This is not an article so much as an inquiry. I would appreciate any sincere responses. (I’ll appreciate insincere ones too.)

Where did the extreme skepticism and cynicism that dominates much of academia and the intellectual world today come from?

I’m interested in why anyone believes, “nothing can be known for certain,” or that, “nothing can be proved true,” and sometimes, “only what is not true can be proved.

(NOTE: If you object to the way any of these are worded, please use your own wording.)

Skepticism is not new. It’s the whole of Hume’s philosophy and it’s the premise of Descartes’ philosophy which he attempted to overcome. I know it’s roots are in the ancient sophists, and modern versions of it show up in existentialism, the positivists, the post-modernists, even in some early American philosophers like James and Dewey. Pragmatism is a kind of assent to the impossibility of any true knowledge, “all we can know is what works.”

The kind of extreme skepticism I see today, however, I never saw so broadly throughout society and culture as I do today. There must be some reason for it. I suppose it is what is being taught in most universities and colleges, and perhaps that is the whole reason for its dominance.

I have no desire to debate the view. My only interest is in knowing how those who hold it came to it, and why they think it is true. I am quite aware of the irony of the question, “how does someone know it is true that one cannot know that anything is true?” So we’ll ignore it. I intend the question without irony, because I think it is important, and I personally would like to know why people hold that view.

Specifically, I would like to know where you learned the view. I do not think most people are just born skeptics. Most children are quite credulous, even gullible. I think skepticism must be learned, but I’d prefer for the skeptics to tell me how they came to the view.

Secondly, are there any particular philosophers or intellectuals that influenced your skeptical views? I suspect some might be Hume, or perhaps Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, or even Kant. Please name the ones that influenced you, if any did, thanks.