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Is philosophical Skepticism true?

Mach

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The position of philosophical skepticism is something like this:

We cannot know anything about reality with certainty.

Or wiki:
(It is generally agreed that knowledge requires justification. It is not enough to have a true belief: one must also have good reasons for that belief. )
Skeptics claim that it is not possible to have an adequate justification.

Do you think this is correct? Why?

Please note this is different than scientific skepticism. Scientific skepticism is questioning whether claims about reality are justified scientifically...they are testable, evidenced, observable, etc. Scientific skepticism is really just applied science...or scientific inquiry, being critical, etc. Or the general definition of skepticism that is "to question". None of these types of skepticism is being addressed.
 

Fishking

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I think it is true for science or anything else. We only know what we observe and what we observe may not be accurate or be so lacking in depth that it may as well be accurate. I think of the allegory of the cave.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory_of_the_Cave

There is also that weird deal where observing an experiment actually changes the results so there's all kinds of things that can happen in the sciences.
 

joG

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The position of philosophical skepticism is something like this:

We cannot know anything about reality with certainty.

Or wiki:
(It is generally agreed that knowledge requires justification. It is not enough to have a true belief: one must also have good reasons for that belief. )
Skeptics claim that it is not possible to have an adequate justification.

Do you think this is correct? Why?

Please note this is different than scientific skepticism. Scientific skepticism is questioning whether claims about reality are justified scientifically...they are testable, evidenced, observable, etc. Scientific skepticism is really just applied science...or scientific inquiry, being critical, etc. Or the general definition of skepticism that is "to question". None of these types of skepticism is being addressed.

Boy, you know, I am not sure about that.
 

OrphanSlug

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The position of philosophical skepticism is something like this:

We cannot know anything about reality with certainty.

Or wiki:
(It is generally agreed that knowledge requires justification. It is not enough to have a true belief: one must also have good reasons for that belief. )
Skeptics claim that it is not possible to have an adequate justification.

Do you think this is correct? Why?

Please note this is different than scientific skepticism. Scientific skepticism is questioning whether claims about reality are justified scientifically...they are testable, evidenced, observable, etc. Scientific skepticism is really just applied science...or scientific inquiry, being critical, etc. Or the general definition of skepticism that is "to question". None of these types of skepticism is being addressed.

Been a while since I've studied so bear with me a little on this...

As I recall we are talking about philosophical takes on perception and reality, and by inverse dealing with doubt. So it really less about certainty of reality but dealing with natural questions from our perceptions of various "truths."

So, philosophical skepticism is mainly about asking questions that challenge ordinary assumptions for some subject. The key word is assumptions because often we are not talking about truth in the dictionary sense, but perception of truth in the philosophical sense. For instance, the idea that because we cannot know something for sure we should continually look to the right questions because of evidence or thought exercise provoking those questions to further advance what we can establish. A natural subject to think about along these lines is dealing with humanity's insistence on God or Gods. On that subject the right questions are meant to be exploratory because of the skeptical nature of the subject that by definition goes beyond our perceptions in this reality. Not to necessarily prove or disprove God or Gods, but to further evaluate that perception of "truth" as over all of human history we have continually reshaped perceptions of deity all along the way. Which usually spills over into the subject of purpose. Or, the reason for the "truth."

The contrast to that is ordinary incredulity, where the right questions are asked because of some evidence or thought exercise where the motivation is to remove doubt for some subject. Call it the chip away approach to dealing with some perception of "truth." In totality we are talking about a far more direct approach with little room for reconsideration of the questions or the answers. On the subject of God or Gods, someone who subscribes to ordinary incredulity thinking would conclude that because there is no evidence of God or Gods in my perception of "truth," then God or Gods do not exist. Or, the attempt to remove doubt with something definitive (even if argumentative) as a means to a new "truth."

To your point, a philosophical skeptic generally assumes the possibilities until otherwise concluded, but under the associated assumptions of reason for those possibilities in the first place. The reason for the belief is considered just as much as the belief itself.

To the opposing ordinary incredulity approach, what matters most is not the possibilities but rather the belief itself in terms of removing doubt by installing "truth." The reason for the belief takes a backseat as the motivations end up discarded, the importance is just the belief in terms of "truth."
 

Mach

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To your point, a philosophical skeptic generally assumes the possibilities until otherwise concluded, but under the associated assumptions of reason for those possibilities in the first place.
How does a philosophical skeptic reach this "otherwise concluded" position?
 

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How does a philosophical skeptic reach this "otherwise concluded" position?

Presumably by the nature of the question.

On our subject of God or Gods. A philosophical skeptic may conclude is it unreasonable to predict that we will ever know for certain that there are God or Gods, but we can live with our inherent skepticism because of the question while also having enough cause for belief in the possibility of God or Gods as a "truth."

The ordinary incredulity approach cannot get to that same conclusion.
 

Mach

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On our subject of God or Gods. A philosophical skeptic may conclude is it unreasonable to predict that we will ever know for certain that there are God or Gods.

As I understand it, that contradicts the skeptic position itself:
Skeptics claim that it is not possible to have an adequate justification.

You offer a position where it appears a skeptic reaches "adequate justification' "for claiming it is unreasonable to predict that we will ever know X for certain."
If they haven't reached adequate justification, why are they "reaching conclusion", and how can they then make a claim without adequate justification? Can we not then just say skepticism is inadequately justified (in all cases?)

Science in contrast uses the quantity, quality, test-ability, etc., of evidence (even secondary heuristics like parsimony, etc.) , to put certainty of a particular scientific claim on a spectrum.
You have things like "leading theories", and "new less tested theories", etc. And while science is typically defined as falsifiable, outright claims of impossibility to persist:
Perpetual motion is impossible.

Doesn't that look better than the self-contradicting position of skepticism?


I am avoiding the use of "god" personally, since it tends to complicate the discussion with religion.
I also don't know what "ordinary incredulity" is. Perhaps you can use a commonly used synonym like "science", or "reason", or "scientific inquiry", or scientific skepticism (as in the wiki)?
 

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As I understand it, that contradicts the skeptic position itself:
Skeptics claim that it is not possible to have an adequate justification.

You offer a position where it appears a skeptic reaches "adequate justification' "for claiming it is unreasonable to predict that we will ever know X for certain."
If they haven't reached adequate justification, why are they "reaching conclusion", and how can they then make a claim without adequate justification? Can we not then just say skepticism is inadequately justified (in all cases?)

Science in contrast uses the quantity, quality, test-ability, etc., of evidence (even secondary heuristics like parsimony, etc.) , to put certainty of a particular scientific claim on a spectrum.
You have things like "leading theories", and "new less tested theories", etc. And while science is typically defined as falsifiable, outright claims of impossibility to persist:
Perpetual motion is impossible.

Doesn't that look better than the self-contradicting position of skepticism?


I am avoiding the use of "god" personally, since it tends to complicate the discussion with religion.
I also don't know what "ordinary incredulity" is. Perhaps you can use a commonly used synonym like "science", or "reason", or "scientific inquiry", or scientific skepticism (as in the wiki)?

What you may not be considering is the inverse.

Skeptics may "claim that it is not possible to have an adequate justification," but a philosophical skeptic may also claim it is not possible to have definitive proof to dismiss it either. That there may always be room for the possibilities while we ask questions to shape these various "truths." It is basically saying we may not ever know something for certain about some subject, but that does not mean we remove all that we suspect (or that we may believe) along the way just because. We need to ask the right questions because that level of skepticism considers the motivations to believe something as much as that something itself.

I only picked the God or Gods subject because it illustrates well how a philosophical skeptic may think and ask questions, and there are several flavors of that ideology anyway. Also that subject allows for many questions to be asked that might have slight variations from a philosophical skeptic to someone who thinks in terms of ordinary incredulity.

And I am not talking about systems of science at all and on purpose. That is entirely different, and it is all about a process with real confines (for lack of a better way to put it) on getting from an observation, or hypothesis, or question to a pier supported accepted theory about that subject.
 

Mach

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What you may not be considering is the inverse.
Skeptics may "claim that it is not possible to have an adequate justification," but a philosophical skeptic may also claim it is not possible to have definitive proof to dismiss it either.
Sure, but combined that tells us nothing, literally. It's indistinguishable from "no one knows".
It also doesn't resolve the contradiction I demonstrated.

And I am not talking about systems of science at all and on purpose. That is entirely different, and it is all about a process with real confines (for lack of a better way to put it) on getting from an observation, or hypothesis, or question to a pier supported accepted theory about that subject.
And yet all discussion of reality is included in the system of science. Only the imaginary is excluded.
The only confinement of science is reality, are you suggesting that for claims of reality (see the definition in the OP), that reality is not proper confines? (self evidently it is!)
 

Absentglare

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The position of philosophical skepticism is something like this:

We cannot know anything about reality with certainty.

Or wiki:
(It is generally agreed that knowledge requires justification. It is not enough to have a true belief: one must also have good reasons for that belief. )
Skeptics claim that it is not possible to have an adequate justification.

Do you think this is correct? Why?

Please note this is different than scientific skepticism. Scientific skepticism is questioning whether claims about reality are justified scientifically...they are testable, evidenced, observable, etc. Scientific skepticism is really just applied science...or scientific inquiry, being critical, etc. Or the general definition of skepticism that is "to question". None of these types of skepticism is being addressed.

Define 'adequate justification' and the definition will give you the answer.

Skepticism is right in that we do not know what we know about reality. To "know" something it must be a (1) justified (2) true (3) belief.

We can easily satisfy (1) and (3) by having justified beliefs, for example, "the Earth is roughly round." But we do not know whether it is true or not.

We cannot know what is true, so we cannot distinguish our justified true beliefs from justified false beliefs.

In summary, we lack the ability to distinguish what is true with absolute certainty. This is the necessary result of having our sole access to reality through the lens of our own mind- we do not have direct access to reality, so we cannot know the truth of reality with absolute certainty.
 

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The position of philosophical skepticism is something like this:

We cannot know anything about reality with certainty.

Or wiki:
(It is generally agreed that knowledge requires justification. It is not enough to have a true belief: one must also have good reasons for that belief. )
Skeptics claim that it is not possible to have an adequate justification.

Do you think this is correct? Why?

Please note this is different than scientific skepticism. Scientific skepticism is questioning whether claims about reality are justified scientifically...they are testable, evidenced, observable, etc. Scientific skepticism is really just applied science...or scientific inquiry, being critical, etc. Or the general definition of skepticism that is "to question". None of these types of skepticism is being addressed.

I've always wondered if the "blue" that I see is the same as the "blue" that you see. I think that they'd be close, but if we could find a way to precisely quantify the color you see vs. the color I see, I think that we'd see a definite difference. The way my brain interprets the exact same wavelength of light may be different than how your brain interprets it.
 

Cephus

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We cannot know anything with any degree of absolute certainty. Good thing it isn't required.
 

Mach

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I've always wondered if the "blue" that I see is the same as the "blue" that you see. I think that they'd be close, but if we could find a way to precisely quantify the color you see vs. the color I see, I think that we'd see a definite difference. The way my brain interprets the exact same wavelength of light may be different than how your brain interprets it.

I think that's classified as healthy scientific skepticism. Not philosophical skeptics.
That problem you comment on (seeing a color), is a problem of "experience". It's a big question in philosophy, you can see why, having asked good questions about how one experiences things may be harder than "external things" to quantify. If our expeirence is process by which we observe...observation OF experience get tricky! Which is generally true. But that they can be analyzed, measured, differences seen, etc., leads me to believe that's routine science you describe.

You may see some example of actual philosophical skeptics at some point in the thread.
 

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Sure, but combined that tells us nothing, literally. It's indistinguishable from "no one knows".
It also doesn't resolve the contradiction I demonstrated.


And yet all discussion of reality is included in the system of science. Only the imaginary is excluded.
The only confinement of science is reality, are you suggesting that for claims of reality (see the definition in the OP), that reality is not proper confines? (self evidently it is!)

My concern is you might be looking at philosophy in terms of absolutes. That there has to be definitive conclusion of truth and fact, or that there has to be a right and wrong, or that all questions must terminate at an answer with no other explanation needed, etc.

That is not necessarily the point of philosophy or where where that line of thinking has to end.

If you agree that the whole point of philosophy, as an academia, is to ask the right questions as a means to new understandings through an open mind approach to how we look at reality, truth, facts, perceptions, etc. then you have a very open world out there to end up in. Perhaps to a point filled with more questions than where you started from. To a philosophical skeptic the answer may be less important than the discussion on the question. That allows for possibilities.

The method and teaching of new ways to think, new ways to discover, and new ways to consider reason (in any sense) means that "no one knows" can be an acceptable answer. Not because it completely answers the question *or* avoids it, but because the process of thinking about it in this manner allows for a new interpretation of acceptability for some subject. Acceptability of the discussion is not always about an answer.

Science on the other hand, that process allows for the potential for such a definitive conclusion. Even if in the form of an accepted scientific theory that ends up later refined or disproved by some other applied process.
 

Mach

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We cannot know anything with any degree of absolute certainty. Good thing it isn't required.
"any degree of absolute certainty"? How man qualifiers do you really need there, what is it you are trying to communicate?

Ignoring that, so you're not sure if perpetual motion is possible in reality?
 

Mach

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My concern is you might be looking at philosophy in terms of absolutes.
Unfortunately that's just as contradictory as skepticism in general.
You claim the point of philosophy is X <--- this is given in absolute terms. To reject the is to accept that philosophy is NOT about X.
(let X be whatever you claimed above...)

Accepting basic logic is not optional at this point either, it's self-evident in our communicating and definitions in general. Claiming logic doesn't apply...itself would necessitate accepting logic for the claim to make sense...

Science on the other hand, that process allows for the potential for such a definitive conclusion. Even if in the form of an accepted scientific theory that ends up later refined or disproved by some other applied process.
Indeed.
And yet this : We cannot know anything about reality with certainty.
contradicts the above. Science does allow for (scientific certainty) with regards to reality. Skepticism as defined in the OP, does not.
 

Cephus

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"any degree of absolute certainty"? How man qualifiers do you really need there, what is it you are trying to communicate?

Ignoring that, so you're not sure if perpetual motion is possible in reality?

Not absolutely, no. Science discovers new things all the time. We can only go with what we have evidence for right now.
 

Mach

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Skepticism is right in that we do not know what we know about reality.
If you don't know, how can you know the above (you don't, it's a contradiction)

We cannot know what is true, so we cannot distinguish our justified true beliefs from justified false beliefs.
Of course we can differentiate true from false.
You did it yourself in making the above claim "we cannot know what is true". <-- Is that true? Contradiction again.

This is the necessary result of having our sole access to reality through the lens of our own mind- we do not have direct access to reality, so we cannot know the truth of reality with absolute certainty.
Defined direct access, and you'll see your error. I can observe a ball with senses and with senses via other sensors (electronic sensors).
You claim that's not direct access. What is this mysterious direct access? I argue that its nonsensical.
 

Mach

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Not absolutely, no.
So you believe perpetual motion in reality...is possible? Wow :/
Let's ignore that bomb for a moment. On what evidence do you base that? If none, then why hold that position?

Science discovers new things all the time. We can only go with what we have evidence for right now.
The issue is, it's an inconsistent position.
You claim you cannot absolutely know <-- that itself is an absolute claim.
Science discovers new things all the time. < - an absolute claim.
Skepticism begins with a contradictory premise. It accepts certainty to make a claim, then proceeds to claim certainty cannot be attained.

Did you see the differentiation between scientific skepticism and philosophical skepticism? I'd like to think you fall in the scientific skeptic category.

Perpetual motion is impossible (in the context of our observed reality...which is the only realistic context but stated just in case).
 

Cephus

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So you believe perpetual motion in reality...is possible? Wow :/
Let's ignore that bomb for a moment. On what evidence do you base that? If none, then why hold that position?

Possible? Sure. Likely? No. But it's also possible that we're all brains in jars or living in the Matrix. None of these things are supported by the evidence and thus, no rational person should think they are actually so, but can I rule them out with absolute certainty? No and neither can you.
 

Harry Guerrilla

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The position of philosophical skepticism is something like this:

We cannot know anything about reality with certainty.

Or wiki:
(It is generally agreed that knowledge requires justification. It is not enough to have a true belief: one must also have good reasons for that belief. )
Skeptics claim that it is not possible to have an adequate justification.

Do you think this is correct? Why?

Please note this is different than scientific skepticism. Scientific skepticism is questioning whether claims about reality are justified scientifically...they are testable, evidenced, observable, etc. Scientific skepticism is really just applied science...or scientific inquiry, being critical, etc. Or the general definition of skepticism that is "to question". None of these types of skepticism is being addressed.

I think that skepticism requires, at the very least, a well reasoned argument.
Belief alone can not satisfy.
 

Nilly

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The position of philosophical skepticism is something like this:

We cannot know anything about reality with certainty.

Or wiki:
(It is generally agreed that knowledge requires justification. It is not enough to have a true belief: one must also have good reasons for that belief. )
Skeptics claim that it is not possible to have an adequate justification.

Do you think this is correct? Why?

Please note this is different than scientific skepticism. Scientific skepticism is questioning whether claims about reality are justified scientifically...they are testable, evidenced, observable, etc. Scientific skepticism is really just applied science...or scientific inquiry, being critical, etc. Or the general definition of skepticism that is "to question". None of these types of skepticism is being addressed.

If you don't know, how can you know the above (you don't, it's a contradiction)

Of course we can differentiate true from false.
You did it yourself in making the above claim "we cannot know what is true". <-- Is that true? Contradiction again.

I'm no epistemologist, but here's my 2c:

We can have a priori knowledge with certainty. Logic, tautologies, mathematics etc.

We cannot have a posteriori knowledge with absolute certainty. Anything that cannot be derived by reason alone, anything that requires empirical evidence or experience.

It is possible to acknowledge that we can't know anything a posteriori for sure (we can't know for sure that the sky is blue, that apples grow on trees, that perpetual motion machines can't/don't exist) whilst at the same time acknowledging that to a good enough approximation, we can consider them to simply be true, and that if we didn't consider them true, every conversation would devolve into epistemological semantics. That tacit acknowledgement that we can't know anything for sure forms the basis of the scientific method.

Philosophy aside, observation is flawed by its very nature. Human experience is flawed due to our biology. By our biases and by the fact that we only experience a tiny part of nature (i.e. in the range of 10^-3 to 10^3 meters/seconds. A being that was far smaller, or far faster than us would experience the universe very differently). In any case, nature is subjective, depending on the observer (human or otherwise). Physics dictates that 2 observers of the same event can have different accounts of the event yet both be completely correct (simultaneity).

So 'knowledge' is limited philosophically, biologically and physically. The entire point of 'science' is to build a compendium of knowledge whilst taking these limitations into account. The scientific method (i.e. an iterative cycle between hypothesis <-> verifiable observation) has been developed over the years to grapple with these limitations, and it is the best way we have of dealing with them (evidenced by the fact the scientific method has been so successful).

That's why when it comes to my skepticism, if knowledge is claimed based upon the scientific method, I will generally accept that knowledge to be true (i.e. I am not a skeptic), because the method by which it was gained accounts for limitations of human knowledge, that is all the adequate justification I need to not be skeptical. If knowledge is claimed that is not based on the scientific method, I will be a skeptic. Not sure how that fits into philosophical vs scientific skepticism.
 

Frank Apisa

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We cannot know anything with any degree of absolute certainty. Good thing it isn't required.

Wow...something I agree with Cephus about. I never thought that would happen.

Since it is impossible to answer the question: "Is what I consider REALITY actually REALITY...or is it some kind of illusion that the mind I am using manufactured for me?"...

...it appears we truly cannot KNOW anything with any degree of absolute certainty.

But...who cares. If it is an illusion...I can live in it comfortably and not be bothered by the fact that I cannot know anything with absolute certainty.

Coincidentally, this morning, my first post dealt with this in anther thread:

So that we are clear, when I use the word "know" I use it only in the most casual of ways. I remember an interview Bill Moyers had with Richard Feynman...where Feynman essentially said that we know nothing with absolute certainty. (He was straying from science to philosophy.) I agree with him. To KNOW any of the stuff we often use "know" for...probably can be disputed. I will say, even in a rigorous discussion, that I KNOW the name on my birth certificate is "Frank Apisa"; I know I'll be 80 years old in August; I know I am sitting at my desk tapping the keyboard of my computer...BUT in a greater, more exact sense, I do not know any of those things. They may all be illusions in a REALITY which is beyond my ability to comprehend.

(If it is an illusion, by the way, I live comfortably and with satisfaction in it.)

http://www.debatepolitics.com/philo...eving-gods-belief-not-140.html#post1065761071
 

Mach

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That's why when it comes to my skepticism, if knowledge is claimed based upon the scientific method, I will generally accept that knowledge to be true (i.e. I am not a skeptic), because the method by which it was gained accounts for limitations of human knowledge, that is all the adequate justification I need to not be skeptical. If knowledge is claimed that is not based on the scientific method, I will be a skeptic. Not sure how that fits into philosophical vs scientific skepticism.

It's tricky no doubt.
If you are consistent in that science is knowledge, and knowledge of course is falsifiable (observation is fallible, science is falsifiable, etc., if evidence shows X, then X...despite what we thought we saw), then I see that as correct, and consistent. There are no holes in that, that I'm aware of. That's science (scientific skepticism is just descriptive, I think it's redundant really)

Skepticism in the original post context would be to deny the above.
That you cannot know with certainty (in general).

I think science readily accepts certainty and uncertainty. I'm surprised no one brought up quantum uncertainty. While on the face it may appear to be fuel for skepticism, isn't not. And it is explicitly contradictory to skepticism.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncertainty_principle#Critical_reactions
One way in which Heisenberg originally illustrated the intrinsic impossibility of violating the uncertainty principle

Science uses impossible where appropriate, and uncertainty where appropriate. The blanket opposition to all certainty is a contradiction that persists, despite this.
Maybe breaking it up logically into the three component positions:

1. we can be certain and uncertain <- justifiable, reasonable, science, etc.
2. we are always uncertain < - skepticism, self contradictory
3. we are always certain < - poor underused position of tyrants or cult leaders? !
 

LowDown

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The position of philosophical skepticism is something like this:

We cannot know anything about reality with certainty.

Or wiki:
(It is generally agreed that knowledge requires justification. It is not enough to have a true belief: one must also have good reasons for that belief. )
Skeptics claim that it is not possible to have an adequate justification.

Do you think this is correct? Why?

Please note this is different than scientific skepticism. Scientific skepticism is questioning whether claims about reality are justified scientifically...they are testable, evidenced, observable, etc. Scientific skepticism is really just applied science...or scientific inquiry, being critical, etc. Or the general definition of skepticism that is "to question". None of these types of skepticism is being addressed.

This reminds me of the Gettier problem. Knowledge has been defined as justified true belief. Gettier showed that there are instances of justified true belief that are not knowledge. This arises from propositions in which something is true and belief is justified but there is no causal connection between the truth and the justification. So, if one's reasons are faulty then it's not really knowledge, and there's no widely accepted way to avoid this. It's one of the unsolved philosophical problems.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gettier_problem
 
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