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Sunday, August 06, 2017


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some preliminary points first:

1) I am inclined to think that there are no indubitable propositions (I just cannot make myself to regard all those who claim that they doubt or disbelieve them as speaking falsity) - perhaps this alone destroys our casus litis?

2) Even if there were indubitable propositions, I would deny that indubitability amounts to epistemic certainty. Epistemic certainty should be factive (truth-implying). Why should indubitability be factive? Why should I believe that it is? Even conceived as a property of a proposition, indubitability is thoroughly psychological, it can only be tested psychologically - and given how little we can know about what is beyond the limits of our psychological capabilities, indubitability seems to be a most unreliable criterion of epistemic certainty.

3) When I defend the existence of epistemically certain substantial philosophical truths, I mean truths that are not indubitable but rationally indubitable: i.e. doubt is (perhaps) possible but irrational, absolutely unjustified.

4) In the Kalam argument, I actually think that premise (2) is the problematic one. Can we know for sure that the universe began to exist? The scholastics used various strategies to show that much (e.g.: there would have to be an actual infinity of immortal souls by now), but most quite complicated and hardly absolutely convincing.

5) The cause of the universe need not have divine attributes. The argument is too weak.

6) Ad Premise (1): I think one can show that whatever has not a cause has divine attributes. This not only safeguards premise (1), but also shows that premise (2) is superfluous and relocates the entire argument to its proper (i.e. metaphysical) level. The point of a theistic proof is not to show that something has a cause, but that something has not (or that uncaused entity is possible - that is enough)! For you can then show that this something has divine attributes and must be actual.

(More on point (6) perhaps later)

7) With respect to the broader context of our discussion (which I am enjoying very much), I would just like to point out that Fuchs's thesis that lack of philosophical consensus does not rule out the possibility of philosophical certainty does not hinge on his (or mine) capability to actually produce an accepted specimen of such a certainty.

Bill, Presumably on your account it is not epistemically certain that the sun will rise tomorrow or that water is H2O?


It is 'certainly' not epistemically certain that the sun will rise tomorrow. It is logically and nomologically possible that the Sun go supernova between now and then. Or God might pull the plug on the entire physical cosmos an hour from now. Other scenarios are also imaginable and conceivable. But I am not worried, not one bit.

Your second example is more interesting. If Kripke is right, then the water prop, while synthetic and a posteriori in Kant's jargon, is metaphysically necessary. But certainty and necessity are different properties. I can be certain of a contingent truth and uncertain of a necessary truth.

For example, I am certain that I seem to see a computer, but not certain of *God exists,* which, if true, is necessarily true. Kripke's scheme is uncertain; so I say that I am not certain of the water prop.

Lukas writes,

>>Fuchs's thesis that lack of philosophical consensus does not rule out the possibility of philosophical certainty does not hinge on his (or mine) capability to actually produce an accepted specimen of such a certainty.<<

Right, but if you can't give me an example, then your case is considerably weakened.

"My position is that it is true that God exists, but not certain that God exists."

This may be slightly off topic, but how do you justify being a Catholic, then, in light of what the Fist Vatican Council says here (which seems to be talking about epistemic not psychological certainty):

"If anyone says that the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema."

Bill writes:

If you can't give me an example, then your case is considerably weakened.

I think you misrepresent the dialectical situation. Fuchs sets out to find out whether philosophical certainty is possible. At this stage, ha has no claims to make or positions to take, no "case", just a project, to do epistemology (or "noetics"). Before he starts, he considers whether there is any easy objection to blow up the enterprise at the very beginning as futile. One of such possible objections is the disagreement among philosophers. All he says is that this objection is not convincing, it does not provide an easy negative solution to the "noetic question", a substantive noetic enquiry is still needed.

Of course, philosophical certainties come, hopefully, at the end of the enterprise, as a fruit of considerable philosophical labour, not as easy, ready-to-use examples.


Fair question. Yes, that is a dogmatic pronouncement of Vatican I. I am wondering, though, was that statement or an equivalent promulgated by any earlier council? The idea that one can know that God exists by natural reason without the aid of revelation is clearly stated by Aquinas; but I am wondering whether the 'anathema' formulation can be found in earlier councils.


Unfortunately, Fuchs confuses truth with certainty, and that dooms his project from the start. One thing I like about his book, though, is that he engages Peter Wust, a neglected philosopher well worth reading. I hope to say something about Wust later.

Have you read *Ungewissheit und Wagnis*? I understand it has been translated into Czech.


- There were no formal anathemas before Vatican I, because natural knowability of God had only been doubted by a few "outsiders" before Hume and Kant. One could argue that before Vatican I it was part of the Ordinary Magisterium.

- No, I have not read Wust.


You wrote:

If an argument is presented for (1), then I will show that the premises of that argument are not, all of them, certain.

Let us play that game. I believe I have an argument to prove (1) that can be reduced exclusively to obvious conceptual truths. Let's go step by step, you say which premise you doubt and I produce an argument for it.

My kick-off:

(1.1) Whatever does not have a cause and yet exists exists necessarily.
(1.2) Whatever begins to exist never exists necessarily.
Ergo etc.

Which one you doubt?


This is an intriguing topic. What would you say about the following propositions? Is any of them philosophically interesting/substantive? Is any epistemically certain? Nearly certain?

I’m not trying to put you on the spot. I ask because I’d like to get a sense of how you view the relation between a proposition’s degree of certainty and its degree of philosophical interest, which is itself a philosophically interesting topic. Please only address the propositions that you want to address, if any. I’ll try to provide a decent variety of propositions.

- Scientism is false.
- Gender is objectively real. (Or, gender is not a social construction.)
- There is an objectively real difference between being male and being female.
- Metaethical moral realism is true.
- There are objectively real moral and intellectual virtues (e.g., wisdom, courage, etc.)
- There are objectively real moral duties.
- (Non-human) animals are not moral agents.
- (Non-human) animals do not have objective moral rights.
- There can be consciousness without a subject of consciousness.
- Mere matter cannot have intentionality.
- The principle of the indiscernibility of identicals is true.
- No entity can create itself (i.e., no entity can bring itself into existence from non-existence).
- Human reason is a better guide to obtaining knowledge than is human emotion.
- An actual infinite cannot be traversed.
- Human beings have libertarian free will.
- If something is actual, then it is possible.
- Truth is a necessary condition for knowledge.
- Belief is a necessary condition for knowledge.
- If God is logically possible, then God is necessary.
- There are no dialetheias (i.e., dialetheism is false).

Thanks for the comments, gentlemen. I hope to respond tomorrow.

How about the following as examples?

(1) Two objects of the same type cannot be co-located.

(2) It is impossible to change the past.

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