Michael Sandel, Justice, (On Skepticism)

“…philosophy distances us from conventions, from established assumptions, and from settled beliefs… And in the face of these risks, there is a characteristic evasion…[which] is skepticism… we didn’t resolve once and for all either the cases or the principles we were arguing when we began and if Aristotle and Locke and Kant and Mill haven’t solved these questions after all of these years, who are we to think… that we can resolve them? And so maybe it’s just a matter of, each person having his or her own principles and there’s nothing more to be said about it, no way of reasoning.

That’s the… evasion of skepticism, to which I would offer the following reply. It’s true, these questions have been debated for a very long time, but the very fact that they have recurred and persisted may suggest that, though they’re impossible in one sense, they’re unavoidable in another. And the reason they’re unavoidable… is that we live some answer to these questions every day. So skepticism, just…giving up on moral reflection, is no solution. Immanuel Kant described… the problem with skepticism when he wrote, “Skepticism is a resting place for human reason, where it can reflect upon its dogmatic wanderings, but it is no dwelling place for permanent settlement…Simply to acquiesce in skepticism… can never suffice to overcome the restlessness of reason.”

Full Lecture Series: http://www.justiceharvard.org/


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