Quotations about   skepticism

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Men become civilized not in proportion to their willingness to believe but in proportion to their readiness to doubt.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“What I Believe,” sec. 4, Forum and Century (Sep 1930)
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Added on 17-Apr-17 | Last updated 17-Apr-17
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In our reasonings concerning matter of fact, there are all imaginable degrees of assurance, from the highest certainty to the lowest species of moral evidence. A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence. […] No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavors to establish.

David Hume (1711-1776) Scottish philosopher, economist, historian, empiricist
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Sec. 10 “Of Miracles,” Part 1 (1748)

Often given as just, "A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence."
Added on 24-Apr-15 | Last updated 24-Apr-15
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A man’s most valuable trait is a judicious sense of what not to believe.

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Helen (412 BC)
Added on 13-Mar-15 | Last updated 13-Mar-15
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Skepticism is the beginning of faith.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet, wit, dramatist
The Picture of Dorian Gray, ch. 17 (1891)

See also Emerson, Hesse, Tennyson.
Added on 8-Aug-14 | Last updated 29-Aug-14
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The thorough skeptic is a dogmatist. He enjoys the delusion of complete futility.

Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) English mathematician and philosopher
“Mathematics and the Good,” The Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, ed. Paul A. Schilpp (1941)
Added on 1-Aug-14 | Last updated 1-Aug-14
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We must be skeptical even of our skepticism.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, ch. 11 (1928)
Added on 25-Jul-14 | Last updated 25-Jul-14
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Value of the Skeptic is the resistance to premature conclusions.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1845)
Added on 18-Jul-14 | Last updated 18-Jul-14
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I am driven to express my faith by a series of skepticisms.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1845)
Added on 11-Jul-14 | Last updated 11-Jul-14
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Constant and frequent questioning is the first key to wisdom. … For through doubting we are led to inquire, and by inquiry we perceive the truth.

[Prima sapientiae clavis definitur, assidua scilicet seu frequens interrogatio … Dubitando enim ad inquisitionem venimus; inquirendo veritatem percipimus.]

Peter Abelard (1079-1142) French philosopher, theologian, logician [Pierre Abélard]
Sic et Non, Prolog [tr. Graves (1918)]
Added on 11-Feb-14 | Last updated 11-Feb-14
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A person who is never duped cannot be a friend.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
Added on 1-Jul-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized a man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant in this field as in all others. His culture is based on “I am not too sure.”

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Minority Report : H.L. Mencken’s Notebooks (1956)
Added on 28-Oct-08 | Last updated 25-Sep-14
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