Augustine was once told “skepticism is wisdom.” After reflecting on this, he pointed out that if a skeptic doesn’t know anything, he doesn’t know anything including wisdom. In other words, “skepticism is wisdom” is a self-refuting statement.  An honest skeptic cannot say, “skepticism is wisdom.” An honest skeptic can say, “I don’t know what wisdom is.”

If you have even a modest idea of what wisdom is, you have left the realm of skepticism and started your wanderings in the realm of certainty. But then there is a new danger. If it is wrong to say “skepticism is wisdom,” it is even more wrong to be proud about certainty. Certainty must always be held with love, kindness, mercy, grace, and humility.

We live in what Charles Taylor calls a “fragilized” world, meaning that all beliefs are open to scrutiny and doubt. The fact that my neighbor believes something completely different than I do makes me question and maybe even doubt my own beliefs.  This has at least one interesting and unusual consequence: since everything is open to doubt, doubt is open to doubt.  In fragilizing certainty, we have fragilized doubt.


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