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Introduction

I am interested in philosophy, religion and reason.

What follows is the writings of a rationalist, and critic of dogmatism, and proponent of open-mindedness and taking ideas seriously.

I shall on this website link to some blogs about these and other interesting things.

Some thoughts on relativism, part 1: Does relativism mean everything is equal?

One claim often made to argue against the thesis that there are no absolutes and nothing is independent of one’s own personal opinions is that it would imply that everything is therefore equally valid and nothing is preferable to anything else. I shall in this article examine this claim and explain why I think it fails.

  1. An overview and formulation

An objective (absolute) truth claim: A proposition P whose truth value is independent of whatever belief or feeling a subject S may have about P.

A truth claim or proposition is subjective (relative) if and only if it is not objective.

The issue here can be thought of as whether the two are best thought of as binary, which treats all such dependencies and beliefs equally, or as on a spectrum or scale where they come in degrees like the following:

• A proposition P is subjective to the extent that it’s truth value is a free variable, free to be determined by one’s opinion of P and objective to the extent that one position is more rational than another given the beliefs one holds.

• A proposition P is subjective to the extent that it is free to cohere with whatever beliefs a subject S may hold and objective to the extent that one position is more coherent than another.

• A proposition P is subjective to the extent that any opinion on P is equally useful and objective to the extent that some models are more useful than others.

• A proposition P is subjective to the extent that a subject S’s opinion on P is irrelevant to other subjects and objective to the extent that a rational community of subjects would agree on an opinion about P.

2. A review and some counterexamples

The claim being made and discussed here is as follows:

If there is no absolute truth, then it is equally rational to assent to any view.

This (binary -ist, as I will call it from here on) claim depends on the theories listed above that postulate a spectrum (hereafter the non-binary models) being incoherent. I argue that they are not and provide some examples of them that are quite coherent.

The following propositions form a triad:

  1. If P, then Q.
  2. P
  3. Q

A rational subject has the following options when choosing a “worldview” from those propositions:

  1. Proposition 1 (P1) + proposition 2 (P2) + Q
  2. P1 + not-P2 + Q
  3. P1 + not-P2 + not-Q
  4. Not-P1 + P2 + Q
  5. Not-P1 + not-P2 + Q
  6. Not-P1 + not-P2 + not-Q
  7. Not-P1 + P2 + not-Q

So if a subject S is evaluating the 7 worldviews listed on their acceptance of Q, then it is, on the basis of the other 2 propositions, more rational for S to assent to Q than not-Q, since there are 4 that accept Q and 3 that don’t.

Therefore, we have an example of a belief where non-binary model 1 is applicable, and some similar examples could be constructed for the other 3, such as:

• A subject S who assents to P because it coheres with X, Y, and Z, while Q coheres better with P than not-Q, in which case Q is more coherent than not-Q, even if it is possible for not -Q to be coherent is some cases.

• A proposition P that is useful in contexts X, Y, and Z, and is the most useful model available.

• A subject S who holds an opinion A considered only personal and another opinion B agreed by S’s community to be in the community’s best interests.

3. Conclusion

Contrary to what is often claimed, rejection of absolutism does not mean that one must accept every worldview as equal. It doesn’t mean accepting the opinions of a flat-earther or gravity -denier or neo-Nazi as being equally as reasonable as the common sense opinion on these things. It definitely doesn’t make one a nihilist who holds that there are no grounds for morality and discourse.

In the next post in this series, I plan to address the common objection that relativism is self-refuting and incoherent. Then I plan to discuss this issue in more detail.

Introduction to Logic

Reasonably Doubtful

Introduction

Google Dictionary defines logic as “reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity.” These “strict principles of validity” are known as the laws of logic. The laws of logic are rules that are used to determine if a proposition is true or false.

Propositions

A proposition is a sentence that is either true or false. The sentence “The door is open” is either true or false, and thus, it is a proposition. Statements that express opinions or commands are neither true nor false. The sentence “The door is nice-looking” expresses an opinion, and thus, it is neither true nor false. Since it is neither true nor false, it is not a proposition. The sentence “Open the door” expresses a command, and thus, it is neither true nor false. Since it is neither true nor false, it is not a proposition.

Capital letters are often used to represent…

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The problem with certainty

Throwback Tuesday!

AnonofReason

  1. Being purely sure (100% confident) of something (or, likewise, assigning anything zero probability) is claiming that it is indefeasible (completely irrefutable) – literally, nothing whatsoever could possibly refute it, for the simple reason that the lower the probability (or uncertainty), the stronger the evidence must be for that. (That is, for an event with low probability, the probability of the information favoring it must be high, and of course lowering it makes the requirement even higher). In the 0% case the requirement would be infinite and so there is no amount of information that would suffice.
  2. Claiming indefeasible knowledge equals claiming unconditional belief – the same as saying “I believe no matter what”, for the simple reason that if there is no information that could refute it, then one’s belief is independent of whatever the evidence might say and so even overwhelming evidence to the contrary wouldn’t affect it.
  3. Such…

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On Biblical Violence

The Non-Alchemist

What Would it Take?

Deanna Laney was the mother of three children: an 8-year-old, a 6-year-old, and a 15-month-old.  She murdered both of the oldest and permanently impaired the youngest by beating them over the head repeatedly with a rock because she “believed that God had told her the world was going to end and ‘she had to get her house in order’, which included killing her children”.  Regarding the two that were murdered, the last thing they “ever saw on this earth was their mama holding a rock over her head…and the last thing they felt was that rock crashing down on them”.  Her belief that she had received the word of God and “that the word of God was infallible” was clearly what motivated her actions in whatever state of mind she was in [1].  But this begs an interesting question – what would it take for you…

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The Luke Barnes -Richard Carrier argument about fine-tuning

Barnes’ original response to Carrier’s book chapter, “Neither Life Nor the Universe Appear Intelligently Designed” in The End of Christianity:

https://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/probably-not-a-fine-tuned-critique-of-richard-carrier-part-1/

https://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/what-chance-looks-like-a-fine-tuned-critique-of-richard-carrier-part-2/

https://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/christmas-tripe-a-fine-tuned-critique-of-richard-carrier-part-3/

https://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/questions-for-richard-carrier/

Their exchange on Carrier’s blog:

Jeff Lowder’s coverage:

Carrier’s rebuttal to Barnes and Lowder:

Barnes’ response:

https://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/richard-carrier-one-liners-part-1/

https://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/richard-carrier-one-liners-part-2/

https://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/richard-carrier-one-liners-part-3/

https://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/final-word-on-richard-carrier/

Carrier’s final rebuttal: