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For the first time, Paul Kurtz's most important and influential essays advancing reason and skepticism have been collected together in one convenient volume. Kurtz has long been the world's leading philosophical skeptic, but he is much more than just a skeptic. Extending insights from the philosophies of American pragmatism and scientific naturalism, Kurtz has constructed a comprehensive philosophical system. This volume's concentration on skepticism does not obscure, but rather illuminates, Kurtz's overall commitments to secular humanism and the ethical and exuberant life. For that reason, the chosen title of this volume, Exuberant Skepticism, is quite accurate and timely.
Kurtz raises skepticism to new heights of achievement as a philosophical position. Kurtz's positive skepticism, based on sound common sense, reason, and scientific method, builds an affirmative case for what can be known. And so much can be known, from the natural world around us to the moral responsibilities among us. These essays trace the history and varieties of skepticism, skeptically inquire into paranormal and religious claims, transform moral and political thought, and describe the trajectory of the skepticism movement into the future. These essays proclaim Kurtz's affirmative message of placing our confidence in reason and inquiry for the benefit of humanity. Only an exuberant skepticism, an optimistic confidence in the application of reason, can guide us toward joyful and creative lives.
Spanning three decades of his pioneering leadership of the skepticism movement and the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (now the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, CSI), these essays have transformed the way the world thinks about skepticism. Long categorized as merely a negative and nay-saying stance of refusal and rejection, skepticism emerges reborn as a potently positive philosophy ready to change the world. While skeptics must occasionally say "No" to unreasonable and dangerous notions, skeptics now understand why they can say "Yes!" to the methods of reason and science. And Kurtz's philosophy does say "Yes!" to the confirmed knowledge of nature and humanity provided by the sciences.
In such essays as "Scientific Method and Rational Skepticism," "Skepticism and the New Enlightenment," and "The Growth of Antiscience," Kurtz explains why the methods of inquiry used by the sciences deserve respect. Without science's light of practical knowledge, humanity would still be lost in the darkness of myth and the evils of ignorance. Kurtz's essays "Skepticism, Science, and the Paranormal," "Skepticism and Religion," and "Are Science and Religion Compatible?" demonstrate how to apply the sound skeptical method.
But there is far more to positive skepticism, in Kurtz's vision, than just knowledge of facts. The skeptic's demand for reasonable evidence and inquiry has been the real engine behind civilization's capacity to elevate humanity to more productive and empowered lives. Realizing the essential connections between scientific knowledge, technological power, and social progress, Kurtz has understood, as few other philosophers ever have, how the methods of intelligence can be applied to all areas of human endeavor. The social world, no less than the natural world, is amenable to enlightenment and improvement through critical inquiry. The essays "Skepticism and Political Inquiry," "Skepticism and Ethical Inquiry," and "Skepticism and Eupraxsophy" outline a radical new way to intelligently analyze and improve our moral and political systems.
This volume also includes Kurtz's authoritative reflections on the skeptical movement he founded and has led. "The New Skepticism: A Worldwide Movement," "Skeptical Inquiry: My Personal Involvement," "Science and the Public: Summing Up Thirty Years of the Skeptical Inquirer," and "The New Skepticism: A Statement of Principles" together yield rare treasures of insight from Kurtz's unique perspective.
As Kurtz never tires of explaining, the forces of blind faith and stubborn unreason still fight for control of the mind, so the skeptic can never rest. If there is a brighter future for humanity, a future in which every person enjoys a realistic opportunity for the pursuit of excellence, Kurtz's exuberant skepticism can show us the way.
Excerpted from EXUBERANT SKEPTICISM by PAUL KURTZ Copyright © 2010 by Paul Kurtz. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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