Friday, March 21, 2014

Subjectivity in argument and belief

One negative reaction I've gotten to my "cosmological argument" is that it's tremendously subjective.

Yep, it is. Guilty as charged. In fact, I mentioned that when I offered it - it's an argument that only applies to myself, and to other people who look at the world and see design. Call it instinct, or intuition, or whatever else you want.

The idea that this should somehow -not- count, or doesn't constitute a 'real' reason to believe in design, really seems to spring from the conviction that beliefs must always be based on wholly (or as wholly as possible) objective criteria. Which, I can't help but suspect, seems like another incident of modernism - trying to make our metaphysics and philosophy as objective and therefore 'science-like' as possible. And as I keep saying - there's a place for that. Rapt, rigorous metaphysical and philosophical arguments are useful and great, and something I defend.

It's just not wholly necessary. Not to reasonably justify a general belief in a designed universe. Call it like you see it. Does the universe look designed to you? Well, there you go. Believe that. Admit that you could be wrong, but at first blush, that's the way the evidence and intuition stacks up, if it in fact does for you.

I think what may cripple some people here is the possibility of being wrong - of recognizing that just because something seems a certain way doesn't mean it is, in fact, actually that way. I don't think this is a reason to withhold a measured belief based on subjective criteria, however - it's just a reason to, at worst, be suitably reserved with the belief. Moderate yourself. But a strict agnosticism simply isn't necessary.

It's weird that what I'm saying here has to be said. "It's okay to trust your intuitions and instincts to a degree. It's okay to accept, suitably moderated, the evidence as it appears to you at first blush, all else being equal." How did we reach this point where even this basic amount of self-reliance seems alien and scary to some? (And I'm not referring to Gyan here, but to other people not on this blog so far.)

11 comments:

lotharlorraine said...

This interesting and seems related to the view of degrees of belief as probabilities.

There is whole school of philosophy called Bayesianism which teaches that the probability of a philosophical conclusion is the intensity everyone should have.

So when they say: "the probability of God's existence is 0.10", what they mean is "the intensity of this conviction in the brain of every rational agent should be 10% of the maximal value".



What is your own take on this?


I remain skeptical that there is such a thing as a "rational degree of belief" in propositions either true of false that every rational person is supposed to have.
http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/on-the-ontology-of-the-objective-bayesian-probability-interpretation/


Otherwise I just wrote a post about John Loftus and would be delighted to read your own testimony there:
http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/missionary-atheism-intellectual-honesty-and-john-loftus/

Cheers.

Crude said...

What is your own take on this?

My take is that people trying to assign literal percentage values to the likelihood or intensity of beliefs says more about their psychology than the likelihood of those beliefs. I find it all pretty hopeless, and think reality and reason is a lot messier than that.

Otherwise I just wrote a post about John Loftus and would be delighted to read your own testimony there:

Man, my testimony would be extremely negative. I think Loftus is a joke. I don't think he even makes arguments that are worth taking seriously - he is to atheism what PZ Myers is to science.

Matteo said...

The same goes for the statement "There is no scientific evidence for the existence of an immaterial soul."

The answer to this is really quite simple: "Why in the world would I need 'scientific evidence' for something that is screamingly obvious?"

The irony, of course, is that the atheist materialists always posture as if they are the first after millenia of outright superstition to see through the illusions of the common benighted person. From their inverted perspective, they are the first to see outside of Plato's Cave. Obviously, obviously, the burden would then be on them to show those still stuck in the illusion just where they are wrong. But when pressed, they always claim that they have no burden of proof, and that it is those still in the cave that do.

So, when it suits them, they are part of the Elite Intellectual Vanguard, who are here to school their retarded brethren concerning reality. But when the chips are down, why, they don't owe an explanation to anybody about anything.

Acatus Bensley said...

I'm just disappointed that some people don't want to call a spade a spade. It's a sign of weakness in my opinion.

Cale B.T. said...

Re: "How did we get to this point?"
Here are two possible factors:

-The idea that it's easy for a layman to misunderstand scientific ideas, and so whether the universe is designed or not is perceived as a question "best left to the experts".

-The idea that the immense age of the universe makes it very likely that our intuitions about what is probable and improbable in biology are not reliable.

RD Miksa said...

Dear Crude,

You said:

My take is that people trying to assign literal percentage values to the likelihood or intensity of beliefs says more about their psychology than the likelihood of those beliefs. I find it all pretty hopeless, and think reality and reason is a lot messier than that.

I agree, and this is why I have a good deal of respect for the legal system and there degrees of belief. Dividing beliefs into "beyond a reasonable doubt" or "supported by the preponderance of the evidence" may not be precise, but it is easily understandable, it takes into account the messiness of reality, and it has been shown to work. And that is why my view is that we should think in categories rather than trying to assign percentages to our beliefs.

Take care,

RD Miksa
Sent from cell-phone.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Crude:

You should give Rational Faith (ed. Zagzebski) a whirl. I think you'd like a lot of it. Also see if you can find James Ross's essay on rational finality. This piece is helpful anyway if you can't find it. That outsider test of faith guy should have a look, too. ;)

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

It seems that the full, final essay on rational reliance is available here. Also, I erred in writing "rational finality": the term is "cognitive finality", and I think Feser alluded to it in his recent post on Gelernter and computationalism.

Crude said...

Codg,

Thanks, I'll give them a look. Something just seems fundamentally wrong about the modern approach to thinking. Hopefully the Ross essays at least will shed some light on things.

Gyan said...

"seems like another incident of modernism "-

Can pre-modern examples of subjective style of arguments be provided?

Crude said...

Can pre-modern examples of subjective style of arguments be provided?

Any and every instance where someone regarded their subjective impressions of nature to point towards design would qualify.