Sceptical or Cynical

Congratulations to Barack Obama! That’s totally unrelated to this post, but I thought while I’m posting I may as well say it.

sceptic /’skɛptɪk/, n. 1. one who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be knowledge. 2. one who mistrusts and who maintains a pessimistic attitude toward people, plans, ideas, etc. 3. one who doubts the truth of the Christian religion or of important elements of it. 4. (cap.) Philos. a member of the philosophical school of ancient Greece, or any later thinker, who maintained that real knowledge of things is impossible. –adj. 5. pertaining to sceptics or scepticism. 6. (cap.) pertaining to the Sceptics. Also U.S., skeptic. -sceptical, adj. –sceptically, adv.scepticalness, scepticism, n.

I would perhaps delete point number two. I would delete the word ‘Christian’ from point three, and the last part of the sentence. Then that sounds pretty much like me.

cynic /’sɪnɪk/, n. 1. a sneering fault finder; one who doubts or denies the goodness of human motives, and who often displays his attitude by sneers, sarcasm, etc. 2. (cap.) one of a sect of Greek philosophers founded by Anisthenes of Athens (born about 444 B.C.), who sought to develop the ethical teachings of Socrates. –cynicism, n.

This one does not sound like me at all.
I’ve been thinking lately a lot of people tend to interchange these two words, and think they’re the same thing. I heard people on the radio this morning calling themselves cynical because they didn’t believe in haunted houses. It sounds a little negative to me.
I’d like to think a sceptical person is an open minded person who likes to see evidence before putting faith in things. I’d like to think a sceptical person would be excited to be proven wrong about things. I heard a great quote about science on a podcast today:
There are two possible outcomes: if the result confirms the hypothesis, then you’ve made a measurement. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you’ve made a discovery.” –Enrico Fermi



Definitions from The Concise Macquarie Dictionary, 1982 ed.

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2 thoughts on “Sceptical or Cynical

  1. Number the first: I don’t believe in skeptics. I’m sure we’d know about them if they existed.

    Number the second: Cynics: Now those I can believe in. Not that I’m one. Stupid cynics. Probably don’t even believe in skeptics.

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