Sunday, October 03, 2010

Does the outsider test lead to an infinite regress?

Does the outsider test set up an infinite regress? If we can't believe anything unless we pass an outsider test for that belief, then doesn't the outsider test have to itself be outsider tested, and then that there has to be an outsider test for the outsider test for the outsider test, and then we would also need an outsider test for the outsider test for the outsider test for the outsider test, etc.


Isfs said...

A related question is: how likely is it that application of the test would lead to some kind of infinite alternation or cyclic pattern?

Take the most commonly discussed case involving just Evangelical Christianity and the New Atheism. These involve two worldviews which place certain restraints on methodology. The New Atheism is committed to naturalism. Evangelical Christianity is not merely uncommitted to this, but committed to a theistic worldview opposing mere naturalism.

How likely is this, then?: When one honestly steps out of the Christian worldview to evaluate Christianity, atheism seems more plausible, so is adopted. Then when one honestly steps out of the atheist worldview to evaluate atheism, Christianity seems more plausible, so is adopted.

Is there any methodology that can be used to apply the test which doesn't suffer from these problems, or is it doomed to forever go around in circles in a sort of belief system reincarnation?

And perhaps as soon as one believes there is a methodology that solves the problem, we are in the territory of your infinite regress.

Or am I wrong to think there would be any such effect?

Ken said...

Just reserve the third order tests (and higher, on to infinity) exclusively for professional philosophers.

Mr Veale said...

And ... another slam dunk!

This is sooo much fun to watch, it's scary!

Or an indication that I need to get out more....

Dan Lower said...

That's kind of how I feel about Clifford's almost seems self-refuting.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Mr Veale: I don't think this is all that big a problem. Every epistemic theory has to face the problem of where to stop the questioning. For instance, I can't prove to a skeptic that he is not dreaming, and I frankly don't really want to. It's a basic assumption I make based on technically insufficient evidence.