• Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    This thread is a continuation of the multi-thread project begun here.

    In this thread we discuss the essay Against Fideism, in which I argue against a broad philosophical position I call fideism, including within that arguments against appeals to authority, appeals to popularity, and appeals to intuition, in both descriptive and prescriptive matters.

    I'm looking for feedback both from people who are complete novices to philosophy, and from people very well-versed in philosophy. I'm not so much looking to debate the ideas themselves right now, especially the ones that have already been long-debated (though I'd be up for debating the truly new ones, if any, at a later time). But I am looking for constructive criticism in a number of ways:

    - Is it clear what my views are, and my reasons for holding them? (Even if you don't agree with those views or my reasons for holding them.) Especially if you're a complete novice to philosophy.

    - Are any of these views new to you? Even if I attribute them to someone else, I'd like to know if you'd never heard of them before.

    - Are any of the views that I did not attribute to someone else actually views someone else has held before? Maybe I know of them and just forgot to mention them, or maybe I genuinely thought it was a new idea of my own, either way I'd like to know.

    - If I did attribute a view to someone, or gave it a name, or otherwise made some factual claim about the history of philosophical thought, did I get any of that wrong?

    - If a view I espouse has been held by someone previously, can you think of any great quotes by them that really encapsulate the idea? I'd love to include such quotes, but I'm terrible at remembering verbatim text, so I don't have many quotes that come straight to my own mind.

    And of course, if you find simple spelling or grammar errors, or just think that something could be changed to read better (split a paragraph here, break this run-on sentence there, make this inline list of things bulleted instead, etc) please let me know about that too!
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    I feel bad for bumping my own thread, but I would feel even worse if I moved on to to the next essay after this one got no responses, and worse still if I just stopped completely because of that.

    I know these early essays are taking on some pretty low-hanging fruit and so aren't super interesting, but could some people who participated in the first thread or otherwise expressed interest at least give this one a quick look? @Virgo Avalytikh, @ZhouBoTong, @BitconnectCarlos, @unenlightened, @Janus, @TheMadFool, @Jim Grossmann, @180 Proof, @christian2017, @Wayfarer ...?
  • christian2017
    1.4k


    The human mind is limited and 1 + 1 =2 but when you try to quantify extremely complex problems you reach issues like not having a high enough sampling rate (compact disc for example)

    When you are quantifying a spectrum and the sampling rate isn't high enough, those areas that lack data or information can have drastic consequences.

    I guess you could say absolute truth exists but it is very hard to obtain. 1 + 1 = 2 is easy to obtain but in extremely complex systems a "low" sampling rate can produce results that were completely unexpected especially when the system is being test over an extended period of time.
  • TheMadFool
    7.3k
    Initially, there seems to be a similarity between assumptions, used in logical discourse as necessary starting points, and faith; after all both "don't" require proof/evidence. However, there is a difference and I think it squares with the gist of your essay; it is that:

    1) assumptions need to be obvious, thus requiring no proof/evidence

    and

    2) assumptions can be overturned by contrary evidence/proof.

    These features are lacking in faith-based systems, religion mainly, where what is taken on faith is neither obvious nor can be challenged.

    What is the nature of evidence/proof? I see evidence/proof as propositions whose truths either entail or are entailed by the proposition that needs evidence/proof. Proof/evidence serves as the background information which must fit with a given claim; like a jigsaw puzzle, proof/evidence are the other pieces of the puzzle the piece in your hand must mesh with.

    That said, if faith, defined as believing sans evidence, is bad then the follow up question is how much evidence is sufficient for us to believe in a claim? If evidence/proof can be graded from 0 to 10, where 0 is no evidence and corresponds to faith and 10 is perfect evidence/proof and corresponds to watertight arguments for a claim, then is it always possible to score a perfect 10? I guess not; after all if that's possible we wouldn't have any disagreements at all and we know the world has as much conflict as harmony. Even if we try our very best at gathering evidence or constructing proofs, the best we can do might be an 8 or 9 on the evidence/proof scale; the 2 and 1 added on to reach 10 would be what we call faith. I guess I'm saying faith can't be eliminated completely although it's role may be reduced to "acceptable" levels. This is true for both induction and deduction because the former is based on probabilities and there's an inherent uncertainty and the latter requires agreement on initial assumptions which may not always be possible.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    Thank you both for your responses.

    I'm sorry but I can't quite follow what you're saying or how it relates to the topic essay.

    Your post is helpful because it appears I was not clear enough what my position is in the essay. I'm not against believing sans evidence, but only asserting sans evidence, telling someone else you're right and they're wrong without giving reason; or equivalently, believing contra evidence to the contrary. Paragraph 5 is the main place where I try to make that point, beginning the second half of the essay where I state the various things that I am not trying to say:

    But, very importantly, I am not saying to automatically reject all opinions that you cannot ground with a chain of solid reasons, for as I will elaborate in my later essay Against Cynicism, I hold that it is impossible in principle to ever do so for any opinion, so to insist that you reject everything until you achieve that impossibility would be to insist that you reject everything, completely, forever. I am as against that as I am against fideism. I think it is fine, and necessary, to hold some opinions that you cannot justify from the ground up, just because they seem to be true to you. All I am against is holding those opinions to be beyond question. I maintain only that we must remain open to the possibility that those opinions that we hold without full justification might someday be shown false, and that if we are presented with reasons to reject them, then we must do so. But until we find reasons not to hold an opinion, it is fine to hold it, even if we also lack any particular reasons to hold it. It is only unwarranted to assert an opinion thus tentatively held, to push it on other people as a truth that they must accept over the alternatives. If you are to assert an opinion like that, then you need a reason; you need to be able to show the alternatives to be false, and your opinion the only remaining option. To do otherwise would be to demand that they accept your claims on faith. And to be extra clear: their lack of a reason to hold their opinions does not by itself constitute a reason not to hold their opinions (as down that road lies cynicism, which I am also against). If they have no reason to hold their opinion, then they have no grounds on which to assert it to you as an opinion you must hold as well; but unless you have reasons not to hold their opinion, beyond pointing out their lack of reasons to hold it, then you likewise have no grounds on which to assert that their opinion is wrong and they must abandon it. Until either of you has reason to show the other is wrong, you both remain free to hold your different opinions, in disagreement with each other, neither of you wrong for doing so.The Codex Quaerentis: Against Fideism, paragraph 5

    I welcome any suggestions on how I can make my view about this clearer, whether rephrasing things or restructuring the paragraphs, etc. (I debated either structuring it as it is, where I list examples of what I do mean and then example of what I don't mean, or else interleaving examples of what I do and don't mean throughout it. If I did the latter structure instead, the above paragraph would be the second-to-last paragraph instead, as the two below it would be interleaved below the paragraphs against appeals to authority and popularity above it).
  • TheMadFool
    7.3k
    I'm not against believing sans evidence, but only asserting sans evidence, telling someone else you're right and they're wrong without giving reasonPfhorrest

    If you have issue with belief without evidence then why bother about assertions without evidence? I mean the problem of being told you're wrong without evidence would be most acute with people who believe without evidence, right?
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    I understand that fideism is defined as 'the doctrine that all knowledge depend on faith or revelation'. Generally I would understand that stance, if interpreted baldly, to describe some form of fundamentalism or religious literalism or at any rate unquestioning acceptance of a purported religious truth claim. I would put both Protestant and Islamic fundamentalism in that category.

    Plato in the Eurythpro is 'holding the Gods to reason' - which is the distinctive role of a philosopher, and one of the reasons for Plato's enormous influence on subsequent culture. Recall that Socrates was sentenced to death for questioning the Gods. But in such ancient city-states, the Gods underwrote the political order, so to question the Gods was tantamount to treason. Plato, as you say, sought reasons, even if in some cases, what was being sought was understood as surpassing reason. (We'll save that for the essay on 'transcendentalism ;-)

    But your essay is only partially concerned with fideism regarding religion. Really it's more a criticism of certainty and unquestioning acceptance of authority - something I don't disagree with, but I don't feel the essay has a lot of point to it; the interesting question about faith, to me, is why people hold it, what is its substance. Of course the pat modern answer is that it has none, but rather than debate that point, you basically digress into a criticism of dogmatically-held beliefs of whatever variety.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    I don't have issue with belief without evidence, because I hold (and elaborate a few essays later) that all belief is held without (sufficient) evidence (for certainty). My view is that everyone gets to hold whatever opinions they like, in mutual disagreement with each other, until someone can show something to the contrary of some of those opinions. To insist that any opinions must be rejected out of hand unless they can be positively justified would be to assert the opposite opinion on faith. So rejecting assertions without evidence requires accepting belief (to the contrary) without evidence.

    I understand that fideism is defined as 'the doctrine that all knowledge depend on faith or revelationWayfarer

    I'm not familiar with a definition that says all knowledge depends on faith, just that some can, and the latter is the sense of it that I mean.

    But your essay is only partially concerned with fideism regarding religion. Really it's more a criticism of certainty and unquestioning acceptance of authority - something I don't disagree with, but I don't feel the essay has a lot of point to it; the interesting question about faith, to me, is why people hold it, what is its substance. Of course the pat modern answer is that it has none, but rather than debate that point, you basically digress into a criticism of dogmatically-held beliefs of whatever variety.Wayfarer

    I'm open to alternative terminology if you can suggest something (supported by some literature so we're not just making something up) as a better name for the position I'm arguing against here. I'm really not attached to the words, just the ideas, and the idea I'm arguing for here is basically "nothing is beyond questioning, any claim might be wrong". The term I use later for that position is "criticism", but at this stage I'm arguing against the negation of that -- against taking anything as unquestionable -- and I'm not aware of a better term for that position I’m against than "fideism".

    You're right that in a sense this point "doesn't have a lot of point to it"; that's what I meant by "low-hanging fruit" earlier. That why this is the first essay: it's the most basic stuff just to get out of the way first. But it's an important principle that gets applied a lot throughout the rest of the work so it's important to establish it up front. It is, for example, basically half of both my core epistemology and my core deontology, which in turn are really important in my philosophies of education and government; there are very, very few steps between this principle and, for example, the anarchism I argue for on that last topic.
  • TheMadFool
    7.3k
    I don't have issue with belief without evidence, because I hold (and elaborate a few essays later) that all belief is held without (sufficient) evidence (for certainty). My view is that everyone gets to hold whatever opinions they like, in mutual disagreement with each other, until someone can show something to the contrary of some of those opinions. To insist that any opinions must be rejected out of hand unless they can be positively justified would be to assert the opposite opinion on faith. So rejecting assertions without evidence requires accepting belief (to the contrary) without evidence.Pfhorrest

    Ok. What is the level of certainty you can achieve regarding proof/evidence?

    If we're going to use deduction and supposing your arguments are all valid, there's surely going to be disagreement on the premises which are, as you already know, assumptions and so can be rejected. So, even while individual deductive arguments may be perfectly sound, the uncertainty with the premises deflates the force of deductive arguments.

    Inductive logic is probabilistic in nature and so there to no certainty can be attained. No amount of finite observations is ever going to be sufficient to guarantee an inductive claim.

    Therefore, since uncertainty is a feature of reality we can't reduce to zero, there's always going to be some degree of faith involved in any and all belief systems. Remember this isn't the kind of faith wherein you completely disregard the necessity for proof/evidence; it's the kind that we need to have because evidence/proof is never going to be perfect enough to give certainty to any claim whatsoever.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    I don’t think I disagree with any of that. I am not arguing against “faith” in the sense that you used the word there, but in the sense I explained extensively in the essay. Can you think of some better phrasing or terminology I could use that might help avoid confusing those two different things?
  • TheMadFool
    7.3k
    I don’t think I disagree with any of that. I am not arguing against “faith” in the sense that you used the word there, but in the sense I explained extensively in the essay. Can you think of some better phrasing or terminology I could use that might help avoid confusing those two different things?Pfhorrest

    I'm no good at this. I've said all that I could possibly say on the matter. Good luck
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    Maybe it would help to use an example that’s not about belief but about intention, as this principle applies to both. I’m not against doing things (or intending to do them) without any reason, just because you felt like it; I’m against telling people they should or shouldn’t (intend to) do things differently, without giving them any reason why.
  • Isaac
    2.9k
    I’m not against doing things (or intending to do them) without any reason, just because you felt like it; I’m against telling people they should or shouldn’t (intend to) do things differently, without giving them any reason why.Pfhorrest

    Isn't <telling people they should or shouldn’t (intend to) do things differently, without giving them any reason why> a thing people do? You just said you weren't against people doing things without any reason, so they wouldn't need a reason to tell people they should or shouldn’t (intend to) do things differently, without giving them any reason why. If they don't need a reason to do that thing, then why are you using reason to dispute their doing so?
  • christian2017
    1.4k


    Shit your right. I looked up the definition of fideism and i would have to say i am anti fideism like the OP. The first time i looked it up i read the opposite. Sorry.

    Fideism: Fideism is an epistemological theory which maintains that faith is independent of reason, or that reason and faith are hostile to each other and faith is superior at arriving at particular truths (see natural theology). The word fideism comes from fides, the Latin word for faith, and literally means "faith-ism".
  • ChatteringMonkey
    637


    Hey Pfhorrest,

    I'll make some comments to your closing statements about fideism. I didn't read it all because I don't have the time right now, so excuse me if I bring up points you allready argued somewhere else.

    "And my reason for claiming that fideism is wrong is as follows. If we pick our initial opinions for no solid reason, we are in a sense picking our opinions at random (at least inasmuch as "random" can mean "for no reason" and not just "by no cause"). As I have said, I think that that much is fine, and as I will argue in my later essay Against Cynicism, even unavoidable. But we then have a very good chance of those initial opinions randomly being wrong. If we go on to hold those random opinions that we just happened into for no solid reason to be above question, which is the defining characteristic of fideism as I have elaborated it here, then we will never change away from those wrong opinions, and will remain wrong forever. Only by rejecting fideism, and remaining always open to the possibility that there may be reasons to reject our current opinions, do we open up the possibility of our opinions becoming more correct over time. So if we ever want to have more than a random chance of our opinions being right, we must always acknowledge that there is a chance that our opinions are wrong."

    Not picking their opinions for no solid reason is not necessarily the same as random I'd say. Usually their opinions will be based on traditions. And the thing about traditions is that ideas are formed over generations, by a process that is somewhat dialectical I'd say. Not through perfect reason for sure, but there is some societal dialogue going on anyways. Of course nobody can really justify these beliefs, because nobody really knows anymore how they exactly came to be. But the point is that the fact that you cannot give a justification for your belief, doesn't necessarily mean that their isn't some reasoning behind that belief.

    Another way to argue more or less the same point I think, is through the insights gained from recent machine learning research. Machine learning AI learns things by attuning their 'switches' to data that it is being fed and end up refining its 'beliefs' (or things on which it bases its decisions) along the way... but generally it will not be able to tell you why it has come to those conclusions. It cannot give you a justification, but you will still loose the game of Chess or Go. It seems the human brain operates in a similar way, it gets tuned by data, and we form beliefs along the way that we can't necessarily justify with reason and words.

    The point is, I think, that not justified doesn't necessarily mean random.

    The other point I would want to make, but would likely lead us to far, is that you probably need to establish more why we should put that much faith in reason. This is an old discussion, but I kindof agree with sceptics/cynics etc... that generally a lot of things need to be assumed before we can make headway with this method. To skip to my conclusion, what I would say is that in some ways reason is a crude tool and needs to be handled with a lot of care and time to get some decent results out of it. Not all people are equally talented on this front, nor do all people have enough time to invest in it. So it might very well be that, as a practical matter, relying on intuitions, faith and appeal to authority works better for them.
  • unenlightened
    5.1k
    I am against assertions made not for any reason, not "because of..." anything, but "just because"; bare, unsupported assertions that some claim is true because it just is, with no further justification to back that claim up; assertions put forth as beyond question, for if they needed no justification to stand then there could be no room to doubt them.

    As instructed by you, and in fideist tradition, I am against and doubt this assertion. Consider the unwritten essay, 'against scepticism'. Again Witty's notion of 'bedrock' is useful here. And remember that even scientists stand on the shoulders of ancestral giants.

    If we pick our initial opinions for no solid reason, we are in a sense picking our opinions at random

    But no one does that. If I believe that Jesus was the son of God or that stepping on the cracks will bring bad luck, it is for the very solid reason that the tradition has is it so, and one needs a reason to doubt tradition. And if you care to experiment in a cold climate, you can verify to your own cost that stepping on the cracks does indeed bring bad luck. And good luck to you.
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    I'm not familiar with a definition that says all knowledge depends on faith, just that some can, and the latter is the sense of it that I mean.Pfhorrest

    I think my rendering of the term is the mainstream one.

    I'll bring in another perspective. As you might have gleaned, I'm quite interested in what I suppose could be called religious or spiritual philosophy, but from a broad perspective, in that I don't believe that any single tradition has a monopoly on the truth (which puts me at odds with one of the central claims of Christianity.)

    Your essay echoes the motto of the Royal Society which was 'take no-one's word for it'. And in many ways, I agree. But what I want to try and home in on is why any kind of religious-or-spiritual claim whatever might be regarded as authoritative or, let's say, worthy of reverence.

    Here again I don't want to try and validate any such claim by simple appeal to authority. My belief, although I don't want it to be a mere belief, is that those aspects of the religious philosophies which have continuing value, are indeed grounded in knowledge and not simply in repetition of mythological accounts. But the kind of knowledge, or knowledge of what, is at issue.

    Nowadays it is commonplace to account for the idea of 'revealed truth' in terms of a community of practice, or on some other sociological grounds, it being supposed there is no actual ground for any such beliefs. But this rejects at the outset that there could be a 'revelation' - something revealed that we would never grasp or arrive at by mere exercise of reason. So in that respect, I see it as an expression of unbelief, or the aversion to belief, which is prevalent in secular culture.

    How could there be an actual 'revelation' and what of? An example I would refer to is Buddhism, rather than Christianity, which is usually associated with 'revealed truth'. A lot of people believe that Buddhism is a form of pragmatist humanism, no revelation required, but I really don't think that's true. In the traditional accounts, the Buddha is presented as having discovered a universally applicable truth about the human condition, namely, the cause of, and the ultimate end of, all forms of suffering. (That's what makes it a religion!) This is the 'chain of dependent origination' and it's cessation (the details of which I won't attempt to summarise.)

    Now there's a well-known and oft-quoted passage in the Pali Buddhist scriptures which rather reflects the sceptical spirit, in an address to 'the people of Kalama', who had played host to a visiting parade of sui disant sages and gurus, and were unsure which one was worthy of following - in effect, who to believe, and why? Here the Buddha explains what are the criteria for judging all such teachings:

    "So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

    "Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them.

    The translator's note on this passage is:

    Although this discourse is often cited as the Buddha's carte blanche for following one's own sense of right and wrong, it actually says something much more rigorous than that. Traditions are not to be followed simply because they are traditions. Reports (such as historical accounts or news) are not to be followed simply because the source seems reliable. One's own preferences are not to be followed simply because they seem logical or resonate with one's feelings. Instead, any view or belief must be tested by the results it yields when put into practice; and — to guard against the possibility of any bias or limitations in one's understanding of those results — they must further be checked against the experience of people who are wise. The ability to question and test one's beliefs in an appropriate way is called appropriate attention. The ability to recognize and choose wise people as mentors is called having admirable friends.

    Note the appeal to 'people who are wise'. And that's something that doesn't particularly gel with modern culture. 'People who are skilled', or 'experts', might be a different (although as we note, even expertise is nowadays under assault in popular culture.) But the notion that there are the truly wise is rather an anachronism, I feel.

    Regardless, though, the Buddha claims to have a very specific kind of knowledge, which is according to the canonical sources 'deep, profound, subtle, difficult to fathom, perceivable only by the wise'. And indeed Buddhist discipline is dedicated to the cultivation of just such knowledge, known among other things as Jñāna or Prajñāpāramitā - transcendent wisdom. You could say that the precise knowledge of such wisdom, is the ability to perceive those principles that the Buddha refers to; that the aspirant, by understanding these, becomes him or herself a Buddha (which is certainly orthodox in Mahāyāna Buddhist cultures.)

    But does that amount to fideism? I'd be inclined to think not, in that it has an experiential or noetic dimension which can be tested and validated by Buddhist teachers. It may not be objective, in the scientific sense, but still able to be validated in a way that transcends the purely cultural or social. There's an element of faith that is required, in the sense of confidence that these principles are indeed learnable and worth pursuing, but the measure, so to speak, is not one of 'taking someone's word for it' - even the Buddha's - but to arrive at the same kind of understanding. (Which is not to say there aren't Buddhist fundamentalists, because there certainly are, and also not to say that there are in practice many aspirants who succeed in realising such an aim.)

    I just put that up as an example because I think it throws into relief some of the philosophical issues behind this question.
  • fdrake
    4.2k
    Unsure if you've talked about the distinction between reasons and causes so far. Reference to "for no reason" in the original paragraph is clearly intended to refer to a lacking (any) epistemic/justifying properties of the statement, but as @Wayfarer highlighted someone might rejoinder that there can be non-epistemic/justifying reasons for believing statements. (and these might be "unavoidable" or "well grounded" and bleed relativism into your project through inequivalent foundations, if you end up appealing to foundational knowledge items at the periphery of your 'chain of reasons').
  • fdrake
    4.2k
    It also might help, if you've not done so already, to have a very brief blurb before your epistemic theses on what you think an epistemology account should look like, as it stands it looks kinda via-negativa, though in the nice "vanquishing your enemies and assembling victory from their bones" sense rather than the theological one.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    Thanks everyone for the flurry of replies! I didn't expect nearly this much activity after the thread lingered for days with nothing.

    Just a brief reminder here that, as I said in the OP, I'm not so much looking to debate the ideas themselves right now, especially the ones that have already been long-debated (though I'd be up for debating the truly new ones, if any, at a later time). Mostly I'm just looking to make sure it's clear what my views are, and my reasons for holding them. But some of this attempt to debate the ideas has been helpful toward that end anyway, as it's clear that I've not been clear enough what it is I am or am not saying at this point, though I'm not yet clear how to make it more clear, and I welcome suggestions on that front.

    Isn't <telling people they should or shouldn’t (intend to) do things differently, without giving them any reason why> a thing people do? You just said you weren't against people doing things without any reason, so they wouldn't need a reason to tell people they should or shouldn’t (intend to) do things differently, without giving them any reason why. If they don't need a reason to do that thing, then why are you using reason to dispute their doing so?Isaac

    There's two things here. One is to distinguish between the permissibility of the act of telling, which is not what I'm talking about, and the relevance of the thing being told, which is what I'm on about. I'm not saying "you morally ought not say this" per se, but more like "you saying that doesn't matter": you have no authority that others have any obligation to obey to tell someone they should do (or think) differently than they do, unless you can give them a reason. You're permitted to say that, but they're permitted to ignore you. I'm using very loose senses of permission and obligation here just trying to convey the general notion; I usually restrict those words to a narrower sense. We could also phrase things instead in terms of epistemic necessity and possibility, and epistemic rather than deontic authority. At this point in the essays I'm talking about very broad principles that flesh out into both epistemic and deontic principles later.

    The second thing comes back to the main thrust here, distinguishing between doing/thinking things for no reason, and doing/thinking things against reason. I'm not <against people doing things without any reason>, but I'm not just saying "you have no reason to do that, so stop it". I'm saying "here is a reason not to do that". The reason given in the last paragraph of the essay.

    Your comments seem to hinge on the same thing I apparently need to clarify a lot better in the essay, though you did say you didn't read it all so I guess you missed a couple of important paragraphs (paragraphs 5-7) to that point. I do say in those paragraphs that I'm not against people trusting in authorities or in popular opinion or in their intuition or anything like that to arrive at their opinions, just that they should always remain open to questioning those opinions later, and not point at authority or popularity or their gut as a defense against reasons to the contrary.

    As instructed by you, and in fideist tradition, I am against and doubt this assertion.unenlightened

    And on my account that's fine, unless someone gives a reason to think otherwise. Which I do, in the last paragraph of this essay.

    Consider the unwritten essay, 'against scepticism'.unenlightened
    There is a later essay I reference in this one called "Against Cynicism", which I think is probably exactly what you mean. I avoid using the word "skepticism" because there are at least two different senses of that word, one of which I am for and one of which I am against. I label the one I am for "criticism", and that is the opposite of "fideism": this essay against fideism is also an argument for criticism. The other one I label "cynicism", and I call its opposite "liberalism": my later essay against cynicism is also an argument for liberalism.

    As always, I welcome suggestions for better, clearer terminology to help avoid this kind of confusion.

    But no one does that. If I believe that Jesus was the son of God or that stepping on the cracks will bring bad luck, it is for the very solid reason that the tradition has is it so, and one needs a reason to doubt tradition.unenlightened

    What tradition one is born into is effectively random. Most people just happen to be whatever religion their parents were, for example. I'm not saying that there's any problem with that, and (later in Against Cynicism) I am saying exactly that one needs positive reason to doubt. All I'm saying here is that "but tradition says..." and the like aren't rebuttals against reasons to doubt, or reasons that anybody who disagrees should change their mind.

    I think my rendering of the term is the mainstream one.Wayfarer

    Wikipedia calls it the view that "faith is independent of reason, or that reason and faith are hostile to each other and faith is superior at arriving at particular truths", and Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy similarly "that faith is in some sense independent of, if not outright adversarial toward, reason". That "independence" sounds to me that it does not imply that everything comes down to faith, but just that some things may.

    Your essay echoes the motto of the Royal Society which was 'take no-one's word for it'.Wayfarer

    That's a very useful quote, thanks. I've made a note to incorporate it into the essay.

    (And a reminder here that I'd love if anyone has any great quotes from famous people making my points in better words than I do, so I can include them in the essay).

    The rest of your post about Buddhist principles sounds generally like something I agree with. If the opinions are ones that can be tested, tests that could in principle be failed, then they are not opinions asserted on faith, in the sense that I am against. The kind of "faith" they ask for is more akin to having "faith" enough to look into a microscope to verify what some scientist is telling you. "Trust me, if you look in here you'll see tiny single-celled organisms dividing!" It's not fideism just to "trust him" enough to take a look yourself. It wouldn't even be fideism to take his word for it and not even bother verifying. It would only be fideism is someone else gave some reason to doubt what's supposedly going on in that microscope slide, and you said "well this scientist says otherwise so you're wrong".

    if you end up appealing to foundational knowledge itemsfdrake

    I'm explicitly against foundationalism, as is explicated in the later essay Against Cynicism.

    It also might help, if you've not done so already, to have a very brief blurb before your epistemic theses on what you think an epistemology account should look like, as it stands it looks kinda via-negativa, though in the nice "vanquishing your enemies and assembling victory from their bones" sense rather than the theological one.fdrake

    That's correct. From the end of the introduction page:

    In the essays that follow, I will begin by laying out very generally the broad kinds of philosophical views that I am against, leaving behind a picture of what kind of philosophical view I very generally support, which I will detail further in an essay of its own.The Codex Quaerentis: Introduction
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    The point which your essay glosses over in respect to fideism in particular, is the widespread view, typical of the new atheism, that any form of faith basically amounts to "clinging to propositional attitudes for which there can be no evidence as a matter of definition."

    This criticism does have superficial merit, especially in reference to religious sects which privilege religious dogmas over scientifically-established facts (typical of fundamentalism). But what it fails to acknowledge, is that there might also be legitimate forms of knowledge that can't be brought within the ambit of science. The reason I brought Buddhism into the discussion is because that particular form of religious culture does provide an experiential philosophy which is arguably lacking in other religions. But even so, I don't think any hard-nosed empiricist would accept that Buddhism's claims amount to anything more than faith-claims, especially in respect of aspects of the Buddhist culture such as acceptance of rebirth.

    So when you say:

    If the opinions are ones that can be tested, tests that could in principle be failed, then they are not opinions asserted on faith, in the sense that I am against. The kind of "faith" they ask for is more akin to having "faith" enough to look into a microscope to verify what some scientist is telling you. "Trust me, if you look in here you'll see tiny single-celled organisms dividing!" It's not fideism just to "trust him" enough to take a look yourself. It wouldn't even be fideism to take his word for it and not even bother verifying.Pfhorrest

    what came to mind was the famous apocryphal story about the Vatican scientists who refused to look through Galileo's newly-invented telescope, on the grounds that they already knew that his observations must be faulty. This story, and indeed the entire trial of Galileo is standard fare against fideism (not without reason).

    So I think rather than broadly saying that fideism simply amounts to any dogmatically-held belief in whatever domain, your essay, if it's going to be against fideism, needs to pay closer attention to the problems of epistemology and metaphysics that surround the 'faith vs reason' debate. Examples that come to mind are Plantinga's notion of 'rational warrant' for belief and Newman's 'Grammar of Assent'.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    The point which your essay glosses over in respect to fideism in particular, is the widespread view, typical of the new atheism, that any form of faith basically amounts to "clinging to propositional attitudes for which there can be no evidence as a matter of definition."Wayfarer

    I think, as we'll see in the next essay Against Transcendentalism, that the relationship goes the other way. Fideism as I mean it is methodological thing than can apply to things about which there could be evidence, if someone just refuses to consider that evidence, in favor of "because ___ says so". But things for which there can be no evidence as a matter of definition are things that we can only hold untestable, unquestionable, fideistic opinions about, so rejecting fideism means also rejecting opinions that feature such things. But we're getting ahead of the game here.

    But I'm not sure if your point is that people will hear "fideism" and think that I mean something else than I do? I'm still curious to hear if what you think a better term would be for the view that I am against, if not "fideism". I'm only concerned with communicating clearly that I am against that thing you say you're also against, and I'm happy to call that thing we're against whatever would best avoid confusion and most clearly communicate that.

    I don't think any hard-nosed empiricist would accept that Buddhism's claims amount to anything more than faith-claims, especially in respect of aspects of the Buddhist culture such as acceptance of rebirth.Wayfarer

    I can't speak for anyone else, but I consider myself a hard-nosed empiricist, and I can see three possibilities with regards to these Buddhist claims about things can be tested and needn't be taken on faith. Either they're really asking for, like in my analogy, only "faith" akin to being willing to look at the evidence, and I can go and do whatever things it is they say I need to do to experience the things that will prove their claims to me, and then I either (1) experience those things and believe them or (2) don't experience those things and disbelieve them; or (3) there isn't actually something I'm supposed to be able to do to check it myself, and it's really a fideist claim. If either of the first two, then that claim is not a "legitimate form of knowledge that can't be brought within the ambit of science", because that procedure to reproduce the experiences that justify the claim constitutes doing science to it (whatever the result may be); and if it's the third, then on my account against fideism, it's not a legitimate form of knowledge at all.

    So I think rather than broadly saying that fideism simply amounts to any dogmatically-held belief in whatever domain, your essay, if it's going to be against fideism, needs to pay closer attention to the problems of epistemology and metaphysics that surround the 'faith vs reason' debate.Wayfarer

    I'm not interested in just arguing against any old thing called "fideism"; if it should turn out that the word "fideism" really refers to something I'm not against, that's fine with me. It's the thing that I'm trying to refer to with that word that is the topic of this essay, not some other thing the word might refer to, and if using a different word dissolves the problem then I'm fine to just do that. If you have any suggestions...
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    But I'm not sure if your point is that people will hear "fideism" and think that I mean something else than I do? I'm still curious to hear if what you think a better term would be for the view that I am against, if not "fideism".Pfhorrest

    It's something closer to 'dogmatism' or 'close-mindedness'. The problem is that the word 'fideism' is derived from the Latin fide, which means 'faith', and 'faith' is generally interpreted as related to religion or religious belief. That's why I'm saying that by calling the essay 'against fideism' I think it sets an expectation that it's about questions of religious epistemology in particular, when really it's not, it's broader than that. So, perhaps 'against dogmatism' might actually a better title, because I think that's nearer to what you're getting at. (And it sounds less, well, dogmatic, to boot. ;-) )
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    Or - against certitude. Now there's a great title.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    I want all of the positions to be something-isms, and I'm not certain that I'm completely against all possibility of certainty, when actual evidence is accounted for. So I don't think "Against Certitude" is for me.

    However I did notice when going through my decade of notes to myself at the end of this past year's total rewrite that I had originally been calling the position in question "dogmatism", so I'm not completely against going back to it.

    But I'm not certain that it's really adequate, and I don't remember (or have record of) why I changed away from it before. I think perhaps the reason I may have moved away from it was that "dogma" means "belief", and I don't mean this to apply to only beliefs but to intentions as well. I'm also not sure that it really serves any better than "fideism" in escaping religious connotations, since the term "dogma" is religious in origin, and I would argue that religion is in fact defined by its appeals to faith / fideism in the sense I mean, i.e. dogmatism. (Like I said with the Buddhist example earlier: if their beliefs really are testable, then they are amenable to science, and are not exclusively religious in character; it's precisely being not open to testing, questioning, criticism, that makes something religious. We even use "religious" colloquially as an adjective to describe someone's unquestioning devotion to things, even things not traditionally considered religious).

    What does everyone else here think? Does "dogmatism" sound like a better name for this position I'm against than "fideism"? Do you think it encapsulates a broad enough concept, including appeals to authority, either religious or secular, on matters either descriptive or prescriptive (e.g. even appeals to secular governmental authority about what you ought to do), and appeals to popularity, and appeals to intuition or "gut feeling"? Does it actually avoid any of the supposed problems with using "fideism" for that same position?
  • praxis
    2.7k


    How about “Dogmatic Faith in Reason.”
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    That doesn't sound anything at all like what I'm arguing against. Or what I'm arguing for, for that matter, if you've just confused the direction.
  • sime
    526
    In your view, what is a belief, and how should the object of a person's belief be ascertained?

    Should the object of a person's belief be identified with the physical causes of their belief, in which case every belief is seen to be necessarily true when it is physically understood, or should the object of a belief be decided impersonally by linguistic convention so as to reflect the normative values of the person's community?
  • praxis
    2.7k
    That doesn't sound anything at all like what I'm arguing against. Or what I'm arguing for, for that matter, if you've just confused the direction.Pfhorrest

    The general direction seems to be towards reason and away from faith, yes?

    Sapiens have the capacity of reason but I think it would be a stretch to say that we’re a rational species, and in fact our success to date may have hinged on our ability to form collective fictions and faithfully hold to them.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    637


    Yes, dogmatism sounds better, and probably more recognisable as a concept than fideism. And yes, fideism has religious connotations, as it is tied to revelation essentially... whereas dogmatism doesn't have to be linked to religion necessarily I don't think. Dogmatism is also less specific it seems to me.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    That's getting into the topics of later essays, but for now I'll just say neither of the two options you present sounds like my view.

    The general direction seems to be towards reason and away from faith, yes?praxis

    Yes, though the move toward reason is decidedly not dogmatic or faithful itself; I give a practical reason why to reject faith or dogma at the end of the essay.

    All I'm saying at this point is "be open to questioning everything". Authorities, popular opinions, your own gut intuitions, none of it should be held above question; and so none of it is good reason for someone else to change their mind if they disagree with you.

    Thanks for the input. So that's two people who think "dogmatism" is a better term than "fideism"; and fdrake privately (for some reason) messaged me that another contemporary philosopher (Meillassoux) uses "fideism" the same way I do, at least.

    Any other feedback on "fideism" vs "dogmatism"?
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