‘The intensity of a conviction’: Doubt, certitude, and provisionality


Andrew James Taggart, Practical Philosopher, Ph.D.

A few days ago, I came across this statement by the notable biologist Peter Medawar: ‘the intensity of the conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing on whether it is true or not.’ What he says is true: we may have a strong, firm belief that P without its being true that P. But there may also be more to dogmatism indeed, more packed into the case against strong convictions than we may initially see in Medawar’s claim.

I also read an article by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse on one of Cicero’s arguments for skepticism. Glossing a short passage in Cicero, the authors write,

Cicero starts from a regular observation about dogmatism: those committed to a view become not only invested in their view, but also less capable of critically reflecting on it. We often form our own theoretical, political, and religious alliances well before we have thoroughly surveyed…

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