Epistemology, Knowledge, and Certainty Question #22
Question: [After seeing a video on youtube of an atheist going around interviewing Christians on their view of knowledge and why they believe what they do]… Epistemology is not my strength. Could you help me out in better understanding it to be prepared for someone like this.
Epistemology is one of the most fundamental fields of thinking for anyone. Whether a person is a believer, atheist, agnostic, or even someone that has never picked up a book on or heard of the word is irrelevant. Everyone engages in epistemology whether they realize it or not.
Epistemology is a branch of philosophy; in a nutshell it is the study of knowledge and how it is obtained. This goes into questions like: what is truth, how can I know something, how can I know that I know something, is what I know true, and can I know what I do to be true? Those are just a few examples but for our purposes here we won’t go too in depth. So it is evident that even if you have never heard of the word, we clearly engage in these questions even if we have never thought of them. There are many things we believe for various reasons. For example our senses give us knowledge about the world around us. We know that bananas are yellow and turn brown when bruised because of what we see and experience. So in that sense our knowledge of bananas being yellow is based on our faculty of sight and experience in that every time we have seen a ripe banana it has been yellow.
In contrast to this we can all think of a time that we once believed something that we no longer take to be true. For example, perhaps at one point you believed in Santa Clause because your parents told you he was real and every December 25th you had presents with his name on it. As an adult you no longer hold this belief, (at least I hope you do not) but the question is, why? To have knowledge one must have what is called a “justified true belief”. Merely believing something does not make it true. There are many things many people believe that simply cannot be true no matter how sincere they are. They are simply sincerely wrong. But how do we know? Let’s unpack what a justified true belief must include.
First we need a justification for a belief. Let’s use the Santa Clause example as an illustration. The belief in Santa Clause was once held because there were certain justifications that gave us credibility to believe it: cookies and milk were gone, presents were under the tree, and so forth. However, when the truth is revealed that it has been the parents the whole time, we now have what is called a defeater for that belief. A defeater is something that invalidates a justification that one had for a previously held belief and is therefore unwarranted in keeping that belief. So the first step to having a justified true belief is that you have justifications for a belief with no good defeaters. This is not to say that people won’t ever disagree with your point of view but rather that you have defeaters for their defeaters which warrant you in keeping your beliefs based on those justifications. So if my justification stand through the test of defeaters then I am warranted in keeping what I hold to be true.
Second we need our justification to be true. That being said the next logical question is, “what is truth”? There are a few theories of truth but for purposes here we will get right to it and take the correspondence theory of truth. This states that truth is whatever corresponds with reality. So if my belief that Santa Clause exist is justified on the belief that 2+2=5 then, although I have a justification for this belief, my belief is not true. In other words my justification does not correspond accurately with reality. So not only do I need a justification, but beliefs regarding the things in question must be true (meaning they correspond with reality). And lastly, of course, I must believe whatever it is I want to hold to be true. Once those things are properly acquired then we have what is called a “justified, true belief” which gives us knowledge of reality.
Who cares right? Well the important question to ask ourselves is, “how serious do I take my beliefs”? Have you ever sat down for a few minutes, wrote out what you believe about God, the after life, Christianity, etc and then asked yourself, “now what are my justifications for my beliefs, are they accurate, what are the defeaters against them and could I defeat those defeaters in order to keep my beliefs and do these beliefs line up with reality”? Does this sound like too much? It will only if you do not take your mental life seriously which is a big no no according to the greatest commandment that tells us to love God with all our minds. Those who do not take this seriously are one of the reasons the world does not take us seriously. Also, these are good conversation starting questions when engaging with an unbeliever because they too must have justifications for their beliefs. (click on the link in the next paragraph for more on that)
One more thing to note is that the question of epistemology is at root the very thing we are fighting against when we engage with our secular culture. How so? Because two main epistemic views dominate our culture and society: scientific naturalism (scientism) and post modernism. Scientific naturalism (scientism) in a nutshell is the view that only physical things exist and therefore the only way to gain knowledge is through science which uses our five sense. That is to say if I can not see, touch, taste, smell, or hear something then it is not something that can be known to exist or does not exist at all. So clearly this leaves God out of the picture, morality, the soul, consciousness, love, etc. The second, post modernism, is the view that knowledge and truth are subjective and dependant on everyone you ask. In other words, there is no way to gain objective knowledge and there is no truth. Space would not permit me to go more in depth about these views but just understand that this is what we are fighting against. Click here to watch the second class of our apologetics course regarding these issues.
Lastly there is the question of certainty. It is quite possible and almost always the case that we are not 100 percent certain about the things that we have good reasons to believe. Does this mean that we can not know what we believe to be true? In short, no. Take for example a student who studied long hours for a test. The morning of the test his friend asks the question, “Do you think you know the answers to the test”? And in a response filled with nervous anxiety the student responds, “I don’t know”. Here is a case of uncertainty. However the next day he learns that not only did he pass the test but he got a 100 on the test. He knew every answer even though had uncertainty and even though he didn’t know that he knew all the answers. We must not allow doubt, although sometimes useful, to run our mental lives. It is vital that you understand that certainty is a question of your own psychological state about the question at hand, not about the question itself. So it is perfectly find to admit that you are not 100 percent certain about something, but are still justified in holding to the beliefs that you do based on the knowledge that you have. As long as your claim to knowledge is more plausible than the negation of what you claim to believe. In other words, I believe in “x” because to believe in “not x” is less plausible given this, that, and the other.
So one more time, epistemology is the study of knowledge and how it is obtained, to have knowledge you must have good justifications that are true and be able to answer any posed defeaters to your justifications. The two epistemic views we are fighting against are scientism and post modernism. We must be able to present defeaters for this view in order to argue for our position. It is ok to be uncertain about an issue because certainty is a question of your confidence and not a question of truth itself regarding the thing in question.
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14 thoughts on “Epistemology, Knowledge, and Certainty Question #22”
A few comments on this response:
“First we need justification for a belief.”
The debates of epistemology rage on and theories of knowledge and justification are dead in the middle of these debates. Even a staunch internalist/evidentialist (like myself!) would grant that we can have foundational beliefs of the sort that do not require justification. They would simply say that they are probably few and far between, our inferred beliefs are built upon these foundations, and most importantly, that we need to have some level of access for why we hold these beliefs. Let alone the epistemic externalist! If by justification you mean “reasons” then I would contest your wording a bit. This is evidently the case given the sense in which you used the term justification regarding why some people might believe in Santa.
“Once those things are properly acquired then we have what is called a “justified, true belief” which gives us knowledge of reality.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find any epistemologist that would agree that knowledge is *merely* JTB. Edmund Gettier’s short paper (http://fitelson.org/proseminar/gettier.pdf) clued us in to the fact that JTBs are necessary but not sufficient conditions for knowledge. It seems very likely that at least a fourth condition is required. However, it’s reasonable to say something like “knowledge is a *type* of JTB.” Justified false beliefs are a real thing. I’m afraid that we’d be irresponsible as apologists if we let people wave around a widely contested (or rejected) notion as fact.
And without cutting and pasting your entire section on knowledge and certainty, I see some confusion going on there. The student not knowing whether or not he knew the answers to the test doesn’t quite touch upon what I think you were trying to get at. It seems to me that you’re ultimately trying to illustrate why knowledge doesn’t require certainty. It seems impossible to be certain about nearly anything, and I don’t think think anyone in contemporary epistemology demands Cartesian certainty for knowledge. In the case of your example: The student isn’t certain about his ability to pass (or ace?!) the test, but he could be very sure, pretty sure, etc. He could be extremely prepared or he might have slept the entire semester during class. Who knows?! But in your case, he doesn’t give us any indication of how prepared he thinks he is other than informing us that he’s less than certain, which isn’t very interesting simply because we already assume as much (that’s what we’re arguing for!). For him to say “I don’t know” and then use his achieving a perfect score on the test as demonstrative that he had knowledge without certainty is confused. He wasn’t making a knowledge claim, but rather, he was agnostic about his potential. It would better demonstrate your point if his response to the question was “I think/believe/am sure I’m going to do well” if we’re looking to illustrate that knowledge doesn’t require certainty. He has to make a knowledge claim in order for your illustration to go through with force. We can then say that he had knowledge of his success prior to his taking the test based upon his level of preparation and things of the sort, which obviously includes the issue of justification. But justification proper is an entirely different issue!
“As long as your knowledge claim is more plausible than its negation.”
Bill Craig often says this to express the nature of a good deductive argument — he says that the premises must be more plausibly true than their negations. Philosophers John DePoe and Tim McGrew (both Christians, BTW!) explain why this criterion is mistaken in this short paper: https://appearedtoblogly.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/depoe-john-and-mcgrew-timothy-22natural-theology-and-the-uses-of-argument22.pdf
Essentially they show that you can have an argument with premises that are greater than .5, but the conclusion itself is lower than .5. That seems off!
Just giving you some feedback. Pardon any errors I might have made both in my reasoning and in representing your positions. Keep up the good work!
Excellent feedback! Thank you!
You are absolutely correct about properly basic beliefs. However, I was addressing, as you correctly stated, reasons for beliefs as opposed to addressing other, deeper areas of epistemology. I have defended properly basic beliefs in other areas. I tried to keep this article, as I do with most responding to lay readers, brief and to the point of the questioners inquiry.
I completely agree that JTB is not the sufficient condition for knowledge, but clearly it is a necessary condition for making a knowledge claim. And yes once again you are right and I agree. Alvin Plantinga gives a further criteria for knowledge, namely what he calls, Warrant. This however is in regards to the conducive, teleological, properly functioning cognitive factors aimed at truth. For the christian, which the questioner was, could take this as a properly basic belief. So yes, I’m aware its not the full sufficient condition but it is certainly a necessary. Hence I am careful with my words to not go further than needed (though I admit I could have added at least the idea of these concepts, which I will heed your words for future references) but at the same time I am also careful to not close the case as if I’ve exhaustively explained any topic I touch on. I’m sure you understand that.
I disagree with you on this point. Here, in my illustration, which Dr. Jp Moreland has used similar ones, once can know something even if they don’t know that they know it. My state of conviction of a claim is not a property of the truth of the claim itself. Thus I can know something even if I can’t know that or know how I know it (properly basic for example). So in the example, clearly the student knew the material, even if he doubted himself. So yes, we can safely say that he had knowledge of the material, irrelevant to his psychological conviction about it.
Regarding the “More plausible than the negation” I’d again have to respectfully disagree. I’ll have to read the article at a later time but I certainly will read it. However, a conclusion that is logically deductive based on true premises would make a complete and sound argument. I would naturally suspect that a logical sound, valid, air tight argument would be lower than .5 But again, I’d have to read it for myself.
Thank you! I hope to hear from you soon! Please email me or find me on facebook. I’d love to chat in a more formal manner. Really enjoyed responding to this. Thank you for the comments.
Thanks for the reply!
A few things:
I was just pointing out certain issues that aren’t as cut and dry as you’ve presented them to be, such as the issue of justification. You didn’t make it clear in your response that, for instance, you don’t regard knowledge as anything more than JTB. I know you do now, but it just wasn’t clear from the response is all. No worries!
I entirely reject the Reformed epistemology project. This is primarily because I reject epistemic externalism, which Reformed epistemology hinges upon. Thus I reject Plantinga’s analysis of what constitutes a basic belief, I reject that belief in God is properly basic, I reject his idea of warrant as proper function (although I do believe an internalist can appropriate a species of this line of thought), etc.
And don’t get me wrong! I completely agree that we don’t need to know how we know something. This meta-level requirement is far too restrictive and most likely completely untenable. However, I don’t believe that your illustration is effective in addressing this point. The future test-taker didn’t make any type of claim as to how he thought he would do (which would indicate his confidence level in the material presumed to be on the test). Surely he “knew without knowing” as you want to stress, but this doesn’t highlight the notion that knowledge doesn’t require certainty, because we have no idea of how he thought he would fare. It would have been more illustrative if he made some type of positive assertion regarding how he believed he would do on his exam. You just wrote: “My state of conviction of a claim is not a property of the truth of the claim itself. ” The problem is that no claim was made, but rather, the student remained agnostic — his response does not in and of itself constitute mere psychological doubt, but an epistemic position. Your illustration gives no indication of which direction the student was leaning in. How do we know that the student didn’t lean more in the direction of thinking that he was going to fail miserably because he slept during every class and never once studied? Surely we wouldn’t want to say that he “knew without knowing” in that instance. The student knew the *content* of the test well (because he aced it!), but that’s not the issue at hand. The issue is whether or not the student had knowledge of how we would fare. At least, that is the relevant question as it pertains to how you’ve worded the illustration. In order for the content of the test to be made relevant, we’d have to have the student respond something like “I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to do well.” Here we have uncertain knowledge of a positive outcome and the outcome is consonant with his knowledge of the material.
And concerning the ‘Plausible Premise Criterion’, I’m not sure what it is you’re disagreeing with. McGrew and DePoe demonstrate that this isn’t a good criterion, as it fails mathematically. It’s not really a matter of agreement or disagreement. Craig has jettisoned this criterion if I’m not mistaken.
“However, a conclusion that is logically deductive based on true premises would make a complete and sound argument.” Yes. A sound argument must be formally valid and have true premises.
However, the rub is that we’re more often than not dealing with probabilistic premises which we need to demonstrate the truth of. So we must have a high degree of confidence in these probabilistic premises in order for our argument to have force. Our premises need to do more work than the PPC requires.
Oh, no, I never said that knowledge was merely JTB. Please don’t hear me saying that. I said that it was a necessary (thought not sufficient) criteria for knowledge.
Also, a few things about evidentialism. To say that belief in God is not properly basic is to say that anyone who lacks the resources (like someone born in poverty or a 3rd world) could not be justified in their belief in God and thus salvation is not available for them. As someone once put it, getting into heaven would be like getting into Harvard. So I warn you that your epistemology sacrifices crucial theological principles and leads to unbiblical views of theology. Also, I don’t see how you could hold to any properly basic beliefs seeing how your very criteria for properly basic beliefs will themselves not be properly basic. As Plantinga put it, it seems arbitrary, and not a very plausible one at that. So I dare say it is a false view of knowledge, unbiblical, circular and self-defeating.
Regarding the illustration, I think you are asserting that knowledge requires certainty and in order to have knowledge, a claim is needed. I have already addressed that in my article. I think you are missing the point that we are not talking about his emotional conviction on how he will do on the test, but rather the knowledge of the content of the test itself. However, if we are using your analogy where he slept in class (though now we would be arguing analogies and not the point of my analogy), then we would have to say that he just got lucky and did not have a justification for his belief, much less knowledge. He simply guessed and got lucky. He can’t claim knowledge in the first place.
With your objection to craig’s position, I think you are once again presupposing that knowledge require a probabilistic, high degree of certainty. Here, Craig is simply pointing out the rationale behind believing something, not necessarily claiming that we can know it only if it has a high degree of certainty. In other words, given the alternative, we are rational in accepting x, until of course we have a defeater without a defeater to which then, we again assess the rationale behind our beliefs or lack of.
I simply observed that your original post (your response to the questioner) does not make it clear that you regard knowledge as anything more than JTB.
We’re not going to solve any deep epistemological debates in a blog combox, however, I must say, I do believe your response to my rejecting Reformed epistemology was a bit much at this point. For one, where exactly did I deem myself an evidentialist? I am an evidentialist, indeed, but I’ve only ever expressed my misgivings about epistemic externalism. I believe internalism is the correct theory of justification. Though internalism and evidentialism are related, they are not the same thing.
“Also, a few things about evidentialism. To say that belief in God is not properly basic is to say that anyone who lacks the resources (like someone born in poverty or a 3rd world) could not be justified in their belief in God and thus salvation is not available for them. ”
False. You’ve most likely been lead to believe this is the case because Reformed epistemologists have sort of monopolized what constitutes evidence. Some folks would simply respond that the work of the Spirit is not *directly* epistemic in most cases, nor does the REist get to designate what constitutes evidence alone. There exist extremely plausible accounts concerning the work of the Spirit on an internalist/evidentialist framework. Read this blog post by Lydia McGrew to gain a little perspective on evidentialism and what we’re often *not* claiming: http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2014/11/what_evidentialism_is_not.html
“Also, I don’t see how you could hold to any properly basic beliefs seeing how your very criteria for properly basic beliefs will themselves not be properly basic.”
Where did I tell you my criteria for a basic belief, Eric? Not all interalist versions are created equal. Either way, in almost all cases, you’re still mistaken. The internalist is still a foundationalist — the issue is justification. I’m not convinced that you’ve done much reading on the underlying epistemological issues. My suggestion would be to break away from the apologetics books a little bit and focus your attention on reading some works that are directly related to the issues. Losing the context of religious epistemology might help you to bring less baggage to the table when you’re doing your analysis. It should certainly keep you from making these types of mistakes regarding other views that are not your own. There are a great many strong objections to epistemic externalism (which, as I’ve noted, Reformed epistemology rests upon) and you would do well to bring yourself up to speed with those. I’m not the least bit worried that my epistemology is ‘unbiblical’, nor do I think we’re going to find in Scripture what the proper theory of justification is. That’s to commit egregious hermeneutical errors.
Regarding the illustration:
I made it abundantly clear that I do not believe knowledge requires certainty in my first comment. Not only that, but my suggestion for how to tidy up your illustration should make that perfectly clear as well. I’ve also made it clear in my response that the epistemic position of the test taker is my concern, not his psychological state. Think about it like this. You hope that the proposition “The student had knowledge of the answers without being certain that he had knowledge of the answers” is going to convey that he had knowledge without certainty. You hope to do this by demonstrating that he doesn’t know how he’s going to fare on the exam when he responds to his friend’s question, while conjoining the fact that he aced the test because he did know the answers. So he did have knowledge (the answers) without knowing that he knew the answers. While one doesn’t *have* to interpret the situation this way, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt for right now. On this scheme, this is true! I’m not disputing that! But why exactly is the content of the test (the answers) relevant to having knowledge without certainty? You start the paragraph by saying:
“Lastly there is the question of certainty. It is quite possible and almost always the case that we are not 100 percent certain about the things that we have good reasons to believe. Does this mean that we can not know what we believe to be true? In short, no.”
You then give your illustration. You mention that the student studies long hours (which I don’t remember reading when I first read this post, but I might have just missed it) and then his friend asks him if he knows the answers to the test. He says, “I don’t know.” How is the proposition “knowledge doesn’t require certainty” defended simply because the student did in fact get the questions right? In order to defend the proposition adequately, within the context of your story, you’d have to highlight something like his “knowledge that he would do well.” Why? Because how he would do is precisely what is uncertain to him in your illustration. The correspondence between him knowing the answers prior to taking the test and his getting all of them right is, as it stands, non-reflective. Where I quote you above says that we can know something which we have good reason to believe to be true, without being absolutely certain. Well… what exactly does the student “believe to be true” in your illustration?
“Regarding the illustration, I think you are asserting that knowledge requires certainty and in order to have knowledge, a claim is needed. I have already addressed that in my article. I think you are missing the point that we are not talking about his emotional conviction on how he will do on the test, but rather the knowledge of the content of the test itself. ”
How the student thought we would fare on the test is not necessarily just a psychological disposition. Suppose his response was, “I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to fail.” You seem to want to say (given your responses, but correct me if I’m wrong) that this is *merely* a psychological state. That isn’t necessarily true by any means — what if he barely studied and never attended class? He’s perfectly justified (epistemic) in believing (epistemic still) that he’s going to do poorly and making a relevant knowledge claim. In this case, he studied long hours — he’s justified in believing that he’s going to do well and making a knowledge claim. You’ve simply misunderstood what I’ve been trying to tell you. I know that your aim was to show how he had knowledge of the answers without knowing it, but I don’t think what you’ve presented, as it stands, successfully defends the proposition “knowledge doesn’t require certainty” — it defends the proposition “we can have knowledge of things that we don’t know that we know” — these are not identical claims. If the content of the test is the crux of the matter then you’re going to have to adjust the illustration a bit.
I’m not presupposing anything. The PCP doesn’t work very well. Craig is trying to articulate what makes a *good* premise of an argument, in most cases, for Craig, a deductive one. John and Tim show that this more plausible that P than ~P is simply not a good way to assess premises, because it can lead to arguments with improbable conclusions, even if the premises themselves are greater than .5. It’s too permissive. It needs to be revised. As noted, I’m fairly sure that Craig doesn’t use this criterion any longer. Would we really want to apply a criterion which would render the probability of our arguments less than .5 even if the probability of our premises exceeded .5?
Moreover, I’ve never been a fan of the phrase “high degree of certainty”, as it invites obfuscation. Isn’t certainty, well, certain? A “high degree of probability” would be more appropriate, and I do believe generally that’s what we’d want to look for in our claims, along with cumulative force. The problem of induction is a long-standing philosophical issue, and it’s one that probably (ha!) isn’t going away. I’m of the mind that we simply have to presuppose that induction is reliable. Inviting evidence into the picture is awfully helpful!
“Because how he would do is precisely what is uncertain to him in your illustration.”
^ I should have narrowed this down a bit. While your correspondence does in fact demonstrate that he’s uncertain if he knows the answers.. What I’m saying here in the above quote is within the context of why his knowledge of how he would fare on the test is better suited to demonstrate that knowledge doesn’t require certainty. I go on to explain this later as you’ll see. Just didn’t want potential readers to shut me out right there.
You are correct, we won’t solve any deep epistemological debates here. But I must say that for someone who is taken back by thinking that I am assuming to know your position when you haven’t expressed seems odd when you are in fact doing that with me. You assert that I only believe what I do because of reformed epist have monopolized it as if that is what dictates my beliefs.
Secondly, you assume that all I read are apologetics books (whatever that might mean) by saying that I should, “ break away from the apologetics books a little bit and focus your attention on reading some works that are directly related to the issues. Losing the context of religious epistemology might help you to bring less baggage to the table when you’re doing your analysis. It should certainly keep you from making these types of mistakes regarding other views that are not your own”
This is not at all where I arrive to my conclusions from. So it seems hypocritical to assert that I shouldn’t assume something about your position when that is exactly what you are doing. Further, as you will know, that is the genetic fallacy.
And yes, in your first response you clearly said, “a staunch internalist/evidentialist (like myself!)”. Thus you yourself claimed to be an evidentialist. Clearly you understand that some beliefs logically imply other beliefs. Thus, if evidentialism is true, then there are some beliefs I can consistently assume that you would hold. So while you didn’t tell me your criteria for a properly basic belief, it does not follow that a consistent evidentidalist would not have one.
Also, neither am I worried that my epistemological views are false based on an evidentialist objection or argument (which I have expressed, is a foundation that is in my opinion, self defeating).
Regarding the illustration: I think you are once again back to begging the question that knowledge requires certainty. As I said, I don’t hold to that criteria for knowledge, thus using it as an objection towards my position is presupposing that your position is correct.
There are plenty of things that I know even if I cannot articulate or know how I know it. Otherwise, an infant could not know that he/she exist I they could not make a claim or know how they know. That is the very idea of properly basic. I don’t see how you could get around that. You might be equivocating a first order awareness with a second order awareness of knowledge. This also would go into the types of knowledge such as knowledge by acquaintance or propositions knowledge. So please don’t assume that all my studies in epistemology stem from “apologetic books”. I could say the same and that would get us no where.
You also seem to be equivocating the idea of thinking how he will do on the test vs his knowledge of the content of the test. The two are very different. However, I do see that you said that you granted my position that, “we can have knowledge of things that we don’t know that we know”. Yes, which would mean that one is not certain, but can still have knowledge. Perhaps we are getting lost in the text and talking past each other?
And I do believe that knowledge and certainty can come in degrees. So I suppose that is another area of disagreement for us, though I would admit I could be wrong. After all, probability does not entail mental states like certainty or not. Moreover, once can doubt something but still believe it and have a higher degree of certainty. We could also of course be using certainty in a different sense. And yes, I am fairly certain (ha as well! Lol) that you are correct in stating that this issue won’t go away anytime soon lol.
I think we are just going to have to agree to disagree, especially since our foundations are very different. I also wouldn’t want to heat up the discussion any further because lets face it, I think you’re wrong, and you think I’m wrong, and we both can’t be right lol. Of that I am certain! None the less, I really do appreciate the dialogue and it’s nice to talk to someone who not only can speak on these issue, but also someone who holds a different view than my own and is still a (I assume) fellow Christian. It was a pleasure brother. God bless you.
Well, Eric, I did say you “most likely” believe what you do concerning some aspects of the evidentialist/internalist position because of Reformed epistemologists *have* sort of monopolized what constitutes evidence — this is just a true statement. At least grant that I said “most likely” in this instance. However, I said this because you’re essentially just repeating what Plantinga and Craig have said of the position, as well as popular-level apologists. Perhaps you’re not doing this intentionally, but I was really just going off of your critiques. Thus I believe my comment was warranted and not overly presumptuous.
My comment regarding you reading apologetics books was a guess based upon what I’m seeing in your arguments. You’re making some egregious errors and mischaracterizations regarding some fundamental epistemological issues. Your last post reinforces this intuition of mine, because you’re still not drawing important distinctions.
“This is not at all where I arrive to my conclusions from. So it seems hypocritical to assert that I shouldn’t assume something about your position when that is exactly what you are doing. Further, as you will know, that is the genetic fallacy.”
It’s only the genetic fallacy if I was asserting that your reading strictly apologetics books is the reason why your view/position is false. I never said anything of the sort, ergo, no genetic fallacy has been committed.
Please do forgive me! I didn’t recall identifying myself as an evidentialist in the first post. However, I must say, I was still confused why you launched a diatribe against evidentialism. I only ever expressed my misgivings with externalism and I did so in passing. It seems to me that you simply wanted to launch an offensive against a view you find untenable. I just found it a bit unnecessary at that point.
“Also, neither am I worried that my epistemological views are false based on an evidentialist objection or argument (which I have expressed, is a foundation that is in my opinion, self defeating).”
It is comments like this that have provoked some of my remarks, Eric. This leads me to believe that you’re totally unaware of the issue regarding externalism vs. internalism. Have you done any reading in this area?
“Regarding the illustration: I think you are once again back to begging the question that knowledge requires certainty. As I said, I don’t hold to that criteria for knowledge, thus using it as an objection towards my position is presupposing that your position is correct.”
I’m really at a loss for words here. Everything I’ve said to you concerning knowledge is quite the opposite of claiming that knowledge requires certainty. I’m truly baffled. Your entire response to my last remarks about your illustration seem entirely misguided. You haven’t even answered any of my objections. As I’ve told you — you’ve defended the proposition “we can know without knowing we know” — I never disputed that we can. You have *not* defended the proposition “knowledge doesn’t require certainty” for reasons I’ve spelled out above. They are not the same proposition. Answer my simple question that I posted in my previous post: What exactly does the student have good reason to believe? Reflect upon that and I think you’ll see what I’m getting at. I’m not equivocating on anything here. I’ve already told you why the content of the test is irrelevant in the illustration’s current form.
“There are plenty of things that I know even if I cannot articulate or know how I know it. Otherwise, an infant could not know that he/she exist I they could not make a claim or know how they know. That is the very idea of properly basic. I don’t see how you could get around that.”
Well, I’m not convinced that an infant even has beliefs, but we can set that aside for now. Eric, I’m still a foundationalist and this is what you’re not understanding. If you’re not up to speed on the basic differences between internalism and externalism, then I don’t know if going any further will be fruitful. Laurence BonJour (internalist) and Ernest Sosa (externalist) have a terrific book called ‘Epistemic Justification’ where they defend each position and respond to each other’s critiques. Or you can hop on the good ol’ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and read some top-notch stuff for free. A properly basic belief is a belief that is not based upon *other* beliefs. I’ve already told you that I agree we have these types of beliefs. We’re still both foundationalists here. The *difference* is regarding whether or not we have access to the *knowledge basis* of our beliefs. Externalists define properly basic beliefs in a way that makes it possible for a person to have a properly basic belief without a person being aware that it is properly basic. This seems highly problematic to me and many others.
“And I do believe that knowledge and certainty can come in degrees.”
I never said knowledge cannot come in degrees. I simply observed that the phrase “degree of certainty” invites obfuscation. It would appear that certainty and its semantic range is most likely the issue here, so we can drop that.
I am a fellow Christian. Keep up the good work! Lord bless you too.
Ok, I’ll grant that you said, “most likely” in that instance. I still think its presumptuous lol.
Like I said, I think we’ll have to agree to disagree and move on. I too think you are making egregious errors and or misunderstanding key points, but are doing so in light of an assumption that your position is correct and that mine is not. Fair enough, but then we are talking past each other here.
It is still a genetic fallacy- “The genetic fallacy (also known as the fallacy of origins or fallacy of virtue) is a fallacy of irrelevance where a conclusion is suggested based solely on someone’s or something’s history, origin, or source rather than its current meaning or context.” That is because you’re essentially saying that my belief is flawed by pointing the origin of my methods, books or source and because you think that they are flawed as well. That is precisely a genetic fallacy. You did in fact say that because I only read these books is the reason for my beliefs. It doesn’t matter where my beliefs came from.
I’m sorry that I seemed aggressive. I did not intend to. I was trying to point out that your view is based on a false foundation and by proving the implications of your view, it would show that your view is false, and thus an objection based on your view is not warranted/justified.
Yes I’ve done reading in this area. Not extensively by any means, but I have. However, I am also a firm believer that if a position is true, then anything opposing the true position is necessarily false. That is basic to the rules of logic. So if what you believe is false, self defeating, and would imply unbiblical views and so forth, then I am justified in rejecting it. Now please don’t take this (as hard as that may be) as attacking anything else BUT evidentialism itself and some implications of internalism (I think the two overlap in some very important areas). That was my main objection. If belief in God is not properly basic and evidentialism is true then it gives up for too much and will force us to give up what we know to be true. There’s no other way to put that, and whether or not others use this reasoning is irrelevant. It is either true or it isn’t. Evidentialism has far too many problems.
I too am baffled. So again, we won’t get anywhere. If you grant my premise “we can know without knowing how we know”, then its no big leap to believe that one could have knowledge with out certainty. I also believe I have addressed (I haven’t read the article in a while) that to claim that we must have certainty for knowledge is self defeating and would lead to an infinite regress which would mean we can’t know anything at all.
I am also not claiming the student necessarily “believes” anything about his testing skills. That is the answer. But that would be to completely miss my point that he has knowledge with out knowing how he knows and he may not even be certain that he knows the contents of the test, but that doesn’t follow that he doesn’t know the contents of the test. If my article said otherwise then I’ll have to go back and read it to see what I perhaps missed. Like I said, I haven’t read it in a while.
I do think infants have beliefs, thoughts, streams of consciousness and have knowledge by acquaintance. Are you familiar with KBA? It is sometimes referred to as simple seeing. Yes I am aware that you are a foundationalist and I’m very glad to hear it! Forgive me if I lead you to believe otherwise. Regarding properly basic, and as I referred to earlier, there is a difference between a second order awareness and a first order awareness. But that in itself is a completely separate issue.
Thank you again for the very thought provoking conversation. It was great and spark a further and deeper hunger to study this area in particular. I’ll have to go back when I have time and look at the links you sent. At the moment I am working on two separate projects, so admittedly I try and reply to these comments quickly and may have easily overlooked, misunderstood or simply not given the read an adequate amount of time and didn’t proof read. For that I sincerely apologize. None the less, this was quite an engaging mental exercise. Loved it. Iron sharpens Iron. Keep up the good work as well my brother.
The difference between us, Eric, is that you’re not telling me what errors I’m making. You’re just making assertions and moving on while making the same mistakes and letting these mistakes go unchecked.
“It is still a genetic fallacy- “The genetic fallacy (also known as the fallacy of origins or fallacy of virtue) is a fallacy of irrelevance where a conclusion is suggested based solely on someone’s or something’s history, origin, or source rather than its current meaning or context.” That is because you’re essentially saying that my belief is flawed by pointing the origin of my methods, books or source and because you think that they are flawed as well. That is precisely a genetic fallacy.”
The only thing, like I said previously, is that I never did this. I never even hinted at this. What I was suggesting is that you were possibly doing nothing more than repeating arguments you’ve heard/read in certain apologetic/philosophical works. Not once did I even suggest that “your arguments are wrong because of where you picked them up!” or anything akin to that. I never committed the genetic fallacy.
“Yes I’ve done reading in this area. Not extensively by any means, but I have. However, I am also a firm believer that if a position is true, then anything opposing the true position is necessarily false. That is basic to the rules of logic. So if what you believe is false, self defeating, and would imply unbiblical views and so forth, then I am justified in rejecting it.”
Good thing internalism/evidentialism doesn’t suffer from these problems! A highly unrefined and caricatured version of them might, but not the kind that I hold.
“I too am baffled. So again, we won’t get anywhere. If you grant my premise “we can know without knowing how we know”, then its no big leap to believe that one could have knowledge with out certainty. I also believe I have addressed (I haven’t read the article in a while) that to claim that we must have certainty for knowledge is self defeating and would lead to an infinite regress which would mean we can’t know anything at all.”
This would be meaningful if I claimed that knowledge requires certainty… I just don’t think you have a clue as to what I’m trying to tell you. I’m basically at a loss for words on this one. I do believe we can have knowledge without certainty, as I’ve said numerous times before. Do go back and read what I’ve said to you more carefully when you’re able to.
“Yes I am aware that you are a foundationalist and I’m very glad to hear it! Forgive me if I lead you to believe otherwise.”
I assure you that you never once led me to believe that I’m not a foundationalist. 😉
“Regarding properly basic, and as I referred to earlier, there is a difference between a second order awareness and a first order awareness. But that in itself is a completely separate issue.”
It’s both separate and irrelevant at this point.
I left a section out of my last comment.
“However, I am also a firm believer that if a position is true, then anything opposing the true position is necessarily false. That is basic to the rules of logic. ”
This would only be the case if RE is necessarily true, Eric. Nobody has even demonstrated that it’s true contingently! For something to be necessarily false/true is to say that it could not have possibly obtained or failed to obtain. Do we really want to say that in no possible world is belief in God acquired in a non-properly basic way? I don’t think you could make even a remotely compelling argument for that.
Certainly if RE is true, then every other related view is false, but not necessarily false. You’d be hard-pressed to demonstrate that a non-RE scheme is metaphysically impossible.
I read through what we’ve said so far. As I admitted before, my time was pressed on these responses, for that I apologize. I do see where you initially agreed that knowledge does not require certainty, and I suppose I was confused in your question that seemed to be pressing the illustration and I took it to mean that you were asserting an objection to the principle. I think I see where you’re getting at, but I’d still say his uncertainty (test taker) was in regards to his knowledge of the content in the test, whether or not he made a claim about it.
“I assure you that you never once led me to believe that I’m not a foundationalist. 😉 “
This is what I meant earlier that I think we are talking past each other and perhaps getting lost in translation. I wasn’t implying that I was leading you to believe that you weren’t a foundationalist, lol, I was implying that I apologize if I lead you to believe that I took you for something other than a foundationalist. That is all. I think we may get each other much better had this been done in person.
And I read back, I did say that my 2nd response was a response/rebuttal to evidentialism. That being said, I know you brought up the internalist/externalist debate, but as I said, if evidentialism is false, and if you are saying (If not forgive me) that the two go hand in hand, then it would equally be a rebuttal to internalism as well. I hope you didn’t take it as anything personal. It was just giving my reasons for rejecting evidentialism, which I take to be a dangerous view. But again, just my position.
That being said I’ll look at those articles that you sent as you claim this is not the case. I’d be very interested as to see why not. I should be able to view this over the weekend.
I don’t think that first and second order awareness is irrelevant. You claim that one must be aware of a belief in order for it to be properly basic. This is one of those areas where I strongly disagree. One’s lack of articulation, knowledge, epistemic warrant/justification etc are on my view irrelevant to it being a properly basic belief. So I think the opposite of what you said originally, that is, I hold that properly basic beliefs don’t need to be able to be articulated or have an awareness of them being “properly basic”.
So here is where, if I understand it correctly, where the evidentialist (and if internalism applies as well as there are strong/weak versions of it) epistemology and criteria fails. Also, I do think that a first order/second order awareness would be relevant. If you hold that a justification for a belief must be at least in principle capable of being made aware by the person, then a person could have a second order awareness of it even if it is not the center of their awareness. I THINK you might agree with that.
Regarding necessity, I was using a modus Tollens to show that if one is true, than the other is false, as you seemed to agree at the end. If you feel that I am guilty of using the word “necessary” too loosely, then I apologize. But again, using modus Tollens, then a counterfactual would show that in this world (not speaking in a metaphysically necessary sense but a logically necessary sense), then if one is true, then the other must be false. As it stands in the modus Tollens, it could be an open question. That is my only point I was making to contrast the two and to show why I would reject one over the other. That is all.
However, regarding possible world semantics, yes I would want to say that there is no possible world in which a maximally great being would leave knowledge/belief in God up to soley evidentialist criteria. I would agree that there is no strict, logical contradiction in saying that it is a strict logical possibility for it to be so (free from contradictions), but that wouldn’t justify that it has a broad logical possibility (being actualizable). Given Perfect Being Theology and the crucial importance of knowledge of God and/or responsibility to salvation, then as I said earlier, getting into heaven would be like getting into Harvard.
One more thing I’d say is that, as Dr. Craig puts it, there is a difference in knowing Christianity to be true and showing Christianity to be true. So yes, I think that is at least a “remotely compelling argument” for my position.
I look forward to reading the articles you sent and feel free to email the page other articles that you recommend so that I could take a look at them. During the week I’m pressed for time and currently on two important projects, but I certainly would be interested in your position as it relates to God, salvation, knowledge, properly basic beliefs and so on. Thank you very much.
Concerning my being a foundationalist:
I was totally being sarcastic, brother! Just a joke. 🙂 I understood you loud and clear. My apologies for the poor humor!
Regarding necessity and RE being true necessarily:
Yes, I was just suggesting that you were using the term ‘necessarily false’ in a pretty non-standard and incorrect way. But, if you regard RE as necessary, then, well, you haven’t!
As noted, for something to be necessarily false is to say that it couldn’t possibly be true in any possible world. Now here we will probably not agree (surprise!), because for one, who actually agrees about anything in philosophy, right?! Second, even professional philosophers are sharply divided over the logic of modality. Personally I do not believe in the species of possibility often called ‘logical possibility’ — I believe ‘logical impossibility’ is a real thing, but not logical possibility. For the reasons why, check out Peter van Inwagen’s essay entitled ‘Modal Epistemology’ available free online. It’s currently where I stand on the issue, but I could perhaps change my mind at some point. Anyhoo, that isn’t exactly germane to our discussion. I prefer to speak in terms of something being metaphysically or intrinsically possible/impossible depending on what we’re discussing. Regardless of what type of modality one wishes to recognize this state of affairs we’re discussing under (RE being true necessarily), it won’t matter. Possibility and necessity are interdefinable. A state of affairs is necessary iff (if and only if, that is) its negation is impossible.
Consider: Everyone that comes to know God exists necessarily does so in a properly basic way.
I don’t know how you could hope to demonstrate that this proposition’s negation is impossible. I could easily construct a heap of thought experiments that are coherent and that also describe someone coming to know that God exists in a variety of ways. Mind you, it only has to be possible *simpliciter*. The precise species of modality doesn’t matter, although I believe broad logical possibility (as some would call it) is better characterized as metaphysical possibility, and this is precisely what we’d be looking for with respect to our question. To say otherwise really just seems to strain credulity entirely. My guess is that the argument would have to be extremely elaborate and would probably be couched in some pretty dubious premises. Mind you the scenario doesn’t have to be “solely evidentialist criteria” at all, though I see nothing impossible about that — especially because I believe that’s *actually* the case. 😉
An additional problem with your view is that I think that it’s patently false. Are we to suppose that nobody has ever come to know God exists via evidentialist means or some other way that doesn’t fall under the guise of Reformed epistemology? Hardly! I, for one, did not come to know God exists in a properly basic way, so quite frankly, I couldn’t possibly entertain your view.
Well, I never said that evidentialism and internalism go hand in hand by necessity. They are related, but not the very same thing. I’ll leave the epistemology alone for now. I do hope you get a chance to dive more into the internalism/externalism debate. It’s pretty central to this discussion.
I’m a Molinist! I’m more of the Thomas Flint variety, but I disagree with very little that Dr. Craig has to say concerning Molinism. So it seems like we’re in agreement there!
Blah! I should have phrased it this way:
Consider: “Necessarily, everyone that comes to know God exists does so in a properly basic way.”
I was rushing.