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Posted: 30 March 2007 12:31 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I was about to send this to the pastor of the Grove (www.thegrove.cc), but the contact-us form had just a tiny little window.  I thought it would be better to invite pastor Tom Lance to the website in case he wants to get a better feel for the king of people I hang out with, mentally.

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Posted: 30 March 2007 07:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Nice!
I just love how you can write what’s on my mind…:)

Oh, and thanks for the compliment, although I suspect that you meant ‘kind’ and not ‘king’.
I do like to think as myself as a King People though.
Don’t change it smile

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Posted: 31 March 2007 04:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The thing about this (probably about the most important thing in MY life) is that it’s terribly hard to express, for some reason.

It’s just the usual shite about how all roads lead to Rome, and if you are, or are “worshiping” something Nice, then that’s probably good enough.  Christian apologists (eg. CS Lewis, who wrote “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”), used to try to get away with this… turning it around and saying that our religious impulses are all impulses towards Christianity.  I think actually that our Christian impulses are really impulses towards religion.  By which we (that would be me and my goldfish, Steve) don’t mean anything bad or scary, just that when you go camping in the mountains, you sit there in the silence and say, “Oh, Hi.  Thanks.”  Or if your cat walks by.  Or your poodle. 

Church used to be the place you went for help.  Church was (and still is, in some situations) Community. 

People tend to take the details too literally, but so what?  Go to the Grove and sing hymns!  If something is knocking at your door, answer. 

That’s my advice, and I’m sticking to it, like a fly on something somebody bought at Wal-Mart.

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Posted: 31 March 2007 04:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Religion helps some people find a goal in life.
It helps others to overcome difficult times, because they ‘turn their life around’, concentrate on something else than the problem.
Obviously, that something has to be pretty big for them to forget what ails them, and they have to make a big deal of it to continue making it their ‘purpose’ for the rest of their life.

Obviously, for others, it’s just another way of getting richer…
Ever wondered why the pope lives in a castle full of gold and dresses in silk? I dunno, I kindof liked the ‘Jesus’ fad, the one where you live modestly and preach and give stuff away…

Anywho, all this to say that if some people find comfort, and community, and a goal to life in religion, then that’s great for them, and yes, I agree, go to the Grove and sing till judgement day.

I stopped going to church when I realized that half the service had become a plea for money to fix the roof, and invitations to bingos, and reminders that good Christians sent a check every month.

I have many goals in life and I am forever greatful of all the wonderful things life has to offer. For that I thank my parents, myself, society, people that are A-Okay (and those who are not - because they make me feel better about myself), and then I spend the rest of my time taking care of what has been given, respecting it as best I can and ensuring I do my part to leave something worthwhile for those who will come after me.

If there really is a God, I’m sure He or She knows how thankful I am.

Besides, religion is what goes on inside your head, not whether or not you go to church.

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Posted: 31 March 2007 04:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Is there some group of people of which you are a part that gives you the sense that they’re glad you’re part of the group?  Are there things you do for a group of people just because you like the relationship that is developing?  Obviously this site could count as something like that… I’d have to say that my family is a group like that - I mean my parents and my brother and sisters.  My wife’s family is also.

The people at work, not really because… hmm, I guess because I don’t have the time to spend developing relationships like “let’s go to lunch, or go shoot some pool after work or…”  And my work is 35 miles away along a freeway that almost always crowded.  I worked my previous job for three years and I think it was *after I quit* that I started hanging out (just a tiny bit) with people that I met there.  Gene Duquette was one - he lived just a couple miles from my house.  And Brian Gladish, who introduced me to Austrian Economics, kind of the starting point for my anti-tax stance.  We still IM each other every now and then.  Software engineers tend to do that, I guess.

My God, the melancholy is thick now.  I guess I’m looking for a small town where I can know about 1000 people and see about 100 of them every day and talk to 10 of them every day and know that at least two or three of them know everything about me so well that if I got killed by lightning, they’d cry and mourn for a while, but the health of the community would be unaffected.  People who know me so well that they could take over for me.  People who could remain skeptical of me and laugh in the face of really deep philosophical differences just because… Because we’re together and we take care of eachother and the forebrain - the source of all that contentious philosophy and religion and ideological thought - has to be taken with a grain of salt.  I want to be with people who perceive the use of force as rarely if ever necessary.  I want to be with people whose sense of justice comes down to “fix what you broke, and pay for what you took, and apologize.”  People who are free inside their own heads.

No, my life is not grounded in a community like that and I wish that it were.  Can I blame that on taxation?

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Posted: 31 March 2007 05:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Dave, I know how you feel.
I myself often long for that sort of unity, understanding and sense of community.
I can see my neighbours right now, in the street. Two or three of them were just out for a stroll and now they’ve been standing in the street chatting for the last hour.
I live in a dead end, in the middle town house in a row of five. Everyone in the dead end knows each other, and even if we don’t speak everyday, we always wave when we see each other, smile, comment on the weather or whatever. We stick together, too. There was a fire last year in one of our neighbour’s house, and we all came together to help - offer support, supplies, or even just bake something while their kitchen was being rebuilt.

We do this because we feel a sense of belonging, a sense that we share something. We feel safe in the dead end, and and that is because we make it so. Because we make a point of knowing what happens to others, and keep up-to-date on news and developments. I really like being part of that.

But we’re talking about what - 10-15 people at most? And that includes frequent visitors. And here’s the catch.

It takes a long time to build the ‘dead end’ trust. I know when we first moved in, it was a good year before people started waving back. And the poeple who lived here before moved just down the street - out of the dead end, but still pretty close. They didn’t want to leave their community too far. Eventually, you win the trust or you isolate yourself. And everyone living near but out of the dead end, who is not part of the community, becomes ‘them’. ‘They’ drive too fast in the neighborhood. ‘They’ send their kids out to play in the dead end, unsupervised. ‘They’ take a stroll through the forest path and leave candy wrappers everywhere. Because people in the dead end do not do that. And if they did, we wouldn’t say they did, because we would not accept someone from our community doing anything to disturb the peace. And the last thing we want is to turn on each other, because that would most certainly break up our little group.

And then there’s the fact that you’re accountable for being part of the group. Obvioulsy that’s part of the fun, the feeling of taking part in something. But it can also be overwhelming at times. And it can disrupt your life and your activities, too. Like when my 80 something third-door neighbour came by to chat every single night right around dinner time. And stayed for hours. And always asked us where we were when she rang the bell and nobody answered. Feeling like I had to account for every single action I took was beginning to be a bit much.

So yes, as I said, I often long for the kind of community you speak of. But I don’t think it can really exist the way you describe it. Because sooner or later, the community shifts and moves and becomes something else. And sometimes, you start wishing you moved to somewhere where nobody knows you.

And no, sorry, I don’t think taxation has anything to do with it wink

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Posted: 08 April 2007 11:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Pastor Tom wrote me back this offer:

The issue that needs to be addressed is how you see and understand the word belief.  Do you believe when you hit send the message you wrote will get to me?  Do you believe the chair in which you sit will hold you up?  Why?  Before a person can grow in their relationship with God they have to come to a place of belief.  You seem to be a person who would like apologetics.  I would suggest you read Lee Strobels book “A case for Christ” I think it would greatly help you in your journey.  We are all on a journey to discover more of God so it’s a good place to be. I have a copy in my office you can have.  After you read it you can sit down with me, Joe Hobbs or Mike Barnes to discuss it.  Let me know if that is something you would like to do.

My reply, edited to fit in a single post:

I took the liberty of doing an Internet search on The Case for Christ, and what I got back is an ongoing argument between the two sides.  They are debating history because they feel that the accuracy of the history should help them decide how to live today.  However, I feel that my decisions about how to live should be based on my own personal experiences, educated by whatever information others have to offer me, whether it is presented as fiction or non-fiction.  I draw lessons from the Bible as easily as I draw them from jokes in the newspaper and children playing in the street.  My faith is in people and, to a lesser extent, the possibility that there is a pervading consciousness in the universe that is interested in happiness, or, if it is all-powerful, then learning.  Perhaps from the point of view of that God, learning and happiness are the same thing.

At Grossmont community college, I got in with the “United Church of Christ” (UCC) who eventually took the position that I needed to choose between Catholicism and UCC.  It seemed ridiculous to me, so I brought the problem to my high school math teacher (a priest) and the leading pastor of UCC.  I asked them to discuss what decisions they thought I should make, and they obliged me, met, and talked in front of me eventually deciding that I had to make the decision myself rather than relying on others.  Since each “side” was asking me to decide against the other “side”, I instead became skeptical of the conflicting parts of each side.

After that, I began to see religion as s tool for getting people to behave well.  Most religions get people to behave well in most cases, and I guess this is good.  I’m not totally down with the idea because they also encourage division from each other.  I hold a set of core beliefs that is different from all religions because it based on skepticism.  In order to understand and befriend buddhists, muslims, christians, aetheists, pagans, etc., all good people, I had to find my own reasons to behave as religions generally prescribe: help those in need, don’t resort to violence, respect property, treat others as you want to be treated.  I have those reasons, and because I have them, I feel a (divine?) pull to share them.

If my perception of the Grove shifted from a fundamentalist church (by which I mean to say, getting people to behave well because of all the tenets of our Christian faith), toward a church more interested in getting people to behave well just because it makes life better, I would be happier and possibly comfortable enough to help.

I have entertained arguments from my mom for Catholicism, from UCC for their faith, from a Muslim friend of mine for Islam, and even from friends in high school for different views on Catholic theology.  They have made me appreciate skepticism more.  I feel that if I did accept one of these faiths, I would be betraying all the others, as well as the gift of reasoned skepticism that I can say came directly from God.  Assuming He is there, and that He is good, I can’t imagine Him faulting me for being a skeptic, more interested in the happiness of other humans than in following one of the groups claiming to be dedicated to Him.

Perhaps most people need a set of beliefs in the supernatural and a messiah to stick together in a healthy community.  I can accept that, but I have faith that some day, all we’ll need is a bit of education - in the form of observation, trial and error, scientific-like - to stick together in a healthy community.  I’m working toward that goal for my descendants.  I know this can be at odds with the doctrine of Judgment Day, but I still have hope.

I think that you perceive me as someone that could use a lot of your help - the help of the church and the community - to rebuild and strengthen my faith in the tenets of Christianity.  I perceive you and most people in fact, as someone that could use a lot of my help to build faith in simple, natural humanity.  Though we will probably always disagree, I have faith that the commonality of how and why we behave the way we do will mesh.  You will become more capable of helping non-believers behave well without requiring them to become Christians, and I will become more capable of helping Christians behave well without scandalizing them.

I have to admit that you have amazing reach - people listen to you, and I would like people to listen to me - or better yet, listen to my ideas on things, presented by others as they understand them.  Just getting to know you and discussing things with you makes that happen.  But I am sensitive to the popularity of a great pastor; I can’t expect a lot of your time.  Please don’t ever feel bad for leaving my emails unanswered for a while, or even if you see no value in continuing our discussion.  I only want to help.

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Posted: 11 April 2007 10:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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It’s interesting that he’d say, “Do you believe the chair in which you sit will hold you up?  Why?  Before a person can grow in their relationship with God they have to come to a place of belief.” 

In your comment to my bluh-bluh-blurb on myself, you asked how I know I’m not dreaming.  And I answered that if knowledge requires absolute mathematical certainty, then I don’t; dang.  Knowledge, epistemology, is a big topic in Philosophy, but it appears to turn out that if you require Certainty of knowledge, then you’ll end up having to admit that you don’t KNOW much at all, including that the chair will hold you up, or that there even IS a chair, or that you’re not dreaming.  You can’t PROVE you’re not a brain in a vat, dreaming that you’ve invented Litmocracy. 

It’s turned out that even in secular philosophy, people have been (somewhat reluctantly) drawn towards the conclusion that knowledge involves belief, yes, but, and…. something over and above JUST belief, but short of Certainty.  Maybe something a little (a LITTLE) like Faith, if only in the sense that it’s not absolutely, mathematically certain.  Yes, it’s possible that I’m dreaming.  But I know I’m not. 

Just any old “place of belief” isn’t good enough for knowledge, though, surely, because we don’t want to admit that Uncle Fred, who thinks he is a poached egg, actually IS one, or that he KNOWS he is one, no matter how hard he lobbies for the truth of this and how committed he seems to same.  Uncle Fred simply isn’t a poached egg, no matter what he may think.  Somehow, we KNOW this.  Blind Faith isn’t sufficient for knowledge.  Uncle Fred is wrong.  We know enough about what knowledge is to say that Uncle Fred does not KNOW he is a poached egg.  If he’s lucky, we might admit that he mistakenly BELIEVES he is one.  But that’s it. 

The philosophers figure that the correct definition of Knowledge is:  Justified Trooo Belief.  For your belief to count as knowledge, it has to be TRUE (you can’t KNOW something that isn’t True), you have to believe it (it wouldn’t be a belief if you didn’t THINK it was true, in some sense) and… it has to be JUSTIFIED.  You have, in some sense, to have Good Reasons for thinking it’s True.  And not just any reasons will do.  I don’t care WHO told Uncle Frank that he is a poached egg.  That isn’t a good enough reason for him to believe it. 

The debates always turn on what counts as “True”  (do you mean Objectively Trooo, or just “True-for-You”, and if the latter, why isn’t that JUST belief?) and on what counts as “Good Reasons”?  A Christian (or anyone else) who asks you how you know your chair will hold you up (which most people will grant you DO know), and then draws an analogy between THAT knowledge and the alleged available knowledge that there is a God, a specifically Christian God, who is best addressed using pronouns like “He” and “Him” and so forth—- well… there are a lot of philosophers who would be delighted to draw a few disanalogies between the types of justifications used for these two (types of) belief. 

On the other hand,  Pastor Tom is right that in order for one to “grow” in one’s “relationship” with ANYTHING supposedly external to one’s immediate thoughts and experiences, one does indeed have to come to a “place of belief.”  Never mind the chair.  How do you KNOW that your WIFE is there?  If you don’t doubt that she’s there, what’s the difference between that, and the question of whether there’s a specifically Christian God….? 

If you ask me (nobody did) that would be a good place to start.

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Posted: 11 April 2007 11:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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And I should add that in MY, ahem, travels, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s Something there, much in the same way that one’s wife is; but I can’t say it’s specifically Christian, or Muslim, and I highly doubt that It is “supernatural”.  I don’t know why it should be such a disappointing notion that Numenous Awe (C.S. Lewis, Christian apologist, speaks of it) might be completely natural, all of a piece with this natural world.  I imagine it’s possible that we know, say, 20% more than our ancestors, 3000 years ago, knew about the way the universe works.  Now that we know (kinda) where babies come from, does that make it any less “miraculous” when a baby is born? 

OK, I’ll shut up.

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Posted: 15 April 2007 07:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I’ve been looking for a published philosophical treatment of my own position:

1) Common usage of the term “know” requires what you described - something very close to certainty, *as well as* actual truth.

2) Truth can only be achieved through defnition.  If I define several terms and string them together a certain way, then it is truth for me.

3) There is no other kind of truth.  If you agree to use my definitions, then you can “know” my “truth”, but it is still my truth and not yours because it isn’t possible for me to give you my own definitions in the absolutely perfect way required for it to be your truth.  This doesn’t present much of a problem, because we can communicate enough to make the difference between your definition and mine insignificant.  This is what we do with math and why mathematicians can prove things to each other.  The communication-makes-it-unimportant point is the single most important point in any discussion intended for more than just entertainment.

4) What I perceive about the universe is my truth, and if I choose to define terms (or refine terms defined by others), then I can express my truth.  I may still make errors in reasoning which will cause me to believe I know something I don’t know.

Your uncle really is a poached egg.  You are the crazy one.  That is the problem illustrated by #3.  If I understood that your definition of “uncle Fred” referred to that cooked thing, we would agree - even if our statements of his essence may be confused.  That is the tragedy between religions - people don’t understand how important point three is, so instead of communicating enough to make their definitions match (Allah is Yaweh), they isolate themselves from each other.

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Posted: 17 April 2007 12:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Ah well, I have pored over your latest, and I don’t understand you.

Too many years studying all this stuff. 

The closest I can come to what you might be saying is Tarski’s Theory of Truth, according to which:

“Snow is white” is true, if and only if snow is white.  (!)

An extremely frustrating theory of truth, but kind of appealing in the sense that that’s what everyone THINKS. 

Notably, “Tarski’s Theory of Truth is true” is true, if and only if Tarski’s Theory of Truth is true. 

Tarski wouldn’t have minded this, but most other people do. 

I kind of doubt that you were driving at anything quite so simple and irritating.

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Posted: 17 April 2007 12:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Maybe this is simpler:  You can’t know anything unless you’ve defined it yourself (which means you kind of made it up).  Most of what people “know” is actually a working assumption - ie that the chair will continue holding me up is something I assume.  When two people “know” things that are contradictory to each other, either A) one of them is applying false logic to arrive at the knowledge (and once seeing that, they will agree), or B) they are using different definitions of the same term (and if and when they can agree on the definitions, they will no longer have contradictory knowledge).

So it’s partly a framework for getting people to A) Admit that their “knowledge” is really an assumption and B) Resolve contradictory knowledge by communicating the differences in their definitions.

It’s important to me to get people to think of their “knowledge” as working assumptions instead.  I see a categorical difference between knowing that stepping on an egg will break it and knowing that tomorrow is less than 24 hours away.  There’s a definition that makes the second statement a tautology.  Furthermore, advances in science don’t come from pretending that tomorrow can take longer to get here, but they do come from pretending that someday, stepping on an egg won’t break it (chicken-breeding, anyone?).

I think Socrates claimed that knowledge was not possible, but I don’t know if he left open the possibility of knowing something because you defined it.

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Posted: 26 April 2007 03:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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“You can’t know anything unless you’ve defined it yourself (which means you kind of made it up).  Most of what people “know” is actually a working assumption - ie that the chair will continue holding me up is something I assume. “

Surely it’s not JUST an assumption!  ASSUME for a moment that I am a poached egg.  Now compare this assumption with the proposition that the chair will hold you up.  I should say (for one thing) that the latter has more evidence in its favour!!  Perhaps what you’re saying is that most of what we know isn’t certain, which is right.  (I’ve checked.)

I think I know what “assumption” means and I didn’t define THAT myself.  I’m appealing to your (our, shared) linguistic intuitions in the example above, and these come from talking to other people and looking things up in the dictionary. 

“When two people “know” things that are contradictory to each other, either A) one of them is applying false logic to arrive at the knowledge (and once seeing that, they will agree), or B) they are using different definitions of the same term (and if and when they can agree on the definitions, they will no longer have contradictory knowledge). “

Yeah, absolutely right; and it’s a good thing you put “know” in scare quotes because two people can’t really know things that are contradictory to each other, since “p” implies “not not p”, and “Fred knows p” implies “p is true.”  She said. 

I’ve run over the allotted number of characters.  Argh.  To Be Continued!!!!

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Posted: 26 April 2007 03:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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“So it’s partly a framework for getting people to A) Admit that their “knowledge” is really an assumption and B) Resolve contradictory knowledge by communicating the differences in their definitions. “

I think I totally agree with you on everything but your use of the words “assumption” and “know”.  This is me resolving the (verbal, if at all) dispute by whinging about the differences in our definitions. 

“It’s important to me to get people to think of their “knowledge” as working assumptions instead.  I see a categorical difference between knowing that stepping on an egg will break it and knowing that tomorrow is less than 24 hours away.  There’s a definition that makes the second statement a tautology.  Furthermore, advances in science don’t come from pretending that tomorrow can take longer to get here, but they do come from pretending that someday, stepping on an egg won’t break it (chicken-breeding, anyone?). “

There is indeed a categorical difference!
I think the distinction you’re drawing is one that in philosophy is drawn between (1)a priori knowledge (Stuff you can know just by knowing the meanings of words, without doing any empirical investigation—“before experience”), eg. “Cows are mammals”; and (2) a posteriori knowledge (Stuff you can only find out by checking), eg. “There is a cow in my back yard.” 

The fact that stepping on an egg will break it is an example of (2)a posteriori knowledge (meaning “after experience”)—you (or egg-scientists, who publish their results) have to have experiences to find out about the eggs; whereas if you understand the language, you already know that there are 24 hours in a day .... you don’t have to sit around counting the hours or reading about it in Scientific American.  It’s (2) a priori knowable. 

Most contemporary philosophers think that all a priori knowable propositions ARE just tautologies, and that that’s why we can be certain of them. 
However, tautologies are boring.  It would be interesting if there were a cow in my back yard, but I can’t find out if there is one by examining my knowledge of English.  (Of course, I could come up with stipulative definitions that would make “There’s a cow in my back yard” INTO a tautology; eg. I could stipulate that “my back yard” MEANS “a place with a cow in it”, and in that case I can be absolutely certain that I’m right.  There’s a cow in a place that has a cow in it!  Wahoo!  But this is BORING, and not relevant to the original question. What I wanted to know was whether there was a cow in what we NORMALLY mean by “my back yard”. )

“There’s a cow in my back yard” (given ordinary English definitions of terms, per the OED) is a posteriori, meaning that ya gotta go check to see what’s in my back yard.  Now suppose I do, and it looks a lot like there’s a cow there.  It’s black and white, says “Moo”, and is eating my flowers. (Etc.)  This is good evidence for believing there’s a cow in my back yard.  If there really IS a cow, AND there’s enough evidence like this, most philosophers would argue that it’s reasonable to say I KNOW that there’s a cow out there.  Few would agree that I am, or can be CERTAIN of this, though, because it’s still possible that I’m mistaken.  I MIGHT be dreaming; or it MIGHT be a guy in a cow suit, etc.  Similarly, even “Eggs break when you step on them” isn’t CERTAIN, and one of the reasons for this is that (unless you stipulate that breakability is definitive of eggs, and it wouldn’t be an egg UNLESS it broke when you stepped on it) there’s always the possibility that you could run into (or genetically engineer) a recalcitrant egg that JUST WON’T BREAK.  Unless you’ve checked every single egg, past present and future, and they’ve all broken when you’ve stepped on them, you can’t say FER SHUR that the next one you step on will break. 

So do we want to say that therefore we just can’t KNOW that eggs break when you step on them?  We can say that, if we want, but the general line in philosophy is to say that, gee, THAT wouldn’t exactly jive with the way we use the word “know”.  Just because I can’t be absolutely CERTAIN that the sun will rise tomorrow… surely I don’t have to deny that I KNOW that it will.  Just because it’s possible that the next egg Dave steps on will not break doesn’t mean that I don’t KNOW that it will.  So there’s a big difference between knowledge and certainty. But just because something is merely known and not absolutely certain doesn’t, dammit, make it JUST an assumption.

Of course, we could stipulatively redefine “assumption” so that it means “knowledge that falls short of certainty”.  But why not leave the language more or less as it is, and try to make ourselves understood using the handy terminology and distinctions that the philosophers have been agonizing
over since the time of Plato! 

Socrates didn’t say knowledge isn’t possible.  Actually, a lot of what he was doing was messing with people, to get them to think about the correct definition/concept we all share, of knowledge.  He’s the one that came up with “Knowledge is justified true belief,” which I’ve been flogging just now. 

I can’t believe you got me going like this.  I HATED reading Plato.  I can’t believe HE got me going like this!

Stop tromping on the eggs!  I’m telling you, I just KNOW they’re gonna break, and it’ll be a terrible waste of breakfast!

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Posted: 26 April 2007 04:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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And by the way, while I’m running off at the mouth/keyboard… as all of this applies to Pastor Tom…
Here’s what I originally said in response to what HE said:

“A Christian (or anyone else) who asks you how you know your chair will hold you up (which most people will grant you DO know), and then draws an analogy between THAT knowledge and the alleged available knowledge that there is a God, a specifically Christian God, who is best addressed using pronouns like “He” and “Him” and so forth—- well… there are a lot of philosophers who would be delighted to draw a few disanalogies between the types of justifications used for these two (types of) belief. “

We’ve got:
1) Your chair will hold you up.
and
2) There is a specifically Christian god, named “God”, etc. and He goes to my church.

I got the impression that Pastor Tom wanted you to think about how confident you are about the chair, and then somehow feel dumb about just not SEEING how incredibly obvious it is, likewise, supposed to be that there’s (his particular conception of) a God. 

Well.  These two propositions are both a posteriori.  Neither is true just in virtue of the meanings of the words involved.  Unless they’re BORING, like “Cows are mammals”, they are interesting statements— like, “There’s a cow in my back yard”, or “There’s an omnipotent being who is going to be mad at me if I don’t believe in Him.” 

Since both are a posteriori, neither is absolutely certain.  They are matters of experience.  The question of whether you can claim to KNOW either of them would thus appear to turn on what kind of experiential EVIDENCE you have for thinking they’re true.

I submit that “the chair will hold me up” has whacks more basic, sensory, experiential evidence going for it than something as complicated, specific, detailed and dicey as that there’s a Christian God, with all the bells and whistles that go along with being a Christian, never mind one of a particular protestant denomination.  Personally, I believe, I think I know, that Something is going on, but there’s no way that I can imagine thinking I had experiential evidence for a God that is specifically Christian.  Which doesn’t mean I don’t LIKE thinking in specifically Christian terms (I was raised in North America, and this is how we were brought up to conceive of What is going on), but I don’t feel that I’m justified in bringing in all the DETAIL and insisting that all the details are literally true, and that (eg.) everyone who doesn’t acknowledge Jesus as his/her personal saviour is somehow missing the obvious.  It may be obvious that Something is going on, but that Its name had better be Jesus is not obvious to me.  And from what I know about the historical Jesus, I’m not at all sure he would have objected to my position. 

I don’t necessarily think that Christians are wrong to think about What is Going On using Christian concepts.  I just find it awfully, well, in terms of EVIDENCE, just plain silly to compare one’s evidence that a chair will hold you up if you sit in it with the evidence that Christianity, per se, is true. 

Pastor Tom may (on the other hand) have in mind the idea that, gee, it’s possible that the chair WON’T hold you up… you CAN doubt your senses…. it’s not absolutely certain that you’re not dreaming, but hey, you believe in the CHAIR, don’t you?  You have faith in the chair, and IT is not certain.  So the fact that God is not certain shouldn’t stop you from believing in Him.  You should have as much faith in God as in the chair, since both aren’t certain!

But again… see above.  His argument either way is basically appealing to the similarity of (1) and (2)—yes, they’re both a posteriori.  But there are other differences between them that make them very different from each other.

I hope I haven’t been annoying…. it’s just that I have a long history with Christians and much as I love many of them, some of their arguments make me… um… hmph.

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Posted: 29 April 2007 03:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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julianyway - 26 April 2007 06:25 AM

Yeah, absolutely right; and it’s a good thing you put “know” in scare quotes because two people can’t really know things that are contradictory to each other, since “p” implies “not not p”, and “Fred knows p” implies “p is true.”

[quote author=“julianyway”]Just because it’s possible that the next egg Dave steps on will not break doesn’t mean that I don’t KNOW that it will.

Sorry to be boring, but I think it helps sometimes…

let p = “Stepping on an egg will break it”

Your second quote then amounts to: “Just because it’s possible that p isn’t true doesn’t mean that I don’t KNOW it isn’t true.”
That doesn’t sound right, but I’m doing tautologies here, so we’ll ignore how it sounds and plug it into the first quote: “...two people can’t really know things that are contradictory to each other…” ...[p being a thing] and [Julia KNOWing it] therefore makes it impossible for anyone to know that it isn’t true (that I stepped on an egg and it didn’t break).

I assume that if I did step on an egg and it didn’t break, I would know that p is not true and you would know that it is true and that would disprove at least one of your quotes.  I also have an explanation though…

The egg I stepped on was made of marble.  You would agree that the egg you know will break is the kind with goop inside that comes out of a hen while my egg doesn’t fit that definition.  However, the important thing for me is that you regard your knowledge about the future of any egg I’m about to step on as an ASSUMPTION because, as you pointed out, it might look like an egg (or a cow) and still not be one - at least the kind you think it is.

[quote author=“julianyway”]Surely it’s not JUST an assumption!  ASSUME for a moment that I am a poached egg.  Now compare this assumption with the proposition that the chair will hold you up.  I should say (for one thing) that the latter has more evidence in its favour!!  Perhaps what you’re saying is that most of what we know isn’t certain, which is right.  (I’ve checked.)

 
No, I’m sorry, it is still an assumption if absolute certainty is not there.  Of course, some of my assumptions (eg that the chair is going to keep holding me up until I’m done typing) are stronger than others (eg that you will agree that assumptions each have a level of certainty), and this is based on the level of certainty with which I hold them.  If pieces of knowledge are things that also have levels of certainty (rather than a single level, that being “total”), then I am at a loss for words.  I was under the impression that people use the term “know” to define thoughts to which they attach absolute certainty.  In fact, absolute certainty is part of my definition of knowledge.

I have in the past attempted to use “definitions” instead of “knowledge” to avoid this problem, but people insist that they are not “defining” God as “whatever it is that I believe is in complete control of the Universe.”  I insist that I am, and ask them what IS their definition, and that pretty much ends the discussion.

And anyway, a person who says they know the chair will hold me up will usually EITHER cave under scrutiny, admitting that they don’t “know it for sure” but that it is a safe assumption, OR smirk, tacitly admitting that they’re misusing the word, as they continue insisting that they “know” it.

As for philosophers who abuse language by, for example, letting some arbitraty level of certainty be the difference between “assume” and “know”, they can go play pool because they’re of no use to me.  They’re sloppy and untrustworthy.

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