Volume 61, Issue 1, March 2021
The Religious Dimension of Skepticism
Philosophical skepticism, according to numerous influential accounts of it, is bound up with our failure or inability to adopt an “absolute” standpoint. Similarly, many religions speak of an “absolute” that also is beyond human reach. With this similarity in mind, I will develop what I take to be a religious dimension of skepticism. First, I will discuss the connection that Stanley Cavell draws between his reading of skepticism and the notions of God and original sin. I will then refer to William James’s description of the religious experience of conversion and apply it to the transformative aspect of skepticism. Finally, I will argue with respect to mysticism and negative theology that the transformative experiences one can find in both skepticism and religion can be interpreted as yielding an experiential understanding of the finitude of the human condition.