Critical Thinking

A Skeptatic Dialogue, Conclusion

Quentis and Firmatio: A Skeptatic Dialogue, Conclusion

Continued from Part 4.



While the Socratic dialogues are useful in studying the Socratic method, perhaps this Skeptatic dialogue might be helpful in explaining the Skeptical method. Or perhaps not, I’m experimenting with different pedagogical techniques and this is one result. And yes, I do realize that “Skeptatic” is a kind of stupid name, but my creativity failed me here. This conversation is reminiscent of every argument I’ve had with intelligent but credulous believers.

The dialogue between Firmatio and Quentis really begins at the end. Firmatio states a belief in a particular pseudoscience and backs up his stance with every basic logical fallacy which adherents to woo always fall back on. Quentis tries to explain how his reasoning is wrong. She creates an example of an absurd belief—the ability to fly if one jumps three times—and uses the same arguments Firmatio did to back up his own beliefs.

One by one, she goes though the arguments he used, and tries to break down each problem in their logic. The sheer absurdity of the arguments makes Firmatio agree that they are wrong, even though he’s not as familiar with the structures of formal arguments that she references. But in the end, they’ve gotten nowhere and only wound up right back where they started.

As Sisyphus pushes the boulder to the top of the hill, it rolls back down and he must do it again.



Quentis (Consequentis) follows logic. She follows the evidence and accepts its logical consequences, whatever they may be. She is the skeptic, though she plays the devil’s advocate to facilitate the discussion and demonstrate how the bad reasoning is wrong. In the end, she realizes that nothing she said actually stuck and Firmatio still believes his pseudoscientific ideas and supports them with the same logical fallacies she just explained. Exasperated, she creates an absurd argument to demonstrate how the logical fallacies make arguments in which the conclusions do not follow the premises.

Firmatio (Adfirmatio) makes assertions. He affirms things to be true regardless of whether evidence actually supports them. On the surface, he does not seem illogical as he can follow the rational arguments Quentis presents and recognizes the irrational assertions she makes. In the end though, he falls back on his own assertions which he fails to realize are as groundless as her ridiculous examples. He uses the very logical fallacies that he just criticized to support his own belief.


Read the Skeptatic Dialogue starting here.

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Jay teaches English in Asia and loves skepticism and teaching above all else.

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