Sunday, July 16, 2017

Belief without evidence is crucial for knowledge

Here. 

The key quote is from Swinburne:

n the introduction of his book The Evolution of the Soul, Philosopher Richard Swinburne lays out some key principles we all use in our reasoning. The first is the Principle of Credulity. Swinburne defines it as "in the absence of counter-evidence probably things are as they seem to be."1 This principle holds that we should basically trust what our senses tell us. While sometimes our sense can be wrong, we trust them to tell us true things about the world, for that's simply how we observe the world. As Swinburne points out:
Without this principle, there can be no knowledge at all. If you cannot suppose things are as they seem to be unless further evidence is brought forward—e.g. that in the past in certain respects things were as they seemed to be, the question will arise as to why you should suppose the latter evidence to be reliable. If ‘it seems to be' is good enough evidence in the latter case, it ought to be good reason to start with. And if ‘it seems to be' is not good enough reason in the latter case, we are embarked on an infinite regress and no claim to believe anything with justification will be correct.2

20 comments:

Mortal said...

This is certainly true in mathematics, where everything is contingent upon accepting a rather large number of axioms (or postulates) as "true" without any proof whatsoever. Unless one does so, you cannot get anywhere - you cannot even say authoritatively that 2 plus 2 equals 4.

Joe Hinman said...

there is a fine book by a major social historian who makes the same argumemt in term of social history, Steven Shapin is the name (co author of Leviathan and the Air Pump) and The Social History of Truth is the title.

btw see Metacrock;s blog my answer to Ryan M of Sec outpost imn defensive the argumemt the contingent nature of universe.

Joe Hinman said...

that's what we see at work with Trump and his fake news, He wants you to define "real news"as that which he approves and fake news as that which he opposes. Facts have nothing to do with it,there is no truth it's a priori the nature of the case.

That's how atheist skepticism works too when they reject any religious scholar regardless of reputation or quality of work, no religious person shall be accepted as authoritative a priori.

It is true that we have to make axiomatic assumptions in all epistemic matters at some point,i like to think I have some valid reasons for most of them.

Legion of Logic said...

Joe: "that's what we see at work with Trump and his fake news"

Trump doesn't own CNN.

David Brightly said...

Rather confusing use of the word 'evidence' here. The title of the post
suggests that 'the evidence of the senses', ie, 'what seems to be' is not to count as evidence. Yet Swinburne is quoted as saying If ‘it seems to be' is good enough evidence in the latter case, it ought to be good reason to start with. Commenter FriendofKen at the referenced post seems to be saying something similar in his point (3). Or have I missed something?

Ron said...

This seems to assume a founationalist epistemology, which is fine by me. But it's worth noting that this is an assumption because some people may not catch what assumptions are being carried on board.

Of course on a foundationalist theory of knowledge you need to accept some beliefs prior to undertaking an empirical assessment of the world. But there is disagreement about what beliefs should be accepted as foundational. I think many people are too quick to declare beliefs as worthy of "foundational" status. Swinburne seems to be saying that external world realism needs to be "assumed," but external world skepticism can actually be disconfirmed on evidential grounds (see Lydia McGrew). I think that induction and other minds can also be justified as inferences to the best explanation

Stardusty Psyche said...


"Belief without evidence is crucial for knowledge"
--Nonsense. How typically theistic in approach.

"we should basically trust what our senses tell us...Without this principle, there can be no knowledge at all."
--If knowledge is justified true belief we can only be certain that we know anything if it is dependent upon our self awareness, such a cogito ergo sum, and associated assertions such as there must be an existence of some sort, since I am certain I exist in some form.

The insertion of the word "true" in "justified true belief" makes certainty of having attained knowledge impossible beyond this limited set.

Returning to the title of this post:
"Belief without evidence is crucial for knowledge"
--Faith absent evidence is a mental weakness. We skeptical atheists, or at least I, self consciously provisionally postulate the basic reliability of the human senses because of the evidence, not in spite of a lack of it. I am well aware that.

I cannot absolutely prove this principle, and therefore cannot absolutely prove its derivatives. I don't need to. I function absent absolute proof. I function based on evidence and my personal probability estimates, and I am well aware that is how I am functioning and it doesn't much bother me.

Evidence tells me my sense of hunger is real. Lots of very strong strong evidence indicates this, so I eat. Feynman once said "the philosopher who pondered the reality of his food died of hunger".

Belief based on evidence is crucial to knowledge in the common sense of knowledge.

The title of this post is 180 out. To believe without evidence is a mental deficiency.


posted by Victor Reppert at 7:27 PM on Jul 16, 2017

Joe Hinman said...

Legion of Logic said...
Joe: "that's what we see at work with Trump and his fake news"

Trump doesn't own CNN.

Do you not understand how Trump's use of the phrase works? He calls anything that counts against him as "fakenews" and anything helps him as valid,




On Metacrock's blog discussion of the Christian concept of God, is it just a list of "omni's?"

Joe Hinman said...

Stardusty Psyche said...

"Belief without evidence is crucial for knowledge"
--Nonsense. How typically theistic in approach.

First,I don't think you understand the concept, because it's at the basis of all knowledge,including science. Secondly if it's so typically theistic how come I just pointed out the argument is made by Steven Shapin? Is he a Christian? no he is not,he's secular historian he's not a christian, I don't know if he's any kind of theist but he is not a theological thinking kind of person. Here is a description of him in a book review of another of his books:

>>>Steven Shapin's The Scientific Revolution is an attempt at understanding the massive changes which have shaped the modern world and how we have come to view it. He is a sociologically-minded historian and a historically-minded sociologist. He takes as a given that the structure of knowledge of science is both historically situated and a process which is socially driven. His methodology involves taking ideas, of seventeenth-century European philosophers (who entertained an entirely new way of thinking--i.e. a modern/scientific way of thinking) and grounding them in their wider cultural and social context. In this way he hopes to gain an insight into some of the linkages from the past to our present-day modernity.

From Shapin's perspective, the historical notion of the Scientific Revolution--which is commonly taught to school children as more or less a cataclysmic event in which the modern world of science/rationality defeats the medieval world of religion/occult--is incorrectly portrayed. In actuality, Shapin says, the development of the modern scientific worldview is much more of an evolutionary process in which every tendency that has been customarily identified as a modernizing essence, was in fact, contested by many seventeenth-century practitioners with equal claims to modernity. He describes a world of increasing fragmentization of organizational power and order. He details the eroding authority structures and the declining scope of effectiveness of institutions that had regulated human conduct for the preceding centuries. Shapin describes the shifts in culture and society that took place in response to changing intellectual agendas, political commitments, and religious beliefs. In so doing, he attempts to portray the evolving scientific orientation--not as a set of disembodied ideas--but as historically situated ways of knowing and doing.<<<<>>>>>

doen't sound like a fundie to me,does he to you?



July 19, 2017 1:04 AM Delete

Joe Hinman said...

Kuhn fans did you notice how Dusty subsumes my anomaly into his paradigm? he has framed the issue in terms of scientific evidence vs Christian faith even when I quote a secular historian whose analysis has nothing to do with this. While he's patting himself on the back for being so bold as to only believe science and believe all science and never believe anything without science, he;s basing his views on ideology not on evidence. The evidence tells us that even science has it; the social history of truth in which authority forms the basis of eventual protocols, that's why we have thinkers like Kuhn and Shapin.


dusty says:

--Faith absent evidence is a mental weakness. We skeptical atheists, or at least I, self consciously provisionally postulate the basic reliability of the human senses because of the evidence, not in spite of a lack of it. I am well aware that.


I have 200 studies that are peer reviewed from academic journals in social sciences telling me that faith is rewarded in religiosity experience with self actualization accords the board. Where's your evidence that it's mental weakness? people who have mystical expediences tend to be better educated and have higher IQ's.

I guess I see what you mean about believing thing without evidence is mental weakness, you have no evidence for that statement and I have evidence for mine,

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "How typically theistic in approach."

So-called skeptics do this all the time. For example, you did it with this quote.

It seems as if you are hung up on the wording of the title, when the actual content of the post is no different than what you've said many times.

Stardusty: "We skeptical atheists"

It is the beliefs and statements of you skeptical atheists that lead me to believe skeptics are no better or more consistent at employing skepticism than anyone else. To believe otherwise would be contrary to essentially the entirety of evidence of which I am aware.

Of course, my knowledge of the so-called skeptic community is filtered through the Internet, and the less savory of voices can be inordinately represented there, so perhaps I have simply only encountered self-described skeptics who aren't actually skeptics.

David Brightly said...

Before the shelling from entrenched positions starts, could somebody explain how the Swinburne quote justifies the title of the cited article? Swinburne clearly intends that 'evidence' is to include 'how it seems to be according to the senses'. How do we get from that to the claim that Belief without Evidence is Crucial for Knowledge? The article certainly doesn't tell us.

Legion of Logic said...

I think the title is poorly worded. What it is referencing (I think) is our starting foundations upon which we build our beliefs based off evidence, that themselves are not strictly demonstrable as being true. We believe we have good reason for those foundations to be true, but it is an assumption essentially.

Mortal said...

I agree, Legion, and I go back to my initial posting about mathematics. All mathematics is based on a series of axioms that not only are not proven, but can not be proven. Perhaps the most famous of these (especially after its quotation in the recent movie Lincoln) is "Things that are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another."

I imagine the same could be said for Aristotelian logic. The statement "A is equal to A" cannot be proven, but merely asserted.

Mortal said...

Here is the scene in the movie. (Relevant part begins at about 2 minutes in.) Well worth watching!



Victor Reppert said...

David: I saw the article as making a point I made some time ago here. For any statements X, you cas ask "Where's your evidence." I produce it, and then you ask again, "Where's your evidence." Taken to its logical conclusion, it breaks all knowledge claims down. Eventually the claim defender gets tired. If I say"because I saw it," they can say "how can you trust your senses." Mathematics, the foundation of science, is the same way. So, something has got to go without evidence, right?

Stardusty Psyche said...

Joe Hinman said...

Stardusty Psyche said...

"Belief without evidence is crucial for knowledge"
--Nonsense. How typically theistic in approach.

" doen't sound like a fundie to me,does he to you?"
--It sounds like diffuse blather irrelevant to the title of the OP, but that is typical of your posts.


July 19, 2017 1:04 AM Delete

July 19, 2017 1:27 AM

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...

" I think the title is poorly worded. "
--Or just plain wrong.


July 19, 2017 6:58 AM

David Brightly said...

Thanks, Victor, I understand you now.

1. To say that I have no evidence for my beliefs that arise through the senses leaves me very uncomfortable. It makes the beliefs seem like arbitrary acts of the imagination. Why not say that such beliefs are self-evident? This is more in keeping with Swinburne, as mentioned above. Rather than this dialogue:
A: there's a cat on the mat.
B: Evidence?
A: I can see it.
B: Evidence?
A:---embarrassed silence---

we get this dialogue:
A: there's a cat on the mat.
B: Evidence?
A: I can see it.
B: Evidence?
A: I can see it.
B: Evidence?
A: I can see it.
Etc, Etc.

2. To any interlocutor who insists you justify your trust in your senses you can point out that his dialectical game leads only to radical scepticism regarding the external world. He is unlikely to want to end up there as he will have his own take on the world that he is pushing. The discussion is nearly always about the existence of God, or not, in addition to all the other stuff we take for granted, not the merits or otherwise of radical scepticism.

3. Regarding mathematics, I was taught to see an axiomatised mathematical theory as a sort of template you could lay against the world. If you could find meanings for the theory's undefined terms that made the axioms come out true, then the theorems would be true statements under those meanings. Russell has a famous quote along these lines. So I'm not sure maths counts as an evidence-free zone.

David Brightly said...

The Russell quotation is here.