Sunday, April 27, 2008

Curious about the Difference between Skepticism and Cynicism: Which Are You? A Skeptic or a Cynic? Or Neither?

Definition of Skepticism: (1) An undecided, inquiring state of mind; doubt; uncertainty. (2) The doctrine that no fact or principle can be certainly known; the tenet that all knowledge is uncertain; the position that no fact or truth, however worthy of confidence, can be established on philosophical grounds; critical investigation or inquiry, as opposed to the positive assumption or assertion of certain principles.

Definition of a Cynic: The first Cynics were noted for austere lives and their scorn for social customs and current philosophical opinions. Hence the term Cynic symbolized, in the popular judgment, moroseness, and contempt for the views of others. One who holds views resembling those of the Cynics; a snarler; a misanthrope; particularly, a person who believes that human conduct is directed, either consciously or unconsciously, wholly by self-interest or self-indulgence, and that appearances to the contrary are superficial and untrustworthy.

You are probably wondering why I chose this topic. This past year I have become involved with Network Marketing. You may already realize that this industry – when we approach others with our business opportunity – is met with skepticism. I have heard many of my team members state that they are pleased with the skeptics, but want nothing to do with the cynics.

That’s when I decided to find out the differences. I do think that in this day and age, that more people are skeptical and even cynical than in the past. I do know that there is a lot of hype circulating, both on the Internet and offline in advertising. A day doesn’t go by for me without being offered the “answers to at least one problem.”

So, as a legitimate business owner, I am challenged to gain the trust of the skeptic and also the cynic (if possible). From the definitions and through many experts’ quotations, I did find different views of both.

We’ll start with skepticism:
  • Education has failed in a very serious way to convey the most important lesson science can teach: skepticism.” - David Suzuki, Canadian scientist
  • The natural cause of the human mind is certainly from credulity to skepticism.” - Thomas Jefferson, American President
  • Skepticism is an important historical tool. It is the starting point of all revision of hitherto accepted history.” - Samuel E. Morison, American historian
  • Skepticism: the mark and even the pose of the educated mind.” - John Dewey, American journalist
  • Large skepticism leads to large understanding. Small skepticism leads to small understanding. No skepticism leads to no understanding.” - Xi Zhi, Chinese philosopher
  • Skepticism, like chastity, should not be relinquished too readily.” - George Santayana, American philosopher

Now, on to cynicism:

  • I don't think you lead by pessimism and cynicism. I think you lead by optimism and enthusiasm and energy.” - Patricia Ireland, American activist
  • The only deadly sin I know is cynicism.” - Henry L. Stimson, American statesman
  • You know what the critics are. If you tell the truth they only say you're cynical and it does an author no good to get a reputation for cynicism.” - W. Somerset Maugham, British playwright
  • Cynicism is tough. A cynic's point of view is really pitiful. I derive pleasure out of a lot of things in life. As long as I'm fairly healthy, it's hard to stay dismal for very long.” - Shawn Colvin, American artist
  • Life is not an easy matter... You cannot live through it without falling into frustration and cynicism unless you have before you a great idea which raises you above personal misery, above weakness, above all kinds of perfidy and baseness.” - Leon Trotsky, Russian revolutionary
  • The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.” - George Bernard Shaw, Irish dramatist

And then there was one of the quotations by one of my favorite authors that I am still thinking about:

The worst cynicism: a belief in luck.” - Joyce Carol Oates, American novelist

So, what do you think? And, are you skeptical or cynical? Or, both or neither?