Skepticism, injustice, and your own truth

Clifford StaplesThese days I spend a good deal of my time in the university talking with students who are both philosophical skeptics and advocates for “social justice.”

. . . I tell them if you are someone interested in righting wrongs and seeing justice done, you might want to think twice about being a philosophical skeptic, i.e. someone who believes that “we all have our own truth,” and that there is no objective truth. Why? Well, if there is no truth, no objective reality independent of individual perceptions, then there is no injustice either, as the political philosopher Norman Geras observed some years ago. You can’t claim one minute that all truth is subjective and then the next minute claim to have been wronged and expect anyone to believe you if they too live by your philosophy. By that philosophy, anything you say is just your “take” on it, just your story, and which could be told differently. You were raped? I don’t think so; that’s just your reality. There was a Holocaust? Nah, that’s just one way to look at it. Everyone has his or her “own truth” and so why is the Nazi truth any less valid than anyone else’s? You can’t claim to be a philosophical skeptic and then turn around and say “Well, obviously there is injustice in the world.” No, there are no more facts that are not interpretations. That’s no longer an option if there is no truth “out there,” beyond subjective perception.

. . . Skepticism is a plague on the universities, where I spend most of my time, and where most of my time there is spent fighting it. Today university students are led into or confirmed in their skepticism by my colleagues, often the very same professors who claim society is overflowing with obvious injustices. So why would these smart people be so unconcerned with such philosophical incoherence? To make sense of it you have to realize that the universities today in the main serve more as re-education camps than as universities. Skepticism might be untrue, but it is useful to the goal of convincing students to embrace a secular humanist perspective. Once you convince someone that there is no truth it is much easier to convince them of “your own truth,” i.e. ideology.

–Clifford Staples
The Ethical Failure of Philosophical Skepticism