Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More response to the outsider test

I guess we've got to get some clarification on the concept of being skeptical. If what it is to be skeptical is just to entertain skeptical questions about one's beliefs, to subject them to scrutiny, to take seriously possible evidence against them and to ask what reasons can be given for them, then I have been performing the Outsider Test since 1972. When I was an undergraduate I incessantly annoyed my friends with objections to Christianity; in fact, one of my closest friends from that time remarked that I was an expert at finding objections to Christianity, even though I was a Christian.

If this is a reason to reject the maxim of my undergraduate philosophy teacher (an atheist) "You ought to believe what you already believe, unless you have evidence that what you believe is not true," then I wouldn't endorse that kind of skepticism. If I have to try to find a neutral position from which to do all my reasoning, I just don't think there is one.

Is this an attempt to overthrow Reformed Epistemology and accept some sort of classical foundationalism? The problems for the classical foundationalist enterprise are well-documented.
Further, a religion based on special revelation, unless that revelation is written in the skies or something like that, has to be given to one group of people and then spread. That being the case, there are bound to be disparities with respect to who gets the message and who doesn't. That should be no surprise to anyone.

We have to work from our antecedent probabilities (which are admittedly not objective) and adjust based on the evidence. There's no other way to go about it. We are the people we are, not other people, even if we can do the best we can to put ourselves in the shoes of others.


Ilíon said...

In other words, van Til wasn't so far off the mark, as some like to accuse him.

Ilíon said...

VR: "The problems for the classical foundationalist enterprise are well-documented."

This Stanford Encyclopedia of Philisophy entry begins --Foundationalist Theories of Epistemic Justification:
"Foundationalism is a view about the structure of justification or knowledge. The foundationalist's thesis in short is that all knowledge and justified belief rest ultimately on a foundation of noninferential knowledge or justified belief.

A little reflection suggests that the vast majority of the propositions we know or justifiably believe have that status only because we know or justifiably believe other different propositions. So, for example, I know or justifiably believe that Caesar was an assassinated Roman leader, but only because I know or justifiably believe (among other things) that various historical texts describe the event. Arguably, my knowledge (justified belief) about Caesar's death also depends on my knowing (justifiably believing) that the texts in question are reliable guides to the past. Foundationalists want to contrast my inferential knowledge (justified belief) about Caesar with a kind of knowledge (justified belief) that doesn't involve the having of other knowledge (justified belief). There is no standard terminology for what we shall henceforth refer to as noninferential knowledge or justification.

Unfortunately, after that into the article appears no longer to be written in English (or perhaps I just gave on the article too soon), so I guess I'm missing these well-documented problems.

"The foundationalist's thesis in short is that all knowledge and justified belief rest ultimately on a foundation of noninferential knowledge or justified belief."

But this is true. So far, the only problem I can see with it is that people -- especially over-schooled people -- will tend to reject it because it doesn't fit with what they want to know.

Ilíon said...

This page (Reformed Epistemology) is in English, though it's far shorter than the other.

Now, if the point of argument between "Reformed Epistemology" and "classical foundationalism" is as described here, well then, of course, the reformed epistemologists are on to something important -- specifically that "classical foundationalism" may be an incomplete understanding of knowledge (which is quite different from being false):
"Reformed epistemologists have criticised classical foundationalism as holding too narrow a view concerning which beliefs can be properly basic. Beliefs can be cited, such as belief in the existence of the past, or of the external world, that are clearly justified but cannot be either inferentially or non-inferentially justified on classical foundationalism. The existence of the past and the external world, are neither incorrigible nor self-evident, and cannot be inferred from beliefs that are incorrigible or self-evident. On classical foundationalism, then, belief in them cannot be justified."

But, incompleteness is not the same thing as incoherence (some pages I glanced at either made that accusation or claimed that Plantinga argues that).