Monday, June 11, 2007


I'll now wrap up the arguments I've been giving against T-stone's and Loftus's evidentialism, and I'll include some professional philosophers who know far more about this subject than any of us could ever hope to; trying to show that my concerns and arguments don't seem to fit with the claims Touchstone has made about people who hold this position [the one's I've been promulgating], and use these arguments, being ignorant.

John Loftus claimed: "Whatever we believe we should demand evidence for that belief, and historical evidence in the past simply isn't good enough. What we need is evidence."

Obviously reminiscent of Clifford's The Ethics of Belief: "To sum up: it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence."

There's nothing new under the sun. Loftus was claiming what Clifford was.

This is expressed more clearly here:

"Evidentialism in epistemology is defined by the following thesis about epistemic justification:

(EVI) Person S is justified in believing proposition p at time t if and only if S’s evidence for p at t supports believing p.

As evidentialism is a thesis about epistemic justification, it is a thesis about what it takes for one to believe justifiably, or reasonably, in the sense thought to be necessary for knowledge. Particular versions of evidentialism can diverge in virtue of their providing different claims about what sorts of things count as evidence, what it is for one to have evidence, and what it is for one’s evidence to support believing a proposition. Thus, while (EVI) is often referred to as the theory of epistemic justification known as evidentialism, it is more accurately conceived as a kind of epistemic theory. In this light, (EVI) can be seen as the central, guiding thesis of evidentialism. All evidentialist theories conform to (EVI), but various divergent theories of evidentialism can be formulated."

And as Jaegwon Kim points out in ‘What is “Naturalized Epistemology”?’, "A strictly nonnormative concept of evidence is not our concept of evidence; it is something that we do not understand."

And therefore I have pointed out that John's and Touchstone's defense of their normative claim rests on the is implies ought fallacy.

Besides the many arguments I've leveled against evidentialism here, there are other plenty of other arguments too. Here's a few.

And people like Dr. Michael Sudduth have laid out the problems with evidentialism. See here, for example:


I. Evidentialism and the Evidentialist Objection

Evidentialism is the view that rational beliefs or knowledge require the possession of evidence of some sort. Applied to religious belief, evidentialism is the view that religious beliefs are rational (or constitute knowledge) only if a person has adequate evidence in support of those beliefs. "Evidence" in this context refers to propositional evidence, i.e., other rational beliefs or known propositions. Evidentialism originated in early modern philosophy under the influence of philosophers such as John Locke. It became an integral part of the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment critique of religious belief. The evidentialist objection to religious belief is the view that religious belief fails to be rational or justified because there is not sufficient evidence for such beliefs.

The evidentialist argument against religious belief can be stated as follows:

[E1] Religious belief is rational only if it is based on other rational beliefs that provide adequate evidential support it.

[E2] There are no rational beliefs that provide adequate evidential support for religious belief.

From which it follows that

[E3] Religious belief is not rational.

Not all evidentialists accept [E2]. Many of them argue that [E2] is false. It is important to distinguish the evidentialist challenge and the evidentialist objection to religious belief. The challenge is [E1], the demand that one's religious beliefs have evidence. The objection is [E3], which is based, not merely on [E1], but the conjunction of [E1] and [E2].

II. The Response to Evidentialism

A. Questioning Premise [E2]

It may be argued that [E2] is false, a matter to be investigated in the latter part of the course. Granted, it is not plausible to suppose that there is no conclusive evidence for God's existence, but there is hardly conclusive evidence for any of our beliefs. So that can't be the right sort of standard for adequate evidence. There are potentially plenty of rational starting points that provide support for God's existence: the existence of the Universe (cosmological argument), the orderly nature of the Universe and its fine-tuning (design argument), the existence of morality (moral argument), religious experience and miracles. Even if none of these arguments by itself provides adequate evidence, they might plausibly be construed as elements of a cumulative case argument. Of course these arguments are subject to objections, and the objections are subject to objections too. But one simply can't say "there is no evidence" or "there is no adequate" without at least engaging these arguments. Hence, the defense of the evidentialist objection would require a systematic and exhaustive analysis of theistic arguments.

B. It is not plausible the evidentialist requirement could be applicable to all beliefs, so why isolate religious beliefs and subject them to that requirement.

That the evidentialist requirement is not applicable to all beliefs can be argued as follows. Some beliefs must be rational or warranted in a way that does not depend on evidence (in the form of reasons or arguments); otherwise no belief can be rational or warranted. Clearly, if a belief C is supported by another belief B, where B is a reason for C, B must also be a good reason for C. But in that case, it seems like B must be a warranted belief. But if all warranted beliefs require reasons, then there must be evidence for B too. And the evidence for B must be supported by still further evidence. And so on ad infinitum. But since no human person can possess an infinite number of beliefs, it would follow that no belief is rational or warranted. Of course, maybe one's evidence eventually loops back to a previous belief at some point. B is evidence for A and C is evidence for B and A is evidence for C. But then one's reasoning is circular. (Furthermore, this would entail that A is evidence for itself, but self-evidence does not involve a belief being evidentially supported by another belief, so this is actually inconsistent with an evidentialist requirement). To avoid the dilemma of infinite regress or circularity, there must be some rational beliefs that do not require reasons. So it appears that some beliefs must be properly basic, rational (or warranted) but not held on the evidential basis of other beliefs. This is the basic thesis of foundationalism.

C. Plantinga claims that [E1] is rooted in classical foundationalism and deontologism (what he calls the classical package), but that these grounds for [E1] are inadequate.

Classical foundationalism maintains that an evidentialist requirement is appropriate for some beliefs, while other beliefs are properly basic. But the only beliefs that are properly basic are either self-evident (e.g., 2 + 2 = 4), about one's immediate mental states (e.g., I seem to see a tree), or evident to the senses (e.g., there is a tree outside). But since religious beliefs are neither self-evident, about one's immediate introspective experience, nor evident to the senses, they cannot be properly basic. Hence, the classical foundationalist has a criterion basis on which to apply an evidentialist requirement to religious belief but not all beliefs. Moreover, the evidentialist requirement for religious belief takes rationality to be deontological, a matter of being within one's intellectual rights. Hence, a belief is rational in this sense just if a person is within his intellectual rights in holding it. (See Handout II for discussion on deontologism). A belief is properly basic just if a person is within his intellectual rights in holding it in the absence of propositional evidence or reasons. The classical package then claims that a person would be violating some intellectual obligation if he held a religious belief without the appropriate propositional evidence. Such a belief would not be rational.

Plantinga cites the classical foundationalist principle as:

[CP] A person is justified in accepting a belief p if and only if either (1) p is properly basic for S (i.e., self-evident, incorrigible, or evident to the senses for S) or (2) S believes p on the evidential basis of propositions that are properly basic, and that evidentially support p deductively, inductively, or abductively.

["Induction" and "abduction" are being used to refer to two kinds of probabilistic reasoning.]

1. Plantinga argues that classical foundationalism is self-referentially incoherent. If [CP] is true then no one is justified in accepting [CP], for [CP] is neither properly basic nor properly nonbasic.

2. Plantinga argues that classical foundationalism's criteria for proper basicality are inconsistent with paradigmatic cases of properly basic beliefs. For instance, we hold many justified basic beliefs that do not satisfy CP's criteria for proper basicality. Belief in other minds, the existence of the past, and the external world are rarely held on the evidential basis of other beliefs, but neither are they self-evident or about one's own mental life, and probably not evident to the senses either.

3. Plantinga argues that religious belief is properly basic for many people (i.e., it is deontologically rational in the absence of propositional evidence). A person can hold religious beliefs without evidence and without violating any intellectual duties. If upon investigating arguments pro and con for religious belief, a person is not impressed with objections to religious belief or impressed with the arguments of theistic philosophers, what more can reasonably be expected of the person? It seems that such a person would be deontologically rational in continuing to hold religious belief."


And so if it is true that there can be warranted beliefs of which we have positive epistemic status when holding them, then we "shouldn't" have to have evidence for them. I pointed this out this way: "Not all beliefs need propositional evidence in support of it to be warranted or justified or have proper status. Likewise, not every street requires me to go 25 MPH. On *this street* it would be “good” to and I “should” go 25. If I am on a street that doesn’t require 25, but, rather 45 MPH, then it is neither “bad” nor epistemically immoral for me to not go 25! So, no, if I can and do have positive epistemic status for beliefs without propositional evidence in its favor, then I deny the claim that I “should” have this evidence for all my beliefs. If I “should” not rape, then NO INSTANCE of rape is “good.” Therefore, if T-stone thinks this about beliefs then NO INSTANCE of beliefs without propositional evidence in their favor are “good” things. And thus we’re back at the regress.

The idea that we "should" have evidence (whatever *that* is, I've asked T-stone and Loftus to define what it is and how much is needed, but for some reason they've declined) is a throwback to a deontological view of justification. But this has fallen on hard times. We can see that Loftus and T-stone hold to deontological evidentialism by the very nature of their claim: "Whatever we believer we should demand evidence of that belief." I quote Dr. Sudduth again: "One prominent view of justification is the evidentialist view. A justified belief is one for which a person has adequate evidence of some sort. A second related notion is that one is justified in holding some belief only if one is intellectually entitled to hold the belief, i.e., within one's intellectual rights or not in violation of certain epistemic duties. The views are often combined in what we might call deontological evidentialism: one has an intellectual obligation to hold a belief only if one adequate evidence for the belief. Alternatively, a person ought not to hold a belief in the absence of sufficient evidence." Note his claim reconstruction is the same as theirs. If I *should* have evidence demanded of all my beliefs, then I "shouldn't" (Sudduth: "ought not") have no evidence. Likewise, if I "should" obey the laws, then I "shouldn't" break them. If I 'should" drive 10 mph on the street where an Elementary school sits, then I "shouldn't" drive 75! This is all clear and easy to follow. hence Loftus and T-stone hold to deontological evidentialism. As I said this has fallen on hard times, and I've argued against it, but so that the emotional baggage of having to admit that a T-blogger is right is removed, I quote Dr. Sudduth again:


"Let's look at the idea that justification involves the possession of evidence for one's belief. In the popular 1970s TV program Columbo, the often absent-minded, seemingly incompetent detective Columbo gathers together various bits of information in the course of the show that point him in the direction of the murderer. On the basis of these bits of information, he forms the belief that so and so is likely the murderer. Although he relies heavily on confessions to convict, his own beliefs about the guilty person are formed on the basis of various facts he uncovers during his investigation. Similarly, a person working in an office without windows may come to hold the belief that it is raining outside on the basis of seeing customers walking in with damp raincoats and perhaps hearing the sound of thunder outside. Or take the case of Milo. On the basis of his beliefs that all men are mortal and Socrates is a man, he believes that Socrates is mortal.

In these three cases, a person forms a true belief on the basis of reasons in the form of other beliefs or propositions. These reasons support the truth of their target belief in a particular way.2 Each person has what we might call propositional evidence for his belief. These cases involve instances of logical inference, and as the latter two examples demonstrate such inferences may be quite automatic, taking very little time and a minimal amount of cognitive effort. The support could be viewed as adequate by stipulating that the reasons in question are themselves justified beliefs and they either entail the target belief (as in the third example) or at least make the target belief probable (as in the first two cases). Moreover, it appears that in each of these cases the person grasps, or could come to see upon reflection, that their reasons do provide good indications that the target belief is true. Since the target belief is held on the basis of this evidence, we can say that it is inferentially held and inferentially justified.3


Now, as I have stated a few times before, we should have evidence, and it is a good thing to have it, for *some* of our beliefs, like the ones above. I have pointed out, though, that this doesn't mean that we "should" for *all* of our beliefs. That's a hasty generalization, It's the fallacy that T-stone is committing, and his claim that it's an inductive argument doesn't matter since I've shown that this is a *normative* constraint. Furthermore, I've shown it by arguing that to deny that "all" beliefs "should" have evidence for them is to grant me my position. So, it must be a categorical claim. But, the evidentialist thesis is not necessary for knowledge. Says Sudduth:


"The propositional evidence justification model (hereafter, PEJ model) seems to provide an accurate account of some cases of knowledge, such as the situations described in the above examples. But it seems implausible to suppose that propositional evidential justification is necessary for knowledge simpliciter. First, most of our putative knowledge states are not in fact evidentially grounded. While taking an afternoon walk, I believe that the sun is shining. I believe that there are other minds. I believe that the University of Cambridge is located in England. I believe that 2 + 2 = 4. At the moment, I believe that it seems to me that I am awake. These beliefs are not typically held on the basis of some kind of evidential inference, much less the result of some explicit argument. He we have sources such as sensory perception, introspection, intuition, and testimony. This suggests that either these sources of beliefs or modes of forming beliefs do not produce knowledge or the inferential evidential model is incorrect.4

Secondly, a propositional evidence requirement for knowledge would face a problem of infinite regress on the one hand or vicious circularity on the other. If knowledge (or justified belief) is defined in terms having adequate evidence, and adequate evidence is defined with reference to other beliefs that are justified, then before those beliefs could be adequate evidence for a given belief, they would have to have adequate evidence themselves. But then this latter evidence (if adequate) would also require adequate evidence, and so on ad infinitum. Justification would seem to require the possession of an infinite number of justified beliefs if a person is to be justified in holding any particular belief. But it is not psychologically possible for human persons to hold an infinite number of beliefs, so we could not be justified in any belief. But then justification evidentialism, coupled with an infinite regress and a limit to the number of beliefs a human person can have, entails that knowledge is not possible. But this conclusion certainly seems false. This conclusion could only be avoided if at some point the chain of evidence looped and returned back to a previous justified belief, so that A is evidence for B, C is evidence for A, D is evidence for C, and B is evidence for D. Of course this carries with it the implication that some proposition (B) is evidence for itself, at least if we assume that "being evidence for" is a transitive relation. But in that case B would be justified in a way independent of its evidential relations to other beliefs. This conclusion seems to be inconsistent with PEJ."


Also, to base the belief in the evidentialist thesis on sense perception is problematic for more than a couple reasons, but I'll cite two. One is that I do not see how *the truth* of the *evidentialist thesis* has been *perceived* by the senses. Secondly, as I've brought up, this relies on memory. T-stone *remembers* having sensory evidence which he *believes* supports his original belief. Therefore, *this belief* needs to have evidence for it. And as Dr. Sudduth points out:


"But in the case of beliefs formed on the basis of evidence of the senses, there is a clear distinction between the belief and the experiential evidence. I believe that there is a tree in front of me because I am appeared to a certain way, a tree in front of me sort of way. Although memory often involves phenomenal imagery, sometimes it doesn't and even when it does it hard to distinguish between the memorial experience and the belief allegedly formed on the basis of this experience. Something similar is also encountered in the case of a priori beliefs. I believe that all blue objects are colored and that 10 x 10 = 100. Etc etc It seems difficult to explain evidence for these beliefs in a way that would distinguish between the belief that is held and its truth. Similarly with introspective beliefs like I seem to see a tree.

So it appears that even a sufficient broadening of the idea of evidence will leave us with at least problematic cases in which beliefs are formed and knowledge had but where this is nothing in the way of grounds or evidence for the truth of the beliefs. If these beliefs are self-evident, then they are clearly not based on evidence, but carry their evidence with them so to speak. So evidence views of justification will stand in need of sufficient modification to give us what it takes to make he difference between true belief and knowledge. Evidentialism in its various forms does not seem to be necessary for knowledge, even some cases of knowledge involve evidence."


Now to turn to their deontological evidentialism. Deontology in epistemology is defined as doing your epistemic duty. And therefore to say that we "should" have evidence for our beliefs implies that we have a "duty" to follow this constraint. To say that I "should" pay the plumber is to say that it is my "duty" to pay him. I am "obligated" to pay him. But there are problems here, I cite just two from Sudduth again:


"3. Intellectual Duties not Necessary for Knowledge

Even so, couldn't a person flout his epistemic duties, be an epistemic villain of sorts, and still have knowledge? Suppose that I have an intellectual obligation to investigate the credibility of what people tell me on highly important matters. A colleague at work tells me that another colleague has been fired. If I had investigated, as I ought to have, I would have found reasons for not trusting his testimony, but in fact I do accept what he tells me. He is in fact reliable, so the belief I form on the basis of his testimony is true. It seems reasonable to suppose that in this case I also know that the colleague in question has been fired, but I have not followed my intellectual duties. But it looks like I have knowledge in this case.

4. The Insufficiency of Deontologism

This raises another perceived difficulty with deontologism. It seems to fall short of the natural way of construing the epistemic point of view.

According to Schmitt:

The idea that justified belief is belief that contributes to the end of true belief is most straightforwardly developed by identifying it reliable belief - belief of a sort that is generally true. . . .It is natural. . .to see justified belief as a means to true belief - or more exactly, as belie that results from a means to true belief. This view is most simply developed by reliabilism: justified true belief is reliably formed belief, or belief that results from the exercise of a reliable cognitive belief-forming process, a process that tends to yield true beliefs (in the actual or nearby counterfactual worlds.12

But surely a person can be within his intellectual rights in holding some belief without the belief being reliably produced.

Suppose a man is raised in some primitive community on an Island that has little contact with the rest of the world. He finds himself as a teenager with the belief that a certain dance will cause it to rain. This belief is widely accepted in his community; in fact it is an essential part of the community tradition. He accepts, without hesitation, the traditions of his community. These traditions play an important role in the life of the community, and the man has never encountered anyone who has questioned either these traditions or the belief about the rain dance. On a particular occasion, the man forms the belief that it will rain the next day on the sole basis of performing this ritual. In fact, it does rain. So his belief is true. What intellectual duty is the young man violating? He has thought reflectively about this practice to some extent, but he has found no reason to doubt its efficacy. In fact, it has often worked in the past. Has he not done all that can reasonably be expected of him? It would seem so. But he is not in a good position to acquire true beliefs on the matter at hand simply because his method of forming the belief is unreliable.

[...] we find here a true belief produced in a way that is not reliable (due to cognitive malfunction), and this leads us to doubt whether the case describes a case of knowledge. It is doubtful that beliefs acquired by sheer luck constitute knowledge, and this is exactly what we have in the above cases. But both individuals get a true belief by sheer luck without violating any intellectual duties in doing so. Therefore, deontological justification is not sufficient, along with true belief, for knowledge"


And so not only have I offered arguments against Loftus and T-stone's views that have gone unanswered, we can now see the dubious assumptions that their position rests on. Indeed, their position seems so wrought with problems that they may as well curl up into an epistemic ball and throw an intellectual temper tantrum.

Furthermore, for guys like Loftus who profess atheism, the concept of norms in epistemology is a correct notion. But perhaps it should be construed as proper function rather than duty. But, the very verbiage used by Loftus actually presupposes theism as men like Dr. James Anderson have pointed out:


So a third ingredient is needed for knowledge, an ingredient commonly labeled ‘justification’ or ‘warrant’. (For consistency’s sake, I will hereafter use the term ‘warrant’ to refer to this third ingredient.) Contemporary epistemologists have vigorously debated precisely what constitutes ‘warrant’, but fortunately there is no need to take sides in these debates in order to defend the point I want to make here. For there is a common intuition behind all analyses of warrant to the effect that a true belief must be formed or held in the right way, or in an appropriate way, in order to count as knowledge. A warranted belief cannot be formed or held in just any old fashion. There are right or appropriate ways and there are wrong or inappropriate ways. As an example, suppose I come to believe that it is raining outside; suppose further that it is, in fact, raining outside. If this belief is formed on the basis of perception (e.g., I can see and hear the rain through an open window), then the belief is very likely warranted; but if this belief is formed on the basis of a superstitious conviction that it always rains on the days I forget to bring my umbrella, then the belief will not be warranted. The difference is that in the former case the belief is formed in a fitting or appropriate manner, while in the latter case it is not.

Careful reflection on the concept of knowledge in general, and on paradigm cases of knowledge, make it clear that this notion of ‘epistemic rightness’ or ‘epistemic appropriateness’ is an essential feature of knowledge. But observe that this notion is clearly a normative one: it pertains to how beliefs ought to be formed or held (in order to count as knowledge), rather than how beliefs are formed or held. It is not a descriptive notion, but a prescriptive one. It implies that there are epistemic norms which determine (in part) whether or not one’s belief that p is actually knowledge that p.

That the concept of knowledge has an essentially normative aspect, and thus there are such things as epistemic norms (if there is such a thing as knowledge), is a point widely recognized by contemporary epistemologists. For example, Jaegwon Kim writes:

[Epistemic] justification manifestly is normative. If a belief is justified for us, then it is permissible and reasonable, from the epistemic point of view, for us to hold it, and it would be epistemically irresponsible to hold beliefs that contradict it. . . . Epistemology is a normative discipline as much as, and in the same sense as, normative ethics. (Kim, 1988, p. 383, emphasis original)


And so,


"As I noted above, only two of the various analyses of epistemic warrant considered earlier would appear to be live options (given the stated shortcomings of the other accounts): deontological epistemology (which would include quasi-deontological notions of epistemic norms) and teleological epistemology. According to these two approaches, epistemic normativity is cashed out either in terms of intellectual duty (or something in that conceptual neighborhood) or in terms of proper cognitive function (or proper cognitive ends).

It isn’t difficult to see that both of these analyses sit quite comfortably within a theistic framework. God’s character and commands are normative for us by virtue of the fact that we are his creatures and created to reflect the divine image. As Richard Taylor notes, it is natural to think that if there is a God then we are bound to him in an ethical sense: we have obligations toward him (including intellectual obligations). Similarly, certain human epistemic practices are virtuous because they accord with those goals and characteristics valued by God—truth-directedness, consistency, impartiality, prudence, etc.—and his general intentions for human existence. And the notion of cognitive proper function makes perfect sense on the view that humans (including our noetic faculties) have been created by God (whatever view one takes of the process of creation).


Thus concluding....


In conclusion, then, we have solid reasons for believing that if human knowledge is possible then there must be a God. Knowledge presupposes the existence of objective epistemic normativity, which in turn presupposes an ontology that can account for the existence of such normativity. Naturalism, as many of its contemporary advocates now acknowledge, has no place for objective epistemic normativity. And non-theistic non-naturalisms fall short on other grounds: by trying to ground epistemic normativity in the non-personal, or by failing to distinguish the normative from the normed, or by leaving unexplained the connection between the normative and the normed. Only theistic worldviews have the metaphysical resources to underwrite the most defensible analyses of epistemic warrant. In four words: if knowledge, then God.


Thus not only have the epistemic wolves Loftus and T-stone huffed and puffed and blew their own epistemological homes made of straw and stick down, and failed to blow down the Christian theist's brick house, they have been unwitting participants in helping us prove the superiority of theism over anti-theism.


  1. Paul,

    No time tonight to give this more than a quick skim and one quick observation. So you argue here via the "copy-and-paste" method... that strikes me as quite lazy Paul. I think paste in quotations is useful, but in *support* of arguments (I quoted Darwin's Origins over on Pike's post in support of my claim that Darwin relied on fossil evidence in forming his theory), not *as* your argument. I actually did try something like this in an entry-level Philosophy course in college. I was not treated kindly by my professor, nor should I have been. Lesson learned. But this is a blog and you can do what you want.

    (question for the reader: where does the "center of gravity" lie in Paul's post: in *arguments*, or in the words he has pasted in from those he esteems?)

    I can't engage with Plantinga or Sudduth, as they aren't participating here; it's fine for you to "adopt" their arguments, verbatim, even, but it's not clear that's what your doing here. As it is, it appears to be "see all these philosophers who have trouble with evidentialism???" To which it occurs to me invites a similarly lazy response: should I paste in selected passages from Bonjour, or Feldman, or DePoe, or the McGrews (or... how many of these do I need to supply to match Paul's name-dropping, again?) and leave off, even knowing that that I don't hold to evidentialism, strictly construed?

    More wasted time and bandwidth... opposing copy-and-paste jobs passing each other on the wire.

    But all that is really secondary to the strong point I want to make here for tonight: Paul remains incorrigible with respect to the claims and arguments that he is reacting to in the first place, here. This "reminiscence" is not something I recognize at all from my arguments, and do not recognize in my understand of Loftus' arguments:

    Paul said:

    John Loftus claimed: "Whatever we believe we should demand evidence for that belief, and historical evidence in the past simply isn't good enough. What we need is evidence."

    Obviously reminiscent of Clifford's The Ethics of Belief: "To sum up: it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence."

    There's nothing new under the sun. Loftus was claiming what Clifford was.

    Loftus can speak for himself (or not) here; for my part, I reject this "reminiscence" as wholly mistaken in its understanding of what was claimed by me, and as far as I can tell, by John as well.

    If this post is committed to a premise that I am defending the arguments of Clifford, then there's no point in proceeding at all, for my part: it's fundamentally mistaken in its premises.

    In that sense, I suppose it's good that Paul has opted for a "cut-and-paste" job for his... arguments here, as this is all aimed at -- again, let the record show -- boxing shadows. No point in investing the time to argue in your own words against a scarecrow, right?

    Specifically, I reject the "always", the "everywhere", the "anyone" and the "anything" in your quote from Clifford as being necessary qualifiers for my claim. Which means you've got it completely wrong, Paul, if you suppose this is my position (or Loftus' so far as I can tell). I've specifically rejected these extremes previously, yet you apparently are unwilling to engage on what is asserted, and instead stand up Mr. Clifford as some kind of proxy to argue against. Why is this, Paul?

    Just as a baseline, I do assert this:

    (1) Evidence is a proven, (and undeniable) basis for forming true beliefs.

    (2) Justified bases for true beliefs that obtain without any evidence *may* exist, but their warrant and justification are problematic, whereas evidence-as-warrant/justification is not problematic.

    (3) Because of (2), evidence is a naturally preferable basis for obtaining true beliefs. (this is the underpinning for "should" in John's original claim, in my view)

    (4)Cases *may* exist where evidence is not possible as underwriter for a belief, even in principle. In such cases, it is reasonable to ask a) what, if not evidence, does serve as the warrant/justification for this belief? and b) does a commitment to this belief *need* to be made?

    In my view, John Loftus' statement -- "We should demand evidence for all our beliefs" -- reflects (1)-(4) above. I quote John as saying in his clarifying comments posted at 6/08/2007 3:22 PM:

    I'd also argue that the fewer things we believe without evidence the better. And those things which we believe without evidence are limited to those things which by their nature are evidence translucent, that is, the need for evidence doesn't apply to said beliefs.

    This alone should be enough for Paul to avoid equating Loftus' (or my) arguments with Cliffords. If he is to be responsible here, he will take note of Loftus' words and my words, which are incompatible with Cliffords ("always", "everywhere", "for anyone", "anything").

    Paul tries to justify this gross misrepresentation by asserting that "always", "everywhere", "for anyone", and "anything" as offered by Clifford are *necessary* by virtue of the normativity of epistemology. If there are good and preferable and demonstrated effective things we can identify, then these must be the only possible good things that exist, in Paul's view.

    Paul is viewing a straw man.

    I will note that in this case, his straw man is quite capable, and while it's not my argument, the only way I can see that Paul manages to wrestle his opponent of straw to the ground is through selective cut-and-paste. If a *real* evidentialist -- and I ahve engaged and debated some at considerable length -- were to stand in the place of Paul's straw opponent, the exchange would be quite different than the heroic victory Paul portrays with the command-v key on his keyboard.

    Naturalist epistemologies do not rely on a priori norms as the building blocks for their normativity; if a theist proposes a set of norms for their epistemology as *prescriptive*, the naturalist will offer norms that are *descriptive* -- norms that are the distillation of empirical and observational evidence. In this sense, then, Paul's "should" problem breaks down into a conflation of differing models of normativity -- prescriptive and descriptive. It's a non-starter to wonder how a naturalist establishes epistemic normativity in the *prescriptive* sense; her norms obtain descriptively, and she points to the witness of experience as the basis for what we "ought" to require in terms of justifying our beliefs.

    It may help, Paul, if you think of the naturalist construction of norms in their epistemology as being not like law (which more closely resembles the theist/prescriptive construction), but as a kind of scientific theory of epistemology. It relies on "what works in practice" as its basis for recommending/demanding a heuristic.

    The "should" then, in Loftus' claim, is only pinned to a *descriptive* construction of normativity, and is manifestly at *odds* with a prescriptive construction of normativity. That means that "should" means "should" in the sense of "this has been proven to work on a wide array of truth problems", a sense which disavows "always", "for anyone", etc.

    Hopefully, that's enough discussion here to get things back to a place where you are being responsible with the arguments being presented here. I have no problem with you wrestling with Clifford via copy-and paste, but please don't assign to me views and arguments which I disavow. This post, as you have it, just begs for so much more "noise" in the channel.

    Until you can see your way clear to addressing the arguments put forth *as* they are put forth, this is just so much pasted text, signifying almost nothing.

    Lastly, if I am wrong and Loftus *does* endorse the views of Clifford, I am happy to be corrected, and amend my remarks accordingly.


  2. this, from above:

    (question for the reader: where does the "center of gravity" lie in Paul's post: in *arguments*, or in the words he has pasted in from those he esteems?)

    is missing an important word. It should read:

    (question for the reader: where does the "center of gravity" lie in Paul's post: in Paul's *arguments*, or in the words he has pasted in from those he esteems?)


  3. Paul, I only read the first few lines here, but you are quoting me out-of context, and I explained what I was talking about. I am not an evidentialist, but I do not think we can presuppose all of that which you presuppose either. Just because evidentialism fails does not mean you or anyone else can go off presupposing anything they want to do. I presuppose I'm not dreaming right now. I presuppose that communication between people is possible. I presuppose there is a material world (Berkeley's argument may be irrefutable that there isn't one). Limited presuppositions is all one should presuppose. Now, I didn't read what you wrote, but if you say more than these types of things you could be living in la la land. And you must further make the case that the philosopher's god is one of those things for which evidence doesn't apply, and on that point I would argue with you, much less a full-blown Christian God which depends upon the evidence of history, the acceptance of church canonization, and the presuppositionalist interpretation the texts in the Bible. Maybe I'll read this post of yours later, but those are my reactions to your statements which I think you know are not true.

  4. My ending should read: "...not true about me."

  5. T-Stone said:
    No time tonight to give this more than a quick skim and one quick observation. So you argue here via the "copy-and-paste" method... that strikes me as quite lazy Paul.

    Yeah, T-Stone, you are lazy. It's not like Paul didn't write three posts before this one or anything. And given your addiction to trivial Google searches, your complaint here demonstrates your hypocrisy quite well.

    Other than that, I'll just use yours and Loftus's trick and say, "I didn't read everything you wrote" and end here. What a wonderful conversation, eh? Gets a lot accomplished, huh?

    But hey, not reading dissent is a good way for you to feel confident about your position. Have at it.

  6. Touchstone said:

    “(2) Justified bases for true beliefs that obtain without any evidence *may* exist, but their warrant and justification are problematic, whereas evidence-as-warrant/justification is not problematic.”

    This strikes me as just strange. Are you saying that the warrant for beliefs that are (i) self-evident, (ii) evident to the senses, or (iii) incorrigible is *problematic*? It seems to me that these kinds of beliefs serve as a *paradigm* for justified or warranted belief, despite the fact that they have this status apart from evidence.

  7. Hi Greg,

    This strikes me as just strange. Are you saying that the warrant for beliefs that are (i) self-evident, (ii) evident to the senses, or (iii) incorrigible is *problematic*?

    No. The foundationalist axioms here are just that - axioms: (i), (ii) and (iii) serve as their own warrant. Plantinga grants that beliefs that satisfy (i), (ii) or (iii) are properly basic, just like the foundationalist does. Plantinga just doesn't stop there, and supposes that there are *additional* beliefs -- beliefs that do not satisfy (i), (ii), or (iii) -- which should also be considered properly basic.

    While I agree that, in analytic terms, CF doesn't reconcile its own beliefs well (the belief 'X is properly basic if X is self-evident or incorrigible or evident to the senses' is hard to verify against its own criteria), Plantinga takes that as license -- a loophole -- for making *any* belief 'properly basic' (see his discussion of the Great Pumpkin - lame!)

    So I can affirm (i), (ii) and (iii) as positive qualifications for belief, but not as necessarily an exhaustive list, for the same reason as Plantinga: CF's thesis itself doesn't compile well under (i), (ii) and (iii). To that extent I can join Plantinga in identifying the problem. But I quickly part ways with Plantinga from there; that "problem" is just a device to get Reformed Epistemology of the epistemic hook, as it were. It's not building a positive epistemology, but attacking another empistemology which is problematic for it.

    In any case, the axiomata are *not* problematic for me. What is problematic is the *absence* of a positive basis upon which to justify a belief that is not satsifactory to (i), (ii) and (iii). Since I've rejected the limitations of classic foundationalism, I don't feel free like Plantinga to shove anything I want into the "belief box" and just call it properly basic. It's a problem to establish what, constructively, does give rise to justifcation, then.

    It seems to me that these kinds of beliefs serve as a *paradigm* for justified or warranted belief, despite the fact that they have this status apart from evidence.

    Concur. The "problematicness" for me lies completely outside of that perimeter, and is attached to the assertions of proper basicality for beliefs that don't fit this paradigm. It's clear to me that classic (and modern) foundationalism are incomplete, and incorrect insofar as they claim to be complete and comprehensive in terms of enumerating all possible modes of justification. But at the same time, the temptation to exploit that "incompleteness" as a loophole to legitimize an arbitrary a priori conclusion ought to be resisted. Plantinga succumbed to that temptation, big-time, in my view. For myself, as I said above, I grant that there *can* be modes of justification beyond the accepted ones ((i), (ii), and (iii)), but it's a problem, a challenge to establish the 'credentials' and efficacy of such a mode. Plantinga serves as a vivid example of how *not* to approach the identification of such a mode. So while I'm willing to grant the possibilities, my experience suggests that is more likely to be a point of epistemic "cheating" than epistemic discovery.


  8. "I don't feel free like Plantinga to shove anything I want into the "belief box" and just call it properly basic. It's a problem to establish what, constructively, does give rise to justifcation, then."

    That's not Plantinga's position. There's a criteria for PB beliefs, and it's not "anything I want."

  9. Paul,

    As best I can tell -- and I've not read all of Plantinga's words on this I'm sure -- his criteria are inductive generalizations drawn from "examples of beliefs and conditions such that the former are obviously properly basic to the latter, and examples of beliefs and conditions such that the former are obviously not proper in the latter." [1]

    To test these hypotheses, he suggests tests for "necessary and sufficient conditions of proper basicality", which sounds pretty precise to me -- not! He also suggests that basicality is contingent on social and environmental contexts -- a lot of leeway for "anything you want" there! For reasons I can't fathom, Plantinga says we needn't consider the Great Pumpkin Objection, as it's not a "living option" -- a very convenient constraint, and a novel one at that for epistemic models!

    Lastly, if I recall correctly, he disavows any liability to the norms of atheists, or anyone outside his ideological tribe -- he can do what he wants as long as he can sell it to other Reformed epistemologists.

    I don't suppose Plantinga just outright claimed "anything goes" with regard to basicality, but the explanation he offers establishes just that.

    And after all that, we *still* aren't given by Planting a clear, uniform rule for discriminating between proper and improper basic belief.

    Maybe I missed it, Paul. Can you provide Plantinga's criteria for sorting out what is properly basic belief and what is not? What I've read follows the description I've provided above. Whence Plantinga's clear criteria, Paul?


    [1]Plantinga, Alvin: Is Belief in God Properly Basic? Nous 15, 41-52, 1981.


    As for your above claim: I'd read Plantinga. Two inconsistent beliefs cannot be PB, defeated beliefs cannot be PB, and beliefs accepted on the basis of propositional evidence are not PB, beliefs accepted in a basic way but not having warrant are not PB, beliefs due to cognitive malfunction, beliefs impeded by cognitive conditions such rage, lust, ambition, grief, and the like, beliefs formed by the portion of the design plan not aimed at producing true beliefs (i.e., survival, optimistic overriders), beliefs where something in the testimonial chain has gone wrong (a friend has lied), of for "still other reasons," are not PB.

    cf. 175-178 WCB.

    That's just a sampling. To make the claims you do come off as being pretty ignorant about Plantinga's position and project. But such is par for the course. This is your schtick. I got it, no need to torture the rest of us and make us do your homework for you! :-)

  11. Paul,

    How does the above rule out the Great Pumpkin, again, assuming we have people like Linus who believe in such a thing?

    Or are you saying that belief in the Great Pumpkin would qualify, just like the God of the Bible?

    In any case, *I* my "anything" above demanded acceptance of logical contradictions as properly basic, for example, Paul. You are being pedantic yet again here. My point was if we can't distinguish Yahweh from the Great Pumpkin or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or [insert proposed entity that is not available for inspection here], it's not a meaningful distinction, and is just a means to "bless" thiestic understandings with the cover of 'properly basic' so as to maintain appearances in the face of philosophical critique.

    And, it's worth noting that all you've provided is a list of things PBB is *not*, Paul. I want to know the criteria for determinings what *is* PBB, not what it is not. If you are saying PBB is anything not specifically disallowed by your constraints above, then the Great Pumpkin qualifies as I see it, along with an unlimited number of other supposed deities and imagined entities.

    If so, all you've done is promoted belief in the Great Pumpkin to the epistemic credentials of the true God of the universe. That seems quite a high price to pay for the right to smash God into the "properly basic" box...


  12. T-stone,

    The GP is another objection and discussion. But, I think his answers and others are satisfactory.

    *Your claim*, though, was that Plantinga allows "anything [he] wants into the 'belief box' and just calls it properly basic."

    *That's* what I'm responding to.

    So, take one of my/his examples: A belief formed by the part of the design plan that governs survival, optimistic overridders.

    Say that Harry believes, against the odds, that he will beat his cancer. This belief may be the result of properly functiong cognitive faculties. But, the aim is survival and not truth. Hence the belief that Harry holds that he will beat his cancer is not properly basic.

    So, since T-stone said:

    1. All beliefs are things Plantinga does allow in the PB box.

    And my example above shows that

    2. Some beliefs are things that Plantinga does not allow in the PB box.

    I have thus proven that T-stone's claim (1) is false.

    Criteria, GP objection, etc., is another discussion. My aim here was to specifically refute the claim T-stone made about Plantinga's program allowing "anything" into the PB box.

  13. Regarding GPO objections, T-stone can start with something like this: