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Exuberant Skepticism

Overview

For more than three decades, philosopher Paul Kurtz has been a strong advocate of skepticism, not only as a philosophical position, but also as a fulfilling way of life. Contrary to the view that skepticism is merely a negative, nay saying, or debunking stance toward commonly held beliefs, skepticism as defined by Kurtz emerges reborn as "skeptical inquiry"—a decidedly positive philosophy ready and able to change the world. In this definitive collection, editor John R. Shook has gathered together seventeen of ...

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Overview

For more than three decades, philosopher Paul Kurtz has been a strong advocate of skepticism, not only as a philosophical position, but also as a fulfilling way of life. Contrary to the view that skepticism is merely a negative, nay saying, or debunking stance toward commonly held beliefs, skepticism as defined by Kurtz emerges reborn as "skeptical inquiry"—a decidedly positive philosophy ready and able to change the world. In this definitive collection, editor John R. Shook has gathered together seventeen of Paul Kurtz’s most penetrating and insightful writings. Altogether these essays build an affirmative case for what can be known based on sound common sense, reason, and scientific method. And as each essay cogently and convincingly explains, so much can be known, from the natural world around us to the moral responsibilities among us.

The work is organized in four topical sections. In the first, "Reasons to Be Skeptical," Kurtz presents compelling reasons why the methods of inquiry used by the sciences deserve respect. In short, science provides reliable knowledge, without which humanity would never have emerged from the age of myth and widespread ignorance. In the second section, "Skepticism and the Non-Natural," Kurtz shows how skeptical inquiry can be fruitfully used to critique both paranormal claims and religious worldviews. He also investigates whether science and religion can be compatible. In the third section, "Skepticism in the Human World," he considers how skeptical inquiry can be applied to politics, ethics, and pursuit of the good life. Realizing the essential connections between scientific knowledge, technological power, and social progress, Kurtz has understood, as few philosophers ever have, how the methods of intelligence can be applied to all areas of human endeavor. The book concludes with Kurtz’s authoritative reflections on the skeptical movement that he founded and has led. As he explains, 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Every skeptic should own this book for reflective guidance. Scientists, scholars, and all thoughtful people can gain useful insight from Kurtz’s uniquely optimistic outlook melding open-minded inquiry and scientific rigor.”
- Skeptical Inquirer 

“This volume is a passionate defense of a middle-of-the-road skepticism [Kurtz] calls skeptical inquiry that denies both absolutist views of knowledge on the one hand and radical skeptics that deny the possibility of knowing anything on the other…. Exuberant Skepticism draws on Kurtz’s broad range of professional and personal experiences, as well as interests that span from religion to ethics to the paranormal and beyond, to defend his new skepticism and his vision of its use in crafting an increasingly better, but crucially never a perfect, world.”
-Quarterly Review of Biology
 
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591027782
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 2/23/2010
  • Pages: 250
  • Sales rank: 1,394,493
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Kurtz (1925-2012), professor emeritus of philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was the author or editor of more than fifty books, including The Transcendental Temptation, The Courage to Become, and Embracing the Power of Humanism, plus nine hundred articles and reviews. He was the founder and chairman of Prometheus Books, the Institute for Science and Human Values, the Center for Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He appeared on many major television and radio talk shows and has lectured at universities worldwide.

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Read an Excerpt

EXUBERANT SKEPTICISM


By PAUL KURTZ

Prometheus Books

Copyright © 2010 Paul Kurtz
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59102-778-2


Preface

John R. Shook

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.

(Continues...)



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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Preface John R. Shook....................7
Chapter 1 What Is Skepticism?....................13
Chapter 2 Skepticism as Selective Doubt....................23
Chapter 3 Scientific Method and Rational Skepticism....................31
Chapter 4 Skepticism and the New Enlightenment....................53
Chapter 5 The Growth of Antiscience....................61
Chapter 6 Skepticism, Science, and the Paranormal....................75
Chapter 7 Should Skeptical Inquiry Be Applied to Religion?....................85
Chapter 8 Skepticism and Religion....................95
Chapter 9 Are Science and Religion Compatible?....................105
Chapter 10 Skepticism and Political Inquiry....................115
Chapter 11 Skepticism and Ethical Inquiry....................121
Chapter 12 Moral Faith and Ethical Skepticism Reconsidered....................135
Chapter 13 Skepticism and Eupraxsophy....................149
Chapter 14 The New Skepticism: A Worldwide Movement....................165
Chapter 15 Skeptical Inquiry: My Personal Involvement....................181
Chapter 16 Science and the Public: Summing Up Thirty Years of the Skeptical Inquirer....................207
Chapter 17 The New Skepticism: A Statement of Principles....................225
Bibliography....................229
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