Harry Potter and Skepticism

This little dialogue in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows caught my attention:

'All right,' said Hermoine, disconcerted. 'Say the cloak existed... what about the stone, Mr Lovegood? The thing which you call the Resurrection Stone?'
'What of it?'
'Well, how can that be real?'
'Prove that it is not,' said Xenophilius.
Hermoine looked outraged.'But that's -- I'm sorry, but that's completely ridiculous! How can I possibly prove it doesn't exist? Do you expect me get hold of - of all the pebbles in the world, and test them? I mean, you could claim that anything's real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody's proved it doesn't exist!'

Compare this with the famous china tea-pot argument by Bertrand Russell:

"Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time."

Has J.K. Rowling been reading philosophy, or is it just common sense?


SP said…
smiles...:-).. speaking of common sense i couldn't help but share a recent newsitem...

"In one of history's more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission......"

You can read more at :
oh well, i guess some people are learning at least something from Harry Potter.

I, for one, am not going to put my mind into it. I am too stubborn for that.. hehe
Kunwal said…
Oh Awais, that is such an awesome entry!!!
Awais said…
@ SP

A very amusing law in itself... but considering China's intentions behind it, the irony seems to evaporate.
gaya said…
Great comparison and anaysis.
aish said…
well wht can we say it can be a common sense but hav read more abut jk rowling thn ull come to know tht half of the hp series has been taken from older myths ,believes. and most of the charcters are named after famous stuff...eg ARTHUR WEASLEY was a famous american soldier nd SIRIUS is the name of a commet or galaxy i cnt rember................
Qasim Aziz said…
Russell's tea pot example gives us one dimentional picture of skepticism,but 'doubt' cuts both ways.
To illustrate my point i will qoute Sartre here,Jean-Paul Sartre once talking about his grandmother said,
"She believed in NOTHING,but ironically it was here skepticism that kept her away from atheism".