WJM, of course, often puts up gems well worth headlining and pondering.
Here, he tackles truth denialism in reply to KS in the is nothing certain thread:
>>I’ve never understood what Keiths point is in making this argument. So there is some technical chance that god or aliens or demons are deceiving us into believing false propositions. So what?
What difference in day to day life would it make to keep reminding oneself that there is a technical possibility that they are in error about anything they think?
People still have to act as if they are certain about all sorts of things. People still have to argue as they know some things are true. Keith is as operationally certain of the validity of his argument as anyone else is certain of anything else. That he admits to some technical possibility that he might be in error doesn’t change the certainty about which he makes his case.
What interests me is that what amounts to nothing more, really, than some technical possibility that is utterly impractical in every-day life is so important to Keiths and others of his ilk. Their clamor against self-evident truths, the principles of logic and absolute certainty on any matter signifies something, but not a meaningful argument about how people actually must behave and think in the real world.
What’s become clear to me is that these are expressions of something more fundamental to their psyche – what I call a “truth denialism”, which rests entirely on being convinced that a thing is possible. For example, regardless of the overwhelming appearance of design in biology, it is possible that chance and natural law could have generated the appearance of design. That possibility of “deception” or “error” about the appearance of a thing is enough for them to deny the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Even though they employ their free will and use it as if it is autonomous, and even though their actions and arguments require the assumption that it exists; it is possible that it is simply the happenstance product of interacting molecules that determine thought and action.
Even though every moment of their existence and word they use to argue screams otherwise – screams for libertarian free will, for objective morality, for the absolute validity of the principles of logic – they insist that the bare possibility that those things are not true or absolutely valid justifies their denialist perspective, even though such a perspective is ultimately self-defeating and self-referentially incoherent.
Post-modernists have built entire philosophies and terminologies dedicated to the capacity to obfuscate, redefine and deny truth. KN called using classical logic to demonstrate the incoherent nature of “other forms of rationality” (such as, something being deemed rational because it simply conforms to a cultural norm) normative violence. IOW, it was oppressive (his word) to deny the validity of “other forms of rationality” because they were not rational according to logic.
IMO, Keiths et al use “bare possibility” as a means to justify their intellectual aversion to truth, because truth inexorably leads to god. They wish to deny god, and so they must avoid truth; avoiding truth means clinging to possibilities, terminologies, interpretations and philosophies that deny truth or redefines it.
What can logic prove to those who deny truth exists? What can logic prove to those who deny that logical principles are binding? What can logic prove to those who deny “I exist”, or “causation exists”, or “error exists” or “A=A” are necessarily true propositions?
There’s simply no argument that can penetrate such a wall of denial based entirely on “possibility”. Nor should we be able to breach their self-imposed lunacy. Free will, among other things, is the capacity to deny anything, even to the point of insanity and evil. All we can do is recognize it and point it out; there is no “convincing” them otherwise. It’s their choice.>>
We need to ask, what is driving this. END