Author Topic: New user here. Would somebody mind helping me with the idea of properly basic knowledge?  (Read 1495 times)

Timotheos220

  • Posts: 2
    • View Profile
Hey There,

I've recently started listening to Dr. Craig's podcast and have listened to whats currently available of the Defenders 3 class audio.

I am a Christian, and have recently been really trying to take a fine tooth comb through my beliefs, by applying a standard reason and evidence to them, in order to see what I need to work on, either by learning more, or letting go.

The perspectives Dr. Craig gives on epistemology were a breath of fresh air. That is, the properly basic knowledge of the truth Christianity afforded to the Christian by inner witness of the Holy Spirit.

Which brings me to my question. I'm currently reading through "Reasonable Faith", and have just finished the first chapter which explains this concept of the properly basic knowledge of the truth Christianity. While I understand this concept on its face, I can't shake the feeling that I need some deeper perspective on it, in order to answer two main questions I have:

- What is properly basic knowledge based on, that is in philosophy in general. I've heard Dr.Craig use the example that we know the past actually happened in a "properly basic way", since there is no way to verify that it did indeed happen with our senses. Personally, I strongly feel that the past actually happened, and that it is absurd to suggest otherwise, but I'm not sure that I know the past actually happened, and that this feeling I have, that tells me the past happened isn't just some kind of erroneous emotional bias towards a preferred truth. Its not I'm actually struggling with my belief in the past, I'm confident that the past happened, but I'm just not sure what the mechanics of "knowing" are in this case are, because I'm not sure a strong feeling cuts it, as far as meeting the requirements for knowing something to be true. Any perspective on this would be much appreciated, or even corrections to my line of thinking.

- My second question is a little more open ended and spiritual in nature. What would be some good examples of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit manifesting in the life and experience of a Christian, and to help differentiate from other personal phenomena, what would be some examples of some things that might be mistaken for such an inner witness but in all probability, are not.

Any help, suggested reading, anecdotes, thought experiments, any thing at all, would be greatly appreciated, since I deeply want to understand this concept before I move on with the book, and with intellectual journey in general, since these concepts are what will make up the previously mentioned metaphorical comb I'll be suing to evaluate my beliefs.

Thanks in advance.

GordonTubbs

  • Posts: 1517
    • View Profile
Welcome to the Reasonable Faith Forum.

Properly Basic Beliefs (PBB) are claims of knowledge most notably made by simple and single lines of inference. Multiple lines of inference would be "advanced" or "complex" or "systematic" beliefs. PBBs are often derived from First Principles or Axioms, such that Inner World Skepticism (doubting everything you know) can be defeated. The most famous example of a PBB is "I think therefore I am" (Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy) which is the same thing as saying: subjective thoughts are real in the sense that we own our cognitive agency. By agency I mean "the driver of the car" such that your Mind is the command and control headquarters of everything you experience, think, do, know, or say.

Just about all of philosophy can be broken down into three categories: Nominalism (defining the meaning of terms), Epistemology (the process of obtaining knowledge), and Ethics (prescribing a way to live life).

So one aspect of PBB is the role your conscience plays as the governor of your Moral Agency. For example, feeling guilt over an action could be defined as a PBB because you know for certain that you feel guilt. Throwing a tennis ball and watching it bounce of a wall reinforces the PBB that "tennis balls can bounce." There are countless examples, but the best way to think about it is to use very short sentences or phrases to describe reality.

Often, philosophers like to use syllogisms to deduce PBB, in the form of Premises + Conclusions. For example:

Premise 1 -- I see sunlight illuminating the sky.
Premise 2 -- If there is daylight, then the sun must exist.
Conclusion -- The sun exists, because I see daylight.

Often, the Skeptic will point out that it is possible you could be the victim of an elaborate hoax (somebody could have set up a bunch of really bright lights all around your house), or you're hallucinating/dreaming, or you're senses are distorted, and on and on and on ad infinitum. I think there is a time and place for doubts, but sometimes Skeptics can go way overboard, by suggesting that we could be living in The Matrix. Skepticism born out of speculation should be skewered in my opinion, because it doesn't help one get to PBB. The job of the positive philosopher is to defeat skepticism, not use it in vain to doubt everything into absurdity. In my opinion, if you want to be a good philosopher, all you need to do is ask three questions over and over:

1. What do you mean by that?
2. How do you know this?
3. So what?

In my experience, Skepticism has a hard time overcoming #3. So what if we live in The Matrix? What are the implications? It's kind of silly when you take a step back from all of it, and come back to the real world that has more pressing demands, but philosophy without some sort of a goal is foolishness.

In terms of the Inner Witness of the Holy Spirit (IWHS) this would be something like moments of clarity, insight, or some kind of epiphany over a truth claim. It's difficult to get into without sounding pseudo-scientific, but the reality is, the IWHS is pseudo-scientific and paranormal. For instance if you said something mean to a friend and after the fact didn't really care, but later on you feel this overwhelming sense to repent and seek out reconciliation, this would be IWHS for sure. Try talking to people who have had an "altar call" experience and ask them about what they were thinking and feeling moments before they decided to go up. Chances are most of them will say things that a very irrational, such as "I felt this overwhelming sense that I was a sinner, and I needed the grace of Christ."

My #1 suggested reading for you is Proper Confidence by Leslie Newbigin. It's a very quick read (100+ pages). It's ironic in that it was written in 1995, at the dawn of the New Atheism movement, but it's remarkable how relevant it is when it comes to Christianity and Modernity. Newbigin gets to the heart and core issues of how and why Western civilization has been completely consumed by the Enlightenment to the point that we don't know how to think any differently - especially when it comes to faith.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2016, 08:40:20 AM by GordonTubbs »
Regent University, Master of Divinity Student
Inquirer in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Seeking Ordination
US Navy (Active 2004-2009, Reserves 2012-Present)

Timotheos220

  • Posts: 2
    • View Profile
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my question.

If you don't mind, I'm going throw some statements out here, and see what your response is, just to be certain I've grasped what you were trying to say.

So, PBB are first principles or axioms, that can be taken to be true, because I/we personally experience the truth of them. And to turn our natural ability to reason, speculate, and doubt, against such PBB results in absurdity and purely semantic discussions.


An application of this with regards to idea that our collective experience of reality is a fictitious one, or The Matrix: I can assert the properly basic belief that I'm interacting with physical reality, and not a computer generated one, because I  experience reality as real. The skeptic may object and say that I only experience it as real, because its a perfect fake down to the last atom, but at that point me and the skeptic are just arguing about semantics, about what to call reality. I prefer to simply refer to it as reality, whereas he prefers to refer to it as "The Matrix", but if there is know qualitative difference between The Matrix and reality, we are really just arguing about the same thing.

Tell me if I've got the right idea or not.

And thanks for the book recommendation.


GordonTubbs

  • Posts: 1517
    • View Profile
Yes you have it right.

Surprisingly, the Skeptic must assert axioms and principles of his own if he is calling into question the nature of reality. The Matrix for me is just special pleading. It is unwarranted - there are no brains in vats - there is no technology (that I'm aware of) that is currently capable of recreating the Matrix - all of it is just absurd speculation. Even if we are in the Matrix, ask yourself which of your first principles and axioms are changed by the Matrix? I'm willing to be that none of them change, and so the Matrix is just another one of those semantic games. It doesn't change the logic of reality, it just calls into question the nature of reality. So if your logic is sound, then reality is sound too.

You may also enjoy another one of my posts where I get into this sort of stuff more.
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/forums/choose-your-own-topic/an-evolutionary-perspective-confirmation-bias-and-circular-logic-6034969.msg1275546958.html#msg1275546958
Regent University, Master of Divinity Student
Inquirer in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Seeking Ordination
US Navy (Active 2004-2009, Reserves 2012-Present)

aleph naught

  • Posts: 7308
  • For the glory of the Canadian empire.
    • View Profile
@GordonTubbs, where are you getting this definition for properly basic belief? I always understood it to be beliefs that have pro tanto non-inferential justification or warrant.

Paterfamilia

  • Posts: 2834
    • View Profile
@GordonTubbs, where are you getting this definition for properly basic belief? I always understood it to be beliefs that have pro tanto non-inferential justification or warrant.


So the belief that if I step out of a window that I am going to fall would not be classified as a PBB?
"First I knocked them out of a tree with a rock.  Then I saved them."

aleph naught

  • Posts: 7308
  • For the glory of the Canadian empire.
    • View Profile
@GordonTubbs, where are you getting this definition for properly basic belief? I always understood it to be beliefs that have pro tanto non-inferential justification or warrant.


So the belief that if I step out of a window that I am going to fall would not be classified as a PBB?

Well maybe it is. I'm not entirely sure.

GordonTubbs

  • Posts: 1517
    • View Profile
I am getting my definition of PBB from answering this basic question: what makes beliefs believable?
Regent University, Master of Divinity Student
Inquirer in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Seeking Ordination
US Navy (Active 2004-2009, Reserves 2012-Present)

innerbling

  • Posts: 1940
    • View Profile
This is a rather old post but I wanted to comment anyways as this is of interest to me.

Now the problem with calling something as a "properly basic belief" is that all sentences, words as Wittgenstein realized are contextual.

This means that "properly basic" sentences such as "external world exist" are meaningless without understanding what the words "external", "world" and "exist" mean.

And as you begin to define, understand what the words "external", "world", "exist" mean to you, you have already fully assumed your worldview thus you could as well say that every belief you have is properly basic i.e. by that logic you are solipsistic.

It is simply impossible that one could have some properly basic beliefs and then coherently justify every other belief with those beliefs as one absolutely needs a context for the properly basic beliefs to even begin to make sense.