Skepticism in the face of Rejection

Hello dear reader, look around you, wherever you are. You might be sitting on your couch and reading this blog post now, but can you truly be certain of that? How do you know you’re not actually dreaming of sitting on your couch and reading this blog post? Or how do you know that you’re not simply a brain in a vat, and someone is feeding you false sensory signals, causing you to perceive that you’re sitting on a couch and reading a blog post?

These scenarios might sound insane or improbable, but can you prove that you’re not in a dream or you’re not a brain in a vat? You can’t. And that’s philosophical skepticism in a nutshell! The skeptics believed that we can’t trust our senses and we can never really be completely certain of anything. Having to doubt everything all the time is a real hassle, but as of late I’ve been able to find some solace in the wisdom of the skeptics.

In ancient Greece, the Pyrrhonian skeptics strongly believed that as long as we do not have complete knowledge of a certain event, we should suspend our judgement of it. And when you suspend judgement, especially the negative ones, it makes a huge difference in your response to events.

I’m in my second year of university and so far, it has been completely different from how I had envisioned the experience to be, and not just because of corona. I had a few plans prior to starting school – I wanted to stay in a residential college (like a dorm), I wanted to join NUS Hackers and I wanted to go on an exchange programme to another country. Well, how did my plans turn out? My residential college application was rejected, I failed the NUS Hackers interview and more recently, my exchange programme application was rejected.

Dealing with rejection after rejection can be rough, and it definitely made me question my competencies. But from the skeptic’s perspective, you can never have complete knowledge of your rejection. It might seem bad, but perhaps there is a much better opportunity down the line that you would miss out on had you been accepted instead. By adopting the wisdom of the Pyrrhonian skeptics and suspending my judgement of each rejection, I was able to remain open-minded instead of wallowing in self-pity (although I did for a while).

The practice of suspending our judgement is not a mere coping mechanism, it is actually a very rational way of thinking. We don’t know everything so we shouldn’t be so quick to conclude that things are bad. As you can probably tell by now, I’m clearly terrible at conclusions so I’ll just end off with a famous but apt saying.

When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.

Alexander Graham Bell