Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Wikipedia Article on Bulverism


Steven Carr said...

Is Buverism the claim that if we have a teleological explanation for why somebody holds a certain belief, then this is the most basic explanation of why that person holds that belief, rather than that the person holds the belief because it is true?

Steve Lovell said...

Steven Carr,

That's nearly it. Bulverism is Lewis's label for what we tend these days to call the genetic fallacy. Or perhaps it's probably a specific variant of the genetic fallacy.

The Bulverist's idea is that if a person's belief can be explained by some motive the person has (or even might have) for wanting it to be true, then the belief is therefore discredited.

The Freudian argument against religion might therefore be called an example of Bulverism. I tend to stick with "the genetic fallacy" except where I have a specific reason to bring Lewis into the equation.

It seems to me that Bulver-esque reasoning isn't always bad.


Steven Carr said...

is my definition of Bulverism 'nearly it'?

Are you sure?

Because I was basically quoting Victor from page 107 of his 'Dangerous Idea' book.

Or is Bulverism the claim that if a belief is formed by natural selection (sic), then that belief is unlikely to be true?

Victor Reppert said...

Steven: Bulverism is known in logic books as the circumstantial ad hominem.

I did a post called Bulverism and the AFR. Maybe I can repost it. I think it responds to the argument you are driving at.

Steve Lovell said...

Steven (Carr),

If you're pressing me, then I'm going to say "no, that's not what Bulverism is". It has nothing to do with reducibility of explanations which since you're nearly quoting p.107 of Vic's book is presumably what you mean by "most basic explanation." I didn't get the reference. Who would?

The Bulverist is assuming one of two things:

(1) If someone has motives for a belief then they do not have reasons for the belief.
(2) If someone has motives for a belief, then any reasons they have for the belief are irrelevant.

Either assumption is problematic.

Are you trying to say that Victor reasons Bulveristically? Specifically on p.107 of his book? I suggest you read it again, and if you can actually find VR reasoning that way, then point it out clearly. I certainly don't see anything like that in those passages.


Steven Carr said...

So what is a 'teleological' explanation for a person holding a certain belief?

Victor Reppert said...

Carr believes that God does not exist because he thinks if there were a God, he would not permit so much evil. Carr pursues true beliefs and not false ones, and so therefore wants to believe only that for which there is good evidence. Evil is evidence against God, so he rejects belief in God.

Steven Carr said...

So what is a 'teleological explanation' for a person holding a certain belief?

If a person has a goal of only trying to choose true beliefs, how does that explain why he has a certain belief out of the almost infinite number of true beliefs out there?