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A Brief Justification of Bare Theism

Occam

Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2011
Messages
23
My views have been changing pretty rapidly recently as I've been reading a lot of philosophy of religion, but here's a summary of what I think right now.

The Principle of Critical Trust

According to Swinburne's principle of credulity, what seems to be the case is probably the case in the absence of defeaters. So for example, if I have an experience in which I seem to see a car in my garage, I am justified in believing that there is a car in my garage. On the other hand, if when I move a pencil up and down it seems to bend, I am not justified in believing that the pencil is probably bending, because that claim is defeated by other evidence that I have about the nature of pencils.

I don't agree with the principle of credulity, because it's insufficiently rigorous. We need a number of qualifiers to make it viable. The most important such qualifier is the observation that when an experience is defeated, we rationally preserve the highest undefeated level of content from the experience.

For example, if I see a plane and you see a weather balloon when we look at the same location in the sky at the same time, both of our experiences are defeated. I have a defeater for my plane-experience, and you have a defeater for your weather-balloon-experience. However, just because both of our experiences are defeated, we don't conclude that there was nothing in the sky. We conclude that there was something in the sky, but we don't know what it was exactly.

I call the principle of credulity, when modified by this and a few other qualifiers, the principle of critical trust.

An Argument from Religious Experience

Billions of people have had religious experiences since before recorded history. Under the principle of critical trust, all of these experiences get prima facie justification. So Christian experiences get justification, as do Hindu experiences, Muslim experiences, and so forth. The problem is that these experiences conflict with one another. So, every religious experience has a defeater: the experiences of other contradictory religions.

Applying the qualifier to the principle of critical trust, though, we don't have to concede that any religious experience loses all of its justification. We just cancel out the differences between religious experiences to arrive at the "core" of all such experiences, which remains undefeated. This "core" includes a god and perhaps some lesser supernatural beings.

Therefore, I think that any rational person who is apprised of this argument is obligated to either provide a defeater for this "core" of all religious experiences or believe in a god. This defeater will have to be so strong that we cannot interpret any experience as being of a god. I suggest that the only defeater with that kind of strength will be some kind of argument from evil.

The Problem of Evil

One form of the problem of evil says that since it seems reasonable to assert that there is pointless evil, God probably does not exist. Another form says that the world we observe is better predicted by the hypothesis that the universe is indifferent to us than by the hypothesis that God exists and cares about us. A final form of the problem of evil claims that an all-good, all-powerful God is logically incompatible with the existence of evil.

In the context of my argument from religious experience, the first two forms of the problem of evil attempt to pit inductive evidence against the direct evidence of human experience. The problem is that experience is what directs our inductive evidential inferences.

So for example, if I see a cat eating green beans, I can reasonably believe that some cats eat green beans. This may fly in the face of the evidence of cat physiology, and someone might construct a compelling argument for the conclusion that cats don't eat green beans based on the evidence of cat physiology, but I could remain firm in my belief that some cats eat green beans in spite of that argument.

Likewise, since I experience God (or know that some people do experience God), I can believe that God exists in spite of inductive evidence that there is pointless evil.

So the argument from evil, to work, will need to be logically sound. Only the final form of the argument is logically sound, so if this form does not work, then there is no defeater for religious experience. And indeed it does not work, since simply inserting the claim that "God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing evil" shows that the set is logically consistent.

Conclusion: Christian Faith

So, some kind of God exists. As we know from experience that this being is supremely good and worthy of worship, it is reasonable to wish to do homage to him. The Christian religion would seem to be the best way for me to do that at any rate, since it is the most plausible religion that I know of.
 
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Pard

Member
Joined
May 30, 2010
Messages
3,145
Gender
Male
Christian
Yes
And it is the most unique of the faith systems.

It's not a religion, mind you, it's just a faith system. A religion is man's quest for God. Christianity is God's quest for man!

May I suggest Lewis Carrol's "Mere Christianity"? It sounds like your kind of book.
 

Vivisectus

Member
Joined
Jun 20, 2011
Messages
5
Christian
No
My views have been changing pretty rapidly recently as I've been reading a lot of philosophy of religion, but here's a summary of what I think right now.

The Principle of Critical Trust

According to Swinburne's principle of credulity, what seems to be the case is probably the case in the absence of defeaters. So for example, if I have an experience in which I seem to see a car in my garage, I am justified in believing that there is a car in my garage. On the other hand, if when I move a pencil up and down it seems to bend, I am not justified in believing that the pencil is probably bending, because that claim is defeated by other evidence that I have about the nature of pencils.

I don't agree with the principle of credulity, because it's insufficiently rigorous. We need a number of qualifiers to make it viable. The most important such qualifier is the observation that when an experience is defeated, we rationally preserve the highest undefeated level of content from the experience.

For example, if I see a plane and you see a weather balloon when we look at the same location in the sky at the same time, both of our experiences are defeated. I have a defeater for my plane-experience, and you have a defeater for your weather-balloon-experience. However, just because both of our experiences are defeated, we don't conclude that there was nothing in the sky. We conclude that there was something in the sky, but we don't know what it was exactly.

I call the principle of credulity, when modified by this and a few other qualifiers, the principle of critical trust.

An Argument from Religious Experience

Billions of people have had religious experiences since before recorded history. Under the principle of critical trust, all of these experiences get prima facie justification. So Christian experiences get justification, as do Hindu experiences, Muslim experiences, and so forth. The problem is that these experiences conflict with one another. So, every religious experience has a defeater: the experiences of other contradictory religions.

Applying the qualifier to the principle of critical trust, though, we don't have to concede that any religious experience loses all of its justification. We just cancel out the differences between religious experiences to arrive at the "core" of all such experiences, which remains undefeated. This "core" includes a god and perhaps some lesser supernatural beings.

This seems to me to be a flawed argument. It presupposes that what is called a religious experience is a unique thing that is different from other experiences, and it also disregards people who have no religious experience.

To go back to your analogy of the plane and the weather-balloon, you say that because you and I observe something in a spot, something has to be there, despite the fact that we defeat each others observations. However, this does not have to be the case. You may see a plane, and I may be having a delusion. We may both be having a delusion. We may in both be observing a mirage, making us both believe that a real object is there while all that is happening is that some light is being refracted in a funny way. We can only conclude that we are both having an experience - but any conclusions to the nature of what is actually there requires further investigation. We have cast doubt on our observations by seeing different things, so the possible outcomes of our investigation into what is there can still include nothing - it does not HAVE to have some of the qualities of both observations, as you seem to be suggesting.

Therefore, I think that any rational person who is apprised of this argument is obligated to either provide a defeater for this "core" of all religious experiences or believe in a god. This defeater will have to be so strong that we cannot interpret any experience as being of a god. I suggest that the only defeater with that kind of strength will be some kind of argument from evil.

I would have to disagree. We have not ruled out the possibility of the religious experience not being caused by something supernatural.

The Problem of Evil

One form of the problem of evil says that since it seems reasonable to assert that there is pointless evil, God probably does not exist. Another form says that the world we observe is better predicted by the hypothesis that the universe is indifferent to us than by the hypothesis that God exists and cares about us. A final form of the problem of evil claims that an all-good, all-powerful God is logically incompatible with the existence of evil.

In the context of my argument from religious experience, the first two forms of the problem of evil attempt to pit inductive evidence against the direct evidence of human experience. The problem is that experience is what directs our inductive evidential inferences.

So for example, if I see a cat eating green beans, I can reasonably believe that some cats eat green beans. This may fly in the face of the evidence of cat physiology, and someone might construct a compelling argument for the conclusion that cats don't eat green beans based on the evidence of cat physiology, but I could remain firm in my belief that some cats eat green beans in spite of that argument.

Likewise, since I experience God (or know that some people do experience God), I can believe that God exists in spite of inductive evidence that there is pointless evil.

So the argument from evil, to work, will need to be logically sound. Only the final form of the argument is logically sound, so if this form does not work, then there is no defeater for religious experience. And indeed it does not work, since simply inserting the claim that "God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing evil" shows that the set is logically consistent.

The problem with this in my view is that it treats religious experience as something proven to have a supernatural origin, which we have not yet established, as far as I am aware. The objections remain in place if we consider it possible that the existence of the supernatural remains unproven, which means that there is no direct evidence to counter the inductive evidence.

For instance - if I see a pig fly by flapping its trotters, I may do 2 things: I may believe that pigs can fly, or I can keep some reasonable doubt about this experience and seek further evidence to make sure that what I saw was, indeed, a pig flying by flapping it's trotters. I would probably try to get some photographic evidence, and try to make sure there was not some freak storm causing what I saw.

If I was taught from a very young age that on special occasions of great importance, flying pigs can be observed, I would have to be especially careful and remember that the possibility of confirmation bias exists.

Experience does not always allow you to reasonably believe that your conclusion about that experience is the right one. It merely tell you that you experienced something - what that is required further examination.

Conclusion: Christian Faith

So, some kind of God exists. As we know from experience that this being is supremely good and worthy of worship, it is reasonable to wish to do homage to him. The Christian religion would seem to be the best way for me to do that at any rate, since it is the most plausible religion that I know of.

I do not think this follows logically, as we have not established that religious experiences are caused by something supernatural, nor have we proven that, should such a being exist, it is necessarily good.

The argument from experience leads to rather strange conclusion if you apply it to the existence of Extra-terrestrials, for instance. Do you consider that the experience of so many UFO abductees leads to the necessary conclusion that little green men are abducting people to rummage around in their underwear, or do you consider it possible that something else is going on?

Kind regards,

Vivisectus
 

Zinc

Member
Joined
Jun 26, 2011
Messages
263
Christian
No
it also disregards people who have no religious experience.

That doesn't, so to speak, conflict with religious experience. It just means some people don't have it.

Maybe someone could try to argue that if religious experience were real, everyone would have some? But is that going anywhere?

I would have to disagree. We have not ruled out the possibility of the religious experience not being caused by something supernatural.
I don't think the type of principle in play is concerned with strict proof, so I'm not sure you can really make an issue out of this.
 
Joined
Aug 14, 2011
Messages
175
Christian
Yes
My views have been changing pretty rapidly recently as I've been reading a lot of philosophy of religion, but here's a summary of what I think right now.

The Principle of Critical Trust

According to Swinburne's principle of credulity, what seems to be the case is probably the case in the absence of defeaters. So for example, if I have an experience in which I seem to see a car in my garage, I am justified in believing that there is a car in my garage. On the other hand, if when I move a pencil up and down it seems to bend, I am not justified in believing that the pencil is probably bending, because that claim is defeated by other evidence that I have about the nature of pencils.

I don't agree with the principle of credulity, because it's insufficiently rigorous. We need a number of qualifiers to make it viable. The most important such qualifier is the observation that when an experience is defeated, we rationally preserve the highest undefeated level of content from the experience.

For example, if I see a plane and you see a weather balloon when we look at the same location in the sky at the same time, both of our experiences are defeated. I have a defeater for my plane-experience, and you have a defeater for your weather-balloon-experience. However, just because both of our experiences are defeated, we don't conclude that there was nothing in the sky. We conclude that there was something in the sky, but we don't know what it was exactly.

I call the principle of credulity, when modified by this and a few other qualifiers, the principle of critical trust.

An Argument from Religious Experience

Billions of people have had religious experiences since before recorded history. Under the principle of critical trust, all of these experiences get prima facie justification. So Christian experiences get justification, as do Hindu experiences, Muslim experiences, and so forth. The problem is that these experiences conflict with one another. So, every religious experience has a defeater: the experiences of other contradictory religions.

Applying the qualifier to the principle of critical trust, though, we don't have to concede that any religious experience loses all of its justification. We just cancel out the differences between religious experiences to arrive at the "core" of all such experiences, which remains undefeated. This "core" includes a god and perhaps some lesser supernatural beings.

Therefore, I think that any rational person who is apprised of this argument is obligated to either provide a defeater for this "core" of all religious experiences or believe in a god. This defeater will have to be so strong that we cannot interpret any experience as being of a god. I suggest that the only defeater with that kind of strength will be some kind of argument from evil.

The Problem of Evil

One form of the problem of evil says that since it seems reasonable to assert that there is pointless evil, God probably does not exist. Another form says that the world we observe is better predicted by the hypothesis that the universe is indifferent to us than by the hypothesis that God exists and cares about us. A final form of the problem of evil claims that an all-good, all-powerful God is logically incompatible with the existence of evil.

In the context of my argument from religious experience, the first two forms of the problem of evil attempt to pit inductive evidence against the direct evidence of human experience. The problem is that experience is what directs our inductive evidential inferences.

So for example, if I see a cat eating green beans, I can reasonably believe that some cats eat green beans. This may fly in the face of the evidence of cat physiology, and someone might construct a compelling argument for the conclusion that cats don't eat green beans based on the evidence of cat physiology, but I could remain firm in my belief that some cats eat green beans in spite of that argument.

Likewise, since I experience God (or know that some people do experience God), I can believe that God exists in spite of inductive evidence that there is pointless evil.

So the argument from evil, to work, will need to be logically sound. Only the final form of the argument is logically sound, so if this form does not work, then there is no defeater for religious experience. And indeed it does not work, since simply inserting the claim that "God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing evil" shows that the set is logically consistent.

Conclusion: Christian Faith

So, some kind of God exists. As we know from experience that this being is supremely good and worthy of worship, it is reasonable to wish to do homage to him. The Christian religion would seem to be the best way for me to do that at any rate, since it is the most plausible religion that I know of.


"Billions of people have had religious experiences since before recorded history"
Billions of people lie too.
 
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