Skeptic

The worst speculative skeptic ever I knew was a much better man than the most superstitious devotee and bigot.

Neither acquiescence in skepticism nor acquiescence in dogma is what education should produce. What it should produce is a belief that knowledge is attainable in a measure, though with difficulty; that much of what passes for knowledge at any given time is likely to be more or less mistaken, but that the mistakes can be rectified by care and industry... Knowledge, like other good things, is difficult, but not impossible; the dogmatist forgets the difficulty, the skeptic denies the possibility. Both are mistaken, and their errors, when widespread, produce social disaster.

The tolerance of the skeptic… accepts the most diverse and indeed the most contradictory opinions, and keeps all his suspicions for the “dogmatist.”

Every man who has mastered a profession is a skeptic concerning it.

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality.

Once it was the skeptic, the critic of the status quo, who had to make a great effort. Today the skeptic is the status quo. The one who must make the effort is the man who seeks to create a new moral order.

Skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches, as opposed to him who asserts and thinks that he has found.

Neither acquiescence in skepticism nor acquiescence in dogma is what education should produce. What it should produce is a belief that knowledge is attainable in a measure, though with difficulty; that much of what passes for knowledge at any given time is likely to be more or less mistaken, but that the mistakes can be rectified by care and industry... Knowledge, like other good things, is difficult, but not impossible; the dogmatist forgets the difficulty, the skeptic denies the possibility. Both are mistaken, and their errors, when widespread, produce social disaster.

Nothing yet proves that continued progress is inevitable, but that it is possible no one but an extreme skeptic or pessimist can doubt.

Nothing yet proves that continued progress is inevitable, but that it is possible no one but an extreme skeptic or pessimist can doubt.

The skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches, as opposed to him who asserts and thinks that he has found.

But as a skeptic I am dubious about science as about everything else, unless the scientist is himself a skeptic, and few of them are. The stench of formaldehyde may be as potent as the whiff of incense in stimulating a naturally idolatrous understanding.

All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame.

The purifying, healing influence of literature, the dissipating of passions by knowledge and the written word, literature as the path to understanding, forgiveness and love, the redeeming might of the word, the literary spirit as the noblest manifestation of the spirit of man, the writer as perfected type, as saint.

To everything we call a cause we ascribe power to produce the effect. In intelligent causes, the power may be without being exerted; so I have power to run when I sit still or walk. But in inanimate causes we conceive no power but what is exerted, and therefore measure the power of the cause by the effect which it actually produces. The power of an acid to dissolve iron is measured by what it actually dissolves.

A social deformity perhaps still more hideous than the evil rich: the evil poor

The only real secularism in a bad sense is isolation from the full stream of natural interests. When business tries to go its own way in defiance of the common good, it tends to become secular. But the same is also true of religion. When the church withdraws into its sanctuary and denies its organic relation to scientific knowledge or to the institutions of society around it, there results a deadly secularization of religion. Too often this has happened, and far too widely it is happening today. It happens not only with those sects which cultivate an intense emotionalism, like the Holy Rollers, or the sects that stress other-worldliness, but to many old and settled churches whose theologians speak in dialectical tongues and declare that the God in whom they believe is beyond the reach of man’s best efforts.