How do athiests know if something is true or not?

Gus Bovona

Active member
I'm afraid I don't see the distinction between knowledge and background knowledge here. My quick look-up says "background knowledge" is "knowledge essential to understanding some situation." The only such knowledge I can picture being relevant to this situation is "I am not given to vivid, daytime hallucinations, or mistaking white for black." Even the knowledge I possess that "it is quite common for a bird genus to come in different species with different colors" doesn't strike me as strictly necessary. I saw a swan; I saw that it was black; therefore I saw a black swan, even if nobody has ever seen a black swan before. It's possible that there are far-fetched alternative explanations for what I saw (it's an unrelated bird which perfectly mimics the shape of the swan; it's an elaborate hoax using dye; etc.), but those would also be possibilities even if it were well established that black swans exist.
Sorry, background knowledge as Im using it has a technical definition under Bayes' Theorem. I provided it early on, although. Background knowledge is knowledge we already have so it doesn't have to be established for a claim that is based on that background knowledge. Like knowledge that swans exist is background knowledge for the claim that a black swan exists, and we don't have background knowledge that interstellar spaceships exist for the claim that I have an invisible interstellar spaceship.
I'm also not clear what you mean by X-100. Assuming you mean something like "less than 99.9% sure," I disagree for the reasons I just gave. But even if I agreed, the point at issue was whether someone could reasonably believe they had experienced God's presence, or anything else for which background knowledge wasn't there; not whether they could believe it with total certainty or something near to that.
Can you explain exactly how one would reasonably believe they experience God's presence having examined one's perception, critically looked at it, and through what method one would confirm that?
We reduce X to zero, because the relevant piece of knowledge in this case isn't "dragons would belong to as-yet-unknown clade," but "dragons are impossible beings; no animal can breathe fire, and no animal of that size can fly." So unless you think it's clear to all reasonable people that God is also an impossible being (and I don't think that's the case), I still don't see the basis for the claim that it's always unreasonable for somebody to believe he experienced God's presence.
But I'm not arguing that it's impossible for a God to exist, so there's no need to put X at 0.

Well, I can also say "I felt sad because my team lost," without being able to provide evidence to others. So, again, I don't think "any claim about the cause of your state of mind, which could not be supported by evidence available to others, can not be reasonably held by the person relating that claim and its supposed cause."
I agree (assuming I calculated all the negatives in your sentence correctly, but the God claim isn't just about an internal experience like being sad. It's making a claim about objective reality, that God actually exists. That's why you can't just rely on your internal experience when making a claim about something external to your consciousness.
But maybe it would help to use an example closer to the issue. Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, who wrote mostly about politics, was a lapsed believer who said in her memoir that she'd had a terrible breakup with a longtime lover, and spent hour after hour in a state of bitter rage. One night she prayed that this rage be taken away, and when she woke up the next morning it was suddenly and completely gone. Stipulate that neither of us believe this was a case of answered prayer; why would it be unreasonable for Harrison to believe it was?
That's shifting the burden of proof. Harrison has to establish to a 50.1% certainty that it was a case of answered prayer. One of the things Harrison would have to account for is all the other mundane, human-psychology type explanations that don't require the background knowledge that a god exists to answer prayers, which makes it the better explanation under Occam's razor. Note that rejecting the prayer explanation because of not accounting for a human-psychology explanation is not claiming that the explanation is human psychology. There might be only a 10% likelihood or certainty for a psychological explanation, but if the God explanation is 1%, then we just say, "We don't know."
 

Gus Bovona

Active member
This is strange. An empiricist holds the view he does precisely because he supposes himself capable of unconscious and unintended bias! He decries the subjective truth because it may be biased (and so not truth)

Bias isn't inevitable. But in the empiricist view, the only way to demonstrate bias not at work in self is empirical method: the view of the many will confirm whether the view of self was biased or not.

That is your perspective. YOUR referring YOURSELF to outside adjudication (empirical method), so as to establish whether you are biased or not, is a subjective decision of YOURS.
Anything I decide is a subjective decision (if I understand what you mean by subjective decision, and that's a little unclear, actually; what type of decision is not subjective?). So what's the point of the descriptor "subjective?"

Furthermore, by calling my conclusion a decision, you imply an arbitrariness to it. But I'm saying that it is rational and logical to come to the conclusion I have, which means it is the opposite of arbitrary.

You only refer yourself so because YOU (subjective) figure it best to do so. Which has precisely the same validity as you figuring (subjective) it not necessary to do so. In other words: if we are capable of deciding ourselves prone to error we are also capable of deciding we are not prone error. Or any mix of the two.
What example of me referring only to myself are you talking about?
Neither decision need be right. But we've no absolute means of knowing. But since solipsism is useless, we ignore that and suppose ourselves right.
Not sure what you mean by "absolute," but some might say that a logical conclusion is an absolute one. It's absolutely true that there are no unmarried bachelors. I'm not sure that I'm on board with using the term absolute, but even if I believe with 99.99% certainty that there are no unmarried bachelors, I can still go about my life concluding that there are none and I'll be pretty secure.

I mean, you do suppose yourself capable of bias don't you? Well so do I. It's just that I don't suppose myself to quite the same extent as you.
I dunno, how do we compare how much we consider bias to be working in a person? How do we measure that? Why does that matter?

'Best ultimately founded upon initial conditions. What you consider the best tools to be in whatever the circumstances. If you reckon yourself capable of bias/error in a sector then invoke a tool to aid your circumventing that. Similarly, if reckoning no bias/error then forge ahead without corrective tools.
OK, I can agree to that tentatively, but I'm a little suspicious of being able to decide that one's bias is gone is some circumstance. What's better is to always apply the corrective tools, and then you're sure you're taking care of bias.
 

5wize

Well-known member
That's fair enough. I'm just saying that other perspectives exist and there is no absolute need to find suffering problematic.

As for heaven/hell the product of your own heart (decisions like words , being the overflow of the heart)?

Bar for Calvinism (which sees God save aside from any condition in or decision of man) Christianity is pretty much drumbeat that heaven and hell are dependent on the will of man.
Thus the unreasonable apologetic in the face of unreasonable and disconnected suffering. It is an unsustainable apologetic over time. 2000 years was a good run. If God is not pragmatic, He is meaningless to us. God can no longer hide behind His majestic and unreadable signature.
 
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5wize

Well-known member
That witnessed reality needs be as you (or those you chose to align with) witness it is the circular bit.

You need to stay away from circular, full stop, not special plead your own brand.



Real world being the product of subjective decision P1 which is still rotating in a circle. Real means 'really pending a way break out of that circle. Subjectively Real. Real as you detect it to be. Sure we can all say that!



You haven't shown how one subjective decision of yours trumps any other. Best is just 'Best in your own eyes. Sure, we can all say that!
Without known pillars of origin, it is all circular. Good circularity resolves in something we all trust and have in common. Bad circularity resolves in supernatural apologetics... immutable fable and dogma.
 

York

Active member
Anything I decide is a subjective decision (if I understand what you mean by subjective decision, and that's a little unclear, actually; what type of decision is not subjective?). So what's the point of the descriptor "subjective?"
So long as we are clear that the decision to submit yourself to another authority (e.g. empirical method) doesn't alter you being the highest authority. It's subjective all the way down - with only the decision that it is not, avoiding solipsism

Furthermore, by calling my conclusion a decision, you imply an arbitrariness to it. But I'm saying that it is rational and logical to come to the conclusion I have, which means it is the opposite of arbitrary.

It is rational and logical to refer yourself to another authority if you have assessed yourself able to err. It is also rational and logical assess this authority, so as to satisfy yourself that it will err less than you do.

This isn't arbitrary so much as it is reliant on you to do all this assessing as best you see fit. If you can assess yourself errant in areas and assess another authority less errant, can you not also able to assess yourself non errant?

There is nothing irrational or illogical about not being able to err in an area. If rationality can detect error, it can detect non error. No?




What example of me referring only to myself are you talking about?
I said referring yourself (your subjective decisions and judgements) to another court (empirical, group decision and judgement). Not referring to yourself.

Folk often think this is a higher court they are referring themselves to. But it can't be higher if you are the one giving it authority! It's like the authority of the Roman Catholic Magisterium that Catholics point to. "Who gives it authority over you" I ask. "If not yourself?"

Not sure what you mean by "absolute," but some might say that a logical conclusion is an absolute one. It's absolutely true that there are no unmarried bachelors. I'm not sure that I'm on board with using the term absolute, but even if I believe with 99.99% certainty that there are no unmarried bachelors, I can still go about my life concluding that there are none and I'll be pretty secure.

My point was that the decision 'I err' is one side of a coin. The other side is '"I don't err". There is no external mechanism available to us to elevate one of those starting decisions above the other. We conclude for ourselves which it is.

If we figure we err, we refer ourselves to another, less errant court. If we figure we don't err then not. If we figure we're a mix err/don't err depending, then we act accordingly.



I dunno, how do we compare how much we consider bias to be working in a person? How do we measure that? Why does that matter?

It matters enough for us to refer ourselves to empirical method to correct for it

But as to measure? That's a self assessment, per my above comments.


OK, I can agree to that tentatively, but I'm a little suspicious of being able to decide that one's bias is gone is some circumstance. What's better is to always apply the corrective tools, and then you're sure you're taking care of bias.

I asked why so above (2 sides if a coin)

I do apply corrective tools - my theology isn't fixed, for example. I puzzle, pray a bit, talk to others who have the same sense I do. On this latter: It makes the same sense to collectivize the senses of others, once detecting ability to err in your own. It helps lead to a more accurate end point
 

York

Active member
That was a completely content-free post that fails to give any actual reasons for God-belief.

God turned up. That's the reason I know how God exists.

How do you know any aspect of reality exists? If Rationalism, then prove it.
 

York

Active member
Without known pillars of origin, it is all circular.
Exactly.

Good circularity resolves in something we all trust and have in common. Bad circularity resolves in supernatural apologetics... immutable fable and dogma.

I Googled "good circularity" in order to see the argument for it. Nothing. Seemingly, we don't all trust or have in common the idea of "good circularity".

Rendering it just good old fashioned circular reasoning. And not very good circular reasoning at that.

I trust empirical method in some areas + you trust empirical method in all areas = reality is the areas of common trust.

Bonkers!
 

York

Active member
Thus the unreasonable apologetic in the face of unreasonable and disconnected suffering.
Against what measure unreasonable? I mean, if the misery bestowed on earth was 100 times what it has been, what would make that unreasonable?

"Nothing is worth it" is not an answer. You, in that statement would be making an emotional statement.

But what if its an accounting statement?

The value of our will being expressed vs. the price of our will being expressed.

You go figure and come back to me.
 
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