What and How We Know
"Is Christianity Good for the World?", Christianity Today debate between Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens. (May, 2007)
But it is interesting that the same thing happens to you when you have to give some warrant for trusting in "reason". I noted your citation of LaPlace in your book and am glad you brought him up here. LaPlace believed he was not in need of the God hypothesis, just like you, but you should also know he held this position as a firmbeliever in celestial and terrestrial mechanics. He was a causal determinist, meaning that he believed that every element of the universe in the present was "the effect of its past and the cause of its future."
Paul K. Moser, ed. (Oxford University Press: Oct 27, 2005), 608 pages.
The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology contains nineteen previously unpublished chapters by today's leading figures in the field. These chapters function not only as a survey of key areas, but as original scholarship on a range of vital topics. Written accessibly for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and professional philosophers, the Handbook explains the main ideas and problems of contemporary epistemology while avoiding overly technical detail. "This is an extensive collection of well-chosen papers on a wide range of topics in current mainstream epistemology, all of which are written by international experts and published here for the first time. Most papers do not require any specialist knowledge in epistemology, although there are exceptions to this general rule. As my own teaching confirms, this book is ideal as an introductory text for a wide range of graduate students in epistemology, philosophy of science, and the epistemology of ethics." ~ Erik J. Olsson, Theoria
Michael P. Lynch (The MIT Press: August 2005), 216 pages.
Why does truth matter, when politicians so easily sidestep it and intellectuals scorn it as irrelevant? Why be concerned over an abstract idea like truth when something that isn't true — for example, a report of Iraq's attempting to buy materials for nuclear weapons—gets the desired result — the invasion of Iraq? In this engaging and spirited book, Michael Lynch argues that truth does matter, in both our personal and political lives. Lynch explains that the growing cynicism over truth stems in large part from our confusion over what truth is. "We need to think our way past our confusion and shed our cynicism about the value of truth," he writes. "Otherwise, we will be unable to act with integrity, to live authentically, and to speak truth to power." True to Life defends four simple claims: that truth is objective; that it is good to believe what is true; that truth is a goal worthy of inquiry; and that truth can be worth caring about for its own sake—not just because it gets us other things we want. In defense of these "truisms about truth," Lynch diagnoses the sources of our cynicism and argues that many contemporary theories of truth cannot adequately account for its value. He explains why we should care about truth, arguing that truth and its pursuit are part of living a happy life, important in our personal relationships and for our political values. ~ Product Description (Gold Award Winner for Philosophy in the 2004 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards)
Gregg A. Ten Elshof (Ashgate Publishing: May 2005), 108 pages.
In a naive sense it seems that there could be nothing simpler than to "know thyself" yet a philosophical elucidation of the process by which one comes to know oneself is quite elusive. In this book Gregg Ten Elshof deals with the epistemology of introspection; whether and to what extent self-knowledge can appropriately be thought of as a species of perception. Assessing the suggestion that we, at least sometimes, come to acquire significant knowledge about ourselves, by observation, in very much the same way that we sometimes come to know things about the external world; this book explains the perceptual/observational model of introspection and contrasts it with its more prominent competitors. Ten Elshof examines in detail rival conceptions of the epistemology of self-knowledge such as those proposed by Searle, Dennett and Lyons yet concludes by insisting that the arguments levelled against the perceptual/observational view have not been decisive and that it deserves to be taken seriously as a viable competing model. ~ Product Description
From "Things and Their Place in Theories"
Our talk of external things, our very notion of things, is just a conceptual apparatus that helps us to foresee and control the triggering of our sensory receptors in the light of previous triggering of our sensory receptors. The triggering, first and last, is all we have to go on. In saying this I too am talking of external things, namely, people and their nerve endings. Thus what I am saying applies in particular to what I am saying, and is not meant as skeptical. There is nothing we can be more confident of than external things — some of them, anyway — other people, sticks, stones. But there remains the fact — a fact of science itself — that science is a conceptual bridge of our own making, linking sensory stimulation to sensory stimulation; there is no extrasensory perception.
Willard V. Quine on Objectivity said...
Word and Object, 1964
The philosopher's task differs from the others', then, in detail; but in no such drastic way as those suppose who imagine for the philosopher a vantage point outside the conceptual scheme that he takes in charge. There is no such cosmic exile. He cannot study and revise the fundamental conceptual scheme of science and common sense without having some conceptual scheme, whether the same or another no less in need of philosophical scrutiny, in which to work. He can scrutinize and improve the system from within, appealing to coherence and simplicity; but this is the theoretician's method generally. He has recourse to semantic assent, but so has the scientist. And if the theoretical scientist in his remote way is bound to save the eventual connections with non-verbal stimulation, the philosopher in his remoter way is bound to save them too. True, no experiment may be expected to settle an ontological issue; but this is only because such issues are connected with surface irritations in such multifarious ways, through such a maze of intervening theory.
Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (Houghton Mifflin: 1995) p. 202.
If one kept (as rock-bottom reality) the universe of the senses, aided by instruments and co-ordinated so as to form "science," then one would have to go much further — as many have since gone — and adopt a Behavioristic theory of logic, ethics, and aesthetics. But such a theory was, and is, unbelievable to me. I am using the word "unbelievable," which many use to mean "improbable" or even "undesirable," in a quite literal sense. I mean that the act of believing what the behaviorist believes is one that my mind simply will not perform. I cannot force my thought into that shape any more than I can scratch my ear with my big toe or pour wine out of a bottle into the cavity at the base of that same bottle. It is as final as a physical impossibility.
"Mind and Illusion" in Minds and Persons, Anthony O'Hear, ed. (Cambridge University Press: 2003), p. 251.
Much of the contemporary debate in the philosophy of mind is concerned with the clash between certain strongly held intuitions and what science tells us about the mind and its relation to the world. What science tells us about the mind points strongly towards some version or other of physicalism. The intuitions, in one way or another, suggest that there is something seriously incomplete about any purely physical story about the mind. For our purposes here, we can be vague about the detail and think broadly of physicalism as the view that the mind is a purely physical part of a purely physical world. Exactly how to delineate the physical will not be crucial: anything of a kind that plays a central role in physics, chemistry, biology, neuroscience and the like, along with the a priori associated functional and relational properties count as far as we are concerned. Most contemporary philosophers given a choice between going with science and going with intuitions, go with science. Although I once dissented from the majority, I have capitulated and now see the interesting issue as being where the arguments from the intuitions against physicalism — the arguments that seem so compelling — go wrong. For some time, I have thought that the case for physicalism is sufficiently strong that we can be confident that the arguments from the intuitions go wrong somewhere, but where is somewhere?
Timothy Williamson (Oxford University Press: Dec 2002), 352 pages.
Knowledge and its Limits presents a systematic new conception of knowledge as a kind of mental stage sensitive to the knower's environment. It makes a major contribution to the debate between externalist and internalist philosophies of mind, and breaks radically with the epistemological tradition of analyzing knowledge in terms of true belief. The theory casts new light on such philosophical problems as scepticism, evidence, probability and assertion, realism and anti-realism, and the limits of what can be known. The arguments are illustrated by rigorous models based on epistemic logic and probability theory. The result is a new way of doing epistemology and a notable contribution to the philosophy of mind. ~ Synopsis at Barnes and Noble
Michael Shermer (Holt Paperbacks, Revised & Enlarged Edition: Sep 1, 2002), 384 pages.
In this age of supposed scientific enlightenment, many people still believe in mind reading, past-life regression theory, New Age hokum, and alien abduction. A no-holds-barred assault on popular superstitions and prejudices, with more than 80,000 copies in print, Why People Believe Weird Things debunks these nonsensical claims and explores the very human reasons people find otherworldly phenomena, conspiracy theories, and cults so appealing. In an entirely new chapter, "Why Smart People Believe in Weird Things," Michael Shermer takes on science luminaries like physicist Frank Tippler and others, who hide their spiritual beliefs behind the trappings of science. Shermer, science historian and true crusader, also reveals the more dangerous side of such illogical thinking, including Holocaust denial, the recovered-memory movement, the satanic ritual abuse scare, and other modern crazes. Why People Believe Strange Things is an eye-opening resource for the most gullible among us and those who want to protect them. ~ Book Description
Paul K. Moser and Arnold Vander Nat, eds. (Oxford university Press: August 2002), 592 pages.
Offering a unique and wide-ranging examination of the theory of knowledge, the new edition of this comprehensive collection deftly blends readings from the foremost classical sources with the work of important contemporary philosophical thinkers. Human Knowledge: Classical and Contemporary Approaches offers philosophical examinations of epistemology from ancient Greek and Roman philosophy (Plato, Aristotle, Sextus Empiricus); medieval philosophy (Augustine, Aquinas); early modern philosophy (Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, Reid, Kant); classical pragmatism and Anglo-American empiricism (James, Russell, Ayer, Lewis, Carnap, Quine, Rorty); and other influential Anglo-American philosophers (Chisholm, Kripke, Moore, Wittgenstein, Strawson, Putnam). Organized chronologically and thematically, Human Knowledge features exceptionally broad coverage and nontechnical selections that are easily accessible to students. An ideal text for both undergraduate and graduate courses in epistemology, it is enhanced by the editors' substantial general introduction, section overviews, and up-to-date bibliographies. The third edition offers expanded selections on contemporary epistemology and adds selections by Thomas Reid, Richard Rorty, David B. Annis, Richard Feldman and Earl Conee, Ernest Sosa, Barry Stroud, and Louise M. Antony. Human Knowledge offers an unparalleled introduction to our ancient struggle to understand our own intellectual experience. ~ Product Description
James K. Beilby, ed. (Cornell University Press: May 2002), 320 pages.
Almost a decade ago, Alvin Plantinga articulated his bold and controversial evolutionary argument against naturalism. This intriguing line of argument raises issues of importance to epistemologists and to philosophers of mind, of religion, and of science. In this, the first book to address the ongoing debate, Plantinga presents his influential thesis and responds to critiques by distinguished philosophers from a variety of subfields. Plantinga's argument is aimed at metaphysical naturalism or roughly the view that no supernatural beings exist. Naturalism is typically conjoined with evolution as an explanation of the existence and diversity of life. Plantinga's claim is that one who holds to the truth of both naturalism and evolution is irrational in doing so. More specifically, because the probability that unguided evolution would have produced reliable cognitive faculties is either low or inscrutable, one who holds both naturalism and evolution acquires a "defeater" for every belief he/she holds, including the beliefs associated with naturalism and evolution. Following Plantinga's brief summary of his thesis are eleven original pieces by his critics. The book concludes with a new essay by Plantinga in which he defends and extends his view that metaphysical naturalism is self-defeating. ~ Book Description
Moreland & Craig, eds., Naturalism: A Critical Appraisal (Routledge: 2002), p. 37.
The anti-correspondence, representationalist theories which now fill up the recent philosophical past are far from coming together in an adequate account of the mind-world relation or lack thereof. It is not as if there were now available some solid insight grounding an alternative to the type of accessible correspondence described above. In fact there is no generally acceptable alternative to correspondence. There is a series of successively discredited theories from Locke to Hume, to Kant to Hegel (or Fichte) to positivism and phenomenalism in their various forms; and then "language" (the "new way of words") is substituted for way of "ideas" or "experience," and the old battles fought over gain. This time about how words tie to the world, and the outcome being a lingo-centric predicament instead of a ego-centric predicament. One cannot easily suppose that there is a philosophically credible alternative to the correspondence theory of truth. We do not have "something better" on hand.
Moreland & Craig, eds., Naturalism: A Critical Appraisal (Routledge: 2002), pp. 32-3.
The absence of any reference to belief in my statements on knowledge and knowing will be immediately noticed. The absence is intended, and though rare today in discussions of knowledge it is by no means unique in the history of the theory of knowledge. ... Belief I understand to be some degree of readiness to act as if such and such (the content believed) were the case. Everyone concedes that one can believe where one does not know. But it is now widely assumed that you cannot know what you do not believe. Hence the well-known analysis of knowledge as "justified, true belief." But this seems to me, as it has to numerous others, to be a mistake. Belief is, as Hume correctly held, a passion. It is something that happens to us. Thought, observation and testing, even knowledge itself, an be sources of belief, and indeed should be. But one may actually know (dispositionally, occurrently) without believing what one knows.
Moreland & Craig, eds., Naturalism: A Critical Appraisal (Routledge: 2002), p. 31.
I take knowledge in the dispositional sense to be identical with the capacity to represent a respective subject matter as it is, on an appropriate basis of thought and/or experience. In the occurrent sense it consists in actually representing, at a point in time, the respective subject matter as it is, on an appropriate basis of thought and/or experience. This is not intended as an analysis or definition of knowledge, but as an initial description of cases which count as knowledge or knowing.
Moreland & Craig, eds., Naturalism: A Critical Appraisal (Routledge: 2002), p. 31.
One could retreat to a mere methodological naturalism and say that scientific method is our only hope as human beings. Whether or not we can adequately specify naturalism or know it to be true, one might say, the "scientific method" must be exclusively followed for human well-being. Naturalism would then be a humane proposal, not a philosophical claim. The proposal would be to assume in our inquiries that only the physical (or the empirical) exists and to see if inquiry based upon that assumption is not more successful in promoting human ends than any other type of inquiry.
Michael Huemer (Rowman & Littlefield: Jul 17, 2001), 232 pages.
Since Descartes, one of the central questions of Western philosophy has been that of how we know that the objects we seem to perceive are real. Philosophical skeptics claim that we know no such thing. Representationalists claim that we can gain such knowledge only by inference, by showing that the hypothesis of a real world is the best explanation for the kind of sensations and mental images we experience. Both accept the doctrine of a 'veil of perception': that perception can only give us direct awareness of images or representations of objects, not the external objects themselves. In contrast, Huemer develops a theory of perceptual awareness in which perception gives us direct awareness of real objects, not mental representations, and we have non-inferential knowledge of the properties of these objects. Further, Huemer confronts the four main arguments for philosophical skepticism, showing that they are powerless against this kind of theory of perceptual knowledge.