[quote=PLP]And there are no statements of fact regarding objective reality that ever have to be taken on another’s authority.
this is either (pragmatically) false or irrelevant.
for example, all historical facts are incapable of empirical verification, at least of the kind you seem to be talking about here (i.e. personal execution of repeatable experiments that match predictions). you could, of course, when confronted with the claim “there was a world war between 1939 and 1945” go to various sites of those purported battles to attempt to discover archaeological confirmation of the claims made about the war, but in the end, a few bullets or holes that may or may not be craters or big ships at the bottom of the sea, etc. etc., are equally consistent with other, more parsimonious theories (i know you love parsimony). which means that, in the end, the distinguishing epistemic factor will always be testimony.
realistically, i will never be able to go into space to look at the world and see that it is a giant sphere. i will never be able to go to the bottom of the ocean to verify that the pictures in the national geographic magazine that claim to be of the marianis trench actually are. i will never be able to set foot on the moon and finally prove - contra the conspiracy theorists - that we went there. and so on.
of course, perhaps you are simply stating the principle of verification, or something close to it: a proposition is meaningful only if it is in principle empirically verifiable or analytic. but, itself being neither in principle empirically verifiable nor analytically true, the principle must therefore be meaningless…
so. where we’re left is that reliance upon testimony in the formation of our beliefs is unavoidable, and i think it is entirely possible to have warranted beliefs the basis of which is testimonial evidence.
[quote=PLP] The thelogian, or priest, OTOH, says things about God that I can’t figure out how I myself could know. He just arbitrariy declares things to be true, and expects me to believe them just because he says so.
this isn’t really true, either. given that we’re on a catholic board here, we must assume a catholic perspective on this kind of point (or at least i am, in fact, going to, whether or not i must). there have been a lot of theologians and priests throughout the ages that have said things about god that have been rejected by the church as being incompatible with basic theological principles, which principles have held firm for 2000 years. so there is a bulkwark of truth to which verifying appeals can be made.
for someone who doesn’t believe either in god or in the indefectibility teaching authority of the church as guaranteed by god, the principles themselves will seem arbitrary, and so be it. for us catholics, they’re not.