Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It Must Be "The Will of the Gods." Or just dumb luck....

Jerry has a post this morning that addresses the exact discussion that we were having yesterday in class. He comes to very much the same conclusion that I keep circling back to: SO WHAT? Sure, maybe Jamie's point about a priori justifications of our knowledge is interesting in some abstract philosophical sense, but it does no practical work in the real world (which is perhaps why we are discussing it in a philosophy class). Again, congratulations on attacking the foundations of every knowledge claim in the universe. What's your point?

Ultimately, science wins because it works. I don't see why any more justification is needed.

At any rate, here is the link to the blog post:


  1. I suppose the answer to "so what?" when it comes to questions of philosophy is always: For it's own sake. There is, at least to me and to most people who enjoy philosophy, an inherent value and love of pondering these issues and having these discussions all for their own sake, regardless of if anything ever comes of them.

    In the more concrete sense though, I get very wary whenever someone claims that philosophy does "no practical work in the real world". No matter what you're doing, whether it's microbiology, politics, economics, medicine, engine mechanics... no matter what you're doing HOW you do it, WHY you do it, and WHAT you do with the results comes down to a "philosophy" that you hold. Leaving that philosophy unexamined and unquestioned is the ultimate cause of most every tragedy I can think of off hand.

  2. I did not say that philosophy does no practical work in the real world. I said that your particular philosophical point does no practical work.

    If one accepts your assertion that all belief systems ultimately rest on certain a priori assumptions, then what? We are left with exactly the problem that we now face: how do we choose between competing systems? You seem to be making the argument that since we can't absolutely justify any of them, then they are all equally valid.

  3. I'm happy to recognize both Jamie and David as pragmatic pluralists, seeking to justify religion and irreligion alike by their respective fruits for those who practice them. That's how we'll bake the bread most appetizing to each, and how we'll learn to all just get along.

  4. I am fine with being labeled as a pragmatic pluralist, with the caveat that the existence of a plurality of valid approaches doesn't imply that every approach shares an equally valid footing. The mere existence of an alternative belief system doesn't automatically afford it external validity. I think the disagreement here (such as it is) stems from the view that some form of external validity is unnecessary. Utility and validity are easily confused, in my opinion. In fact, it's likely that I'm not being entirely clear on the issue.

  5. I think the point David was making is theists (e.g., William Lane Craig) often argue that since first principles can't, by definition, be validated by anything other than the principle itself, then, that circularity gives religion the same epistemological status as math or logic. This you're-as-bad-as-us argument sounds interesting if it involves a lot of emotion and hand waving but it doesn't take long to collapse upon itself. An god, being the sustenance of all things extant, is in the same metaphysical boat.

    What is glaring omission from this assertion is a data set. Where's the data for any god?There is none.

    We have to make some assumptions to even get the conversation started. We can't start from a point of extreme skepticism (e.g., we can't know anything and the world is an illusion) and then argue that a god is out there somewhere in reality. That doesn't get us anywhere; it's also absurd. We must first make the assumption that we're not brains in a vat, a computer-generated program on a hard drive, or being deceived by Descartes evil demon. Once we get past that point then we can work with what we call reality. The gods and fairies claims are taken on merit in this world; not in the one of extreme skepticism. Empirical investigation shows that mathematics and logic work, otherwise we wouldn't use it. The same can't be said for gods or fairies.

    As G.E. Moore said, "here is one hand..."

  6. Thanks for bailing me out on that one, Dean.