Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Last Epistemology Lecture: 16 Ideas

I hope this is not my last bleat on epistemology, but, inspired by the book, The Last Lecture (which I have not read), here are some noetic imperative:

1. Fear of the Lord is the beginning (and end) of knowledge.

2. Christianity is a knowledge claim and a knowledge tradition.

3. We may learn of epistemological virtue from the teachings and life of Jesus Christ. See my book, On Jesus.

4. Knowledge is justified, true belief, not communal consensus, not what our best theories tell us (they may be wrong), not our sacred narrative because it gives us meaning.

5. Hold yourself intellectually accountable for your beliefs. That is, your beliefs are not like the color of your eyes. They need to be justified.

6. Hold others intellectually accountable for their beliefs. They may have a political right to believe P, but that in no way means that P is true or rational. You have the right to hold to the doctrines of the First Church of the Transgalactic Taco Shell, but that fact fails to justify these doctrines intellectually. In fact, you have the right to be wrong. And I have the right to tell you that you are wrong, and vice versa.

7. One's theory of truth is a metaphysical claim; how we know the truth is an epistemological claim.

8. Hard empiricism (Hume) leads to hard skepticism.

9. Hard skeptics should be more skeptical about their skepticism (Pascal).

10. All epistemology is personal and social. We come to know as unique beings amidst a constellation of social factors. This in no way leads to relativism. We come to know mathematical and logical truths as unique individuals amidst social factors, but this does not relativize math or logic.

11. On may know P is true without complete certainty that P is true.

12. Certainty in matters of religious beliefs is not necessary arrogance. Jesus claimed that his followers had certainty about this identity (John 17).

13. Some beliefs are foundational and not derived from other beliefs, such as:

A. A=A
B. A does not equal non-A
C. Either A or non-A
D. Modus ponens
E. Modus tolens
F. Reductio ad absurdum.

14. Logical fallacies are common and should be unmasked by learning what they are and identifying them in fallacious arguments. See A. Weston, A Rulebook for Arguments.

15. Logical coherence is a necessary, but not sufficient, test for truth.

16. Prayer is a vital part of virtuous knowing.


pgepps said...

Good stuff! I suspect that #7 sounds more like the statement of a problem to me than to you, and I'm not particularly sure what warrant (or what telos) we find for #12. In particular, I've never seen anyone come up with the PNC without deriving it from more commonplace observations.

pgepps said...

apologies for the typo. it was #13, and NOT #12, that I intended to question in the last.

Kevin Winters said...

I like #6, especially the last sentence. ;o)

Jeremy said...

You say that I can know that P without being certain that P. I suspect that you would argue that as long as I have believe that P, and that P is true, and I'm justified to some point just shy of certainty, then I know that P.

How high does my justification have to be?

What do you think about closure under conjunction? The reason I ask is that if you set the level of justification needed to turn a true belief into knowledge anywhere below absolute certainty, then you can always string enough beliefs that you know (that is true beliefs justified to degree x where x is the level of justification required for knowledge but not certainty) together such that you don't have enough justification to know the conjunction.

Doug Groothuis said...

I don't see why they have to be conjuncts, if they have independent probability.

pgepps said...

#16 keeps growing on me.

David said...

Hi Jeremy,

If I know independently the propositions [p], [q], and [r], then don't I necessarily also know the proposition which represents their conjunction [p + q + r]?

I'm not sure I understand why this isn't the case. To spare others the boring details, feel free to write me at dleonard [at] uark [dot] edu.

Take care!

Yossman said...

Does belief in God as properly basic also come under #13?

pgepps said...

@yossman--I wouldn't have described a "properly basic" truth-claim as foundational and underived. The latter descriptions, I would think, have different metaphysical freight. Perhaps it could be argued differently, but as I understand it "properly basic" is a quality of the claim as such, however the claim is derived, and whether one asserts that it is "foundational" or refrains from doing so.

I would be glad to be directed to any good source correcting that analysis, if it doesn't sound right.

David said...

Typically a belief is thought to be 'properly basic' if its justification is not derived from other beliefs, such as sense experience and the like. I prefer to talk about these beliefs being non-inferentially justified, because it makes the intended meaning more clear.

As for whether belief in God counts as such a belief, this represents a particularly contentious issue for epistemologists. Those who answer in the affirmative will likely invoke an externalist theory of justification. And the question of how to understand justification is the central problem in contemporary epistemology.