Goodness Over God: The Blog Associated with the Counter-Apologetics Podcast of Ben Wallis and Michael Long
Michael,I wanted to clarify my concern regarding your ethical objection: I don't see how to we can accuse the hypothetical gut-feeling Christian believer of an ethical infraction. Notice that part of what it means to value truth most is to sacrifice other values (e.g. of the inferior strategy) for its sake. So if he knowingly adopts a strategy of truth-seeking which is inferior to another strategy he has available, then it must be the case that he values something about that strategy more than he values truth. Otherwise he does not knowingly do this. But in that case, even though he may be putting others at risk of harm by being epistemically irresponsible (by our standards), he does so unwittingly, and so we cannot hold him ethically responsible on that basis alone.--Ben
Ben,I agree that someone who doesn't realize that she might be endangering others by adopting a bad epistemic strategy, or someone who does not realize that she is in fact adopting a bad epistemic strategy is not morally culpable for the act of adopting the strategy in question. This is analogous to someone mistakenly giving the wrong medication to someone who is ill, resulting in their death. Such a person might be guilty of not cultivating the virtue of attentiveness to the degree to which she ought to have, however. Sometimes our moral wrongdoing is a failure to acquire good habits and extinguish bad ones. However, let us suppose that the epistemic agent in question is not guilty of negligence either. What she is doing is still wrong in the sense that she WOULD be morally culpable, if only she understood that her strategy was detrimental to others. Our role would be to show her that in fact it is or at least might be detrimental; if we succeed in communicating this, we have MADE her at least somewhat morally culpable for continuing to use her bad epistemic strategy. Does that make sense?
Hello. Nice podcast.While I was listening to this podcast where Ben (I think) was saying that he believed there were no strong inductive arguments for the existence of other minds, I came to wonder whether he thinks there are strong inductive arguments for the existence of other unobservable things? Is it your position that there are no strong arguments for things like electrons or quarks or whatnot? Or do you see some fundamental difference between these cases? It seems to me that we're in the same boat for both kinds of unobservable things.
I'm glad you liked the podcast!Regarding your question, the short answer is that yes, I do think we have strong inductive arguments for the existence of electrons, quarks, etc. They are based primarily on the evidence gathered from scientific experimentation. However I usually out-source such inductive argumentation, which is to say that I trust the experts to draw their conclusions, and then I tentatively accept those conclusions on the basis of their expertise.Regarding the difference between, say, electrons and apples, I don't think that one is less real than another. It's a shame that such entities as electrons, quarks, etc., have commonly been labeled as "unobservables." In fact, they *are* observable in the sense that they are part of physics models which yield very accurate predictions for experience. And their "existence," as it were, may run even deeper than that if they suggest strategies for constructing future physics models which are likewise very accurate in predicting further experiences.The most obvious difference between observables and so-called unobservables is that the former are *directly* observable whereas the latter are not. But on my view even "direct" observation amounts to placing conceptual entities in models. Only in the case of observables, the models in which they are situated include those folk models of the physical world which we develop in infancy and from which we can apparently never free ourselves. So observables are those entities which we can "reach out and touch," you might say, whereas we cannot interact with unobservables in the same natural way. But we can still interact with them in more elaborate ways---for instance by conducting scientific experiments. And I would caution us not to forget that scientific experiments are connected to our experiences just as much as those natural procedures associated with observables. We may have to use complicated tools like microscopes and centrifuges and such, but our experiences of using those tools are just as real as any other experiences. So I don't think "unobservables" are any less real for depending on them.
Hi, thanks for the response.I agree, I think, with what you wrote about electrons. Let me try to tie that in with what I think you should think about other minds.You wrote:"It's a shame that such entities as electrons, quarks, etc., have commonly been labeled as "unobservables." In fact, they *are* observable in the sense that they are part of physics models which yield very accurate predictions for experience. And their "existence," as it were, may run even deeper than that if they suggest strategies for constructing future physics models which are likewise very accurate in predicting further experiences."If reasoning such as this is a sketch of how a strong inductive argument for the existence of electrons goes, I don't see how a similarly strong argument cannot be made for the existence of other minds. After all, minds are part of psychological models which yield very accurate predictions for experience. And the existence of other minds does suggest strategies for constructing future psychological models. If the existence of electrons is strongly inductively confirmed by the success of models of physics which incorporate electrons, then I don't see why the existence of other minds would not be strongly inductively confirmed by the success of models of human behavior which incorporate minds (and beliefs, desires, intentions, etc.).I'm curious, if you think that there are no strong arguments for the existence of other minds, why you think the above does not constitute a sketch for a strong (at least as strong as the argument for the existence of electrons) inductive argument for the existence of other minds.Thanks.
johnsonav,In case you're not already aware, I should probably mention that I'm an idealist. So when we use induction to find that the *ideas* of electrons and apples and such bear on our experience in a particular way, then that is the fullest sense in which we can say they exist. And it is true that we can say the same about the *ideas* of other minds. As conceptual entities in a model of experience, there is no doubt that other minds exist. But what about the *actual* minds---not just the objects in our models, but the *consciousnesses* which supposedly lie behind them---? There is no such hypothetical entity beyond the electron as it appears in our models, and hence no need for an inductive argument to show the reality of "the electron itself," so to speak. But the same cannot be said of minds. It is quite different to observe that we have minds in our models of experience on one hand, and to assert that there are very real consciousnesses corresponding to those entities (in our models) on the other. Such an assertion requires a further argument.--Ben