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Sense and Goodness Without God II: How We Know


Page 23:

We must always begin our self examination by looking at our ‘theory of knowledge’ or. . . our ‘epistemology.’ Why? Because anything you intend to investigate, or assert, first requires that you have some criteria on hand to distinguish the true from the false. . .

This is where Carrier is really speaking my language. It’s sad that despite how much we believe things, and how important it would seem to us to be reasonable, most people don’t even know what epistemology is, or why we ought to have an understanding of it.

Page 23:

Constructing an epistemology that answers these questions in a reasonable way requires at least three steps. First, you must have some sound and clear idea of what you are investigating or asserting. Second, you must have some sound and clear idea about how you would go about discovering whether it can be asserted or not. And third, you must actually follow through on that procedure, at least a little, before asserting anything.

That is pretty hard. Wouldn’t one need to assert certain propositions about the reliability of logic, etc. in order to even begin? We can’t really start with no foundations, can we?

Page 26:

Philosophy is therefore no idle pastime, but a serious business, fundamental to our lives. It should be our first if not only religion: a religion wherein worship is replaced with curiosity, devotion with diligence, holiness with sincerity, ritual with study, and scripture with the whole world and the whole of human learning. The philosopher regards it as tantamount to a religious duty to question all things, and to ground her faith in what is well-investigated and well-proved, rather than what is merely well-asserted or well-liked… above all, she commits herself to the constant study and application of language, logic, and method, and seeks always to perfect, by testing and correcting, her total view of all things.

This is why philosophy is important. Just a great passage.

Propositions: Carrier says that all propositions must make a prediction about human experience to be meaningful in any way.

a statement is true if the experiences it predicts will actually be experienced under the implied conditions… given the absence of errors, interfering circumstances, and so on, and accounting for modifiers where appropriate (like ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ or ‘probably’).

Page 50: It has been the human experience that some methods are more reliable than others. Carrier ranks them this way, with the most reliable method at the top:

  1. Logic and math.
  2. Scientific methods.
  3. Daily experience, interpreted with a logical and scientific mindset.
  4. Critical-historical method applied to claims about past events.
  5. Expert opinion.
  6. Inference from incomplete facts.

Page 51:

This is how we can test out different methods and choose the best from among them, and throw away the ones we don’t need. First is predictive success. . . therefore if our method is correct, then we can expect to routinely produce propositions whose predicted experiences do in fact take place.

Page 52:

The second criterion of a good method is convergent accumulation of consistent results. If we use an inaccurate method we should expect that wen we investigate a proposition from several angles we will get inconsistent results.

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