Category Archives: Epistemology

Defacto!

Some say there’s a default position in the great debate and there is; yours!

1) There can be no evidence for deity, therefore, Atheism isn’t based on evidence.

2) Logic doesn’t entail truth, therefore, Atheism isn’t proved by logic.

3) Logical conclusions are accepted and rejected outside of logic, therefore, reasonableness is the basis of Atheism.

4) Reasonableness entails to experience, intuition, risk, and utility, therefore, Atheism relies on the rational and irrational.

5) Since there is no evidence for God, then there can only be a sense about God, therefore,  Atheists have a different sense about God than others.

Now for the chest-puffing Theist, re-read all of the above and change “Atheism” with “Theism” and “Atheist” with “Theist”.

For both balking currently, simply answer this:

There are two universes identical in every way, except one has a God and the other doesn’t. You find yourself in one of these universes. How do you tell which?

You might say that no universe can exist without God, but you’d realize you have no basis of fact for that even in theory. You might say that no universe requires a God at all in order for things to be just as they are, but you’d realize here too, there’s no basis of fact. Eventually you’d also realize that even if you discovered how universes come to be, it still wouldn’t settle the question. You realize you’re going to have to find another way to solve the problem.

Since both universes are identical, each has life, morality, logic, maths, sunrises, and cute little bunnies, you realize there’s no feature of reality that can help with the problem. You scratch you head, then you say …

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Two Universes Reprise

In the “Two Universe” scenario, where we’re given two identical universes that only vary in that one has a God and the other doesn’t and we’re asked which is the one we’ve been thrust into, the most significant response isn’t in being able to answer the question.

We can discard responses that simply demand that no universe is possible without God, and those that claim that no universe requires God.

The damning response is noting that even if there is a God, He is irrelevant given the fact that we have to ponder this scenario at all; “nothing” and “god” manifest in reality identically too.

Secondarily, that god-talk is meaningful in both universes, this necessarily means that what makes it meaningful isn’t the existence of God; god-talk has nothing to do with God that we can tell.

Just a thought.

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I’ve Got A Feeling …

It’s not just me this occurs to but also to the theorists:

Belief begins as a non cognitive sense about something in the world. That’s like the belief that “things fall when dropped” or “there will be a tomorrow” or “similar things always happen”. That not all beliefs are consciously deliberated leads Philosophers and Psychologists to define belief as an attitudinal disposition toward a state of affairs. This pre cognitive aspect of belief coupled with its seeming foundational role in cognitive conclusions leads these same thinkers to the idea of Doxastic Involuntarism; the idea that we cannot choose what we believe. It seems the role of reason and evidence isn’t as decisive as some would like. Its role seems to be to flesh out what is already believed, or to provide reasons that may cause us to feel differently than we do; the effort being about building confidence, which is again, about feeling, about sentiment.

There are times when we cannot make logical sense of something, however, we still are disposed to thinking a certain way about it. There are times when we have a perfectly logical idea of what could be going on. However, and likely we’ve all experienced this before, until we both think and feel the same way about things, we don’t generally say that we believe what we’re thinking. In both situations, the foundation seems to be sentiment, pre cognitive pursuation. Disposition isn’t consciously determined.

Ideally, truth isn’t correspondence with reality but an accord stuck between the appearance of states of affairs and what we think and feel about them; ultimately hinging on the reasons we ought feel one way versus another, in terms of establishing warrant.

Just a thought.

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Grounds For Thinking

Friedrich Engels, in “Anti Dürhing”, claims alongside many others including me, that all thoughts, no matter how abstract, are ultimately based in reality.

I say this quite often, and one reason is to strongly object to the possibility of an atheist claim that the idea of deity is made up. In fact, it isn’t. Something about humanity and our circumstances makes the idea of deity necessary, necessarily. This doesn’t prove there are deity, but only that deity can be an empirical, sound argument.

Hear Engles take maths, as perhaps one of our most abstract thoughts, and pin it down to reality in the end:

That mathematics has a validity which is independent of the  particular  experience of each individual is, for that matter, correct, and this is true of all established facts in every science, and indeed of all facts whatsoever. The magnetic poles, the fact that water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen, the fact that Hegel is dead and Herr Dühring alive, hold good independently of my own experience or that of any other individual, and even independently of Herr Dühring’s experience, when he begins to sleep the sleep of the just. But it is not at all true that in pure mathematics the mind deals only with its own creations and imaginations. The concepts of number and figure have not been derived from any source other than the world of reality. The ten fingers on which men learnt to count, that is, to perform the first arithmetical operation, are anything but a free creation of the mind. Counting requires not only objects that can be counted, but also the ability to exclude all properties of the objects considered except their number — and this ability is the product of a long historical development based on experience. Like the idea of number, so the idea of figure is borrowed exclusively from the external world, and does not arise in the mind out of pure thought. There must have been things which had shape and whose shapes were compared before anyone could arrive at the idea of figure. Pure mathematics deals with the space forms and quantity relations of the real world — that is, with material which is very real indeed. The fact that this material appears in an extremely abstract form can only superficially conceal its origin from the external world. But in order to make it possible to investigate these forms and relations in their pure state, it is necessary to separate them entirely from their content, to put the content aside as irrelevant; thus we get points without dimensions, lines without breadth and thickness,  a  and b and  x  and y, constants and variables; and only at the very end do we reach the free creations and imaginations of the mind itself, that is to say, imaginary magnitudes. Even the apparent derivation of mathematical magnitudes from each other does not prove their  a priori  origin, but only their rational connection. Before one came upon the idea of deducing the  form  of a cylinder from the rotation of a rectangle about one of its sides, a number of real rectangles and cylinders, however imperfect in form, must have been examined. Like all other sciences, mathematics arose out of the  needs  of men: from the measurement of land and the content of vessels, from the computation of time and from mechanics. But, as in every department of thought, at a certain stage of development the laws, which were abstracted from the real world, become divorced from the real world, and are set up against it as something independent, as-laws coming from outside, to which the world has to conform. That is how things happened in society and in the state, and in this way, and not otherwise,  pure  mathematics was subsequently  applied  to the world, although it is borrowed from this same world and represents only one part of its forms of interconnection — and it is only  just because of this that it can be applied at all.

Ibid, 1878, pg. 15

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“Bird” Ain’t The Only Word!

It must be hard to understand that we use the word “truth” functionally and completely differently than we actually talk about it. The oddest thing of all is that we deny the function and think our casual use of the term is all there is. It must be hard because most people can’t even see it.

For instance, we say that whatever is true is true regardless of what we believe. We say that truth is elusive. We say that the truth is out there. That’s all causal language.

Functionally, there are only actual states of affairs and our perspectives on what those actual states are. That means that truth isn’t reality but is a word attributed to a perspective we think best describes a state of affairs.

Yes, there is one reality. However, truth is not a property of states of affairs or the sentences we use to describe what we think of them. That means that it is possible to have many ways to describe a state of affairs but no way to say one is true or another is false, as long as their usefulness is the same, essentially. This is the first birthed idea of Pragmatism from Peirce and still echoed by other scientists today; for instance, Mlodinow and Hawking in the pragmatic reprise, Model-dependent Theory.

Reality is “out there”, folks; sentences are “in here”, as Rorty would say.

Nothing is “true”. There are only sentences that entail to justified propositions, or warranted assertability, or reason to assert. And there is no necessary limit to the number of justified ways we can think about any single given state of affairs; making the idea of “a” truth obsolete.

Hence, the functional end of “truth” because when a person thinks something is true, they must argue. In arguing, they are justifying. In justifying, people demonstrate no use for the word “true” but actually, functionally mean that truth is justification. Justification is what we appeal to in order to prove “truth”. We​ cannot merely appeal to “truth” and have anyone think it’s a justified comment; in other words, a true statement.

That’s what we’ve determined in Western Epistemology in its entire history, which comes from millennia of rigorous thought on human knowledge starting with the Greeks.

Truth is a word and that’s about it. Our use of it is poetic in most cases. However, most mistake their poetry for Epistemology. That’s a mistake.

Carry on.

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On Being “Suobjective” …

I’ll put aside my being amazed and perplexed at the way laymen understand the terms “subjective” and “objective” so that I can redress whatever magic has beguiled the masses.

Everything is subjective.

Objective is not the opposite of subjective.

Objective does not entail mind-independence.

As it concerns morality then, we are subjective in our behavioral tastes, we are objective in that as human beings, we have the same natural sentiments (natural attractions and repulsions) and we reason similarly. This means we will generally reason similarly and feel similarly about the same sorts of problems and situations. These shared circumstances are the objects of our moral choices. Judging morality then has these three basis of objectivity and objectiveness; sentiment, reasoning, circumstance.

The fact that there’s no absolute fact of the matter about why humans should want one sort of society or another (say egalitarian versus authoritarian) doesn’t negate the fact that some choices we make are objective towards things like egalitarianism or totalitarianism. The social good itself is subjective and its attainment, objective, and that social goods vary between cultures and circumstances, morality is relative to these concerns.

So, my Theist friend, objective morality requires only society, not deity. And my Atheist friend, one need not reject that objective morality exists. Rather, just that it needn’t exist independent of ourselves, as if morality is an object in the world, like a book or rainbows. And for goodness sakes, if your discussions about morality eventually bring up Hitler, you’ve no business discussing ethics or morality at all.

In short, human morality is subjective, objective, dynamic, and relative.

When a person appeals to moral absolutes and standards, it’s not because they believe it and want to themselves comply, but to simply demand theirs is the standard unwaivering and that you’d best comply.

Just a thought.

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What Meets The Eye

It only makes sense that arguments are only necessary when genuine reasons to doubt exist. That which is most obvious then, requires no argument and no other consideration at all in order to be justly believed. It should have by now in so many thousands of years become clear that evidence is inversely related to argumentation.

It is true that doctoral theses merely present old evidence, rearranged, but defending a thesis always entails to providing more of one and less of the other. So at the core, foundational level of belief are brute facts which are so obvious that we can only think to suggest they aren’t so. Antithetical claims of them must be justified before we doubt them. Frankly, whatever speaks for itself should be allowed to, until we’ve found it to be a liar.

This leaves Foundationalists and Presuppositionalists frustrated in the demand that because we can doubt, say, existence, that we aren’t entitled to say we know we exist; that it’s merely supposed. Quite wrongly, no, we need not suppose at all. One only supposes we should doubt simply for the sake of doubting.

For what it’s worth though, almost nothing speaks for itself. However, this is the most straightforward way to explain why we can be justified in holding some beliefs without any literal reason (ie from consideration and deliberation) or evidence outside of what most obviously meets the eye.

Just a thought.

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Process Confusion

Process, Provision, Or Purpose?

Why should we favor a process over forming conclusions?

Why should we favor any one process over another?

The answer is that processes serve a purpose. If we are interested in saying things that best describe some state of affairs, then the purpose of any means getting us there, or even getting us situated in order to get there, is judged according to the conclusions those processes bring us to.

Truths are justified beliefs. Beliefs are affirmed empirically. Processes, say the methods of Science for instance, are vindicated in that they do what we want them to do. The complaint is that we are only at best incomplete with any conclusion, so we ought to hold conclusions as provisional and focus more on processes.

The problem there has origami folds of difficulty and I’ll pick up just a few:

First is that one presumes various processes are reliable, but this seals the fate of process with that of its fruit, conclusion. A process is reliable if it produces sound conclusions. So, we cannot favor process any more than conclusion when we start with the admission that conclusions are sketchy. Both must be provisional then.

Second is that if we divorce processes from conclusions, we have nothing to attach it to; those processes no longer have an interest in anything relating to knowledge in any sense related to warrant. Without some purpose, process has no meaning.

Third is that as part of a feedback loop between experience and explanation, conclusions are mandatory but processes actually aren’t at all. Most people have a myriad of beliefs that they are entitled to and that are justified, yet they cannot themselves explain why they are justified. It is only the Epistemologist that would complain that unless a person can account for their beliefs, they’re at least not justified in believing whatever they do believe. And, we’re already admitting that conclusions are sketchy; processes are the cause. So we can’t hardly be so skeptical about conclusions yet demand these folks have any process at all. That is, unless justified beliefs, truth, is the aim of epistemological processes rather than process for process’ sake. However, their process of lacking processes only belies a strategy. Again we know these folks hold justified beliefs. Balking about lacking processes is only owning that we want processes in place to increase the volume of no less than justified beliefs, ie. better conclusions hinged on good reasons to assert rather than on any process at all. Warranted assertability being the purpose after all.

Fourth, if the aim is to have a multiplicity of explanations for some state of affairs, then we cannot hold that a single process can provide a diversity of explanations; the more reliable a process, necessarily, the more likely we are to have a single conclusion from it. Too, in wanting to have more than one explanation, we’re left asking why. At that point, we’re talking about a strategy. We are dually admitting that conclusion and processes are indeed best kept provisionally. That is, that because one requires the other, none guarantee warranted assertability.

Finally, the only process we can absolutely commit to is discarding processes that don’t work, but this is no different than discarding conclusions that don’t work either; the one is an extension of the o

Just a thought.

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Love And Other Ideas

Epistemic entitlement in principle is much like other perceptual states.

It would be out of place it seems, to ask yourself why you were first smitten by your lover. There are words we can use and reasons we can articulate that would explain in part, but those same features may actually apply to others we don’t love or even to those we may hate. It would beg the question as to why those features lead your affections to one but not another given they all share them. Too, that feature list may be the same as mine but I find I love someone else entirely and find no affection for your mate. At the bottom of those reasons one may give to establish that there is love there and that one is justified in loving that person, there’s a jes nes se qua which is the compelling reason one’s mind changed from “not loving” to “now loving”.

It’s this idea best exemplified in asking why I may love you that entitlements are understood. The idea is that why I love you is because I am as I am and I simply love whatever it is I find you to be. I cannot articulate why I genuinely​ love you, but I know that I do. My being entitled to love you isn’t just that I ought to be able to love anyone I want. It’s that I am entitled to love anyone I genuinely love despite my ability or inability to express why I do.

There are things we are entitled to believe because we find them so obvious to believe that like love, it is effort lost if someone were to say those beliefs aren’t justified for the mere fact that we didn’t argue or think about them or didn’t even know why we believed at all.

Is it an unjustified belief that I exist even though reason and evidence — as Descartes so brilliantly made clear by the time we get to the end of his third meditation — cannot justify asserting that I do?

There are scores of brute facts like existence that we are entitled to believe and which warrant asserting as being the case, despite their independence of rational justification or evidence.

As this has possible implications on Theology and Atheism, the believer is entitled to the belief something like a god may exist as long as it is from a compelling, genuine impulse. However, the Atheist is likewise so entitled to the belief that there are no deity or even just in denying claims that “There are deity” is true. Too, neither are entitled to assert these beliefs as true, because “God” is a metaphysical proposition and therefore not truth-bearing. So while many modern Atheists contend nothing should be believed without reason or evidence, Theists are right in appealing to modern Epistemology which has long denied that as a requirement for truth-candidates. However, the Atheist is completely right in pointing out, without knowing it, that whatever beliefs to which a person is entitled, god-talk is not of that sort.

Just a thought.

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Properly Meaningless Beliefs

Most have heard the question, “How do I know reality is real or whether or not I’m just a brain in a vat?” Some think that if we can’t tell, then we don’t have any way to know what’s true and what isn’t. But for any question that cannot be answered using evidence or some other means of falsification and validation, the answer either way doesn’t actually matter.

If we must merely suppose things like reality or God or regularity and uniformity in nature or the existence of other minds, then we are equally merely supposing we ought to act one way versus another; it’s artificial.

It turns out that supposing reality is really real or that I’m a brain in a vat doesn’t at all effect my behavior either way, as long as I cannot discover what the case actually is. The same is true with the existence of God and so on. In that case, these “cornerstone positions” are only so-called. That’s for the fact that the reliability of how I go about justifying my experience only hinges on how well my means and methods help me come to describe my experiences, whatever world that may be; reality or vat. Since I’m able to experience, my relation to whatever world I may be in is what matters rather than knowing what lies outside my ability to know. Warrant from these propositions is drawn from the functional role between myself and my surroundings, even if fictive. That role is simply coming to know how to properly interact within an environment.

Therefore, regarding reality, brains, and vats, warrant hinges on justified beliefs, beliefs entail to action, and justification can only ever be vindicated; meaning that there is a payoff when acting one way versus another.

In other words, is what I’m thinking about things the way those things seem to be, because it actually matters.

For all such category of beliefs for which there can be no answer through reasoning or evidence, their import is exactly tied to the fact that they are not truth-bearing propositions. There may actually be a case for reality, vats, deity, other minds and so on, but they have literally no meaning to our human existence except the meaning we ascribe to them.

That’s for the very fact that we can’t know if they actually matter at all.

Just a thought.

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