This essay will be dealing with the concepts of rationality and knowledge, and the abuse of these terms by presuppositionalist apologists.
I will first make statements of my own personal beliefs that will be clarified and defended in subsequent expanded arguments.
I have no absolute knowledge of anything outside my subjective perceptions, nor does anyone else.
(This will be true of every statement in this essay. But read the next point carefully.)
Having no absolute knowledge does not equate to an inability to assess the likelihood of various propositions since I have access to my perception of regularity.
Making statements about things for which I have a high degree of belief does not require that I have absolute knowledge in those statements since the default conventional definition of truth does not imply absolute knowledge.
A rational position does not necessarily equate to an objectively true position.
I am rational in my high degree of belief that an objective world exists based on the high degree of regularity I perceive.
A case study in the inherent dishonesty of presuppositional tactics
(More about Sye now at http://syetenbruggencate.wordpress.com.)
Sye Ten Bruggencate is a Christian presuppositionalist. He does not think you have any basis for rationality other than his choice of a god. After centuries of emphasizing faith, Christianity was forced by the success of science to focus on its “evidences”, and having manifestly failed there, is now justifiably cowering in the face of scientific scrutiny, and is desperately employing increasingly absurd tactics in an attempt to destroy the utility of rationality in order to salvage a god who, most Christians admit, would eternally torture all those who follow a nature they neither requested nor can avoid. Sye is a prominent promoter of a new tactic that attempts to wrest the right to rationality away from those rational enough to reject the bible myth by irrationally suggesting that, in the very use of rationality, those promoting rationality must acknowledge the god of the bible as the author of rationality.
Occam’s Razor (OR) is the default to the explanation with the least amount of complexity for any ontological inquiry. OR has 2 warrants.
This is the most obvious justification for employing OR. OR has successfully aided the pursuit of knowledge. Without OR, the body of human knowledge would have been a distorted and bloated unwieldy jumble with a tendency to collapse into technological and pragmatic inefficacy under the weight of many unfiltered conjectures. Through induction we have learned that any complexity within our universe seems to be constructed from a buildup of simple mathematical rules and more basic material entities. To the degree that OR has successfully produced theories that yield efficacious heuristics, processes and technologies that have accomplished our human goals, to this degree we are warranted in our confidence that it will continue to serve us well into the future. But what warrants OR prior to its track record of successes?
Beginning with, what seems unarguably to be, the self-evident fact that thought requires logic, we can come to understand that, with each additional node in any logically interdependent and causally interlaced ontology, there is an increase in possible logical incoherencies and material impossibilities. For each additional node posited in an ontology, there is a greater chance that there will be a logical or material transgression. It may be possible that each additional node added to the ontology can be vetted by assessing its coherence with all other nodes in the matrix of logical and causal relations. However, even if that vetting is not possible, it is still understood from within a basic rationality that there is decreasing probability of total coherency with each additional node. Therefore any mind capable of thought is warranted in defaulting to OR based on the fact that there is a higher probability of logical coherence to the most parsimonious ontology.
So the justification for employing Occam’s Razor is not wholly dependent merely upon the vetting of induction, but also finds justification in the very existence of logical considerations available to any thinking mind, even to an mind devoid of experience and thereby incapable of any inductive assessment.
Theists believe they have a sixth sense that brings them to knowledge of their particular god. One Christian Apologist attempts to defend this notion with the following statement.
We form foundational beliefs on the basis of subjective personal experiences. If I perceive a tree [through the sense of vision which has a history of reliability], then I can rationally conclude that there is a tree. If I have a felt experience of God [presumably through the magical powers of a sixth sense with an absent or dismal track record] then I can rationally conclude that God exists.
Lamentably, this illogicality actually seems to be a fairly average example of the current level of discourse among theists. Let’s looks at an analogous scenario.
Imagine an airport security officer named Bruno who checks luggage for weapons with an sophisticated x-ray machine going home and, donning $1 x-ray glasses ordered from the back of a comic book, claims he can see ghosts wandering the hallways. Now imagine him attempting to give legitimacy to the x-ray glasses by invoking the success of the x-ray machine. This is what is being attempted in the theist’s statement above. He starts with the sense of sight which has been demonstrated to possess a high degree of reliability, then attempts to sneak one by us by first assuming the existence of a spiritual sense, then by rubbing, in equivocation, this mythical spiritual sense up against the earned respected reputation of the sense of sight in the hope that we will then irrationally grant both existence and efficacy to his imagined spiritual sense. Is this intentional deceit, or mere ineptitude? Continue reading
We all have intelligence. That does not mean we are all of the same intelligence. It does not mean there are only 2 categories; intelligent and unintelligent. Such a claim would remove the semantic resolution that reflects the reality of a smooth bell curve across various degrees intelligence.
We also all have beliefs. But warranted belief is commensurate to the degree of evidence available. Someone’s belief based on years of developing critical thinking skills and evaluating relevant evidence is not even remotely similar to a belief in merely what feels good. To claim we are similar in that we all have “faith” is to consciously remove semantic resolution to produce distortion.
The following are different types of belief.
- Irrational belief
(Maps to emotions, often runs contrary to evidence, and often tends to be absolute and dogmatic.)
- Incommensurate belief
(Does not map appropriately to the degree of evidence, and is influenced by the natural human tendency towards a bivalent commitment.)
- Commensurate belief
(Maps to the degree of evidence, and requires the discipline and rigor to disallow emotional factors. This is the only type of belief that is warranted.)
So those who want to say “we all have faith” are intentionally distorting reality by removing the semantic resolution that distinguishes between warranted and unwarranted belief.
An underlying false premise that contributes to this misunderstanding of warranted belief is that, if we do not ourselves have direct access to the evidence and must rely upon an authority, we are employing “faith”. In these cases our degree of belief is warranted if it maps to the degree of reliability of the authority. Simply assess the track record of the authority, whether the authority be our parents, our memory, a professor, a metal detector, Wikipedia, our eyesight, the scientific method, or a voice in our head. Where there is a track record of successful input and the subsequent predictive power, there is warrant for our confidence. This is nowhere close to “faith” as “faith” is conventionally defined.
While this essay primarily addresses the claims of theists that I also have “faith” as they do, it also holds true for non-theists who incoherently claim “you either you believe, or you don’t.”
What is real?
How do we know it is real?
What does “real” mean?
Does understanding the difference between what is real and what is not real give us any advantage in life?
These fundamental questions are ask by most humans at some point in their lives, but even the most contemplative philosophers disagree on the answers.
In this article, I’m going to attempt to persuade readers to reduce the common, yet debilitating, gaseous and bloated ontology (the study of what is real), and to slim down their conceptual schemes to include only those entities and concepts that have warrant.
I will first identify some of the impediments to an accurate construction of a mental representation of reality, then speak to the demarcation between objective and subjective realities that is too often ignored.
Here are some of the impediments to constructing an accurate mental map of reality.
I recently had someone respond to my claim that there is no objective free will with the following.
If we can truly assess our beliefs then we are not determined after all. If we are determined then we have no epistemic justification for believing our beliefs to be true. I’m not sure if you are really grasping the epistemological implications of determinism.
Let’s examine these statements.
If we can truly assess out belief, then we are not determined at all…unless our tools of assessment have been determined. They have been. There is no component of assessment that has not been shown to have a neurological correlate.
The fact that a causal chain turns back in on itself is unremarkable. This happens with tornadoes, economies, and psychological development, none of which requires that we introduce a “supernatural” cause. And if the intricacies of the material mechanism have not been teased out, we are not warranted in plugging a “supernatural” placeholder into these variables. We patiently wait with the warranted expectation that the cause is fully material; warranted due to the long history of successful material explanations and the utter failure of all proposed supernatural placeholders.