Epistemology: faith and reason

In keeping with my series of posts dealing with epistemology and worldview, BarryA over at Uncommon Descent has – almost as if on cue – written an excellent piece discussing how both Theists and materialists rely on a combination of faith and reason.  He makes a number of points that I had planned on making in upcoming posts, so rather than duplicate efforts, I will direct you over there to read the full article.  I will revisit these points in a future post.  Just to whet your appetite:

Materialist believe that a real world exists outside of themselves and that they have trustworthy perceptions of this real world from their senses. Surprise. Those two beliefs are not based upon any evidence. Materialists hold the beliefs based on pure faith, a frequently unacknowledged faith to be sure, but faith nevertheless.

If we accept the rules of basic logic (which is itself a presupposition), we have to agree that when it comes to accepting either evidence or the methodology for evaluating evidence, we eventually come to a point where we must take a leap to faith (or at least, a leap to presupposition). At this point, the materialist typically calls the philosopher names and walks away.  But, I think the arguments tha BarryA makes are valid; either we must agree that we lack evidence for materialistic presuppositions, or else we must call into question logic itself, at which point modernism and all that comes with it implodes.

Once again, isn’t epistemology fun?

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7 Comments

  1. Mike Haubrich, FCD wrote
    at 3:37 pm - 15th July 2008 Permalink

    So, where does the standard of objectivity come in? Either we know something or we don’t and I can’t see any sense in the idea that something that can’t be tested and analyzed is called “faith.” Either something is red or it’s blue, and that isn’t based on faith, that’s based on seeing. You can believe in and have faith in whatever you choose a color to be, but it is hard to argue with the measurement of the wavelength.

    We have “faith” that verified testing reveals reliable information. Why is this so difficult to understand?

  2. me wrote
    at 7:26 pm - 15th July 2008 Permalink

    So, where does the standard of objectivity come in?

    That would be the question, wouldn’t it?

    Either we know something or we don’t …

    I don’t mean any disrespect, but this is a somewhat naive response to the issue of epistemology. What do you know? Are you actually seeing what you are seeing, or are you a victim of Descartes’ “evil demon?” From a practical sense, the answer doesn’t make much difference. As Cipher comments in The Matrix, if the steak tastes great, what do I care if it’s real or not?

    However, making the assumption that only a certain type of knowledge exists when there is no objective means to test that assumption does matter, if it turns out that what we reject is more important than what we chose to accept. It is a choice, a leap of faith or presupposition that we must make. Red pill or blue pill?

    … and I can’t see any sense in the idea that something that can’t be tested and analyzed is called “faith.”

    So what would you call something that can’t be tested and analyzed? You have insisted in the past that faith is a religious concept, and different from the assumptions you make as a materialist. But, there is no way of testing your presuppositions from within your belief system. It is simply a choice, based on the evidence you choose to accept – not unlike the religious leap to faith.

  3. Quixote wrote
    at 8:42 pm - 15th July 2008 Permalink

    Perhaps we should lump both the materialistic and religious arguments as estimology?

    As as been pointed out here before (many times), each of you are making assertions and asking questions founded on presuppositions that cannot be tested. Mike cannot prove that the material world is all there is; Alden cannot prove the reality of a non-material dimension. Each of you has embraced your arguments on a priori convictions. Mike can/will not see Alden’s metaphysical kingdom; Alden can/will not accept Mike’s exhaustive materialism.

    Each of you is a witness, giving testimony to what you hold to be true. If Mike is right and there is no transcendent Judge, his victory is existentially meaningless. If Alden is right, then Mike will lose more than he knows. He may not care, but that is a wager not an experimental result.

    In light of these limitations, Pascal’s wager may be more profound than we will admit.

  4. me wrote
    at 9:14 pm - 15th July 2008 Permalink

    Pascal’s wager may be more profound than we will admit.

    Perhaps. However, I am trying to get to a more fundamental issue: is “testing,” in the way we think of it today, even valid? Should I even try to prove the existence of a non-material world? Is that trying to put the proverbial round peg into a square hole, or putting God in a box? Is the modern analysis of theology and faith like trying to paint a sunset with an 8-color box of crayons? Has modernism so skewed how we see reality that we have simply lost our ability to see? Are modern analysis and the scientific method even adequate tools for understanding the material world, much less the spiritual?

    To some extent, I am not debating anyone but myself, as I go through a kind of post-modernish deconstruction of my own modern worldview. But, if I can get into some good discussions along the way, so much the better… ;-)

  5. Mike Haubrich, FCD wrote
    at 4:45 am - 16th July 2008 Permalink

    As I see it, creationism and Intelligent Design are efforts to show that the immaterial can be demonstrated through material testing. While their claims are made on the default of not having “all the answers” through materialist testing, that default is based on a blanket denial of existing facts. The site you link to in the next post is trash because the writer denies things that we all ready know about common ancestry. He makes these denials of fact and then calls the belief in evolution to be “faith” as a logical consequence of these facts.

    I am puzzled that in order to convince materialists that we are wrong about the nature of the origin of life, the universe and everything, that the arguments used are based on falsities, or at best misunderstandings(see Casey Luskin on tiktaalik.)

    It’s hard to accept that I should abandon objectivity in favor of such denials of evidence. As for Pascal’s wager, Quixote, I ask you to remember that Pascal also invented the Roulette Wheel. We are only given one chip, and multiple religions, none of which accept a “red or black” wager. We are supposed to place our one chip on a specific number. The monotheism of the West/Mideast offers little guidance as to which number to place it on.

    In this discussion, Alden, I am trying to figure out what it is you want to “know.” Sure, there may be things that are beyond the knowledge of our materialist methondologies, but what do you suggest to show that these things are “real?”

  6. Quixote wrote
    at 7:33 am - 16th July 2008 Permalink

    A couple of notes:

    Pascal did not propose his wager as evidence of anything.

    It is also true that many philosophers have discredited his wager as a strictly logical “motivation” for belief, which I would agree with.

    I only suggest Pascal in response to the intractable issue of establishing, irrefutably anyway, how we know anything. Whether you are a materialist or “transcendentalist,” epistemology is, as I wished to suggest in my previous comment, conjecture derived from a priori assumptions. It simply cannot be otherwise.

  7. me wrote
    at 7:19 pm - 16th July 2008 Permalink

    It’s hard to accept that I should abandon objectivity …

    As you asked a few days ago, what standards are there for objectivity? Materialism is based on the belief that only that which can be seen and studied exists. But, these presuppositions cannot be tested or verified, nor can they be disproved. Objectivity appears to be somewhat of a subjective standard.

    As I said a year or more ago, I freely admit to my presuppositions, which are not illogical or irrational, but are based on knowledge, evidence and experience which include the material and non-material. As the old song says,

    The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
    Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they display knowledge.
    There is no speech or language
    where their voice is not heard.

    Encountering and recognizing the presence of God have been valid experiences for thousands of years, and are no less valid today.

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