What philosophy tells us about climate change sceptics

Philosophers have been talking about scepticism for a long time. Some of those insights can shed light on our public discourse regarding climate change.

No matter how smart or educated you are, what you don't know far surpasses anything you may know. Socrates taught us the virtue of recognising our limitations. Wisdom, he said, requires possessing a type of humility manifested in an awareness of one's own ignorance.

Since then, the value of being aware of our ignorance has been a recurring theme in Western thought: Rene Descartes said it is necessary to doubt all things to build a solid foundation for science; and Ludwig Wittgenstein, reflecting on the limits of language, said that "the difficulty in philosophy is to say no more than we know".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2018, with the headline 'What philosophy tells us about climate change sceptics'. Print Edition | Subscribe