Christ Hallquist correctly says that I’ve taken some swipes at Reformed Epistemology without yet explaining what I think is wrong with it. He also correctly says that I compare some arguments for moral non-naturalism to Reformed Epistemology:
I think atheists make stunningly bad arguments for the existence of moral values. Ones that often take the same form as theistic arguments for the existence of God. I must ask the atheist moral realist: if you reject the weak and strained arguments for theism, why don’t you reject your own weak and strained arguments for moral realism?
As an example, I quoted Erik Wielenberg’s support for non-naturalistic moral realism:
…how can I justify my list of intrinsically worthwhile activities? I am afraid I have no philosophical proof… [but] many of the things we know are such that we cannot give [proof]… Claims about what is intrinsically good are the axioms of ethical theory; they are the starting points, the first principles. As such, they are unlikely to be the sorts of things that can be proved. Nevertheless, it is perfectly consistent to say that some activities are intrinsically valuable – and that we know what some of these are.1
Now that sounds particularly Plantingan. I call it “I feel it in my heart so it must be true” epistemology.
But since I haven’t explained what I think is wrong with this approach, Hallquist can only guess at what my complaints are:
Luke doesn’t give much indication of what his own thoughts on these issues are, beyond “all these people are wrong.” There is one sentence from the moral realism post that does seem to shed some light on his position: “it’s the duty of the person making a claim to prove it is correct.” This sounds like like a conversational norm (if you’re going to tell someone something, you’d better prove it) but my guess is that what Luke really has in mind is a norm governing private belief (if you believe something, you’d better be able to prove it).
I did indeed intend something like a conversational norm, not a doxastic norm (a norm governing the logic of belief). There are many things I believe that I cannot begin to “prove,” using any common definition of that word.
Hallquist seems to endorse something like the epistemology of G.E. Moore, who “thought all you needed to do to prove the existence of an external world was to hold up your hands and say ‘here are two hands.’”
But it’s hard to see how this helps Reformed Epistemology or moral non-naturalism. Plantinga cannot say, “Look, here is God,” and Wielenberg cannot say, “Look, here are moral values.”
But Hallquist appears to want to know what my epistemology is:
…[this all] raises the question of how we can believe statements in epistemology, like, “our senses are generally reliable” or “you shouldn’t believe what you can’t prove.” Probably there are interesting ways of understanding “proof” in which such statements are provable, but I would be curious to know what specifically Luke has in mind here (if he does have a well-developed idea in mind).
Hallquist is right to suspect that I don’t have the most well-developed theory of knowledge. I am a hobbyist philosopher, and I haven’t thoroughly considered the available epistemological positions. Like Wes Morriston, it’s easier for me to say what I think is wrong than to say what I think is right.
Eventually I’ll take the time to write some in-depth posts about epistemology, but for now I can only repeat what I said in my post On Seeking Truth.
I see truth-seeking as a practical enterprise. I don’t try to defend Grand Principles of knowledge and epistemic normativity. Rather, I see a story of humanity bumbling about the universe, trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t:
Recently, humanity awoke in a strange and beautiful universe. We did not know where we came from or what we should do, but we did our best to survive. We made some guesses about what things existed and how they worked, and most of those guesses turned out to be wrong. It turned out there was not a magical being that would give us a good harvest if we sacrificed virgins to him every so often. It turned out we were not at the center of a small universe. It turned out disease was the product of microorganisms, not sin or demons. It turned out earthquakes and tsunamis were the product of shifting tectonic plates. The universe was full of surprises.
So the problem I have with intuition and many other ancient approaches to knowledge is that they just don’t work very well. They are constantly leading us astray. So why trust them?
That’s all for now.