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Belief without Warrant

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Alyosha

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« on: June 24, 2011, 06:00:58 am »
Hi People,

I have read a fair amount of philosophy books and now quite worried about the possibility of us arriving at truth/reality  (or whatever you termed it) through philosophy or any method of inquiry. The problem is that all  philosophy or knowledge rests on central axiom which we must take to be  self-evidently true. This is the part that concerns me. I have recently  encountered websites by ex(?)-philosopher who regarded most philosophy  as BS (he also considers natural philosophy (science) as BS) and suggests that if we accept any axiom, we can believe in  anything consistently including solipsism which he claims irrefutable although crazy to hold.  What is your take on this?

It is no good to argue that "you use philosophy to argue for this", I am not arguing for truth of my statement, in fact, I do not wish to argue at all. I want to know truth as simple as that.  

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LNC

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« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2011, 08:26:23 am »
Alyosha,

I find it interesting that the philosopher would call all philosophy BS simply because it requires the acceptance of axioms.  The fact is that he cannot operate in this world without operating on certain axioms, whether he likes it or not.  And, it is true that he has a philosophy that is built upon the axioms that he accepts.  It is not possible to do otherwise.  He may not like the axioms of certain philosophical models, but it doesn't mean that he has abandoned all axioms and all of philosophy.  Even nihilism is a philosophy that is built upon certain axioms.  Some of the most basic of axioms that he is engaging are the law of non-contradiction and the law of excluded middle as he says that philosophy that rests upon a central axiom is wrong and that we should not accept such philosophies.  He is either ignoring much of what he learned about logic and philosophy to take such a stand or he is not being completely forthright about his position, or both, but his stance is self-refuting.

LNC


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Alyosha

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« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2011, 10:23:59 am »
Hi LNC,

What the ex-philosopher wrote does no bother me, but what I infer from his writing that is. How can we be sure all our axioms lead to truth and how can we be sure that the reality really respect our logic and thinking (some scientists say this derisively of philosophy, but I think they are shooting themselves in the foot... I am asking honestly...

Look at all the variety of philosophical stands in the world, those still in fashion, those forgotten, those that will come later in the future and those that probably may never be thought of... We do not even have good, encompassing criteria for truth, there are correspondence theory, there are coherentism, foundationalism, and of course philosophical skepticism...



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LNC

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« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2011, 11:41:40 am »
Alyosha,

I would agree with you that the scientists who speak derisively of philosophy have a limited understanding of philosophy and history.  As you mentioned in your OP, science is basically natural philosophy, at least that is the legacy of science.  Unfortunately, many scientists today are not schooled in philosophy and, as a result, make these types of claims (as well as others).  We can take a skeptical view of reality and deny axioms, but we can't live there.  In other words, it is one thing to claim that we can't trust axioms or even our senses, but one cannot live consistently with such beliefs or skepticism.  We operate as if our senses were trustworthy and as if the axioms we hold are valid, and they prove to be at every moment.  

Some philosophies come along that challenge the basic axioms.  The latest is/was postmodernism.  Although PM is still around on the popular level, it is a dying model in philosophical circles and philosophy usually leads pop culture by a number of years.  So, I expect that PM will die out on the popular level as well over the next decade.  In fact, with the advent of new atheism, I think there has been a turn back to realism - yet, I don't think that new atheism grounds it well, whether in the realm of morality or in the realm of epistemology.  But that is a longer conversation.

I think we can examine each of the models of truth and evaluate them for their strengths and weaknesses and draw good reasons for adopting one over the others.  The reason we can is that we, I believe, have direct access to the external world and can compare our concepts against the world to determine whether they match.  I guess I would favor a balance view of truth that features one theory as the lead theory, but also incorporates parts of others.  Yet, I don't know that we can live consistently in skepticism as that should lead to an viscous regress of being skeptical of my skepticism...  Anyway, hope that helps.

LNC

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troyjs

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« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2011, 09:06:02 pm »

As regards systems, it is possible to show that certain axioms are false, if they lead to contradictions, ie. an internal critique. However, in order to establish the truth of one's system, and axioms, it is impossible to do so without begging the question. A system of thought then, must take this into account, and rather than ones' epistemology being purely prescriptive, it must also be descriptive. A purely prescriptive epistemology will provide means or a criteria for determining whether a proposition is true, but will not be able to justify those criterion. A purely descriptive epistemology will take it as self-contradictory to deny that we can not know anything, and will provide a developing theory which helps explain, how we do in fact have knowledge of things. The problem with this, is that we have no way of determining whether any particular proposition is true or not. This is why an epistemology must be both prescriptive and descriptive -- an epistemology properly defined, which is also self-contradictory to deny.

“Knowledge of the sciences is so much smoke apart from the heavenly science of Christ” -- John Calvin.
“I consider looseness with words no less of a defect than looseness of the bowels” -- John Calvin

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Alyosha

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« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2011, 11:34:41 am »
Thanks troyjs and LNC,

I am currently studying epistemology, skepticism and philosophy of mind in my free time. Presently I think two things, the law of identity and the law of non-contradiction (a =/= not-a), must be true of reality and rationality. Like Descartes probably, I am trying to rebuild philosophy from the ground-up and for some time realize that there must be some ground to build it up from. Denying the need for ground (axiom) leads to nowhere. But still, there is still lingering feeling of hopelessness of reaching to the truth (reality, or whatever we call it).

Like LNC said we cannot escape philosophy, so either we do it well or we do it badly.

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FNB - Former non-believer

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« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2011, 02:32:36 am »
Like Descartes probably, I am  trying to rebuild philosophy from the ground-up and for some time  realize that there must be some ground to build it up from. Denying the  need for ground (axiom) leads to nowhere. But still, there is still lingering feeling of hopelessness of reaching to the truth (reality, or whatever we call it).


I have come to accept, with the philosopher Alvin Plantinga, that we have properly basic beliefs that cannot be proven. These include the existence of the external world and the existence of other minds. We don't just arbitrarily adopt them, but we are rational in believing them based on experience. If you are trying to prove them, I would, with all sympathy to your endeavor (because I have tried), I would encourage you to give up. Descartes, I think, has been refuted on the grounds that he had no right to say "I think," because he was already assuming his own existence in doing so.

Even if you could prove basic beliefs, I think any argument for them would be less obvious than the basic beliefs themselves, and so to tell someone to believe based on your argument would be to tell them to put their basic beliefs on less solid grounds than they already were.


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hatsoff

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« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2011, 01:53:33 pm »
emailestthoume wrote: I have come to accept, with the philosopher Alvin Plantinga, that we have properly basic beliefs that cannot be proven. These include the existence of the external world and the existence of other minds. We don't just arbitrarily adopt them, but we are rational in believing them based on experience. If you are trying to prove them, I would, with all sympathy to your endeavor (because I have tried), I would encourage you to give up. Descartes, I think, has been refuted on the grounds that he had no right to say "I think," because he was already assuming his own existence in doing so.

Even if you could prove basic beliefs, I think any argument for them would be less obvious than the basic beliefs themselves, and so to tell someone to believe based on your argument would be to tell them to put their basic beliefs on less solid grounds than they already were.


When you say that we can't "prove" the existence of other minds, of of external bodies, as it were, I hope you're not suggesting that this is merely a problem of fallibility, or something like that, whereby we can still show the truth of such beliefs to be likely if not beyond reproach.  I would suggest that we are completely at the mercy of our habits in this regard.  We have zero in the way of evidence for the existence of external bodies, and not much more for the existence of other minds.  Even worse, this problem infects inductive reasoning itself, and thus undermines nearly all our substantive beliefs.

Yet we do not believe in, say, other minds, on the basis of experience.  Rather, we believe it based on, as I suggest, a habit of our species.  And this is to say that we believe it because we cannot help but do so.  We might be able to in some academic sense express doubt as to the existence of other minds, especially individual minds, but, perhaps with rare (and unfortunate) exceptions, we must by the resolute and unassailable force of our psychology accept that our world is innumerably and actually populated.

The existence of God, then, pales in comparison.  Unlike our fellow mortals, we have all manner of doubts as to the reality of that supernatural unembodied mind.  Some of us go so far to reject the very possibility (though they overstep epistemic justification when they do so).  And even many believers express a genuine (and not merely academic) doubt as to God's existence.  So in this case our hand is free.  We can hold ourselves to a higher epistemic standard if we wish.  If we want to minimize our beliefs for which we have no reasoned support, then the existence of God is a perfect candidate for expulsion.

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FNB - Former non-believer

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« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2011, 03:49:28 am »

Yet we do not believe in, say, other minds, on the basis of experience.  Rather, we believe it based on, as I suggest, a habit of our species.


If this belief is so suspect I would ask you to stop acting like other people exist, because your being irrational. After all, there doesn't seem to be a rational reason to believe it is true on your view. We just accept it out of habit, not out of reason.


So in this case our hand is free.  We can hold ourselves to a higher  epistemic standard if we wish.  If we want to minimize our beliefs for  which we have no reasoned support, then the existence of God is a  perfect candidate for expulsion.


I am far more sure that God exists than that the external world exists. I subject my belief to all questions and it comes out like gold. This is what its like when you have a real, solid relationship with Jesus Christ.

On your view, there doesn't seem to be any reason to rationally accept that other minds exist or that the external world is real. If everything you believes comes through your senses, how do you justify rationally trusting your senses? If you cannot even justify that, anything else you say is suspect given its all based on things you deduce from your sense experience during your life.


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hatsoff

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« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2011, 06:06:01 am »
emailestthoume wrote: If this belief is so suspect I would ask you to stop acting like other people exist, because your being irrational. After all, there doesn't seem to be a rational reason to believe it is true on your view. We just accept it out of habit, not out of reason.


You may wish to re-read my last post:  Giving up my belief that other minds exist isn't an option.  And since that is the case, it seems inappropriate to call it irrational.

I am far more sure that God exists than that the external world exists. I subject my belief to all questions and it comes out like gold. This is what its like when you have a real, solid relationship with Jesus Christ.


I'd be very curious to know what are your reasons for believing in God.  I remember that when you first came here you expressed frustration at having not been taken seriously at richarddawkins.net when you argued for the existence of God.  I'm sympathetic to that, and look forward to giving you a more careful and reflective response to your arguments, whatever they happen to be.  But as far as I have noticed, you have yet to present any.  If you ever feel like doing so in the future, I would be happy to discuss them.

On your view, there doesn't seem to be any reason to rationally accept that other minds exist or that the external world is real. If everything you believes comes through your senses, how do you justify rationally trusting your senses? If you cannot even justify that, anything else you say is suspect given its all based on things you deduce from your sense experience during your life.


I'm not entirely clear on what you mean by "trusting [the] senses."  Are you questioning the rationality of inductively inferring conclusions based on our sense data?  In a certain sense, using induction is part of what it means to be rational.  But beyond that, we simply must use induction in conjunction with our sensations and other experiences.  Again, we just haven't any choice in the matter.  That we can't present any non-inductive (and hence non-circular) argument to trust induction makes no difference.  We will use induction, and we had better be reconciled to that fact.

But I should stress that this situation is universal.  It doesn't go away once you decide to believe in God.  None of us can rationally justify trusting our senses except to point out that trusting our senses is part of what being rational means.  Fortunately we don't need more than that.

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Alyosha

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« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2011, 10:10:45 am »
I have read some books on epistemology and the answers they provide is not very convincing indeed. They at least agree to treat the skeptical hypothesis merely as epistemological rather than metaphysical problem (I think I treat it as metaphysical problem). I have read David Chalmers' works who treat brain-in-vat argument as metaphysical problem. Although his solution of adopting the impression created by the stimulation as our reality is to me a bad case of philosophical sleight-of-hand.

One argument that I can think of is that I know about the skeptical hypothesis due to my interaction with the external world, thus for the arguments is self-refuting. Other includes Wittgenstein's private language argument, although it is not as convincing as many people make it to be. At least I agree with their assessment that skeptical hypothesis intends to bring doubt, but not give good argument the truth of the hypothesis.

I guess my problem is compounded by my reading of philosophy of science where we still cannot agree on the nature of causation, explanation, demarcation, probability, and many things. Millenias of philosophy and we have not reached any significant progress at all.

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FNB - Former non-believer

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« Reply #11 on: July 05, 2011, 12:38:04 am »
You may wish to re-read my last  post:  Giving up my belief that other minds exist isn't an option.  And  since that is the case, it seems inappropriate to call it irrational.


I re-read it and I believe I represented you correctly. I will argue against what you said below...


hatsoff wrote:
Quote from: emailestthoume

I am far more sure that God exists than that the external world exists. I subject my belief to all questions and it comes out like gold. This is what its like when you have a real, solid relationship with Jesus Christ.


I'd be very curious to know what are your reasons for believing in God.  I remember that when you first came here you expressed frustration at having not been taken seriously at richarddawkins.net when you argued for the existence of God.  I'm sympathetic to that, and look forward to giving you a more careful and reflective response to your arguments, whatever they happen to be.  But as far as I have noticed, you have yet to present any.  If you ever feel like doing so in the future, I would be happy to discuss them.


My reasons for believing are not arguments, though I do not take a leap of faith (like I think you do with trusting your sense experience)... though Dr. Craig's arguments seem good to me. If you are looking for arguments I would refer you to his. If you want to read my personal reasons for believing God, I have written at length about it on other threads and I can link you to that.


I'm not entirely clear on what you mean by "trusting [the] senses."  Are you questioning the rationality of inductively inferring conclusions based on our sense data?  In a certain sense, using induction is part of what it means to be rational.  But beyond that, we simply must use induction in conjunction with our sensations and other experiences.  Again, we just haven't any choice in the matter.  That we can't present any non-inductive (and hence non-circular) argument to trust induction makes no difference.  We will use induction, and we had better be reconciled to that fact.
(emphasis added)

You have no logical reason. You admit you have no non-circular argument to trust induction. Saying "I can't help it, I have no choice" is not a logical reason to accept the proposition, "my senses give me true beliefs." Its just saying you are forced to accept it without a logical reason.

But I should stress that this situation is universal.  It doesn't go away once you decide to believe in God.  None of us can rationally justify trusting our senses except to point out that trusting our senses is part of what being rational means.  Fortunately we don't need more than that.


Philosophers have taken this question seriously for ages and you just avoid it by defining the problem away. As you admit, there is no non-circular reason for you to trust your senses. You simply take it by blind faith--whatever you define rational as, this is certian.            If you have reason to believe in a good God, the only reason isn't nothing. I think you would have reason to believe that God would not deceive you, and so give you trustworthy sense experience.

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hatsoff

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« Reply #12 on: July 05, 2011, 08:09:04 am »
emailestthoume wrote: I re-read it and I believe I represented you correctly.


Oh, I'm not suggesting you have misrepresented me.  It's just that your initial response didn't seem to address what I had written.  But never mind, since you have done so since.

My reasons for believing are not arguments, though I do not take a leap of faith (like I think you do with trusting your sense experience)... though Dr. Craig's arguments seem good to me. If you are looking for arguments I would refer you to his. If you want to read my personal reasons for believing God, I have written at length about it on other threads and I can link you to that.


WLC's arguments are pretty awful in my judgment (you can find some of my criticisms of his Kalam argument here, e.g.).  But I would be curious to hear what are your personal reasons for believing, so if you have links handy, feel free to share them.

You have no logical reason. You admit you have no non-circular argument to trust induction. Saying "I can't help it, I have no choice" is not a logical reason to accept the proposition, "my senses give me true beliefs." Its just saying you are forced to accept it without a logical reason.


Quite so.  But I suggest that this is a reasonable thing to do in this case.  Reason cannot justify itself beyond being consistent.  So when we look to the foundations of reason, as it were, we ought not be surprised when we cannot justify them on more primitive grounds.

Philosophers have taken this question seriously for ages and you just avoid it by defining the problem away. As you admit, there is no non-circular reason for you to trust your senses. You simply take it by blind faith--whatever you define rational as, this is certian.            If you have reason to believe in a good God, the only reason isn't nothing. I think you would have reason to believe that God would not deceive you, and so give you trustworthy sense experience.


First of all, I do take seriously the problem of induction in the sense that I regard it as a coherent and interesting issue.  But I don't regard it as a "problem" in the sense that, so long as it remains unresolved, knowledge is impossible, or some such radical skepticism.  We just need to be humble about our epistemic limitations.  We are fallible creatures, and the universe in which we live offers us no guarantee that our capacity to reason shouldn't fail us in the most dramatic way.

Second, as to how you think God helps, I should like to point out that the only way to make sense of God acting in the world is to use induction.  And this is due to the fact that causation presupposes induction; so that when we say that God causes this or that to occur, we can only do so against the backdrop of inductively-inferred regularities.  When you say that God gives us our capacities for (trustworthy) sensations, you have appealed to causation, and hence to some regularity, presumably between God's will and real events.  But why should there be any universal regularity between God's will and real events?  Maybe tomorrow God may will an event to occur without it actually occurring---and the regularity then fails.

Of course you can always build induction into the definition of God.  You could say, for instance that God* (God-star) exists, where God* is a God for whom the regularity between his will and reality holds up.  And then you would have to presuppose universal regularities of personality, and of a particular sort so that God* would want to create a universe where local regularities hold up in order that we may inductively infer them with some success.  And even then, if any of your reasons to believe in God* involve so much as a single inductive inference, the whole enterprise falls into the very same circularity we wanted to avoid in the first place.

So, as I said, God doesn't help with induction.  For that, we need God*---but God* is just God and induction bundled together as a package deal.  We might as well take induction by itself and leave out the superfluous deity.

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FNB - Former non-believer

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« Reply #13 on: July 05, 2011, 09:39:32 pm »
emailestthoume wrote:
Quote from: hatsoff
You  have no logical reason. You admit you have no non-circular argument to  trust induction. Saying "I can't help it, I have no choice" is not a  logical reason to accept the proposition, "my senses give me true  beliefs." Its just saying you are forced to accept it without a logical reason.


Quite so.  But I suggest that this is a reasonable thing to do in this  case.  Reason cannot justify itself beyond being consistent.  So when we  look to the foundations of reason, as it were, we ought not be  surprised when we cannot justify them on more primitive grounds.


So you admit you have no logical reason to trust your senses. Trusting your senses is then, by definition an illogical endeavor. I think we should be surprised if all of our beliefs are based on nothing but irrationality--we have no logical reason to accept them. This is all I ever wanted to be granted in this debate. You can define rationality how ever you want, but its just an attempt to avoid the obvious problem that your entire existence is based on blind faith.

"Are my senses reliable?" is a question that is clearly a rational question. Philosophers have asked it for ages. Therefore, your definition of rationality is illogical since it would make a rational question irrational. If this is your escape your just clearly hiding from the obvious problem you face as an atheist.

I read your whole post and narration about induction, but I think its really not relevant. First, I wouldn't accept that our only mode of knowledge is by induction, and neither would many philosophers. Second, I am asking a perfectly coherent question, "how do you know your sense experience is reliable?" Which you cannot answer with any good reason, as you openly admit. As far as I can tell your entire existence, everything you do, is just founded blind faith.

If God does not exist there are only illogical reasons to think our senses give us true beliefs
   
     --- true or false?

If God exists he could guarantee that our senses give us true data, such that one who believes in God would have a logical reason to think that his sense experience is reliable
 
    ---  true, or false?

I am quite sure you would answer true, and false, and so you admit the argument. The theist has a good reason to think that his sense are reliable, and the atheist has none. So why do you act like the external world is real?

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hatsoff

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« Reply #14 on: July 05, 2011, 10:07:29 pm »
emailestthoume wrote: If this is your escape your just clearly hiding from the obvious problem you face as an atheist.


As I've pointed out, this "problem" of yours isn't unique to atheism.  It affects us all.  You can bundle up the assumption that your senses are reliable with your concept of God if you like, just as I can assume my senses are reliable on atheism.  But you have no non-circular reason to trust your senses.  You just do---we all do, because we have no choice in the matter.