Posts tagged ‘David Hume’

August 1st, 2013

Transcript and Thoughts on My Debate with Justin Schieber

by Max Andrews

Over the last month or two I’ve been working on a written/audio debate with Justin Schieber of Reasonable Doubts. The topic of the debate was “Does the Christian God Exist?” I imagine the debate may have been released earlier had it not been for my delayed responses due to health issues and moving out of our house and preparing to embark on our move to Scotland. I have apologized to Mr. Schieber concerning this and I extend apologies to the readers and listeners.

I was actually expecting much stronger arguments from Mr. Schieber. Two arguments were off topic and the other one was a far metaphysical and modal stretch. You’ll be able to read his arguments in full but here are my thoughts :

May 27th, 2013

Q&A 24: Induction, Deduction, and Falsifiability

by Max Andrews

Question:

Hello Max,

I did have a few questions in regards to the nature of scientific explanation and furthering (or ‘advancing’, if you prefer) scientific knowledge. Hume had recognized that the problem of induction can not be justified by an inductive rule (that would be circular) or a deductive rule (or else the principle wouldn’t be inductive – we cannot deduce the truth of induction from the axioms of logic). This of course being Hume’s fork.

However, does Karl Popper’s interpretation of scientific methods being deductive (or falsifiable) solve this problem more so than science on the inductive interpretation? In short, Im just curious if we are reasonable in rejecting Hume’s skepticism, but sound in still adhering to science hinging off of induction.

Answer:

Hi Steven!

I did a lot of work on this question in my MA thesis. My full answer is a bit long but I hope it’s easy to follow. For the Reader’s Digest version, I’d say that I’m not a fan of deductive arguments and I prefer inductive arguments. (Actually, I love abductive arguments much more but that’s another issue!) I’m very sympathetic to Popper’s criterion of falsifiability but it’s not a necessary condition for science–it’s just preferable. I’ll try to contextualize and elaborate on some of the hidden talking points in your question so some of the readers can follow along.

April 5th, 2013

An Abductive Thomistic Cosmological Argument

by Max Andrews

The following argument is an abductive Thomistic cosmological argument from contingency, which I presented at my recent Ratio Christi debate.

  1. There are contingent constituents to the universe.
  2. Given the contingent constituents of the universe, the existence of the universe (U) is very, very unlikely under the hypothesis that these constituents are themselves uncaused or self-caused (~Cu): that is, P(U|~Cu & k) ≪ 1.
  3. Given the contingent constituents of the universe, the existence of the universe is not unlikely under the hypothesis of a first uncaused cause (Cu): that is, ~P(U|Cu & k) ≪ 1.
  4. Therefore, U strongly supports Cu over ~Cu.

The constituents of the universe include galaxies, planets, stars, cars, humans, leptons, bosons, and other particles. For the constituents of the universe to be uncaused that would mean it is metaphysically necessary. For something to be metaphysically necessary that means that it could not have failed to exist—it exists in every possible world.

For something to be self-caused it must be simultaneously antecedent to itself to produce itself as its own effect. But this contradictory. This would be akin to the ultimate bootstrapping trick.

December 17th, 2012

Ontology is Far Too Removed from Epistemology

by Max Andrews

God created both us and our world in such a way that there is a certain fit or match between the world and our cognitive faculties.  This is the adequation of the intellect to reality (adequation intellectus ad rem).  The main premise to adequation intellectus ad rem is that there is an onto-relationship between our cognitive or intellectual faculties and reality that enables us to know something about the world, God, and ourselves.[1]  This immanent rationality inherent to reality is not God, but it does cry aloud for God if only because the immanent rationality in nature does not provide us with any explanation of itself.[2]

In reality all entities are ontologically connected or interrelated in the field in which they are found.  If this is true then the relation is the most significant thing to know regarding an object.  Thus, to know entities as they actually are is to know what they are in their relation “webs”.  Thomas Torrance termed this as onto-relations, which points more to the entity or reality, as it is what it is as a result of its constitutive relations.[3]

The methodology of the epistemological realist concerns propositions of which are a posteriori, or “thinking after,” the objective disclosure of reality.  Thus, epistemology follows from ontology. 

October 4th, 2012

Onto-Relationships and Epistemology

by Max Andrews

God created both us and our world in such a way that there is a certain fit or match between the world and our cognitive faculties.  This is the adequation of the intellect to reality (adequation intellectus ad rem).  The main premise to adequation intellectus ad rem is that there is an onto-relationship between our cognitive or intellectual faculties and reality that enables us to know something about the world, God, and ourselves.[1]  This immanent rationality inherent to reality is not God, but it does cry aloud for God if only because the immanent rationality in nature does not provide us with any explanation of itself.[2]

In reality all entities are ontologically connected or interrelated in the field in which they are found.  If this is true then the relation is the most significant thing to know regarding an object.  Thus, to know entities as they actually are what they are in their relation “webs”.  Thomas Torrance termed this as onto-relations, which points more to the entity or reality, as it is what it is as a result of its constitutive relations.[3]

The methodology of the epistemological realist concerns propositions of which are a posteriori, or “thinking after,” the objective disclosure of reality.  Thus, epistemology follows from ontology.  False thinking or methodology (particularly in scientific knowledge) has brought about a failure to recognize the intelligibility actually present in nature and the kinship in the human knowing capacity to the objective rationality to be known.[4]

September 10th, 2012

David Hume on the Cosmological Argument

by Max Andrews

Hume asks the question of how a finite effect can have an infinite cause.  Kant says that you can base it on the moral argument. If you are explaining the subsets, you have the explanation of the infinite set (according to Hume).  However, in explaining the first member of a finite set, one must go out of that set.  Focus on a series in which a member’s existence is explained by the preceding cause.  In explaining a set you go outside of the set.  The point is not if it’s an infinite set but if it gets outside of the set (relies on PSRb in a way–that there must be some sufficient reasons for any positive fact and denies brute facts.)

Hume also argues against the CA on a priori grounds.  He formulates the CA in a way that combines causal (Thomistic or kalam) and reason (Leibnizian).  He considers the causal closure of the universe.  Under his idea of how the universe is he considers it to be a causally closed system, which, by definition, rules out any external causation.  Any a priori argument is absurd to Hume—it’s impossible to deduce the existence of God from fixed necessary premises or Kantian/Newtonian spacetime intuitions. 

June 18th, 2012

Miracles and the Modern Worldview

by Max Andrews

David Hume was an 18th century skeptic from Scotland who is considered an authority by many philosophers in challenging miracles.  Consider his take in An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding:

A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience as can be imagined… It is no miracle that a man, seemingly in good health, should die on a sudden: because such a kind of death, though more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently observed to happen. But it is a miracle that a dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed, in any age or country. There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation.

Hume’s idea of “extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence” is pictured in a scale.  On one side is full proof and the other side is the evidence from all people in all the ages for the regularity of the laws of nature, which also amounts to full proof.  Thus, proof stands against proof and does not incline in either direction, the wise man cannot hold to a miracle with any degree of certainty.  According to Hume, miracles are violations of the “laws of nature” that “firm and unalterable” experience has solidly established.   Only a superior testimony of experience may override this proposition, but, unfortunately, there cannot be such a testimony, for if there were, miracles would no longer merit their name.  

April 17th, 2012

Can We Observe Causation?

by Max Andrews

Men wielding billiard sticks and hitting cue balls is an event in which causation can be observed.  What is being observed is the effect of something happening on the quantum level. The momentum of the billiard stick coming into relations with the cue ball and the cue ball receiving the transfer of momentum from the billiard stick sets the causal relationship into action.  The strong nuclear force, which binds the atomic nuclei of the billiard stick, interacts with the strong nuclear force of the cue ball.  Just because we can’t view the forces and particle interaction ourselves doesn’t mean we’re not observing them.  When we observe the interaction we are observing it on a larger scale.  Perhaps what is being unobserved is a direct observation.  However, perhaps it’s the case that when we hear the loud smack of the billiard stick colliding with the cue ball is a direct observation via sound.  The microscopic perturbations of sound waves created are the same sound waves that would be heard on the micro scale.  The only difference would a normal observer would hear a softer version of the sound due to the distance traveled.

March 27th, 2012

Hume on the Teleological Argument

by Max Andrews

Below is a brief outline of David Hume’s criticisms of the teleological argument found in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion] and responses to them.

  1. The argument doesn’t get us to God, at most it just gets to a designer.
    1. This is not arguing for God, just an extremely intelligent mind, which exists apart from the universe.
    2. Constructive empiricism[1]
  2. You can only use analogy to argue for things that are similar, but the universe is unique.
    1. As long as the two things being compared are relevantly similar in the properties under consideration, they can be analogized.  Everything is unique in some way; however, we can still compare things where they are similar.  The universe is not unique in all its properties for it shares some properties with other things (design).
  3. You can only use analogy about things you have empirically experienced, but no one experienced the origin of the universe.
    1. Scientists infer the existence and operations of empirically inexperienced entities on the basis of analogizing from what they do know from experience (i.e. particles)
      read more »

December 22nd, 2011

Inferential Reasoning in Foundationalism and Coherentism

by Max Andrews

Logically prior to inferential reasoning is intuition.  These intuitions may be basic beliefs. The belief that this glass of water in front of me will quench my thirst if I drink it is not inferred back from previous experiences coupled with an application of a synthetic a priori principle of induction.  Though this example is not how we form our beliefs psychologically or historically, it can be formed via instances of past experience and induction in the logical sense.  However, when it does come to inferential reasoning R.A. Fumerton provides two definitions for what it means to say that one has inferential justification.[1]

D1 S has an inferentially justified belief in P on the basis of E. = Df.

(1) S believes P.

(2) S justifiably believes both E and the proposition that E confirms P.

(3) S believes P because he believes both E and the proposition that E confirms P.

(4) There is no proposition X such that S is justified in believing X and that E&X does not confirm P.

D2 S has an inferentially justified belief in P on the basis of E. = Df.

(1) S believes P.

(2) E confirms P.

(3) The fact that E causes S to believe P.

(4) There is no proposition X such that S is justified in believing X and that E&X does not confirm P.

Given the explications of such definitions, both D1 and D2, there seems to be good grounds for believing that P must be inferentially justified.  It is most certainly that case that D2 is more amenable to having scientific knowledge in the sense that both (2) and (3) are confirmatory.  D2-(3) is certainly difficult to substantiate without begging the question.  Having E cause S to believe P is difficult to distance from some form of transitive relation.  Inferential justification may also be expressed probabilistically or determined probabilistically.[2]