• skepticism •
Pronunciation: skep-tê-siz-êm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: 1. A critical attitude, the state of being unconvinced. 2. A suspicious, doubting attitude. 3. An ancient Greek school of philosophy, founded by Pyrrho of Elis, that argued that all our beliefs are uncertain (the opposite of that of the dogmatists).
Notes: The dictionaries allow us to spell today's Good Word either scepticism, with a C, or skepticism, with a K. However, most offer scepticism as an alternative to skepticism, and not vice versa. Moreover, scepticism appears on the web about 750,000 times while skepticism is out there 3,890,000 times on pages that are probably English. If you entertain skepticism, you are a skeptic, who looks at things skeptically. That makes you skeptical of things.
In Play: Skepticism need not indicate doubt or suspicion, but simply a critical attitude: "While the proposal impressed the committee, it met with considerable skepticism from a few members who wanted more data." Unless you are convinced by 'Pyrrhic' philosophy, you will probably use today's word as a substitute for suspicious: "Ben Downe listened to his brother-in-law's offer of property in Florida with skepticism."
Word History: The reason we have two spellings of this word is that it comes both from Latin Scepticus and Greek Skeptikos "a skeptic" in the sense of a follower of Pyrrho of Elis. The Greek noun comes from the verb skeptesthai "to examine". The root was originally the *spek- "look at, examine" that we see in spectator and inspect, both borrowed from Latin. In Greek, however, the [p] and [k] for some reason metathesized, giving up the scop- we see in telescope and microscope. (Today's Good Word set a record of receiving 133 comments on it when M. Henri Day suggested we do it in the Agora.(If you are skeptical of that number, click the word 'Agora' above.)[/url]
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Those curious about skepticism may find the Skeptics Society an interesting site (note in particular Michael Schermer's A Skeptical Manifesto, which can be read by clicking on «What is the Skeptics Society ?» at the right of the page, and its (more-or-less) weekly email newletter eSkeptic worth subscribing to....
- M. Henri Day
- Grand Panjandrum
- Posts: 1142
- Joined: Tue Feb 15, 2005 8:24 am
- Location: Stockholm, SVERIGE
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