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How do you justify your belief in the external world, etc.?

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  • #16
    If you really want a detailed spelling out of my beliefs, keep your eye on Ontological Investigations. When I get settled in the Old World, I'll finally have the time to start contributing properly to it and the ink shall start to flow. (I've been leaving practically all the heavy article writing to Brian and Daniel.) I write at around the same pace as Vallicella before he opened his Facebook account, but have had to reserve all of it for offline purposes for the last two years. That will (finally) be changing within the next year.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by John West View Post
      I'm a critical philosopher (small c). Qua philosopher, I don't dogmatically accept any beliefs and I consider justifying philosophy from this presuppositionless starting point one of the problems of philosophy. Qua everything else, I accept all the common sense beliefs and live in the world the same as anybody else. In other words, I live with unjustified beliefs. (I would rather not, but what am I supposed to do? I don't think the beliefs are justified in the rigorous way that philosophy requires, and sometimes suspect that they can't be here below.) I don't think that doing this should be taken as especially controversial. People live with unjustified beliefs all the time.
      Right, I could never agree with that; to me it's absurd to accept beliefs without justification, to literally believe in things you are not justified in believing. I find it repugnant and I think one cannot separate the philosopher (qua philosopher) from the person ("qua everything else"), the philosopher has an obligation to truth and wisdom, and following the argument wherever it leads. In this sense, philosophy must be a way of life, I believe.

      Suspending judgment about my common sense beliefs would be tremendously difficult, of course. But nevertheless it is something I should strive to do if I had no way or even any faint idea on how to justify them. Thankfully, PC is so ingrained in me that I can barely make sense of an imagined scenario in which the external world or other minds didn't seem true to me, or that I wouldn't be justified in believing in what seemed true. I guess if I didn't understand PC to be true I would try to appeal to some kind of doxastic conservatism? So long as I had a way of ultimately basing everything on self-evident propositions. It's a little hard to imagine.

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      • #18
        I think it's important to face up to the problems of philosophy even if one finds them repugnant.

        One of the things that interests me about the proto-existentialists and existentialists is how they face up to terrible consequences and try to figure out how to live in spite of them.

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        • #19
          Incidentally, I don't sincerely believe that you have no unjustified beliefs. I think that would be inhuman. (I know that is a bit standoffish, but it had to be said.)

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          • #20
            Originally posted by John West View Post
            Incidentally, I don't sincerely believe that you have no unjustified beliefs. I think that would be inhuman. (I know that is a bit standoffish, but it had to be said.)
            Perhaps I have some unjustified beliefs, but the problem isn't (say) unknowingly having some unjustified beliefs or whatever; it is having an unjustified belief and not caring about it, not suspending judgment, not even trying to reject that unjustified belief (or justify it). For example, a skeptic who rejects all justifications of the belief in the external world, thinks it is unjustified, and nevertheless continues to believe in it and doesn't strive to suspend judgment and live his life as if he didn't believe in the external world. That would be a problem.

            Having some unjustified beliefs may be human in the same way that to err is human. It may be common, but if it is then it's nothing for us to be happy or okay about.

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            • #21
              Originally posted by Atno View Post
              Perhaps I have some unjustified beliefs, but the problem isn't (say) unknowingly having some unjustified beliefs or whatever; it is having an unjustified belief and not caring about it, not suspending judgment, not even trying to reject that unjustified belief (or justify it). For example, a skeptic who rejects all justifications of the belief in the external world, thinks it is unjustified, and nevertheless continues to believe in it and doesn't strive to suspend judgment and live his life as if he didn't believe in the external world. That would be a problem.

              Having some unjustified beliefs may be human in the same way that to err is human. It may be common, but if it is then it's nothing for us to be happy or okay about.
              But I explicitly signaled that I do care:

              (I would rather not, but what am I supposed to do? I don't think the beliefs are justified in the rigorous way that philosophy requires, and sometimes suspect that they can't be here below.)

              I desire the solutions to these problems; but I don't have them, and getting them isn't a matter of simply picking some alternative position. (When talking about selecting another position in your second paragraph here, you almost sound like you're deciding to buy a bag of pretzels instead of a hot dog. But my sense is that there is more to finding a solution in philosophy.)
              Last edited by John West; 03-25-2019, 07:42 PM.

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              • #22
                Originally posted by John West View Post
                If you really want a detailed spelling out of my beliefs, keep your eye on Ontological Investigations. When I get settled in the Old World, I'll finally have the time to start contributing properly to it and the ink shall start to flow. (I've been leaving practically all the heavy article writing to Brian and Daniel.) I write at around the same pace as Vallicella before he opened his Facebook account, but have had to reserve all of it for offline purposes for the last two years. That will (finally) be changing within the next year.
                Given your more-or-less skeptical attitude, I was wondering if you could enlighten me on two particular points, which are testimonial knowledge and the epistemological value of mystical experience, both in and out of religious traditions.

                I think you said in the other thread on analytic/continental divide that you believe that we (as philosopher? or even as human in general?) should explore religions and mystics as path to the truth. So, here's some questions:
                1. Do you believe that analytical philosophers have abandonned, today, those particulars themes? Personnaly, it seems to me that rejection of testimonal knowledge on miracles, for example, rests on unjustified assumptions based on a not-so-succesful "humean-inspired" argument. In the end, it always seems to me that it's either unfair double standard, or either simply hand-waving gesture in virtue of being non-material things, which is just simply question-begging. (I think that you said somewhere else that you believe that we have some evidence from well-documented paranormal cases, or something like that?)
                2. Do you have recommendations from ancients skeptics on those? At least before the deist controversy. I would be interested to know if there's good litterature which doesn't rests on quick judgement because "it's superstitious (=false) after all!"

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by John West View Post

                  But I explicitly signaled that I do care:

                  (I would rather not, but what am I supposed to do? I don't think the beliefs are justified in the rigorous way that philosophy requires, and sometimes suspect that they can't be here below.)

                  I desire the solutions to these problems; but I don't have them, and getting them isn't a matter of simply picking some alternative position. (When talking about selecting another position in your second paragraph here, you almost sound like you're deciding to buy a bag of pretzels instead of a hot dog. But my sense is that there is more to finding a solution in philosophy.)
                  But do you actively try to suspend judgment about these matters? You should, if you really are skeptical about them and see no plausible solution in view. Though it feels a little weird trying to convince you to suspend judgment about the external world or living more like a vegetable; I guess it's better if I just say I find your position to be unacceptable.

                  I guess it sounded like that because it's hard for me to think of my common sense beliefs as not being justified, and PC not being the case. They certainly seem true, and I can justifiably believe what seems true, something must accoung for that etc etc.; it would end up appealing to PC again, but that's why it's hard for me to realistically contemplate me being in a skeptical position.

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Ouros View Post

                    Given your more-or-less skeptical attitude, I was wondering if you could enlighten me on two particular points, which are testimonial knowledge and the epistemological value of mystical experience, both in and out of religious traditions.

                    I think you said in the other thread on analytic/continental divide that you believe that we (as philosopher? or even as human in general?) should explore religions and mystics as path to the truth. So, here's some questions:
                    1. Do you believe that analytical philosophers have abandonned, today, those particulars themes? Personnaly, it seems to me that rejection of testimonal knowledge on miracles, for example, rests on unjustified assumptions based on a not-so-succesful "humean-inspired" argument. In the end, it always seems to me that it's either unfair double standard, or either simply hand-waving gesture in virtue of being non-material things, which is just simply question-begging. (I think that you said somewhere else that you believe that we have some evidence from well-documented paranormal cases, or something like that?)
                    2. Do you have recommendations from ancients skeptics on those? At least before the deist controversy. I would be interested to know if there's good litterature which doesn't rests on quick judgement because "it's superstitious (=false) after all!"
                    Might be ironic but through principles such as phenomenal conservatism or Swinburne's principle of credulity, analytic philosophers have been giving mystics a hearing that they seldom ever got before. Analytic philosophy has produced some great recent works about that, like Kai-Man Kwan's defense of "holistic empiricism" and what he calls the "rainbow of experiences" which includes not only typical sense and memory experiences, but existential experience, moral, aesthetic, interpersonal, religious, etc. His perspective as a Chinese native makes his work even more interesting, IMO.

                    on that note anyway, I think you are mistaking John for Jeremy Taylor.
                    Last edited by Atno; 03-25-2019, 10:02 PM.

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by Ouros
                      1. Do you have recommendations from ancients skeptics on those? At least before the deist controversy. I would be interested to know if there's good litterature which doesn't rests on quick judgement because "it's superstitious (=false) after all!"

                      2. Do you have recommendations from ancients skeptics on those? At least before the deist controversy. I would be interested to know if there's good litterature which doesn't rests on quick judgement because "it's superstitious (=false) after all!"
                      1. I know that there is analytic work on testimonial and the epistemological problems of testimonial. (There is even an SEP entry on the latter here.)

                      I suspect, though, that mysticism positively resists analytic investigation. I understand that, for instance, one tends to lose the results of meditation by trying to analyze them; I've seen it described as their “retreating” from the analytic gaze.

                      I'm not sure “mystical knowledge” is actually the best phrase for the givings of mysticism, but rather I'm open to the possibility that there are situations in which there is value in having the truth without being able to justify. Brian or Jeremy might have more to say about this. It's one of those subjects I've been meaning to (but haven't had time to) look into more.

                      2. The ancient skeptics would have brought something like the tenth Aenesideman mode (which follows the format laid out here, but discusses morals and moral intuitions) or the mode of disagreement against it.

                      I would have to check to make sure, but I seem to remember Sextus writing about testimonials explicitly in the third section of the Outlines of Scepticism.

                      I suspect that the ancient skeptics would argue similarly against mysticism. (They might bring the mode of regress against it as well.)

                      The nouveaux pyrrhoniens of the modern era are more interesting on mysticism.
                      Last edited by John West; 03-25-2019, 10:43 PM. Reason: To add a missing link.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by Atno
                        But do you actively try to suspend judgment about these matters? You should, if you really are skeptical about them and see no plausible solution in view. Though it feels a little weird trying to convince you to suspend judgment about the external world or living more like a vegetable; I guess it's better if I just say I find your position to be unacceptable.
                        I actually do have fairly developed views on this. The trouble is that in order for me to bring them to bear here I would have to lay at least several pages worth of groundwork. You're going to have to wait until I can start blogging.

                        (Suffice it to say: You're misunderstanding my position, but because you lack the relevant background rather than through any fault of your own.)

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Atno
                          Might be ironic but through principles such as phenomenal conservatism or Swinburne's principle of credulity, analytic philosophers have been giving mystics a hearing that they seldom ever got before. Analytic philosophy has produced some great recent works about that, like Kai-Man Kwan's defense of "holistic empiricism" and what he calls the "rainbow of experiences" which includes not only typical sense and memory experiences, but existential experience, moral, aesthetic, interpersonal, religious, etc. His perspective as a Chinese native makes his work even more interesting, IMO.
                          I'm inclined to think that this doesn't really point towards what traditional practitioners of mysticism thought of as mysticism, or at least that it points to a very feeble, thinned out version of it.

                          on that note anyway, I think you are mistaking John for Jeremy Taylor.
                          Ouros is referring to the first footnote of my comment here, but then mistaking me for Jeremy in the part about paranormal experiences; Jeremy is a bit of a Fortean.

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                          • Ouros
                            Ouros commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Ah, indeed. I should have looked into the old forum. Let's say that John West and Jeremy Taylor are close for being two names which begins by J and in two words. :-)

                        • #28
                          Originally posted by John West View Post

                          I'm inclined to think that this doesn't really point towards what traditional practitioners of mysticism thought of as mysticism, or at least that it points to a very feeble, thinned out version of it.



                          Ouros is referring to the first footnote of my comment here, but then mistaking me for Jeremy in the part about paranormal experiences; Jeremy is a bit of a Fortean.
                          But that's not really an issue. What matters to these projects is showing that these experiences which have historically been considered "baseless" or unjustified, inveridical etc. in philosophy can actually be rationally respectable methods of gaining knowledge or at least justifying specific beliefs, and that it's no good to simply brush them off as meaningless or false without even tryi to understand them or their intentional objects. It is no surprise that philosophers can't perfectly translate mystical insights or convey information the same way a mystic would. That is to be expected, in fact. Even the use of improper or equivocal terms sometimes, because these can sometimes be useful for transmitting ideas (include here the old, tired wittgensteinian example of the ladder etc) if the reader understands the limitations. Doesn't take away the value of these works or of the recent interest in mysticism that one can find in analytical philosophy of religion.
                          Last edited by Atno; 03-25-2019, 11:16 PM.

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                          • #29
                            If all that is required to do work on mysticism is to discuss existential, interpersonal, moral, aesthetic, practical, or religious experience, then all phenomenologists are doing work on mysticism. But phenomenology is largely opposed to mysticism. For work on mysticism to be work on mysticism, something more is required.

                            As for common sense schemes providing a basis for mysticism, these common sense schemes are new only in detail. Some version or other of them has been getting tossed around at least since Aristotle. They aren't uniquely analytic achievements (and, in this case, might be better seen as analytic philosophers fixing their own scientistic and verificationist errors by returning to older ideas).

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                            • #30
                              The discussion about disagreement has been moved to http://classicaltheismforum.com/foru...l-conservatism.

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