• Aesthetics,  Epistemology

    Beliefs and Imagination

    The strength of my faith rests in part on repeated readings of the Chronicles of Narnia. The imagination is a powerful faculty of the human mind. As Gordon Graham writes, “Assembling evidence is often a rational strategy in arriving at a verdict, but imagination … can be another means by which reality is brought home to us” (Gordon Graham). What I want to consider in this post is the comparison Graham makes between imagination and a rational strategy. Presumably, by ‘reality is brought home to us’ and ‘arriving at a verdict’ Graham means belief. A ‘rational strategy’ for forming a belief (presumably) involves a proposition, p, being justified by evidence and basing…

  • Epistemology

    On Intellectual Method

    Broadly speaking, there are two competing intellectual methodologies: One either starts with the details, attempting to solve particular problems one at a time, or one starts at the top by attempting to develop maximally coherent systems. In a recent recent interview, James White said the following about his conversion to postmillenialism: “Postmillennialism is a top-down theology.  It begins with over-arching themes that flow naturally and beautifully from Reformed theology. Instead of starting down at the bottom and trying to build up a system based upon interpreting symbols and apocryphal texts, postmillennialism starts with the over-arching purpose of God in Christ.” White starts with a system and then fits the details…

  • Epistemology

    In Defense of Correspondence

    I don’t know from where I got the following argument. I’m not even sure it’s any good. Here it is anyway. Some preamble: There are three broad theories of truth. According to a correspondence theory of truth, a statement is true if and only if it in some way corresponds to, or is in harmony with, a state of affairs. In contrast, a coherence theory suggests that a statement is true iff it does not contradict other statements which are part of a set of statements. Finally, according to a pragmatic theory of truth, statements are true when they are useful/beneficial when believed.  Now, here’s the argument. Assume that the correspondence theory is…

  • Epistemology

    Epistemic Pessimism

    In a recent post, I described replacement epistemology, the project of replacing traditional questions such as justification for beliefs with psychology and sociology. Recently, I came across an article by Dr. Natalie Ashton, a philosopher at the University of Stirling who specializes in epistemology. The title of the article was “Why Twitter is (Epistemically) Better than Facebook.” But the article swaps epistemology for psychology. Consider the following paragraph: “Most of us know the tense, jarring feeling that comes with encountering a view very different than our own. In his book The Epistemology of Resistance, José Medina calls this feeling epistemic friction, because while it’s challenging, it can also be productive. Rub your…

  • 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’…