Thursday, March 26, 2009

The sensible and the not so sensible outsider test

I think there are some sensible things that you can say under the guise of the Outsider Test, and some things that aren't so sensible. It is something like Russell's The Value of Free Thought in that respect.

I think you have to look at some different epistemologies, like the one that I expounded above, and ask what kind of outsider test you want to use.
If it is just an exhortation to take into consideration that there are other, perfectly intelligent people who don't believe as I do, that's hardly news to me. Being "skeptical" doesn't tell me a whole lot.

The danger here is that the test will be used to establish some strong polemical claims against Christianity on a "hard" reading, but under cross-examination the "test" retreats to its "soft" interpretation.

On the other hand, if someone objects to the "test" that person is told that they are brainwashed and refusing to raise questions about their faith, because they are refusing to absorb the "sensible" point the test makes. The "sensible" point about subjecting religious beliefs to intellectual scrutiny is one that I wholeheartedly accept. That I somehow should think of orthodox Christianity as no more probable that Mormonism when I begin investigating the issue is, in my view, not sensible, basically because I believe in the Decline and Fall of Classical Foundationalism, and I think it requires an artifical neutrality that should not be required of anyone, Christian or not.

8 comments:

James Vandenberg said...

Is the outsider test presupposing human ability to transcend their environment? Are we next to expect people from Utah to find Mormonism more palatable than others? Or that people from Mexico are more likely to believe in the Lady of Guadalupe?

Another example: many, many people believed in Jim Crow laws 50 years ago. Yet the might do not today. Are we to consider these people irrational?

I don't understand what the argument is supposed to prove.

Ilíon said...

I think it's supposed to question-beg. And the question it's begging is something like "Aren't 'religious' people such irrational morons?"

John Loftus, after all.

Anonymous said...

This topic seems related to a currently-hot topic in philosophy: the epistemology of disagreement. Philosophers such as Richard Feldman and James Kraft have recently applied insights from that topic to the issue of religious disagreement. They concluded that the phenomenon of recalcitrant religious disagreement among intelligent, informed people ought to diminish one' confidence in one's own religious views. Dan Garber and Dean Zimmerman organized a conference last year on religious belief and the epistmology of disagreement. I expect the application of this topic to religious belief will show up a lot in the relevant journals in the next few years.

John W. Loftus said...

I'm planning on dealing with some of your more recent criticisms sometime soon.

Ilíon said...

Anonymous: "This topic seems related to a currently-hot topic in philosophy: the epistemology of disagreement. Philosophers such as Richard Feldman and James Kraft have recently applied insights from that topic to the issue of religious disagreement. They concluded that the phenomenon of recalcitrant religious disagreement among intelligent, informed people ought to diminish one' confidence in one's own religious views."

After all, fifty million Frenchmen can't be wrong!

Yet, isn't it odd? This asserted "ought" seems to work in one direction only. What's up with that?

Anonymous: "Dan Garber and Dean Zimmerman organized a conference last year on religious belief and the epistmology of disagreement. I expect the application of this topic to religious belief will show up a lot in the relevant journals in the next few years."

Well! That settles it, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Who claimed that the "ought" goes in only one direction? Nor did I advocate a position at all. Rather, I merely pointed out a connection between the outsider test and the epistemology of disagreement debate, and pointed to some recent applications to the phenomenon of religious disagreement, which I assume has a bearing on Loftus' Outsider Test. Given that Victor has made several posts on this topic, I assume he has an interest in exploring the issue.

Ilíon said...

Goodness, you seem to be an Anonymouse, and a touchy one at that ... or maybe you just don't read too well.

Did I accuse you of anything?

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, want to take a swipe at this?