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Dancing with Absurdity

Your Most Cherished Beliefs (and All Your Others) Are Probably Wrong


Fred Leavitt

Dancing with Absurdity explores the limitations of knowledge and argues that neither reasoning nor direct observation can be trusted. Not only are they unreliable sources, they do not even justify assigning probabilities to claims about what we can know. This position, called radical skepticism, has intrigued philosophers since before the birth of Christ, yet nobody has been able to refute it.
Fred Leavitt uses two unique methods of presentation. First, he supports abstract arguments with summaries of real-life examples from many and varied fields, which make the arguments much more convincing and compelling. He cites more than 200 studies from psychology, mathematics, chaos theory, quantum mechanics, evolutionary theory, history, the corporate world, politics, the military, and current news reporting. Second, Leavitt’s writing is user-friendly, even when dealing with complex issues.
Whether answering the telephone, turning on the TV, talking with friends, or munching on an apple, we expect things to happen predictably. These expectations, paired with radical skepticism, exemplify cognitive dissonance at the highest level. Although certain of nothing, other than that we can be certain of nothing, it’s certain that readers will come to be intrigued by the problem.
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Chapter Sixteen: Reasons for Resistance


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Reasons for Resistance

This chapter presents several reasons, primarily psychological, for clinging to the belief that we know a great deal about the world—and responses (in italics) to those reasons. Next come summaries of some Herculean attempts to salvage the belief.

1. Skepticism is a preposterous affront to common sense. Are you really no more likely to waken uneventfully tomorrow than next to a talking pumpkin or two-headed Finn in a loincloth? No wonder the commonsense view toward skepticism is one of disdain. Sensible people conclude that the reasoning process leading to skepticism must be flawed. Flaws can be subtle, and time and intellectual energy are precious, so reasonable people shouldn’t waste time worrying about ridiculous assertions.

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