Friday, August 01, 2008

Evidentialism's bloody nose

A little history, since this has been percolating in my head for some time now.

Here is the last time the Jolly Nihilist and I discussed this particular topic, that of evidence, epistemology, and how we know stuff on this blog.

The JN later responded with this post. I didn't have time then to get to it, and so I just read it, interacted a little in the combox, and let it go and kept thinking about it.

The important thing about this post is that the JN has laid out his First Principle, that "evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth". He says, "Because a First Principle is foundational—that is, it cannot be deduced from any other assumption or proposition—it cannot be 'split' or independently proved."
He goes on in the post to contradict himself: "evidence (relevant facts) can be marshaled to demonstrate evidence’s utility. Because of this, my postulate is self-subsisting."

I agree with the 1st statement, so here we are going to analyse his FP to see if it is indeed self-subsisting. As an aside, let us remember that the God of the Bible as FP is fully self-subsisting and takes care of all these questions. It's good to follow Jesus.

Onto the points:

1) First of all, it's gratifying that the JN would say that his First Principle is a faith position. I have known that all along, but it's been quite a chore to get him to admit it. Such is obvious to the rest of us and I'm not used to seeing atheists admit stuff like this. In fact, "faith-free zone" seems to be an atheist shibboleth these days, so the JN is definitely breaking ranks with his atheist compadres, but that's OK - he is entitled to do that.
This is, in fact, partially a notification for said compadres - this guy is not exactly on your team. Don't get me wrong - the JN's approach certainly gets him out of the infinite regress (kind of) that I pull out on anyone else who claims they're an 'evidentialist', but it only gets him one step farther. Better than nothing, I guess, but two nuthin's is nuthin'.

Basically, it goes like this.
Atheist: Evidence is a good, maybe even the best, way to discover truth.
Me: What is your evidence for that?
Atheist: That I ask questions, formulate hypotheses, and then test them. The evidence that I find then allows me to form a conclusion.
Me: What is your evidence that formulating a hypothesis, testing it, and forming a conclusion is a good way to discover truth?
Atheist: It just is. It works.
Me: What is your evidence for that?
Etc.

I simply continue to apply what is (by the atheist's own claims) a really good/the best way to discover truth to the each answer given by the atheist. Unfortunately, the buck never stops - it is an infinite regress that no person can exhaust.
Quite unlike the Christian worldview, where we know that evidence is a very good way to discover truth b/c God is a logical God. He thinks like that and we think like Him. Thus, we can have confidence in evidence. The atheist has no reason to have confidence in evidence (on atheism) - he simply has faith in it. The JN admits this. Most atheists to whom I've spoken won't.


2) Why choose this position? Just because? Does it make the JN feel better? Does it help him sleep better at night?
There is literally no reason (that I can think of) to choose "evidence is the best way to discover truth" rather than "fortune cookies are the best way to discover truth" and hold to that (again, by faith), and go through life that way. It's completely arbitrary.
To make an argument that it is right is to attempt to employ evidence in its favor, which can't be done as we've seen.
Moreover, there's certainly no reason to think that anyone should hold to it. Let's even grant that it's true. There remains no reason that I can think of to believe it, and even less reason to attempt to convince anyone else that it is true. Why even express it out loud, given the situation?

3) His choice of a First Principle is arbitrary in another way.
Can the JN's worldview pass its own test?
Obviously not - we just went over that in the examination of the infinite regress. So he believes that this is true, but has no evidence for it.
Since he has chosen a faith-based position for his First Principle, why not just go with "faith is the best way to discover truth"? Obviously evidence failed him in this question and faith resolved the problem. Why not just stick with that? Why go with what failed him in this most important, overarching question of First Principle?
This reminds me of the following conversation, for another illustration:
Richard: There is no absolute truth.
Matt: You mean, except for that statement?
Richard: What?
Matt: The statement "there is no absolute truth" is an absolute statement in itself.
Richard: Ah. OK, well, there is no absolute truth except for that statement.
Matt: So now there are at least 4 absolute truths: 1) the statement itself, 2) the idea that statements can carry meaning, 3) you exist to make the statement, 4) the idea of "except" exists. Etc.
Richard: Fine. There are however many absolute truths that are required to sustain the statement that "there is only one absolute - that there are no other absolutes," but no more.

Richard would be well-advised to shop around for a better worldview, not to mention a better catchphrase. So would the JN.

Incidentally, the Christian worldview passes its own test just fine. God is self-existent and is logical, good, holy, and transcendent. "I am that I am." "He is before all things and in Him all things hold together." Etc. We ground everything in the timeless, infinite, wise, intelligent, personal, communicative God of the Bible.

4) The JN is cheating. I asked him for a, one, (1) First Principle, and he provides one that is totally inadequate, to the point that he has to smuggle in numerous other concepts that he didn't mention.
He does not define evidence; the definition of evidence as "data interpreted within a grid to bolster a particular point of view" requires that there is such a thing as "data", "interpretation", "worldview grids", "bolstering", "particular" (as opposed to "general"), and "point of view".
His FP must smuggle in the concept that mind exists. Why didn't he mention that? How is data transformed magically into evidence without a mind to interpret it? Is there some sort of Cosmic Automatic Data-to-Evidence-Transformer Principle? Why didn't he mention it as part of his FP?
His FP must smuggle in the concept that he is not a brain in a vat. Certainly such a concept cannot be determined to be true or false by evidence, so one must take it on total blind faith or have a coherent worldview presupposition that rules it out (which I as a Christian do).
His FP offers no solution to the one and the many, which, again, evidence cannot speak to.
This is no FP at all. It is but a fragment, a shard, a tiny piece busted and pried out of a working worldview (that is, my own), with the hope that no one will notice or be able to analyse it to see it for what it is - a sham. It is Principle 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D...1n.

Basically, he pretends to offer a FP, a complete automobile, that will take us to the realm of proper and rational living. What he has in reality is a chassis with no tires, no engine, no steering wheel. He has to bring those in from a different manufacturer and file off the "biblical worldview, Serial Number 48590230" engraving on each item, until he has assembled a whole car. But that fails the question I asked him. My own worldview is a complete car. The JN apparently doesn't like its style (because he has an unregenerate and unrepentant mind and heart) though he has no moral reason to dislike it and, as we've seen, no rational reason to dislike it either. He has to use Christian parts to get anywhere close to a working car, and then he wants to race me?

5) This FP says precisely nothing about how to inform any sense of morality. Period.
When asked about what evidence one can use or that he uses to prove that, say, raping a child is wrong, he begs the question repeatedly and says that it's wrong b/c it causes pain. So what? What's your evidence that pain is wrong? And on and on it goes, as we've recently seen.
By contrast, the Christian FP comes complete with all sorts of moral guidance. Misinterpretations, misapplications, or partial/total abandonment thereof by the objects of its revelation (human beings) have nothing to do with the fact that the moral laws laid down by it are objective, unchanging, and definitional.


In short, the gauntlet has been thrown, the JN tried to pick it up, but wound up instead dropping it, breaking all the toes of his right foot. The Jolly Nihilist has nothing. I challenge him to do the only rational thing - flee to Jesus Christ, ask Him for forgiveness, and trust Him and Him alone for salvation.

27 comments:

The Jolly Nihilist said...

Greetings, Rhology.

Thank you for your thoughtful response.

As you have surely noticed, I am no longer actively blogging, nor am I participating in comment boxes at this time. I consider “My Case Against God” closed, in the sense that my argument is complete and, for now, the final chapter has been written. Of course, at some later date, I might reactivate the site. However, I judge the prospect unlikely.

Given your considerable readership, I am sure you will find capable interlocutors to chew over these points. Although I strongly disagree with your line of argument, I do not currently possess “the fire in the belly” to disabuse theists of their fallacies, no matter how much fun such activity usually is. My work, including the essay to which you responded, stands on its own, as does evidentialism as a robust Philosophical First Principle (as distinguished from a Cosmic First Principle).**



** I am deliberately departing from the established lexicon to make a critical distinction. I would define a Cosmic First Principle as one that, quite literally, explains everything: Such a principle would presuppose nothing (not even the coherency of “principle” as a concept), yet, in itself and through itself, illuminate everything. Such a principle would be true, active and vital before any consciousness was around to grasp or utilize it; that is, it would in no way be dependent on humans, our sentience or our thoughts. A Cosmic First Principle would be there—true, active and vital—even before matter condensed in the cosmos.
By contrast, a Philosophical First Principle is an indivisible, un-splittable foundation of human thought. Taking certain things (including, but not restricted to, one’s own existence, one’s own sentience and the existence of abstract concepts such as principles) as granted (all those things are manifest, by the way), such a principle aspires to be a roadmap for efficacious reasoning. [Think of it this way: “Here we are…sentient beings on this planet in this universe. How best might we harness our minds?”] The postulate you quoted, and to which I still hold, “Evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth,” is a First Principle of exactly this philosophical flavor.

Touchstone said...

Evidentialism - reasoning from evidence obtained from the senses - doesn't need any philosophical justification. It's an unavoidable necessity, that rhology demonstrably accepts, and has since he was a small child, just like every other human with the will and determination to live and work on the project of living.

Presuppositions aren't just assertions pulled from the either because they are appealing, or soothing. Presuppositions - like an axiom in math - exists as a necessity. It is a fundamental because it *must* be; without it, the system collapses, inchoate.

So it is with reasoning from the senses. We must accept the reality of reality, and the general reliable of our perceptions if we want to live, to communicate, to interact with the reality around us.

As it turns out, the necessity of the evidentialist heuristic finds a wealth of confirmation and validation in practice. You still must accept -- by necessity -- that reality is real, but evidentialism tracks nicely from that basic commitment, providing robust models of reality for us that let humans accomplish all sorts of things, from the trivial to the stupendous.

I don't mind at all describing man's necessary commitment to the reality of reality as a kind of "faith" -- it is an unjustified commitment. But it should not be conflated with capricious faith commitments, like "God exists and the Bible is true".

Accepting the reality of reality is a necessity, a kind of faith no man that seeks to live and operate in the world can reject. "God exists and the Bible is true" does not come from any kind of necessity, and if we insist on calling both "faith", let's admit that this is a charitable measure on the atheist part, that ought not be abused in return by equating "reality is real" with "God exists and the Bible is true" as even a little bit similar, epistemically.

This is where rational epistemology binds bedrock, the practical necessity of embracing reality as real and sense-data as generally veridical. That supposition MAY BE WRONG, but it matters not -- man must accept this in any case. Thus is the infinite epistemic regress broken for the rational mind, and without caprice.

Theistic, and particularly Calvinistic presuppositions cannot found such grounding without caprice. Their means of stepping off the train of infinite regress is just arbitrary, and not embraced of necessity.

-Touchstone

Paul C said...

Rhology, I'm kind of out of this loop right now, but I have to say - watching you debate is like watching a baby playing with a razorblade. Give it up, guy - the more you type, the more people you'll drive away from Christianity. And that's a shame, because you don't represent Christianity any more than I represent atheism.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

I submit just one additional thought before I make my departure from this issue.

I find it fantastically odd that you inextricably link the cosmos’ actual natural reality with human beings having a “consistent and complete worldview,” as you might phrase it. To employ an analogy of scale, it is as though you think the nature and actuality of planet Earth somehow is bound up with the musings of Drosophila melanogaster. The universe is incomprehensibly old and unimaginably vast; in the game of existence, human beings are neophytes…microscopic, inconsequential parasites crawling around a tiny, long-forgotten-about speck of stardust. It is unforgivably solipsistic, not to mention speciocentric, to tie the entirety of cosmic reality into humankind’s haphazard musings, in the form of our respective worldviews.

The cosmos preceded us. It shall outlast us. It, its nature and its reality have no dependence upon our neural firing patterns. [I remind crusading environmentalists that attempting “to save planet Earth” is egocentric folly; this planet also preceded us and certainly shall outlast us.] The best we may do, as sentient beings who find ourselves here, is to direct our brainpower toward rational thought…in hopes that our (ultimately insignificant) lives might persist a bit longer.

John Evo said...

Although most scientists do not believe in God, they are unwilling to challenge the deeply held beliefs of the majority of Americans and others worldwide. I am a physicist who refuses to equivocate. The God worshipped by the billion of followers of the monotheistic religions either exists or he does not. And his existence is a legitimate scientific issue.

If God is the intelligent designer of life on Earth, then we should find evidence for that in observations of the structure of life. We do not. If God has endowed humans with immaterial souls and is the source of morality, then we should find evidence for that in observations of human behavior. We do not. If God answers prayers, then we should see miraculous effects of prayer. We do not. If God has revealed truths to humanity, then those truths should be empirically verified. They are not. If God is the creator of the universe and the laws of nature, then we should find evidence for that in astronomy and physics. We do not. If humans are a special creation of God, then the universe should be congenial to human life. It is not.

The universe and life look exactly as they can be expected to look if there is no God.


Victor Stenger

Anonymous said...

You are a hopeless fool. Evidence does lead to the truth. You would not have this website otherwise. The many discoveries needed to make this all happen are truths revealed through much evidence. Do you deny the existence of the Internet ?

Kyle said...

Touchstone said:
"I don't mind at all describing man's necessary commitment to the reality of reality as a kind of "faith" -- it is an unjustified commitment. But it should not be conflated with capricious faith commitments, like "God exists and the Bible is true"."

Touchstone,
The 'reality of reality' is what is in debate. It may be your opinion that accepting your perception of reality as Reality (TM) is the rational thing to do but I challenge your perception of reality. If you fail to see and hear the evidence for the God of the Bible dripping from every corner of creation and shouting from the pages of scripture, that does not make the faith committment of theists 'capricious'.

Perhaps you could use a logical argument to show that Christian presuppositions are 'capricious' because your opinion is not considered legal tender in the search for truth.

Kyle said...

John Evo (Victor Stenger) said:

"The universe and life look exactly as they can be expected to look if there is no God."

It shouldn't amaze me given the bible's definition of the lost man, but it does. Why do atheists make these sweeping proclamations about the Universe, especially when their pressupositions can't stand up to their own tests?

"If God is the intelligent designer of life on Earth, then we should find evidence for that in observations of the structure of life. We do not."

What constitutes evidence for God? A trademark stamp on every atom that says "wrought by Jehovah"? Give me a break. The Lord rightly judges those who reject his mighty hand in Creation. The atheist is blind and knows it but still wants to play up his case so he can blame God when he is being judged for his unbelief on the Day of Judgment.

Rhology said...

JN,

That's great. My worldview and FP *DO* fit the description of the "Cosmic FP".

I find it hard to believe that someone with so lively a mind as yours would find satisfying such a deficient and inadequate FP as the "Philosophical FP" you've described here. Methinks you have a bias against the Cosmic FP that doesn't end up in incoherency as yours clearly does, as we've seen.
Why would anyone want to believe in a worldview that only explains SOME things, leaving the rest inaccessible to it? I don't understand that. This has a lot to do with real life, you know. It's not just an intellectual exercise.

Touchstone said:
Evidentialism - reasoning from evidence obtained from the senses - doesn't need any philosophical justification. It's an unavoidable necessity, that rhology demonstrably accept

Anon said:
Evidence does lead to the truth. You would not have this website otherwise.

I accept that evidence is a good way to discover truth *b/c* TGOTB exists.
Neither Touchstone nor Anon have grasped this. this is not a post about refusing evidence. It's about the necessary preconditions for evidence.

John Evo,

See the next post. I suggest you stop posting such facile and sophomoric quotes from 3rd-rate atheist apologists like Stenger. Your own thoughts are welcome - Stenger's inability to deal with the argument is manifest from his public stuff. We want to see *your* emptyheadedness on display too.

Rhology said...

JN,

So...forming, refining, and keeping a consistent and complete worldview is not a goal of yours?
Or is it the case that you think that a worldview that agrees with and accounts for "the cosmos’ actual natural reality" is unimportant? Impossible? Really hard?
Once again I am glad to remind myself and everyone reading that the Christian worldview not only accounts for the "musings of Drosophila melanogaster" but also my own musings, problems, worries, and struggles, as well as the cosmos’ actual natural reality. All of it. The God of the Bible made it all and watches it all and holds it all together by His power. He knows it all, and He has been kind to reveal a great deal of it to humanity. Yes, we are tiny. Yes, we are puny. We are insignificant, as size goes. Yet we are loved by a great and wonderful God Who has forgiven those of us who repent of breaking His law.
It looks like you're giving up here, JN. that's not a shame, but what is a shame is that, having apparently conceded that your worldview does not account for much of the cosmos’ actual natural reality, you will still hold to it. I thought Christians were the ones who were supposed to be the ones who take everything on blind and unprovable faith...

Peace,
Rhology

Touchstone said...

Kyle said:

Perhaps you could use a logical argument to show that Christian presuppositions are 'capricious' because your opinion is not considered legal tender in the search for truth.

OK, well, the caprice is just a pointer to the non-necessity of the theistic commitment. The example I commonly use to ask those who doubt the reality of reality and their perceptions as generally veridical to read my post aloud whilst holding their hand over an open flame. How far can you read into this paragraph with you hand in the flame, Kyle? I contend it is necessary for you to assent to the reality of the flame and the pain and damage it is causing your hand, and that you will not even *attempt* the experiment, most likely, such is your commitment to reality, your "challenge" here notwithstanding. But if you try it, please let me know if you were able to treat your senses as merely illusions while your hand gets damaged by the flame.

So, the logical argument is this.

P1. In order to live and function in the world, a human must accept the reality of reality, and his perceptions as generally veridical.

P2. Kyle has chosen to live and function in the world, as evidenced by his comments in this combox.

Ergo: Kyle accepts the reality of reality and the general reliabilty of his perceptions.

With Christian theism, there is no such necessary commitment. You can say it's "obvious" all you want, but unlike denying the reality of the flame engulfing your hand, denying the reality of God, gods or the supernatural is quite sustainable in practice. Man can live, and navigate, and go about the project of life while denying the existence of God or gods. He may be mistaken, but theism is not a necessary commitment, in the way that embracing the reality of reality is a necessary commitment.

It's optional, in other words, and this makes it fundamentally different as a commitment.

-TS

Paul C said...

Unfortunately, the buck never stops - it is an infinite regress that no person can exhaust.

And if it's inexhaustible that means it is entirely self-supporting, which means that no further demonstration is required.

If you were able to demonstrate at any point that the evidentiary chain was broken, then you might have a case. But it isn't, and you don't.

Rhology said...

What is your evidence that an infinite regress is self-supporting?

Rhology said...

And why do you disagree with the JN? What is your response to him?

Paul C said...

What is your evidence that an infinite regress is self-supporting?

It is necessarily self-supporting - as you yourself have conceded, it can never be exhausted.

And why do you disagree with the JN? What is your response to him?

I am unsure what you think I disagree with him about. Probably a number of things, but you'll have to be more specific.

Rhology said...

Nah, I don't think that's worth doing. The fact that you really can't see it is actually one of the things that makes your comments so funny.

Rhology said...

T'S COMEDY GOLD 24/7 WITH PAUL C.

Paul C said...

Your lack of self-awareness will never cease to astound. Also, your playground mentality. Bang on!

Rhology said...

You crack me up. *My* playground mentality? Did you forget who wrote those comments and who just copy/pasted them? Or are you just trying to obfuscate and play the "I'm rubber, you're glue" game?

The Jolly Nihilist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Jolly Nihilist said...

Greetings, Rhology.

Having read your rejoinders, it has become clear I must address a couple of additional items. First, though, let me say that I am glad you recognize the critical distinction between a Cosmic First Principle (hereafter “CFP”) and Philosophical First Principle (hereafter “PFP”). Again, these terms might not be in the conventional lexicon, but, clearly, they are distinct from each other.

When you say, "So...forming, refining, and keeping a consistent and complete worldview is not a goal of yours?" you are, in essence, asking whether I hold a particular, foundational First Principle. Indeed, I do. However, it is a PFP, rather than a CFP. Indeed, from all I have seen, CFPs are presuppositional sophistry or, more crassly stated, pious handjobbery. Here is why:

You have worded your CFP in various forms, but it always comes down to Yahweh; that is, all meaning and value flow from Yahweh, his existence and his nature. Yahweh is the self-subsistent CFP. You hasten to add that Zeus, among other god characters, is insufficient as a CFP (because Zeus lacks Yahwehian characteristics A, B, C, D, etc.). However—and we have been through this before—if you believe Yahweh works as a CFP, he must possess certain character traits (which Zeus lacks) that make him suitable as one. And, because you have never proved that every dot and iota of Yahweh's nature is critical for this job, one must assume it comes down to a set of core essentialities. This being the case, I could define the Ethereal Cosmic Catfish (hereafter “ECC”) so as to possess all those core essentialities, and then sprinkle in sundry variables, to taste. [This step ensures ECC is materially different from Yahweh and other deities.] Through this exercise, ECC would transform into a CFP—the singular source of a comprehensive, complete, consistent worldview. And, yet, I would remain pitifully ignorant of the cosmos’ actual natural reality. Such is the folly of the CFP.

With the PFP, I have armed myself with a fantastically powerful axiom. It gives me an efficacious method to interrogate the world in which I find myself.

Second, the entirety of your line of reasoning is based upon what I deem to be a fallacious notion: that the bare facts of reality cannot be the bare facts of reality, but, instead, require “grounding.” The cosmos exists—this is manifest. Homo sapiens sapiens exist as a species—this is manifest, as well. Homo sapiens sapiens comprise a sentient species—this, too, is manifest. Abstract concepts such as principles can be dealt with by the human species—this, per the pattern, is also manifest. My PFP takes as "granted" the brute facts of the cosmos (among them, the accidental existence of humankind); instead of a grand, overarching worldview, the PFP is a lens through which to examine reality’s bare facts.

If you believe those bare facts of reality require external grounding, I suggest you attempt to demonstrate such.

The fictional world you confect with your CFP reminds me of a passage from "Seems Madam? Nay, It Is" (1899), by the inimitable Bertrand Russell, whom I shall quote:


For the essence of my contention is that Reality, as constructed by metaphysics, bears no sort of relation to the world of experience. It is an empty abstraction, from which no single inference can be validly made as to the world of appearance, in which world, nevertheless, all our interests lie. Even the pure intellectual interest, from which metaphysics springs, is an interest in explaining the world of appearance. But instead of really explaining this actual, palpable, sensible world, metaphysics constructs another fundamentally different world, so different, so unconnected with actual experience, that the world of daily life remains wholly unaffected by it and goes on its way just as if there were no world of Reality at all.


Who, then, is busying himself with empty intellectual calisthenics?


Cheers,
JN

Paul C said...

*My* playground mentality? Did you forget who wrote those comments and who just copy/pasted them? Or are you just trying to obfuscate and play the "I'm rubber, you're glue" game?

So if I make a comment and you parrot it back, I'm the one playing "I'm rubber, you're glue"?

As I said, you have an almost complete lack of self-awareness. It's tragic.

Rhology said...

JN,

1) You have not even attempted to address the arguments I made in my post.
2) Rather, you appear to want to divorce reality from "sthg that works for me" in terms of functionality. After all, it wouldn't be any good if it didn't work, right? You're after sthg that gets you thru the day, thru life. I'm after Truth. The disparity is open and obvious.
3) You're escaping to precisely that which I said in my post, namely: "his First Principle is a faith position. I have known that all along, but it's been quite a chore to get him to admit it. Such is obvious to the rest of us and I'm not used to seeing atheists admit stuff like this. In fact, "faith-free zone" seems to be an atheist shibboleth these days, so the JN is definitely breaking ranks with his atheist compadres, but that's OK - he is entitled to do that."

You believe my position is based on virtually nothing but faith. You've admitted that your own position is based solely on faith. Three questions, then:

1) What is the difference between your faith position and my faith position from your perspective?

2) Even though you have hardly interacted with my post at all, I'd really like you to deal with the brain in a vat question. How do you know you're not a brain in a vat? My FP rules that out. In what way does yours? How do you know that evidence "works", is an "efficacious method to interrogate the world in which I find myself"?

3) Is there any compelling reason you could offer someone as to WHY they SHOULD accept your FP over mine? What's in it for anyone? In other words, if your FP is true, so what?

Peace,
Rhology

Rhology said...

PS - I forgot to mention, I'll post sthg on the ECC a little later. I'm gathering my thoughts.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

Rhology,


You have not even attempted to address the arguments I made in my post.

Actually, that is not quite accurate. Despite the fact that I announced my intention to withdraw from continued internet debate, largely because I feel “all is accomplished,” I did interact, through the comment box, with several aspects of your most recent post. Your most important argument was that my First Principle (hereafter “FP”) is inadequate because it is forced to “smuggle” concepts into the equation. You asserted my FP was but a tiny shard of a complete, comprehensive worldview.

I rebutted this point by distinguishing a Cosmic First Principle (hereafter “CFP”) from a Philosophical First Principle (hereafter “PFP”). A PFP is a lens through which an individual interrogates the world in which he finds himself. A CFP seems to attempt to overarch the world itself. In my quoted passage from Russell, he seems to denigrate those enamored of CFPs, metaphysical musings and resultant confected realities.


You're escaping to precisely that which I said in my post, namely: "his First Principle is a faith position. I have known that all along, but it's been quite a chore to get him to admit it. Such is obvious to the rest of us and I'm not used to seeing atheists admit stuff like this. In fact, "faith-free zone" seems to be an atheist shibboleth these days, so the JN is definitely breaking ranks with his atheist compadres, but that's OK - he is entitled to do that."
You believe my position is based on virtually nothing but faith. You've admitted that your own position is based solely on faith.


I do not have any real issue with your analysis, but the semantics are suspect. “Faith” is a loaded word, which you are deliberately using to maximize what you perceive to be my discomfort with the term. Consider an example: If an American soldier serving in Iraq killed people during the course of battles, he could be accurately labeled a “killer.” After all, he killed people. However, the word, due to its intrinsic baggage, conveys a misleading impression. In the same way, my FP is better described as an axiom, supposition or postulate. You may employ those descriptors, too, if you like.


What is the difference between your faith position and my faith position from your perspective?

The key difference is that you cling to a CFP whereas I possess a PFP—a distinction you have already recognized as valid and comprehensible. Looking at my position, I take that which is manifest, e.g., the cosmos, me as an individual, my sentience, etc., as “granted”…requiring no external “grounding” or formalized justification. (This is NOT to say these things are fundamentally inexplicable—after all, we know quite a bit about how the cosmos came to its current form and a great deal about how humans, such as me, evolved—but rather that these things need not be externally “grounded,” as you would phrase it.) There are good PFPs and bad PFPs. Mine is good—that is, a good lens through which to interrogate the world—because it is self-subsisting, reliable and efficacious. Other PFPs, such as “Mathematics is the only way humans can reach truth,” fail for one reason or another. (That one, of course, fails because it is self-annihilating. My own is NOT self-annihilating because evidence can be marshaled to demonstrate evidence’s utility.)

My criticism of CFPs is twofold: First, I share Russell’s concern that such musings exist solely in the land of metaphysics, having no real relationship with the world of experience. Second, and much more important, my Ethereal Cosmic Catfish (hereafter “ECC”) argument shows that one can craft a genuine CFP—what you consider to be the root of a complete, comprehensive worldview—and yet gain no actual knowledge of the cosmos’ actual natural reality. Judging from your comments vis-à-vis Yahweh, all I would need to do to have a robust CFP is define ECC with sufficient meticulousness. As long as I imbued ECC with certain core essentialities, I could define it into existence and, resultantly, put it at the head of the cosmos (which I would gain no actual knowledge of through this process). At the barest minimum, my PFP is rooted in that which is manifest.


Even though you have hardly interacted with my post at all, I'd really like you to deal with the brain in a vat question. How do you know you're not a brain in a vat? My FP rules that out. In what way does yours? How do you know that evidence "works", is an "efficacious method to interrogate the world in which I find myself"?

I do not have to deal with the “brain in a vat” question because the location of my brain—inside my skull—is manifest. That I have 10 fingers, rather than 16, is manifest. That I have glasses on my face right now is manifest. That I am sitting on a chair, rather than on a sleeping lion, is manifest. I see no reason to waste time debating the obvious; the basic facts are the basic facts. The universe exists and, more importantly, exists in a particular way. The valuable question is how the facts converge…the process of gathering data, analyzing it and reaching grander, more complex conclusions. This is where a PFP gets its play: Analyzing several manifest facts of the universe and drawing broader conclusions therefrom. If you wish to deny or question that which is manifest, you may do so—but do not pretend others must.


Is there any compelling reason you could offer someone as to WHY they SHOULD accept your FP over mine? What's in it for anyone? In other words, if your FP is true, so what?

Every voluntary action undertaken by a human is an attempt (successful or unsuccessful) to fulfill a desire. Suppose you are standing in the dining room, with the kitchen to your left and the den to your right. If you turn left and walk into the kitchen, it is because you desired to do so. Every voluntary action represents an attempt at desire fulfillment. Sometimes, desires are conflicting. Suppose you are a college student and your alarm has roused you. It is 8AM…time for class. Part of you desires to roll over and go back to sleep. Another part of you desires to rise, dress and go to class. If you do get up and start moving, it is only because you desired to do so—and desired it more than staying in bed. In fact, in the case of directly contradictory desires, one desire becomes dominant and the other ceases to be a genuine desire. Ultimately, in terms of voluntary actions, one always follows one’s desire.

That rambling preface was required to show my PFP’s worth. If evidence is an excellent way to approximate truth—and it is—then people would benefit from following my PFP because accurate, truthful knowledge enables them to align their behaviors with their desires. Every voluntary action undertaken by a human is an attempt to fulfill a desire, but if said human is filled with false information, his attempt at desire fulfillment might be entirely wrongheaded and counterproductive. Only with accurate knowledge can desire and action be aligned effectively. Thus, if I were evangelizing my FP, I would make exactly this argument. Using evidence as one’s guiding light, the effectiveness of one’s voluntary actions is maximized.


JN

Anonymous said...

Rhology wrote,

"I accept that evidence is a good way to discover truth *b/c* TGOTB exists.
Neither Touchstone nor Anon have grasped this. this is not a post about refusing evidence. It's about the necessary preconditions for evidence."

Anon thinks you did not understand my comment. I presented to you that the Internet exists because of many discoveries led to truth about how to make an internet, starting in the past with understanding electromagnetism . Does the evidence that is considered to validate these truths fulfill your preconditions for evidence or not ?

Kyle said...

Touchstone,

I was not calling into question your sensory perception. The reality I challenged was a universe where the Lord God is not alive and reigning. While denying the living God is not felt as quickly as denying the reality of the fire, the consequences follow like night follows day. When people sin they bring a cornucopia of suffering onto themselves and those around them. It is more akin to heart disease brought on by greasy food. "Oh the pleasure of those juicy onion rigns and corn dogs," says the Man o' Heart attack, "surely my beloved 'friends' would not harm me!" The signs of heart disease may be silent, but unless treated, death will soon follow. So it is with sin and the Lord Jesus is the only heart doctor who can cure the disease. God be merciful to you.