on this to refine where he was going with it, as well as unpack it in relation to Augustine.

Jarod said...

Thanks for the quotation from Copleston; I would also like to look at in context with Augustine. With Augustine it would especially be interesting in relation to Augustine's argument for the existence of God from the fact that Truth exists (On Free Choice of the Will, Book II).

I think the quotation may be a good starting point to address the extreme skeptic. A skeptic could say that he or she does doubts that logic itself has any relation to reality. If it doesn't then what Copleston says is irrelevant as well as any other formulations, but then of course this would apply to the skeptics argument as well. He or she is also using logic to draw a conclusion.