In ‘Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism,’ Alvin Plantinga argues that naturalism excludes the means to validating our cognitive faculties. In a nutshell, Plantinga argues that if the reliability of our cognitive faculties is under question, one cannot answer the question whether they are reliable by pointing out that these faculties themselves deliver the belief that they are reliable; one needs more, one needs good, independent reason to believe our cognitive faculties are reliable. Crudely, Plantinga criticisizes empiricists / naturalists for failing to provide a logically satisfactory argument for asserting that our cognitive faculties are reliable.
Plantinga’s argument, though, does not immediately commend itself to acceptance: Essentially, the empiricist / naturalist must provide an argument for the foundational reliability of our cognitive faculties only if she first accepts a foundationalist epistemology. However, empiricists / naturalists need not accept a foundationalist epistemology. Indeed, the empiricist / naturalist should instead reject the premise that knowledge requires an Archimedean foundation. (I guess Plantinga could assert that the empiricist / naturalist is somehow committed to a foundationalist epistemology, but I would like to see the argument for that. In any case, I have little confidence the argument would work.)
Rather, pace Hasok Chang (epistemic iteration), C.S. Peirce (pragmatism) or W.V.O. Quine (coherentism), the empiricist / naturalist can take other routes. Though I have significant misgivings about coherentism, it remains a viable option. However, a more promising route, I believe, would be Chang’s idea of epistemic iteration, which is a thoroughly proper empiricist epistemology (situated within a largely Peircean pragmatist framework). To see this, let us look at Chang’s analysis of the historical problem of the reliability of thermometry in early and mid 19th science. Though crude and without the requisite scholarly detail, the synopsis should suffice to give the rough view.
Read Full Post »
“and if Christ hath not risen, vain is your faith, ye are yet in your sins;”
1 Corinthians 15:17
I want to grant the strongest possible case allowable for the resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, I expect to afford much leeway- indeed, more than is rationally justified- to the claims of the historicity and reliability of the Christian texts. That is to say I will grant, though I do not think it is true, that the eyewitness reports in the gospels and the epistles are from individuals who were neither inappropriately credulous, uneducated, nor emotionally and psychologically unfit to provide generally reliable testimonies. I will further grant, though I do not think it is true, that the gospels and the epistles are independent, generally reliable and unbiased historical documents which track the events under consideration accurately- as accurately as any historical text could, that is. I will also grant, though I do not think it is true, that the testimony of the Church Fathers was generally reliable and has transmitted accurately the succeeding 1,800 years to the current day.
I shall further suppose, though I am not sure how they might accomplish this, that historians can exclude all possible naturalistic explanations, with the exception of so-called swoon hypotheses, to include even future explanations which further scientific investigation might disclose and more elaborate explanations such as extraterrestrial interventions not now seriously entertained. Even then, I shall contend, Christians are not justified in believing that Jesus’ reported postmortem sightings were the result of a Christian miracle. I will argue that even on these favorable grounds the Christian is not justified in believing the Christian god rose Jesus from the dead.
Read Full Post »
Posted in Action Theory, Epistemology, Logic, Moral Psychology, Naturalism, Philosophy of Mathematics, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Psychology, Philosophy of Science, tagged Bayesianism, Colin Howson, eliminative materialism, Patricia Churchland, rational choice and decision theory on May 20, 2011|
5 Comments »
In a recent and very engaging presentation at UNF, Chris Tucker asked for an argument that shows perception is trustworthy that does not already assume that perception is trustworthy, where perception includes vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell, and proprioception. It was intended to be a trick question as any argument for one type of perception will depend on another. For example, when asked how I can trust my hearing – e.g. that who I heard speaking at the lecture was Chris Tucker and not a recording being played in the background- I can respond that I watched him speak with my very own eyes. So it seems that we are left with basic faculties of perception to form rational beliefs that cannot themselves be verified as trustworthy by argument or experience independent of those faculties. If this is so, argued Tucker, then a common argument against the use of religious experiences to make religious beliefs rational employs inconsistent standards – higher standards are set for religious beliefs than perceptual. I would like to look more closely at Tucker’s objection and consider a way of responding by arguing that the standards for religious beliefs are not higher than those of perceptual beliefs and that perceptual experiences are supported for reasons independent of those experiences. (more…)
Read Full Post »