Again, Whence the Agnosticism?

First: Happy New Year!  Now, let’s review the last several posts (not counting Friday Roundup) and conversations:

Objection 1. While God or some spiritual aspect to existence may exist, we could know nothing of either, or, if we could, it would require our knowledge of evolution or physics to be incorrect.

Response:  That is incorrect.  We could “know” something of either, unless one means by “know” empirically/scientifically, which most Christian theologian/philosophers do not mean.  Since they do not, it has nothing to do with evolution or physics to begin with.  We can “know” in the sense we all use when speaking of metaphysical claims, which is to believe, to conclude, and then to provide reasons for those beliefs and conclusions.

We have been told that Bernard and JP did not mean by “know” and “knowledge” only what could be gained or proven empirically/scientifically/mathematically—that they are not ruling out other ways of knowing or what constitutes knowledge.  But what are those other “ways” or methods?  The only way any of us have, including empiricists/philosophical naturalists/physicalists, which is holistic reasoning.  In other words, those who are empiricists//philosophical naturalists/physicalists did not use those methods to become such, to inhabit those narratives of belief.  They inhabit those narratives by faith, and then tease out the implications in every area of life through holistic reasoning.  I offer nothing new here and nothing but what any of us, in fact, did to arrive at where we are philosophically as to any of these questions.  It is not “my” method, but everyone’s.  To try and refute this method, one would have to do the very thing he is disputing, so it would be self-defeating.

And “holistic” simply means that while we include reason, logic, science, and the best understandings of the empirical evidence, it also includes wisdom gained from philosophy and the humanities, our personal experiences, socio-economic background, education, intuition, relationships, and other such factors that make up what we bring, as a totality, to all these types of questions in reaching our conclusions.  We all do this.  There is no other method, whatever one’s beliefs or philosophical persuasions.  None.

Objection 2. Okay, so no clash with science, and this method is what we all use, but even if we could know of God’s existence and morality by derivation, how it is that we come to believe contradictory things about God and morality?

Response:  Because we inhabit different narratives.  But the fact of disagreement doesn’t mean God doesn’t exist or that morality isn’t objective, just like it wouldn’t mean the opposite either.  And the mere fact of disagreement is not a rational basis for agnosticism regarding the ontological nature of moral statements or God’s existence.

Objection 3. If we can all reason (holistically) and come to different conclusions regarding morality, how is this process “reliable” and how do we know we are not just guessing as to moral assertions.

Response:  The word “reliable” makes no sense in this context.  It also reveals an implicit empiricism.  If one thinks “reliable” means our reasoning must bring everyone to the same conclusion regarding the ontological nature of morality, or God’s existence, or if any given moral assertion is mathematically “correct” 51% of the time, then he is using a word that doesn’t even make sense in this context.  What philosopher of ethics, philosopher in general, or theologian talks about making “correct” moral statements or actions, in the sense of “more or less” or percentages, or “more-often-than-not”?  Who?  And who would ever claim some sort of “reliability” in the context of ethical decisions and actions.  What does that even mean?  Reliable how?  If I choose to not lie, steal, be unfair, unjust, and refrain from violence when there is conflict—what is “reliable” about that?  If I choose to do the opposite, what is “reliable” about that?  If I choose to not have an opinion regarding whether or not morality is ontologically relative or objective, what is “reliable” about that?  The term literally makes no sense in this context.  We might as well substitute “mash potatoes” for “reliable” and it would make about as much sense.  I am unaware of anywhere in the literature where ethics is discussed in terms of “reliability”.

At one point Bernard asserted this: “You offered a method by which one could come to make correct moral statements e.g reach the conclusion that torture is morally wrong in a universe where this is actually the case.”

Another clear example of disconnect (what an understatement).  Nowhere, in all the posts related to this subject, nor in my subsequent comments, have I ever asserted any such thing, ever.  What I have been talking about was never meant to be a calculus, an algorithm, or an equation, for making the “correct” moral statement or action, 51% of the time.  I don’t even know how one would go about such a thing.  And I have never proposed a “method” that purported to accomplish such a ridiculous goal.  Who would even think of this topic in those terms?

Nothing I have offered was ever meant to be a means to an end.  So, after all the other misunderstandings had been put aside, I’m told that, “even if” we could know these things, we couldn’t know them in a “reliable” way.  What?  I never claimed we could.  It is an objection to nothing I’ve asserted.  So, then I asked if by “reliable” it was meant empirically/scientifically.  I was told “no” it just means 51% (or more likely than not) of the time.  Let that sink in.  Any bar like “more or less” “more- likely-than-not” are simply very loose ways of talking about percentages.  It is an implicit empirical bar.  It has no bearing whatsoever upon the ontological status of morality and our knowing such, when it has been made clear by “knowing” we do not mean empirically/mathematically.  See response to number 1.

If Bernard or anyone thinks it is reasonable to be agnostic regarding the ontological nature of morality, and whether-or-not moral statements and actions reflect that status, because we can’t know either, percentage wise, to be “correct” or not doesn’t understand the word “reasonable”.  Second, it is an obvious empirical bar or hurdle, and one completely irrelevant to the question or topic (unless one admits to empiricism as a presupposition, which is fine but admit it).

Here is another further objection to seeing “correctness” or being “right” in terms of “reliability” or “hitting the mark” as to specific moral statements (“Murder is evil”) or actions.  The attempt here is to try and abstract out every single moral statement or action and ask how we can know it is the “correct” one and that such is actually the case (which by, I’m assuming “case” is meant objectively the case).  Here is the problem however, one cannot abstract out any single moral statement or action from the narrative in which it arises.  We are not addressing the matter of whether-or-not every single ethical utterance or action is the “correct” one, in a “reliable” sense.  Again, that makes no sense whatsoever.  More importantly, it is an objection to nothing I’ve asserted.  It would be like me showing someone an airplane I built, and the person objecting, “But I see it is not reliable as a submarine.”  Ummm, okay, yes, you are right.  And…so…?

Here is the most I can assert:  I inhabit the narrative of the Judeo-Christian story and the logical corollary an objective morality.  Thus, when I do make moral statements and act upon them (or not), I believe they reflect or have an objective referent (God).  Now, whether I act accordingly, whether-or-not I make all the right choices and acts, the ones I believe best align with that narrative, is entirely irrelevant to the question of whether-or-not that narrative is true in an ontological sense, true as in the way things actually are, objectively, regardless of what I or anyone else thinks about them.  And I would never claim that when I acted in alignment with that narrative (not stealing for instance) that I was doing anything “reliable”.  I would claim I was doing something that was in line with that narrative, that reflected the teachings, the history, and oral tradition of that narrative.  Not only is that the most I can assert regarding morality, it is the most anyone can assert, regardless of what they believe about the ontological nature of morality or how “reliable” their moral statements may be.

So, if I believe I am doing something that is “correct” or right, or moral, or ethical, I am never saying anything about “reliability” or “hitting the mark”—I am saying something about the truthfulness of the narrative I inhabit and in some poor way trying to live faithfully to it.  I may often fail at that.  I may misunderstand what this narrative actually requires in any given instance.  I may be acting out of ignorance many times.  I may be absolutely wrong and this narrative may be false.  But I am not claiming any sort of infallibility here to begin with.  So, the moment we put this in context and perspective, we see that Bernard’s request for some statement regarding an empirical measure is simply not pertinent nor reasonable.

Now, as to “guessing”.  If I or anyone, upon reflection, look back and realize they made the wrong ethical choice—that would hardly mean we were initially guessing.  That does not follow at all.  To think we were guessing, one would have to presuppose there was no way of knowing what the correct ethical choice was, even in theory.  In other words, just because someone makes the wrong choice, or fails to act, doesn’t mean there isn’t a correct choice.  But no ethical theory, no epistemology regarding ethics, asserts that it also contains the added benefit of, if adopted, guaranteeing a 51% “hit-rate”.  How can one even read that and not laugh?  Imagine with me: You are sitting in philosophy 101 and covering ethics.  The professor has just gone through the various epistemological theories, touching on ontology, objectivity v. relativity, and general survey of the questions, disagreements, and so on in this area.  He again notes the major ethical theories and asks how we might compare and contrast each one.  Someone raises their hand and asks: What is the “hit-rate”, mathematically, for each one as to the correct ethical choice or action?”  Yes, it boggles the mind.

One can believe he is doing the moral thing, not guessing, and, at the same time, note he could be wrong as well.  I would hope Bernard isn’t refraining from killing the person who cut him off in traffic simply because it’s against the law.  And, I would also hope he wouldn’t just be guessing as to whether it was moral or not if he did kill the person.  In other words, when faced with significant moral questions, choices, and dilemmas I would grant to Bernard that he isn’t simply tossing a coin and guessing and I would hope he grants that same minimum level of respect to those he disagrees with.

Will we always act according to our beliefs?  We will always make the right ethical choice, or do so more-often-than-not?  Who knows?  We would first have to know if one thought there was an objective “correct” choice to make—the relativist/moral skeptic does not.  Whether we will or not has nothing to do (mathematically or otherwise) with whether-or-not morality is ontologically objective or relative, or if we can “know” (believe/conclude to be true) such.  A moral skeptic may sometimes act more ethically than the moral realist and visa-versa.  So what?  The greater point is that Bernard’s question is completely and totally wrong as to anything I’ve asserted and is something I don’t think anyone would assert or think even relevant to what we are talking about.

Now, perhaps we are asking a purely practical question, like, if people believe morality to be either ontologically objective or relative, does it make a difference in how they act.  I think it does, but that doesn’t mean it proves one or the other to be true.  So even if that was Bernard’s point, it has no bearing or pertinence to anything I am arguing.

Objection 4. If people can use this process and come to different and even contradictory conclusions in these areas, how do we know who is right?  How do we adjudicate?

Response: Since we cannot settle these questions empirically/scientifically, they are adjudicated by reasoned argument and experience.  This means all one can ever have is consensus, not every single person in lock-step agreement as if the question were: Is the sun hot?  This is what any reasonable person would expect if we are talking about non-empirical, non-physical objects or forces.  Further, that we do this, move forward by consensus, is a fact.  All views regarding morality, when they become the dominant view, (unless they were imposed by force) were achieved by consensus and then law.  This is simply the way it works.  No one claims we need murder to be illegal because of the findings of science or empiricism.

Finally, when a moral realist claims that morality is objective and universal, he is doing two things at once (watch carefully): He is making a claim that follows from his presuppositions and is what he subjectively, meaning personally, believes.  However, he is not making a statement that morality is really (contrary to what he just told us) relative and subjective.  He believes his statement is true and reflects what morality is ontologically—thus it is true objectively and universally.  The same is true of the anti-realist (just reverse the above).  They are both subjectivists and objectivists, always and already, at the same time.  However, one of them is wrong.  So what?  Both should admit they could be wrong as should the agnostic.

So, my hope, at this point, is that we have now waded through all the straw-men, all the miss-readings, claims of clashes with science, claims of errors of logical fallacies, my own admitted poor communication skills, and any other hurdles that have come about from addressing this claim: Yes, God may exist (and morality as a derivative), but we could know nothing of either.

Well, we can, for all the reasons noted above, and the assertion in no way clashes with science, logic, or reason.  It does clash with philosophical naturalism/empiricism/scientism however.  I readily admit that.  I also admit I could be wrong—but I am not guessing.  We are all doing our best in that regard, I am sure.

So, my question still remains then.  If Bernard and JP’s agnosticism relied upon the objections herein addressed, what now?  If they did not, if there were totally different reasons, what are they?  And I ask not to refute or argue about them.  Frankly, I could care less.  I am however genuinely curious, because I have a theory.  I believe their reasons will reveal either an implicit or explicit commitment to empiricism/philosophical naturalism.  Nothing wrong there, it is a reasonable and logical narrative to inhabit given the presuppositions.  The greater question might be however, since it is a narrative inhabited by faith, a commitment not proved by the very methods it holds up as the ones others must meet, why choose it in that case?  That seems to violate Bernard’s sensitivity to matters of “taste”.  Further, many believe empiricism/philosophical naturalism/materialism to be ultimately nihilistic—does that give one pause as well—given there is nothing in science or some “fact” that would compel us to believe these narratives are empirically or scientifically proved, as in “facts”, to begin with—the very bar the empiricist requires others to meet.  Any way, if they care to answer, I am honestly interested to hear their reasons.

P.S. If any comment simply re-states something already noted in one of the objections, I will simply respond: See response to objection such-and-such.

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14 Responses to Again, Whence the Agnosticism?

  1. Burk says:

    Objection 1: This is bizarrely wrong-headed as usual. Firstly, the proposition is not that we “could know nothing” about spiritual phenomena, but that we in fact do know nothing. The spiritual phenomena could certainly make themselves clearer, given all the various properties and powers ascribed to them, but, to rigorous observation, they have not.

    Secondly, your formulation of your alternative way of knowing- “… which is to believe, to conclude, and then to provide reasons for those beliefs and conclusions”– is empty. It dresses up a belief of no particular epistomological value as “knowledge”. Which is to say that claims should not be equivalent to conclusions. And conclusions about reality should have some intercourse with reality in their justification. That is why empiricism is so critically central to warranted knowledge.

    Your “holstic” method of reasoning is not reliable. It leads to whatever Donald Trump believes as well as anything else. He certainly consults his socioeconomic background for his beliefs … does that help their truth? I don’t think so. What you describe is an alternative way of believing, but not of knowing.

    “Objection 3… If we can all reason (holistically) and come to different conclusions regarding morality, how is this process “reliable” and how do we know we are not just guessing as to moral assertions.

    Response: The word “reliable” makes no sense in this context. “

    Well, this is a highly gratifying discussion. it seems that you have finally concluded that morals are not objective after all, but rather subjective, which leads to your new relativistic frame. If they were objective in any real and useful way, there would be right and also reliable answers to their existence and nature.

    “I inhabit the narrative of the Judeo-Christian story and the logical corollary an objective morality. Thus, when I do make moral statements and act upon them (or not), I believe they reflect or have an objective referent (God). Now, whether I act accordingly, whether-or-not I make all the right choices and acts, the ones I believe best align with that narrative”

    This continues the case. Having a narrative does not rise to the same epistemological level as having an objective truth about reality, or knowledge. Indeed, it might be a social construct that you have selected from a smorgasbord of equally untrue ideologies. So you are in effect saying that you have a personal belief, which can not be defended on its own (objective) terms, so it ends up being a “narrative”, (one of many), which boils down to the same subjective morals that I have been portraying us inhabiting all along, in reality.

    “Response: Since we cannot settle these questions empirically/scientifically, they are adjudicated by reasoned argument and experience. ”

    This again restates the lack of objectivity and reliability to this supposed objective standard and theory, casting it down to a matter of subjectivity, which is the level where our moral sentiments and judgements operate, in actuality. Why even bother to state as above that the Christian theory even posits that morals are objective, if their objectivity can not be demonstrated, their nature reliably shown, and the whole theory has zero effect, as you mention elsewhere. A recent podcast about Pierre Bayle makes this point as well- that bad Christians are an argument about the lack of efficacy of Christian morals, as are good atheists- a complete lack of correlation, in the end. And when pressed, you admit to being functionally agnostic about it all as well.

    All of which again goes towards the question of why posit all this in the first place. I have an answer: pure bigotry and tribalism. All religions have had as their core a tribal function of binding the group, and what better way than to stake it on propaganda that we are better than them- better than the Jews, or the Pagans, or the Catholics, etc. etc. All due to our religion which tells us that it is objectively true, and that its moral system is objectively true as well.

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    • Burk,

      “Firstly, the proposition is not that we “could know nothing” about spiritual phenomena, but that we in fact do know nothing.”
      Wrong. That was not Bernard’s claim. Anyway, we can know something. It may be wrong. It may be right, but regardless, we can know (in the sense I speak of) something about such. To say we in fact do know nothing begs the very question and also presumes that knowledge is only warranted if empirical/scientific, which is again question-begging.
      “Secondly, your formulation of your alternative way of knowing- “… which is to believe, to conclude, and then to provide reasons for those beliefs and conclusions”- is empty.”
      This is self-defeating as it would make your philosophical claims empty as well.
      “Your “holstic” method of reasoning is not reliable.”
      Then it is not for you as well. It is your method too. Self-defeating. And since you mean by “reliable” empirically/scientifically, it is question-begging.
      “Objection 3… If we can all reason (holistically) and come to different conclusions regarding morality, how is this process “reliable” and how do we know we are not just guessing as to moral assertions. Response: The word “reliable” makes no sense in this context.”-Darrell
      “…it seems that you have finally concluded that morals are not objective after all, but rather subjective, which leads to your new relativistic frame.”
      Not so. How you “read” that out of the above or the entire post is beyond me.
      “Having a narrative does not rise to the same epistemological level as having an objective truth about reality, or knowledge.”
      A narrative is all that any of us have, including you. Self-defeating argument.
      All the rest is the usual question-begging and ad hominem nonsense. You seem incapable of any other type of argument.

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  2. Hi Darrell

    Happy New Year to you too.

    To the extent that I understand your position, I don’t think there’s much disagreement between us here. You are using a theory of truth that is different to correspondence theory, I think, and at that point I’ve no problem with the idea that we can gain knowledge of non-correspondence truths. I think for instance of pragmatist models of truth, or the coherence model. That type of knowledge is certainly available, in every sphere, be it scientific, social, mythological, moral, whatever.

    You express your knowledge in terms of belief, and make it clear that you are not speaking of this knowledge being a reliable guide to reality (in the sense that we can speak meaningfully of the likelihood of making true or false statements) and again, once this type of knowledge is off the table, we have no clash.

    It often takes a long time to get to how people are using terms like knowledge and truth, and to be honest while I’m now much clearer on what you’re not saying, I’m less certain about the type of truth theory you propose. (You seem to have a lot in common with the neo-pragmatists, people like Putnam and Rorty, say, but I know that’s not the view you identify with).

    Anyway, let’s not argue just for the sake of it. As I say, as best I can tell from what you’re saying, I’d say we’re on the same page here. Correspondence style truth statements about moral truths are not available to us, we both agree on this, but you would nevertheless hold that we can still gain other types of knowledge of moral truth. I agree.

    Best

    Bernard

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    • Bernard,

      I certainly don’t want to argue for the sake of it. What I sought in the post was a summation and spring-board to the reasons for your agnosticism.

      “You express your knowledge in terms of belief, and make it clear that you are not speaking of this knowledge being a reliable guide to reality (in the sense that we can speak meaningfully of the likelihood of making true or false statements) and again, once this type of knowledge is off the table, we have no clash.”

      This is not quite right. We all (not just me) express any knowledge regarding moral claims, philosophical claims, claims regarding God’s existence in terms of belief. Of course, the empiricist (see Burk’s comments) must claim there is no knowledge, or possibility of knowledge, in these areas unless they can be proved empirically/scientifically (this is his belief), which I’m sure you know is to simply beg the question. And my post made it very clear as to what I think about the term “reliable” being used. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t think moral claims are not objectively, ontologically, true reflections of reality (of course I do). I could be wrong however. Again, “reliable” simply doesn’t work for all the reasons noted in the post, but that means nothing as to whether or not morality is ontologically objective or not.

      Putting that aside, I think we do agree more here than not, but that only makes me more curious regarding your reasons for being agnostic. I’m wondering if you wish to unpack that for us, while keeping in mind my theory regarding an implicit or explicit empiricism/naturalism. Or perhaps you would just admit it as a presupposition/belief—integral to the narrative you inhabit? Obviously, that would then make sense of any agnosticism.

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  3. Hi Darrell

    I’m still a little confused as to your position, because some of your comments above suggest a correspondence theory of truth is in play, which I know you reject.

    The philosophical position I find most appealing is that of the pragmatists. I like its practical focus; without that philosophy is simply an intellectual leisure pursuit, another on the long list of past times available to those on the spectrum. But I also think its core position, that no intellectual framework can be foundationally grounded, holds up well to scrutiny.

    The question then becomes, well if we can not justify our foundations either rationally or empirically, why choose one over another? I reject the fatalistic response of ‘that’s just the story I happen to inhabit’, because there is much to be gained from actively examining and adapting one’s views. The pragmatic response is, the most sensible thing to do is choose the world view that, given your particular life story, serves you best for the purpose of living a fulfilled life. This makes perfect sense to me.

    Agnosticism flows from this purely as a matter of taste. I simply have difficulty inhabiting, given the fallibility and contingency of all statements about the nature of reality, a world view that claims that I have, by some happy chance, happened upon the true nature of reality nevertheless. I leave ‘reality’ out there as some thing that we can respond to, in terms of the way it impacts upon us, but can make no claim to ever accurately modeling.

    And the simple, pragmatic answer as to why, is that I find this helpful. Because I have a strong personal aversion to the idea of ‘my cultural tradition is more truthful than yours’ I am unable to comfortably inhabit traditional religious narratives (eastern religious narratives, which do not always incorporate any such ontological claims, re easier for me to cope with, and there is much in Buddhism I enjoy, for example).

    Bernard

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    • Bernard,

      “I’m still a little confused as to your position, because some of your comments above suggest a correspondence theory of truth is in play, which I know you reject.”

      I don’t reject it if we are talking about physical objects and forces, but, we are not.
      “The question then becomes, well if we can not justify our foundations either rationally or empirically, why choose one over another?”

      As noted in the post, that is the whole point of holistic reasoning. We can justify them, simply not empirically/scientifically. Are you telling us we should choose empiricism over any other foundation or method?

      I reject the fatalistic response of ‘that’s just the story I happen to inhabit’…”

      I do too.

      “…The pragmatic response is, the most sensible thing to do is choose the world view that, given your particular life story, serves you best for the purpose of living a fulfilled life.”

      I don’t want to get side tracked here in a discussion over pragmatism, unless you are telling us it is why you are agnostic? But I’m sure you see the problem (the problem for all pragmatists) becomes answering what a “fulfilled” life should look like. Members of ISIS, Trump, a person in Iceland, a person in Brazil, would all answer this differently no doubt.

      “Agnosticism flows from this purely as a matter of taste.”

      I don’t understand this statement. Are you telling us agnosticism flows from pragmatism? How? And how is it a matter of taste? Does “taste” mean personal opinion?

      “I simply have difficulty inhabiting, given the fallibility and contingency of all statements about the nature of reality, a world view that claims that I have, by some happy chance, happened upon the true nature of reality nevertheless.”

      Well, I don’t think anyone thinks they have just “happened” upon the narrative they inhabit. I’m assuming you have reasoned to these ideas about pragmatism, agnosticism, and taste? Or do they have no rational, communicable sense to them? And why can’t one believe the narrative he inhabits is true, but admit at the same time he could be wrong?

      “I leave ‘reality’ out there as some thing that we can respond to in terms of the way it impacts upon us, but can make no claim to ever accurately modeling.”

      Why? Why not simply admit that our model could be wrong?

      “And the simple, pragmatic answer as to why, is that I find this helpful. Because I have a strong personal aversion to the idea of ‘my cultural tradition is more truthful than yours’…”

      Whether or not it is “only” a cultural tradition is an open question. It may reflect an actual ontological objective truth, meaning it would be true regardless of culture, so question-begging. Also, our very conversation, the charges you have brought against my posts, the talk of clashes with science, errors of logic, and so on contradict this idea you don’t think your agnosticism/pragmatism more truthful than the narrative I inhabit. Clearly it is not that strong of an aversion, wouldn’t you say?

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  4. Burk says:

    “However, that doesn’t mean I don’t think moral claims are not objectively, ontologically, true reflections of reality (of course I do).

    This is a classic statement of correspondence theory of truth- that some belief or claim corresponds to ontological reality, out there. (And I agree with that theory!) Warranting such a belief (thereby transforming it into “knowledge”) requires not only making the claim, or mounting various Trump-ian “holistic” reasonings, but having evidence staked on that reality which is the criterion. If you have this evidence in some private fashion, that may be sufficient for your own belief justification, but justifies those of no one else.

    Again, the basic equation is, that if you believe something about “out there” reality, then that reality has to be the core of its justification, via empiricism.

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  5. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    If you define empiricism as holistic thinking, be my guest. I am just putting a natural marker down for how to justify correspondence truth claims, as/which you are making.

    Objects of such claims, and of empricism, don’t have to be concrete, as you seem to think. Is gravitation a “thing”? No, it isn’t, but is reliably inferred from its effects. Is love a “thing”? No, but we can easily demonstrate that the properties of love are found in the behavior and thoughts of people, empirically. That was the job of religious people and theologians, before they gave up somewhere in the enlightenment … to demonstrate the clear presence and effects of god in the world. Hart’s diatribe about spirits in trees is a nice example of making such a claim but having nothing to back it up. If the claim is that we have superstitious feelings about such things, that is empirically true and demonstrable. If the claim is that such spirits actually exist, by a correspondence theory of truth, there is zero evidence for it.

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    • Burk,

      “If you define empiricism as holistic thinking, be my guest.”

      Empiricism is a philosophical belief system that is arrived at through the holistic process I described, though as Bernard notes, all such systems are adopted initially by faith or pre-supposed. It is not my definition but a settled understanding as far as it being a philosophical belief system and one not proven or adopted because empirically/scientifically proved to be true or the only method of knowing whether something is true or not.

      “Objects of such claims, and of empricism, don’t have to be concrete, as you seem to think.”

      Gravitation is a force that can be detected empirically. Love however, is not something that can be proved empirically to exist. Behavior and thoughts could have many causes (evolutionary/biological)—we would hardly say that such empirically proved that “love” existed as ontologically objective.

      That God or morality cannot be proven to exist empirically/scientifically means absolutely nothing as to whether they exist ontologically-objectively, because they are not physical objects or forces. But I repeat myself.

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  6. Hi Darrell

    You are clearly now running a correspondence theory of truth. This then undermines all of your defences in the post and serious discussion becomes impossible.

    Bernard

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  7. Bernard,

    I have no idea what you are talking about. What I wrote in the post–I wrote. You are welcome to engage the post (as long as you don’t simply repeat yourself). Regardless, why won’t you address my questions?

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  8. How does this: “I don’t reject it [correspondence truth theory] if we are talking about physical objects and forces, but, we are not.”- mean I am now appealing to such a theory? Since we are not talking about physical objects or forces, how is that not clear? Nowhere in my comments or post do I appeal to such a theory. One can believe God and morality, as a derivative, exist ontologically and objectively without appealing to a correspondence theory of truth (hate to break that to anyone). This is a diversion to keep from addressing my questions. Why not address my questions?

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  9. The idea I’ve introduced a correspondence theory of truth, or that only such a theory can be used for what I note in the post is ludicrous. Complete nonsense. Anyone who has perused my blog, even cursorily, knows I hold to an epistemology that is postmodern and views correspondence theories suspiciously, if not as false. As noted already, if we are talking about physical objects and forces, such a theory is indeed a reasonable one. But we are not, to state the obvious. Unless one is asserting that only such a theory can justify the statements I make, what indeed is the problem? And if one is asserting such, then he begs the question as I do not agree and would claim such as disputed to begin with. It is especially disputed if one claims that this theory is equivalent to or demands empiricism to justify truth claims.

    If I were to claim an epistemology, the one that probably comes closest to my view (with qualifications) is the sort of coherentism noted by Ted Poston. If anyone wants to get a view of what it entails, including criticism, see: https://syndicate.network/symposia/philosophy/reason-and-explanation1/

    And we don’t need to get side tracked regarding its veracity or explanatory power here—I simply note it to say, again, that the idea I am appealing to a correspondence theory of truth in my post or comments is absolute nonsense.

    The claim that I am appealing to such is a diversion, a red herring. I think we finally see that Bernard and JP did not want to talk about their agnosticism and the questions I posed, because (and, frankly, we knew this all along) they both know it rests upon a view that presupposes empiricism/naturalism to be true. And, as noted, that is fine. But own up to it. At least Burk has always been willing to own up to his philosophical views. Given no response, I think we can finally acknowledge Bernard and JP’s empiricism/naturalism and thus the reasons for their agnosticism. They are as committed as Burk to such and any difference, as far as I can see, is one purely of rhetorical style, sensibility, and personality (or as Burk noted once, Bernard is just being nicer), but none of any significance, which alone explains the choice to identify as agnostic as opposed to atheist. Clearly, a distinction without any significant difference (but we all knew that).

    As an aside, I grow tired of being told how much someone agrees with me, to invariably be told, oh, “if” that is what you are saying (which is always what I’ve been saying, nothing new, only people are not listening or reading) then “I disagree” now. Perhaps we should just leave it at that, which I am entirely happy to do.

    Cheers.

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