Arnold Williams (notebuyer) wrote,
Arnold Williams
notebuyer

Two Comments on Reasoning

The first response to Clifford is that it treats domains differently without foundation, and that an application of its principles across domains indicates its falsity. In other words, "It is wrong to believe on insufficient evidence" fails as a principle because of insufficient evidence, swallowing itself almost as neatly as "Everything is relative" and other self-destroying propositions. The closest you get to such a duty is "It is imprudent to ignore evidence relevant to your actions".

But frankly, I prefer the simple response of Siris:

7. Of only one virtue that has ever been proposed is it really the case that it is a virtue of belief: it is called faith, and discussion of faith as such might be considered to belong to the ethics of belief. But it is difficult to talk about faith as such, being much more easy to talk of coming into faith; so any discussion of the ethics of belief would be rare, if it exists at all. And faith as a virtue is a theological virtue: it is not wholly in the power of the believer. And so perhaps here we have moved from ethics into something else.

8. Much of what is called "ethics of belief" is legitimate. It is legitimate to investigate the duties of investigation. It is legitimate to investigate when we should and should not trust authority. It is legitimate to investigate where inference must end and supposition begin. It is legitimate to investigate all such related things. But, while they are conducive to a healthy reason, to call them "ethics of belief" is a misnomer. They are each something different, and none of them are really an ethics of belief.

9. For believing or not believing, as such, no one can be condemned, but only for such failings as obstinacy and presumption.


Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: And for my interlocutor who points out Dutch Book Arguments, implying that one should avoid them, I'd point out two things: first, Pascal's wager has been around for some time, and second, that oddsmakers are comfortable making book on people's subjective probability without a publicly verifiable outcome suggests that he fails to appreciate their position. In other words, you can't hedge this bet.
Tags: ignoring truth
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