Saturday, February 09, 2013

The external world and the burden of proof

Should the burden of proof be on the side of a person who believes in the external world? Should believers in the external world have to prove that there really is an external world independent of our minds? After all "The external world exists" is a positive existence claim, in just the way that "God exists" is a positive existence claim. So, if theists have the burden of proof, do external worldists have the same burden?  Do we have the right to believe in the external world if the we can't refute the claim that we are brains in vats who are being given the experience of a world that really does not exist?

83 comments:

Walter said...

Should believers in the external world have to prove that there really is an external world independent of our minds?

No, because belief in other minds and an external world are properly basic beliefs.

Victor Reppert said...

So, it's just arbitrary that people deny God the same status?

Hal said...

Isn't claiming there is no external world an existence claim?

Or are we obligated to treat positive and negative existence claims differently?

Victor Reppert said...

They difference in treatment is supposed to be the basis for putting the burden of proof on the theist.

Walter said...

So, it's just arbitrary that people deny God the same status?

I think that depends on how one defines a properly basic belief. Epistemology is not my bailiwick.

Hal said...

"They difference in treatment is supposed to be the basis for putting the burden of proof on the theist."

But aren't we supposed to approach this in a logical, rational manner?

What would be the logical basis for distinguishing a positive from a negative existential claim in regards to substantiating such a claim?

One thing that I find interesting about your scenario is that there is no empirical evidence to support or deny the claims regarding brains in a vat or God.





Bilbo said...

Does Plantinga offer an argument that belief in God is properly basic, or does he just state that it it?

Ilíon said...

Hal: "One thing that I find interesting about your scenario is that there is no empirical evidence to support or deny the claims regarding brains in a vat or God."

What? Empiricism is inadequate to establish important truths about reality?

unkleE said...

"belief in other minds and an external world are properly basic beliefs."

Water, I know you said epistemology is not your area, but you must have had something in mind when you made this statement. What do you think makes a belief legitimately 'properly basic'?

Zach said...

For me, belief in God is the outcome of reasoning based on evidence, not because I am scared to take on the burden of proof. We are asking people to believe in something for which they often have zero sensory evidence, no personal knowledge, and no gut-level belief. If the burden isn't on the theist, to convince the atheist, then I don't know what a burden of proof is. Just like if someone tells me some junk about Mormonism I will tell them they need to convince me.


It would be disingenuous and disanalagous in the most relevant ways to liken belief that God exists to belief that solipsism is false. They aren't in the same ballpark epistemically!

So the sophistry game in the OP is fun, as it points out the fluidity of burden of proof, relativity to background knowledge and assumptions. However, to sit back in your high chair and say you don't have to prove anything, that everyone else has the burden of proof? That would be solipsism of the worst epistemic kind.

Note I know Victor isn't saying that I'm just making a conceptual point here.

RD Miksa said...

Here--in reference to establishing a burden of proof claim for a belief such as the one being debated--is, in my opinion. where the weight of common-sense as well as the overarching belief of the majority of humanity should come into play.

It is both commonsensical and the majority position of humanity that it is more rational to hold that the external world does exist than that it does not. As such, in such a case, the burden of proof against this initially more rational position that the external world exists should be on the skeptic of this position, not on its proponent.

However, the same can be said of theistic belief. Theism is both commonsensical and the majority position of humanity. As such, the burden of proof in the case of theistic belief should be on the atheist, not the theist. The theist is initially more rational to hold to a tentative theism, even without direct argumentation for his position, until and unless valid evidences and arguments are presented against his position.

Take care,

RD Miksa

Walter said...

Walter, I know you said epistemology is not your area, but you must have had something in mind when you made this statement. What do you think makes a belief legitimately 'properly basic'?

I consider a properly basic belief to be a foundational belief that we reason *from* to derive other non-basic beliefs. It is a belief that is a self-evidentially true or philosophically incorrigible. Reformed epistemologists like Plantinga will define properly basic beliefs a little more broadly.

As a deist I do not believe that God-belief is properly basic, but that it is arrived at a posteriori.

Doubting Marcus said...

This is a poor analogy.

If you give up the outside world you must give up all thought. If you can't rely on sensory experience, and hence induction, you must also give up deduction as the objects of deduction are only known from sensory experience. So really this assumption is necessary for any conversation about anything. Nothing approaching this happens if you don't first assume the existence of god.

So unless you are advocating TAG, analogies from solipsism aren't very instructive.

RD Miksa said...

Dear Doubting Marcus:


You said:

“If you give up the outside world you must give up all thought.”

False. In the extreme sense provided by radical skepticism, given that it is logically possible that all my experiences of the outside world are false (perhaps caused by one of Descartes’ demons or perhaps because an extreme form of idealism is true), but it is also the case that I can still think about this, it seems clear that thought is possible without the outside material world actually existing in reality.


You said:

“If you can't rely on sensory experience, and hence induction, you must also give up deduction as the objects of deduction are only known from sensory experience.”

Perhaps, but it is precisely the causes of the sensory experience that is in question, for sensory experiences of the outside world could actually be caused not by the existence of the outside world itself, but by something that is giving us the perception of the outside world. And thus we meet the claims requirement that you put out in the sentence above, and yet the external world still does not exist in reality.


You said:

“So really this assumption is necessary for any conversation about anything.”

Again, false. For example, I could argue that the only two things that really exist are the immaterial mind of God and other immaterial minds that he created, and yet meaningful conversation could be had between these parties. Thus, your contention that this assumption is “necessary” for “any” conversation is false.


You said:

“Nothing approaching this happens if you don't first assume the existence of god.”

You are right....because much worse happens! For when you don’t assume the existence of God (and a very specific God at that), then 1) there is no way to justify knowledge with certainty (see Agrippa’s Trilemma for the problems that naturalism faces in justifying knowledge) thereby leaving us with a position of sheer belief (blind faith), not knowledge; 2) there is no way to argue soundly for the existence of the external world; 3) no way to defeat radical skepticism; 4) no way to even guarantee that humans are capable of reason and rationality in the first place, etc.

Take care,

RD Miksa

Walter said...

I think what Doubting Martin is getting at is that belief in an external world and other minds is something we accept as a Moorean fact, but belief in God does not fit that category. I would argue that the most primitive form of religion was animism. Animism can be explained as a belief in external agency run rampant. The concept of a single necessary being who possesses certain omni-attributes is the result of serious philosophical reflection and not a basic belief that we uphold as axiomatically true.

finney said...

Plantinga says that beliefs that, for example, "God is speaking to me through this scripture" is a properly basic belief, from which other beliefs, such as "God exists", may be deduced.

Similarly, beliefs that, for example, "There is my hand" is a properly basic belief from with other beliefs, such as "There is an external physical world" may be deduced.

Zach said...

What Doubting Martin was getting at is the well known objection to the coherence of brain in vat type scenarios, starting with Putnam. People people acting like know-it-alls in this discussion should be thoroughly familiar with this strand of thought.

People who avoid arguments by saying they don't have the burden of proof are simply being lazy. If you cannot provide good evidence and reasons for your belief in God, then you have no leverage to judge someone else for not believing. Simply saying that you are in the majority is not an argument. Didn't everyone pile up on Papalinton when they thought he was making argumentum ad populum a few posts ago?

RD Miksa said...

Dear Walter:


You said:

“I think what Doubting Martin is getting at is that belief in an external world and other minds is something we accept as a Moorean fact, but belief in God does not fit that category.”

How funny that you mention Moore in this context, for I actually wrote a paper once titled “Radical Deism & Moorean Theism”, which argued precisely that God’s existence could be seen as a Moorean fact.


You said:

“I would argue that the most primitive form of religion was animism.”

I would need empirical evidence of this claim before I believed it, especially since in my understanding, this idea was, in the past, the reigning assumption, but has slowly been shown to be false and that monotheism was much more prevalent than originally thought.


You said

“Animism can be explained as a belief in external agency run rampant.”

Perhaps, but your claim could also just be an instance of the genetic fallacy, so we must be careful here.


You said:

“The concept of a single necessary being who possesses certain omni-attributes is the result of serious philosophical reflection...”

I disagree, for the idea of a being “which no greater can be conceived” is actually a fairly easy belief to form even though it may not be phrased as such. This would be why, for example, that even though many tribal and primitive societies hold that minor “gods” exist which they could influence by certain actions, etc., it is also the case that these societies possessed the idea of an ultimate and supreme deity that was above all others. And even though these societies believed this supreme deity to be distant from them and not able to be influenced, they still accepted its existence. But again, I am cautious here, for my latter claims are ultimately historical, and thus it is this field that must be properly examined to see if my latter claims hold true.


You said:

“...and not a basic belief that we uphold as axiomatically true.”

This is a deep subject, and one which I am no expert in, so I will hesitate to answer. However, I will mention that, given my understanding of the situation in the field, it is difficult to defeat Plantinga’s argumentation that theism can be considered a basic belief. This, therefore, gives me pause before I assent to any claim that theism cannot be considered properly basic.

Take care,

RD Miksa

Walter said...

Plantinga says that beliefs that, for example, "God is speaking to me through this scripture" is a properly basic belief, from which other beliefs, such as "God exists", may be deduced.

I disagree with Plantinga because I do not consider the belief that God speaks through scriptures to be a Moorean fact.

RD Miksa said...

Dear Zach:


You said:

“What Doubting Martin was getting at is the well known objection to the coherence of brain in vat type scenarios, starting with Putnam.”

The fact is, radical skepticism is still an extremely potent and unanswered force against all our claims to knowledge, etc. so this problem of radical skepticism (in a general sense, not in specific examples) has not been defeated, and thus must be considered in such discussions as this one.


You said:

“People people [sic] acting like know-it-alls in this discussion should be thoroughly familiar with this strand of thought.”

Not sure if you are talking about me here, but if so, then please just come out and say my name. Do not cower behind the generic term of “people.” And if this is not directed at me, then you should still have the courage to identify who you are speaking of, so that we can all then assess the evidence in order to determine if the person that you are speaking of actually is acting as a “know-it-all” or if you are just making a false and spurious claim. So, long story short: be a man and speak plainly, or don’t make such comments at all!


You said:

“People who avoid arguments by saying they don't have the burden of proof are simply being lazy.”

You are confusing two points. One can still present arguments for one’s position even if one does not have the burden of proof in the discussion. Not having the burden of proof does not necessarily mean that one does not have arguments to present, but it may affect the strength of the opposing arguments, and how far they take you, if successful, in the opposing direction to your current one.

However, Zach, let me ask you the question directly then: does the proponent of the existence of the external world have the burden of proof for his position, or does the radical skeptic? Or do both have the burden of proof and we should just be agnostic about the whole affair until the arguments are presented? And what about the argument for the existence of other minds? Where do you stand in reference to the burden of proof for these positions? And why?


You said:

“If you cannot provide good evidence and reasons for your belief in God, then you have no leverage to judge someone else for not believing.”

Not exactly correct. For again, you are confusing two different points and are also not being precise with which type of unbelief that you are speaking of: agnosticism or atheism or something in between. And the reason that this is important is because it is simultaneously possible that I have no reasons for my belief in God but that I can still show the unbelief of atheism to be irrational (rather than agnosticism); and therefore I could legitimately judge atheists to be irrational—but not agnostics—even as I have no rational basis for my own theistic belief. Or I can provide pragmatic reasons for God belief. Etc. So your statement is not precise enough to be correct.


You said:

“Simply saying that you are in the majority is not an argument.”

Actually, every single one of us, every single day, uses the opinion of the majority to determine what is the “initially” (and this is the key word) rational position to hold for certain subjects. The question is in what areas is such a method appropriate, and furthermore if this initial rationality holds in the face of assessed evidences and arguments.

Take care,

RD Miksa

RD Miksa said...

Walter,

Again, my knowledge of Plantinga and his theory in reference to theism as a properly basic belief is not deep, so I am hesitant to speak. But from my understanding, Plantinga does not just use scripture as his tool to ground this idea, but also uses examples from the natural world, or conscience, etc. So it is not specifically or purely a scriptural issue.

And I known that my idea of Moorean theism has nothing to do with scripture, but is argued entirely separately from religious beliefs or considerations.

Take care,

RD Miksa

Walter said...



I would need empirical evidence of this claim before I believed it, especially since in my understanding, this idea was, in the past, the reigning assumption, but has slowly been shown to be false and that monotheism was much more prevalent than originally thought.


Conversely, I would require strong evidence before I accept the notion that Perfect Being monotheism is the most primitive form of god-belief.

Either way, I simply cannot conclude that belief in a supreme unenbodied mind is in the same category as belief in embodied external agents who are detected by our empirical senses.

Although I am no Catholic, I have been influenced by Thomistic thinking, which purports to show the existence of God by a posteriori "proofs." We reason *to* God; we don't start from that position.

RD Miksa said...

Dear Walter:


You said:

“Conversely, I would require strong evidence before I accept the notion that Perfect Being monotheism is the most primitive form of god-belief.”

No doubt. Maybe I will look at the issue later tonight and post about it.


You said:

“Either way, I simply cannot conclude that belief in a supreme unenbodied mind is in the same category as belief in embodied external agents who are detected by our empirical senses.”

But obviously, this statement assumes a great deal. And yet, let me ask you this: what is the in-principle difference between a belief in a supreme consciousness, and the consciousness of other human beings. Neither type of consciousness is detected by our empirical senses, and both types of consciousnesses must be inferred to exist. So why can one be a basic belief and not the other.



You said:

“Although I am no Catholic, I have been influenced by Thomistic thinking, which purports to show the existence of God by a posteriori "proofs." We reason *to* God; we don't start from that position.”

Ha! Because I am Catholic, but I believe that ontological arguments have been unfairly ignored by Catholic theology and that these a priori type arguments can be as powerful, if not more so, then a posteriori ones.

Take care,

RD Miksa

Walter said...

what is the in-principle difference between a belief in a supreme consciousness, and the consciousness of other human beings. Neither type of consciousness is detected by our empirical senses, and both types of consciousnesses must be inferred to exist. So why can one be a basic belief and not the other.

One key difference for me is that I have the immediate experience of other moving objects around me which exhibit all the signs of possessing a mind similar to my own, but I have no sensus divinitatis whatsoever. On that count, I would make a good atheist, and indeed I was one for about a year after my deconversion from fundamentalist Christianity.

YMMV

Cole said...

The external world is physical. God is non-physical. There's a difference. I think we need Reppert's argument from reason. Otherwise you can end up with many different and contradictory beliefs. One can't always tell whether their cognitive faculties are functioning properly or not. Well, I can't. Being schizoaffective and off my medicine can lead to some pretty strange things as I describe here:

Schizoaffective

Pondering the big issues as my mind races
Thinking I've crossed over into new places
No longer mortal I gaze at my own reflection
A long, dark beard covers my complexion
Christ incarnates Himself through my being
How could this be? I can't believe what I'm seeing!
A shiny diamond sits on the top of my head
Every path of color before me I fear to tread
For they all lead to an early and very slow death
Fear strikes my soul as I begin to grasp for breath
Paranoid and worried about what I just felt
I reach for the phone and cry out for help

By Cole

Doubting Marcus said...

RD Miksa,

I was not as clear as I should have been.

I am not truly disputing that some thought, however weakly possible while still being considered thought, is possible once you give up the outside world. I am disputing that anything more than a useless form of solipsism from which nothing more can be ascertained is possible in that situation.

So yes you can be correct in thinking "there is a thought now" but that's about it. Anyone who wants to demand we only accept this is free to live in solipsism but for anyone who wants to make any claims about anything you'd better first assume you are rational, that your senses aren't constantly deceiving you, that induction applies, etc.

Now you think this is wrong, as you said the epistemological situation is worse if you give up god than if you give up the outside world. This means, to some extent, you are indeed endorsing some version of TAG.

You are thinking something like god -> rationality and outside world, but if you don't first assume you can make rational arguments you can't get to god. You can't reason with certainty "god would grant us..." anything because at any time that god could be deceiving you, including convincing you that it is incapable of deceiving you.

So I again say, this is a poor analogy. We must assume the outside world in order to make any claims about any objects outside of our own minds. Nothing of the sort happens when you don't assume the existence of a god.

Hal said...

"The fact is, radical skepticism is still an extremely potent and unanswered force against all our claims to knowledge, etc. so this problem of radical skepticism (in a general sense, not in specific examples) has not been defeated, and thus must be considered in such discussions as this one."

Radical skepticism is logically possible. That does mean it is an extremely potent force against our claims to knowledge.

There are many, many things that are logically possible that we ignore or refuse to take into consideration because there are simply no good reasons for believing them.

I think you have to go quite away beyond logical possibility if you wish to persuade others of the non existence of what we perceive to be reality.


Hal said...

Sorry, but "That does mean it is an extremely potent force against our claims to knowledge",
should be: "That does not mean it is an extremely potent force against our claims to knowledge"

Hal said...

" what is the in-principle difference between a belief in a supreme consciousness, and the consciousness of other human beings. Neither type of consciousness is detected by our empirical senses, and both types of consciousnesses must be inferred to exist. So why can one be a basic belief and not the other."

I'm not even sure what you mean by "supreme consciousness." What criteria would you use to identify it?
We have fairly well-established criteria for determining when a physical being like a cat or a human being is conscious.

It is interesting that your remark is quite similar to the scenario proposed by Mr. Reppert: defense of the belief in God by the use of radical skepticism. In other words, since we can't be absolutely sure in what we know, how can we ignore the real possibility of God existing.

This doesn't strike me as a very fruitful or effective course of reasoning.

RD Miksa said...

Good Evening All,

Just FYI: Busy for the next few hours. I will try to reply to everyone that was kind enough to reply to my points as soon as possible.

Take care,

RD Miksa

Ilíon said...

Hal: "Radical skepticism is logically possible. That does not mean it is an extremely potent force against our claims to knowledge."

Now that is an interesting set of assertions.

On the one hand, the assertion/belief that we cannot reason and cannot acquire knowledge is asserted to be "logically possible" -- asserted both to be in accord with the rules of logic and to be a reasonable and rational belief to assert. And, on the other hand, it is asserted that if it really were true that we cannot reason and cannot acquire knowledge that that fact about our natures would not *really* mean that we cannot truthfully/rationally claim to have knowledge and to know that we have knowledge.

Hal: "I'm not even sure what you mean by "supreme consciousness.""

So, you don't even know what it is that you wish to deny directly, or wish to deny that others have true knowledge of? Is that the message you're trying to get across?

cautiouslycurious said...

llion,

"Now that is an interesting set of assertions.

On the one hand, the assertion/belief that we cannot reason and cannot acquire knowledge is asserted to be "logically possible" -- asserted both to be in accord with the rules of logic and to be a reasonable and rational belief to assert."

It's not that interesting because you've made the error in supposing that a belief being logically possible means it's a rational belief.

Hal said...

"So, you don't even know what it is that you wish to deny directly, or wish to deny that others have true knowledge of?"

Where did I deny it?

Asking someone to clarify what they mean is not a denial of what they are saying.
If a person has knowledge of something she should be able to provide the criteria by which she knows it.

Ilíon said...

cautiouslycurious: "It's not that interesting ...."

Do you not grasp sarcasm?

cautiouslycurious: "... because you've made the error in supposing that a belief being logically possible means it's a rational belief."

*I* have made a mistake? *I* have incorrectly supposed something? Because I have (allegedly) incorrectly supposed something, the sarcasm of my post is nullified?

Ilíon said...

Hal: "Where did I deny it?

Asking someone to clarify what they mean is not a denial of what they are saying.
If a person has knowledge of something she should be able to provide the criteria by which she knows it.
"

So, are you saying that you're *not* playing one of those stupid little games that so many like to play? I gotta tell ya', the fact that you go out of your way to write 'she', when English calls for 'he', does not lend confidence to believing that you're just asking for clarification.

And, at the same time, I have to wonder, can't you read-with-comprehension? Can't you be bothered to read and *think* about what you've read in relation to its context? Walter and RD Miksa have a small dialogue going on concerning "monotheism" and the concept of "God" within "monotheism". If you can't be bothered to grasp that the context of RD Miksa's post already tells you what he means by "supreme consciousness", why should I even attempt to believe that you're not playing one of those stupid little games that so many like to play?

Aragorn said...

Not only is the 'sensus divinatus' adhoc, made up and undemonstrable, Baldwin has come up with a "defeater" to RE that while not entirely successful exposes RE-defenders as being in a very ugly epistemic situation where no evidence will convince them otherwise.

RD Miksa said...

Dear Walter:

First, sorry for the delay.

Now, concerning monotheistic belief in primitive societies.

This information comes from Rodney Stark’s book “Discovering God”, the section entitled “Gods in Primitive Societies.” In essence, after analyzing all the available data on the issue (looking at 300 of the most primitive tribes/societies), Stark demonstrates that approximately 58% of these most primitive tribes had a belief in the existence of a “High God” that was extremely similar in scope, character, power, and purpose (judgement, punishing sin, etc.) to the God professed by the great monotheistic religions of today—although this percentage is further sub-divided into beliefs concerning a “High God” that was active in the world and one that was not. And while Stark readily admits that these most primitive tribes were not monotheistic but rather henotheistic, he does conclude—and uses the research/writings of experts in the field to do so—that no one can rationally deny that a substantial number (a slight majority) of the most primitive tribes did have beliefs that included the existence of monotheistic-type deities. In fact, Stark cites the hypothesis under consideration by researchers in the field that such a monotheistic-type belief may have been the earliest form of primitive God-belief and that animism and idolatry were a devolution of these original monotheistic-type beliefs that came about because the so-called “High God” seemed so remote and foreboding that it was much easier to deal with the lower God who could be placated. Hence, while the “High God” was still acknowledged, it was basically ignored in favor of lower gods that were more involved in human affairs.

So, even though this is just one source, Stark is a highly respected scholar and his information is clearly drawn from numerous experts in the field. Furthermore, his information is not just based on the opinion of scholars, but has the numbers to back it (as articulated above), which thus makes it more difficult to argue with. And such, I would content that while this information does not conclusively show that monotheistic-type beliefs were widely held by the vast majority of primitive societies, it most certainly eliminates the alternative hypothesis that animism was the primary form of primitive belief concerning the divine. At present, I think a “wait-for-more-research” position is probably the best position to hold concerning this topic.

Take care,

RD Miksa

Hal said...

"So, are you saying that you're *not* playing one of those stupid little games that so many like to play?"

Wow! Sure looks like you are the one playing a "stupid little game."

Least now I know not to waste any more time reading or responding to your posts.

RD Miksa said...

Dear Walter:


You said:

“One key difference for me is that I have the immediate experience of other moving objects around me which exhibit all the signs of possessing a mind similar to my own, but I have no sensus divinitatis whatsoever. On that count, I would make a good atheist, and indeed I was one for about a year after my deconversion from fundamentalist Christianity.”


While I appreciate that in your above comment you stated that the issues you mentioned were a key difference just for you and that they were your experiences, my question concerned the “in-principle” difference between coming to hold a belief in the existence of a supreme consciousness being properly basic, and coming to hold a belief in the existence other human consciousness as being properly basic. So far all that you have provided me is a difference in experience, not an “in-principle” difference.

To see what I mean here, consider first what you wrote above, and then consider this extreme, but illuminating thought-experiment.

Imagine that there is a human being who, although perfectly healthy from a mental perspective, has some type of horrendously contagious disease, and as such, this person has been completely isolated from all human contact since before he can remember. He has never seen other human beings before. In fact, most of his time is spent thinking, philosophising, and engaging his intellect. Thoughts, thinking, and contemplating abstract knowledge are his main experiences. Then suddenly, one day, in his consciousness, he receives this complete burst of information about nearly every topic that he has ever thought of and many that he has never thought of; in fact, this burst of information and knowledge is so intense and powerful that he is barely able to stand it. Then, imagine further, that from that day forward, every once in a while, this person receives such a similar burst of “illumination.” Now—and to use words very similar to your own—this person would have had an immediate experience of something which, to his experience, exhibited all the signs of possessing a mind and existence very similar to his own but at a level that was nearly incomprehensively more advanced. To such a person, the inference “an supremely powerful intellect and consciousness must exist” would have been immediately made.

Con't...

RD Miksa said...

Con't...

So the question thus becomes: given that the differences between this person and you appears to be merely one of experience rather than an “in-principle” difference, does this mean that his claim to holding a belief in an extremely powerful consciousness as properly basic is as rational as your claim to holding a belief in the consciousness of other human beings as properly basic? And if it is not, then what is the critical difference between why your belief could be seen as properly basic but his could not.

And note that while we might see such a person as delusional, that would of course, only be because of our experiences. But of course, we cannot forget that for this other person, given his experiences, it would be we that are delusional and confused and irrational. And thus any objections thrown at this person’s belief could, by him, equally by thrown at us.

So, again, the critical issue is the following: if this is just an issue of experience, then the fact that you have not had the same experiences as me in no way makes my experiences irrational nor does it negate the rationality of my holding that certain beliefs based on those experiences are properly basic even if you disagree with that assessment.

Thus, to show the irrationality of seeing belief in a supreme consciousness as a properly basic belief while holding to the rationality of seeing belief in the consciousness of other human beings, you need to provide a clear, necessary, “in-principle” difference between these two inferences, not just one based on experience. And I think that this would be very difficult to do.

Take care,

RD Miksa

PS - Note further that if you think that my thought-experiment is too far-fetched and extreme, then just imagine a religious mystic who has been a hermit for the vast majority of his life and thus has more experience with his own mind and contemplation than he does with other human beings. Even in such a situation, my point would stand.

Dan Gillson said...

Dr Reppert

I don't think you're being particularly fair here. 'Theism' to you isn't merely the innocent proposition that God exists; it entails a whole regiment of Christian ideas about the nature and person of God. It is part of your religion that you proselytize about this particular God. In doing so, you burden us with the decision to accept this God or face eternal damnation, judgement, or, as more recent instantiations of Christianity would have it, an unfulfilled life. In turn, it is only right that we burden you with the proof that this God really exists.

RD Miksa said...

Good Day Dan:

To be honest, in my opinion, I think it is you that is not being fair. For after all, theism and Christian theism are quite separate propositions. As such, if Dr. Reppert specifies theism in his post rather than Christian theism, then it is only fair to take him at his word that theism, and theism alone, is what he means in this case.

Take care,

RD Miksa

Walter said...

RD Miksa,

It is entirely possible that my own sensus divinitatis antenna is utterly broken, and that I cannot experience the divine in a similar way that a psychopath cannot properly experience emotions. Assuming for the sake of argument that others can, then I would conclude that they would be rational in inferring the existence of a divine mind from their sense experience. For myself, though, reformed epistemology is useless -- I simply have no mystical experience of God's presence.

RD Miksa said...

Dear Walter:

You said:

"Assuming for the sake of argument that others can, then I would conclude that they would be rational in inferring the existence of a divine mind from their sense experience."


This, essentially, is my whole point. And, furthermore, since no one can, in principle, know the experiences of another person, even if they are claimed experiences of the divine, then no one can, in principle, dispute the rationality of viewing theism as a properly basic belief.

Take care,

RD Miksa

Walter said...

And, furthermore, since no one can, in principle, know the experiences of another person, even if they are claimed experiences of the divine, then no one can, in principle, dispute the rationality of viewing theism as a properly basic belief.

I would agree with what you wrote here with one caveat: rationally held beliefs are not necessarily the same thing as objectively true beliefs. And that is where a posteriori argumentation enters the picture. A person living at a certain place and time period could rationally believe that the earth was flat and/or the center of the universe.

Hal said...

"And, furthermore, since no one can, in principle, know the experiences of another person, even if they are claimed experiences of the divine, then no one can, in principle, dispute the rationality of viewing theism as a properly basic belief."

I would disagree that we cannot in principle know the experiences of another person.
I'd go a step further and say your own thought-experiment presupposes that we can know the experiences of another person. How else could we understand what you were talking about?






Victor Reppert said...

Dan: There are different burdens of proof, it seems to me. There is the burden of proof that attached to the fact that you are asking someone to change their minds about something. I am not talking about that kind of a burden. I am talking about the burden that attaches to a person in virtue of his continuing to believe it himself, with a threat of irrationality charges if the person continues believing without the requisite proof.

In the latter context, it seems that the disanalogy you refer to doesn't obtain.

RD Miksa said...

Dear Walter:


You said:

"I would agree with what you wrote here with one caveat: rationally held beliefs are not necessarily the same thing as objectively true beliefs.'


Absolutely true! In fact, this is one of the reasons that while I hold atheism to be a perpetually irrational belief, I do not deny that it could simultaneously be true. Indeed, noting and understanding the difference between beliefs that are rational and beliefs that are true is a large aspect of my own thinking.

Take care,

RD Miksa

RD Miksa said...

And Walter:

What did you think of the information that I provided in reference to monotheistic-type beliefs in primitive societies?

Take care,

Rd Miksa

RD Miksa said...

Dear Hal:


You said:

“I would disagree that we cannot in principle know the experiences of another person.
I'd go a step further and say your own thought-experiment presupposes that we can know the experiences of another person. How else could we understand what you were talking about?”


My apologies, I was imprecise. What I meant to say is that we can never, in-principle, know what a person has experienced or how he experienced it—until and unless that person tells us, of course.

For example, imagine that a person was color-blind. But imagine further that that person never told you he was color-blind and that the topic of colors or color-blindness never came up between you two. You then could not, in-principle, ever know that he was color-blind or what his experiences of color-blindness were like.

This is what I meant.

Take care,

RD Miksa

RD Miksa said...

Dear Aragon:


You said:

“Not only is the 'sensus divinatus' adhoc, made up and undemonstrable...”

What foolish hogwash! Not to mention just one assertion after another after another. But let’s look at each one in turn.


“Ad Hoc.”

Not at all. The idea of a “divine sense” has been part of theistic religious theology since its foundations, especially within Christianity. Not to mention that the idea of a divine sense can easily be rationally argued for: If a God like the Christian God exists who wants people to come to know and love him, and given that most people will not be in a position to know the rational arguments for the existence of this God, then it would not be unsurprising if something like a “divine sense” was true.


“Made up.”

What? See all the points above. And add to that the testimony of an endless number of mystics and thinkers who not only assert the existence of a “divine sense” but also testify to having experienced it.


“Un-demonstrable.”

False. First, if the “divine sense” exists, then it could be personally experienced, and thus demonstrated to one’s self. Second, the testimony of mystics and others who have claimed to have experienced this “divine sense” could be used to form a case that demonstrates the existence of this “divine sense,” much like the testimony of witnesses in a court trial can be used to demonstrate the existence of an event/incident that no one else has experienced. Third, if the truth of a certain religious belief which includes the claim that a “divine sense” can be demonstrated, then by extension, the truth of the existence of the “divine sense” can also be demonstrated.


Take care,

RD Miksa

Zach said...

There are tests for color blindness that don't require the subjects to tell you they are color blind. They could even deny they are color blind but the tests will show it.

RD Miksa said...

Dear Hal:

Just as an aside...


You said:

“In other words, since we can't be absolutely sure in what we know, how can we ignore the real possibility of God existing.”

I do not recall ever arguing like this...perhaps I was unclear or you misunderstood me.

Either way, that was not my argument in any way.

Take care,

RD Miksa

RD Miksa said...

Dear Zach:

Talk about missing the forest for trees.

Anyway, you do realize that a test that provides you with information concerning a person's experience is still a form of testimony...and thus my point--even though it was meant as nothing more than an analogical example--still stands.

Take care,

RD Miksa

RD Miksa said...

Dear Hal:

You said:

“Radical skepticism is logically possible. That does mean it is an extremely potent force against our claims to knowledge.”

Given that radical skepticism literally challenges whether we can ever really have knowledge to begin with, and given that the challenges of radical skepticism have confounded the greatest minds in human history for over 2000 years, and given that these challenges are still with us, the claim that radical skepticism is not a potent force is just laughable. It may not be a potent force in terms of daily living, but in terms of a challenge to the pursuit of real, actual, and objective truth, it is a major concern. In my opinion, the fact that you deny this tells me that you have not really contemplated the issue with any great depth.

Take care,

RD Miksa

RD Miksa said...

Dear Doubting Marcus:


You said:

“I am not truly disputing that some thought...is possible once you give up the outside world. I am disputing that anything more than a useless form of solipsism from which nothing more can be ascertained is possible in that situation. So yes you can be correct in thinking "there is a thought now" but that's about it.”

See, I disagree. I believe that the existence of God himself can be shown to be un-doubtable from the existence of thought alone. And the existence of God is one of the most important things that could be believed.


You said:

“...but for anyone who wants to make any claims about anything you'd better first assume you are rational, that your senses aren't constantly deceiving you, that induction applies, etc.”

But this is the whole point. To me, the only two options really are between radical skepticism (ie – solipsism) and the existence of a certain type of God.


You said:

“This means, to some extent, you are indeed endorsing some version of TAG.”

To some extent, yes, even though I have my reservations about even thinking of the TAG as a separate argument form.


You said:

“You are thinking something like god -> rationality and outside world, but if you don't first assume you can make rational arguments you can't get to god.”

But as an aside, it is possible to assume that one is rational while not assuming the existence of the outside world. And so, it is possible to deny the assumption of one without denying the assumption of the other.


You said:

“You can't reason with certainty "god would grant us..." anything because at any time that god could be deceiving you, including convincing you that it is incapable of deceiving you.”

But here is where a TAG-type argument would come in. But this is also why I said that, in my view, the only two options really are between radical skepticism (ie – solipsism) and the existence of a certain type of God. Which is why assuming the existence of God is more important than assuming the existence of the outside world.


You said:

“We must assume the outside world in order to make any claims about any objects outside of our own minds. Nothing of the sort happens when you don't assume the existence of a god.”

In my view, this is incorrect, and it is so for two reasons. First, even if, for the sake of argument, we have to assume that we are rational, we do not have to assume the existence of the outside world. We could be rational and still believe in some form of extreme idealism. Next, I hold that God’s existence can be demonstrated as un-doubtable from the existence of thought alone. And this could be done even if--like the radical skeptics themselves—we only assume our own rationality, logic, etc. for the sake of argument.

Take care,

RD Miksa

Doubting Marcus said...

RD Miksa,

...it is possible to assume that one is rational while not assuming the existence of the outside world. And so, it is possible to deny the assumption of one without denying the assumption of the other.


Yes but your question of what is logically possible hints at (one place) where the whole idea of solipsism breaks down. Yes it's logically possible that you are a brain in a vat, or the product of an alien's dream, but what does such a theory predict? Are there any predictions of any kind about the differences in the kinds of experiences you would believe you would have? Even if you reject relying on the outside world entirely, are there even expected differences in your reasoning process if this is true as opposed to if it is false?

If not, and I think this is the case, then it is just pointless truly unfalsifiable speculation and as such shouldn't be given any more credence than any other unfalsifiable theories about the world. The simple fact that solipsism isn't logically impossible doesn't mean it's a reasonable option. We have literally no reason to believe it and, if you ask me, there doesn't seem to be even in principle a reason that could be given to justify it. It simply does not follow from the fact we could be deceived about all sensory experiences that we must consider it a reasonable option that we are in fact being deceived at all times.

Hal said...

Dear Hal:

Just as an aside...


You said:

“In other words, since we can't be absolutely sure in what we know, how can we ignore the real possibility of God existing.”

I do not recall ever arguing like this...perhaps I was unclear or you misunderstood me.

Either way, that was not my argument in any way.

Take care,

RD Miksa

Thanks for the clarification. I was mistaken in thinking you held that position. Sorry.

Hal said...


"If not, and I think this is the case, then it is just pointless truly unfalsifiable speculation and as such shouldn't be given any more credence than any other unfalsifiable theories about the world. The simple fact that solipsism isn't logically impossible doesn't mean it's a reasonable option. We have literally no reason to believe it and, if you ask me, there doesn't seem to be even in principle a reason that could be given to justify it. It simply does not follow from the fact we could be deceived about all sensory experiences that we must consider it a reasonable option that we are in fact being deceived at all times."

Excellent point, Doubting Marcus.

I rather like Bertrand Russel's take on this:
“Skepticism, while logically impeccable, is psychologically impossible, and there is an element of frivolous insincerity in any philosophy which pretends to accept it.”

RD Miksa,
This was the reason I questioned your claim that rational skepticism was an "extremely potent threat against our claims to knowledge."

cautiouslycurious said...

llion,

"Do you not grasp sarcasm?"

No, I don’t. I usually ask people to hold up their sarcasm sign whenever they invoke sarcasm. Anyway, I ran your comment through my sarcasm detector and it didn’t register any sarcasm. However, this comment’s reading is off the charts, so perhaps I do.

Hal said...

" "The external world exists" is a positive existence claim, in just the way that "God exists" is a positive existence claim"

There is an asymmetry in the two claims: there is only one external world that is being claimed to exist in the former but in the latter there are dozens (if not hundreds) of different gods that could be claimed to exist. And many of those who believe in one particular god agree with atheists that another particular god (or gods) does not exist.

Is a Baptist or conservative Catholic theist going to grant that a believer in Thor or Aphrodite has no burden of proof to bear?

William said...

Hal:

"there is only one external world that is being claimed to exist"

Why would you think that there is a single consensus regarding what the world is?

Might there be more concepts of the world than there are worshipped gods?

Aragorn said...

Dear RD Miksa:


You said:

"What foolish hogwash! Not to mention just one assertion after another after another. But let’s look at each one in turn.


“Ad Hoc.”

Not at all. The idea of a “divine sense” has been part of theistic religious theology since its foundations, especially within Christianity. Not to mention that the idea of a divine sense can easily be rationally argued for: If a God like the Christian God exists who wants people to come to know and love him, and given that most people will not be in a position to know the rational arguments for the existence of this God, then it would not be unsurprising if something like a “divine sense” was true."



Sorry. Ad hoc. Very few, prior to Plantinga have based their Christian belief on a "sensus divinatus". Now, every religious doctrine has talked about something akin to a "conscience" but nothing in the way of a "sensus divinatus" and you are lying for your god if you insist on this point. In fact, even Mother Teresa and countless clerics have never felt this divine presence. Maybe a few delusional people have - but why mind them. Sorry.


“Made up.”

What? See all the points above. And add to that the testimony of an endless number of mystics and thinkers who not only assert the existence of a “divine sense” but also testify to having experienced it."


Made up. Mystics do not base their beliefs on a "divine sense" that make it in any way properly basic. They meditate to achieve this sense of oneness - something that can be duplicated without all the imaginary constructs. They achieve this sense of oneness AFTER believing and NOT before. Clearly, this is not the "sensus divinatus" that would make belief properly basic. And even mystics doubt the veracity of their experiences - so this whole "sensus divinatus" is just hogwash.


“Un-demonstrable.”

False. First, if the “divine sense” exists, then it could be personally experienced, and thus demonstrated to one’s self. Second, the testimony of mystics and others who have claimed to have experienced this “divine sense” could be used to form a case that demonstrates the existence of this “divine sense,” much like the testimony of witnesses in a court trial can be used to demonstrate the existence of an event/incident that no one else has experienced. Third, if the truth of a certain religious belief which includes the claim that a “divine sense” can be demonstrated, then by extension, the truth of the existence of the “divine sense” can also be demonstrated."


TRUE. By undemonstrable, I mean exactly that - you are unable to demonstrate it to someone else.

Also, Baldwin and de Ridder has shown that while belief in God is "undefeated", a defender of this "sensus divinatus" is in an unenviably ugly epistemic situation - akin to somebody who simply refuses any evidence. Good luck with that. It is so ugly that no theist I know claim to feel this "sensus divinatus". Do you? Do you anyone who claim to this stupid thing?

I thought so.



Take care,

Aragorn

Ilíon said...

I have a question for all you "nice" people -- you know, you kiddies who shriek like girls, passive-aggressive girls at that, over the "mean" and "hateful" way that I deal with intellectual dishonesty (including your own) -- how are you all going to react to or deal with this 'Hal'? fellow.

After all, you can't just come out and call him intellectually dishonest, neither directly as I might, nor indirectly as most of you do, for that would be to demonstrate that you're hypocrites.

Hal said...

"
Why would you think that there is a single consensus regarding what the world is?

Might there be more concepts of the world than there are worshipped gods?"

I would certainly agree with your point that people do view the world differently. But those differing conceptions generally have to do with the way things work in the world. A physicist will have a different conception of the "real world" than a member of some tribe living deep in the Amazon forest.
Even so, their conceptions are still about the real world.

Even with those skeptics who deny the outside world really exists are still going to have to go to the same grocery stores we all do in order to satisfy our hunger.

Do you take the position that Thor and Aprhodite are merely different conceptions of the same God? Do you think a Christian should pray to those gods also during Sunday Service?

I think the issue of "burden of proof" is a valid one. But I don't think the scenario Mr. Reppert used is a very productive way to deal with the issue.

Hal said...

"Sorry. Ad hoc. Very few, prior to Plantinga have based their Christian belief on a "sensus divinatus". Now, every religious doctrine has talked about something akin to a "conscience" but nothing in the way of a "sensus divinatus" and you are lying for your god if you insist on this point. In fact, even Mother Teresa and countless clerics have never felt this divine presence. Maybe a few delusional people have - but why mind them."

I think quite a few people have been moved by a '"feeling of divinity" or a "feeling of God's presence."

Simply because you or some religious people have not experienced it does not justify you calling those who have delusional.

A delusion is a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary.

Unless you have evidence that proves there is no god you should not be making such derogatory remarks. Actually, even if you had such evidence, you would do better not to be so rude.

RD Miksa said...

Dear Aragorn:

You said:

“Sorry. Ad hoc. Very few, prior to Plantinga have based their Christian belief on a "sensus divinatus".”

Again, incorrect. While it is true, as you say, that very few, prior to Plantinga, may have claimed that Christian belief could be, in and of itself, based on the “divine sense,” this does not mean that the idea of the truth of something like the “divine sense” was not something that was acknowledged since the earliest of Christian times. That might be why Plantinga shows that both Calvin and Saint Thomas Aquinas had this idea of a “divine sense” impeded in their writings. Not to mention that Saint Augustine himself developed a theory of “Divine Illumination” that mirrors the idea of the “divine sense.” And finally, the idea of a “divine sense” can be seen as early as in the New Testament; heck, it could be argued that Saint Paul had such an experience that thereby made his Christianity a properly basic belief to him. So again, sorry, but your statement does not stand.


You said:

“…and you are lying for your god if you insist on this point.”

First, see above. Second, I suggest, in the interests of polite discourse, that you seriously watch yourself before you accuse someone of lying, especially when it is manifestly obvious that you do not know your facts. (And please note that: given that I do not appreciate when it is even implied that I am a liar, it was a struggle for me not to write something a little bit more severe and pointed in response to your false accusation.)


You said:

“In fact, even Mother Teresa and countless clerics have never felt this divine presence.”

Except, of course, you are again incorrect: Mother Teresa had an intense and mystical experience of the divine presence early in her life, which is precisely what impelled her to begin her work as Mother Teresa. And even though I knew this fact from previous readings, it took me about 3 seconds on Google to confirm it. So I suggest you check your assertions prior to writing manifest nonsense. And as an aside, countless other clerics have felt this divine sense, so what’s your point?


You said:

“Maybe a few delusional people have - but why mind them. Sorry.”

Sweet Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. This comment is as laughable as it is fallacious. The whole point under discussion is whether we can claim that those individuals that profess to have experienced the “divine sense” are delusional. I have provided an argument (see my discussion with Walter) as to why no one can assert that a person who claims to have experienced the “divine sense”, and thus holds theism as a properly basic belief, is irrational. You, in your above statement, have provided nothing but an assertion. In terms of rational discourse, an argument wins over an assertion, even if the argument is ultimately incorrect. So, either back up your assertions, or stop making them…because really, from an intellectual standpoint, it’s rather pathetic.


Take care,

RD Miksa

RD Miksa said...

Dear Aragorn:


You said:

“Made up. Mystics do not base their beliefs on a "divine sense" that make it in any way properly basic.”

Except, of course, that even if—for the sake of argument—you are correct in your above claim, you are still clearly missing the point and confusing the two issues. Let’s say, as per your claim, that mystics do not base their beliefs on a “divine sense.” However, by experiencing something like a “divine sense” even after years of work, this experience of the mystics thereby lends so weight and credence to those non-mystics that have claimed to have also experienced the “divine sense” in an instant. Indeed, so the issue is not whether mystics, in and of themselves, experience the “divine sense” in a way that makes their belief properly basic, but whether their experience and testimony of the “divine sense” gives some evidence to the very idea of the existence of this “divine sense.” And quite obviously, their testimony does give evidence to this idea; how much evidence can be disputed, but it is at least some evidence nonetheless.


You said:

“They meditate to achieve this sense of oneness…”

Oneness sounds more like eastern mysticism, not the Christian tradition that I am speaking of.


You said:

“…- something that can be duplicated without all the imaginary constructs.”

Another assertion! Evidence please? In fact, from my readings, such as the book “The Spiritual Brain,” these mystical experiences—again, I mean Christian ones—cannot be duplicated exactly, so you are at least, in my view, partially incorrect.


You said:

“They achieve this sense of oneness AFTER believing and NOT before.”

Again, not true. Not only have there been atheists that have been converted by mystical-like experiences of the divine—see Richard Morgan (story found on Unbelieveable – Premier Christian Radio) and Francis Collins with his mystical experience of the Trinity—but there have also been many people that have had mystical experiences that have converted them from one religion to another—like a number of Muslims that have converted to Christianity even though having no idea of the truth of Christianity prior to their mystical experience, or like Saint Paul in the New Testament.


You said:

“Clearly, this is not the "sensus divinatus" that would make belief properly basic.”

Except, in the above examples, it is.


You said:

“And even mystics doubt the veracity of their experiences - so this whole "sensus divinatus" is just hogwash.”

Reference the first portion of your comment: some mystics do, but many others do not (and again I note that you cite no names or references). Reference the second portion of your comment: again nothing more than a fallacious and laughable assertion.

Take care,

RD Miksa

RD Miksa said...

Dear Aragorn:


You said:

“TRUE. By undemonstrable, I mean exactly that - you are unable to demonstrate it to someone else. “

Again, false. For something to be un-demonstrable means, as per the dictionary, for it to be: “incapable of being demonstrated or proved.” But as I argued in my first post to you, there exists, in principle, at least two ways—direct testimony and indirectly by showing the truth of a philosophy that includes the “divine sense”—of demonstrating the truth of the existence of a “divine sense.” This would be in much the same way as in a court trial, where the event itself can never re-occur but the testimony of witnesses and indirect circumstantial evidence could be enough to demonstrate the truth of the prosecutor’s case to a jury.


You said:

“Also, Baldwin and de Ridder has shown that while belief in God is "undefeated", a defender of this "sensus divinatus" is in an unenviably ugly epistemic situation - akin to somebody who simply refuses any evidence. Good luck with that.”

Actually, the situation concerning the “divine sense” is, in principle, no different from that of consciousness. After all, I hold the belief “I am conscious” as a properly basic belief and this belief is so strong that no evidence could persuade me otherwise. Even if—like Alex Rosenberg— all the naturalistic philosophers in the world told me that “science shows that no one is actually conscious,” I would still hold to my own consciousness as a properly basic belief even in the face of that evidence. And this would not be irrational. In the same way as with consciousness, the strength of the “divine sense” could be so strong in a particular case that it overrode all other evidence. And given that this would not be irrational in the case of consciousness, then it would not necessarily be irrational in the case of the “divine sense.”


You said:

“It is so ugly that no theist I know claim to feel this "sensus divinatus". Do you?”

Yes, I do.


You said:

“I thought so.”

Then you thought incorrectly. And perhaps this will be a lesson to you not to try to assume the positions of other people.


Take care,

RD Miksa

William said...

"A physicist will have a different conception of the "real world" than a member of some tribe living deep in the Amazon forest."

Yes, and I would not expect them to address that world in the same way, or use similar tools to investigate it. And I think that one can be more correct in many ways than another.

"Even with those skeptics who deny the outside world really exists are still going to have to go to the same grocery stores we all do in order to satisfy our hunger. "

We all look to stories and knowledge in seeking meaning.

"Do you take the position that Thor and Aprhodite are merely different conceptions of the same God?"

Do you think that the Earth as a flat disc and the world as round are merely different conceptions of the Earth? (yes to both questions)

"Do you think a Christian should pray to those gods also during Sunday Service? "

No, and I don't think the Earth should be treated as flat.


Typically, someone is going to raise the contrasts between the epistemology of scientific and nonscientific kinds of knowledge here, and I'll agree in advance that they are different.

Aragorn said...

"Actually, the situation concerning the “divine sense” is, in principle, no different from that of consciousness. After all, I hold the belief “I am conscious” as a properly basic belief and this belief is so strong that no evidence could persuade me otherwise. Even if—like Alex Rosenberg— all the naturalistic philosophers in the world told me that “science shows that no one is actually conscious,” I would still hold to my own consciousness as a properly basic belief even in the face of that evidence. And this would not be irrational. In the same way as with consciousness, the strength of the “divine sense” could be so strong in a particular case that it overrode all other evidence. And given that this would not be irrational in the case of consciousness, then it would not necessarily be irrational in the case of the “divine sense.”

That's a red herring. There's no plausible way for science to show that we are not conscious. That's where the argumentative force of RE is coming from. But, there's a distinct difference between belief in other minds and belief in God both as properly basic - denial of belief in other minds would result in epistemic and philosophical paralysis. No such thing occurs with not believing in God.

And this sensus divinatus is made up no matter how much those "lying for Jesus" want to affirm it's not. See - Mother Teresa and pretty much every other spiritual leader.

Aragorn said...

Dear RD Miksa:

You said:

Again, incorrect. While it is true, as you say, that very few, prior to Plantinga, may have claimed that Christian belief could be, in and of itself, based on the “divine sense,” this does not mean that the idea of the truth of something like the “divine sense” was not something that was acknowledged since the earliest of Christian times. That might be why Plantinga shows that both Calvin and Saint Thomas Aquinas had this idea of a “divine sense” impeded in their writings. Not to mention that Saint Augustine himself developed a theory of “Divine Illumination” that mirrors the idea of the “divine sense.” And finally, the idea of a “divine sense” can be seen as early as in the New Testament; heck, it could be argued that Saint Paul had such an experience that thereby made his Christianity a properly basic belief to him. So again, sorry, but your statement does not stand.

What's your proof beyond your simple assertion that these "divine presence" that they felt made their beliefs properly basic? You assert this, but you don't have anything to back it up. So they had a "mystical experience". So what? It doesn't mean that their experience is such that it makes belief in God properly basic. You are simply asserting this for Jesus.


You said:

First, see above. Second, I suggest, in the interests of polite discourse, that you seriously watch yourself before you accuse someone of lying, especially when it is manifestly obvious that you do not know your facts. (And please note that: given that I do not appreciate when it is even implied that I am a liar, it was a struggle for me not to write something a little bit more severe and pointed in response to your false accusation.)

See above. And I may be mistaken, I admit - but lying for Jesus among Christians is so common, I have a strong prior to believe it.

You said:

Except, of course, you are again incorrect: Mother Teresa had an intense and mystical experience of the divine presence early in her life, which is precisely what impelled her to begin her work as Mother Teresa. And even though I knew this fact from previous readings, it took me about 3 seconds on Google to confirm it. So I suggest you check your assertions prior to writing manifest nonsense. And as an aside, countless other clerics have felt this divine sense, so what’s your point?

She experience a "divine presence" but still had doubts as reported in her diaries. Is this the kind of experience that lends belief in God "properly basic"? Of course not.


You said:

Sweet Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. This comment is as laughable as it is fallacious. The whole point under discussion is whether we can claim that those individuals that profess to have experienced the “divine sense” are delusional. I have provided an argument (see my discussion with Walter) as to why no one can assert that a person who claims to have experienced the “divine sense”, and thus holds theism as a properly basic belief, is irrational. You, in your above statement, have provided nothing but an assertion. In terms of rational discourse, an argument wins over an assertion, even if the argument is ultimately incorrect. So, either back up your assertions, or stop making them…because really, from an intellectual standpoint, it’s rather pathetic.

The point is simple - people who claim that their belief in God is "properly basic" is in such an ugly epistemic situation similar to a delusion: no evidence to the contrary will convince them otherwise.


Take care,

Aragorn

Aragorn said...

Dear RD Miksa:


You said:

Except, of course, that even if—for the sake of argument—you are correct in your above claim, you are still clearly missing the point and confusing the two issues. Let’s say, as per your claim, that mystics do not base their beliefs on a “divine sense.” However, by experiencing something like a “divine sense” even after years of work, this experience of the mystics thereby lends so weight and credence to those non-mystics that have claimed to have also experienced the “divine sense” in an instant. Indeed, so the issue is not whether mystics, in and of themselves, experience the “divine sense” in a way that makes their belief properly basic, but whether their experience and testimony of the “divine sense” gives some evidence to the very idea of the existence of this “divine sense.” And quite obviously, their testimony does give evidence to this idea; how much evidence can be disputed, but it is at least some evidence nonetheless.

But again, even with the experience - you have no proof that it is the kind of experience that will make their belief in God properly basic. You assert that it is but you have no proof.
You said:

You said:

Another assertion! Evidence please? In fact, from my readings, such as the book “The Spiritual Brain,” these mystical experiences—again, I mean Christian ones—cannot be duplicated exactly, so you are at least, in my view, partially incorrect.

I'll leave this point because I think we'll be talking past each other because of definitions.


You said:

Again, not true. Not only have there been atheists that have been converted by mystical-like experiences of the divine—see Richard Morgan (story found on Unbelieveable – Premier Christian Radio) and Francis Collins with his mystical experience of the Trinity—but there have also been many people that have had mystical experiences that have converted them from one religion to another—like a number of Muslims that have converted to Christianity even though having no idea of the truth of Christianity prior to their mystical experience, or like Saint Paul in the New Testament.

I agree completely. But it has yet to be demonstrated that these beliefs would make their beliefs properly basic.


You said:

Except, in the above examples, it is.

So you claim.


You said:


Reference the first portion of your comment: some mystics do, but many others do not (and again I note that you cite no names or references). Reference the second portion of your comment: again nothing more than a fallacious and laughable assertion.

It has such a strong prior - I'll leave it at that and let you google for a counter.

Take care,

Aragorn

RD Miksa said...

Dear Aragorn:


You said:

“That's a red herring. There's no plausible way for science to show that we are not conscious.”

Then take that up with the various naturalists—such as Alex Rosenberg and the Churchlands—who argue just take. Perhaps you should actually know the work and ideas of those more on your side of the fence before claiming that what I say about the subject is a red herring.


You said:

“That's where the argumentative force of RE is coming from. But, there's a distinct difference between belief in other minds and belief in God both as properly basic - denial of belief in other minds would result in epistemic and philosophical paralysis. No such thing occurs with not believing in God.”

Actually, as I argued with Walter, I contend that this is not the case and have shown it to be not the case. In fact, I argue that the only two positions are ultimately God-belief or radical skepticism, the latter of which means—in your terms—total epistemic and philosophical paralysis. By contrast, even if the external world or other minds do not exist, I could still think, contemplate, etc. So, as I argue, God-denial is much worse than not believing in other human minds.


You said:

“And this sensus divinatus is made up no matter how much those "lying for Jesus" want to affirm it's not. See - Mother Teresa and pretty much every other spiritual leader.”

Stop being such a mental lightweight with your stupid slogans and inane assertions! This is a blog for serious people, not name-calling children.


You said:

“What's your proof beyond your simple assertion that these "divine presence" that they felt made their beliefs properly basic? You assert this, but you don't have anything to back it up. So they had a "mystical experience". So what? It doesn't mean that their experience is such that it makes belief in God properly basic. You are simply asserting this for Jesus.”

Do you even read what you write? My comments were in response to your claim that the idea of a “divine sense” had only originated with Plantinga. I showed that your claim was false and that the idea of a “divine sense” had its origins at the start of Christian thinking. I was not arguing for it one way or the other, just proving you incorrect. And as for your last comment, once again, stop being an idiot and a child.


You said:

“She experience [sic] a "divine presence" but still had doubts as reported in her diaries. Is this the kind of experience that lends belief in God "properly basic"? Of course not.”

Do you even understand what a properly basic belief is? Seeing as a properly basic belief can be defeated, then of course one can have doubts about its claim to being knowledge. In fact, one could have an experience that gives one a properly basic belief one moment but then a moment after have that properly basic belief defeated by a piece of evidence. The fact that you seem not to understand this makes me wonder if you even know what you are speaking about.


You said:

“The point is simple - people who claim that their belief in God is "properly basic" is in such an ugly epistemic situation similar to a delusion: no evidence to the contrary will convince them otherwise.”

Again, incorrect. If, for example, a sound and valid logical argument were presented which clearly demonstrated that God could not exist, then this would defeat the properly basic nature of belief in God. Again, the fact that you don’t grasp this makes me wonder about your grasp of the material to begin with.


Take care,

RD Miksa

RD Miksa said...

Dear Aragorn:


You said:

“I agree completely. But it has yet to be demonstrated that these beliefs would make their beliefs properly basic.”

Except, as I argued and demonstrated with Walter, if belief in the existence of other human consciousnesses is properly basic—as most people believe that it is—then there is no in-principle reason why belief in the existence of a supreme and infinitely powerful consciousness cannot be considered properly basic as well. The only difference is a difference of experience, and since one’s own experiences are as valid as any others, then belief in the existence of supreme and infinitely powerful consciousness could be properly basic given certain experiences.

So the fact that you likely did not read my exchange with Walter does not mean that I did not demonstrate my point. Rather, it seems that you did not do your homework in reference to the other comments on this tread before making your own comment. And as I am loath to repeat myself, you can scroll up—if you wish to, of course—and read my past posts for yourself.

Take care,

RD Miksa

RD Miksa said...

And--for any who care--please be advised that due to other commitments, I will not be posting again for some time.

Take care,

RD Miksa

Hal said...

"No, and I don't think the Earth should be treated as flat."

William,

You and the flat-earther would still agree that the earth exists.

Would you also agree with a believer in Thor or a believer in Aphrodite that those Gods exist?
Or would you insist that those believers need to support their claims before you would also believe in those Gods?


William said...

Hal,

"
You and the flat-earther would still agree that the earth exists.
"

Analogies break down eventually. Consider instead then, the analogy of believing or disbelieving in quantum wave guides, or the multiverse versus one universe.

With Thor versus Aphrodite, consider instead something such as the implications of believing in intelligence beyond man, versus not. There is generally a common ground to be found.

Zach said...

RD Miska is a pedant, no more. It is clear he doesn't understand the basics of this. He should read Putnam, Platinga, and Aquinas.

Aragorn said...

Dear RD Miksa:


You said:

"Then take that up with the various naturalists—such as Alex Rosenberg and the Churchlands—who argue just take. Perhaps you should actually know the work and ideas of those more on your side of the fence before claiming that what I say about the subject is a red herring."

But these philosophers will never be able to show us that consciousness doesn't exist. It's still a red herring.


You said:

Actually, as I argued with Walter, I contend that this is not the case and have shown it to be not the case. In fact, I argue that the only two positions are ultimately God-belief or radical skepticism, the latter of which means—in your terms—total epistemic and philosophical paralysis. By contrast, even if the external world or other minds do not exist, I could still think, contemplate, etc. So, as I argue, God-denial is much worse than not believing in other human minds.

No. Not believing in other minds will result in global skepticism. Not believing in God will not result to that. Only those "lying for Jesus" are saying this.


You said:

Stop being such a mental lightweight with your stupid slogans and inane assertions! This is a blog for serious people, not name-calling children.

Stop making Reformed Epistemology into other than a laughing stock in philosophy - then I'll stop with the "lying for Jesus" schtick for those claiming belief via "sensus divinatus". Meh. I also have a "sensus whateveratus" for my belief in the booger God - what's the real difference other than anecdotal evidence.

Aragorn said...

You said:

Do you even read what you write? My comments were in response to your claim that the idea of a “divine sense” had only originated with Plantinga. I showed that your claim was false and that the idea of a “divine sense” had its origins at the start of Christian thinking. I was not arguing for it one way or the other, just proving you incorrect. And as for your last comment, once again, stop being an idiot and a child.

Again - we're not talking about your garden variety feelings of the "divine" that some people report. We're talking about a kind of divine presence that will underwrite the basicality of God-belief. These are two different things.


You said:

Do you even understand what a properly basic belief is? Seeing as a properly basic belief can be defeated, then of course one can have doubts about its claim to being knowledge. In fact, one could have an experience that gives one a properly basic belief one moment but then a moment after have that properly basic belief defeated by a piece of evidence. The fact that you seem not to understand this makes me wonder if you even know what you are speaking about.

I know this. However, this "sensus divinatus" is being pressed into the service of defeating ALL defeaters. So clearly we're talking about a DIFFERENT sensus divinatus. Read up more on this. Please.


You said:

Again, incorrect. If, for example, a sound and valid logical argument were presented which clearly demonstrated that God could not exist, then this would defeat the properly basic nature of belief in God. Again, the fact that you don’t grasp this makes me wonder about your grasp of the material to begin with.

Argue with Baldwin and de Ridder. The problem with you is that you don't know the most current state of play in this philosophical debate and you're the one to feel superior. Pweh!


You said:

Except, as I argued and demonstrated with Walter, if belief in the existence of other human consciousnesses is properly basic—as most people believe that it is—then there is no in-principle reason why belief in the existence of a supreme and infinitely powerful consciousness cannot be considered properly basic as well. The only difference is a difference of experience, and since one’s own experiences are as valid as any others, then belief in the existence of supreme and infinitely powerful consciousness could be properly basic given certain experiences.

So the fact that you likely did not read my exchange with Walter does not mean that I did not demonstrate my point. Rather, it seems that you did not do your homework in reference to the other comments on this tread before making your own comment. And as I am loath to repeat myself, you can scroll up—if you wish to, of course—and read my past posts for yourself.


There is every reason to distinguish the two beliefs - denying belief in other minds will result in philosophical paralysis. Denying belief in any God doesn't. You have an unfortunate penchant of saying you "demonstrated" things when you clearly haven't.

Take care,

Aragorn

Zach said...

RD berates people for not knowing what they are talking about and then says stupid things like Rosenberg and Churchlanders say consciousness does not exist.

They do not say that. That said, as I write at my blog, they can't explain consciousness, they try to say things but they end up invoking conceptual miracles. But let's not ascribe to them things they have never said. It's just sloppy.

RD this isn't debate team you can admit if you don't know something, maybe you will learn something. Stop throwing around jargon to obfuscate and whitewash. Just have a conversation, be real with people, not a pedant, and maybe people will not react to you like "that guy."

Zach said...

I think RD has demonstrated one thing: when he cannot argue, he retreats to claims of properly basic, which are scat dressed up as a princess.