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The issue of epistemic rights and duties

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Back in 2007, “todangst ” of the “rational response squad” atheistical site wrote:

To say that I am within my ‘epistemic rights’ to hold to a claim, I am saying that I violate no epistemic responsibilities or obligations in believing in my claim. (Rights and responsibilities go hand-in-hand.) An epistemic obligation is an intellectual responsibility with respect to the formation of, or holding to, my beliefs.

The basic obligations would include

1) Not forming a belief dishonestly, through self deception.
2) Not misrepresenting how we can to hold a belief (claiming a belief came through reason, when in fact it was inculcated into us in infancy, and merely verified afterwards)
3) Not forming a belief irresponsibly (for example, seeking only to verify, while ignoring contradictory evidence, or simply holding to my belief on theistic/non contingent faith)

To say that I have met these obligations allows me to hold that my claim is rational.

Of course, there are points of corrective note to follow [there is too much of Cliffordian Evidentialism and/or positivism], but first let us note language: “obligation[s],” “responsibilities,” “rights and responsibilities go hand in hand,” “dishonestly,” “self-deception,” and the like. This is of course the language of duties, i.e. it is morally freighted.

In particular, the implied references to responsibility and honesty point to the inescapable first duties of reason, i.e. to truth, right reason, prudence, fairness, justice etc. This should give pause to those who have been objecting to these recently.

And, of course, the inescapability of such duties points to the need to bridge IS and OUGHT, which can only be done in the root of reality. Which therefore will need to be inherently good and utterly wise, pointing to a well known being, God.

Clearly, some re-thinking is necessary.

Going on to secondary points, it is almost amusing to see the dismissal of justification for things inculcated in childhood. Such as 2 + 3 = 5? Or, duty to tell the truth? Or the substance of language? Etc? Or, the Dictionary? Or textbooks on ever so many subjects, not only arts like history but sciences such as physics and mathematics? (Just try to imagine a Math course for young children that tries to prove axiomatic, set theory based frameworks for Mathematics before teaching 2 + 3 = 5.)

Instead, as a member of a responsible community, it is reason enough for the ordinary person, that credible authorities have identified bodies of knowledge, which though imperfect are credible and reliable enough for supporting community life. Where error is detected [not merely asserted by objectors and/or hyperskeptics], then, yes we need to collectively work through whatever reformulation is needed, but it is a counsel of impossible perfection to imagine that each and every one of us will be able to warrant the chain behind every particular point of claimed knowledge.

It is worse than that, for we face a question of infinite regress and/or circularity vs finitely remote first plausibles held on comparative difficulties in a responsible community:

A summary of why we end up with foundations for our worldviews, whether or not we would phrase the matter that way}

As for the dismissiveness to theistic worldviews, that is to be expected, but is simply another case in point. Theistic worldviews face no more burden of warrant than any other.

A more interesting issue, of course, is the matter of warrant vs epistemic rights. One has a right to a view when one is responsibly justified, but that is not the same as warrant. Warrant, as has been recently put back on the table for consideration. For, warrant:

is the process and result of so fulfilling cognitive duties of care that the said result is credibly true and reliable, worthy of being acted on — even, in those cases . . . the vast majority, in practice . . . that we cannot deliver utterly incorrigible certainty. Warrant, is not to be equated with mere persuasion, it is asking if the reason for a belief or opinion is sound or at least reliable (not, that we merely have a personal or collective right to it or that we may agree to accept it). Let us dip a little more deeply, to clarify warrant given the widespread tendencies of subjectivism and/or relativism:

DETAIL POINT: In effect, subjects S1 to Sn [–> often, a relevant community] may agree to or hold a proposition p, but that is so far only opinion or belief that may be shared. They may also — a further step — be within epistemic rights to hold that p, but under certain circumstances . . . explored by Gettier and others . . . that personal justification and actual truth might be “accidentally” or otherwise “unreliably” connected due to circumstances faced by S1 to Sn that fail to justify independent of personalities and their particular situation. (For simple example, our visual, auditory and other senses can lose proper functionality or be in situations that create illusions, etc.) For p to be warranted (and notice the shift from subjects to the propositions), the connexion between epistemic rights and credible truth and reliability must not be accidental or personality/group-dependent. Warrant, in short, must be objective.

So, we see, again, that first principles and first duties of reason are inescapable and so we are justified to hold them self-evidently true. Never mind the onward consequence that we must then face the bridging of the IS-OUGHT gap in the root of reality. END

8 Replies to “The issue of epistemic rights and duties

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    The issue of epistemic rights and duties

  2. 2
    john_a_designer says:

    Am I within my “epistemic rights” believing that the best explanation for my personal existence and the existence of the universe is an eternally existing, transcendent Mind (God.)

    Some time ago on another thread I wrote:

    “If a necessary being exists it cannot be contingent. If it is even logically possible for the universe to be contingent how can anyone claim that it is necessary? In other words, if it is logically possible for the universe to be contingent then it cannot be logically necessary for it to be ontologically necessary. If a transcendent necessary being exists then it is logically necessary that it is ontologically necessary.”

    Or in terms of the principle of sufficient reason: If the universe is contingent (it had a beginning in space and time) then it lacks a sufficient reason for its own existence. Invoking the so-called multiverse does not solve this problem because a collection of contingent things, even a larger or infinite collection of contingent things is not sufficient to explain its own existence. That was Leibniz’s point in his argument refuting an infinite regress.

    Also notice that for the atheist to argue that only contingent things exist he must smuggle in, or coopt, some theological concepts: infinite being, eternality and transcendence. For example, invoking the multiverse is an attempt to bring in an outside “transcendent” cause. Furthermore, it’s a purely metaphysical argument that is neither self-evidently true nor scientifically provable. Even if we are someday in the far distant future we are able to create artificial wormholes, as Kip Thorne suggest in his book, Black Holes & Time Warps, which he argues could theoretically tunnel through into another universe, how would we know that we are really in another universe? How could we ever know that there are an infinite number of other universes? In other words, are we supposed to accept (believe) the idea of the multiverse on faith? So then it appears that the claim that atheistic naturalism/materialism is more reasonable than theism is just so much pretension and posturing.

    Furthermore, none of this explains why we as a species are “hardwired” to ask these kind of questions? Why do we feel so compelled to explain our own existence? Why, for example, does the atheist-materialist feel so compelled to explain away all possible explanation but his own? Or an incorrigible agnostic to claim absurdly that because he doesn’t know, therefore, nobody knows?

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD,

    the case in the OP betrays ignorance of the Agrippa trilemma, thence the way we are all forced to exercise faith in some finitely remote set of first plausibles. In particular, in haste to infer and suggest that it is illegitimate to trust the reasonableness of things inculcated in childhood [especially, belief in God] the blogger opened up devastating self referential incoherences. Committing philosophy without comparative difficulties analysis and especially self-referential considerations tends to run into problems like that.

    Further to such, millions — and often from childhood up — have had life-transforming encounters with God. As I and likely you can testify, it is possible to know God just as much as it is possible to know and love another minded individual. (We interact with bodies around us, we do not have first person, inner-life access to their minds.)

    If that is held delusional, so many would be dismissed that one then brings mindedness under self-referential doubt. We need not tarry long with those who try to reduce mind to in effect computation on a substrate; computation simply is not rational, freely responsible contemplation. Watch out for that boomeranging self-reference, mind as brain-computer advocates.

    On the observed cosmos, the simplest point is, per Hubble expansion etc, it credibly had a beginning 14 BYA or so, thus is contingent. Contingent things are causally dependent, as a general rule. Further to this, trying to infer a wider cosmos with quasi-physical, causal-temporal succession of stages since a past beyond any specifiable finite limit runs into the incoherence of trying to traverse a transfinite stepwise succession step by step. Such can traverse the potential infinite but never actually completes a transfinite. And trying the trick of asserting that the transfinite was already traversed at any given past point boils down to grand question begging and issue dodging.

    There is need for a necessary, utterly independent being as part of the frame of any possible world, including our own. Where, as in our world we have morally governed, rational responsible creatures — us — we further constrain that the reality root is adequate to bridge is and ought. We are looking at inherently good, utterly wise necessary being with the power to source and sustain — create — worlds.

    Which, should sound rather familiar.

    And, asking and seeking good answers to big, hard questions — philosophy — comes with the territory of being responsible, rational, free, minded and so governed by first principles and first duties of right reason.

    BTW, I tend to shy away from posing the strong form PSR, given debates. But I stand strongly on the right to ask for and investigate sufficient reason connected to being and non being, thus logic of being. That’s more than enough to open up worlds of thought.

    KF

  4. 4
    john_a_designer says:

    KF,

    BTW, I tend to shy away from posing the strong form PSR, given debates.

    I don’t know whether “my” position is strong PSR or not. However, I think basic PSR is a logically compelling starting point that cannot be avoided by either the theist or the atheistic naturalist. That’s because no world view is absolutely provable. At its roots every world view is a truth claim in search of explanations. For example, everyone must begin with the question why does anything exist or as Leibniz, famously asked, “why is there something rather than nothing?”

    Every world view must logically begin with at least two basic assumptions: (1) something cannot come into existence uncaused from absolute nothing (absolute nothing is a condition of NO space/ NO time,) so therefore, (2) something MUST exist necessarily (or, something must have always existed.) The theist argues that this necessary existence is eternally transcendent or “self-existent;” the atheist tries to argue that whatever has existed “necessarily” must be, in their thinking, eternally spatial-temporal, “material” and contingent. That of course, leads logically and ontologically to an infinite regress of contingent causes with no proof or explanation as to why those causes are sufficient. In other words, atheistic naturalist has no explanation as to why “natural” causes could be a sufficient explanation (reason) except that perhaps, in a very weak sense, it’s logically possible. Therefore, on its own merits epistemologically atheistic naturalism lacks sufficient reason. Theism, on the other hand, does have sufficient explanations or reasons. If that turns out to be strong PSR, so be it.

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD, PSR is quite controversial in philosophy, That’s why, to save controversy and side tracking, I have put on the table a weak investigatory form:

    We should also note that a fourth key law of sound thought linked quite directly to the above is the principle of sufficient reason , which enfolds the principle of cause and effect.

    Schopenhauer in his Manuscript Remains, Vol. 4, notes that:

    [PSR, strong form:] “Of everything that is, it can be found why it is.”

    This, we may soften slightly into a weak form investigatory version that should be unobjectionable to reasonable thinkers . . . thus avoiding unnecessary side issues over the PSR, and will prove quite adequate for our purposes :

    [PSR, weak (investigatory) form:] Of any particular thing A that is

    [. . . or (ii) is possible, or even (iii) is impossible],

    we may ask, why it is

    [. . . or (ii’) why it is possible, or (iii’) why it is impossible],

    and we may expect — or at least hope — to find a reasonable answer.

    Of course, for any given case, X, we may simply directly proceed to ask why is X so, or why is X possible or why is X impossible, and seek a reasonable answer. So, the weak form as it stands is unobjectionable.

    This allows us to get to logic of being which is where the decisive matters lie.

    KF

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    john_a_designer says:

    Of course, there are many versions of PSR. So, what’s the strong form? See the following article from SEP:

    The Principle of Sufficient Reason is a powerful and controversial philosophical principle stipulating that everything must have a reason, cause, or ground. This simple demand for thoroughgoing intelligibility yields some of the boldest and most challenging theses in the history of philosophy.

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/sufficient-reason/

    One version I reject is the fallacious conclusion attributed to Leibniz that this is the best possible world. Theologically I don’t think that follows since clearly our world is a fallen world which logically implies that it’s not the best world.

    I am simply arguing for a basic form of PSR, which I think is a good, sound and compelling argument when it comes to comparing world views.

    For example, theism argues there is an ultimate explanation which explains the origin and apparent design of our universe: an eternally existing transcendent Mind (God.)

    Atheistic naturalism, on the other hand, can’t argue that there is an ultimate explanation because it can only posit contingent causes which logically leads to an infinite regress of causes. Secondly it has no explanation for the apparent design we see in the universe because, again, it can only invoke contingent and mindless (“natural”) causes without ever establishing that those causes are sufficient to explain the apparent design which even they concede exists. Their argument fails not only logically but also scientifically because they have no empirical proof that mindless natural causes are capable of doing (sufficient) what they are claiming.

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD,

    yes, there are many disputes over PSR and yet we all — when we use common sense — seek sufficient reasons (including as applicable, causes) . . . see a response here. However, this is generally a needless further complication, as by posing an investigatory challenge (a weak form PSR as shown) we can get past this dead end to the real issue, logic of being aka ontology.

    When we do so we see that some candidate entities — square circles etc — are impossible of being as core characteristics are mutually inconsistent. Here, squarishness and circularity.

    This means, core logic can and does have import for existence.

    It also shows that for something to have a clear, distinct identity or nature, it will have defining characteristics that while partly shared with other entities will partly be distinctive; we are here seeing the power behind the genus-difference approach to definition . . . a bicycle is an object that is a vehicle with two wheels etc. That is, we see that in the identity of a bicycle, there are in-common archetypes and additional distinctives down to being a particular bicycle in a given time and place. For instance, in my life I have owned precisely two bicycles, one a gift from my father, the other a purchase I made; they had properties in common and properties that were distinct, down to individual particularity; similarly, we could discuss vehicles such as the burgundy or maroon coloured LH drive Nissan Leaf I saw yesterday afternoon, heading S on the local main road (yes, there is just one, a U-shaped two-lane road). These points are basic but important, here this is the law of identity in action, which carries with it as close corollaries non-contradiction and excluded middle.

    We need only mention that this is so en-darkened an era that people routinely try to dismiss some of this, only to be caught in the bind that simply to communicate, they are forced to rely on these inescapable, thus self evident truths.

    Something the Apostle Paul noted in 1 Cor 14:

    1 Cor 14:7 If even inanimate musical instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone [listening] know or understand what is played? 8 And if the war bugle gives an uncertain (indistinct) call, who will prepare for battle?

    9 Just so it is with you; if you in the [unknown] tongue speak words that are not intelligible, how will anyone understand what you are saying? For you will be talking into empty space!

    10 There are, I suppose, all these many [to us unknown] tongues in the world [somewhere], and none is destitute of [its own power of] expression and meaning. 11 But if I do not know the force and significance of the speech (language), I shall seem to be a foreigner to the one who speaks [to me], and the speaker who addresses [me] will seem a foreigner to me. [AMP]

    Obviously, undeniably — self evidence again rears its head! — some things do exist. To exist, they must be possible of being. Thus we see a key dichotomy between impossible and possible candidate beings. This is already drawing out rational principles embedded in being.

    Going further, contemplate a fire and the more correct model, the fire tetrahedron. Fires are possible, and are contingent on heat, oxidiser, fuel and combustion chain reaction. For instance as I discussed and showed in a video early on in this series, with fluorine as oxidiser, a brick becomes fuel. We then see that a particular fire occurs in particular circumstances with particular objects, say a given tank of fluorine and a particular brick at a given time and place. On being burned up the brick is no more. We thus can understand more deeply contingency of being.

    A further useful model is possible worlds speak. A PW, W, is a way this or a world might be or is. Strictly, reduced to a sufficiently complete cluster of propositions that accurately describe the way this or a world might be. Accuracy, implying that were world W real, circumstances c1, c2, . . . cn described correctly via propositions p1, p2 . . . pn would obtain. And of course we here see what truth is, accurate description of reality.

    Generally, a contingent being, B, would exist under certain circumstances in certain PW’s but not in “neighbouring” ones. I.e. B exists in W but not W’, and the key difference is obviously a necessary, enabling part of the CAUSE for B. No fluorine, no burning brick. The sufficient set of causal factors for a being or event will include all necessary, enabling factors.

    However, there is another category of possible beings, necessary beings, say N.

    A successful candidate NB will be present in all PW’s; best understood as that it is a necessary, framework factor for any world W to exist. I add, BTW, this gives teeth to the common definition that a NB N cannot not-exist, on pain of self contradiction. For, were N not to be, no W would be. But of course we live in a world. Every NB N exists, or there would be no world; where ~W is an absurd counter-factual. (We must be, to be debating. Thus, there is at least one world, complete with its necessary framework entities. On pain of the self-referential absurdity that to object, the objector must first be.)

    For simple example, for any given W to exist, it must have something unique that marks it as distinct from any neighbour W’, say a factor or feature A. So, W then has a structure, W = {A|~A}, thus two-ness, duality is locked into there being any distinct W. Indeed, here we see nullity, the partition | is empty. There are differing unities, simple unity A and composite ~A, ~A = W – A, the complement to A in W. This gives us duality A AND ~A. From this we see that the existence or possibility of W carries with it certain core quantitative, framework entities, numbers. Through say von Neumann, we may extend this to the naturals, thence integers, rationals, reals, complex numbers. The hyperreals R* beckon, etc.

    This already gives us a very useful insight on the pervasiveness and power of Mathematics.

    Necessary beings, though strange to us given our impoverished education and en-darkenment, are real.

    We see here a second dichotomy, of possible beings: necessary vs contingent.

    Necessary beings are framework for worlds and are independent of enabling causal factors. Thus, a serious candidate NB — flying spaghetti monsters [being composite] need not apply — will either be impossible of being or else actual in any actualised world, and will have neither beginning nor end. Eternality swims into view.

    Going further, contemplate reality as all that is. It will contain NBs. Where, contrast non-being, the genuine nothing, which cannot have causal power. So, were there ever utterly nothing . . . no reality whatsoever . . . such would forever obtain. That a world is implies that something of independent, NB character always was, as root of reality.

    We know, too, that traversal of a transfinite span of finite, causally successive steps is an impossible supertask and that to posit that at any stage t, the traverse already happened begs the question hopelessly. The NB reality root is finitely remote. This world had a finitely remote beginning. It is contingent. It is caused, indeed, created.

    It has in it beings that are rational, responsible, significantly free, morally governed. Starting with first duties of reason.

    We seek a reality root that bridges IS and OUGHT, as post Hume only there can such be bridged. We find a bill of requisites, including that the reality root be inherently good, utterly wise and powerful enough to be the world-spring, the Creator.

    We find ourselves contemplating God.

    Which is what ever so many want to find any way to avoid.

    Their problem is, reality root. Where, as a serious candidate NB, God is either impossible of being or is actual. A good reason for God being impossible . . . post Plantinga, problem of evil needs not apply . . . is? _______________________

    That blank is far harder to fill in than many objectors to theism let on.

    So, we see outlines of logic of being and so also answers to the why question.

    KF

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    kairosfocus says:

    PS, I find we talk of things as identical when they are merely closely similar.

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