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Thursday, October 19, 2023

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And so, dear reader, does not my position strike you as the only sane and reasonable one?

Speaking as someone not trained in philosophy but who has taken an interest in the subject, particularly as it pertains to religious belief, for half a century, I absolutely find your position, which is rigorously argued, “as the only sane and reasonable one.” Frankly, after reading this series of yours, I am struggling to grasp how anyone who has seriously approached the issue of the existence and nature of God could take presuppositionalism seriously, but then again people believe all sorts of bizarre things. The craving for certainty in matters beyond our cognitive powers leads many, theist and atheist alike, to mistake belief for knowledge.

Thanks for your post, Vito. You wrote: “The craving for certainty in matters beyond our cognitive powers leads many, theist and atheist alike, to mistake belief for knowledge.”

I suspect that you are correct. In my experience of talking with students, friends, family members, and colleagues (both inside and outside academia) about religious and non-religious matters, I have come to suspect that some people are inclined to claim certainty when they lack it and knowledge when they have mere belief.

What explains such confusions? Like you, I suspect that in some cases the explanation is wishful thinking or an unchecked desire for objective certainty. But I also find that there is widespread confusion about basic issues of epistemology. Folks just don’t think much about the differences between belief, knowledge, evidence, truth, etc. If one doesn’t understand the difference between, say, a mere belief and an item of knowledge, one might be inclined to hold that one’s strongly held beliefs are items of knowledge, known with objective certainty.

I would be inclined to support a class in basic epistemology as a requirement for graduation from high school - as long as the classes are taught properly by people who understand the subject and don't confuse it with psychology or sociology.

Vito,

Thanks for the comment. >>I am struggling to grasp how anyone who has seriously approached the issue of the existence and nature of God could take presuppositionalism seriously, but then again people believe all sorts of bizarre things.<<

It is indeed puzzling how anyone could accept an apologetic approach so rife with preposterous assertions -- and I have only begun to scratch the surface. And yet, in all fairness, I must point out that some very intelligent people buy into this stuff. The brightest I am aware of is James N. Anderson whose weblog is here: https://www.proginosko.com/

>>The craving for certainty in matters beyond our cognitive powers leads many, theist and atheist alike, to mistake belief for knowledge.<<

We all naturally desire security: physical, emotional, fiscal . . . We also naturally desire to be secure in our beliefs. As I like to say, we all have doxastic security needs and so we don't like to have our beliefs questioned. When they are questioned, we react by trying to shore them up. This sometimes leads to 'doxastic overreach': we claim to be objectively certain about matters which are not objectively certain.

Since the 'presuppers' psychologize their opponents, it seems to me that I am justified in psychologizing them. Here is one idea: 'Presuppers' lack the intellectual maturity to live with uncertainty. And so they make certainties of what is objectively uncertain.

That being said, what the 'true philosopher' wants is objective certainty! What he wants is the certainty that we hope to enjoy in the Beatific Vision. In the visio beata the subjective and objective will so coalesce as make impossible any doubt. A mundane analog would be my inability to doubt the existence of a felt pain. Living through a felt (phenomenal) pain one experiences the coaescence of the subjective and the objective. Esse = percipi.

Elliot,

Thank for responding to Vito. I see from your comment that we three are pretty much in agreement.

By the way, one of the many things I hated abut teaching is that students, even in seminars, didn't take seriously other students. That is the analog of commenters who don't read other comments.

I agree, Eliot, that, along with the “craving for certainty,” the “widespread confusion about basic issues of epistemology” explains much of the intellectual muddle in distinguishing belief and knowledge, and when you have a mixture of the two, which is often the case, fruitful dialogue is rendered impossible. Perhaps age has rendered me too impatient, but once I sense someone bogged down in this sort of emotional and epistemological jumble, I take my leave.

Bill, I agree that “we all have doxastic security needs and so we don't like to have our beliefs questioned. When they are questioned, we react by trying to shore them up.” And just as “the true philosopher” will not settle for anything less than the certainty in which “the subjective and objective will so coalesce as make impossible any doubt,” so the true religious believer will acknowledge that this state is not possible on this plain of existence, and he will live with the tension, the gap that exists between what he believes and what he knows. Trust and doubt cannot but exist side by side.

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