• Epistemology

    Doctrine, Devotion, and Duty

    If I say, “I know God,” I am telling you that I am personally acquainted with him. If I say, “I know that God is omnipotent,” I am telling you that I have good reason to believe that the proposition expressed in that sentence is true. If I say, “I am obeying the command to love God by obeying his command to serve others,” I am telling you something about my activities. I am telling you about an obligation to perform an action and the fact that I am meeting it. All three of these aspects relate to one another in crucial ways. For example, I can’t have a personal…

  • Epistemology

    Inference and Obligation

    An inference is a kind of intellectual movement. Suppose I consider one belief I might have. I consider what follows from it and, as a result, I come to believe something else. Coming to believe something from something else is an inferential process. Most plausibly, the process involves adhering to a rule of inference. For example, the rule of modus ponens has the following form: if p, then q. p. Therefore, q. If I believe that apples grow on trees and I believe that the fruit I am eating is an apple, I can use modus ponens to infer that the fruit I am eating grew on a tree. The…

  • Epistemology

    Replacement Epistemology

    I take it that I know that there is a tree over there. It is true, I believe it, and I have good reason to believe it (I am perceiving it right now and my perceptual faculties are functioning properly). Working out what it is for a belief to be true and warranted is traditionally a task for philosophy. It is a normative domain – what are the necessary and sufficient conditions for warrant? In addition, one needs an account of warrant. Are those conditions internal mental states or external causal relations of some sort? The replacement epistemologist argues that those questions have no normative answer. There is no ‘ought’…

  • Epistemology

    Law and Order!

    There are many kinds of rules. There are rules of grammar, rules of etiquette, rules of law, and rules of inference. I’m interested in them all, but in this post, the kinds of rules that interest me are the latter kind. Here is one: ‘if p, then q. p. Therefore, q.’ The rule of inference (modus ponens) is said to be truth-preserving. If the premises are true, then it follows that the conclusion is also true. There are two difficulties with law and order when it comes to inference. First, there is the apparent difficulty of explaining what sort of justification we could have for believing such rules of inference.…

  • Epistemology

    Ought I Believe?

    Do we have doxastic obligations, obligations of belief? Is the sentence, ‘You ought to believe p’ intelligible or does it reduce to ‘p is true’ or ‘I want you to agree with me’? Say ‘S believes p’ is true. It tells us something about S but nothing about whether S ought to believe p. But we do think that there is some connection between belief and true propositions that is somehow related to a person’s obligations. We Can’t Believe Anything We Want We don’t really think that anyone can believe anything they want. We might say, ‘you can believe anything you want,’ but what we mean by freedom of belief…

  • Apologetics,  Epistemology,  Natural Theology,  Philosophy of Religion

    Nativism and Theistic Beliefs

    Did we learn the concept of God and infer his existence from some other more basic belief, or did we have the concept of God or a belief in his existence ‘already in the mind’? Such is the issue of nativism: whether there is something in the mind prior to experience. Some theologians and philosophers espouse strongly nativist views. For example, Gordon Clark argues for a form of concept nativism. He argues that human beings have “innate ideas and a priori categories” the purpose of which are for “receiving a verbal revelation, of approaching God in prayer, and of conversing with other men about God and spiritual realities.” Clark makes two…

  • Epistemology,  Ethics

    Legal Nativism?

    Over at Law and Liberty, John McGinnis favorably quotes legal scholar Harold Berman. Berman apparently told The Fulton County Daily Report (although, I can’t for the life of me find the quotation in its original context): A child says, ‘It’s my toy.’ That’s property law. A child says, ‘You promised me.’ That’s contract law. A child says, ‘He hit me first.’ That’s criminal law. A child says, ‘Daddy said I could.’ That’s constitutional law. McGinnis finds strong support for Berman’s claims in the developemt in of his own daughter: “As my daughter turns two this week, nothing has been more remarkable to this law professor than her already intense relation with rules, vindicating…