Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fallibilism and William Lane Craig's Epistemology

The following very honest discussion is presented by Bradley Bowen at Secular Outpost. 

I am glad to see someone getting off the bandwagon of bashing Craig because of his employment and application of Reformed epistemology, and, what is more than this, using this aspect of his thought as a basis for refusing to take seriously his arguments for belief in God that have nothing to do with this sort of a claim. I hear too much of "Forget the arguments Craig offers for theism. We know why he REALLY believes in God. It's because of the Holy Spirit tells him so."
While I don't deny that Craig could have a source of knowledge though acquaintance with God that other people might not possess, I wonder if he goes too far in granting those beliefs an indefeasible status.
I found this definition of fallibilism, and I wonder if a defense of this might raise questions about Craig's position. We could still have a properly basic belief in God, but shouldn't we regard that belief as fallible like all others?
Fallibilism is the philosophical doctrine that absolute certainty about knowledge is impossible, or at least that all claims to knowledge could, in principle, be mistaken. Unlike Scepticism (the doctrine that true knowledge is by definition uncertain), Fallibilism does not imply the need to abandon our knowledge, in that it holds that we need not have logically conclusivejustifications for what we know. Rather, it is an admission that, because empirical knowledge can always be revised by further observation, then any of the things we take as knowledge might possibly turn out to be false.


Ilíon said...

"... Rather, it is an admission that, because empirical knowledge can always be revised by further observation, then any of the things we take as knowledge might possibly turn out to be false."

Mere empiricism isn't equiped to say anything about logical matters ... nor about anything else that really matters (including whether God is).

Ilíon said...

"Unlike Scepticism (the doctrine that true knowledge is by definition uncertain), ..."

When applied to non-emripical questions, such as arithmetic and logic and the rules of logical deduction, and so on, scepticism cashes out as "true knowledge is impossible". It's really just nihilistic solipcism.

Aragorn said...

I really admire the intellectual honesty that one sees in the philosophical world. More often than not, the most challenging critics of theist philosophers are OTHER theist philosophers and that's just admirable. In this case, one also finds defenders of theist philosophers among atheist philosophers.

As regard Reformed Epistemology:

I know how robustly defended Reformed Epistemology is and I don't have the wherewithal to challenge it but I've always wondered how one would go about getting an indefeasible belief in God. Obviously, such a belief is not basic to everyone on the planet. IMO, God-belief doesn't share the characteristics one normally finds in other properly basic beliefs. For instance, the belief in other minds (and one's senses) stem from a powerless-ness to believe otherwise. If one's sensory and perceptual modalities are not in question, one is powerless to dispel what you have grasped. I'm sure some religious experiences are truly profound and life-changing - but veridical and indefeasible? Seems like a stretch to me.

Victor Reppert said...

What I am suggesting is that the question of indefeasibility seems to be something on top of the issues created by Reformed Epistemology.

I think that religious experiences like those Craig mentions, if you have them, give you a reason to believe in God that another person might not have. But to say in advance that this will outweigh any possible argument that could arise against theism, I still think of this as a stretch.

But not one that justifies ad hominem attacks in the context of the philosophical arguments.

brownmamba said...

Dr. Craig has used the argument from Reformed Epistemology in his debates concerning the reasonableness of God. Craig has elaborated on this argument in his podcast, saying that the Holy Spirit provides "testimony" that God exists and that this testimony can be so strong that it can outweigh any argument. I, however, think it's a mistake to use this argument as an apologetics tool.

First, I find this to be inappropriate in a debate context because in order to make headway there has to be a shared experience or a shared understanding. In any other debate, lets say concerning the existence of the Norse gods, what good would it be to say to an unbeliever "Well, these entities have revealed themselves to me personally and if you were open to them they'd reveal themselves to you too". Not very compelling to say the least.

Second, it's a curiosity that this "testimony" only provides knowledge of the proposition "God exists" and not of anything else. Can the Holy Spirit tell us anything about the future of the economy? How to cure cancer? How to stop Lebron James? I don't see any reason why it couldn't. The fact that this so called "testimony" is so limited suggests it really isn't testimony at all.

Finally, if the the presence of the Holy Spirit or any other religious experience can be evidence for God, then,if a symmetry holds, lacking the Holy Spirit or any religious experience can be evidence against God. I don't know how comfortable theists would be with this concession, but I think it is the logical implication. Thus, many atheists would have a strong case for the reasonableness of their position.