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Sceptical thoughts

india Updated: Aug 27, 2012 23:11 IST
PP Wangchuk

Be sceptical and be in bliss. This amounts to saying that to be sceptical is better than not to be one. Who wants to be called “gullible”, idiot and whatever demeaning word one can think of?

If one goes through Bertrand Russell’s famous Sceptical Essays, one will get many interesting things to know on this issue. He has a beautiful story on Pyrrho, the founder of Pyrrhonism (old name for skepticism).

Pyrrho once saw his philosophy teacher, from whom he had acquired all his principles, with his head stuck in a ditch, struggling hard but unable to get out. Pyrrho thought for sometime and walk away, convinced there was no sufficient ground for thinking that he would do any good by pulling the old man out!

Even though Pyrrho came under heavy attack for his “meanness” and “heartlessness”, the philosopher was happy that his student stuck to his principles.

True, Russell does not advocate that one should go to such extremes; but one should, as the Buddha said, do nothing without questioning and reasoning. One should love to think or do things in moderation with rationality. It helps one avoid natural biases and selfish interests.

Today, when we are afflicted with so many problems of hatred and killings, it is rationality that can save us from further insanity and destruction. Rationality forces one to pause and review.

Rationality alone can help us understand a problem and what can be the repercussions if we act on it. It helps us analyse our instinctive and emotional thoughts before we can work on them. It helps us in adopting humility as a source of our strength and not something to be abhorred.

However, a caution: One need not go for scientific proof that one’s work is rational or not. One need not go in for what Thomas H. Huxley said, “The deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence.”

The way to go, therefore, is to see reason before succumbing to one’s instinctive and emotional thoughts. You will be blessed with bliss!