Empiricism and the Blind Man


#41

I just wanted to add something I noticed about a post of mine above:

[quote=Neithan]Since none of us are divine, no article of divine faith can be empirically verified.
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This is actually incorrect. There are certain articles of dogma received from revelation which are empirically falsifiable in principle. The central truth of our faith, in fact–the dogma of the Resurrection–is objectively empirically falsifiable. If the body of Christ were to be found, the entire Catholic Church would not have a leg to stand on: Christianity would be dead (ok… it would probably last a while longer as hardcore beliefs die hard and denial is a primal trait, but it would have to seriously metamorphosise in order to survive with any rational basis).
Same goes for Mary–if her body were to be found, the Church would crumble under its own weight.
There are other examples–a diagram of observation and revelation would be drawing two circles representing each source which slightly overlap: the middle part is where they meet, although it is a lot smaller than the separate parts.

The fact that no one could find the body of Jesus initially was one reason that belief in the Resurrection spread so rapidly. This of course lead to Jewish authorities accusing the Apostles of stealing and hiding Jesus’ corpse in order to begin their new cult (for which they eventually and willingly went to their deaths). Of course the Roman guards must have somehow been in on it, too… Most of this is conveniently dismissed nowadays with the ‘Myth’ explanation; “Where is the body?”
“There never was one, silly!” :whacky:


#42

[quote=PLP]According to naturalism, anything we can sense is, by definition, natural. At best (worst?) we can call something that is sensed paranormal, that is contradicted by current scientific knowledge. Some paranormal ideas (X-rays spring immediately to mind) end up becoming good science.
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i would say that naturalism is incoherent, then.

[quote=PLP]That’s one theory. It has at least the virtue of being internally consistent. But is it a better theory? Is it simpler? Does it provide more explanatory power? How does the full theistic theory compare to the full naturalistic theory? Basic theism treated as an ontological theory is extremely complicated, and all the complications seem to reduce the explanatory power of the theory. Christian theism is even more complicated and has even less explanatory power.
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yes, it’s better. you have never once explained what you mean by “simpler”, why that simplicity is paramount, or why simplicity matters more than other theoretical virtues. so i don’t know if you would call it “simpler”. or why that matters so much.

(as an aside - you realize that your version of mereology according to which the universe is a separate entity from its constituent parts entails the existence of an infinite number of entities, right? if there is entity A, B, C, and D, then there are mereological wholes that are made up of ABCD, AB, AC, AD, BC, BD, BA, and so on…so you can’t be all that that averse to ontological extravagance.)

yes, it provides boatloads more explanatory power. the full naturalistic theory is the same as the full theistic theory, except that the theistic theory posits god.

basic theism ontologically uncomplicated - i am at a loss to understand how you could think otherwise.

and again - i think christian theism explains way, way more than naturalism. plus, it has the distinct advantage of being true.

[quote=PLP]Original sin is a classic case of weakening the explanatory power of the overall paradigm. Sure, Original Sin predicts there will be some bad things about life, but what kind bad things? How many? Why specifically the appendix, bad knees, the inability to synthesize vitamin C? Why not other things instead?
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dude, if you are withholding belief based on questions like this, then i hope you don’t have any conviction in general relativity, quantum mechanics, set theory, or…

i can explain this, but i’m certainly not willing to spend all my time on this forum engaging in what would amount to a graduate course in philosophical theology. sorry.

and again - i’m not sure that “explanatory power” means what you think it means.

[quote=PLP]One thing that I’ve found in both my philosophical and scientific study is that thinking that something is “obvious” is a giant red flag that I have not thought through the problem carefully enough.
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noted. in my (considerable) experience, i only come to that conclusion after having thought through the problem in painstaking detail. in the end, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that certain propositions are just irreducibly obvious, and that their obviousness is an important epistemic index.

[quote=PLP]In philosophy, whenever I read (even in the canon; especially in the canon) a sentence which begins, “It’s obvious that…” I’ve invariably found that this is the precise point where the author is trying to flim-flam me.
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maybe. not sure what you’ve read. i will only note that the adoption of a defensive posture like this allows one to slip easily into a tacit and not-altogether-reasonable skepticism.

[quote=PLP]It’s equally “obvious” to me that there is no God. It’s obvious to me that a real world exists. It’s obvious to me that good and evil are real properties. It’s obvious to me that an object always has a well-defined position and momentum. So, obviously (), these are big red flags to apply more careful analysis to my own thinking.
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i would say that we are using “obvious” in different sense. what i mean is that belief in god is properly basic, not (simply) that i have a clear and non-discursive familiarity with the concepts involved.

[quote=PLP]Of course, I’m not saying that the obvious is always wrong. But thinking that something is obvious, IM (not so) HO, is always evidence that careful critical analysis has not yet been applied.
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always? always? odd, that. how do you know that there’s a real world? or that there are other minds? or that your senses are reliable? or that the principle of non-contradiction is true?


#43

[quote=PLP]Yes, but only if those beliefs could be verified in principle. See my post to Neithan.
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why? and what counts as verification? i mean, we need instruments to perceive what are colloquially, at least, called unobservables like electrons and protons and electromagnetic fields, etc…

[quote=PLP]This doesn’t seem to be the case. My eyes and ears have been open for 16 hours a day for 42 years and some months. I have zillions of warranted beliefs on the evidence of my own senses.
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and i can think of zillions of things not subject to your observational experience about which you could clearly have nothing but ***un***warranted beliefs. like world war 2 and that the iliad was written by some guy in ancient greece. and that the external world exists. and all of set theory and number theory and the most of math. and logic. and…

[quote=PLP]Yes, I’m saying that the epistemological laziness of not actually checking is pragmatically justified. Still, I demand to know at least how a statement could be verified in principle before I take it on another’s word.
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even if this was reasonable, there are principled ways of verifying phenomena which are pragmatically unimplemntable by people. for example, you can’t just take the research physicist’s word that the experiment he explains to you is actually an experiment that will (dis)prove the existence of a certain particle, say - you would have to begin at the beginning and, after years of arduous study, draw that conclusion yourself. and then perform the experiment.

[quote=PLP] I’m not sure what you’re asking here. Do you mean fundamental logical statements like noncontradiction, excluded middle or identity? I employ logic for the same pragmatic reasons I employ Scientific Materialism: It does the job I desire of explaining and predicting my experience.
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maybe we’ve got right down to where the rubber hits the road here: this is a statement of theoretical instrumentalism - i.e. that theories are only as good as they are at accomplishing the individual theorist’s goals. as churchland has said “truth takes the hindmost”.

for me, a theory is only good as an approximation to the truth. period.

there is such a radical divergence between our views on almost every single level of discourse here, that i am at a loss to imagine how progress could be made; for every assumption of yours i question, your answers make about 5 more that are similarly dubious…

not sure where to go from here, P…


#44

[quote=Neithan]Nevertheless, the word means what it means. It’s too bad that secularists equate it *only *with religious faith, when in fact it is pretty common in everyday life.
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And it’s too bad that religious people infer the reasonability of one sense of the word from the reasonability of the other.

I think it is beneficial for atheists to better understand believers when you realise that ‘faith’ is not some ‘alien concept,’ but a familiar process.

This is an example of the above conflation. Faith in the sense of trust is not an alien concept. Faith in the sense of authority is an alien concept, or at least a concept which I decisively reject.

But they “faith” and “trust”] are not the same.

My phrasing was awkward; I should have said, "I use “faith” and “trust” to respectively denote the different senses.

‘Trust’ does not necessarily involve grave authority nor a specific fact. Faith is a deeper, more particular level of trust, even when the basis is purely human and personally verifiable in principle (observable).

If a child goes to the planetarium and listens to an astronomer explain that it takes 4 years for light to travel to the nearest galaxy, and the kid believes him because he’s a grown-up smart guy who studies the sky… that is faith. It’s different than if one were to trust that the astronomer is not a liar because he seems pretty honest.

Even when you use the words to denote this dichotomy, I still reject faith in favor of trust. I don’t grant “grave authority”

I’m not at all attempting to erase the difference between the bases–observation and revelation are completely different sources of knowledge. But it is important for intellectually honest atheists to realise that it is *revelation *which you reject, not faith.

This is a purely semantic quibble. I reject not just revelation but any basis of cognitive (true/false) belief which does not rest on “logical proof or material evidence”, such as fideism or personal authority.

I simply do not emply faith in the sense of “belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” I reject the argument that because faith in the sense of “confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing” can be rational, then faith in the former sense can therefore be rational.

By all means, have fun positing reason against revelation and demonstrate to us how ridiculous the latter is (if that’s what you think–although it is Catholic dogma that the two cannot contradict one another), however, positing reason against faith is dishonest and hypocritical antagonism.

Well, I’m not here to demonstrate the ridiculousness of anything. And I think it’s hyperbolic and counterproductive to use words like “dishonest” and “hypocritical”; it’s unwarranted to attach such severe moral condemnation to a discussion about the interpretation of our complicated and subtle language.

This kind of reminds me of Orwell’s *1984 *and the control of language (‘Newspeak’) in order to manipulate the thinking of a populace. The primary concept was to drastically narrow the definitions of words or even eliminate them entirely.

I find this comparison unwarrantedly hyperbolic as well.

I can see how some freethinkers might be honestly concerned that faith discourages personal pursuit of the truth. That people will rely wholly on faith rather than reason.

Sadly, this does appear to be the case with all too many people, present company happily excepted. But I am much less concerned about this fact than I used to be.

This, however, is not true faith but fideism.

Ok.

Faith doesn’t constrict or contradict reason (on the contrary, it frees one to explore further than otherwise possible), but compliments it. The two are essential for human progress and harmony.

Well, I do agree that, given the predominant properties of human beings, it’s tremendously advantageous to grant each other a substantial degree of mutual trust. Which, to my mind, argues that we should establish and maintain a rational foundation for such trust rather than enforce obedience to an unverifiable authority.

I strongly recommend the excellent Encyclical Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) written by the late Pope John Paul II. This brilliantly illuminates the Catholic perspective.

It looks interesting. Rather longish, so I’ll have to read it later. But it’s definitely on my list.


#45

[quote=Neithan]The fact that no one could find the body of Jesus initially was one reason that belief in the Resurrection spread so rapidly.
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As a digression on a digression, AFAIK we have no evidence that anyone talked about the bodily resurrection of Jesus until at least forty years after his death; Jesus dies ca. 30 CE and Mark isn’t written until after 70 CE.


#46

[quote=john doran]you have never once explained what you mean by “simpler”…
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In the logical sense, “simpler” means fewer atomic premises; an atomic premise is a premise without terms conjoined by “or” or “and”. In the ontology of scientific materialism, fundamental ontological entities are introduced by premises, so the mapping from entity to premise is direct.

why that simplicity is paramount, or why simplicity matters more than other theoretical virtues.

Simplicity is not paramount. Explanatory power is paramount. Simplicitly is a relevant criterion only where two competing theories have equivalent explanatory power.

so i don’t know if you would call it “simpler”. or why that matters so much.

The refutation of the explanatory argument for the existence of God is rather short, so I’ll just pop it in directly.

The refutation proves that if God is not part of the best scientific theory of everything, then positing a God to *explain *the best scientific theory of everything fails Occam’s Razor. The antecedent is critical; if God is part of the best scientific theory of everything then the argument from explanation is unnecessary.

We first assume that there exists some best scientific theory of everything, that simplest theory with maximum explanatory power. We further assume that this theory does not include a God as an ontological entity. (If it did, belief in God would be predicated on the theory; no further argument would be necessary.)

Positing a god to “explain” this best scientific theory has the same explanatory power as the theory itself (it entails no different observables; the best scientific theory is not itself observable) and it has one more premise than the best scientific theory, that God created the best scientific theory (or created that which the theory explains).

If either condition above were not the case, then there would be a theory with greater explanatory power or a simpler theory with the same explanatory power, and it would be the best scientific theory, and belief in God would be predicated on that basis.

Therefore positing God on this point fails Occam’s Razor since it is not simpler and does not offer greater explanatory power. Q.E.D.

(as an aside - you realize that your version of mereology according to which the universe is a separate entity from its constituent parts entails the existence of an infinite number of entities, right?

They are not fundamental. All merelogical entities are justified by a single ontological premise: “All compositional entities are merelogical.” The fact that we can come to an infinite set of conclusions from a finite set of premises is not a sound objection. In my (computer programming) terminology, it’s a feature, not a bug.

And we have to have the merelogical premise to explain why compositional entities lack properties which their component parts have. Even though the merelogical premise is additional, it is necessary to provide the primary criterion, which is explanatory power; it is therefore not gratuitous.

so you can’t be all that that averse to ontological extravagance.)

I’m averse to ontological extravagance only with regard to fundamental entities.

yes, it provides boatloads more explanatory power. the full naturalistic theory is the same as the full theistic theory, except that the theistic theory posits god.

Right. So God is a gratuitious premise; it adds no extra explanatory power.

basic theism ontologically uncomplicated - i am at a loss to understand how you could think otherwise.

I hope I’ve explained myself sufficiently above.

and again - i think christian theism explains way, way more than naturalism. plus, it has the distinct advantage of being true.

What does Christian theism explain that naturalism doesn’t?

continued…


#47

[quote=john doran]Original sin is a classic case of weakening the explanatory power of the overall paradigm. Sure, Original Sin predicts there will be some bad things about life, but what kind bad things? How many? Why specifically the appendix, bad knees, the inability to synthesize vitamin C? Why not other things instead?

dude, if you are withholding belief based on questions like this, then i hope you don’t have any conviction in general relativity, quantum mechanics, set theory, or…
[/quote]

I can’t figure out how you draw this conclusion from my comments.

i can explain this, but i’m certainly not willing to spend all my time on this forum engaging in what would amount to a graduate course in philosophical theology. sorry.

I am in fact spending all my time in this forum engaging in what would amount to a graduate course in philosophy. That’s precisely why I’m here. Of course you’re under no obligation to indulge me, but I will sincerely miss the substance you’re clearly capable of bringing to the discussion.

and again - i’m not sure that “explanatory power” means what you think it means.

I suspect it is indeed the case that you and I have two different accounts of “explanatory power”.

noted. in my (considerable) experience, i only come to that conclusion after having thought through the problem in painstaking detail. in the end, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that certain propositions are just irreducibly obvious, and that their obviousness is an important epistemic index.

We are talking about two different meanings of obvious; I’m referring to the sense of “easily perceived or understood; quite apparent.” Something that requires thought in painstaking detail is not obvious in this sense; a different word is necessary.My logic professor began our class by writing a rather complicated equation on the blackboard. He turned to us and said, “Now, I’m sure everyone will agree that this is obvious.” A moment later, with a puzzled look on his face, he turned to examine the equation. Without a word, he left the classroom. We waited, confused, for a full forty-five minutes. He then returned, beaming, and declared, “Yes! It is obvious.”

maybe. not sure what you’ve read. i will only note that the adoption of a defensive posture like this allows one to slip easily into a tacit and not-altogether-reasonable skepticism.

My skepticism is not tacit; it’s very explicit. As to whether it’s reasonable, that’s a subject for discussion.

i would say that we are using “obvious” in different sense. what i mean is that belief in god is properly basic, not (simply) that i have a clear and non-discursive familiarity with the concepts involved.

Yes, this is a different meaning of obvious. I do think God is properly basic, but I don’t think properly basic is a sufficient criterion for belief.

always? always?

My point in the quoted post is just that if some concept is “easily perceived or understood; quite apparent,” that’s always a red flag that the concept requires additional thought. I’m categorically suspicious and skeptical of philosophical “freebies”.

odd, that. how do you know that there’s a real world? or that there are other minds? or that your senses are reliable? or that the principle of non-contradiction is true?

Deep questions. I suspect that if I were to answer even one of them, I would exceed the 5,000 character post limit by a couple of orders of magnitude. Worse yet, I would be engaging in the equivalent of a graduate philosophy course, an activity you have explicitly declared yourself uninterested in.


#48

[quote=PLP]This is an example of the above conflation. Faith in the sense of trust is not an alien concept. Faith in the sense of authority is an alien concept, or at least a concept which I decisively reject.

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Is every single one of your ‘confident beliefs’ a result of personally reasoned knowledge?
If this were the case, how could you be a strong atheist?

My phrasing was awkward; I should have said, "I use “faith” and “trust” to respectively denote the different senses.

shrug fine; you’re simply equating one definition of ‘faith’ with ‘trust’, and effectively duplicating the meaning of one word while criticising such ‘duplication’ in another. Anyway it doesn’t matter, because my point was to explain what Catholics mean by ‘faith,’ which usually rests on observable principles.

Even when you use the words to denote this dichotomy, I still reject faith in favor of trust. I don’t grant “grave authority”

:confused: Your trust is severely limited, then. Grave authority is built on trust.
Do you ever consult a Doctor when you’re sick? Why?
Why would you trust your Doctor to diagnose you more than, say… your Gardener?
*If *you **trust **your Doctor, *then *you have faith in his diagnosis. That’s how it works… of course you could easily say, you trust him, therefore you trust his diagnosis–which means essentially the same thing.
I could likewise say I trust the Church, therefore I trust dogma. There’s no need to make unnecessary limits on the language.

I simply do not emply faith in the sense of “belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.”

Neither do I! :smiley: I reject that particular use of faith as well–it’s irrational (fideism). Every Catholic dogma uses logical proof and material evidence.
BTW ‘material evidence’ by no means demands ‘empirical certainty.’

Well, I’m not here to demonstrate the ridiculousness of anything. And I think it’s hyperbolic and counterproductive to use words like “dishonest” and “hypocritical”; it’s unwarranted to attach such severe moral condemnation to a discussion about the interpretation of our complicated and subtle language.

The tone is more aggressive than I intended, sorry. I do think these semantics are dishonest and hypocritical though. You’re simply widening the meaning of trust to include the essential qualities of faith because of some entrenched aversion to the word.

I find this comparison unwarrantedly hyperbolic as well.

Hyperbolic, yes–but not unwarranted. You’re replacing one word (faith) with another (trust), in order to isolate a specific application of it (faith in revelation).


#49

As a digression on a digression, AFAIK we have no evidence that anyone talked about the bodily resurrection of Jesus until at least forty years after his death; Jesus dies ca. 30 CE and Mark isn’t written until after 70 CE.

Unfortunately ancient Rome had no printing press, video or audio recording technology. :hmmm:
You may be confusing Mark with Matthew. Mark is usually dated somewhere around 60 CE. Paul’s Epistles were written a decade before.

Now, for a skeptic to tinker with the text and extrapolate a purely ‘spiritual resurrection’ (if that is what you’re driving at) in Paul’s writings is rather incredible. A ‘spiritual resurrection’ is simply not a resurrection at all. To prove even the reasonability of something like this evidence needs to be presented for an established belief in ‘spiritual death.’ The Greeks (to whom Paul was writing) already believed that the spirit survives the death of the body–why would it need to resurrect? Makes absolutely no sense. The doctrine of the resurrection, which originated among the Jews (Paul was a Jew), was a return to physical life.
Paul’s Belief in a Bodily Resurrection

This kind of irrational skepticism would be like reading Mein Kampf and casting doubt on the development of Nazi doctrine because Hitler was clearly initially arguing against a purely ‘symbolic’ Jewish race. Try running that by on infidels! (yes I do like hyperbole).

Anyway this is all moot unless you are postulating the ‘myth’ hypothesis, and thereby forced to cast doubt on the authenticity/integrity of ancient sources (Christian, Jewish and Pagan). Of course the question is: why did they make up the accusations of stealing his body, if they could so much easier have simply denied his entire existence? The ‘Myth’ idea has absolutely no foundation amongst the ancients, it is entirely modern and suggests that it is only possible now that we have probably lost acquaintance with some considerable amount of the original body of evidence.


#50

[quote=Neithan]The tone is more aggressive than I intended, sorry. I do think these semantics are dishonest and hypocritical though. You’re simply widening the meaning of trust to include the essential qualities of faith because of some entrenched aversion to the word.
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If you cannot count on my honesty and sincerity, I don’t see much point in continuing the discussion. I thank you for your time and for the interesting points you’ve raised.


#51

[quote=PLP]If you cannot count on my honesty and sincerity, I don’t see much point in continuing the discussion.
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Fair enough; but allow me to briefly clarify: I’m by no means calling you a malicious liar. I’m simply commenting on the objective dishonesty where atheists claim they have no faith, but are knowingly restricting the word’s definition from theists’.

In any case, no hard feelings intended.

[quote=PLP]I thank you for your time and for the interesting points you’ve raised
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Likewise! :tiphat:


closed #52

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