Friday, May 22, 2009

Epistemology - Some More Thoughts

1. Certainty about information being true is properly justified according to the source of that information.

2. God is the ultimate and only infallible source of information.

3. Therefore, certainty in the strictest sense is only possible via revelation from God.

4. Perspicuity is important to certainty.

5. Scripture is the highest form of revelation, because it is the most perspicuous.

6. Scripture is not God's only revelation to men, for Scripture itself testifies clearly to general revelation.

7. General revelation may not teach much clearly, but it does clearly teach the existence of God, time, space, general morality, and logic (inter alia).

8. General revelation is manifest in one way by the imprint on the human heart of the knowledge of the existence of God, [one's own existence - the existence of other minds], time, space, general morality, and logic (inter alia).

8. If Scripture teaches a proposition, that proposition is necessarily true.

9. No other teacher besides Scripture (at the present time) both provides propositions and shares this quality of infallibity.

10. Therefore, nothing can be known with absolute certainty aside from what is taught in Scripture [or General Revelation] or what is properly deduced from Scripture [and/or General Revelation].

11. Men, however, are capable of using imperfect knowledge.

12. Some knowledge is more imperfect than other knowledge.

***

Hopefully this list of 12 items spells out a framework of epistemology that is understandable, even if not everyone agrees.

-TurretinFan

21 comments:

Paul Manata said...

"10. Therefore, nothing can be known with absolute certainty aside from what is taught in Scripture or what is properly deduced from Scripture."

11*. My existence is not taught in Scripture or deducible from Scripture.

12*. I know that I exist with absolute certainty.

13*. Therefore, 10 is false.

I'd also say some other things, but I'd just as easily link to this:

http://philofreligion.homestead.com/files/CertaintyandIrrevisability.htm

Turretinfan said...

Yes - I will modify 10 ... it should say "or General Revelation" after "Scripture."

-TurretinFan

Paul Manata said...

TF,

Can you please define what you mean by
philosophical certainty" or "certainty."

Turretinfan said...

complete assurance

Paul Manata said...

Well, that's just psychological certainty. Epistemic certainty doesn't follow from that.

Furthermore, I find your revised [10] dubious.

Gneral revelation reveals God, right. Not my existence. Or does it?

If you mean we can be (epistemically) certain about all things that are general revelation, I'd disagree. A tree in my backyard is general revelation, but it doesn't follow I have epistemic certainty if its existence, for I could be dreaming.

Turretinfan said...

No reason has been given by you to draw a distinction between "psychological" and "epistemic" certainty.

Yes, general revelation reveals that God is one's creator, and consequently that one exists.

-TurretinFan

Paul Manata said...

TF,

"No reason has been given by you to draw a distinction between "psychological" and "epistemic" certainty".

a) If the distinction is standard, one wouldn't think he needs to spell it out.

b) I did, however, link to that Sudduth paper about 3 times and asked you to read it. The distinction is made there as well.

c) Psychological certainty PC is a descriptive property, epistemic certainty EC is normative.

PS refers to the degree of confidence or assurance or conviction a person has in a belief.

ES refers to the degree of warrant the belief has. ES has the best possible warrant, a warrant that precludes all possible reasons there may be for doubting a proposition.

So parsed out, PS does not entail ES, though ES may, and frequently does, entail PS.

A "complete assurance", as you say, is simply a subjective state of affairs, a description of your psychological attitide toward a proposition. Thus, unwittingly, you've made 'knowledge' nothing better than the colloquial use of the term (ala John Robbins), i.e., *an opinion*.

So, *as it stands* to say "a complete assurance" is to only give us something like psycholohical certainty, telling us how you *feel* towards a proposition. Now, you may want to build up your claim to something like: "Complete assurance *based on the grounds* that a belief is indubitable, or has no possible reason(s) for doubting it." And if that's your view, then we'll have more to say.

"Yes, general revelation reveals that God is one's creator, and consequently that one exists".

I'm confused now. If SR and GR reveals God's existence and law (with SR revealing salvation, of course), and neither reveal *my* existence, yet I can have epistemic certainty of my existence, then it is false what you say that: "Therefore, nothing can be known with absolute certainty aside from what is taught in Scripture [or General Revelation] or what is properly deduced from Scripture [and/or General Revelation]."

So, and quite besides other problems I have with some of your statements, 10 looks false.

Paul Manata said...

I noted I used "ES" when I meant "EC", sorry for any confusion.

Andrew said...

Is epistemic certainty possible and if so under what conditions?

Turretinfan said...

Andrew: I'll let Paul answer that question, since he seems to want to use the separate category of EC.

Paul Manata said...

Andrew,

Yes, as TF said of my position, Epistemic Certainty EC is in a separate category from psychological certainty PC, that this is so is self evident.

Your question is whether EC is possible under any circumstances (PC is obviously possible, just ask many Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, and Christians if they are "fully assured" of their system). I'd be inclined to say yes, but the beliefs that are epistemically certain are few and far between.

Typically, beliefs that make the cut are beliefs like the belief that you exist, introspective beliefs (like you are being appeared to redly, or you feel a pain), and some mathematical and logical truths (though apparently Descartes thought even 2+2=4 could be doubted).

Generally, beliefs that preclude any possible reason for doubting, are candidates for certainty. However, this is very general as there may be problems with all candidate conceptions of epistemic certainty, there being no universal consensus of just what conception of epistemic certainty is appropriate or the correct analysis. Yet, given that, the most popular candidates do not admit of much inclusion, and certainly not any (or many, most) theological beliefs (and this latter category seems to only make it in when the conception of epistemic certainty is not as strict as traditional conceptions).

For more read Sudduth:

http://philofreligion.homestead.com/files/CertaintyandIrrevisability.htm

and the SEP entry on certainty:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/certainty/

Turretinfan said...

With all due respect, Paul, it's not "self-evident" that "Epistemic Certainty EC is in a separate category from psychological certainty PC," for it were, you'd be able easily to explain the difference in a sentence rather than having to direct folks to a barely intelligible paper by Sudduth (which I don't recommend).

-TurretinFan

Paul Manata said...

TF,

"With all due respect, Paul, it's not "self-evident" that "Epistemic Certainty EC is in a separate category from psychological certainty PC,"

Sure it is, that's why almost everyone writing on the subject has pointed out this basic distinction.

"for it were, you'd be able easily to explain the difference in a sentence"...

But I did. If you note my point (c) in my post time stamped "Sunday, May 24, 2009 2:08:00 PM" you can see I "easily explained the dfference."

Furthermore, it is not necessarily the case that if a proposition p is self-evident, one can explain p's self-evidency to any and all in a matter of a sentence.

"...rather than having to direct folks to a barely intelligible paper by Sudduth (which I don't recommend)".

Of course, red flags should go up when we see others calling papers written by Oxford educated philosophers "barely intelligible." Surely you've engaged in a bit of rhetorical excess. At any rate, not only do you not bring up problems with Sudduth's paper (which I recommend), you fail to mention the other paper I linked to.

So, so far we have pointed out that your definition of certainy is psychological certainty and (apparently, minus any further analysis on your end) not different than a "strongly held opinion" (since members of various religious can and do have "complete assurance" that their view is correct), as well as one of the members of your list being false (and there are many other problems I haven't brought up yet).

Turretinfan said...

Let me rephrase: "Surely you've engaged in a bit of rhetorical excess by calling it 'self-evident.'"

Mitch said...

Paul,

When I think of one example you gave that might fit into the EC the belief that you exist, couldn’t a point or argument be made that you are just a character in a book and you are no more real than Sherlock Holmes.

Would you say that the Bible contains all/some/no knowledge that fits into the epistemic certainty category?

Thanks

Paul Manata said...

Mich,

You may not be certain that I exist, and you may have possible grounds to doubt my existence; however, if I were to try to doubt my existence, I'd have to realize that I could only doubt my existence only if I existed to do the doubting; so I must exist in order to doubt my existence. This says nothing about what I exist as.

"Would you say that the Bible contains all/some/no knowledge that fits into the epistemic certainty category"?

I don't know what it would be; but I'm pretty sure that that doesn't matter (piety woobies aside).

Turretinfan said...

The term "exist" is fairly meaningless if it includes existence in the Red King's dream.

Andrew said...

Thanks for the links Paul,

I have read Dr. Sudduth's paper and printed the other to read later.

This question may be inept, perhaps because I have misunderstood; is the belief that there is such a thing called epistemic certainty an example of epistemic certainty?

Paul Manata said...

TF,

This will probably be my last reply as another self-evident truth is upon us: We're not progressing in a fruitful way and too much preliminary knowledge is required that seems lacking for us to move forward in a time-saving way.

Anyway,

"The term "exist" is fairly meaningless if it includes existence in the Red King's dream".

Some basic knowledge of Descartes and doubt would be helpful in this thread. I exist as a thinking thing, though I may not have a body, etc. Of course it is naive to bring up novels, books, kings (Red, or otherwise), his dreams, etc. Note well: all of those can be doubted. I can doubt the existence of books, novels, King Red, his dreams, etc, etc, etc,. Yet, when it comes to doubting my existence, I cannot. To doubt my existence I would have to exist in order to do the doubting.

Turretinfan said...

Yes, I found Descartes' inability to doubt his own "existence" to be meaningless, unless one predicates real existence to the word "existence." Existing as a figment of someone's imagination is not enough.

One's own existence is an example of innate knowledge, knowledge conveyed by way of general revelation.

-TurretinFan

Paul Manata said...

Even though I desire to comment on the above, I'll refrain. I stopped by to post a link to this, though:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2009/05/epistemic-certainty-and-belief-in-god.html