Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Skepticism

"Skepticism has never founded empires, established principles, or changed the world's heart. The great doers in history have always been men of faith." - Edwin Hubbell Chapin

"The chief and most confounding objection to excessive skepticism, that no durable good can ever result from it; while it remains in its full force and vigor. We need only ask such a skeptic, what his meaning is? And what he proposes by all these curious researches? He is immediately at a loss, and knows not what to answer." - David Hume

"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." -

"Superstition renders a man a fool, and skepticism makes him mad." - Henry Fielding

"The great trouble with the skepticism of the age is, that it is not thorough enough. It questions everything but its own foundations." - John Monroe Gibson

"One of the greatest pleasures of childhood is found in the mysteries which it hides from the skepticism of the elders, and works up into small mythologies of its own." -

"By the spirit of the age... the man of today is forced into skepticism about his own thinking, in order to make him receptive to truth which comes to him from authority... Truth taken over by skepticism which has become believing... is not capable of uniting itself with him to the very marrow of his being." - Albert Schweitzer

"The fear of God is not the beginning of wisdom. The fear of God is the death of wisdom. Skepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom." -

"The deepest, the only theme of human history, compared to which all others are of subordinate importance, is the conflict of skepticism with faith." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"A sound belief is always accompanied by a sane skepticism. It is only by disbelieving in some things that we can ever believe in others things. Faith does not mean credulity." - Samuel H. Miller

"Throughout human history, progress has come through the men and women who dared to challenge the precepts and dogmas that curtailed freedoms. Freethinking (which includes skepticism, rationalism, unbelief, atheism, agnosticism, humanism and so forth) has made great and lasting contributions to human freedom, human rights, and human equality." - Gerald Alexander Larue

"Skepticism is more easily understood by asking "What do I know?"" -

"Few men speak humbly of humility, chastely of chastity, skeptically of skepticism." - Blaise Pascal

"It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected findings of science." - Carl Sagan

"What has not been examined impartially has not been well examined. Skepticism is therefore the step toward truth." - Denis Diderot

"Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect, and it is shameful to surrender it too soon or to the first comer: there is nobility in preserving it coolly and proudly through a long youth, until at last, in the ripeness of instinct and discretion, it can be safely exchanged for fidelity and happiness." - George Santayana

"Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect." - George Santayana

"Religious minds prefer skepticism. The true saint is a profound skeptic; a total disbeliever in human reason, who has more than once joined hands on this ground with some one who were at best sinners." -

"Tolerance in the sense of moderation or superior knowledge or skepticism is actually the worst form of intolerance." - Karl Barth

"Do not let yourself be tainted with a barren skepticism." - Louis Pasteur

"Skepticism is slow suicide." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Life itself is a bubble and skepticism, and a sleep within a sleep." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Skepticism, riddling the faith of yesterday, prepares the way for the faith of tomorrow." - Romain Rolland

"The truth survives, the untruth perishes. Men have but little capacity for the recognition of truth at first sight, and of a hundred things which seem plausible, it is fortunate if one be true. Hence it is well that all things should be held at arm’s length and stand the scrutiny of our prejudices and interests, of our religion and our skepticism." - Thomas Brackett Reed, aka Czar Reed

"Skepticism means, not intellectual doubt alone, but moral doubt." - Thomas Carlyle

"The improver of knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, skepticism is the highest of duties, blind faith the one unpardonable sin." - Thomas Henry Huxley, aka T.H. Huxley and Darwin's Bulldog

"So I say that civilizations begin with religion and stoicism: they end with skepticism and unbelief, and the undisciplined pursuit of individual pleasure. A civilization is born stoic and dies epicurean." - Will Durant, fully William James "Will" Durant

"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." - Bertrand Russell, fully Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell

"The fear of God is not the beginning of wisdom. The fear of God is the death of wisdom. Skepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom." - Clarence Darrow, fully Clarence Seward Darrow

"Regardless of their prior attitudes [on near death experience] - whether skeptical or deeply religious - and regardless of the many variations in religious beliefs and degrees of skepticism from tolerant disbelief to outspoken atheism - most of these people were convinced that they had been in the presence of some supreme and loving power and had a glimpse of a life yet to come." - Kenneth Ring

"The capacity to combine commitment with skepticism is essential to democracy. " - Mary Catherine Bateson

"Religion and science wage together an incessantly continuing, never slackening fight against skepticism and dogmatism, against disbelief (Unglaube) and superstition (Aberglaube) and the guiding slogan in this fight is from times immemorial and into the whole future: Up to God! (Hin zu Gott)" - Max Planck, fully Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck

"I prefer credulity to skepticism and cynicism for there is more promise in almost anything than in nothing at all." - Ralph Barton Perry

"In childhood our credulity serves us well. It helps us to pack, with extraordinary rapidity, our skulls full of the wisdom of our parents and our ancestors. But if we don't grow out of it in the fullness of time, our ... nature makes us a sitting target for astrologers, mediums, gurus, evangelists, and quacks. We need to replace the automatic credulity of childhood with the constructive skepticism of adult science." - Richard Dawkins

"Machines are designed not to be random. When you call up a word processing program on your computer, you don't want it to be different every time you call it up. You want it to stay the same." - Rupert Sheldrake, fully Alfred Rupert Sheldrake

"Unfortunately, at present, practically no one under thirty goes to workshops. It's a system of education entirely for the middle aged." - Rupert Sheldrake, fully Alfred Rupert Sheldrake

"The proper method of philosophy consists in clearly conceiving the insoluble problems in all their insolubility and then in simply contemplating them, fixedly and tirelessly, year after year, without any hope, patiently waiting." - Simone Weil

"Skepticism's bad rap arises from the impression that, however necessary the activity, it can only be regarded as a negative removal of false claims. Not so... Proper debunking is done in the interest of an alternate model of explanation, not as a nihilistic exercise. The alternate model is rationality itself, tied to moral decency--the most powerful joint instrument for good that our planet has ever known." - Stephan Jay Gould

"Though I shall for convenience often speak of two standpoints, the subjective and the objective, and though the various places in which this opposition is found have much in common, the distinction between more subjective and more objective views is really a matter of degree, and it covers a wide spectrum." - Thomas Nagel

"To regard the successful experiences which ensue from a belief as a criterion of its truth is one thing--and a thing that is sometimes bad and sometimes good--but to assume that truth itself consists in the process by which it is verified is a different thing and always bad. " - William P. Montague, fully William Pepperell Montague

"In general, scientific progress calls for no more than the absorption and elaboration of new ideas— and this is a call most scientists are happy to heed." - Werner Heisenberg, fully Werner Karl Heisenberg

"There can indeed be little doubt that for nearly two hundred years after its establishment in Europe, the Christian community exhibited a moral purity which, if it has been equaled, has never for any long period been surpassed. Completely separated from the Roman world that was around them, abstaining alike from political life, from appeals to the tribunals, and from military occupations; looking forward continually to the immediate advent of their Master, and the destruction of the Empire in which they dwelt, and animated by all the fervor of a young religion, the Christiana found within themselves a whole order of ideas and feelings sufficiently powerful to guard them from the contamination of their age." - W. E. H. Lecky, fully William Edward Hartpole Lecky

"In the future my name ought to be put in the catalogue as I sign it on the canvas, namely Vincent and not Van Gogh, for the simple reason that they do not know how to pronounce the latter name here." - Vincent van Gogh, fully Vincent Willem van Gogh

"Americans once expected parents to raise their children in accordance with the dominant cultural messages. Today they are expected to raise their children in opposition to them. Once the chorus of cultural values was full of ministers, teachers, neighbors, leaders. They demanded more conformity, but offered more support. Now the messengers are violent cartoon characters, rappers and celebrities selling sneakers. Parents are considered "responsible" only if they are successful in their resistance. That's what makes child-raising harder. It's not just that American families have less time with their kids; it's that we have to spend more of this time doing battle with our own culture." - Ellen Goodman

"The greatest power in the world is the power our thought, for it is Creative Mind in action." - Fenwicke Lindsay Holmes

"The great curse of modern philosophy is the almost universally prevailing rebellion against intellectual self-discipline. Where loose thinking obtains, truth cannot possibly be grasped, whence the conclusion naturally follows that there is no truth." - Étienne Gilson, fully Étienne Henry Gilson