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Ch. 2: The Paradox of Belief 
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 Ch. 2: The Paradox of Belief
Ch. 2: The Paradox of Belief

Please use this thread to discuss the above section of Lex Bayer and John Figdor’s “Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart: Rewriting the Ten Commandments for the Twenty-first Century.”

You’re also welcome to create new threads however you see fit.



Mon Nov 03, 2014 10:32 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Paradox of Belief
Toward the end of the chapter, B & L say, "After all, most of us accept these notions in our everyday lives without feeling the need to explore all their nuances." By "most of us," I think they mean people in general, not just those who call themselves humanist, agnostic, or atheist. The notions they refer to are the first three non-commandments, which are "the bedrock beliefs of all subsequent beliefs":

1.) The world is real, and our desire to understand the world is the basis for belief. 2.) We can perceive the world only through our human senses. 3.) We use rational thought and language as tools for understanding the world.

Others may disagree, but I think that, apart from the hot buttons of morality, all of us do live by these principles. This would explain why we don't need to worry about people presenting hazards to us by using peculiar thinking as we go about our daily lives. Although people we may cross paths with and interact with might think evolution is bunk, on the more practical matters that form 99% of social contact, they're in synch with these principles. So I like the fact that these non-commandments aren't the property of any group but are truly general truths that we live by. Some of us appear to make more exceptions to them than others do.

I also like the way no. 2 enables us to say that denying evolution equals denying our senses. The theory rests on observations, many of them made through sophisticated tools. Yet these tools always reduce to the use of our senses.



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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Paradox of Belief
At first I thought they were putting too much emphasis on sense evidence, as evolution relies on a theory to make sense of what you're seeing of course. But they did cover that with #3.

It's sort of trivially true that understanding evolution relies on your senses, in that you're seeing something when it comes to interpreting DNA evidence, for example.



Sat Dec 06, 2014 10:32 am
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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Paradox of Belief
The paradox discussed in this chapter is the infinite regress, the idea that all claims eventually rest on a claim that cannot be justified, on the model of turtles all the way down.

I have some problems with this logic. First, I have a hypothesis about the origin of the Indian myth of kurma the turtle. This won't be familiar to t'othersiders, or to anyone who does not share my habitual pastime of naked eye astronomy, but the south ecliptic pole is occupied by the Large Magellanic Cloud, which directly matches the function of the turtle at the bottom of the universe - as seen in this sky map http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... sion_S.gif

Image

Second, the concept of infinite regress involves a defect in logic, as does the authors' claim that some true propositions are not justified. The problem here is the nature of axioms in philosophy.

If we take it as an unprovable fundamental axiom that the universe is real, as these authors actually do, it is debatable whether that claim is unjustifiable, which what they seem to allege. Kant's argument was that the reality of space, time, matter and causation are necessary conditions of experience. By this he meant we cannot possibly imagine how our experience could be possible without these basic facts of reality. So it is sloppy for the authors to state "the only way to justify a particular belief is to start with an unjustifiable belief."

To say 'the universe is such that our experience is possible' is perfectly justifiable. But it creates a circular logic. We know the universe is real because we could not exist if it were not. The fact that there are topics outside our knowledge, such as the process of the Big Bang, in no way justifies the fallacy of infinite regress.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Paradox of Belief
I took their point to be that a minor leap of faith is required for us to state that our experience is real at all, or that a thing that has has empirical evidence today will have it tomorrow. My thought was that it would have been sloppy of them not to put it this way. No? It might get back to the matter of certainty, not that, in the practical terms of everyday, anyone really feels uncertain on this level. It just has to be included when you make a formal declaration.

I had guessed there was a deeper meaning to "Yurtle the Turtle," but never knew what it was until now!



Mon Dec 08, 2014 7:52 am
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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Paradox of Belief
Robert Tulip wrote:
By this he meant we cannot possibly imagine how our experience could be possible without these basic facts of reality.


This seems to me to be based on an argument from ignorance. Just because we cannot possibly imagine something doesn't mean it's impossible. Perhaps it is our imagination that is the limiting factor. I don't see justification from Kant's reasoning.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Paradox of Belief
Interbane wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
By this he meant we cannot possibly imagine how our experience could be possible without these basic facts of reality.


This seems to me to be based on an argument from ignorance. Just because we cannot possibly imagine something doesn't mean it's impossible. Perhaps it is our imagination that is the limiting factor. I don't see justification from Kant's reasoning.


Frankly Interbane, your logic here is ridiculous. You are saying it is reasonable and justifiable to imagine that time, space, matter and causality are not real. It is not reasonable or justifiable, it is stupid and wrong (with the greatest of respect for the Straight Arrow), except in the purely hypothetical realm of imaginary philosophy land. Giving credence to such nihilistic solipsism gives philosophy a bad name.

Saying time and space may not be real is like Maxwell Smart justifying the cone of silence by saying ashes can be reassembled.

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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Paradox of Belief
Robert Tulip wrote:
Frankly Interbane, your logic here is ridiculous. You are saying it is reasonable and justifiable to imagine that time, space, matter and causality are not real.


No, I'm not saying it is reasonable and justifiable to imagine that these things aren't real. I'm saying that Kant's reasoning doesn't appear justified. So the authors claim that at the start of every justified belief is an unjustified one still rings true. Because I agree with the authors, I'm a nihilist? Are they nihilists?

You don't need to be so defensive if I disagree with you. My logic appears sound rather than ridiculous(not that I care if it's ridiculous).


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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Paradox of Belief
I am not trying to be defensive, and sorry if I give that impression. I am genuinely interested in the language that logicians use to explain how we understand things. My complaint was about the authors' comment that that all claims eventually rest on a claim that cannot be justified. I do not agree with this alleged infinite regress, because the claim that the universe is real can be justified, and provides a logical foundation for all knowledge. I agree with Kant's anthropic grounding of philosophy in the assertion that the universe must be such as to make our experience possible.

Descartes argued that this problem of reality presents two options. Either science reveals an objective reality, or there is some highly complex and mysterious deception built into the structure of reality. Parsimony indicates that such complex deception is ridiculous.

The question of nihilism here is about the logical possibility that nothing is real, which is what nihilism means. Stated in those terms, nihilism is absurd. However, if we accept that a complex mysterious deception may be possible, which is what the rejection of Kant's logic means, then we are forced to accept the absurd nihilist proposition that nothing may be real.

The principle of non-contradiction requires that no absurd statements are true. Therefore the universe exists, because the statement that the universe may not exist is absurd.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Paradox of Belief
Robert Tulip wrote:
the claim that the universe is real can be justified, and provides a logical foundation for all knowledge.


How do you justify the claim? By ruling out the contrapositive? Is the universe real even if it is holographic? If you try to rule out the contrapositive, you get into issues with the definition of "real" and "universe", to the extent that the claim becomes analytic(the proposition only works when these terms occupy the same conceptual territory). If you have the answer, I'm all ears. But from all my searching I haven't found anything that works except to satiate belief. Satiating belief is not justification.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Paradox of Belief
Interbane wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
the claim that the universe is real can be justified, and provides a logical foundation for all knowledge.


How do you justify the claim? By ruling out the contrapositive? Is the universe real even if it is holographic? If you try to rule out the contrapositive, you get into issues with the definition of "real" and "universe", to the extent that the claim becomes analytic(the proposition only works when these terms occupy the same conceptual territory). If you have the answer, I'm all ears. But from all my searching I haven't found anything that works except to satiate belief. Satiating belief is not justification.


The idea that the universe may be holographic and not material is, in my view, absurd. It is a logical game about imagining the Matrix syndrome of a plugged in deception. The real problem here is that if you accept that this logical game is legitimate, you are saying that the claim that nothing exists is possible. That is nihilistic. You can't have it both ways. Either you reject nihilism or you persist with giving credence to holographic logical fantasies. Your equation between rejecting nihilism on principle and 'satiating belief' is more word games aimed at insisting we can't be sure if the material universe actually exists.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Paradox of Belief
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The idea that the universe may be holographic and not material is, in my view, absurd. It is a logical game about imagining the Matrix syndrome of a plugged in deception. The real problem here is that if you accept that this logical game is legitimate, you are saying that the claim that nothing exists is possible. That is nihilistic. You can't have it both ways. Either you reject nihilism or you persist with giving credence to holographic logical fantasies. Your equation between rejecting nihilism on principle and 'satiating belief' is more word games aimed at insisting we can't be sure if the material universe actually exists.


I'm sure as far as belief goes, but you can't just say something is justified(knowledge), and have it be so. Regarding a holographic universe, I don't know if it's impossible or possible. I don't have enough information to know. How could I know? I'm not saying I do, but you are. You are saying that you know it is impossible. The justification is word games, I know, but those are the tools we have to work with. We formulate concepts using words and rearrange them to see what comes out. History has shown the proper arrangement of concepts(logic) to be more sure of arriving at truth than our gut feelings, which I think you base your certainty on.

I think the authors are right in that Skepticism is the more practical position. Skepticism(as in the philosophical theory of knowledge) is not the same as Nihilism. If I had to place a label on my forehead, I'd say I'm a Skeptical Empiricist. Although I have a lot to learn regarding the other theories.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Paradox of Belief
Interbane wrote:
you can't just say something is justified(knowledge), and have it be so.
To assert that matter is real and not imaginary (the point at issue here) is hardly an arbitrary claim. It is a foundational assumption of science. Questioning of the reality of matter is on a par with questioning the operation of evolution. But I understand that this is unprovable and comes down to faith. Atheists have such a jittery aversion to faith that they refuse to allow it even a chink of respectability, and so back themselves into the corner of saying maybe the universe is imaginary.

There is an extremely long and tedious thread at the Cosmoquest discussion board where believers that reality is dependent on mind are able and willing to offer cogent defences of their absurd claims. But cogency does not mean a belief is justified.

The irony here is that this book claims the reality of the universe to be the first of its non-commandments, even though the authors seem to say that this fundamental observation is not justifiable. I would prefer that they joined the existentialists in taking the small leap of faith to say that they are certain that matter is real.
Interbane wrote:
Regarding a holographic universe, I don't know if it's impossible or possible. I don't have enough information to know. How could I know?
Well obviously you cannot know that matter is real if you are willing to indulge in “ashes can be reassembled” types of argument. Everyone knows that ashes cannot be reassembled, and the comic absurdity of Maxwell Smart in using this argument is on a par with you saying here that perhaps the universe is imaginary.
Chief: “I can’t believe you would insist on using the cone of silence to ask me for a loan of $20!
Max: “Would you believe … $30?”
Interbane wrote:
I'm not saying I do, but you are. You are saying that you know it is impossible. The justification is word games, I know, but those are the tools we have to work with. We formulate concepts using words and rearrange them to see what comes out. History has shown the proper arrangement of concepts(logic) to be more sure of arriving at truth than our gut feelings, which I think you base your certainty on.
The proper arrangement of concepts regarding the systematic foundations of logic requires that we apply Ockham’s Razor to reject hypotheses that are absurdly complicated. The holographic universe is a whopper of a Rube Goldberg machine. It is a nice foil for asking how we know things are real, but the coherence of the belief in the existence of matter is so immense that inventing ways to doubt it is an absurd exercise. But I understand the point of it – the theory of confidence insists that faith is a vice, and so systematically refuses to allow any form of faith, including in the existence of matter, causality, space and time, despite these assumptions being blindingly obvious and necessary.
Interbane wrote:
I think the authors are right in that Skepticism is the more practical position. Skepticism(as in the philosophical theory of knowledge) is not the same as Nihilism. If I had to place a label on my forehead, I'd say I'm a Skeptical Empiricist. Although I have a lot to learn regarding the other theories.
Sensible skepticism can reject some propositions, such as that maybe nothing exists. But that is precisely what is entailed by the holographic universe hypothesis, which is just another way of describing the deceiving demon imagined by Descartes as a foil to justify the process of scientific logic. Science rejects the deceiving demon, and the holographic universe, on the basis that we are certain the universe exists.

The theme raised by this book is how the boundaries of understanding can most sensibly be defined. My view is that resort to arguments of infinite regress is a flawed logical approach. Such regress only applies in topics where science cannot have any real knowledge, such as the origin and extent of the universe. But on very simple questions, such as whether matter is real, there is no regress, and there is no unjustifiable assumption, as long as the assumption is demonstrably congruent with all scientific knowledge.

By the way, I had more of a study of the turtle at the bottom of the universe. From India, the Large Magellanic Cloud rises above the southern horizon as far north as Calcutta and Bombay, and has done so for millions of years, certainly for all of the 80,000 years of human habitation of the subcontinent. So in fact there is nothing under the turtle, and the question of why not is a category mistake, ignorant of the allegorical mythical meaning of the story of Kurma.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Paradox of Belief
Quote:
Just like that cosmic stack of turtles, the process of justifying beliefs based on other beliefs never ends-unless at some point we manage to arrive at a belief that doesn't rely on justification from any prior belief. That would be a foundational source of belief.

Ch 2, The Paradox of Belief

I am having some difficulty understanding exactly what is being said here. A belief, however justified is not a fact. The word belief for me, suggests the opportunity for doubt and if there is doubt, there can then be disbelief. The authors give us a "coherent framework of factual belief" and say, "we need to accept three core assumptions" the first of which is, "an external reality exists" I am having problem with the idea of factual belief. This idea is not only a paradox, it sounds like an oxymoron.

Does the universe exist or not? It does exist, we exist, there is a moon, there are planets, etc. I would understand if the authors were saying:
Because the existence of the universe is fact, the thought that there are discoveries yet to be made about the universe, would be a justified belief. The justified belief comes from a fact, is laid upon a foundation of fact.

Is this what is being said in non-commandment one. That the world is real, but our desire to know more is the basis for belief? That would make sense, otherwise, maybe we live under a big dome and the human tamers above us shine a light on us a few hours every day and throw food pellets into our tank. Maybe Africa is starving because the human tamers forget to feed it. If my reality is based on a foundational source of belief and not fact, I can believe anything I want.



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Post Re: Ch. 2: The Paradox of Belief
the universe being a projection from extreme distance makes it no less real than otherwise.

I'm not totally on board with the holographic universe but even if they are saying the universe as we percieve it is a hologram that doesn't negate the realness of it.

Consider also that there is no "stuff" in stuff. Everything is the competition of overlapping force fields. Mass is an emergent phenomenon from the interaction of one field of vibrations with another field of vibrations.

Yet mass matters. Mass kills. Mass creates.

Saying the universe is holographic is not the same as saying it is an illusion. It is just an attempt to pin point where the substance of the universe originates.

Everything is approximate including our ability to see. Things are not really smaller just because they are far away, but when we see a photograph we can describe it as being a "real" image as in depicting the actual situation, even with those approximations.

Personally, i don't like the holographic universe. But i really don't know enough about it to say whether i like it or not. I think it's a knee jerk reaction to the kind of metaphysical mumbo jumbo that is likely to arise from discussing it.

bias aknowledged!


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Have you tried that? Looking for answers?
Or have you been content to be terrified of a thing you know nothing about?

Are you pushing your own short comings on us and safely hating them from a distance?

Is this the virtue of faith? To never change your mind: especially when you should?

Young Earth Creationists take offense at the idea that we have a common heritage with other animals. Why is being the descendant of a mud golem any better?

Confidence being an expectation built on past experience, evidence and extrapolation to the future. Faith being an expectation held in defiance of past experience and evidence.


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