Questions Regarding Epistemology, Foundationalism and Presuppositional Apology
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02-09-2014, 11:25 AM
Questions Regarding Epistemology, Foundationalism and Presuppositional Apology
I have some questions regarding Epistemology, specifically relating to Foundationalism and how it relates to Presuppositional arguments. I am new to these topics so I hope I may be forgiven some ignorance and difficulty in understanding. I sometimes really struggle to understand philosophical concepts.

I will try to set up a framework of information to give my questions context. Please correct me if I write something that is false or a misrepresentation.

I understand that some beliefs, sometimes known as justified beliefs, are considered as valid because they are rooted in other beliefs that in turn have already undergone justification, or have been demonstrated to be valid using evidence. Since each justification must be rooted in an earlier justified belief, there is a infinite regress of beliefs.

Foundationalism is the claim that some "properly basic beliefs" form a self evident foundation upon which all justified beliefs can stand well supported. Examples of these may be the following:

1. The existence of external reality.
2. The reliability of memory.
3. The existence of other minds.
4. The rules of logic.
5. Reliability of the senses.

Here are my questions:

1. Is it necessary to demonstrate that foundational "properly basic beliefs" are self evident? Is that contradictory?

2. Is it even a possibility to demonstrate the validity of reason and logic using reason and logic? Is this fallacious or otherwise invalid?

3. If the answer to question number two is that it is valid and not fallacious, what is the difference between that and using god to demonstrate god?

4. Is it even possible to actually "know" anything at all? Is " I think I know this, but future evidence and reason might prove me wrong" the most accurate I can possibly be on any subject?

5. What is the significance of the lack of alternatives to these "properly basic beliefs"? Without accepting them, is it even possible to reason at all?

I recently got around to watching The Refining Reason Debate featuring Matt Dillahunty and Sye Ted Bruggencate, which was my very first experience of presuppositional arguments. I have read a few breakdowns of the argument since then, but not very many. Here are more questions on that topic:

6. I have heard some apologists write their deity in as one of the "properly basic beliefs" I mentioned earlier. Is this valid? Why or why not?

7. It has been put to me by a theist that accepting "properly basic beliefs" is either an assumption or a faith based decision. Are we choosing to have faith in these foundational ideas in the same way that theists hold faith in their religion, why or why not?

8. If we are using faith, by choice, to assume the truth of "properly basic beliefs", what is wrong with replacing them with a deity, or regarding them as true only because of a deity?

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.

-Karl Marx
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04-09-2014, 11:03 PM
RE: Questions Regarding Epistemology, Foundationalism and Presuppositional Apology
I have done a little more research since I asked these questions. Even though no one has posted any response, I think I will try to answer my own questions for anyone who might be interested.

1. It is not necessary to demonstrate the validity of foundational beliefs. They are self evident. There is no alternative but to accept them. Anyone who is questioning them is doing so by already assuming their validity to begin with. They are engaged in reason, while criticizing reason, and thus are reasoning in a circle.

2. The difference in assuming the validity of foundational beliefs and assuming god without evidence, is a matter of what is necessary. God is not a mandatory starting point. As an explanation, god is a violation of Occam's Razor, since what can be explained by positing him, is explained better, and more simply, by assuming natural processes.

3. I do not think it is possible to really "know" anything perfectly. This is why I embrace skepticism. It seems to me to be the best method of believing as many true things as possible, and as few false things as possible.

4. Since it has been established by god's superfluous nature that belief in him does not belong as a foundational belief, it belongs in the category of "justified belief". Therefore it is necessary to provide justifications for such a belief, which are rooted in foundational beliefs. This is the primary difference between theistic faith, and assuming foundational beliefs. They are not equal or parallel.

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.

-Karl Marx
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07-09-2014, 06:48 AM
RE: Questions Regarding Epistemology, Foundationalism and Presuppositional Apology
(02-09-2014 11:25 AM)Dark Phoenix Wrote:  If we are using faith, by choice, to assume the truth of "properly basic beliefs", what is wrong with replacing them with a deity, or regarding them as true only because of a deity?
Because a deity is an arbitrary construct, only one of infinite possible constructs. Arbitrary in the sense that the reasons for constructing a deity have no relationship to the bricks of reason; they derive from desire, not observation.

The other problem with a deity as "brick" in the foundation of reason is that it is more than a brick, it's an entire chapel. Any deity is complex, and can be deconstructed into component characteristics. But those components are poorly defined, or not defined, whereas the premises of sound reason are solid and simple. Again, deities are creations of desire, not observation, so will be subjective.
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07-09-2014, 10:15 AM
RE: Questions Regarding Epistemology, Foundationalism and Presuppositional Apology
Just an FYI, I consider "self evidence" to be a total bullshit philosophical position.

Nothing in religion, science, philosophy, etc is 'self evident'.
If something *is*, then you can demonstrate it. If you can't demonstrate it, then maybe it isn't.

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07-09-2014, 11:27 PM
RE: Questions Regarding Epistemology, Foundationalism and Presuppositional Apology
(02-09-2014 11:25 AM)Dark Phoenix Wrote:  I have some questions regarding Epistemology, specifically relating to Foundationalism and how it relates to Presuppositional arguments. I am new to these topics so I hope I may be forgiven some ignorance and difficulty in understanding. I sometimes really struggle to understand philosophical concepts.

I will try to set up a framework of information to give my questions context. Please correct me if I write something that is false or a misrepresentation.

I understand that some beliefs, sometimes known as justified beliefs, are considered as valid because they are rooted in other beliefs that in turn have already undergone justification, or have been demonstrated to be valid using evidence. Since each justification must be rooted in an earlier justified belief, there is a infinite regress of beliefs.

Foundationalism is the claim that some "properly basic beliefs" form a self evident foundation upon which all justified beliefs can stand well supported. Examples of these may be the following:

1. The existence of external reality.
2. The reliability of memory.
3. The existence of other minds.
4. The rules of logic.
5. Reliability of the senses.

Here are my questions:

1. Is it necessary to demonstrate that foundational "properly basic beliefs" are self evident? Is that contradictory?

2. Is it even a possibility to demonstrate the validity of reason and logic using reason and logic? Is this fallacious or otherwise invalid?

3. If the answer to question number two is that it is valid and not fallacious, what is the difference between that and using god to demonstrate god?

4. Is it even possible to actually "know" anything at all? Is " I think I know this, but future evidence and reason might prove me wrong" the most accurate I can possibly be on any subject?

5. What is the significance of the lack of alternatives to these "properly basic beliefs"? Without accepting them, is it even possible to reason at all?

I recently got around to watching The Refining Reason Debate featuring Matt Dillahunty and Sye Ted Bruggencate, which was my very first experience of presuppositional arguments. I have read a few breakdowns of the argument since then, but not very many. Here are more questions on that topic:

6. I have heard some apologists write their deity in as one of the "properly basic beliefs" I mentioned earlier. Is this valid? Why or why not?

7. It has been put to me by a theist that accepting "properly basic beliefs" is either an assumption or a faith based decision. Are we choosing to have faith in these foundational ideas in the same way that theists hold faith in their religion, why or why not?

8. If we are using faith, by choice, to assume the truth of "properly basic beliefs", what is wrong with replacing them with a deity, or regarding them as true only because of a deity?

Hi Dark Phoenix, here are my thoughts.

There are five criteria that I think proper starting point for knowledge must have.

First and foremost it must be true. If the truth of the starting point is in doubt then the whole of the knowledge resting on it is questionable. So we have to know it is true.

A starting point for knowledge must be objective. Objectivity has to do with the relationship between consciousness and existence. It means that existence exists independent of anyone's conscious action. It means that the objects of consciousness do not conform to the subject of consciousness. This is known as the primacy of existence principle. This is a metaphysical principle and its corollary in epistemology is the fact that to gain knowledge of reality one must look outward at the objects of consciousness not by looking inward to the subject of consciousness. Truth is the facts of reality and those are what they are regardless of anyone's wishes or desires.

A proper starting point must be fundamental. That means it does not rest on any antecedent premises or concepts. It must be conceptually irreducible. If it is inferred from prior premises those premises would have to be validated first and the starting point wouldn't be fundamental. A true fundamental starting point is axiomatic in nature. Axioms can't be defined in terms of antecedent principles but only ostensively, by pointing to what they reference. The starting point is just an affirmation of the truth of the axiomatic concept.

A proper starting point or axiom can not be inferred from other concepts so it must be something of which we are directly aware. It must be perceptually self evident.

It must be so fundamental a concept that its referents are implicit in all knowledge to be a proper starting point for knowledge. It must be a truly universal concept. The test of whether it is, is if it must be accepted and used even to try to refute it.

Now does the presuppositionalist starting point meet all these criteria? No it does not. The presuppositionalist starts with God as the starting point or rather with the Bible's description of God. Is that undeniably true? No. Is it conceptually irreducible? No. The concept of God is not. It rests on many antecedent concepts that would have to be known and validated before the truth of "God" could be. Is it Objective? No. If one wants to see this God then one has no alternative but to look inward to the imagination. Is it directly observable? No. By definition God is imperceptible. Is God an axiomatic concept. No.

As far as validating reason by using reason being circular, the concept of circularity does not apply. Reason, being the only method we have of validating knowledge it is necessarily valid. It is outside the province of proof. Its validity is axiomatic because any investigation into the validity of reason must presuppose the validity of reason.

Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. - Ayn Rand.

Don't sacrifice for me, live for yourself! - Me

The only alternative to Objectivism is some form of Subjectivism. - Dawson Bethrick
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08-09-2014, 09:01 PM
RE: Questions Regarding Epistemology, Foundationalism and Presuppositional Apology
(07-09-2014 10:15 AM)LostLocke Wrote:  Just an FYI, I consider "self evidence" to be a total bullshit philosophical position.

Nothing in religion, science, philosophy, etc is 'self evident'.
If something *is*, then you can demonstrate it. If you can't demonstrate it, then maybe it isn't.

I don't think I agree when it comes to properly basic beliefs. They by definition cannot be justified, since they are the starting point upon which everything else is justified. You can't demonstrate them to someone else. You just experience them in a "perceptually self evident" fashion.

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.

-Karl Marx
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11-09-2014, 09:51 PM
RE: Questions Regarding Epistemology, Foundationalism and Presuppositional Apology
Your senses and reasoning are your axioms. They are self evident and don't need justifying. Our assumption is that they work and are reliable. You cannot justify them. Its an impossible task because if you TRY you are automatically using reason to do so, therefore, its circular.

Here is an experiment for you. Ask them how they justify their reasoning without using their reasoning. They tend to say God, but they have hidden axioms that they are just denying.

“Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.

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12-09-2014, 06:55 AM
RE: Questions Regarding Epistemology, Foundationalism and Presuppositional Apology
(11-09-2014 09:51 PM)Just Another Atheist Wrote:  Your senses and reasoning are your axioms. They are self evident and don't need justifying. Our assumption is that they work and are reliable. You cannot justify them. Its an impossible task because if you TRY you are automatically using reason to do so, therefore, its circular.

Here is an experiment for you. Ask them how they justify their reasoning without using their reasoning. They tend to say God, but they have hidden axioms that they are just denying.

Except we have found that our senses are not terribly reliable. At least, not individually.

But that's why we invented the scientific method.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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12-09-2014, 08:15 AM
RE: Questions Regarding Epistemology, Foundationalism and Presuppositional Apology
(12-09-2014 06:55 AM)Chas Wrote:  But that's why we invented the scientific method.
Did we invent the scientific method, or did we discover it?

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12-09-2014, 09:41 AM
RE: Questions Regarding Epistemology, Foundationalism and Presuppositional Apology
(12-09-2014 08:15 AM)f stop Wrote:  
(12-09-2014 06:55 AM)Chas Wrote:  But that's why we invented the scientific method.
Did we invent the scientific method, or did we discover it?

We invented it. Only a dyed-in-the-wool Platonist would think otherwise. Facepalm

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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