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Constructive skepticism, critical thinking and the ethics of belief Rebman, John L. 1994

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CONSTRUCTIVE SKEPTICISM,  CRITICAL THINKING  AND THE ETHICS OF BELIEF BY JOHN L.  REBMAN  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES é 4 Social and Educational Studie  We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA March 1994 © John L.  Rebman,  1994  In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission.  (Signature)  Department of  C€iiL,u7L  The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada  Date  DE-6 (2188)  t1c—k  /2  /‘3  —  OC/1ja4Ld  ,,, S,44d&t1 s t 1 ’  (ii) ABSTRACT One of the primary aims of education is to enable students to secure reliable standards and procedures by which they can acquire beliefs  that are,  questions  of  if not  belief  true,  least  at  acquisition  and  The  likely to be true.  the  manner  those  in which  beliefs are held, although epistemic, are also distinctively ethi cal. Implicit within epistemological concepts such as truth, justi fication  and objectivity are  ethical  concerns  honesty,  such as  In response to the question  integrity and responsibility.  “What  ought I to believe?”, any serious critical thinker must examine the reasons  for  holding  (or  not  holding)  belief,  a  and  ascertain  whether or not they are good reasons. Good reasons involve atten tion  to  rational  or  intellectual  standards  such  as  evidential  support, objectivity, justification and truth. My discussion of the moral dimensions of epistemological questions will follow the path delineated by W.K.  Clifford  (1877)  in his  essay  “The Ethics  of  Belief”. Within the context of the notions of intellectual virtues and vices,  I will argue that intellectual integrity and epistemic  responsibility entail the acceptance of the aforementioned stan dards and an avoidance of credulity. Recently, has  come under  pragmatists,  however, serious  the Enlightenment project of rationality attack  post-modernist  from  feminist  philosophers  and  philosophers, proponents  neo  of  the  “sociology of knowledge” who, in their efforts to avoid dogmatism, claim that knowledge lacks foundations, ture or  “conceptual scheme,”  truth is relative to cul  and objectivity a myth.  Although a  thorough treatment and discussion of the views advanced by these groups far exceeds the scope of this thesis,  their claims are,  I  (iii) shall argue, self-refuting and entail a destructive relativism and possible descent into radical skepticism. For the most part, I will focus  my  criticisms  on  Pragmatism,  particularly  the  variety  espoused by Richard Rorty, arguably the most influential contempor ary philosopher. If the extremes of radical skepticism and dogmatism are to be averted,  educators must adopt the premise that knowledge is poss  ible but at  the same time accept the fact that much of what we  claim to know is uncertain. Hence, regarded as transitory and,  many of our beliefs should be  therefore,  held tentatively.  I shall  argue that by assuming a posture of humility in the face of knowl edge claims, holding to a realist and fallibilist theory of knowl edge, entertaining beliefs with a healthy skepticism and abandoning the  “quest  dogmatism,  for certainty”  (as Dewey has asserted),  we can avoid  indoctrination and the intellectual vice of credulity.  If we value autonomous critical thinkers as an important component within a liberal democratic society, then these dispositions ought to be  fostered in our  students.  critical thinking I refer  This  dispositional  approach to  to as constructive skepticism and will  argue that it is a necessary requirement for any serious critical inquirer.  TABLE OF CONTENTS  (iv)  Abstract Introduction  ii 1  1.  9  Skepticism 1.1 Ordinary Meaning of Skepticism 1.2 Philosophical Skepticism 1.3 Methodological Skepticism: Descartes 1.4 Varieties of Skepticism 1.5 Mitigated Skepticism 1.6 Twentieth Century Epistemology 1.7 Wittgenstein 1.8 Constructive Skepticism  2. The Ethics of Belief 2.1 Ancient and Medieval Sources 2.2 Enlightenment Skepticism 2.3 Locke’s Ethics of Belief 2.4 Epistemic and Ethical Concepts 2.5 W.K. Clifford’s “Ethics of Belief” 2.6 Clifford’s Normative Epistemology: Evidence 2.7 Clifford’s Normative Epistemology: Responsibility 2.8 Clifford’s Normative Epistemology: Authority 2.9 Primitive Credulity and Suspension of Judgement  40  3. Belief, Pragmatism and Truth 3.1 The Concept of Belief 3.2 Belief and Truth 3.3 Belief, Faith, and Pascal’s Wager 3.4 William James’ “Will to Believe” 3.5 Pragmatism and Science 3.6 Pragmatism and Relativism 3.7 Pragmatism and Self-Refutation 3.8 Wittgenstein: Coherence of Beliefs  67  4. Rationality, Objectivity and Truth 4.1 Conceptions of Rationality 4.2 Rational Principles 4.3 Objectivity and Rationality 4.4 Objectivity as a Normative Notion 4.5 Siegel’s Epistemology 4.6 Objectivity and Truth: Dewey 4.7 Objectivity and Truth: Rorty 4.8 Dewey’s Notion of Truth 4.9 Habermas  98  5. Critical Thinking, Constructive Skepticism: Conclusions... 5.1 Educational Aims 5.2 The Problem of Indoctrination 5.3 Educators are Concerned with Belief 5.4 Credulity, Truth and Constructive Skepticism 5.5 Belief and Critical Thinking 5.6 Fallibilism and Constructive Skepticism  135  6. References  174  1 INTRODUCTION  However much education must be involved in promoting values, its primary function is to influence beliefs. But the questions of how beliefs are acquired and how they are held are clearly valueladen. The essence of the liberal democratic outlook and the scien tific temper lies not so much in what beliefs are held as how they are held. Bertrand Russell has written: The essence of the liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held, but how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment. This is the way in which they are held in science, as opposed to the way in which they are held in theology. 1 As educators we should take every effort to avoid the extreme posi tions of radical  skepticism and dogmatism.  Russell  claimed that  dogmatism and radical skepticism are both absolute philosophies, one certain of knowing,  the other of not knowing. What education  should eschew, Russell argues, or  ignorance.  neurosis  in  He  is certainty, whether of knowledge  likened the demand for certainty to a sort of all  which  questions  of  ultimate  concern  can  be  explained within a hermetically sealed cognitive circle. It is not only necessary that we realize most of what passes for knowledge is,  in a greater or lesser degree, uncertain or vague, but that it  is at the same time necessary to learn to act upon the best hypoth esis  or  inference  to  the  best  explanation without  dogmatically  believing it. An empiricist,  fallibilist theory of knowledge and a realist  metaphysical stance can provide a halfway house between the extreme  1  Bertrand Russell  (1950), p. 26.  2 “Knowledge of all  positions of dogmatism and radical skepticism. good things”,  says Russell,  “is difficult but not impossible; the  dogmatist forgets the difficulty, the [radical] skeptic denies the 2 Almost all knowledge, except perhaps for such things possibility.” belief  as  in the existence of an external world and phenomenal  reports of our immediate sensory experience, is held to be doubtful in varying degrees. But, education should not acquiesce in radical skepticism,  but  neither  promote credulity.  should it  resort  to  indoctrination nor  It should leave a student with an ability to  separate real knowledge from the “intellectual rubbish” and dogma tism of which he will find “an abundant diet, in our own age as in any other.” 3 Credulity in the face of repeated groundless asser tions  and proselytising is  an intellectual vice and one of  the  “information” society. One  curses of our modern “mass media” and  must be critically aware of the potential deceptions and dubious nature of what is served up by the media as “knowledge” or useful information.  To guard against credulity by fostering in our stu  dents the rational virtues and the “critical spirit” should be one of  the  chief  aims  of  education.  I  will  argue  that  a  critical  thinker strives after goals which are normative, such as truth. The outcome of any critical  inquiry ought  to be judged in terms of  epistemological rather than rhetorical standards and,  in terms of  what is, or at least what is likely to be, the case, as opposed to what is merely expedient,  convenient or coveted.  Many postmodernist philosophers and proponents of the sociol  2  Bertrand Russell  (1926), p. 52.  Bertrand Russell  (1950), p. 123.  3  ogy of knowledge, however, argue that there cannot be any objective standards of rationality because all arguments and truth are dis torted or rendered relative by vested interests, cultural frameworks,  ideological or  gender bias or desire for power. Others have  argued that rationality itself is strictly instrumental. I will try to show that these views are unsound and argue that rationality and logically related concepts are inherently normative, insofar as we consider a person rational if she is able to provide good reasons for her beliefs. Hence, the vital element for any serious, respon sible  and  honest  thinker  is  unequivocally:  “What  I  ought  to  believe?” Even if we accept the arguments of postmodernist philosophers such as Richard Rorty that there is no Archimedean point, no God’s eye view or neutral position from which to validate our claims to knowledge and knowledge lacks any foundational basis, necessarily  mean  we  must  resign  ourselves  to  it does not  a  pernicious  epistemological relativism. We are not mere prisoners of our own conceptual schemes or “language games.” The Enlightenment project has left us with a rich tradition and valuable legacy of rational ity,  objectivity,  as well as  standards and procedures  for open-  minded inquiry which enable us to justify many of our beliefs and determine their truth. The arguments of people like Rorty and Paul Feyerabend becomes  entail  a  compartmentalized  vagaries of history,  of  truth  in which  sociological  fact,  subject  fragmented as  notion  particularity,  truth to  the  gender and circumstance,  and  acceptance of their ideas have serious implications for education. Beliefs, truth, and their justification simply become cultural and conceptual  contingencies.  But  if  postmodern  conceptions  of  4 rationality insist that we abandon notions of objectivity, truth, and universality of rational discourse,  then surely it must do so  without adopting the view that any beliefs and practises are as good as any other. It was Richard Foley, I believe, who has stated that “rationality is what stands between us and a chaotic disagree ment in which anything goes.” The central arguments of this thesis are sunimarized as fol lows: (1) Ethics is important in epistemological considerations and there are normative principles in epistemology that are connected to ethical principles. Epistemologies make normative claims; they tell us that one should meet certain standards to obtain the best kinds of belief. I will argue that there is a strong ethical compo nent to rational belief acquisition which arises within the context of  conflicting knowledge claims.  Evaluation of knowledge claims  involves epistemic responsibility and intellectual integrity respect for evidence,  -  a  justification and truth. We should realize  that our efforts to make sense of the world, things the best way we can  -  to objectively see  to see things as they “really are”  -  is an activity constrained by the nature of our human cognitive equipment and by the nature of reality itself. Epistemic responsi bility, the obligation to “know well”, is to be found in intellec tual virtues. These virtues are dispositions, sensitivities, abil ities,  and desires to understand,  resorting to fantasy, (2)  superstition,  As educators,  to get at the  “truth” without  illusion or self-deception.  we ought to desire reliable processes in  belief acquisition and, more importantly, we ought to demand that our beliefs be true or,  at least,  probably true. Moreover,  it is  5 important how our beliefs are held. All beliefs should be access ible and susceptible to intellectual scrutiny and,  consequently,  vulnerable to modification or rejection. (3) As educators we should be vitally concerned with helping students think critically about their belief acquisition, to avoid credulity, and encourage them to regularly examine and re-evaluate their beliefs. This end,  I will maintain,  an approach to critical thinking  can best be achieved by  which I will call constructive  skepticism. Dogmatism and indoctrination of any form is antitheti cal to democratic principles and hence, should be avoided. However, It must be made clear that I am not suggesting any necessary con flation of or logical connection between credulity and theism or since theism is potentially one of several  dogmatism and theism,  possible paradigm cases of credulity. Moreover, it seems to me that both theism and atheism are dogmatic in that they each make claims to certainty. (4)  Rationality and intellectual virtue must be of central  concern to teachers and, As educators,  in fact, are important educational aims.  we should promote the liberal democratic ideal of  rationality which entails openness to argument, objectivity, impar tiality and respect Rationality  is  for students  a precursor  course, and truth,  as autonomous  to all meaningful  the object of rationality,  having intrinsic value.  rational agents. argument  and dis  should be viewed as  Impartiality and objectivity (rejected by  the “sociology of knowledge” as impossible ideals) implys a certain approach to the truth  -  that the source of an argument or point of  view is, by the standard of rationality, falsity or validity.  irrelevant to its truth,  Intellectual virtue involves notions such as  6 open-mindedness, honesty, tempered skepticism and “Socratic” humil ity  -  the courage not to pretend to know what one does not know and  to accept the transitory nature and fallibility of much that we claim to know. It involves the capacity for self-reflection and the will  to  overcome  reluctance beliefs. ticity. are  to  kind  a  of  challenge  repressive  and  intellectual  reconsider  our  web  akrasia  of  or  treasured  Intellectual virtue involves what Sartre called authen Auspicious appeals to transcendent,  tantamount  to  an  abdication  responsibility to oneself  -  of  one’s  dogmatic authorities moral  and  epistemic  an escape into the Sartrean self-decep  tion of the etre-en-soi. 4 Recently,  writers on critical thinking  such as John Passmore, Harvey Siegel, William Hare, Matthew Lipman, Richard Paul and others have emphasized the importance of fostering these intellectual dispositions in our students. (5) If we desire “best belief” likely true),  then  critical  already referred to as  (i.e., beliefs that are true or  thinking should employ what  constructive skepticism.  I  have  Skepticism is a  necessary antecedent to any inquiry since, as Wittgenstein, Peirce and Dewey have rightly pointed out, if one were certain of a belief or proposition,  there would be no need for the inquiry. What con  cerns me is what I perceive to be the “primitive credulity”  (to use  Peirce’s term), not only of my students, but of the general public. Our young people are the constant targets of politicians, cornmer cial advertisers and proselytizing apologists such as faith-healing evangelists,  religious cults,  astrologers,  self-help gurus,  psy  chics, and “New Age” mystics. It is, therefore, important that our  Jean Paul Sartre  (1956),  Intro., Chap.  6, pp. 24-32.  7 young people be introduced to critical thinking at  the earliest  possible opportunity and be encouraged to adopt a disposition of a healthy, mitigated, methodological skepticism as a defense against outrageous ought  to  claims.  Hence,  override  the  Bertrand Russell  the William James  “Will  to  “Will  to Doubt”  Believe.”  I will  critique the pragmatic theory of truth, particularly as espoused by James and Richard Rorty  (and to a lesser extent, John Dewey), and  argue that it is a confused notion of the concept of truth. (6) We should accept the dictum “To err is human.” Fallibility is one of our most uniquely human characteristics and we should, as Dewey has argued,  give up the  “quest  for certainty.” What Dewey  called “the quest for certainty” in modern philosophy begins with Descartes who claimed that indubitable knowledge could be acquired by turning inwards and judiciously appealing to the pure thought of “clear and distinct ideas,” an intuitive process of vigilant medi tation  “free  from  the  fluctuating  testimony  of  the  senses.”  Although we should remain open to the possibility, our search for is  absolutes  quite  likely  a  pretentious,  futile  endeavor.  As  teachers we should foster in our students a sense of temperance and humility concerning our claims to knowledge and encourage them to accept the fallible, transitory nature of much of what we claim to know and to accept a world which is,  for the most part, contingent  and uncertain. (7) which  I will argue  will  thinkers,  stress  the  for a humanistic need  for  conception of  educating  autonomous  education critical  persons who are skeptical of appeals to overly facile,  immutable, transcendent or absolutist approaches to the solution of complex human problems. Our education system’s over-emphasis on the  8 content of thought  (rather than the standards and procedures) and  its concomitant didactic methodology, and  critical  inquiry,  the repression of creative  over-specialization,  instrumental reason, bureaucratization,  the  predominance  of  and over-emphasis of one  dimensional technical or metaphysical solutions to complex social, political and environmental problems are just a few of the many issues  that  educators  and others  responsibility ought to address.  in positions  of  authority and  9 To philosophize is to doubt  -  Michel de Montaigne  1 SKEPTICISM 1.1 Ordinary Meaning of Skepticism  Quite obviously most of us are skeptics to a certain degree, each of us possessing varying tolerance levels of credulity and doubt, but we may not agree where the limits should be drawn. One who is either credulous or skeptical in an absolute sense would have a difficult time functioning in the real world. However, when I read in the newspaper 5 several months ago that in a recent poll 53%  of  the respondents believe  that  the  second coming of Jesus  Christ will occur sometime in the next millennium there does not appear to be a scarcity of credulity among the general public. The results of a recent poll conducted in the United States by Gallup reported that:  (1) One in every four Zmericans believes in ghosts,  (2) More than half believe in the Devil, and one in ten claimed to have talked to the Devil,  (3) Three in four at least occasionally  read their horoscopes in the newspaper,  and one in four say they  firmly believe in the tenets of Astrology,  (4)  One in every four  Imericans believe they have had a telepathic experience in which they have communicated with another person without the use of the traditional five senses, death,  (5) More than 70% believe in a life after  6 and (6) One in five believes in reincarnation.  Skepticism, in the general sense, is nothing very esoteric. We Vancouver Province, 6  Sept. 28,  1992.  The Skeptical Inquirer (Winter,l991), vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 137-46. It is curious we spend an incredible amount of time and money assessing exactly what people think but devote little or no effort in trying to understand why they think that way. There seems to be an underlying assumption that the views people hold in these polls are reasoned views.  10 encounter it every day when we are aghast at the outrageous claims of the headlines in the National Enguirer magazine at the supermar ket checkout, when we listen to the logical fallacies and decep tions of most television commercials,  and when we listen to the  vacuous rhetoric of many of our politicians. We are appalled at the antics of evangelists on Sunday morning television and we realize that there is a price to pay for untrammelled credulity on a used car lot. The popular definition of a skeptic in the Oxford Dictionary is  “one who maintains a doubting attitude with reference to some  particular  question  defines a skeptic as tude,  as  or (1)  towards values,  others.” and (2)  statement.”  The  Random House  Dictionary  “a person who maintains a doubting atti plans,  statements,  or the character of  “a person who questions the validity or authentic  ity of something purporting to be factual.” Hence, the general sense is the state of mind,  skepticism in  temperament,  or attitude  possessed by those who call themselves skeptics. The word skeptic evolved from the Greek word skeptikos which meant  “thoughtful or  inquiring” or “to question, consider or examine”. Skeptic (capital “S”)  also refers to any member or follower of the philosophical  school of the ancient Greek Pyrrho  (360-270 B.C.)  who held that  “there are no adequate grounds for certainty as to the truth of any proposition whatever.” 7 The philosophical definition of skepticism refers to the doctrine that “the truth of all knowledge must always  From the Oxford Dictionary. Another uncommon definition of skeptic cited is “one who doubts, without absolutely denying, the truth of the Christian religion or important parts of it; often loosely, an unbeliever in Christianity.”  11 8 be in question and that inquiry must be a process of doubting.” Philosophical skepticism ranges from complete,  total disbelief in  everything, to a tentative doubt in a process of arriving at knowl edge. 1.2 Philosophical Skepticism  Skepticism, the  reliability  as a critical philosophical attitude, of  the  knowledge  claims  made  by  questions  philosophers,  scientists and others. Philosophical skeptics have been engaged in inquiry into alleged human achievements in different fields to see if any knowledge has been or could be gained by them.  They have  questioned whether any necessary or indubitable information can actually be gained about the nature of things. Skeptics have organ ized their questioning into systematic sets of arguments aimed at raising doubts as to whether anything can be known at all or, another form,  in  claiming that knowledge of some things can only be  attained with difficulty and given certain precautions.  In this  second form it supports a methodological policy of re- serve and circumspection in the formation of beliefs  -  its opposite is dogma  A methodological skeptic is one who uses the technique of  tism.  doubt as a device to assist him in his quest  for knowledge,  in  contrast to the theoretical, radical (or terminal) skeptic for whom skepticism represents the theory or position on which he takes his stand. 1.3 Methodological Skepticism: Descartes  8  This conception of philosophical skepticism is given by Websters New Universal Unabridged Dictionary. This definition is consistent with the Twentieth Century analytical philosophy def i nition of skepticism (e.g., Russell, Ayer, etc.) as a precursor to all philosophical inquiry.  12 The quintessential example of methodological skepticism is, of course, Descartes. Although not a skeptic himself, Descartes never theless  is  responsible  for an argument  that must be  classified  among the most imaginative and profound in the entire arsenal of skepticism. The argument appears in his first Meditation, and the steps in the argument are well known. Having systematically doubted everything he could, including the existence of the external world and other minds, Descartes came to the conclusion that he could not doubt the existence of his own mind. Hence, is  doubting  the  -  cogito  ergo sum.  the certainty that he  Descartes  was  never  really  skeptical about there being a definite procedure for attaining a complete deductive knowledge based upon this indubitable truth. He believed it is possible to rise above skepticism and find knowledge that is absolute, certain, necessary, and self-evident, which would serve as the foundation for all other knowledge and especially for knowledge of reality. Descartes’ aim was to provide foundations for both Science and Religion,  and the full title of the Meditations may suggest that  the religious motivation was paramount, since included in the book one  finds  circuitous  proofs”  immortality of the soul. the  contents  of  the  existence  of  God  and the  Descartes insists that our knowledge of  our own minds  while knowledge of  of  external  is  things  indisputable and is not  -  self-evident  but any attempt to  propose a criterion which authorizes acceptance of some ideas or appearances  is  doomed to  failure.  subjected to skeptical challenge, infinite  regress  of  skeptical  Once  the  criterion  the defender is  challenges unless  is  itself  faced with an  he  argues  in a  circle. The apparent circularity of Descartes’ argument for God’s  13 existence hinges on his claim that “anything which is clearly and distinctly perceived is true.” Our assurance that God exists rests upon our clearly and distinctly perceiving that He does; yet our right to trust our clear and distinct ideas depends upon our assur ance that God exists and is benevolent. A question which arises partly from the previous discussion is whether or not it is rational for a person to believe something for which there is  little or no evidence? In order to confront this  question, we must ask what kind of thing is “evidence”? A proposi tion may itself be evident, or it may be a proposition which is the end product of an inference or implication which is supported by other propositions. Propositions which are themselves evident may be either self-evident and a  +  0  , 9 a  (e.g., mathematical axioms such as a÷b=b÷a  evident to the senses  (e.g.,  I am listening to  Rachmaninoff as I write this), or evident to memory (e.g., I played tennis earlier this morning). These propositions might be called “basic beliefs.”  If it must be rational to believe what is self-  evident or evident to the senses, then it is rational, on occasion, to accept a proposition without evidence. Hence, it would seem that a belief is self-evident,  rational if  it  is belief in a proposition which is  evident to the senses  (and could be corroborated by  others), or sufficiently supported by the evidence provided for it by the latter “basic” propositions. I will return to this question of the rationality of basic beliefs and beliefs in general at a later point in this thesis. Perhaps it could be argued that intuitively obvious math ematical principles such as these and some logical principles such as the law of non-contradiction are a function of training, tradi tion or authority. In any event, we take them to be self-evident.  14 Descartes saw belief in God as basic and foundational, the end result of a process of vigilant meditation free from the “fluctuat By turning inward and judiciously  ing testimony of the senses.” to  appealing  the  of  criterion  “clear  distinct  and  he  ideas”,  personalized and  arrived at what he perceived to be indubitable,  self-evident intuitive knowledge. Descartes’ individualistic cri terion of “whatever I am clearly convinced of, is true” renders new inquiry  superfluous  and  the  ignores  dimension  social  of  the  inquiries of others. But “truth”, as Peirce and Dewey would put it, that opinion which  is a fixed limit toward which inquiry tends, investigators object  their  of  to  come by  convergent  opinion  are bound  “in  run,”  long  the  constitutes  the  and  the  meaning  of  “reality.” But Descartes’ methodological criteria are laid out in they  advance;  antecede  the  data  selected  investigation and  for  preclude empirical evidence or intersubjective appraisal.  hence,  Forms and rules of thought precede and are detached from the par ticulars of content and experience. Theory of judgement guides the questioning of issues and affairs under examination, whether they have  to  with  do  interaction,  or  sub-atomic God’s  particles,  existence.  embodied within the rules of method, tions  for  universal,  epistemic  justification,  human  These  behaviour,  theoretical  social  criteria,  at once provide the founda leading  to  the  general,  the  the immutable and the unquestionable.  This Cartesian, context-independent,  theory-centred approach  to rationality and evidence which focuses on means which are inde pendent  of empirical procedures and human experience and action  continues to be an accepted standard of rationality in the Twenti eth Century.  Stephen Toulmin  (1990)  states that Descartes’  und  15 erstanding slate,  of  reasoning was  that  “.  .  .  if  everyone  their  cleaned  and started from the same sensory “impressions” or “clear  and distinct ideas”, there would be no need to ask what personal or cultural  idiosyncrasies  each  of  them  brought  their  to  common  debate. This decontextualized ideal was a central demand of rational thought among “modern” thinkers until well into the 20th century. In due course, further variants joined it: the economist’s equation of “rationality” with effi ciency, for example, and Max Weber’s view of the “ration alization” of social institutions.. .Rationally adequate thought or action cannot, in all cases equally, start by cleaning the slate, and building up a formal system: in practise, the rigor of theory is useful only up to a point, and in certain circumstances. Claims to certainty, for instance, are at home within abstract theories, and so open to consensus; but all abstraction involves omission, turning a blind eye to elements in experience that do not lie within the scope of the given theory, and so guaranteeing the rigor of its formal implications.” The bifurcation of  epistemology since  Plato,  reaffirmed by  Descartes, into intellect, theory, rationalism and certainty on the one side and action, practice, empiricism and contingency, respect ively,  on the other is attacked by John Dewey in The Quest  for  Certainty. Man’s self-deceptive effort and desire to transcend his fallibility, finitude, and contingency and “escape from the viciss itudes  of  existence which do  not  demand  an  active  coping with  2 have resulted in an appeal to the consolatory cer conditions” tainties of fixed,  immutable metaphysical systems and universal,  demonstrative pure reason. Dewey writes the  For in spite of the great, the enormous changes in subject-matter and method of the sciences and the  ‘°  Stephen Toulmin  (1990), p. 199.  ‘  Stephen Toulmin  (1990), p. 200.  12  John Dewey (1929), p. 17.  16 tremendous expansion of practical activities by means of arts and technologies, the main tradition of western culture has retained intact this framework of ideas. Perfect certainty is what man wants. 13 The upshot of this epistemology has  for certainty”  “quest  been  for philosophy is that  dominated by herculean  efforts  to  devise  rationalistic methods and theories of knowledge as some correspon dence between our experiences and some antecedent,  transcendent  essence or Kantian “thing-in-itself.” The effect of this dualism is that We are so accustomed to the separation of knowledge from doing and making that we fail to recognize how it controls our conceptions of mind, of consciousness and of reflective inquiry. .The common essence of all these theories, in short, is that what is known is antecedent to the mental act of observation and inquiry, and is totally unaffected by these acts; otherwise it would not be fixed and unchangeable. .A spectator theory of know ledge is the inevitable outcome. Such has been the characteristic course of modern spiritualistic philos ophies since the time of Kant; indeed, since the time of Descartes, who first felt the poignancy of the problem involved in reconciling the conclusions of science with traditional religious and moral belief s. 14 .  .  .  .  .  Dewey attacks the Cartesian epistemological view that reverses what he sees as the proper logical order for acquiring meaningful knowl edge.  Modern philosophers  err by constructing a priori  theories  about the nature of knowledge which then ultimately determine and dictate cosmological theories  -  “a procedure which reverses  the  apparently more judicious method of the ancients in basing their conclusions about knowledge on the nature of the universe in which knowledge occurs.” 5 This process, according to Dewey, by impairing  ‘  Dewey  (1929), p. 21.  ‘  Dewey  (1929), pp. 23—23,  ‘  Dewey  (1929), p. 41.  42.  17 the ability of an inquirer to pursue open-minded, open-ended inves tigations,  results in a dogmatic approach.  Just as belief that a magical ceremony will regulate the growth of seeds to full harvest stifles the tendency to investigate natural causes and their workings, so acceptance of dogmatic rules as bases of conduct in education, morals and social matters, lessens the impetus to find out about conditions which are involved in form ing intelligent plans.’ 6 Descartes appears to allow that,  in principle,  the whole of  Science could be established a priori in a system of derivations from axioms, the limits of which are intuitively evident. Science, however,  does not work this way.  Science,  Peirce urged,  as C.S.  requires us to abandon this foundationalist view. Scientific the ories  are  fallible  subsequently  and  be modified  theories or  even  found  currently refuted;  but  placing our confidence in theories currently  plausible  the  may  practice  “certain”,  of  and sub  jecting them to severe critical tests enables the scientific com munity to eliminate error and allow continual progress towards the 7 truth.’ calls  In  “The Fixation of  “the a priori method”,  Belief”,  Peirce criticizes what he  “the method of authority”,  and “the  method of tenacity” for alleviating doubt and acquiring knowledge and he favours the  “method of science”  -  “  our beliefs may be caused by nothing human,  a method  ...  by which  but by some external  permanency Its fundamental hypothesis, restated in more famil iar language, is this: There are real things, whose characters are entirely independent of our opinions of them; those realities affect our senses according to regular laws, and, though our sensations are different as 16 17  Dewey (1929), p. 40.  Peirce’s approach to Science is not unlike that of Karl Popper’s cleductivism and his .falsifiability principle.  18 our relations to the objects, yet, by taking advantage of the laws of perception, we can ascertain by reasoning how things really are, and any man, if he has sufficient experience and reason enough about it, will be led to one true conclusion. 18 Doubts concerning the method of inquiry may be general, on the ground that there is no infallible way of acquiring knowledge and that  methods  all  have  skepticism  usually,  failed at  of  methods  one is  time  or  another.  and  partial  But more  depreciates  the  reliability of one recognized source of knowledge in the interest of another. Rationalism and empiricism have been set against one another  and  again  jointly  defended  the  against  pretensions  of  authority, revelation, and intuition. On the other hand, defenders of faith and fideism such as Pascal and Kierkegaard, have expressed a  radical  skepticism about  the  ability  of  reason  to  arrive  at  religious truth. 1.4 Varieties of Skepticism  What is it that some extreme skeptics are denying when they claim that knowledge does not exist? What  is knowledge? Without  probing into the depths of epistemology for the various definitions that  have  been offered,  which would  beyond the scope of this thesis, ception of knowledge as know what he believes  -  require  investigations  far  I will accept the classical con  9 “justified true belief”.’  If one is to  or asserts, claims, affirms, accepts  -  must  be true; it must accurately describe or refer to the nature of the world or some part of it,  for we cannot know what is  false.  But  truth, though a necessary condition, is not a sufficient condition 18 19  c•s  Peirce,  in P. P. Weiner,  ed., pp. 107-108.  see “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?” by E.L. Gettier in A.P. Griffiths, ed. (1967) for challenges to this notion.  19 of knowledge,  for we may believe or assert what is in fact true  simply by accident;  in such a case we can not be said to know.  Before we can claim knowledge,  we must  establish  that what we  believe or assert is true; that is, justify the truth of our belief or assertion. If we can do that, but only if we can do that, can we legitimately conclude that we know. The premise of some philosophers that skepticism about knowl edge claims cannot in general be answered is by no means obviously correct.  There  skepticism,  are,  of  course,  many  different  varieties  of  and it is true that not all of them can be answered  with equal confidence. This is most clearly the case for the most thorough-going “radical”, or  “general”,  “extreme”  rejects  form,  all  assumptions,  (Popkin, empirical  referred  to  “wholesale”  “terminal”,  as  (Hamlyn)  20  . 21 skepticism.  1979)  and a priori  ,  “excessive”  This  knowledge  “theoretical”,  version  and all  (Hume) simply  premises,  or modes of reasoning that might be used against it.  Two examples of extreme skepticism would be Cratylus and Gorgias,  two  pre-Socratic  Plato’s  dialogues.  philosophers Cratylus,  who  were  possibly  known  as  characters  in  influenced by Heraclitus,  held that everything is in a state of flux or perpetual change. He therefore because,  became  convinced  that  communication  was  impossible  since the speaker, the auditor, and the words were chang  20  According to Hamlyn (1970), there are five different ver sions of “wholesale” skepticism: (1) that knowledge is impossible; (2) that we can never be sure that we have attained it; (3) that it makes no sense to speak of knowledge; (4) that we never know any thing; and (5) the possibility of knowledge is questionable (p. 7, 22) 21  Some recent philosophers, e.g.: Stroud (1984), Lehrer (1990), have referred to it as “total” or “epistemological” skepti cism.  20 ing, whatever meaning might have been intended by the words would be altered by the time they were heard! Cratylus concluded that one cannot say anything about anything and one should not try. Hence, he apparently refused to discuss  anything and only wiggled his to indicate that he had heard  finger when someone said something,  the utterance but that it would be pointless to reply, since every thing was changing. More  serious  skeptical  doubts  were  raised  by  Sophist  the  Gorgias, who held to a sort of epistemological nihilism. Gorgias is reported to have doubted whether anything exists at all,  and to  have offered the argument that if anything did happen to exist, we could not know it; and if we did know it, we could not communicate 22 Radical or total skepticism, it.  for the very reason that it is  an extreme position, presents a challenge that threatens the vital interests,  not only of epistemologists,  but of us all.  If it is  correct, the boundaries of our knowledge are not merely restricted, something most of us would be willing to acknowledge, but close in upon us and completely overwhelm us. If a philosopher asserts that we can know nothing, say, about the existence of God, his views may cause consternation in the ranks of some theologians but hardly raise an eyebrow among philosophers of science.  Or if he asserts  that reason alone can never produce knowledge,  he cannot expect  outraged reactions from empiricists. But if he asserts that none of us can know anything, he is raising an issue that no philosopher can ignore. Two more obvious objections to radical skepticism are 22  Peter Unger’s thesis (1975) comes dangerously close to that of Cratylus and Gorgias when he concludes that our ignorance sunim ons us to be silent, but having said that, proceeds to write for another seventy pages.  21 that  it  is  point),  impossible  to  live  it  in practice  since action requires belief;  and that  (this was Hume’s it is incoherent  because its own principles require commitment, and not ambivalence, from those who follow them. If radical skepticism is true then one particular belief would be as credible as any other. It would be impossible to criticize, improve  upon,  Science  and  or  to make  more  pseudo-science,  reliable  Darwin’s  what  anybody believes.  evolutionary  theory  and  creationism, history and myth, medicine and faith healing, ref lec tive judgement and rabid prejudice, would be on no footing at all. Moreover, rational argument as a method of settling disputes would be replaced by force and propaganda.  If extreme skepticism were  accepted, life, as Thomas Hobbes described it, would be “solitary, nasty,  brutish,  and  short.”  Bertrand Russell  described extreme  skepticism as “psychologically impossible” and said that is  an  element  pretends  to  of  frivolous  accept  23 it.”  skeptic  extreme  properly be defined as a dogmatist since claim (i.e.:  “There is no knowldge.”) 24  ,  .  .  there  in any philosophy which  insincerity An  “.  could  also  quite  (1) He makes a knowledge and (2) this claim cannot  be justified, that is, he can provide no reasons on its behalf. In 23 24  Bertrand Russell, Human Knowledge,  1948, p. xi.  To claim “There is no knowledge” is paradoxical since the skeptic puts forth a thesis or hypothesis; namely, that nothing can be known. But in advancing this theory he is himself making a knowledge claim, the claim that the thesis states. But in order to advance the hypothesis that nothing can be known, the skeptic must make a knowledge claim. He thereby contradicts himself. One cannot consistently know that nothing can be known without falling into the trap of self-referenial refutation. Moreover, according to Russell’s Theory of Types, general or total skepticism, since it refers to itself, is not capable of meaningful formulation. I wonder? If the total skeptic doubts everything, does he doubt his own skepticism?  22 general, for  it can be argued, if one is to have any reasonable ground  skepticism  there  must  something  be  of  which  one  is  not  skeptical. The usual reason for skeptical doubt is the experience or possibility Nietzsche  has  of  failure  stated,  irrefutable errors.  ,,25  or  the  error  ultimate  in  claims  truths  of  to  knowledge.  mankind  are  As “his  Failure reveals itself through inconsistency  and to recognize this we must be aware that contradictory state ments have been made and that the law of non-contradiction is true. Furthermore, past experience of failure or error in a given type of thinking is only relevant to one’s future confidence in it if the rationality of inductive argument is assumed. A person could con ceivably  exhibit  complete  skepticism by  refusing  to  claim any  knowledge at all. What he could not do is offer a rational defense of  his  really  procedure. a way  of  Thomas Nagel has written that recognizing  our  situation,  “skepticism is  though  it  will  not  prevent us from continuing to pursue something like knowledge, for our natural realism makes it impossible for us to be content with 26 a purely subjective view.” 1.5 Mitigated Skepticism  Although philosophers  skepticism  is  of  ancient  origin,  relatively  few  in the Western tradition have followed the extreme  path marked out by Gorgias and Cratylus. Rather, most have rejected this form of skepticism in favour of an epistemology based on the  25  F. Nietzsche  (1887), The Gay Science,  26  Thomas Nagel  (1986), p. 74.  Sec. 265, p. 219.  23 27 conviction that, however limited its scope, knowledge does exist. To use the term that has become standard since Hume, these philos 28 Of course we are left with ophers espouse mitigated skepticism. a problem because it seems safe to say that, to some degree all (or at  least  most)  of  us  are mitigated  skeptics.  impose some limitations to human knowledge,  Most  of us  would  admitting that there  are things that we do not know, or even that we cannot know. But if everyone is a mitigated skeptic,  to speak of mitigated skepticism  as a particular philosophical position is somewhat misleading: the term denotes no distinctive view at all. But this problem can, think,  be  resolved by noting  that  the  issue  really turns  question of degree. Within certain general boundaries, admittedly  vague,  quite  one  can  acknowledges  her  I  on a  which are  ignorance  of  things without earning the title of skeptic. Just because all of us are (I hope) skeptics,  “skeptical” about some things, it does not mean we are  even  in  the  mitigated  sense.  However,  the  denial  of  knowledge beyond a certain point surely must land one in the skept ical camp. Where this point lies, or where the dividing line should be drawn,  is a matter about which philosophers do not all agree.  If we accept the term mitigated skepticism as a name for the general view that denies absolute knowledge without going to the extreme of denying its existence entirely, we can distinguish among three  different  forms  that  the  27  denial  might  take:  (1)  Subject  Whether there exists a privileged set of empirical beliefs or a priori principles which constitute a foundation for knowledge is still an open question. Foundationalists such as Roderick Chish olm (1977) have argued that there do exist “unmoved movers” within the epistemic realm. 28  see Popkin  (1979), Chap. 7.  24 matter skepticism:  In this category we have philosophers who deny  that we are capable of real knowledge in certain sub:ject areas such as religion, ethics, metaphysics, history, etc.  (2) Substantive (or  specific object) skepticism: This is the stance taken by those who deny knowledge of certain objects or phenomena such as other minds, God,  supernaturalism,  matter,  causality,  etc.  (3)  Functional  (or  faculty) skepticism: This form denies that we have any ability to gain knowledge by some process or function through employment of some  faculty or capacity we are held to posses.  Hence,  we  find  skepticism concerning reason and skepticism about sensory percep tion. Rationalists, for example, tend to embrace a skepticism about the senses,  and empiricists are inclined toward skepticism about  reason; both have a propensity to skepticism concerning intuition and revelation. Carnaedes  (c 213  -  presented a wealth of brilliant  128 BCE)  skeptical arguments against the reliability of perception, claiming that  all we  , 29 world  can  ever have are  images  or  copies  of  an  external  and he seems to have developed a verification theory and  probabilistic  view  resembling  those  of  many  twentieth  century  pragmatists and logical positivists. Carnaedes claimed that abso lute  truth  does  not  exist;  only  degrees  of  probability  exist.  Probability is the only guide to life and the individual does not need certainty or truth in order to function and understand. Some beliefs are more probable than others, and the degree of probabil ity of a belief is related to its intensity and immediacy in our experience, and to its relationship to other intense and immediate 29  Similar to the Representative Theory of Perception or “sense datum” theory of Russell, Ayer and others.  25 The  experiences.  lowest  degree  of  probability  of  a  belief  related to its not having any ground in our experience.  is  Bertrand  Russell sounds much like Carnaedes when he says To my mind the essential thing is that one should base one’s arguments upon the kind of grounds that are accepted in science, and that one should not regard anything one accepts as quite certain, but only probable in a greater or less degree. Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the .When one admits that essential things in rationality. nothing is certain one must, I think, also add that some things are much more nearly certain than others. It is much more nearly certain that we are assembled here tonight than it is that this or that political party is 30 in the right. .  Carnaedes’ Ernpiricus.  The  .  infinite regress argument was restated by Sextus argument  casts  doubt  on  any  claims  by  dogmatic  philosophers to have gained knowledge of the naturally non-evident world. Any criterion, such as logical inference or presumed causal connection,  used to  judge what  is  naturally non-evident  can be  challenged by asking if the criterion itself is evident. The fact that there are disputes about everything that is not observable shows that it is not obvious what criterion should be adopted. The dogmatist is faced with begging the question by using a question able criterion to establish the justification of whatever is true, or with an infinite regress in- volving finding a criterion for judging his  criterion,  and a criterion  for this,  and so on.  Anthony Quinton has stated the problem as follows: If any beliefs are to be justified at all.. .there beliefs that some terminal not owe must do be their. .credibility to others. For a belief to be jus tified it is not enough for it to be accepted, let alone merely entertained: there must also be good reason for accepting it. Furthermore, for an inferential belief to .  30  Russell  (l962a), p. 83,  85.  26 be justified the beliefs that support it must be jus tified themselves. There must, therefore, be a kind of belief that does not owe its justification the support provided by others. Unless this were so no belief would be justified at all, for to justify any belief would require the antecedent justification of an infinite series of beliefs. The terminal.. .beliefs that are needed to bring the regress of justification to a stop need not be strictly self-evident in the sense that they somehow justify themselves. All that is required is that they should not owe their justification to any other belief. ’ 3 Had it not been for the dissemination of absolute foundationalism and certitude in matters of knowledge and truth since Descartes (i e., the move from cerno to certo), the modern day skeptics would .  have  little  to  be  skeptical  about.  like modern  Postmodernism,  skepticism, is to a considerable extent shaped by a reaction to the claim  for  certainty  and  absolute  foundationalism  in  modern  epistemology; in fact, one might well construe postmodernism as a culturally enhanced version of skepticism. 1.6 Twentieth Century Epistemology: Answering the Skeptic  In the twentieth century epistemology has been defined, otherwise explained,  in terms of philosophical  skepticism.  and This  conception seems to have originated with Bertrand Russell early in the century and to have been reaffirmed by such notable philos ophers as A.J. Ayer, W.V. Quine, D.W. Hamlyn, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and J.L. Pollock. Russell has consistently defined epistemology and philosophy in general in terms of answering the skeptic: The essential characteristic of philosophy, which makes it a study distinct from science, is criticism... Descartes’ “methodical doubt,” with which modern philos ophy began.. is rather the kind of criticism which we are asserting to be the essence of philosophy.. This is the kind of criticism which constitutes philosophy. . .These 32 .  .  .  31 32  Anthony Quinton, quoted in L. Bonjour Bertrand Russell  (1912), p. 149-51.  (1985), p.  18.  27 problems are all such as to raise doubts concerning what commonly passes for knowledge; and if the doubts are to be answered, it can only be by means of a special study, 33 to which we give the name “philosophy.” A.J Ayer’s conception is not unlike that of Russell:  Having maintained that to say that one knows a fact is to claim the right to be sure of it, I show how such claims may be disputed on philosophical grounds. Though their targets vary, these sceptical challenges follow a consistent pattern: the same line of reasoning is used to impugn our knowledge of the external world, or of the past, or of the experience of others. The attempt to meet these objections supplies the main subject matter for 34 what is called the theory of knowledge. The theory of knowledge is primarily an exercise in scepticism; the advancement and attempted rebuttal of arguments which are intended to prove that we do not know what we think we know. 35 John  L.  Pollock  also  sees  problems  of  knowledge  arising  skeptical arguments: Skeptical arguments generate epistemological prob lems. Apparently reasonable assumptions lead to the conclusion that knowledge of a certain sort (e.g., knowl edge of the physical world, or knowledge of other minds) is impossible. Faced with such an argument, our task is to explain how knowledge is possible. The problem is not to show thae knowledge is possible; that much we can take for granted. What we must do is find the hole in the skeptical argument that makes it possible to have the knowledge we do. “How do you know that P?” This is the general form of an epistemological problem. The question a demand for “How do you know that P?” is a challenge justification. The task of the epistemologist is to explain how it is possible for us to know that P, i.e., to explain what justifies us in believing the things we .  .  -  do  •36  1.7 Wittgenstein  Bertrand Russell  (1927), p.  1.  A.J. Ayer (1956), p. viii. A.J. Ayer (1975), p. 36  John L.  1.  Pollock (1974), p.  5.  from  28 To the followers of Wittgenstein, philosophical skepticism is a symptom of conceptual confusion and disorder, an indication that language is being misunderstood and put to an improper use. It is argued that we can only learn what “knowledge” and “certainty” mean by hearing  them used  events,  and people’s  inquire  whether  in connection with material  these  paradigm  knowledge and certainty.  and that  etc.,  feelings,  cases  are  it  objects,  past  is useless  to  instances  of  genuine  Philosophers have had a proclivity for  looking for uniformity and simplicity where none exist, and hence have  ignored the important differences  in function between such  superficially similar statements such as “God created the universe” and “Beethoven created the Ninth Symphony”. The attempt to assimi late one  function of  language to another,  paradigm to which others must conform,  is,  or to treat one as a for Wittgenstein,  the  source of many of our proverbial philosophical problems. Bad phil osophy results when language is detached from its everyday func tions and the aim of good philosophy is to bring out the misunder standings that give rise to the problems in the first place. For  Wittgenstein,  language  is  essentially  social.  In  his  famous attack on the idea of a “private language”, he tried to show that it would be impossible for anyone to develop such a language, one which it is, in principle, impossible to teach to anyone else. Wittgenstein argued that, if there were private events, we would be unable to categorize or talk about them. For it to be possible to name or categorize something,  there must exist rules of correct  Without  the  possibility  of  a public  naming  and categorization.  check,  there would be no distinction between our feeling that we  reported them accurately and our really doing so, so nothing could  29 count as our doing so correctly or incorrectly. And where such a criterion is impossible, then, according to Wittgenstein, there are no genuine rules at all,  and hence no genuine language.  If he is  right about this much-debated issue then the more extreme forms of skepticism, which call into question the existence of anything or anyone independent of one’s own mind,  are ruled out by the mere  fact of a language in which to formulate them; and if we think out the implications of there being a whole society of language users, we are taken a long way back toward a common sense view of the world. Wittgenstein,  in On Certainty,  ungrounded beliefs.  Grounded  beliefs are logically parasitic on the ungrounded sort,  although  what  might  be  termed grounded and  clearly distinguished between  not in the sense that they are demonstratively inferred from them. Ungrounded beliefs are those beliefs that “stand fast”, providing a necessary structural basis  for the grounded variety.  The very  possibility of anything that may be called the “scientific method”, or  of  any  sort  of  communication,  investigation  or  inquiry,  is  dependent upon them. In order to avoid an infinite regress of jus tifications,  there  can  beliefs are ungrounded.  be  no  justified  judgements  When we push back reasons,  unless  some  evidence and  grounds for a belief we come to beliefs which we will not give up even though we do not use reasoning,  evidence and grounds to jus  tify their “certainty.” This part,  class of groundless beliefs  is included,  within the domain of empirical propositions,  see J. Schulte  (1992), pp.  142—146.  for the most beliefs which  30 are unassailable and exempt from doubt. Wittgenstein thinks that these are irrefutable propositions and that we should say  “Rub  bish!” to anyone who denies them, although he also thinks that they are not proper objects of knowledge claims because they preclude inquiry or justification. If he is right, many propositions inclu ding G.E.  Moore’s common sense propositions like  existed for over one hundred years”, and  “Cats do not grow on trees”,  “Automobiles do not grow out of the earth”,  question,  and  hence,  never  “The earth has  become  objects  of  never come into discussion  or  38 Ungrounded beliefs such as these, says Wittgenstein, “lie inquiry. 39 This is a class of apart from the route travelled by inquiry.” non-inferential propositions or beliefs which are immune to evi dence,  if only because no other propositions or beliefs are more  certain than the beliefs themselves. Wittgenstein also claims that one cannot speak of knowing when doubt is out of the question  -  “knowledge” makes sense only when  doubt makes sense. The absolute nature of the term “certainty” pre cludes us  from saying of anyone that he is ever certain of any  thing. Doubt invites the challenge to explain how we know, a chal lenge which is most appropriate when the claim concerns something describable as an hypothesis; and we can intelligibly claim to know something only where the possibility of being mistaken makes sense. When I identify an object in my hand as a pen, for example, none of these conditions is satisfied: I do not seriously admit the possi bility  38  that  I  have made  a mistake;  that  Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty, On Certainty,  sec.  88  it  is  sec. 234,  a pen  498.  is  not  a  31 hypothesis that I proceed to test; response to a request that  and there is no intelligible  I explain how I  know this.  We might  suppose that we can give grounds for identifying this object as a pen: we can see that it is! offers  any  support  for  But it is questionable whether this  our  knowledge  Using  claim.  a  different  example, Wittgenstein writes: My having two hands is, in normal circumstances, as certain as anything I could produce as evidence for it. So I am not in a position to take the sight of my two ° 4 hands as evidence for it. If a person questioned my claim to have two hands I would treat that as evidence that his eyesight is defective before I enter tained doubts about my hands. Hence, when we find ourselves unable to offer justifications,  only explanations or demonstrations, we  know we have reached the level of groundless beliefs and values, a “pre-rationaP’ level of beliefs and values, which themselves cannot be rationally justified. 1.8 Constructive Skepticism  As we have seen, when philosophers talk about skepticism, they are usually referring to skepticism directed existence  of  rationality.  the  the kind of  against  external  However,  radical  epistemological world,  claims  other minds  the speculations about  Descartes Meditations) and the brain in a vat 1)  or methodological  and  such  as  standards  the evil  demon  the of (in  (Putnam, 1981, Chap.  are merely dramatic devices to express our skeptical thoughts,  our private doubts,  in their most radical form. Since there is no  neutral position from which we can defend our most basic intellec tual foundations, the study of epistemology quite inevitably leads 40  Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty,  Sec. 250.  32 to skeptical anxiety,  including concerns about our rational pro  cedures and the scientific method.  No matter what procedures or  standards we employ, how much reflection and inquiry we engage in or how much evidence we gather,  there do not exist intellectual  guarantees to prevent the possibility of error. Although we find ourselves  defending rationality and the methods of  their own terms  induction on  (i.e., we employ our rational procedures in their  own defense), some questions such as the reliability of our funda mental methods of inquiry can,  it seems, be rightfully begged. It  seems odd to demand a justification for rationality because the notion  of  justification  rationality. rationality  Any  attempt  itself to  in order to pass  remain inside,  is  clearly  a  stand  outside  the  judgement  on  it  concept  within  framework  requires  of  that one  and this is clearly incoherent. ’ 4  The skepticism that I will endorse is not so much a philo sophical position as it is an attitude, tion  -  frame of mind or disposi  a psychological mechanism to combat the intellectual vices  of credulity and pretentious dogmatism.  I will presently use the  term constructive skepticism to describe the skeptical temperament which entails  a perspicuous  regarding demands  conscientiousness and judiciousness  for evidence,  a propensity to  suspicion about  extraordinary claims, and a desire for further argument and persua sion than would satisfy the majority of people.  It is a form of  skepticism that is not abstract, but rather selective and contex tual.  It rejects the nihilism and pessimism of radical skepticism  and accepts that there is reliable knowledge about the world that  ‘  Roger Trigg (1973), p.  149.  33 can be known by rational, epistemically responsible agents employ ing reliable rational methods, not only in the sciences, but in the normative realm as well. Constructive skepticism is a protection against pretention, false  hopes,  illusion,  self-deception  and  “unworldliness,”  an  acceptance of a world in which nothing is permanent except change  -  and change at an ever-increasingly rapid rate. Hence, one attempts to see the world and reality as it is now,  recognizing that the  future is tenuous and unpredictable, save what science may be able to tell us. and  the  become,  This does not mean that we must accept the arbitrary  contingent,  although much of who we  is a function of accident.  are,  what  As Thomas Nagel has  we have so aptly  pointed out two things, neither of them easy to assimilate, strike me about my birth: its extreme contingency and its unimportance... we are here by luck, not by right or by necessity. .My own existence or that of any other par ticular person is extremely gratuitous... Just as we can’t evade skepticism by denying the pretensions of our beliefs about the world and interpreting them as entirely relative to a subjective or personal point of view, so we can’t evade the impact of objective detachment by denying the objective pretensions of our dominant aims in life. This would simply falsify the situation. The problem of the meaning of life is in fact a form of skepticism at the level of motivation. We can no more abandon our unqualified conmitments at will than we can abandon our beliefs about the world in response to skeptical argu ments, however persuasive we may find them, as Hume famously observed. Nor can we avoid either problem by refusing to take that step outside ourselves which calls that ordinary view into question. 42 .  ..  All  .  the choices we have made in life and must continue to make  imply that we could have chosen and can choose otherwise  -  we are  “condemned to be free” as Sartre has proclaimed, and we are respon  42  Thomas Nagel  (1986), pp. 211, 213,  218.  34 sible for who we are in spite of the fact that we are always more a product of our contingency than we are of our accomplishments. Real purpose and meaning in life can only come from within our selves and our immediate surroundings  -  our family,  our friends,  our work, our recreational activities, and so on. The constructive skeptic is an optimist who has the capacity to  laugh at  failures  and disappointments.  avoids false hopes and illusions  Although  the  skeptic  (that stock is going higher), he  too has plans and projects which often do not come to fruition. Life is too short to be taken too seriously since one is at the The perfect  mercy of many forces that are beyond one’s control.  antidote is humour -to laugh at the stock I bought yesterday at $1 which trades at 50 cents today. Hence, the constructive skeptic is a fallibilist who avoids the concept of “perfection” are  projects  fallible,  for example,  life,  imperfect,  incomplete,  all life’s  -  The moral  human.  should be construed as an appeal to the best  reasoned ethical principles that our culture has to offer and to view all  ethical discourse as  tolerate  (and even laugh at)  because  living with what  is  rational and contextual. what  One must  is accidental and contingent,  accidental and contingent  is not  a  failure to achieve absolute perfection or the transcendental, but is our normal situation. The constructive skeptic rarely contemplates extremes such as suicide because he accepts his  fate  with stoical resignation and humour of  the  constructive  skeptic  is  -  the  (perhaps after some crying) life must go on. But the life life  person can examine means and ends and,  of  hence,  reason;  a  rational  exercise some per  sonal control regarding his future and the future of those to whom  35 he  is  responsible.  The  reason  life of  is  the  rejection of  the  attempt to remain ignorant. The constructive skeptic is suspicious of a priori theories, utopian schemes and “salvation plans.” Over including oversimplified solutions  simplified views of the world,  as are appeals to  to real human problems are to be distrusted, absolute,  transcendent  (absolute  truth,  or  absolute  immutable choice,  closed  absolute  systems  of  authority,  thought absolute  knowledge, absolute ethical principles, absolute reality, absolute search for absolutes is an attempt to escape  life,  etc.).  Man’s  life,  the negation of reality. Many postinodernist philosophers  have rejected the  rational  tradition of the Enlightenment simply because its project has not resulted in perfection, utopia or the absolute. We cannot entirely reject our traditions and social practices merely because we doubt their efficacy. Although all beliefs are subject to critical scru tiny, choice requires an appeal to an existing structure of mores, accumulated reliable knowledge, ution  rarely works because we  Criticism is,  above all,  social practices, end up  sinking  etc.;  a revol  “Neurath’s  boat.”  conflict between social practices. To be  capable of constructive criticism of social practices and institu tions, one must know social practices and institutions, as well as rules  of  change,  discourse.  rational the  burden  of  Because for  proof  they are asking people  to  rejection  of  reformulation  or  existing social mores and practices must always be on the advocates of  change.  The  constructive  skeptic,  however,  rejects  the  unexamined belief in the status quo and further rejects the accept ance of the premise that we are prisoners within our own “language games” or “conceptual scheme”  (I will deal with this issue later in  36 the thesis). All beliefs, values and social institutions are sub ject  to  criticism.  The  constructive  skeptic  is  also  critically  aware of authority, in a world in which one is increasingly depend ent on experts and specialists rather than direct personal experi ence  (perhaps real personal experience is becoming obsolete). Constructive skepticism is not equivalent to cynicism, pessi  mism,  lack of hope,  relativism,  or nihilism. But neither is it a  resigned  acceptance  worlds.”  Evil  claimed,  so that one can come to understand the “Good”! Construc  of  does not  the  Leibnitzian  exist,  as  “best  apologists  of  all  possible  like Leibnitz have  tive skepticism avoids the intemperance of seeing the world through “rose-tinted spectacles.” Constructive  skepticism  does  not  dismiss  Metaphysics.  Rationality does not and likely will not give us all the answers to our questions and problems. Metaphysics is the cognitive department of “realms of the unknown”  -  the “awe factor.” Metaphysics is the  realization of infinite speculative possibility, that our knowledge is never complete and our problems never completely  “solved.” A  major part of being human is to be faced with problems, problems which are never really  “solved,”  but only dealt with or perhaps  mitigated. As Dewey has pointed out, we are always looking at ends which ultimately become means to further ends, and we are continu ously dealing with unfinished business.  Problems never have only  one solution, and one who gives only one solution to a problem and who thinks he has  solved the problem easily or absolutely falls  prey to self-satisfied dogmatism. To the constructive skeptic, the purpose of Metaphysics is not the creation of immutable, absolutist systems of thought so that we  37 can resign ourselves to the comforts, consolations and “certainty” of  a  system.  Metaphysics  sense of the world, to  get  things  is  the attempt  to understand,  to make  to see, as best we can, how things really are,  right,  and not  to  escape  reality by  engaging  in  quixotic quests for certainty. Metaphysical theories are, as John Kekes has stated, not “gratuitous speculations of idle minds, but passionate attempts to make sense out of reality.” 43 An adequate metaphysical theory must provide a rational, conceptually coherent, and  comprehensive  interpretation  and  explanation  of  how things  really are, a reasonable view of reality and man’s place in it. The possession of such a view is an essential component of the human istic outlook and makes rational action possible. facile,  superficial and highly  speculative  views are often a function of dogmatism,  Plausible, yet  transcendental world  self-deception or unre  flective wishful thinking. Outlandish forms of transcendent, super natural metaphysical theorizing should heed Wittgenstein’s closing words of the Tractatus, namely,  “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof  one must remain silent.” Speculative theories should be falsifiable and subject to criticism by experience and experimentation. fabrication of vague,  The  ambiguous ontological entities and proposi  tions which have no way of being tested are vacuous. I have come to believe that people can be placed in three main “metaphysical”  camps:  First,  there are people who take the world  for granted, or: A what you see is what you get and it is obvious that  is  anything,  how it  is  and talking about  it  and so why bother? Metaphysics  John Kekes  (1976), p. 241.  is  not  going to change  is a waste of  time so  38 let’s get on with our lives. This appears to be the outlook of most people. Second,  there  “ecclesiastical”  are  the  sense).  religious  (in  To them this  the  “theological”  or  life is a preparation for  better things to come which will be satisfied by the God who has made them and this world, has given them immortal souls, and their purpose and meaning in life can be discovered only through God. All the questions,  contradictions, paradoxes,  ironies and “accidents”  of this world can be explained by the Almighty answers. and put  Thus, our  -  He has all the  we should quit pestering ourselves with questions  faith and trust  in Him.  Our questions will only be  answered when we die. The attitude of this group I find as compla cent and incurious as the first; they simply offer different rea sons  for  evading  the  real  problems  and questions  of  life,  and  equally do not really seem to feel the problems. They have subdued themselves into a smug sense of security with a story which may or may not be true but which they have no serious evidence or grounds for believing. Third, there is the group who condemn the previous two groups for their credulity and intellectual slothfulness. This third group is in awe of the very fact of our existence and possess a natural curiosity about the mysteries of the universe,  refusing to accept  simplistic answers and explanations. This group questions both the way things are and our traditional social and religious beliefs. They challenge the adherents of the other two groups for proof or at  least  group  are  good evidence, two  subsets  or  justification subgroups.  or argument.  1 Subgroup  is  Within this  the  group who  believe that everything is explicable and solvable at the bar of  39 reason, that rational inquiry will eventually answer all our ques tions. However, they forget that the perplexity and insolvency of most pressing human problems  are brought  application of rational thought and it.  This  unreflective  “faith”  existence by the  into  seemingly cannot be removed by  in  tends  to  elevate rationality to the status of a religion or ideology.  If  the  power  of  reason  there is a God, however, His gift of reason is surely His greatest gift;  but it  is not an infallible one.  2 agree with the Subgroup  criticisms which subgroup 1 directs at the previous two groups and accepts  rationality  attribute,  our  as  most  valuable  and  useful  but they maintain a stance of skepticism,  human  fallibilism  and humility concerning both what we claim to know and the sover eignty  of  rationality.  It  is  my  contention  that  we  should,  as  educators, encourage and foster in our students the attributes and dispositions characteristic of subgroup , the group within which a 2 constructive skeptic would be found.  40 One who has not been scrupulous in knowing cannot be scrupu lous in doing Lorraine Code -  (2)  THE ETHICS OF BELIEF  2.1 Ancient and Medieval Sources  The central problem of epistemology is the individual’s con cern with what to believe and how to justify those beliefs. Hence, many philosophers have held that there is an important connection between  epistemic  concepts  belief  such as  and ethical  concepts  such as justification. Plato regarded the form of the Good; i.e., Goodness itself, as the ground not only for all goodness, but also Many medieval philosophers,  all being and all that is knowable.  such as Thomas Acquinas, regarded goodness and truth as two of the transcendentals,  in  Partially dogmatism  of  coextensive and ranging across all categories.  the  reaction Church,  the  to  presumptuous  sixteenth  century  rationalism and  humanists  such  as  Montaigne, argued that it was best to suspend judgement about mat ters of general theory, and to concentrate on accumulating a rich perspective, encounter  both in the natural world and human affairs,  them  in  our  actual  experience.  This  respect  as we  for  the  possibilities of human experience was one of the chief merits of the Rennaisance humanists,  but they also were also sensitive to  the limits of human experience and knowledge. humility alone,  they argued,  how  their  limited  is  Human modesty and  should teach reflective Christians  ability  to  reach  unquestioned  Truth  44 unqualified Certainty over all matters of doctrine. “  The writings of the Renaissance humanists displayed an easy-going open-mindedness and skeptical tolerance that were dist inctive features of this new lay culture. Their ways of thinking were not subject to the demands of ecclesiastical duty and they regarded human affairs in a clear-headed, non-judgemental light.  or  41 2.2 Enlightenment Skepticism  Francis  Bacon  argued  length  at  that  material,  human  and  social progress had been retarded for centuries by false philos ophies that pandered to human credulity,  superstition and what he  called the “Idols of the Mind”. 45 The pervasiveness of the “Idols” and  the  all-too-human  tendencies  toward  intellectual  laziness,  credulity and fanaticism give plausibility to the skeptic’s argu ments  for the  fallibilism of  knowledge.  If Bacon had to choose  between the skeptic and the dogmatist, he would choose the former since the dogmatist curbs or conceals the doubts that are essential 46 Bacon’s solution to our predicament was the to genuine inquiry. cultivation  and  eventual  resolution  of  doubt  through  diligent  application of inductive procedures of inquiry and verification. The cognitive-ethical thrust of Bacon’s position is that genuine knowledge  and  the  prospects  it  holds  are  possible  only  if  his  standards and procedures for open-minded disciplined inquiry are adopted. To fail to do so, for people to indulge their credulities and cognitive inadequacies, would rob them of their promise for a  This lead to honest practical doubt about the value of “theory” for human experience whether in theology, natural philosophy, metaphysics, or ethics. In spirit, their critique was not hostile to the practise of religion, just so long as this was informed by a proper feeling for the limits of the practical and intellectual powers of human beings. These sixteenth century followers of clas sical skepticism never claimed to refute rival philosophical posi tions. Such views do not lend themselves either to proof or to refutation. Rather, what they had to offer was a new way of under standing human life and motives. Like Socrates, and Wittgenstein in our own time, they tried to show people how to avoid dogmatism and recognize how philosophical theories often overreach the limits of human rationality. -  “  Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, pp. 5-10,  46  Bacon, p. 41.  19-36.  42 satisfying intellectual life. For Bacon, the proper choice between dogmatic certainty and radical skepticism seemed clear. 2.3 Locke’s Ethics of Belief  The  tight  epistemological  connection  between  in modern western  the  thought  normative is  and  the  described by John  Passmore as follows: Modern philosophy was founded on the doctrine, uncompromisingly formulated by Descartes, that to think philosophically is to accept as true only that which recommends itself to Reason. To be unphilosophical, in contrast, is to be seduced by the enticements of Will, which beckons men beyond the boundaries laid down by Reason into the wilderness of error. In England, Locke had acclimatized this Cartesian ideal. There is “one unerring mark,” he wrote, “by which man may know whether he is a lover of truth for truth’s sake:” namely “the not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon will warrant.” Nineteenthcentury agnosticism reaffirmed this Lockean dictum, with 47 a striking degree of moral fervour. Locke’s normative principle of belief has been supported by H.H. Price, who has put it forward as a definition of rationality. Price states that “the degree of our assent to a proposition ought to be proportioned to the strength of the evidence for that prop osition.  ,,48  that assent has Locke’s two doctrines, then degrees, and that the degree of assent ought to be pro may easily portional to the strength of the evidence seem platitudinous. One would be happy to think that they are. For if they are false, our human condition must be both more miserable and more intellectually disreputable than we commonly suppose... It would be more miserable, because we so often need to be able to assent to proposi tions on evidence which is far less than conclusive; and therefore, we need to be able to assent to them with -  -  John Passmore 48  (1968), p.  95.  H.H. Price (1969), p. 131. This normative rule was also endorsed by Hume (1748), for example, who states that “a wise man.. .proportions his beliefs to the evidence.” (Enquiries Con cerning Human Understanding, Sec X, Part 1, p. 110.)  43 something far less than total or unreserved self-commit ment, if we are to have any guidance for our subsequent thoughts and actions... But... we do not always have to choose between an inert agnosticism a helpless “wait and see” attitude and a total and unreserved selfcommitment. When our evidence for a proposition, although not conclusive, is favourable, or favourable on balance when any unfavourable evidence there may be is taken into account, we can assent to that proposition with a limited degree of confidence; and we can then conduct our intel lectual and practical activities “in light of” the prop osition, though not without some doubt or mental reserva tion -  -  .  Any  degree of  belief  involves  the  elements  of  commitment,  responsibility,  and intellectual integrity. The degree of commit  ment may vary:  a belief held too  attitude of disregard,  strongly may bring with it an  though not complete disregard,  evidence which conflicts with the belief.  of alleged  One must remain open-  minded and open to counter-evidence. All beliefs ought to be based on evidence and the degree of commitment should be, Price have claimed, W.K.  Clifford,  as Hurne and  in proportion to that evidence. According to  who I will discuss in greater detail later,  what  counts as evidence for one person must be confirmable by any other person under similar circumstances.  Beliefs based upon personal  ized, internal Cartesian “intuitions” or “revelations” which cannot be publicly corroborated are highly suspect.  Moreover,  a priori  postulations of metaphysical entities which cannot be empirically  H.H. Price (1969), pp. 133, 155-56. Similar views were held by Bertrand Russell (1966) who states: “The true precept of verac ity which includes both the pursuit of truth and the avoidance of error is this: We ought to give every proposition which we consider as nearly as possible that degree of credence which is warranted by the probability it acquires from the evidence known to us” (p. 86). And W.V. Quine (1978) writes: “Insofar as we are rational in our beliefs, the intensity of belief will tend to correspond to the firmness of the available evidence. Insofar as we are rational, we will drop a belief when we have tried in vain to find evidence for it” (p. 16) .  .  .  44 verified or hypotheses which cannot be falsified are deemed intel lectually irresponsible. Karl Popper’s “falsifiability principle” is relevant here. A proposition is considered falsifiable if we can know what would have to happen, be happening or going to happen, in order to prove that the proposition or doctrine is not, after all,  ° Also, any kind of indeterminateness or vagueness in meaning 5 true. regarding metaphysical constructs were often, and is often intended to, disarm potential criticism and serious skeptical inquiry. But for those who, like Bertrand Russell’s “pedant”, having an aversion to self-contradiction, prefer their statements to be true, will not tolerate unfalsifiability or any other kind of obscurity and indif ference to truth. Russell, in making a point in one of his skepti cal arguments, claimed that one cannot prove that the universe was not created five minutes ago  -  but neither is there any evidence  for this claim. Similar points can be made concerning the hypoth esis of the existence of God.  According to Clifford,  anyone who  believes in a supreme deity does so on insufficient evidence and hence violates the  “ethics of belief” by displaying the vice of  credulity. If there is evidence for God’s existence, it is evidence which should be available to everyone and open to refutation. The  degree  of  supporting  evidence  needed  for  a  belief  is  clearly contingent upon the urgency and importance of the proposi tion under examination. As the stakes are pushed higher, one might want to examine more thoroughly the grounds for a certain belief. For example, hearsay evidence or the testimony of my neighbour may be sufficient for me to believe that the Canucks won the hockey  50  Karl Popper  (1963), Chapter I.  45 game last night, assent higher”  to  the  may be clearly deficient in determining my  propositions  “Moose  Pasture  “This mushroom is edible.”  and  conjecture  but  is  important,  it  is  clearly  Resources  is  going  If the subject matter or irresponsible to hold a  belief on slight evidence or in the face of unexpected contrary evidence. A person may be simply naive and gullible (or stupid) but it is the power of the skeptic’s intellectual scrutiny which can embarass and induce the awareness of his bewilderment, carelessness and dishonesty. The power of critical and constructive skepticism, as I will argue later, is its ability to suppress the propensity to credulity and in the force of its arguments against the claims of dogmatism. 2.4 Epistemic and Ethical Concepts  According to Aristotle,  both intellectual and moral virtues  are character traits but intelligence and wisdom are the supreme virtues, with ethics tied to knowledge and intelligence inseparably tied to ethics. Intellectual virtue helps one to select the correct goal, and intelligence to choose the correct means (Ethics, Book 6, Sec. 13). A reasonable virtue must be very closely connected with an ethical one,  and must interact with it. 0.5. Peirce,  in ref er  ring to our reasonings, our believing and concluding,  stated that  “we have here all the main elements of moral conduct;  the general  standard mentally conceived beforehand, the efficient agency in the inward nature, the act, the standard.  ‘‘  the subsequent comparison of the act with  Peirce further asserts that “what is more wholesome  than any particular belief  ‘  is  integrity of belief,..,  quoted in R. Chishoim (1966),  p. 225.  to avoid  46 looking into the support of any belief from fear that it may turn out rotten is quite as immoral as it is disadvantageous.” 52 In contemporary twentieth century philosophy the connection between  ethical  and epistemic  terms has been discussed at  some  length. A.J. Ayer defines knowledge as including “the right to be 53 He writes of sure.”  “being entitled”  being  someone’s  54 true,  and  of  to talk about  “right  to  reproach  some thing me”  epistemic credentials do not meet certain standards. 55 refers  to  the  “sense  in which  cognitive  rightness  C.I.  is  if  my  Lewis  itself  a  moral concern” 56 and any belief which explicitly or implicitly has the character of inferred conclusion  any belief which is such  -  that the test of its correctness will “involve test of some infer ence implicit in it”  -  is either “justified, warranted and right”  or “unjustified and wrong.  One is naturally assuming, of couse,  that the belief is within the subject’s control. As Lewis states later,  “the subject must have no reason to be unjustified and non-  rational  or  58 irrational.”  Roderick  Chishoim  has  noted  that  epistemic reasoning and discourse are very much like ethical rea soning and discourse and makes the strong claim that  “when a man  fails to conform to the ethics of belief he is ipso facto, behaving  52  C• S.  Peirce  (1877),  in P.P. Wiener,  A.J. Ayer (1956), p. 31. Ayer, p. 22. Ayer, p. 56  58  17.  C.I. Lewis  (1969), p.  C.i. Lewis  (1955), p. 27.  Lewis  163.  (1955), pp. 88—89.  ed., p. ill.  47 59 He believes that many characteristics that philos irrationally.” ophers  “have thought peculiar to ethical statements also hold of  epistemic statements” ° and that “presuppositions of the theory of 6 evidence are analogous,  in fundamental respects,  to the presuppo  sitions of ethics.” ’ Chisholm does not, in other words, attempt to 6 conflate epistemic principles with ethical principles or to reduce the former to the latter,  but points out that there are similar  ities in the process of justification. 62 One might ask, for example, whether it is ethical to believe anything, not harm anyone. Alvin Goldman least in part,  John McDowell  (1979),  (1986), and Lorraine Code  provided that it does  Ernest  Sosa  (1980,1985),  (1987) have held that, at  epistemology should be thought of as an account of  the intellectual virtues and, not unlike Chisholm,  that there are  important similarities between epistemic and moral evaluation. Code establishes  connections  between  intellectual  virtue,  epistemic  responsibility and wisdom where wisdom “has to do with knowing how best to go about substantiating beliefs and knowledge claims, where 63 This process best means with intellectual honesty and due care.” of justification involves  “a willingness to let things speak for  themselves, a kind of humility toward the experienced world.” 64  Roderick Chisholm (1966), p. 227. 60  R. Chishoim (1969), p. 4.  61  R. Chishoim (1980) “A Version of Foundationalism” in Midwest Studies in Philosophy V 62  Hilary Kornblith (1983) has stated that “questions of jus tification are.. .questions about the ethics of belief.” (p. 34) 63  Lorraine Code  64  Code  (1987), p.  (1987), p. 20.  53.  48 2.5 W.K. Clifford’s Ethics of Belief  The motivation and inspiration for this thesis has come from many sources which include the influence of Bertrand Russell and twenty-five years experience teaching senior high-school Mathemat ics, but W.K. Clifford’s perspicuous and incisive essay “The Ethics of Belief”  (1877) provided the major impetus for me. W.K. Clifford  (1845-1879), English mathematician and philosopher, was a brilliant student at Cambridge who, in his very short life 65 became a distin guished professor (he was elected fellow of Trinity College at the age of 23), public lecturer, member the London Mathematical Society as well as the most prestigious intellectual society of the day, the Metaphysical Society.  Clifford’s examination of the basis of  belief in the natural sciences led him to a more general analysis of belief. In fact, it was this general analysis of belief and the agnostic and humanistic conclusion to which it  led that induced  vehement opposition on the part of William James in his essay,  “The  Will to Believe.” Clifford argues that the survival of civilization itself depends upon the habit of forming only justified beliefs. Credulity, the propensity to hold unjustified beliefs, he asserts, threatens the very foundations of society  -  “the credulous man is  66 He ultimately concluded the father to the liar and the cheat.u that  “it is wrong always,  everywhere,  and for anyone,  to believe  anything on insufficient evidence.” 67  65  Clifford contracted tuberculosis but eventually lost the battle with the disease and died on March 8, 1879. 66  W.K. Clifford (1877). Lectures and Essays, Vol. 2, 3rd Edi tion (1901), p. 174. 67  Clifford, p. 175.  49 In  order  to make  his  point  and  secure  this  unconditional  imperative within the context of real-life events, Clifford tells several stories. One of these concerns the owner of an unseaworthy emigrant  ship.  He laid all anxieties aside by ignoring contrary  evidence in order to believe in the ship’s seaworthiness. He then authorized the voyage and collected the insurance when the vessel went down.  Clifford declares that the shipowner “had no right to  believe on such evidence as was before him” 68 and that, even if the ship had returned safely, jot.  ii  his guilt would be diminished “not one  69  When an action is once done, it is right or wrong forever; no accidental failure of its good or evil fruits can possibly alter that... The question of right or wrong has to do with the origin of his belief, not the matter of it; not what it was, but how he got it; not whether it. turned out to be true or false, but whether he had a right to believe on such evidence as was before him. ° 7 Hence,  the shipowner is open to censure not merely because of what  he did and its consequences,  but  also because of  the manner in  which he arrived at the belief upon which his action was based. The action itself is immoral, but the belief is epistemically irrespon sible and morally reprehensible because  “it  is  not  possible to  sever the belief from the action.” 71 According to Clifford there are normative imperatives for the proper  formation of our beliefs  just  as  there can be normative  requirements for control of our actions. These imperatives might be  68  Clifford, p.  164.  69  Clifford, p.  164.  °  Clifford, pp. 164—65.  71  Clifford, p. 168.  50 deemed duties to oneself  -  moral action done in accordance with  beliefs formed for good reasons and not merely prudential or self serving reasons. An action is not considered moral if done uninten tionally or for self-interested reasons. Beliefs affect actions in so far as they embody expectations about what the results of these actions  will  or would  be.  Although  our  democratic  freedoms  of  thought and expression prohibit it, Clifford might be thinking of why we punish a person for his irrational behaviour,  yet do not  punish  things  him  for  his  irrational  beliefs.  If  certain  are  believed to be true, it is considered rational to act in a certain way,  but  thinking and action  are  considered mutually exclusive  entities by our system of justice. One can believe what one wants provided it does not  spill over into action.  Nevertheless,  the  shipowner is unethical because his unwarranted belief in the ship’s seaworthiness was motivated by his selfishness and self-deception. It was Adlai Stevenson,  I believe,  who once said that  “we judge  others by their acts, but we judge ourselves by our motives.” For example,  a person would be judged a saint for saving a drowning  child even if his private motive for doing so was to engage in some aerobic exercise. If the ship had not gone down, the shipowner, as Clifford has argued, would still be guilty because of his unworthy motives. The shipowner distorted evidence and engaged in rational ization and self-deception in order to arrive at conclusions which were more self-serving and congenial to him. Clifford’s story of the shipowner reminds me of the 1948 movie All my Sons,  in which a young man, played by Burt Lancaster,  covers that his father  dis  (played by Edward G. Robinson) was respon  sible for his company’s shipment of defective aircraft parts to the  51 U.S. Air Force, resulting in 21 deaths. The son initially succumbs to rationalization and refuses to accept evidence of his father’s guilt because he is blinded by his affections, sense of commitment and  familial  attachment.  This  trust  relationships often rules out evidence,  and  commitment  intimate  of  strict conformity to the rules of  but surely this does not mean that love and friendship  should permit us to slide into a reckless and arbitrary flight from rationality and truth.  Was  it  it Tolstoy who once said that  better to be deceived than to be skeptical?  is  Surely this is bad  advice on a used car lot or when listening to the appeals of poli ticians during an election campaign, yet it does seem to represent a  sound prima of  spite  the  facie maxim for love and friendship. emotional bonds  father’s innocence,  and the  “will  However,  to believe”  in  in his  the son conducted his own investigation into  the matter and came to the inescapable conclusion that his father was guilty, that “...he lied to himself and he doesn’t know  -  he’s  got to see it and be his own judge. There are some things that are bigger  than yourself  and your  family.”  It  is  clear  that  this  “bigger thing” is the truth, and the truth, at least in this story, does eventually prevail. A more recent true story is the case of Christine Lamont and David Spencer who were charged with kidnapping a San Paulo millionaire and subsequently sentenced to 28 years in a Brazilian jail.  In  spite of  their conviction and more recent  compelling evidence of their guilt,  the parents of both of these  young people remain convinced of their innocence. Lorraine Code above,  (1982,1987) provides an example similar to the  telling the true story of Philip Gosse, who falsified his  scientific discoveries because they conflicted with his deeply held  52 religious beliefs.  Gosse was  a nineteenth-century biologist who  “chose to discount the findings of the new biology because of their incompatibility with his belief in the literal truth of the cre ation story as set forth in the Book of Genesis.” 72  Gosse accepted  the conclusion which Archbishop Usher had arrived at from his study of the chronology of the Old Testament, that the world was created in 4004 B.C. In order to get around the difficulty of the conflict between Usher’s analysis of the Genesis account and his scientific findings,  he maintained that God had indeed created the world in  4004 B.C., but filled it with delusive signs of a much older world in order to test peoples’s faith! The strength of the geological evidence, he argued, was proportional to the extent that the Deity was prepared to go in carrying out  this test!  Even if we allow  Gosse’s postulation of a Creator and a beginning in time, there is no way of  refuting his position.  Any  evidence which geologists  uncover can be assimilated and explained away by his “theory.” But if the findings of science are to be accepted in other fields,  it  seems hardly plausible to assume that its laws break down just at that point.  Gosse’s  failing resulted from his  disinclination or  inability to modify his beliefs when the evidence available to him indicated that he ought to do so. Code describes Gosse as a man who is “quite unaware of his own dogmatism” which led to a “failure of integrity, sense,  wisdom,  Gosse’s  and  epistemic  failure was a  72  73 responsibility.”  failure of judgement.  In  another  Inquirers of  Lorraine Code (1987), p. 17. Code’s account of Phillip Gosse relies heavily on the book authored by his son, Edmund Gosse, Father and Son (Harmondsworth, Middlessex: Penguin, 1970). ‘  Code  (1987), p. 23.  53  good epistemic character attempt to arrive at sound judgements by exercising  their  discretion  appropriately  in  seeking  assessing the worth of both evidence and counter-evidence. contemporary physicists with a  “spiritual view”  of  and  out  Some  the universe  have distorted the Big Bang theory to argue for the existence of God. What would be impressive however, as Robert Nozick has pointed out, the  is some physicist being forced to conclude by the weight of evidence,  but  contrary  his  to  own personal  preconceptions,  biases and desires that the universe is strictly materialist, that “the universe is at base spiritual.” 74 Phillip literature defend  Gosse’s  failing  cognitive  as  oneself  by  is  explained  dissonance  means  of  a  -  in  the  psychological  propensity  a  distortion  and  to  actively  denial  of  disconfirmatory evidence against deeply held beliefs. An important study conducted by C.D.  Batson showed that  “a person confronted  with irrefutable disconfirmation of a personally significant belief will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truths of his belief than before.” 75 Subjects in the study who  both  expressed  disconfirming  belief  information  and  accepted  subsequently  the  veracity  expressed  a  of  the  significant  increase in the intensity of the belief. Cognitive dissonance,  it  would seem, is possibly a function of tenacious beliefs which have been acquired by some process of indoctrination, a matter which I will deal with later. 2.6 Clifford’s Normative Epistemology: Evidence  Robert Nozick (1993), pp. 101—102. C.D. Batson (1975), p.  179.  54 By holding that a certain way of proceeding with respect to one’s  beliefs  is  “wrong”  (but  not  in  the  sense  that  a  certain  algebraic procedure is wrong), it is clear that Clifford is propos ing a moral thesis or principle.  He maintains that believing on  insufficient evidence leads to a variety of harmful consequences which  include  confidence,  depravation  of  character,  irresponsibility and  of  undermining  self-deception.  public  Sufficiency of  evidence is put forward by Clifford as a necessary condition of the legitimacy of belief or, at least, an insufficiency of evidence is a sufficient condition for the immorality of belief.  But what is  the sufficient condition for a morally sound belief? For an ethics of belief to be tenable, function  only of  it must be determined whether it  evidence,  and if  so,  under what  is a  conditions  is  evidence sufficient and the grounds adequate to affirm a belief? There are no  clear-cut  rules  that we can assume a priori  depends partly on the context of inquiry,  -  it  the unique facts of the  case and whether the relevant reasons adduced to support a conjec ture or theory are considered to be sufficient. Clifford’s moral argument for basing belief only on epistemic reasons is,  in a sense,  ironic. His reason for not accepting bene  ficial reasons in justifying belief is ostensibly based on one type of beneficial reason  -  the undesirable moral consequences of doing  so. Perhaps Clifford should have argued that there is a free-stand ing  epistemological  obligation  to base  one’s  beliefs  on purely  epistemic reasons. He could have argued that there is a prima facie epistemic duty to believe what appears to be true in the light of the evidence and, moreover,  there are general beneficial reasons  for believing only what is implied by the evidence. This creates a  55 strong presumption that one should only believe something is true on the basis of epistemic reasons. In addition, there is a presunip tion that beneficial reasons will only be used when there are no epistemic reasons for disbelief. In other words, beneficial reasons may be invoked to decide whether to believe some proposition p or to believe —p when there are equally strong epistemic reasons for p and —p. shortly)  Although there are circumstances in which this presumption can be  uncommon. Hence,  (which I will discuss they are  overridden,  there is both a moral duty and an epistemic duty  not to believe something on insufficient evidence unless there are good epistemic reasons to believe them. Bertrand  Russell  has  a  belief  prescription  might  that  thought of as a mitigated version of Clif fords’, namely,  be  “that it  is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever  for  supposing  it  76 true.”  Russell’s  precept  is  less  restrictive, for it says when there is “no ground whatever,” where as Clifford extends his prescription more aggressively to “insuff i cient evidence,” suggesting disbelief when the grounds are inade quate. Russell’s imperative, however,  seems so persuasive that no  rational person would deny it. It is difficult to imagine a belief for which one has no clues or indications whatsoever,  not even a  trace of evidence. But there do seem to be some things that we are justified in believing,  such as free will and causation which are  not a direct function of “evidence”. We are quite justified on some occasions  in taking action based on beliefs  have sufficient evidence. William James  76  Bertrand Russell  (l962b), p. 11.  for which we cannot  is right when he claims  56 that “our personal nature not only lawfully may, but must decide an option between propositions, whenever it is a genuine option that cannot be decided on intellectual grounds.” 77 In other words, important  decisions  can be made on clearly  applied to objective,  maxims  Moreover,  few  formulated rules  or  fully verified empirical evidence.  it does seem to me that there are some beliefs we are  morally obliged to hold even though we do not have sufficient evi dence on which to base them.  there appear to be  In other words,  weak epistemic or non-epistemic occasions for believing of  faith that  someone  -  a manner  is morally acceptable in the sense that we extend  “the benefit of the doubt”  in the absence of conclusive  evidence. It is reasonable in science,  for example, to give tenta  tive assent to a hypothesis that is only plausible, yet lacking in evidential support and in social contexts to trust others before there is sufficient evidence that trust is justified since trust is necessary for cooperation. Giving the other person the benefit of the doubt can help one avoid bias in making moral judgements and is consistent with openmindedness.  For  example,  a  wife  might  feel  that  believe that her husband did not cheat on her,  she  ought  to  or a person might  feel that she ought to continue to trust a life-long friend who she suspects may have betrayed her  even in the face of what may be  -  considered adequate evidence to the contrary. Also, one could argue that  the  content  of  a  belief  might  against the evidence. For example, value  of  such research,  suppose  morally  justify  believing  although one must question the that  there  is  found compelling  William James (1897) “The Will to Believe.” in Praqmatism and Other Essays, 1963, p. 200.  57 evidence to support a claim for racial superiority? I think there are certainly cases,  like the ones just mentioned,  in which value  considerations should impact upon beliefs which are justified by purely factual evidence. Hence, rather than our usual philosophical concern over whether factual statements can justify value state ments (the proverbial Humean  “no  ought can be derived from an is”),  we might then legitimately ask whether or not value considerations can help justify beliefs about purely factual matters (can an “is” be derived from an “ought”?) “can”,  78  If we accept that  “ought”  implies  then perhaps Clifford has no business telling us that we  ought to believe only on the basis of sufficient evidence unless he takes belief to be,  in some sense, a voluntary matter.  I think it  was Kant who stated somewhere in The Metaphysics of Morals that we have no obligation to believe anything.  If I understand him cor  rectly, Kant claimed that one has the right to believe (but not to “know”) that God, soul, immortality, justice and freedom exist, not as metaphysical necessities, but as pragmatic moral necessities. We have  the right  to  consider these notions  truths if doing so will make us better,  as  synthetic a priori  more successful people.  Kant’s position on this issue is not unlike that of William James, who I will deal with in the next chapter. There are instances in which it could be argued, on practical or psychological grounds, that one should act as if one believed a proposition, even without sufficient evidence. For example, suppose that I have won only 20% of my tennis matches against Ralph. I am playing him on Saturday morning and based on the evidence before 78  But one must be careful about inferences such as: to believe in X, therefore X is the case.”  “I ought  58 me,  I ought to believe that I will lose. However, believing that I  will win (i.e., believing against the evidence) increases my conf i  dence and hence creates evidence in favour of my winning the match. These psychological devices, “mind over matter”  can be  “the power of positive thinking” and useful,  as many  self-help  gurus  and  religious zealots have demonstrated. As William James has stated, “faith in a fact can help create the fact.” 79 Someone seriously ill, for example,  could justify his belief in recovery on the basis of  the salutary psychological or pragmatic causal effects of his  (1)  belief  that  he  will  recover  and,  (2)  his  physician’s  diag  nosis/prognosis and laboratory tests. But surely only (2), and not (1), is epistemically relevant to the question of whether or not he will  likely recover from the illness.  asked, however,  The question that must be  is: when do these mechanisms spill over into exe  rcises in self-deception and neurotic vanity? If a person wants to be reasonable and realistic about his projects, beliefs,  then fantasy,  relationships and  illusion and self-deception must be sup  pressed as much as is humanly possible. Akrasia is often a function of one’s failure to confront the claims of reason and one’s fear of facing the truth. Should I believe that I can defeat Pete Sampras or Stefan Edberg at tennis? Hardly! Eamon Callan views incontinent behaviour  -  such as akrasia, self-deception and wishful thinking  -  as dispositional, a function of the failure of intellectual auton omy and an unwillingness to face the “real world as it is.” What often causes confusion in this area is a ten dency to drive a sharp wedge between the things we choose and the things which “simply” happen to us. It does not make much sense to say that one chose to believe such and ‘  William James  (1897), p. 209.  59 such, but neither does it make much sense to say that a person’s beliefs or feelings are given facts about him in the sense that his mortality is. For what one comes to believe and feel is immensely influenced by how one chooses to direct one’s mental energies. One can decide to face disagreeable facts or engage in wish-fulfilling fantasies instead; one can passively indulge hankerings for what one has come to see (or what one should see) as futile, imprudent or evil, or else one can focus one’s attention on how to live in the real world one find oneself in. 80 2.7 Clifford’s Normative Epistemology: Responsibility  How and what one comes to believe, Clifford argues,  involves  not only an important obligation to oneself, but entails a respon sibility to the rest of society. This manifests itself in two ways. First, although some beliefs are not actively demonstrated, perhaps because of their insignificance, others because of their expression would be in some way inimical, threatening or embarrassing to both the believer and society.  However,  Clifford does not accept the  view  such  religious  that  some  beliefs,  epistemically entitled.  as  beliefs,  are  thus  The reason he gives is that to hold such  beliefs, no matter how trivial, disposes the mind to accept others like it and leads to a reckless self-perpetuating attitude toward truth itself. ’ Vulnerability to bad arguments in one domain, 8  for  example, may open the door to being manipulated in another domain. No real belief, however trifling and fragmentary it may seem, is never truly insignificant; it prepares us to receive more of its like, confirms those which resembled it before, and weakens others; and so gradually it lays a stealthy train in our inmost thoughts, which may some day explode into overt action, and leave its stamp on our character for ever... Every time we let ourselves believe for unworthy reasons, we weaken our powers of self-con 80 81  Eamon Callan (1984), p. 71.  This point will be reinforced later when I discuss the dispositional requirements for skepticism, critical thinking and belief.  60 trol, of doubting, of judicially and fairly weighing evidence. But a greater and wider evil arises when the credulous character is maintained and supported, when a habit of believing for unworthy reasons is fostered and made permanent. 82 The claim made here is that to deplore the communication of false beliefs is to assume that it is imprudent and immoral to believe what is not true. Generally speaking, facie assumption, correct. death,  but,  it  could be  There are some things,  this is a reasonable prima argued,  is  not  universally  such as the precise date of our  of which we would rather not know the truth.  The general  principle that true belief is beneficial rests to a large extent on the dual notions that truth has intrinsic value and the fact that most of what we do is not done for its own sake but as a means to some further desired or chosen end. not  only are  the  actions  beliefs harmful to others,  I  Second,  am led to by  Clifford argues that false or unreasonable  so is the possession and dissemination  of false or unreasonable beliefs by them. For teachers, this dictum has important implications. if I let myself believe anything on insufficient evi dence, there may be no great harm done by the mere belief; it may be true after all, or I may never have occasion to exhibit it in outward acts. But I cannot help doing great wrong towards Man, that I make myself credu lous. .and lose the habit of testing things and inquiring into them. The harm which is done by credulity in a man is not confined to the fostering of a credulous character in others, and consequent support of false beliefs. Habitual want of care about what I believe leads to habitual want of care in others about the truth of what is told to me. Men speak the truth to one another when each reveres the truth in his own mind and in the other’s mind, but how shall my friend revere the truth in my mind when I myself am careless about it, when I believe things because I want to believe them, and because they are .  .  82  .  Clifford, pp. 169,  173.  61 comforting and pleasant? Hence,  83  faulty reasoning  one of the prices one pays for credulity,  and unwarranted beliefs is the familiar problem of the slippery slope. How do we prevent the occasional acceptance of a belief on unsubstantial or flimsy evidence from influencing our habits of thought more  generally?  Thinking  straight  about  the world is  a  valuable, yet difficult, process that must be rigorously cultivated and  fostered.  By attempting to  turn our rational  faculties  and  critical intelligence on and off at will, we risk losing it alto gether, and this impairs or endangers our ability to see the world clearly and truthfully. Moreover, by failing to fully develop our critical  faculties,  particularly  the  will  to  doubt,  we  become  vulnerable to the arguments and exhortations of those with other than honourable intentions.  And as  Stephen Jay Gould has noted,  “When people learn no tools of judgement and merely follow their hopes,  84 the seeds of political manipulation are sown.”  2.8 Clifford’s Normative Epistemology: Authority  Clifford’s concern for the ethics of belief contains two moral elements: the first is expressed in the language of ethical obliga tion  (one  ought  not  to  believe  on  insufficient  evidence);  the  second is expressed in the language of intellectual or epistemic virtues and vices (reverence for the truth, persistent care regard ing one’s believing, avoiding credulity). I will discuss these two elements later, but it should be stated that the proper examination of these two normative components of belief would involve a thor  83  Clifford, pp. 173-74.  84  Stephen J. Gould (1987), p. 245.  62 ough philosophical analysis of the relevant epistemic and moral concepts which far exceeds the scope of this thesis.(I will, how ever, later discuss at some length the notions of truth and objec tivity.)  Clifford ventures some distance into these areas in the  latter half of his essay, pointing out the fallibility and limits of inductive inference, the necessity for “the assumption of a uni formity in nature”, and the fact that, in dealing with our everyday needs and circumstances, we find that we must act on inconclusive evidence  and probabilities.  In order  to avoid slipping  into an  undesirable state of universal skepticism, he states that there are many cases in which it is our duty to act upon probabilities, although the evidence is not such as to justify present belief; because it is precisely by such action and by observation of its fruits, that evi dence is got which may justify future belief. So that we have no reason to fear lest a habit of conscientious inquiry should paralyse the actions of our daily life. 85 Clifford admits that the majority of what we believe and claim to know results  from the acceptance of  testimony and appeal  to  authorities. But why is it rational ever to accept anything another person tells you? He states that our acceptance of authority is contingent upon three factors, his veracity, his knowledge and his  judgement. In what cases, then let us ask in the first place, is the testimony of a man unworthy of belief? He may say that which is untrue either knowingly or unknowingly. In the first case he is lying, and his moral character is to blame; in the second case he is ignorant or mistaken, and it is only his knowledge or his judgement which is in fault. In order that we may have the right to accept his testimony as grounds for believing what he says, we must have reasonable grounds for trusting his veracity, that he is really trying to speak the truth so far as he knows it; his knowledge, that he has had opportunities of knowing the truth about this matter; and his judgenient, 85  Clifford, pp. 177—78.  63 that he has made proper use of the opportunities 86 coming to the conclusion which he af firms.  in  In other words, most of the time we cannot directly examine the evidence for a belief and we must accede to the testimony of an (e.g., my belief that there is a  authority or so-called “expert”  country called Japan where I have never been>.  This second order  inquiry, which is parasitic upon other people’s inquiries,  is how  most of our knowledge is acquired. But this does not mean that we abdicate our epistemic autonomy and intellectual responsibility. The deference to -expert opinion requires rational critical thought. Clifford insists (i.e.,  Hence,  in evaluating the testimony of another,  that we ask three questions:  he usually  does  judgement and  tell  the  truth?),  (2)  (1) Is  Is he moral? he a  reliable  (3) Did he arrive at the conclusions using the accept  source? and,  able methods of inquiry? One might be reluctant to judge as intel lectually virtuous a teacher,  for example,  who is epistemically  responsible in professional matters but is dogmatic or credulous in private life. Moreover, a person’s testimony gains in credibility insofar as that person has nothing substantial to gain by being believed, and perhaps even something to lose. It should be pointed out, however, that it is fallacious to assume that an assertion should be dis missed as because it  false,  or an argument  discredited as  is uttered or presented by,  unsound,  simply  an interested party.  But  that a statement is uttered or an argument presented “by someone who  is  in a position  deceive us, 86  to know,  and has  no motive  for trying to  is for us, who are not in a position to know, better  Clifford, p. 178.  64 evidence for believing that it is true than the same assertion” [or argument]  “made by someone in an equally good position to know, but  with opposite  The  of  arguments  many postmodernist  neo-pragmatists and proponents of the sociology of  philosophers, knowledge  87 interests.”  are  fallacious  (and self-refuting>  in  this  way.  They  argue that there cannot be any objective standards of rationality  interests,  distorted and rendered relative by vested  truth is  because all  gender,  or  ideological  desire for power and domination, etc. arguments later in this thesis.)  frameworks,  cultural  and the  (I will be dealing with these they do make one good  However,  point: one who is “in authority” is not necessarily “an authority”. “One of the most important and difficult steps in learning who can be  trusted  is  realizing  that  authority  cannot  create  88 truth.”  Students must learn to judge what and who are worthy and reliable sources of knowledge.  We should value testimony only from those  persons who have demonstrated reliability,  intellectual honesty,  critical inquiry, a cool and judicious skepticism, and who encour age others to question their claims. 2.9 Primitive Credulity and Suspension of Judgement To learn to distinguish the plausible from the implausible is to develop one part of wisdom; toward true belief.  it leads as well as anything can  David Hurne developed principles of rational  criticism and laid down important standards for separating wisdom “love of wonder and  from credulity,  which he referred to as the  suprise” and  the strong propensity of mankind to the extraordi  “...  87  Antony Flew (1975),  88  Lorraine Code  Thinking About Thinking, p.  (1987), p. 248.  62.  65 nary and marvelous.” 89 H.H. Price, echoing C.S. Peirce, states that “the natural  tendency of  the human mind is  to believe any idea  which comes before it, unless and until that idea is contradicted directly calls  and obviously by  “primitive  sense  credulity.”  In  tendency” and hold it in check,  90 This experience.” order  to  counter  tendency he  this  “natural  Price states that  The power of suspending judgement, of asking ques tions and weighing evidence, the power on which reason able assent depends, is not something we possess from the beginning. It is an achievement, which has to be learned, often painfully. To put it in another way: the attitude of “being objective” about a proposition which comes before one’s mind and assenting to it only with the degree of confidence which is warranted by the evidence, and of suspending judgement unless and until these condi tions are fulfilled this attitude is something which “goes against the grain” of our natural tendencies. We have to acquire this attitude of being “objective” and impartial, much as we have to acquire the power of con trolling our instinctive desires. ’ 9 -  The “suspension of judgement” is an option that Clifford does not seem to consider. He feels that we must find the threshold between belief and disbelief and decide one way or the other. Insofar as a person’s ends are epistemic, believing,  disbelieving  or  believing a sentence false, sentence  false is  one really has only three options suspension i.e.,  of  belief.  a case of belief.  to believe the negation of  the  Disbelief  -  is  To believe a sentence.  For  example, to disbelieve in clairvoyance is to believe that clairvoy ance is false. Suspension of judgement could be construed as unbe lief or non-belief, i.e., neither believing a sentence nor believ  89  David Hume  °  Price, p. 213.  ‘  Price, p. 214.  (1748), Enquiries,  Sec. X, part 1, pp. 117-118.  66 ing it truth,  92 Although one could perhaps argue false.  for degrees of  it sounds odd to make a statement such as “I believe that P  is fairly true”, but reasonable to say “I believe that Q is prob ably true.”  So when there exists some doubt or if the supporting  evidence for what we are asserting is inconclusive, it surely makes sense to say “I am inclined to believe Q.” It should be noted that a person must be as responsible in her disbelief as in her claim to believe or to know and often suspension of judgement, pending fur ther evidence,  92  is the most responsible alternative.  Quine & Ulliam (1978), p.  12—13.  67 Beliefs are about the world and their truth determined by it, not by us: that the fit is of belief to the world, not the world to belief. Michael Stocker -  (3) BELIEF, PRAGMATISM AND TRUTH 3.1 The Concept of Belief  Belief is not an activity, but a cognitive state of mind. Some beliefs are mutable, while others endure. state like an emotion or desire,  It is not an affective  but a disposition to respond or  act in certain ways when the appropriate situation arises. 93 Many people are disposed to credulity, a tendency to be easily deceived  and  insufficient  to  accept  evidence.  propositions Credulity  is  too a  readily  or  second-order  on weak  or  disposition  about how we arrive at beliefs and is a disposition which can lead to subjectivity.  Credulity is displayed in unqualified assent to  propositions or belief in propositions which are not sufficiently For Gilbert Ryle, it is a mistake to think of a belief as any kind of private mental state, activity or occurrence. Beliefs are dispositions, whereas knowledge is more akin to an ability. According to Ryle’s account in The Concept of Mind (1949), a person has a disposition if he is inclined to speak and behave in a par ticular way. In light of the limitations of this thesis, I shall sidestep the difficult analysis of the concept of belief and follow the lead of Ryle and H. H. Price. Price (1969) states that “A believes that P” is to attribute a multiform disposition to A which is manifested or actualized in many different ways: not only in actions but in emotional states, feelings of doubt, surprise, confidence, and inferences. Wittgenstein argues that we do not acquire our beliefs by being dragged and screaming, as it were, out of skepticism (skeptics are made, not born). Nor do we carefully weigh the evidence of every proposition recommended to us. Rather, our culture teaches us to organize our experience in certain ways by giving us conceptions, rules of use, names, and so on. We acquire a picture of the world; that is, a loosely connected net work of propositions in which the consequences and premises are mutually supporting. (Wittgenstein, On Certainty, p. 21.) It is against this background that doubt arises, either because what we expect is contradicted by our experiences in the world, or because we find ourselves entertaining propositions that are, or whose consequences are, contradictory. In other words, we begin by belie ving and we must have grounds for skepticism. Clifford would argue that it should be the opposite.  68 grounded to justify belief in them. Credulity may be a function of a natural  ignorance or an uncritical insensitivity in assessing  evidence.  It may result from a readiness to accept the prescrip  tions of authority or preeminence, submissive or acquiescent per sonality or mental self-manipulation, self-indulgence or intellec tual sentimentality. We often try to convince people to believe things (“Believe in God and you will have everlasting life.”)  or implore them not to  (“How can you believe in astrology?”), and although believing would hardly make sense if it were not a matter of decision, it cannot be construed as an action. It is characteristic of both believing and actions that they can be easy or hard and that we provide reasons for them.  But if believing was an activity or exercise,  when it  ceased to occur we would stop believing. For example it makes sense to say that “I will play tennis, but not right now” but it does not make sense to say III will believe that Clyde won the match, but not right now”. It is generally accepted that believing is easy, and knowing is  hard.  It  takes  something  more  to  know  because  knowledge  requires, besides mere belief, some reliable coordination of inte rnal belief with external  reality.  whether a belief is true or false,  If one  takes no  thought  reliable or unreliable,  believing itself is simply an arbitrary game with no rules of  mental  helter  skelter.  Knowing  is  hard,  but  the  -  for then  a sort  cognitive  demands of believing should not be child’s play either. To speak of simply deciding to believe something, independently of any reasons real  or  imagined,  is  to  stretch  the  notion  of  “belief”  beyond  belief. After all, is not care in managing our beliefs exactly what  69 the study of Suppose,  reasoning and philosophy is  supposed to  teach us?  for example, you will be granted a billion dollars by the  richest man in the world if you believe in the Tooth Fairy and disbelieve in gravitation.  Also,  suppose that this rich man has  special telepathic powers in which he can decipher the contents of your mind and ascertain what you “really” believe. Is it possible for belief to be an act of the will in this way? I do not think so. To believe in the Tooth Fairy and reject gravitational theory, person  is  going  to  have  to  make  serious  modifications  to  a  the  remainder of his belief system and come to believe a whole range of other propositions that will become epistemically irrational for him. The nature of belief prevents this since belief surely cannot be a simple non-epistemic act of the will, although this hypothesis is rejected by those who speak of a “leap of faith.” Is it possible for us to believe something while holding there is no more reason to believe it than its contrary? Is the notion of a leap of faith psychologically intelligible at all? These are difficult questions. Moreover, since a leap of faith can be made to any one of an inf i nite number of metaphysical positions, what criteria are to be used in the process of selection? I am not suggesting, however, that all beliefs are in fact epistemically justified since many beliefs are conditioned responses and a function of habit, or perhaps the prod uct of a doctrinaire upbringing. It could be argued, however, that all beliefs grounded in authority are to some extent a function of “faith,” particularly if there is some element of risk in acting on those beliefs or putting them into practice. For example, it would seem odd to say that one has faith that  “2÷3=3+2” or that “the sun  will rise tomorrow” but quite sensible to say that “I have faith in  70 Allah and the tenets of the Koran.”  Faith is,  it would appear,  a  species of belief and it makes sense to speak of a credulous or “blind faith”  (e.g.,  “The Lord will provide” or “My Country, right  or wrong”) and a rational faith (e.g., ian’s diagnosis of a peptic ulcer”  “I have faith in my physic  ).  “Blind faith”  can justify  anything but “rational faith”, or perhaps “trust” would be a better word, must have some significant degree of evidential support. 3.2 Belief and Truth  Belief is not independent of truth since:  (1) what is believed  must either be true or false (since the formal object of belief is always a proposition), and (2) what is believed, even if it happens to be false,  is believed to be true.  If we value the truth,  “psychological” assent to a proposition, determining whether or not it is true, intellectual  integrity.  I  have  also  then  without a commitment to comes at a heavy cost to  suggested  in  the  previous  section that the concept of belief as construed as an act of the will is problematic. If the object of belief is truth,  then  If I could acquire a belief at will, I could not acquire it not knowing whether it was true or not; more over I would know that I could acquire it whether it was true or not. If in full consciousness I could will to acquire a “belief” irrespective of its truth, it is unclear that before the event I could seriously think of it as a belief, i.e., something purporting to represent 94 reality. It could be said that an increase or decrease in knowledge is an  increase  or  decrease  in  its  extent,  whereas  sometimes  an  increase or decrease in a belief is an increase or decrease in its intensity.  But the intensity of a belief cannot be counted on to  Bernard Williams  (1973), p. 148.  71 reflect its supporting evidence any more than its causes can. 95 One obvious  test  of  evidence  is  this:  “would it  still  be  taken to  support the belief if we stripped away all motives for wanting the belief to be true?” 96 As Clifford has stated: The fact that believers have found joy and peace in believing gives us the right to say that the doctrine is 1 and pleasant to the soul; but it a comfortable doctrine does not give us the right to say that it is true. And the question which our conscience is always asking about that which we are tempted to believe is not, “Is it comfortable and pleasant?” but, “Is it true?” 97 Many  beliefs  are,  of  course,  a  function  of  a  process  of  rationalization, wishful thinking or self-deception and it remains an open question as  to whether all  wrong. Nevertheless,  “to maintain any belief while dismissing, or  those processes  are morally  refusing to give due weight to, reasonable and relevant objections, is to show that you are more concerned to maintain that belief than really to know whether it or some other is, I have pointed out earlier, ticularly among adults,  after all,  98 As true.”  there is a strong inclination,  par  to believe what they want to believe,  see what they want to see,  conclude what they expect to conclude  Evidence for a belief must be distinguished from the motives and causes of belief; for some causes of belief can be counted as evidence and some cannot. When someone is said to have some reason for believing a certain proposition, we may need to ask whether this reason is a ground for holding that the proposition is actu ally true or whether it is a motive for persuading himself of it, irrespective of whether it is true or not. In the former case we can speak of a reason (ground), in the latter of a reason (motive). Many beliefs are caused by social factors such as what we have been taught by our elders, or “picked up from [our] peers by social osmosis.” (Antony Flew (1982), p. 367—69; also Flew (1975), p. 58.) 96  w•v  Quine & J.S. Ulliam (1978), p.  Clifford, pp. 183—84. 98  Antony Flew (1975), p.  to  115.  15.  72 and  to  ignore  or  discount  evidence.  disconfirmatory  A person’s  motivations influence his beliefs via the subtle ways he chooses a comforting pattern from the fabric of evidence. A person’s prefer ences influence not only the kind of evidence he considers,  but  also the amount he examines. When the initial evidence supports an individual’s preferences, he becomes self-satisfied and terminates the inquiry. Conversely, when the initial evidence is unfavourable, he resumes his search for confirmatory evidence to reveal reasons to believe that the original evidence was faulty. For example, when Jane loses 6-1,  6-0 to Joan in tennis,  rather than accepting the  rather clear evidence of her deficiencies as a tennis player, will  attempt  to  account  for  the  loss  by  searching  for  she  further  “evidence” such as problems with the tension of the string, exter nal distractions, her biorhythm and so on. 3.3 Belief, Faith and Pascal’s Wager  Religious faith, which H.L. Mencken glibly defined to be “the illogical  belief  in  the highly  improbable”  defined as “not wanting to know what is true,  and which Nietzsche “  is relevant to the  present discussion. A colleague recently tried to convince me of the belief in the existence of the Christian God by arguing that “you can’t prove that God does not exist” and explained why this particular belief is a “no lose” situation. I countered by stating that the burden of proof for exceptional claims such as the exist ence of God rests with the believer and quoted T.H. Huxley’s well known axiom:  “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”  F. Nietzsche (1895), The Antichrist, Sec. 52, p. 169. Sartre, in Being and Nothingness (Pt 1, ch. 2, pp. 86-118) equated faith with “bad faith.”  73 and “the more a fact conflicts with previous experience,  the more  complete must be the evidence which is to justify one’s belief in it.” When I stated further that, in my opinion, Pascal’s notorious wager’°° and William James “Will to Believe” are strange distortions of the notion of belief, my colleague responded by saying that he was familiar with neither Pascal nor James.  I explained Pascal’s  wager and argued that, since there is little or no evidence for the existence  of  people harbour  God and rational  reasonable doubts  about it, surely a just God who values rationality would not punish people  for being reasonable.  skeptics  for  their  In  independent  believers for their credulity.  fact,  He might  habits  of  even reward the  thought  and  punish  It never seems to be thought that  since God has made us flawed in so many ways, He might also have seriously limited our capacity to find out precisely what He wants us to do.’°’ Pascal’s wager could at most give us only psychological rea Sons  (motives) for wishing that we believed or could believe. What  we lack are good reasons  (grounds)  for having this kind of faith. ever since I was a young  The postulation of a Supreme Being has, ster,  seemed to me  complex  problems  “throwing  seriously  -  in a  the  towel”,  facile,  a  refusal  groundless  and  to  take  evasive  100  Pascal’s Wager:”If God does not exist, we can still believe in Him with impunity, but if he does exist, we doubt him at our peril; therefore it is the counsel of prudence to believe in God.” (Quine & Ulliam (1978), p. 61) The primary source can be found in The Essential Pascal, Robert W. Gleason, ed., trans. G.F. Pullen,. Toronto, Ont.: New Zmerican Library, 1966, pp. 223-233. 101  See Walter Kaufman (1961), pp. 170-72, David Walker ((1992), pp. 311-12, Thomas V. Morris (1986), pp. 437-454, and Robert M. Martin (1992), pp. 20-23 for excellent discussions of Pascal’s wager.  74 response to deeply disturbing difficulties. It welcomes the selfcomforting delusion that we know what we do not know,  and have  answers that we do not have, thereby denying the true humility of awe, wonder, mysteriousness,  and perhaps,  inexplicability of what  is. By sheer chance I had what I perceive to be the good fortune to arrive at these conclusions early in life when I became aware of the contradictions between my experiences and what I was told at Sunday School.  One example of this was the result of my mother’s  efforts to comfort me following the death of my dog Rusty who was killed after being struck by an automobile. My mother assured me that I would eventually meet Rusty again in Heaven,  but later at  Sunday School I was taught that dogs do not have “souls.” I did not find my mother’s explanation very comforting or credible and I have since been highly suspicious of facile explanations or solutions to difficult questions. The efforts of my mother and my teachers to answer my pressing metaphysical queries were not very successful, and I could never understand why so many other students were not interested in these questions which seemed so important to me, and appeared to have no easy answers. Bertrand Russell was highly critical of pragmatic devices like Pascal’s wager,  asserting that  The true precept of veracity, which includes both the pursuit of truth and the avoidance of error, is this: “We ought to give every proposition which we consider as nearly possible that degree of credence which is war ranted by the probability it acquires from the evidence known to us. The further questions, what propositions to consider, and how much trouble to take to acquire knowl edge of the evidence, depend of course upon our circum stances and the importance of the issue. But to go about the world believing everything in the hope that thereby we shall believe as much truth as possible is like prac tising polygamy in the hope that among so many we shall  —  .  UI  I  ‘)  F’J  .  ‘t  -  L”j  CD h?  U)  -  H-  Li U) U) P1  CD H  J  P1  P1 H  H  C)  0  0  U)  0  H H  H  H  CD  U) U)  :i  P1  CD  ft  0  HCD  H H  <  CD H  g  çi  HC) CD  CD  U)  H-  CD  0  P1  CD  P1  CD  -3  CD  0  U)  P1 ft H3  H-  CD  .  .  H CD  P1  CD CD  i-  P1  Q-  P1  !-  P-h 0  tJ CD  3  CD  ?  0  H a  0  0  U)  ft  Q  0  ft  0  ‘-  w  CD  L)  0  I-  J CD P1 U)  —  H  OD G  o  —  i-c 1  P1  P1  H  P)  I-  w  I-  0  H U)  t5 CD  .  •  0  0 .  w  I-  I-  P1  I  H-  ‘-I H-  C)  HU)  P1  CD  P1  P1  CD  CD  CD H HCD  ‘i-)  0  C) CD  H  ft  Cl)  -  P1  CD  Cr  H=  i-c  CD  <  CD  IX 0  =  CD  P1  1  =  i-.  2  H  CD  u-  P1  :i  -  P1  •  Q  Cl) H  =  C  (1)  H-  Q  P1 C)  -  Q  ft CD  i-c  CD  P1  H-  P-h  CD  CD  CD  H-  CD ft P1  1  Q.  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H  CD  c-v  U)  C) CD  CD i  II  0  U)  Ii  ft  CD  CD 3  U)  0 3  C)  p  HP1  H H H  H0  Cr  CD  C)  0 CD  H-  H  CD  P1  U) ft  CD  0  U)  H  P1 H  ft  ft CD H H CD  H-  0  CD  U)  0  (Q CD  H P1 i-c  P1  U)  H  P1  C)  U)  P1  ft  P1  ft  H  ft  0  ft  CD  I—’ H  C)  H  P1  H  0  P1  U)  CD  HH H  0  CD  0  CD  0  U)  H  —3 UI  76 believe in ESP, for example,’° 5 is likely motivated by the fact that it entails several other comforting corollaries and opens up many inviting prospects such as the prospect of an “afterlife.” There are many beliefs to be purchased at bargain-basement prices; but in acquiring some of these consolatory beliefs, one pays a high price in rationality and intellectual sincerity. There are many things we would like to believe but reality gets  in the way.  Furthermore,  many people tend to be quite protective and tenacious about their beliefs  and  become  overly  sensitive  and  defensive  when  their  beliefs are challenged and exposed to intellectual  scrutiny and  criticism.  reluctant  Others,  aware  of  this  neuroticism,  are  to  openly question the beliefs of another, particularly those beliefs that  lack  religious  substantial creeds.  evidential  Many people of  support course  such as  political  and  try to avoid potential  conflict with others and often feign agreement with the claims of others in order to  “play ball”  or to avoid being branded by the  “group” as offensive, negative, unfriendly, or hostile. The hidden assumption in statements perfectly frank”  such as  “I trust you won’t mind if I’m  is usually false when it comes to criticism of  another’s cherished beliefs. Moreover, with the notion of “politi cal correctness” seemingly dominating and restricting present day rational  discourse,  many  topics  such  as  religious  beliefs  have  become societal sacred cows. Many skeptics consider it dangerous politically or socially to apply their critical thinking to scrip tural claims, ‘°  for example. The plight of Salman Rushdie is ample  More people in the United States believe in ESP than in Evolution. (“Gallup Poll of Beliefs” (1989) Skeptical Inquirer, vol. 13 (3), pp. 244-45 and “Scientific Literacy” (1989) Skeptical Inquirer, vol. 13 (4), pp. 343-45.)  77 evidence of the paranoia that presently exists, and probably always has existed,  in religious communities.  It might be argued, in defense of Pascal, that he was actually following a course recognized as valid in the theory of utility in Decision Theory  (i.e.,  Expected utility  =  p(outcome)  x value(of  outcome). The only unresolved issue is the fact that here Pascal infinity as  uses  a multiplier  (i.e.,  (infinite happiness in heaven), but  “degree of happiness” p(of this bliss)  =  1/n  =  00  (n—>  since, based upon subjective empirical probabilities concerning  eo),  God’s  existence,  it would be  reasonable to assign  zero to this  probability. Such relationships are considered acceptable in Deci sion  theory.  It  should  be  pointed  out,  however,  that  Decision  Theory by itself is an instrumental theory of best action, not of rational action. Also, is it not irrational to gamble on an infini tesimal probability, even though the stakes are high? Purchasing a “Lotto” ticket when the odds of winning anything of significance is in the order of sixteen million to one is a case in point. 3.4 William James’  “Will to Believe”  Central to William James’ variety of Pragmatism is the view that  there  true.  .  are no  epistemic virtues.’ 06 James  asserts  . 107 .is only the expedient in the way of thinking”  “any idea upon which we can ride.  ..,  that  “the  Truth is  any idea that will carry us  106  More recently, Richard Rorty (1979), in his deconstruction of the Kantian tradition of foundationalism, has argued for a more “holistic” approach to epistemology. Rorty, arguably one of the most influential contemporary philosophers, would essentially be in agreement with James’ theory of truth and claim that nothing of major importance turns on the distinction between epistemic and non-epistemic criteria for beliefs. 107  William James (1896), “Pragmatism’s Conception of Truth” in Pragmatism and Other Essays, (1963), p. 98.  78 prosperously from any one part of our experience to any other part, linking saving  things  satisfactorily,  working  securely,  simplifying,  8 He explains the connection between belief and labour.”°  truth as follows: Let me say only this, that truth is one species of good, and not, as is usually supposed, a category dis tinct from good, and co-ordinate with it. The true is the name of whatever proves itself to be good in the way of belief, and good too for definite and assignable reasons. Surely you must admit this, that if there were no good in life for true ideas, or if the knowledge of them were positively disadvantageous and false ideas the only useful ones, then the current notion that truth is divine and precious, and its pursuit a duty, could never have grown up or become a dogma. If there be any life that is really better we should lead, and if there be any idea which, if believed in, would help us lead that life, then it would be really better for us to believe that idea, unless,indeed, belief in it incidentally clashed with other greater vital benefits. “What would be better for us to believe!” This sounds very like a definition of truth. It comes very near to saying “what we ought to believe” and in that definition none of you would find that any oddity. Ought we ever not to believe what it is better for us to believe? And can we then keep the notion of what is better for us, and what is true for us, perma nently apart?’° 9 .  James’ prudential  argument argument  appeals in  that  .  to moral  advantages  theoretical  religious belief might eventually turn up,  justification  is  also a  of  one’s  given enough time.  belief can be a condition of life,” wrote Nietzsche, less be false.”  but  “A  “and nonethe  “Zmong the conditions of life might be error.”°  Nietzsche’s harsh words need to be taken seriously if anyone is 108  William James  (1896), quoted in Scheffler (1974), p.  ‘°  104.  William James (1896) ““What Pragmatism Means” in Pragma tism and Other Essays (1963), pp. 36-37. Bertrand Russell summed up James’ philosophy as “A truth is anything which it pays to believe.” (Philosophical Essays, p. 118) He concluded that the only reason a Jamesian pragmatist would believe in the proposition “People exist” would be in order to avoid solipsism. (Ibid, p. 122) 110  F. Nietzsche  (1888), The Will to Power,  Sec. 483.  79 tempted vaguely to imagine that a belief passed the test of truth precisely in being shown to have consolatory,  “life-enhancing,” or  “self-actualizing” power. Although Dewey was influenced by James, he held to a coherentist theory of truth which, although somewhat muddled, would in no way allow acceptance and assent to a proposi tion simply because one is comforted or pleased by believing it to be true. In fact, Dewey spoke with a certain contempt for those who tried to evade reality and cling to compensatory and consolatory ’ 11 values  (I will return to Dewey’s notion of truth later in this  thesis).  Regarding religious beliefs and  Dewey asserted that and  should  adapt  “.  .  .  “religious experience,”  genuinely sound religious experience could  itself  to  intellectually entitled to  whatever beliefs 112 hold”  and  that  one “it  found makes  oneself all  the  difference in the world in the value of a belief how its object is formed and arrived at.” 113 For Dewey questions of method were para mount  and he  insisted  that  all  beliefs  be  subject  to  critical  inquiry, employing “the best available methods.. .and testing as to matters of fact; methods, which are, when collected under a single name,  4 Israel Scheffler, science.”  in a critique of James’ prag  matism stated the effects of a belief on the believer are alto gether irrelevant to the question whether or not the belief is true. That a belief comforts the believer is no count at all in favour of its truth, and that a belief is unpleasant to contemplate is no count against its truth. hhi  Guinlock,  ed.  (1976), p. xxxv.  112  John Dewey, “Absolutism to Experimentalism” in John J. McD ermott, ed., Vol. I, 1973, p. 7. 113  John Dewey (1925), p. 427.  114  John Dewey (1925), p. 410.  80 What counts at all is whether things appear likely, on the evidence, to be as the belief asserts them to be, and clearly this condition is logically independent of the psychological effects of accepting the belief.” 5 The essential and crucial distinction between,  on the one hand,  truth, and, on the other hand power to fulfil, surely needs honest discussion  courses  in  of  religious  studies,  for  example.  The  teacher of religion should certainly make her students aware of the self-protective devices a religion may sometimes employ in order to discourage its believers from questioning its basic claims. If one accepts James’ argument, one would need to be extremely careful about what particular religious doctrine one claimed to have a right  to believe on ethical grounds.  Some doctrines seem  more likely than others to have morally bad consequences and the violent  history of  religion attests  to  this  fact.  Certainly  it  would seem that belief in the doctrine of heaven (reward) and hell (punishment)  is a seriously confused,  if not depraved,  notion of  the moral point of view and it seems more likely to make one intol erant in a morally undesirable way. And if one was,  for example,  attempting a pragmatic justification of belief in God’s existence, one would need  to  show that  the  “argument  from evil”  does  not  constitute sufficient grounds for rejecting the belief. One objec tion is that if we allow supposed morally advantageous consequences of a belief to count as reasons  for accepting it,  then it is a  small move to allowing alleged morally disadvantageous consequences of accepting belief as reasons justifying its rejection, even when the belief has strong theoretical justification. Some Creationists,  “  Israel Scheffler (1974), p.  108.  81 for example, have argued on such grounds that the theory of evol ution should be rejected. One way of testing belief, powerful where applicable,  is to  ask the professed believer to put his money where his mouth is. Acceptance of a wager reveals sincerity, and the odds accepted con veniently measure the strength of the conviction for the belief. This method is applicable only in cases where the believed proposi tion is one that can eventually be decided to the satisfaction of both parties so that the bet can be settled. Certainty, it could be said,  “involves the willingness to risk everything if you are wrong  over against no gain if you are right.” 16 Moreover, the demand for certainty is often associated with “causes”, dogmatism, commitment to an ideal and the need or love of power. The quest for power is often inversely proportional to the quest  for critical inquiry.  Reason and the critical  faculties are often forced into a hasty  in the  an all-consuming ambition to achieve or  retreat  face of  establish control. One must be wary of explanations that appeal to ulterior motives,  hidden agendas or are distorted by charismatic  character traits. We should also be mindful of explanations that seem to work too well, explanations that are untestable and always seem to be available, C.S.  such as,  7 “whatever God wills happens.”  Peirce intimated that to hold true beliefs  is intrin  sically valuable and further stated that a belief is something upon which we are prepared to act.  In “The Fixation of Belief”,  Peirce  writes: 116  “  Skyrms  (1986), p.  195.  Quine (1978), p. 122. Also see William Hare’s (1990) excel lent article on the Keegstra case. (p. 386)  82 The person who confesses that there is such a thing as truth, which is distinguished from falsehood simply by this, that if acted on it should, on full consideration carry us to the point we aim at and not astray, and then, though convinced of this, dares not know the truth and 8 seeks to avoid it, is in a sorry state of mind indeed.” 3.5 Pragmatism and Science  The sort of pragmatism espoused by James manifests itself in the epistemological anarchism of Paul Feyerabend who writes: But rationalism has no identifiable content and rea son, no recognizable agenda over and above the principles of the party that happens to have appropriated its name. All it does now is lend class to the general drive towards monotony. It is time to disengage Reason from this drive and, as it has been thoroughly comprised by the association, to bid it farewell.” 9 Feyerabend’s involving  “anything goes”  “the  rejection of  rigid traditions” , 20  approach to scientific methodology, all  threatens  universal  the  standards  important  and of  all  connection between  cognitive inquiry and truth. Surely science can maintain an openminded self-critical attitude toward its method of inquiry in order to avoid ideology and dogmatism. But Feyerabend pushes his toler ance for pseudoscience, and for eccentric ways of acquiring useful information  about  nature,  into  such an  extreme  relativism that  science ceases to be a rational enterprise any better than that of psychics or mystics. It is simply si y to give a serious hearing 11 to every proposal or hypothesis that comes along. omers  pay  attention  to  flat-earthers  Should astron  or Astrology?  Ideological  differences notwithstanding, should scientists extend a hearing to Creationists,  Biblical prophecies,  118  C. S.  119  Paul Feyerabend (1987), p. 13.  120  Feyerabend (1987), p. 20.  Peirce  (1877)  Christian Scientists or to a  in P.P. Wiener,  ed., p.  111.  83 “back to Ptolemy movement?” It seems to me a frivolous relativism and an open-mindedness that has lapsed into credulity that tells us we must. There is as much difference between an “open-mind” and a “hole in the head” as there is between “tolerance” and “anything goes.”  One  surely need not  closed-minded  simply  precognition,  an Elvis  feel  because  concerned about being  she  quickly  dismisses  a  labelled claim  to  sighting or a purported levitation. Many  ideas and propositions lie beyond the range of coherence and do not even provide testable hypotheses. A “hole in the head” implies that we abandon all  standards of  critical  inquiry and be willing to  assimilate uncritically anything thrown into it. Although we ought always to be open and amenable to new ideas and creative hypoth eses, no matter what their source, not every claimant is a poten tial Copernicus or Einstein. We may find it difficult to define criteria for scientific progress or advancement but,  at least in  the hard sciences, is there clearly not such progress? Surely these questions concerning open-mindedness are merely rhetorical and it is plainly not the case that “anything goes.” Getting back to “putting your money where your mouth is,” Fe yerabend was  once  asked why he  takes  an airplane  instead of  a  broom. Feyerabend’s reply was “I don’t know how to use brooms, and can’t be bothered to learn.” Imre Lakatos once asked Feyerabend 21 why,  if he does not believe in objective standards of truth,  never jumps out of a fifty-story building. “I have an innate fear of death,  121  he  “Because”, he answered,  not because I can give rational  Martin Gardner (1983), p. 272.  84 22 reasons for such a f ear.” 3.6 Pragmatism and Relativism  Returning to James’ pragmatism, two objections can be levelled against it: it  is  (1)  it leads to relativism, possibly nihilism and,  self-refuting.  It  is  relativistic,  assessment of a cognitive context  (i.e.,  since  the  (2)  pragmatic  the ways of arriving at  and holding beliefs) will be sensitive to both the values and the circumstances of the people using it. that  one  belief  system  is,  on  Therefore,  pragmatic  it may turn out  grounds,  better  than  another for me, while that other system is pragmatically better for someone else. One may argue that epistemic relativism is not a bad thing, or even a good thing, but I do not know what those arguments could be.  The natural upshot of epistemic relativism is that it  creates a gap between good reasoning, on the one hand, and truth on the other. Moreover, truth and justification tend to be conflated  -  an important issue I will deal with later. Groups of individuals presented with the same evidence will likely end up with conflict ing beliefs and hence, never lead them to “the truth.” Of course it seems clear that if we do not see any intrinsic value in having true beliefs, pragmatism  then  the  endorses  a  Jamesian pragmatist wins purely  account of inferential virtue processes  depends  upon  the  -  consequentialist  out. or  Epistemic  instrumental  the value of a system of cognitive  distinct  possibility  of  the  system  leading to certain consequences. Hence, epistemic pragmatism of The Jamesian variety is typically relativistic since it is contingent  122  Feyerabend (1978), pp. 221-22. See Ernest Nagel (1979) in Teleoloqv Revisited for a restrained attack on Feyerabend’s views. Also, see Harvey Siegel (1987) in Relativism Refuted.  85 upon the values, environment and aims of the people using it. There is, however, no denying the fact that the output of any particular inferential  system will  be  affected by  the  social  or  cultural  environment in which it is functioning. 3.7 Pragmatism and Self-Refutaion  Socrates,  in  the  Theaetetus,  raises  objections  similar  to  those sketched above when he attacks Protagoras’ claim that “Man is the measure of all things.” Socrates argues that if Protagoras is right in claiming that what anyone takes to be true is true,  it  follows that his opponents are correct in denying that which anyone takes to be true is true,  since that is what works for him. Hence,  we end up with the self-contradictory dilemma in which “P is true for A” and “P is not true for B” are both true. James’ claim that truth is “whatever proves itself to be good in the way of belief” results in precisely the same self-contradiction. argues:  For example,  A  “You claim it is to be true for you that P, but then you  are asserting that it is absolutely true that P is true for you.” B argues:  “No,  me.. etc.  and so on ad infinitum.  .  I am saying it is true for me that P is true for  assert it to be true,  therefore,  To assert a proposition is to  “the true is what is good in the  way of belief” has to be asserted to be true, but to James it need only be taken to be  “good in the way of belief.”  It  is good to  believe that the true is the good and good to believe that this belief is good,  and so on.’ 23  In order to reveal the self-refutation one could also argue as follows: 123  “Pragmatism seems false to me,  and has never worked for  have presented arguments similar to those offered by John Passmore (1969), Philosophical Reasoning, pp. 63-69.  86 me, hence on pragmatic grounds I am quite justified in calling it false!” Suppose, for example, I am evaluating whether my own cogni tive system is better than some alternative system. In order to do that I must study both systems and attempt to determine the likeli hood of various consequences that might system or the other. Of course,  follow if I adopted one  in order to do this I must engage  in reasoning processes; but I must use my cognitive context. If I conclude that my own system is better (or worse) than the proposed alternative, then I have used the very system whose superiority (or inferiority)  I  claim to have established  self-refutation  and  possible  circularity.  -  hence  the  Bertrand  resulting  Russell,  a  vehement critic of pragmatic theories of truth, calls James’ claim that  “on pragmatic principles,  the widest sense of the word,  if the hypothesis of God works in it is true”,  a mere tautology.  For we have laid down the definition: The word true means “working satisfactorily in the widest sense of the word”. Hence the proposition stated by James is merely a verbal variant on the following: On pragmatistic prin ciples, if the hypothesis of God works satisfactorily in the widest sense of the word, then it works satisfactor ily in the widest sense of the word. This would hold even on other than pragmatistic principles; presumably what is peculiar to the belief is that this is an important contribution to the philosophy of religion. The advantage of the pragmatic method is that it decides the question of the truth of the existence of God by purely mundane arguments, namely, by the effects of belief on His exist ence upon our life in this world. But, unfortunately this gives a merely mundane conclusion, namely, that belief in God is true, i.e. useful, whereas what religion desires is the conclusion that God exists, which pragmatism never even approaches 124 Russell’s point is that the true believer does not accept religious faith because it is useful, he accepts it because of his insistence that it is true. 124  Russell  Surely,  (1966), p.  if Christianity, 125.  for example,  is saying  87  anything at all, it must be making claims about what is objectively the case. As Roger Trigg has stated, “If religious claims are true, they are true whether people believe them or not, and ought to be accepted by everyone” and “if they are false, everyone,  they are false for  including Christians.” 25 Many theologians such as Paul  Tillich and D.Z. Phillips have tried to insulate religious beliefs from the scope of reason, scientific evidence and critical inquiry claiming  by  that  religious  discourse  has  its  own  idiosyncratic  meaning and logic and is intelligible only if one is “committed” to its  “form  of  life”  or  Wittgensteinian attempts  “conceptual to protect  scheme.”  religious  criticism are purchased at the price of  However, propositions  these from  “a death by a thousand  qualifications” as Antony Flew once stated. 3.8 Wittgenstein: Coherence of Beliefs  According to Wittgenstein in On Certainty, discussions about the entrenchment of a belief are regulated by considerations of consistency  and  coherence.  A  person’s  conceptual  framework  or  “world-view” must hang together. A person is convinced to the point of  certainty only because  of  the ways  in which a  given belief  stands in relation to a system of other beliefs. When we first begin to believe anything, what we believe is not a single proposition, it is a whole system of propositions. (Light dawns gradually over the whole.) It is not single axioms that strike me as obvious, it is a system in which consequences and premises give one another mutual support. What stands fast does so, not because it is intrinsically obvious or convincing; it is rather held fast by what lies around it.’ 26 ...  The doubting of a bedrock belief has consequences which reverberate 125 126  Roger Trigg (1973) On Certainty,  ,  p.  91,  secs. 141,  166.  142,  144.  88 throughout one’s world-view. For example,  if I doubted the exist  ence of the earth before my birth, I would have to doubt all sorts of things that “stand fast” for me since “this would not fit into the rest of my conviction at all.” 27 If consistency and coherence within a system of beliefs is to be maintained then there is a price to pay for the beliefs one has. To accept a belief is to accept its consequences however they may fall, and it may come crashing down on our mass of opinions. Hence, our choice of beliefs  is not  an arbitrary matter.  Avoiding the  charge of arbitrariness has been an awkward matter for Pragmatism, and since consistency alone is neutral about choices for beliefs, direction must come from the end of achieving a coherent picture of experience. But how does one achieve control? Once we recognize a conflict  or  contradiction among  our  beliefs,  then  we  ought  to  gather and assess our evidence with a view to screening out one or another of the recalcitrant beliefs. As Quine’s metaphor so aptly points out,  “a healthy garden of beliefs requires well-nourished  roots and tireless pruning.  ,,128  However, Wittgenstein maintains that  we cannot “stand outside” any system of beliefs and assess it as a unit,  since we have no idea of what it would be like to step out  side the framework without concepts and criteria which are borrowed from our own system to make such appraisals. Wittgenstein’s claim suggests that objectivity is not possible,  that we cannot escape  from the biases of our own conceptual or cultural framework. Clear ly,  objectivity,  as I will argue later,  127  On Certainty,  128  wv Quine  sec.  102.  (1978), p. 126.  is a normative term and a  89 matter of degree  that there are personal subjective elements and  -  cultural particularities that affect our ability to be objective in an  absolute  sense.  Wittgenstein’s  contention  does  not  preclude  self-criticism, for surely we can look at any component of a belief system and the tradition in which it has evolved. Christopher Coope (1974) stated that Hobbes was aware of certain obvious characteris— tics of a good tradition: a certain peace and stability in the community, and the economic conditions which allow certain people to devote themselves to learning. There should be written records of their deliberations, so that ground gained in one generation should not be lost in the next. Above all, there should be a lively awareness of the way human beings, so often fond of their opinions, will readily deceive themselves, reluctant as they are to believe things that are new, frightening, or injurious to their pride. And in consequence of this they will need to have a certain respect for the clarity of expression which makes their errors open to view; and there needs to be a measure of mutual criticism... •129 That not all communities of inquiry are equally rational was a fact that  Dewey never  tired of  pointing  out.  The  acceptance  of  the  premise that all communities or cultures are inherently equal is thought to be essential to the agenda of cultural pluralism multiculturalism)  and to a rejection of racism,  (or  and is presently  deemed “politically correct.” Racism, for example, is the advantag ing or disadvantaging of certain social groups based on irrational prejudices  and biases,’ ° but 3  to claim that  there  is  nothing to  choose between the beliefs and values of various cultural groups in 129  Christopher Coope  (1974),  in  G. Vesey,  ed., p. 264.  130  A bias is a “disposition to underestimate or overestimate in a particular direction” and “as such, can be recognized and systematically compensated for; just as prejudices can be. identi fied and open-mindedly examined by all those who prefer their beliefs to be, even if uncomfortable, well-evidenced and, hope fully, true.” (Antony Flew (1992), p. 208.) .  .  .  .  .  90 order  to  promote  anti—racism  and  multiculturalism  is  clearly  relativistic and nihilistic. Open-mindedness, an awareness that not all cultures are equally rational, just or valuable, recognition of the need for continual self-examination and self-correction,  and  the fallible nature of the democratic process and its institutions is what protects democratic societies from lapsing into dogmatism and stagnation. The Canadian government’s putative pluralism and  the  attendant  crises  endorsement  with our  of  cultural  aboriginal peoples  arises in part from an adoption of unconditional relativism as the only perceived alternative  to  an  imposition  or assimilation of  white European ethnocentric values. If one set of beliefs were as rational,  explanatory or generally as adequate as any other there  could be no reason why any group could  possibly  Canada’s groups)  be  aboriginal  argued  that  31 peoples’  should change  the (and  belief perhaps  its beliefs.  systems  of  some  other  many  It of  ethnic  actually interfere with their acquisition of the level of  critical rationality which is a prerequisite for personal autonomy or genuine democratic self-government, let alone for its transform ation into anything which might be better. Unfortunately, despite the fact  I personally qualify for legal status as a Metis Cree,  this gloomy but plausible conclusion is likely to lead to my being  131  An emergence from a tribal closed society in which social arrangements are simply deemed part of a given natural or divine order imposes strains and severe difficulties for aboriginal peoples just as it has for every culture which has made or has failed to make the transition. Is it reasonable, for example, with the present state of our natural environment, to grant unrestricted hunting and fishing privileges to any group or individual? The argument by our aboriginal peoples that the land and its bounty was divinely bequeathed to them is beginning to wear a little thin.  91 branded as a racist. All justification,  according to Wittgenstein,  results in an  infinite regress of reasons, and at the end stands “persuasion.”’ 32 Wittgenstein asks us to think of what happens when missionaries convert natives. People are brought up to believe that there is, or is not,  a God and are taught or acquire a way of defending their  views; of presenting “apparently telling grounds.” 133 But after the arguing  is  over,  we are  left with,  ostensibly,  an unbridgeable  conceptual gap and persuasion is our only recourse. Does this mean there is nothing to choose between incongruous belief systems? If the practice of relying on reasoning,  evidence and proof cannot  occur independently of the “environment within which arguments have their life,” then giving our reasons to people who lack our envi ronment beliefs,  will  be  of  no  value.  Must  we  conclude  then  values or theories are as good as any other?  that  any  I do not  think so. The same argument might be cogent to one person and not cogent to another.  All cogent arguments are  “persuasive”  to the  audience that recognizes them. Yet not all “persuasive” arguments are cogent or even sound.  People are often persuaded by bad argu  ments and fallacious reasoning. Wittgenstein when he  suggests  that  access  to  a  points to an answer  system of  thought  radically  different from one’s own view requires more than the knowledge that it fails to respect the truth-values assigned by one’s own culture. A person must also understand how an alien culture’s ways of think ing bear on the truth values they assign and this involves a role  132  Wittgenstein, On Certainty,  sec.  612.  133  Wittgenstein, On Certainty,  sec.  107.  92 reversal or an empathetic shift in one’s own view of the world in order to find some common ground.  If Donald Davidson is right in  his arguments against the incommensurability thesis of “conceptual schemes”,  then that common ground can be found.’ 34  Gilbert Harman  has stated that in order to see whether certain reasons or rea soning might explain a particular person’s beliefs or actions we must try to imagine ourselves in his position, with his antecedent beliefs, desires, moral principles, and so forth, to see whether we can imagine what sorts of conclusions we might draw by reasoning from that posi tion. This appeal to the sympathetic imagination is nece ssary, because we cannot appeal to explicit principles of the theory of reasoning to tell us what is possible and what is not.’ 35 Certainly the notion of communicating with other people pre supposes certain basic suppositions: the law of identity, of non-contradiction,  a norm of truth-telling, and so on  the law -  and if  these basic tenets are denied, communication, even within one’s own framework is inconceivable. Is it not contradictory,  for example,  to say that I want to know how things “really” are, that “I want to understand and know what is true of the physical world,  but I do  not want to use my senses or use inductive reasoning?” 36 As John Wilson has asserted  Donald Davidson, (1973-74), pp. 5-20 (Reprinted in Meiland & Kraus, pp. 66-80). Davidson states that there is no good reason for accepting Kuhnian claims to incommensurability. We come to understand languages of others, including people from very differ ent cultures with very different languages, in basically the same way we come to understand our own language, namely by systematical y coming to understand the truth-conditions of the sentences in 1 the language in question. To understand the language of another is to follow a systematic method for generating the truth conditions of her declarative sentences. 135  Gilbert Harman (1977),  136  John Wilson (1986),  The Nature of Morality, p.  “Relativism and Teaching”, p.  131. 91.  93 The reason why science and other clearer fields are respectable is not that we can feel incorrigibly certain of particular answers but that we can feel reasonably certain of the procedures. It is extremely hard to main tain nothing can be said about the application of reason or about sensible procedures in more controversial areas. Getting to know the facts, becoming aware of one’ own prejudices, immersing oneself in what is (on any account) relevant to making up one’s mind about moral or political or aesthetic questions, talking things over with people of a different persuasion all these (and many more) are ways in which reason gets brought to bear. And the more closely we look at, and agree upon, what is to count as moral, aesthetic, or a question of a particular type whatever the more we come to see what criteria, what “rules of the game”, are actually applicable.’ 37 -  -  -  -  Wittgenstein states that reasons are compelling only within a certain  “language game”,  and only when there exists a congruous  world view. He claims, quite rightly, that “At certain periods men find reasonable what at other periods they found unreasonable. And vice versa.” 38 He further points out  that  “Very intelligent and  well-educated people believe in the story of creation in the Bible, while others hold it as proven false, and the grounds of the latter 39 The qualification that must be met are well known to the former.” in order for one to be called a “Christian”, for example, are unac ceptable to many “very intelligent and well educated people”. Many of  these people,  I believe,  would endorse Christianity if  they  could reject the supernatural and transcendental elements but feel that  it  is  speculations  intellectually debilitating and dishonest such as  the Genesis  story,  to endorse  transubstantiation,  the  Immaculate Conception and the Resurrection of Christ. Many educated and intelligent people with a critical eye feel that some claims in ‘  John Wilson (1986), p.  138  On Certainty,  sec. 336.  ‘  On Certainty,  sec. 366.  92.  94 the Bible are blatant absurdities. But many Christians would argue that  if we exclude the  we leave no  from religion,  supernatural  difference between Christianity and Humanism. It seems to me that the important question for any serious thinker is not whether one calls his set of beliefs Christian, Humanist or any other label  -  the crucial question should be what beliefs one ought to hold and how they are held. In fact, many people, including myself, consider themselves  “religious” without believing in God because,  as R.M.  Hare has stated: God is bound always to be an idle element in our religious life. His existence or non-existence cannot possibly make any difference, either to what we ought to do, or what is going to be the case. His transcendence logically rules this out.’ ° 4 Returning to Wittgenstein, it is difficult to understand what he really means when he talks about “language games  “  and “forms of  life” since he often does not make himself very clear. Perhaps he is claiming that theism is justifiable within a certain conceptual framework? In sharp contrast to other analytic philosophers such as Moore, Russell, Ayer,  Schlick, Carnap,  and Quine,  etc.,  the later  secularism and humanism and  Wittgenstein rejected Enlightenment  took exception with those who claimed that the concept of God is meaningless or incoherent, holding that they failed to understand the  “language game”  of religion.  conceptual schemes or world views,  But  if reasons are relative to  then one’s choice of a scheme  must be a matter of faith or commitment and not reasons. Judeao-Christian tradition, exhorted,  140  required,  individuals  are  (or,  at  commanded to have faith in God,  R.M. Hare (1992), p. 33.  In the  least were)  to believe in  95 Him;  i.e.,  to believe without proof or evidence that He exists.  Those who were not compelled to do so were pitied or even reviled, threatened, punished, or killed. They were deemed morally depraved ’ and told they would be 4 (and this belief still persists today)’ punished in the afterlife by the God in whom they lacked faith. But how can one be required to have faith? Faith, form of belief  (i.e.,  if  construed as a  belief lacking sufficient evidential sup  port), does not seem to be subject to the will: it is not something we do or,  therefore,  fail to do. It is something we have or lack.  If faith, like belief, can be justified, i.e., shown to be warrant ed, reasonable, etc., it seems to become superfluous, redundant; in fact, impossible. For example, I cannot continue to have faith that you will show up for our tennis match when I see you arriving in the same sense that I can continue to believe the same.  In other  words, in the face of compelling evidence affirming one’s faith in something,  faith becomes unnecessary and irrelevant.  Although we may admire the dedication,  strength,  commitment,  calmness of conviction and other qualities associated with pious faith  -  such things give us reasons for wanting to believe  -  do not give us reasons for believing they are true. Faith, view,  is, at best,  cases  at  least,  epistemologically ambiguous and hence,  offensive  to  reason and critical  faith is uncontrolled by evidence  ‘‘  -  they in my  in most  thought.  Once  anything goes. The idea that a  A recent news item on the sports channel TSN accounted for why the CFL decided to have a football team in Las Vegas, whereas the NFL had always declined to do so. Their explanation was: “there is no reason to be concerned about moral depravity in Las Vegas (despite its reputation for gambling and other moral vices) because there are more churches in Las Vegas per capita than any other major city in the United States.”  96 “crucify his reason” and replace it with faith is an  person must  abdication of epistemic responsibility, but there is a long stand ing Christian tradition behind this idea. Perhaps Wittgenstein was endorsing fideism? Or was he simply claiming that very intelligent and well-educated people are quite capable of being nonrational? It seems to me that a large measure of agreement in belief must exist if we are claiming to understand that other people do not share our conceptual scheme or background beliefs. I also find it curious that Wittgenstein rejects the notion of epistemic responsibility and intellectual virtue. As Richard Rorty has rightly pointed out,  “giving up what Nietzsche calls our meta  physical comforts results in greater, not less, ethical obligation, responsibility and sense of community.” 42 Wittgenstein,  however,  regarded it as something strange and unusual that someone could be blamed for the manner in which he acquires his beliefs. From this it appears to follow that he did not think that belief acquisition was  subject  to  the will.  It  seems  to me that we  can be justly  blamed not only for failing to believe what we ought to believe, given  our  other  justified beliefs,  but  for  failing  to  believe  things because we lack other supporting beliefs within our belief structure that we should posses, but lack, because of some intel lectual vice. Similarly, we should be held accountable for beliefs we hold that we ought not to hold.  Roderick Chishoim stated that  “when a man deliberates and comes  finally to a  decision is as much within his  control  as  is  conclusion,  his  any other deed we  attribute to him” and “if there is any reason to suppose that we  142  Rorty  (1982) Consequences of Praqmatism, p.  166.  97 ever act at all,  then there is reason to suppose that what  [C.I]  Lewis calls our “believing and concluding” are to be counted among our acts.” 43 This Code calls  attitude  fosters and encourages what Lorraine  “a kind of intellectual akrasia,  an entrenched reluc  tance to enquire further lest one face the necessity of having to reconsider reproachable  a  range ignorance  Aristotle in his upon his  of can  be  discussion of  analysis  of  found  at  akrasia,  the varieties  The  belief s.” 44  treasured  of  least  as  far  idea  of  back  as  which followed directly intellectual virtues  and  their respective contributions to moral virtue. It is immortalized in such lamentations as “You ought to have known better!”  Roderick Chisholm (1966), p. 224- 225. Chishoim is not suggesting that beliefs themselves are “acts” but is alluding to the rational practices and standards which ought to be invoked during our deliberations regarding belief acquisition. 144  Lorraine Code  (1988), p.  161.  98 What in fact has been missing from so much recent controversy in religion, science and other fields, is the notion of objectivity of things being the case whether people recognize them or not. Roger Trigg -  -  OBJECTIVITY AND TRUTH  (4) RATIONALITY,  4.1 Conceptions of Rationality  Since the Enlightenment,  rationality has been understood by  means of a series of relations between notions such as “objectivity”,  “justification”,  “truth”,  “certainty”, and “reality” as well  as a series of practices related to these notions.  Commensurate  with this conception, philosophy has been the pursuit of a perma foundational,  nent,  ahistorical  structure  from which  to  secure  truth and objective knowledge of the real, a pursuit thought to be the nature  assured by Kuhn’s  The  the  of  Structure  rationality of science as  and universality of  prototype  and  -  Scientific  reason  itself.  Revolutions  (1962),  Since the  which has, since the Enlightenment, served  standard  of  reason  generally  -  has  been  brought into question by an interpretation of science according to which science proceeds by way of paradigm shifts and revolution rather than by linear progression. The reason that Western science is still seen as the model and standard for a theory of rationality is because of its self-regu lating, truth  self-correcting nature and overriding aim at objectivity, 45 John Dewey held the view that science is the and reality.’  lAS  Karl Popper views the idea of truth-seeking and objective criticism as key ingredients in rationality in that they make rational discourse possible. But he sees rational discourse as possible only if one assumes the existence of an objective reality, “a challenge to our intellectual ingenuity, courage and integrity” Rationality consists of accepting fallibility and (1983, p. 81) learning from our experiences, especially our mistakes. Popper each of us makes mistakes, serious mis (1989) states that takes, all the time. We should remember what Voltaire said: “What .  “...  99 embodiment  of  the highest  standards  of  thought,  declaring that  “Without initiation into the scientific spirit one is not in pos session of the best tools which humanity has effectively directed reflection.  so far devised for  146  According to the most commonly accepted view, a person is said to be rational in her beliefs if she can provide good reasons for holding them. But rationality involves not only taking into account reasons for beliefs out,  -  also reasons against. As Popper has pointed  confirmations are often easy to find but the rational person  must also take efforts to find refutations for her beliefs. If this definition is  accepted,  several  questions naturally arise:  What  constitutes “good” reasons for a belief? How is a belief justified and what role does evidence play in the process of arriving at a belief? What constitutes sufficient evidence? Do similar methods of justification produce congruent beliefs, and is this of any great import? If an individual is seriously and honestly concerned with understanding the world and securing knowledge which is not only is toleration?” asks Voltaire. And he answers: “It is a necessary consequence of our being human [and therefore fallible]. We are the products of frailty: fallible and prone to error. So let us mutual ly pardon each other’s stupidities. This is the first principle of the law of nature [the first principle of human rights] Voltaire’s principle of tolerance is, indeed, the basis of all rational discussion. Without it, rational discussion is impossible. And it is the basis of all self-education. Without consciously admitting our fallibility to ourselves, we cannot learn from our mistakes; we become infallible dogmatists.” (p. 281) Popper endorsed what one would call weak fallibilism, the view that “it is logically impossible to exclude the possibility of error in any conclusion arrived at by reasoning” (Kekes(l976), p. 77). Hence, this view does not exclude rational belief or the possibility of knowledge. Weak fallibilism simply instructs us to be cognizant of error and advises that “all beliefs be tentatively held” whereas strong fallibilism “denies that reasoning can provide grounds for the acceptance of any belief” (Kekes, p. 77). 146  John Dewey (1916), Democracy and Education,  1966, p. 189.  100 useful, but accurate, then she must be concerned with the truth of her beliefs. Above all, she will want to know, now and always, what truly is the case. evidence,  I will analyze the notions of justification,  objectivity and truth and argue that they are not,  as  many recent philosophers have claimed, relativistic concepts. Many postmodernist knowledge,  philosophers  for example,  and  proponents  of  the  sociology  of  argue that there cannot be any objective  standards of rationality because all arguments and truth are dis torted or rendered relative by vested interests, cultural frameworks,  gender bias,  ideological or  or a desire for power,  etc.  I  will try to show that rationality and logically related concepts are inherently normative, insofar as we consider a person rational if she is able to provide good reasons for a belief. vital element for any serious, unequivocally :  Hence,  the  responsible and honest thinker is  “What ought I to believe?”  Clearly the person who believes too easily submits to the vice of credulity or gullibility; the person who believes too little is guilty of an excessive skepticism. It is not an easy task to spec ify the criterion of rationality of belief. recent work, aspects:  Robert Nozick,  in a  states that the rationality of a belief involves two  (1) support by reasons that makes the belief credible, and  47 (2) generation by a process that reliably produces true belief s.’ The criterion for the credulous person could be “believe everything  147  Robert Nozick (1993), pp. 175-76. Nozick proposes two cen tral rules governing rational belief: (1) “not believing any stat ement less credible than some incompatible alternative the inte llectual component”, but (2) “then believing a statement only if the expected utility (or decision-value) of doing so is greater than that of not believing it the practical component.” (pp. xiv, 85-93) -  -  101 you are told” and,  for the radical skeptic,  “believe only what you  see with your own eyes.” But anyone who followed either of these precepts would end up believing too much or too little. seem that rationality is,  It would  as Aristotle may have conceived it,  a  mean between skepticism and credulity.’ 48 My conception of rational ity will lean toward the side of skepticism.  Wittgenstein,  as I  have mentioned earlier, maintains that one cannot speak of knowing when doubt  has been ruled out  -knowledge makes  sense only when  doubt makes sense. He felt that there are good reasons to believe that  it is never rational to be certain.  Moreover,  certitude is often associated with dogmatic stances, the status quo and the demand for power. strued in an absolute sense,  If  the need for maintaining  “certainty”  is con  in which doubt or the possibility of  error are completely ruled out, then it seems to preclude us from saying of anyone that she is ever justified in making a knowledge claim. Doubt invites the challenge to explain how and why we know, a challenge which is most appropriate when the claim concerns some thing describable as an hypothesis  -  I can intelligibly claim to  know something only where the possibility of being mistaken makes sense  149  The  classical  image  of  philosophy,  the  image  from  Plato  148  In the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle says that intellec tual virtues are not concerned with a mean as the moral virtues are. In the Eudemean Ethics, however, he says that the intellectual virtue of phronesis (or wisdom) is a mean between cunning and folly.  of course, in our everyday conversations we often use the word “certain” in the sense in which we are making a claim to knowledge. When we say that “I know the sun will rise tomorrow” we mean “I am certain that the sun will rise tomorrow”, without digressing into the philosophical conundrums concerning Induction. 149  102 through Descartes and Kant that has taken knowledge to be accurate representation of reality, philosophy to be the task of grounding knowledge on ahistorical foundations, before which all practises,  beliefs,  and reason as the tribunal and values are to be judged  has been subjected to attacks by “postmodernist” philosophers such as Derrida, Lyotard, Feyerabend, and Rorty. These recent attacks on foundationalism, however,  appear to be efforts to avoid dogmatism  and have opened the door to the possibility of a pernicious rela tivism  -  a relativism of uncritical, unreflective acquiescence to  the traditional and customary. If the fact is that our beliefs and their justifications are  simply cultural  and conceptual contin  gencies, then it would appear that they are optional and arbitrary. If postmodern conceptions of rationality insist that we abandon notions  of objectivity,  course,  then  it  must  truth and universality of so without  do  adopting  rational dis  the view that  any  beliefs and practises are as good as any other. Certainly dogmatism is to be avoided force behind philosophical skeptics Hume to Russell to Rorty  -  -  this was the motivating  from Pyrrho to Montaigne to  but without lapsing into a destructive  relativism or nihilism. Humanists increasingly have been aware of the limitations of reason since the writings of Berkely and Hume. But apologists for postmodernism’s rejection of universal rational ity and foundationalism have elevated these limitations to a dogma tism of their own making by denying the possibility of rationality to establish bases for our beliefs. The question that recent debate over the rationality of science,  the rationality of unnatural or  “alien”  the  systems  of  belief,  and  plausibility  of  conceptual  relativism poses is whether a pluralistic notion of rationality is  103 consistent  with  the  idea  that  incompatible  conceptual schemes and values could,  systems  nevertheless,  of beliefs,  be subject to  meaningful criticism and comparative evaluation. For John Kekes, skepticism about rationality is an issue which has serious ethical considerations. Kekes asserts that skepticism about rationality results in the  “impossibility of settling con  flicts in a civilized manner. It encourages an appeal to prejudice and the use of force, propaganda and dogmatism. It is an attack on what is the finest in the Western tradition.” 50 The postmodernist challenges  the possibility of  a  neutral  framework  for  rational  criticism and results in the submission to the authority of our own belief s  simply  reflect  current  because  they  are  social practices.  traditional  and  In other words,  customary  and  arguments can  only come to life from within a commitment to a social practice or “language game.” The dogmatist or fundamentalist reinforces our confidence by maintaining that we have travelled on a progressive, evolutionary path which has led necessarily to the truth of our own system of beliefs,  with the conclusion that the veracity of our own views  detaches them from the contingency of time and social practice. What  is  wrong with  certainty, present  besides  beliefs  paradoxically,  as  epistemological their  theories  implausibility,  immutable  truths,  and  is  involving absolute that  that  is  they  take our  dogmatic.  So  the postmodernist’s challenge is also a challenge  that implies we are cut off from tradition as a source of beliefs and values since they are ungrounded, and in that respect, optional  150  John Kekes  (1976), p. 256.  104 and arbitrary.  But  one must  cognizant  be  of  the  fact  that  any  account of rationality that is tolerant enough to allow beliefs in Deities, magic, psychics, astrology, ghosts, precognition, psycho kinesis,  and other highly  speculative metaphysical  paranormal phenomena stands  entities and  little chance of defeating even the  moderate skeptic. The problem of rationality,  it would appear,  is  located somewhere between the extremes of dogmatism and radical skepticism. Rationality can be conceived as a process in which beliefs are accepted, modified or rejected. It is a process which consists in believing things because one has “good reasons” for doing so. If a person is going to determine whether a given action or belief is rational, he must ask whether there are sound reasons or justifica tion  for it.  Larry Laudan writes  :  “At  its core,  rationality  whether we are speaking about rational action or rational belief consists in doing  (or believing)  -  -  things because we have good rea  sons for doing so.” ’ But what constitutes good reasons? How do we 15 justify our beliefs and actions? What are the necessary and suffi cient  conditions  for  rationality?  To  determine,  for  example,  whether people in the Middle ages had “good reasons” for believing that the earth was flat,  we shall need to know what reasons were  available to them. Hence, it would seem that rationality of a given person’s beliefs or actions is relative to the evidence,  reasons  and patterns of reasoning available to that person and this varies with historical and social context. Another important feature of the activity of giving reasons is that if I am to give someone a  151  Larry Laudan (1977), p.  123.  105 reason for believing B,  it is not enough that I should point to a  proposition P which she accepts  and which entails  B.  Something  further is required and here we can appeal to Aristotle’s axiom which maintains that the premise of an informative piece of reason ing must be “better known” than the conclusion. Wittgenstein, in  Q  Certainty, holds to the same principle when he writes One says “I know” when one is ready to give compel ling grounds. “I know” relates to a possibility of demon strating the truth. Whether someone knows something can come to light, assuming that he is convinced of it. But if what he believes is of such a kind that the grounds that he can give are no surer than his assertion, then he cannot say that he knows what he believes. 152 4.2 Rational Principles  In addition to seeking reasons, one must, according to Israel Scheffler, recognize and commit oneself to principles which serve to lend relevance and strength to reasons.  Scheffler has stated  that reason is always a matter of abiding by general rules or principles. .a matter of treating equal reasons equally, and of judging the issues in light of general principles to which one has bound oneself... [If] I could judge reasons differently when they bear on my interests, or disregard my principles when they conflict with my own advantage, I should have no principles at all. The con cepts of principles, reasons and consistency thus go together and they apply both in the cognitive judgement of beliefs and the moral assessment of conduct. In fact they define a general concept of rationality. 153 •  .  .  .  These principles or “standards of rationality are a means whereby we  rise above,  biases,  ,,154  or check,  our own particular hopes,  wishes,  and  but the principles themselves are not absolutes and must  152  Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty,  153  Israel Scheffler (1973), p. 76.  154  Robert Nozick (1993), p. xiii.  Sec. 243.  106 admit of rational justification. Scheffler goes on to say that we, as teachers, are obligated to pass on these rational principles and the traditions in which they are embodied, and in which “a sense of their history,  spirit,  and direction may be discerned”, but  We need not pretend that these principles are immutable or innate. It is enough that they we ourselves acknowledge, that they are the best and that we are prepared to improve them should and occasion arise. 155  of ours are what we know, the need  This evolutionary approach to the rational principles is consistent with Dewey’s notion of rationality as located within a context and playing a role as one element along with others, rather than as an external  self-supporting Kantian point  that  settles  Principles for Kant, whether rational or moral, are  everything.  like mathemat  ical axioms and theorems, independent of context. But since Kant we have  discovered  that  even  entire  mathematical  systems  such  as  Euclidean Geometry cannot be appealed to if we are to understand the workings of the universe beyond our own planet. In his prophetic work The Revolt of the Masses,  Ortega Y Gasset  states Whoever wishes to have ideas must first prepare him self to desire truth and to accept the rules of the game imposed by it. It is no use speaking of ideas when there is no acceptance of a higher authority to regulate them, a series of standards to which it is possible to appeal in a discussion. These standards are the principles on which culture rests... There is no culture where there are no principles of legality on which to appeal. There is no culture where there is no acceptance of certain final intellectual positions to which a dispute may be referred. There is no culture where economic relations are not subject to a regulating principle to protect interests involved. There is no culture where aesthetic controversy does not recognize the necessity of justify ing a work of art... Barbarism is the absence of stan  155  Scheffler (1973), p. 80.  107 156 dards to which appeal can be made. Ortega Y Gasset was attacking the “average man’s” propensity and desire for expressing his ideas and opinions but also his attendant unwillingness  “to accept the conditions and presuppositions that  underlie all opinion.” “To have an idea”, he states, “means believ ing one is in possession of reasons for having it, and consequently means believing there is such a thing as reason, a world of intel ligible truths...  the highest form of intercommunion is the dia  logue in which reasons for our ideas are discussed.” 57 The “rules” referred to by Ortega Y Gasset are rules of rationality inference. point  is  -  rules of  But how is the validity of the rules determined? The  that rules and particular inferences are justified and  brought into agreement with each other. A rule  (or principle)  is  amended if it yields an inference we are unwilling to accept;  an  inference is rejected if it violates a rule we are unwilling to amend.  The process of justification is a delicate one of making  mutual adjustments between rules and accepted inferences; and in the  agreement  achieved  lies  the  only  justification  needed  for  either. 4.3 Objectivity and Rationality I would now like to turn to the notion of objectivity and its relation to truth and rationality. It is a truism that the rational person cares about truth,  but the relativist holds to the thesis  that objectivity about what counts as truth and knowledge is only possible  156  within  some  kind  Jose Ortega Y Gasset Ortega Y Gasset  of  framework  -  (1929), pp. 71-72.  (1929), p. 73—74.  be  it  conceptual,  108 epistemological, linguistic or cultural. Harvey Siegel sees “frame work relativism” as the notion that epistemic judgements are in some sense bound by schemes or frameworks, so that cognizers are limited or trapped by, and cannot transcend or escape from, some sort of fundamental restraints which sharply delimit the possible range of claims that they are able to regard as true or justified... Framework relativism is thus dependent on the notion of a limit or boundary beyond which rationally defensible judgements concerning truth or epistemic worthiness cannot be made... one can perfectly well judge from within one’s scheme, utilizing criteria internal to the scheme, but one cannot meaning fully question the scheme or its criteria themselves, for they are necessary for judgements to be made at all... There simply is not, according to the relativist, any or scheme-independent vantage point from framework which to criticize or judge alternative frameworks or schemes 158 -  In other words,  propositional belief can be criticized only from  within the framework and truth and rationality become compartmen talized. What is true for one group may not be true for another, or even intelligible to them and what counts as a reason varies from system to system (“It may be rational to believe in God if one is ). The notion of 59 a Christian and irrational if one is a Marxist”’ an all-encompassing rationality must be relinquished and the whole question of what is true  (i.e.,  the content of a proposition)  reduced to the question of justification for belief.  is  But one can  justifiably believe what is false and unjustifiably believe what is true;  that is,  rational  truth is independent of one’s ability to provide  justification which  is  a  fallible  “What people disagree about is what is true,  158  Harvey Siegel  ‘  Roger Trigg (1973), p.  indicator of  and not what is true  (1987), Relativism Refuted, p. 33-34. 151.  truth.  109 for them.” ° It should be noted that rationality is not really a 16 “framework”, but a method for solving problems within any “frame work” and its justification is the justification of the employment of a method. ’ The most common, 16  and perhaps the most revealing,  objection to relativism of this kind is that no such relativism can account for itself. Relativism poses as a truth for all schemes, but in reference to what scheme is relativism to be judged? W.V. Quine makes this point when he writes Truth, says the relativist, is culture bound. But if it were, then he, within his own culture, ought to see his own culture-bound truth as absolute. He cannot pro claim cultural relativism without rising above it, and he cannot rise above it without giving it up.’ 62 Siegel argues that the  “classical”  connection between truth  63 and rationality is a “philosophical confusion of cart and horse.” The classical connection,  he claims,  is  “an evidential one: p is  true, and the fact that p is true counts as grounds for taking our belief in p to be rational.” Siegel writes This, I believe, is a mistaken explication of the classical connection between rationality and truth, according to which rationality amounts to believing what we have good reason to believe. Such good reason for believing p provides grounds for believing that p is (at least somewhat likely to be) true. Rational belief in p thus is not grounded or evidentially based on p’s being true; rather, the evidential relation is reversed: judge ments concerning p’s truth are grounded on p’s being rationally believed. To say, in short, that we have good reason to believe p. is to say, in effect, that we have good reason to believe that p is true. We could put this point another way, namely, that the import or upshot of rational belief is truth. That is, the import of the fact 160  Roger Trigg  161  John Kekes  162  Quine, quoted in Siegel  163  Siegel  (1973), pp. 152—53. (1976), p.  (1987), p.  138.  168,  190.  (1987), p. 43.  110 that we have good reason for believing p is that p is (at least somewhat likely to be) true. We cannot... appeal to the truth of p in order to establish the rationality of believing p.’ 64 Despite  the  self-referential  apparently cannot, claimed,  as Quine,  Kuhn,  problems Putnam,  of  165 relativism,  we  Rorty and others have  any longer hold to the correspondence theory of truth.  There are not, on the one hand, our theories about the world, and, on the other, the world itself; we do not evaluate our theories by seeing how well  they correspond or  “mirror”  the world.  because we have no access to a theory-independent world  -  This  is  that is,  a world unconditioned by our point of view,  our needs, goals, and  values.  it  The world we  see  is  theory-laden:  stamp of our involvement in it. Richard Rorty,  already bears however,  the  ventures  far beyond this claim in holding to a Jamesian conception of truth which amounts assertability”,  164 165  Siegel  to nothing more than what Dewey called  “warranted  and justification amounting to no more than “what  (1987), p.  138.  Similar self-referential paradoxes arise with the question “Why be rational?” It can be argued that the very ability to pose the question displays evidence of rationality, at least to some minimal degree, for to ask the question seriously is to seek, and commit oneself to, reason which might answer the question. This points out that rationality is, in an important sense, self-jus tifying; to inquire about its rational status is eo ipso to commit oneself to it. (Siegel (1988), p. 88, 132, 167.) Nozick (1993) writes that “one anwer would be that we are rational, we have the capacity to act rationally, and we value what we are.” (p. 40) Karl Popper’s argument is that the case for universal rationality cannot be supported by either logical argument or empirical evidence because only those who already have some commitment to reason will be influenced by them. Despite the force of Popper’s argument, this should not be used as an excuse for a pernicious relativism con cerning rationality since frequent exposure to argumentation (both inductive and deductive) and the use of evidence is for most people a precursor to their acceptance of their validity. (Karl Popper (1945),Vol. II, pp. 230 ff.)  111 one’s  peers  will.. .let  one  get  away  with  166 saying.”  Epistemic  67 warrant is, therefore, reduced to nonepistemic sociological fact.’ There is no Archimedian point or “Gods-eye view” outside our own world-view from which to evaluate that view’s truth. Although we exist and participate in an ultimate reality, we cannot know this reality objectively in the sense that the Logical Positivists,’ 68 for example, had hoped for. We cannot, it would seem, assume the detached vantage point of what Thomas Nagel calls “the view from nowhere,  ,,169  and consequently  we must attempt to diminish the generally accepted sharp bifurca tion between the objective and the subjective. Nagel argues that objectivity is both “overrated” and “underrated”. With respect to the former, it cannot provide a “complete view of the world on its own”  and with respect  to  the  latter,  it must be  regarded as  a  “method of understanding the world as it is” and not some romanti cized notion  in which  certain  subjective values  are  indispens  70 Nagel states that objectivity is the effort to “transcend able.’ our particular point  of view”  by attempting to  “get  outside of  ourselves.” He writes  166  Rorty  167  Jeffrey Stout  (1979), pp.  175—76.  (1988), p. 247.  168  Positivism, despite its rejection of Metaphysics, is, in a certain sense, a metaphysical position: it claims for Science the same God’s-eye view of reality which had formerly been claimed by metaphysical systems and religion. It does not recognize that Science has not only destroyed the claims of Metaphysics and Reli gion to this status, it has destroyed the status itself. (see Pole in Dearden et al., p. 124) 169  Thomas Nagel  170  Nagel  (1986) ,The View From Nowhere.  (1986), p.  5.  112 A view another if individual’s character of But,  it  is  or form of thought it relies less on makeup and position the particular type  is more objective than the specifics of the in the world, or on the of creature he is.’ 71  “impossible to leave one’s own point of view behind  entirely without ceasing to exist.” 72 Hence, the commonly accepted dichotomy between subjectivity and objectivity is not as clearly defined as we would like to think. Self-deceptive efforts to escape oneself and achieve objectivity from some external,  transcendent  source, some ultimate reality, or “view from nowhere” is an abdica tion of  one’s  “authenticity”  freedom and responsibility. -  It  is  a rejection of  an escape into what Sartre called the  soi.” Many of the Existentialist writers,  “etre-en  such as Sartre,  stand objectivity as having this normative dimension,  under  identifying  it with action and responsibility.’ 73 This traditional understanding of objectivity, which has come under attack from Kuhn, Rorty and other post-modernists, ties it to notions  of  precision,  veracity,  disinterestedness,  impartiality and impersonality. Piaget,  for example,  detachment, stated that  Objectivity consists in so fully realizing the countless intrusions of the self in everyday thought and illusions of the countless illusions which result that the sense, language, point of view, value, etc. preliminary step to every judgement is the effort to exclude the intrusive self.’ 74 -  -  In this  sense,  objectivity depends upon the existence of imper  sonal, autonomous entities, 171  Nagel  (1986), p. 5.  172  Nagel  (1986), p.  complete self-detachment and is inde  67.  173  See Rorty’s discussion of this sense of objectivity in Cha pter 8 of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. 174  Jean Piaget  (1972), p. 34.  113 pendent of subject-related influences. According to this view, any rational agent X should be replaceable by any other rational agent Y in which they both have the same cognitive access to some prop  osition P. 4.4 Objectivity as a Normative Notion  A second notion of objectivity is often mistakenly conflated with the  one  just  described.  In  this  second  sense,  objectivity  takes on a normative flavour in the sense of being a matter of jud genient  -  of avoiding prejudiced,  biased or dogmatic decisions in  favour of a willingness to submit to standards of relevance,  evi  dence and argument regulating ways of resolving disputes and decid ing beliefs. As Wittgenstein has pointed out, in measuring a belief we measure more than the belief itself; we measure it together with its supporting cast of other beliefs. Beliefs cannot be justified or grounded in isolation from a matrix of other beliefs consti tuting our  “picture of the world.”  It should be noted,  however,  that whether our criteria for truth necessarily demand coherence or any other requirement, nature  of  truth.  The  they are not directly connected with the logical  shift  from what  is  held  “truth” is a very common one in postmodernist camps.  true  to  “What is real  exists whether any rational being can in fact  [or what is true] think of it or not.  .  .that there is a real world, independent of how  we understand it, is both a simple and profound statement of meta 175 The common denominator of objectivity is a disposition physics.” and  willingness  to  be  open-minded with  respect  to  conflicting  interests and views and to keep discourse open while valuing an  175  Roger Trigg (1989), pp. xxv, xxix-xxx.  114 impartial regard for reasoned argument and evidence, leading where To be objective and epistemically responsible is to be  it will.  constrained by  “the nature of human cognitive equipment” , 76  the  fact that there exists an external reality and by the intellectual virtues and values of critical self-reflection. Hence,  the avoid  ance of bias, prejudice and irrelevant factors in judgement (e.g., John will get a poor grade on this assignment because he misbehaves in  class)  and  a  willingness  to  be  critical,  not  only  of  the  weaknesses, obscurities and paradoxes of the views of others, but also of the views that we ourselves favour, are virtues associated with objectivity. What is distinctive about this view is that objectivity con nects itself  to persons through their beliefs and their actions.  What makes a judgement objective is not merely the acceptance of the fact that there is a real world independent of how we under stand it, but also there is something special about people’s prac  tices. Hence,  the ontological Kantian role in the first sense of  objectivity is subordinated by a normative one. Objectivity becomes an intellectual virtue  -  a quality of character rather than refer  ring to properties of that which is known or features of the rela tion between the knower and the known or between theories and the world. The idea that objectivity is a quality of character has the corollary that people are themselves responsible for the extent to which their actions accord with objective practice,  just as they  are responsible for the extent to which they are constrained by reason.  176  In a certain sense,  Lorraine Code  the objective person is the rational  (1988), p. 160.  115 person.  Objectivity  is  rational persons but  a  disposition well  cannot be  within  the  grasp  of  seen as a virtuous or admirable  characteristic of their cognitive proclivities if it has nothing at all to do with their actions. A person can hardly be responsible for being or failing to be objective, or be praised or blamed for it,  if  the  notion  of  is  objectivity  property ascribed independently of  restricted to  the desires,  an  external  motivations and  beliefs of any individual person. But surely the notion of objectivity presupposes the existence of a self-subsistent reality, independent of human thought and lan guage,  about which one can be objective.  Many proponents of the  sociology of knowledge and philosophers following Wittgenstein and Rorty are content to conflate objectivity with intersubjectivity or claim that objectivity is only meaningful within conceptual frame works  and hence,  reduce  objectivity  to  causal  or deterministic  explanations of belief which inevitably involve a tendency to treat all  beliefs  on  an  equal  footing.  This  approach  to  objectivity  inevitably blurs the distinction between what a person believes and why he believes it and seemingly removes the possibility of error from our judgements.  If  “truth”  is merely  “what we judge to be  true” then objectivity loses its point and thereby undermines all intellectual activity and the impetus for inquiry. Roger Trigg says No intellectual activity worth the name can avoid the distinction between our understanding and what we are trying to understand... Without such a conception of objectivity, philosophy can no longer be distinguished from prejudice. All reasoning requires the idea that there is something beyond itself which can provide a standard of correctness.’ 77  177  Roger Trigg (1989), pp. 209,  219.  116 4.5 siegel’s Epistemology  Harvey Siegel argues for what could be described as a miti “absolutist”  gated denial  of  78 epistemology’  relativism  foundationalism,  ‘  does  based  not  incorrigibility,  on  the  premise entail  necessarily infallibility,  that  a  either  certainty  or  some necessary privileged framework, or the “unrevisability of some class of statements, or dogmatism.” ° 18 Knowledge claims can be objectively assessed in accordance with presently accepted criteria (e.g. of evidential warrant, explanatory power, perceptual relia bility, etc.), which can in turn be critically assessed. Thus an absolutist belief system can be both self-cor recting and corrigible. Furthermore, judgement of knowl edge claims require at least implicit commitment to not regarding certainty or “absolutist” presuppositions privilege, but rather the possibility of objective, nonquestion-begging judgements. 181 -  Siegel rejects what he calls “vulgar absolutism” certainty, 82 work.”  -  the desire for  incorrigibility or the “product of a privileged frame  Siegel’s  “absolutist”  thesis does not  require that one  178  The denial of absolutes, it should be remembered, entail paradoxes of self-reference and self-refutation. The paradoxes inherent in statements such as “There are no absolutes” and “Every thing is relative” were dealt with by Socrates in the Platonic dialogues. See Siegel (1987), pp. 8-9, 18-19. The appeal of foundationalist epistemologies appears to be in the elegant deductive structures of mathematical systems. rooted Euclidean geometry, to state a familiar example, has had a dramatic effect on the imagination of many philosophers in the way in which so much can be deduced from so little. The structure of Euclidean geometry suggests that there are some basic truths (axioms, postu lates) which serve as the foundations upon which all else rests. But it is a mistake to think that axioms have any special epistemological status the whole theory stands together and its must credibility be exposed to the bar of informal reason, plausi and experience. bility -  180  Siegel  (1987), p.  181  Siegel  (1987), p. 161—162.  182  Siegel  (1987), p. 164.  160.  117 embrace  any particular  theory of  truth,  analysis  of  knowledge,  theory of justification or theory of evidence, but demands a fair, open—minded, objective, evaluation  of  intersubjective, knowledge  conflicting  critical approach to the  claims  in  a  “non-question  begging way” 83 and “in accordance with criteria which themselves 84 Siegel’s efforts admit of critical assessment and improvement.” are a  step  in the direction toward a denial  relativism but,  of  epistemological  as he readily admits, much more work needs to be  done in this area, as well as in ethics, which has been in a per petual state of chaos since Hume. respects,  -  one’s  reasoning appeals  can be made  to any rational  to individuals conceived of as detached from their idio  syncrasies of character, over,  in some  similar to John Rawls’ and other liberal theorists who  argue that person  Siegel’s efforts are,  Siegel’s  culture, history and circumstance. More  approach  is  consistent  with  Karl  Popper’s  fallibilist, Peircean view that no statement of fact is ever final in the sense that  it is beyond refutability or modification.  It  maintains that the structure of our knowledge has foundations, but it does not hold that these are immutable and incorrigible. More over,  the very notion of  fallibility,  whether empirical or not,  presupposes a realist epistemology/ontology in which a distinction is drawn between the object of one’s belief and what one believes. “The history of the world is littered with people who were certain and wrong” 85 and the possibility of error,  ‘  Siegel  (1987), p.  165.  184  Siegel  (1987), p.  167.  185  Roger Trigg (1989), p.  64.  perhaps even massive  118 error,  must be taken seriously.  reality or they are not,  Our beliefs are a reflection of  but uncertainty about reality does not  mean that we do not or will not have access to reality. rejects the view that knowledge is phous,  unstructured  determined  by  our  chaotic  It simply  “constructed” out of an amor  universe  conceptualizations  and  then  of  these  rejects the Wittgensteinian view that reason,  conditioned constructs.  and It  truth and the self  are merely linguistic creations. Language is the tool of our think ing and not its prison. 4.6 Objectivity and Truth: Dewey  John Dewey, one of Rorty’s heroes, would in no way subscribe to  the  relativistic position of  Rorty’s  form of  neo-pragmatism  which insists that truth and objectivity entail “conformity to the norms of justification  (for assertions and actions)  that we find  about us” . Rorty thus depicts pragmatists like himself as “those 86 who wish to reduce objectivity to solidarity.”  The pragmatism to  which Rorty subscribes is not the Peircean pragmatism which looks at truth as an intrinsic epistemological ideal to which we aspire, but is a Jamesian pragmatism which defines truth as “the name for 87 For Dewey, whatever proves itself to be good for us to believe.” the fact that all justification involves appeal to existing social practices is where the real problems for democracy begin. To find oneself in a cultural tradition is the beginning, not the end, of critical thought. What are the social practices to which we should appeal in any particular context? How do we discriminate the better  186  Rorty  (1979), p. 361.  187  Rorty  (1991), p. 22.  119 from the worse? Which ones need to be criticized, reformulated  or  188 discarded?  Alternative  reconstructed,  possibilities  must  be  imagined. Richard Bernstein writes Whatever our final judgement of Dewey’s success or failure in dealing with what he called the “problems of men”, Dewey constantly struggled with questions which Rorty never quite faces although his whole reading of modern philosophy is one that points to the need for reflective intellectuals to examine them. Sometimes Rorty writes as if any philosophic attempt to sort out the better from the worse, the rational from the irrational (even assuming that this is historically relative) must lead us back to foundationalism and the search for an ahistorical perspective. But Rorty has also shown us that there is nothing inevitable about such a move.., a pri mary task is one of trying to deal with present conflicts and confusions, of trying to sort out the better from the worse, of focusing on what social practises ought to endure and which demand reconstruction, of what types of justification are acceptable and which are not.’ 89 -  Although Dewey understood the reality and importance of habit and , he also recognized the need to re-create and for continu 90 custom’ ous  re-evaluation and reconstruction  -  a  second order habit  of  intelligent assessment and adjustment of custom to meet arising circumstances before they evolve into either social stagnation or social upheavals. This possibility for continuous reconstruction is generally neglected because we become captivated by the manifest stability and Russell,  security  of  our  inherited  ’ 9 customs.’  Dewey,  like  eschewed the sort of education which suppressed critical  modes of thought, kept within bounds by habits of mind formed early in childhood. The aim of education is first and foremost to develop  188  Richard Bernstein (1980), p. 771.  189  Bernstein  190  John Dewey (1922) Human Nature and Conduct,  191  Dewey (1922), pp 102—104.  (1980), p. 771. Part I  120 critical methods of thought,  directed toward internalizing in the  student the discipline of critical, responsible thinking. for the most part, adults have been given train ing rather than education. An impatient, premature mech anization of impulse activity after the fixed pattern of adult habits of thought and affection has been desired. The combined effect of love of power, timidity in the face of the novel and a self-admiring complacency has been too strong to permit innovative impulse to exercise its reorganizing potentialities •192 Instead of spirit  fostering in our  students  the  creative and critical  “just where critical thought is most needed  religion  and  politics,”  have  we  focused  on  -  in morals,  “retaining  and  strengthening tendencies toward conformity,” avoiding “the shock of unpleasant disagreement” and finding “the easy way out.. For Dewey,  considerations  of method were  critical,  and he  viewed science in a very broad sense to be commensurate with common sense  reasoning  spoke of the  that  cut  across  all  cultural peculiarities  and  “fundamental unity of the structure of common sense  and science.” 194 Dewey,  I am sure, would have rejected the Kuhnian  incommensurability thesis  -  something Rorty accepts carte blanche.  Rorty, like Wittgenstein, reacts to scientism by mistakenly taking science to be inextricably enveloped within a cultural context just  another  “language  game”,  “form  of  life”  or  -  “world-view.”  Dewey, on the other hand, following Peirce, construed science as a useful mode or paradigm of deliberative inquiry and as a reliable process via which to acquire knowledge and fix belief. Pre-Rortyan pragmatists  (William  James 96.  notwithstanding),  192  Dewey  (1922), p,.  193  Dewey  (1922), p.  ‘  John Dewey (1938), p. 79.  97—98.  like  the  logical  121 positivists and other supporters of the Enlightenment ideal, were aware that there is something special about science,  both in our  attempts to understand the world and in our attempts to achieve reliable and true beliefs.  Or are Feyerabend and Rorty right in  claiming that there is no such thing as scientific progress and that  our  scientists  know  no  more  the  about  world  than  did  Aristotle? Rorty, and in particular Feyerabend with his “anything goes”  approach to  Creationism,  science,  Astrology  and  must other  now  surely  “crank”  endorse Numerology,  theories  as  credible  hypotheses for scientific inquiry and as possible candidates for implementation  into  the  science  curriculum  of  our  secondary  schools. 4.7 Objectivity and Truth: Rorty  Rorty’s particular version of pragmatism is graphically illus trated when he asserts,  in Jamesian fashion, that what made Newton  a better scientist than Aristotle was “not because his words better correspond to reality but simply because Newton made us better able to cope”  (my italics)  Hence,  science is viewed as ways of “cop  ing with the world” rather than as a search for “truth” about the world. Truth and objectivity are regarded by Rorty as ethnocentric and culture-relative and “truth”,  says Rorty,  “is not the sort of  thing we should expect to have a philosophically interesting theory . What is true is what could be established to the satis 96 about” faction of one’s “cultural peers” and “what you can defend against  ‘  Rorty  196  Rorty (1982), p. xiii.  (1979), p. 269.  122 all corners.” 97 But truth is not determined by reflections on social convenience  or by  the majority  in  culture.  a  On  the  contrary,  social expediency depends upon whether a belief is true.’ 98 When we ask a question about some proposition or some aspect of how things really are,  “we are not asking for a report on the state of public  opinion with regard to that question, we are asking to be told the truth about it.” 99 If Rorty’s notions of truth and rationality are correct,  one might  legitimately ask,  what  reason do we have to  accept his views as true and how do we know we are coping? Further more, if Rorty purports to be offering anything resembling a philo sophic argument against rationality and truth, he must himself be appealing to the very rationality he is calling into question. It seems to me that Rorty must make some drastic concessions if he expects to be taken seriously  -  namely,  that there are, at least,  some objective truths that we can come to know. Why we don’t need theories of truth  here  -  -  and Rorty would agree  is that we should accept that things are as they are and  that we often know and say how they are,  without looking for a  theoretical explanation of how we are able to do so. ° In other 20 words, it is the world that determines truth; our beliefs are true because  they  “fit”  reality  approximating  by  reality  in  its  uninterpreted state. 201 The real issue of realism is not whether we  ‘‘  Rorty  198  w Kaufrnann  199  Sabina Lovibond (1983), p.  200  C.G. Prado  201  Prado  (1979), p. 308. (1961), p. 279.  (1987), p. 78.  (1987), p. 79.  148.  123 know what we know  we must accept the empirical  -  sufficiency of  having certain beliefs based upon the limitations of our cognitive apparatus know most  but we can offer good reasons for thinking that we do  -  of what we  claim to know.  Rorty  seems  to  think that  accepting our epistemic limitations necessitates assuming something that transcends those limitations.  Should we accept this assump  tion? Propositions are “true” when there is a convergence of description and belief, when we say how things are. the sorts of things we say in language about sentences and beliefs relate to the world beyond language... In short, we are unwilling to equate the dis mantling of the Platonic correspondism with the destruc tion of the very idea of truth as determined by the 202 world. .  .  Empirical reality is always reality as experienced by humans and the problem with a strict empiricism is that it leaves no room for any possible reality beyond that experience. Although it must be tempered with skepticism and plausibility, acceptance of the possi bility of the existence of entities beyond our experience may make us  less  dogmatic  in  saying what  can be  experienced.  Reality is  essentially a metaphysical question rather than an empirical one. Therefore,  when  the prospect  of  reality is  removed and  factors  other than reality introduced as the origins of our beliefs,  “we  become the playthings of our individual or collective history. The way our beliefs are produced becomes more important than what they are about.” 203 When Rorty asserts that truth is “what you can defend against all comers,”  I am reminded of the 1992 movie A Few Good Men. The  202  Prado  203  Roger Trigg (1989)  (1987), pp. 81—82. ,  p. 206.  124 central  story revolves around two United States marines who are  charged with second degree murder, but who are subsequently offered a  “plea bargain”  which would ostensibly result  in dishonourable  discharge and a six month prison sentence. The “murder” was in fact an accidental killing of another marine (who apparently had a heart ailment)  -  the result of invoking “Code Red”, an unwritten code of  punishment to be inflicted on fellow marine trainees who are not “carrying  their  weight.”  The  Red  Code  injunction  was  secretly  ordered, but denied, by the camp conimander, Colonel Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) to the dictum:  -  “Core  an unscrupulous “man with a cause” who holds -  Unit  -  God  Country.” The two career mar  -  ines who were simply following orders and camp protocol, wanted to see  the  real  truth  divulged  and  hence,  decided  to  take  their  chances in court in spite of a lack of evidence in support of their case. Here we have two men who are innocent of a crime but cannot prove it,  cannot defend it successfully “against all corners,” but  who refuse to compromise the truth and their honour to serve prag matic ends. The truth is: They are innocent! The only correct sense of “true” makes truth independent of how well it can be defended. Its defensibility is a separate matter,  which may depend upon a  variety of extraneous circumstances. Any person innocent of a crime surely wants the real truth to emerge;  and the real truth is all  that is normally meant by “true.” On a similar thread, I can unfor tunately think of too many examples from my years of teaching in which  I  have  contacted  a  parent  concerning  his/her  son  or  daughter’s absence and had the truth compromised by expediency. The parent would initially be aghast at the apparent unexcused absence until informed that her/his student had missed a test and would  125 consequently receive an automatic zero. Then, once the stakes are raised, the parent all of a sudden remembers why her/his son/daugh ter was away. Rorty’s true”  attempts  to  or “is justified”  normative  reduce  expressions  like  “is  to non-normative expressions of the form  “is what your peers let you get away with”  (e.g.,  an argument is  valid or a proposition is true if it adheres to the standards of one’s social group) flies in the face of what we already understand about how the terms “true” and “justified function in our everyday language and discourse.  Hence,  theory or definition of  these  we should not need any grandiose terms,  pragmatic or historicist variety,  particularly those of  the  to understand their meaning and  everyday usage. Justification can, in a certain sense, be relative concepts and arguments,  evidence,  available  in the Twelfth Century it may have been rational  (e.g.,  etc.  that are  to the reasons,  to assert that the earth is the centre of the cosmos because...) so that one may be free from epistemic censure. We now believe that is true because the arguments  “slavery is unjust” authority  such  as  “the  belief  that  God  had  from previous  designated  certain  classes of people as slaves after the flood...” have not survived critical scrutiny. 204 Being justified in believing something is a norma tive relation that exists among a given proposition, the person who accepts it, and a cognitive context. If I am justified in accepting a proposition, my context and I are related in the required way. The relation is as objective as can be, not subject to worrisomely arbitrary subj ective manipulation •205  204 J Stout 205  J Stout  (1988), Ethics After Babel, p. 29. (1988), p. 30.  126 This  includes  “arbitrary subjective manipulation”  by the social  group to which one belongs. Antony Flew describes this phenomenon as “metaphysical collectivism” which excludes as inconceivable that a dissenting individual or minority could apprehend the truth. He writes If the only possibility of objective knowledge does indeed lie “in its being the set of beliefs of a social group;” and if propositions and arguments are not true or false, valid or invalid, altogether independently of whether anyone actually recognizes them to be so; then, certainly, there is no standing ground for any dissident individual 206 Hence,  “slavery is unjust” is true and “the earth is the centre of  the cosmos”  is false independent of time and context  -  accepting  their contraries may have been, at one time, justified, but false. However,  it must be granted that  beliefs for good reasons, 207 sons.”  True beliefs,  “just as people can hold false  they can hold true beliefs for bad rea  for  example,  can be held  for  reasons  of  self-interest, faulty logic, bias, ideological affiliation, relig ious dogma,  rationalization or wishful  thinking.  These would be  unjustified true beliefs. Rorty must concede the fact that no matter how convinced or justified we are in believing P, it always seems legitimate to ask “But is P really true? Does P describe how things really are?” Our attempt to answer these questions do not, as Rorty suggests, gener ate useless metaphysical questions; nor do they necessarily mean that we are searching for foundations or certainty. Nor does our assent to P shut off further inquiry regarding the truth or falsity  206 207  Antony Flew (1982), p. 371. j•  Stout  (1988), p. 31.  127 of P. Intellectual humility requires recognition of the fact that some of our present beliefs are false; i.e., some propositions that are  we  now warranted and  justified  in believing  are  not  true.  Hence, our assent to a belief should be preceded by skepticism and careful, the  fact  responsible, that  some of  and open—minded intellectual scrutiny. our present  beliefs might  be  But  false does  nothing to change the fact that to hold a belief is precisely to hold it to be true, even though we have no priveleged access to any distinction between those of our beliefs which are actually true and those which are merely considered to be true by us. Truth may be defined in Tarskian fashion as a property of sentences but truth is not a function of either language or our ability to perceive it. Roger Trigg writes When error is imposible, any belief or any theory is as good as any other and it does not matter which one holds. In the world of ideas, at least, the permissive society soon becomes a nihilistic one. If it matters what we believe, we have to face the fact that the price of possibly being right is that we could be wrong. 208 4.8 Dewey’s Notion of Truth  Although there are some similarities, Dewey’s notion of truth should not be confused with the relativistic approaches to truth 209 Dewey’s concept of espoused by William James and Richard Rorty. truth is more closely in line with the fallibilistic, transitional epistemology of C.S. Peirce. Dewey states 208 209  Roger Trigg (1989), p.  187.  Dewey (1938), in Logic wrote that “situations that are disturbed and confused and obscure, cannot troubled, be straightened out, cleared up and put in order, by manipulation of our personal states of mind.” (p. 106) In other words, truth and evidence are not to be found in individualistic Cartesian musings or determined by the satisfactory, consolatory or practical out comes of a proposition.  128 all knowledge, or warranted assertion, depends upon inquiry and that inquiry is, truistically, connected with what is questionable (and questioned) and involves a sceptical element, or what Peirce called “fallibilism.” But it also provides for probability, and for determina tion of degrees of probability in rejecting all intrinsi cally dogmatic statements, where “dogmatic” applies to any statement asserted to possess inherent self-evident 210 truth. Dewey adds that the only proper criterion for truth is a “theory which  finds  the test and mark of truth in  consequences of some  sort.” By “consequences”, he means only the consequences of the use of inquiry and not consequences unrelated to the content of the instrument such as psychological factors, for example. He describes his theory of truth as “the ideal limit of indefinitely continued and goes on to state that the 211 inquiry”  “truth”  of any  “present  proposition” is subject to the outcome of continued inquiries; its “truth”, if the word must be used, is provisional, as near to the truth as inquiry has as yet come, a matter determined not by a guess at some future belief but the care and pains with which inquiry has been conducted up 212 to the present time. truth and falsity are properties only of that subjectmatter which is the end, the close of the inquiry.. the distinction between true and false conclusions is deter mined by the operational procedures through which prop ositions about inferential elements (meanings, ideas, hypotheses) are instituted. 213 •  .  .  .  In my view, flates  truth  and  however,  Dewey invites relativism when he con  justification  “warranted assertibility”  by  his  rather than  preference “truth”  imbued with a form of crass utilitarianism, 210  Dewey  (1941), p.  172.  211  Dewey  (1939), p.  572.  212  Dewey (1939), p.  572—73.  213  Dewey (1941), p.  176.  for  and his  the  term  theory is  thus undermining the  129 widely held project of pure inquiry and the pursuit of truth for its own sake. In using this term he is suggesting that what we come to believe  (as true)  is contextually justified  (or warranted)  by  the particular conceptual scheme or process of inquiry itself. 214 A statement may be regarded as verified or become qualified as “war ranted assertibility” but the question still remains: “Is it true?” Dewey would probably suggest, as would Rorty, that this question is an idle one  -  perhaps it is. But if Dewey means “true” then why use  the term “warranted assertibility”? It seems clear that “warranted assertibility” is about justification and justification is what is warranted, not about what is true. As I have mentioned earlier, grandiose theories of truth are not  very helpful and do not seem necessary. The attempt to get at  an ultimate definition or theory of truth is to enter a seemingly bottomless pit, permeated by venomous circularity and self-refer ence. But truth requires coherence and internal consistency and is a function of our collective experience with the natural environ ment.  Truth is what truly is the case, what really is,  along with the limitations of our cognitive apparatus,  and this, constrains  what it is reasonable to believe. Coherence, explanatory power and consistency with past experiences are measures of the reasonable ness of our beliefs. The key question concerning truth and knowl edge is whether or not having justified true beliefs is intrinsi cally  valuable.  If they are,  then all propositions are true or  false whether or not they meet our ends or satisfy our psychologi cal needs. William James,  214  see Dewey  and neo-pragmatists like Rorty,  (1938), pp. 8—9.  reject  130 truth  and  justification  as  having  any  intrinsic  value.  But  if  neither truth nor justification are intrinsically valuable then, based upon the accepted view of knowledge as justified true belief, the value of knowledge itself is brought into question. Certainly this would be one way of answering the radical  skeptic  -  if we  cannot know anything or know if our beliefs are true -So what? Who cares? It must also be stated that simply because we take something to be true (to actually be the case) does not imply that it is true in an absolute or dogmatic sense.  Dewey was,  I think,  trying to  avoid the absolutist conception of truth and truth as correspon dence  “to  that which is not  known save  through itself.” 215 With  respect to the correspondence theory of truth, Dewey wondered “how something in experience could be asserted to correspond to some thing by definition outside experience, which it is, upon the basis of epistemological doctrine, says  Dewey,  “can  proposition about spond?”  This  anybody it  look at  so as  approach to  the sole means of knowing.” 216 “How”, both an object  (event)  to determine whether the  the  idea of  and a  two corre  truth assumes what  Thomas  Nagel called “a view from nowhere.” As I have already pointed out,  philosophical definitions of  truth are not particularly helpful to anyone trying to find out what is true. What one needs are reliable criteria,  but the cri  teria should not be conflated with the nature of truth. Whether our tests for truth involve requirements for coherence, consistency or  215  Dewey  (1941), p. 178.  216  Dewey  (1941), pp. 178-79.  131 correspondence  with  reality,  once  we  that  accept  a  gap  exists  between our judgement and what is the case, there is room for truth as correspondence with reality. But a self-subsistent reality reality which is not conceptual  contingent upon human thought,  framework.  “reality for us”  When we  make  the  move  from  -  a  language or “reality”  to  anti-realism. Such a we turn from realism to 217  move is only one step removed from idealism or solipsism. According to Roger Trigg,  such a move takes us  notion of evidence collapses into  to a position in which “the  ‘what people judge to be evi  dence, ‘just as truth becomes ‘what is judged to be true’ and knowl edge becomes  ‘what is thought to be knowledge’.” 218  In countering Bertrand Russell’s objections to his conception of truth,  Dewey charged Russell with holding to an epistemology  which assumes that  “anything that is not certain to the point of  infallibility, or which does not ultimately rest upon some absolute certainty”  does  not  constitute  “assertibly warranted”,  knowledge.  This  to use Dewey’s own term  -  charge  is  not  Russell made it  very clear in his many papers and essays that he eschewed any form of absolutism,  dogmatism or infallibilism.  Being certain that P.  (e.g., that the sun will rise tomorrow) for example, is not claimed as a necessary condition for knowledge; only that the agent be in possession of “certain”,  evidence which makes  it  reasonable  for her to be  to hold a rational firm belief. Moreover,  were logically conclusive  (i.e.,  if evidence  entailing indubitable certainty)  then it. does not seem that it would be conceptually correct to call  217  Roger Trigg (1989), p.  53.  218  Roger Trigg (1989), p.  150.  132 it “evidence.  ..219  4.9 Habermas If  truth,  rationality and argument are only a relativistic  context-dependent driven ideology then how, as Jurgen Habermas has , 220 argued  can we be self-critical or attempt to solve the Deweyan  “problems of men?”  Habermas,  echoing Dewey,  does not believe we  must be cornered into either-or dilemmas. It does not mean commit ting oneself to any form of absolutism or “pure transcendentalism”, but neither does it mean embracing pure historicism or relativism. The latter two, he argues,  carry “the burden of self-referential,  pragmatic contradictions and paradoxes that violate our need for consistency,”  and the former is  “burdened with a foundationalism  that conflicts with our consciousness of the fallibility of human knowledge.  ,,221  Habermas maintains,  contrary to Rorty and Wittgenstein,  that  there is a distinction “between valid and socially accepted views, between good arguments and those which are successful for a certain audience at a certain time” 222 and members of any society have an interest in self-criticism and viewing “social practices of justi fication as more than just such practices.” 223 In the fallibilistic, anti-foundational world view truth may be eternal in some incon sequential way a la Tarski,  219 220  see Brian Carr j  but our judgements as to what is or  (1981-82)  Habermas in R. Bernstein,  221  R. Bernstein, ed.  222  R. Bernstein, ed., p.  194.  223  R. Bernstein, ed., p.  195.  (1985),  p.  ed.(1985), pp. 192-98. 193.  133 what  is  true  not  are  not.  Rorty’s  contention  is  that  truth is  compartmentalized within  “an infinite plurality of standpoints”,  i.e.,  cultural,  religious,  in  “truth  and  within historical, aesthetic  contexts  which  scientific,  is  made  moral,  rather  than  224 This position, as I have argued earlier, is unacceptable found.” to those of us with liberal humanistic and realist leanings.  It  leaves us with a fragmented parochialism in which we have been psy chologically set adrift from the enlightenment humanistic ideal of a common intellectual tradition based on a universal reason. Rather than the evaluation of arguments from the point of view of their cogency, independent of their source, Postmodernists have zeroed in on the  relevance of  the view truth,  “whose view?”,  (like Thrasymaschus’  “whose argument?”,  in Plato’s The Republic)  promoting that all  all knowledge is a function of what the strongest factions  in society choose to invent and enforce for what they perceive to be their own interest. Feminist philosophers have argued that the notions of univer sal  reason,  logic  and morality are  gender-based,  male-dominated oppressive power structures.  a  function of  But this analysis of  epistemology as power based is entirely dependent upon and presu pposes a universalized vantage point of reason and an ability to locate a source of judgement and knowledge. And even if Rorty is right, surely this does not mean that we are incapable of adequate iy  answering  such  urgent  questions  we  have  about  abortion,  bioethics, gender equality, religious fundamentalism, racial into lerance,  224  native rights,  euthanasia,  Richard Rorty (1989), p. 51.  and the natural environment.  134 Rorty’s skeptical challenge, however,  reminds us of the fact that  we cannot seek security from the contingencies and problems of our everyday life in a quest  for certainty or by attempting to find  answers and comfort in absolutist,  transcendent dogmatisms.  135  Men become civilized not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt. H.L. Mencken -  (5) CRITICAL THINKING AND INTELLECTUAL VIRTUES: CONCLUSIONS 5.1 Educational Aims  Education  is  a  process  that  should  not  begin  or  end with  institutionalized schooling. Education should be viewed as lifetime endeavour and this idea should be fostered in our young people. Children are naturally curious creatures  and want to understand  both themselves and their environment; especially they want to know  why. They are natural philosophers and this Socratic disposition and desire for examination and self-examination should be invited and encouraged. For some reason, however, many of our children lose this natural inquisitive spirit and eagerness for learning quite soon  after they  have  entered  the  school  system.  This  state  of  affairs is extremely unfortunate and poses a difficult problem to resolve.  Quite  notwithstanding,  clearly,  our  vulgar  popular  cultural  influences  the system drives many students to boredom and  despair. The over-emphasis on the content of thought (rather than its procedures and standards) and its concomitant didactic method ology,  the  repression  specialization,  the  of  creative  predominance  and of  critical  inquiry,  instrumental  over  reason,  bureaucratization, and an over-emphasis of one-dimensional techni cal solutions to complex social, political and environmental prob lems are just a few of the many problems that I feel educators and others in positions of authority and responsibility must address. Largely due to over-specialization and our dependence on “experts”, many people have either abdicated or simply lost their ability to think clearly. The concept of an educated public has been replaced  136 by an atomized group of narrow specialists and experts who often know little outside their chosen specialty. Thinking has become the occupational lawyers,  and  responsibility accountants.  of This  specialists phenomenon  such has  as  scientists,  resulted  in  the  demise of the traditional broad liberal education. We must contin ually  re-think  and possibly redefine  our present  conception of  education in a rapidly changing world. Many of the problems we face such as overpopulation and the possibility of environmental col lapse  are  of  major  import.  Our very  survival  depends  upon  the  realization of the gravity of these problems and that their resol ution will demand a critical and creative intelligence. Difficult and complex human problems cannot be solved by serving up simplis tic, atomized technical solutions. It is clear that there cannot be any incorrigible, eternal or ultimate definition of education as there cannot be any ultimate aims of education. 225 One could fill several volumes attempting to articulate and address some of the problems mentioned above. It is my belief that educators should attempt to develop a humanistic, fallibilistic conceptualization of education, a “programmatic def 226 which will inition”  stress  the  need  for  fostering autonomous  critical thinkers, persons who are skeptical of appeals to superfi cial, in,mutable, transcendent or absolutist approaches to the sol  225  see R.S. Peters (1964) , “Education as Initiation” in Analy sis and Education, R.Archambault, ed., New York: Humanities Press. 226  This is a term used by Israel Scheffler as defining the way things should be. Jonas Soltis (1977) has asserted that “. . .a search for the definition of education is most probably for a sta tement of the right or best program for education, and, as such, is a prescription for certain valued means or ends to be sought in education.” (p. 9)  137 ution of real human problems. 227 Although it may serve as an ideal to which one might aspire, we desperately need people who can live (as Dewey would have  without the myths of the “quest for certainty” it.),  people  who  are  prepared  to  take  responsibility  for  their  beliefs and actions and accept the realities of our contingency and finitude. Our problems cannot be resolved by resorting to psychics, faith-healing evangelists, New Age mysticism, astrologers, or quick fix “self-help gurus.” The proliferation of these and other appal ling exercises in self-deception is a sad comment on the present human condition. The  importance of  education depends  the  role played by critical  upon one’s philosophic  thinking in  stance on the aims  of  education. R.S. Peters has asked the question: “Must Educators have an Aim?” 228 Peters maintains that arguments over ultimate aims are more  often  disputes  over  the  way in which or process by which  things are done rather than what the outcomes should be. Surely no one would argue against acquainting our young people with the vast cultural  and  responsible,  historical autonomous,  traditions  and  encouraging  and principled intellectual,  rational, as well as  ethical, behaviour. Education is, in many respects, an abstraction not unlike  “happiness”,  having no ultimate essence or intrinsic,  innate quality. As the Zen and Taoist sages have rightly pointed  227  Maxine Greene (1976) has stated that fixed principles, like fixed ends, tend to close off inquiry” and “people who func tion habitually, according to rules that are seldom reflected upon, cannot think what they are doing.” (p. 19) 228  “.  .  .  in Philosophy of Education, W.K. Frankena, ed., New York: MacMillan, 1965, pp. 44-51. Originally printed in R.S. Peters, Authority, Responsibility, and Education, London: Allen & Unwin, 1963, pp. 83—95.  138 out, the more we desire and pursue such abstract intangible goals, the more remote and transient they become. Therefore, if Peters is as I believe he is,  correct,  then it is at least as important to  consider the way the game is played,  as to consider its purpose.  5.2 The Problem of Indoctrination  If education is concerned only with the transmission of basic skills,  “factual” information and the accepted cultural dogmas of then perhaps we should indoctrinate,  our age, children. ed.)  not  “educate” our  The Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary  defines “indoctrinate” thus:  (2)”to instruct in doctrines,  (2nd  (l)”to instruct; to teach,” and  theories,  beliefs,  or principles.”  These definitions are not very helpful. Definition (1)  is,  if not  clearly false, at least an anachronism and (2) does not reveal the pejorative connotation associated with indoctrination. Presently, we think of indoctrination as a particular instructional technique involving the severance of rational, reflective assessment and the logical and moral criteria for teaching. More precisely, indoctri nation entails the acceptance of unverifiable and/or contentious premises, and  an  the acquiescence to authority and suspension of doubt,  acceptance  doctrines  with  the  of  the  absolute  objective  of  certainty of  giving  the  beliefs  or  believer”  an  the  “true  unshakeable faith in total solutions and ultimate objective real ity. Eric Hoffer asserts that the true believer claims the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine and that there is no truth or certitude outside it. The facts on which the true believer bases his conclusions must not be derived from his experience or observation but from holy writ... To rely on the evidence of the senses and of reason is heresy and trea son... it is the certitude of his infallible doctrine that renders the true believer impervious to the uncer tainties, surprises and the unpleasant realities of the  139 world around him. Thus the effectiveness of a doctrine should not be judged by its profundity, sublimity or the validity of the truth that it embodies, but how thorough ly it insulates the individual from his self and the 229 world as it is. Although Hoffer movements  is  referring to  and their  ideologies,  the doctrinaire nature of mass deceptive,  these authoritative,  non-evidential, uncritical means by which the true believer adopts and maintains his beliefs are salient features of indoctrination. When one is presented with and adopts a set of beliefs which can explain away obvious inconsistencies (e.g., “It’s  an  outcome.”) evant,  act  of  God”,  and maintains  or  “My astrology  “It is God’s will”  charts predicted the  that experience and evidence is  then our beliefs become fixed and permanent.  irrel  This is the  essence of dogmatism. A person who is dogmatic is one who is dis posed to indoctrinate  -  the indoctrinator and the dogmatist are cut  from the same cloth. To be dogmatic is to be absolutely certain; it is the attitude that no information, evidence, argument, or experi ence will ever be seriously entertained and that further inquiry has come to an end. It is a view that sees human existence at the end of some sort of telos,  a path that has led to the necessary  truth of our own system of beliefs thus disengaging the truth of our own views and beliefs practice.  from the interplay of time and social  But if history has taught us anything,  it  is that the  world is strewn with people who were certain and wrong. The real problem we face is not the rationality of most of our beliefs,  but  the possibility of  criticizing particular beliefs,  values and institutions, particularly if we accept the postmoderist  229  Eric Hoffer (1951), pp. 82—83.  140 assertion that there are no foundations,  system-independent cri  teria, or external frameworks on which to rest rational critique. I have already argued against this position at some length and I do not mean to suggest that, ultimate appeal, Important  all forms of knowledge are on an equal footing.  factors  explanatory  since there is no Archimedean point of  such  value,  plausibility,  as  evidence,  conceptual  verifiability,  clarity,  falsifiability  and  coherence are accepted means of adjudicating knowledge claims which are generally ignored by those who maintain that Creationism is as much a  science  Evolutionary Theory and  as  further contend that  Evolution and Secular Humanism are themselves  religious dogmas.  There are also those who, in spite of the paradoxes of self-refer ence,  argue that rationality and critical thinking are indoctri  nated dogmas. Bertrand Russell has many times pointed out the fact that the beliefs people hold most intensely are those which lack the most evidential  support.  Unfortunately,  the truth of a belief is not  commensurate with the degree of passion or zeal with which it is held.  Christians  and other religious  persons,  for  example,  are  often highly sensitive and defensive when their beliefs are ques tioned. They hold their beliefs as though they are congruent with their  very  being  or  personhood  and  any  regarding  query  beliefs is taken as a threat to this personhood. these beliefs often amounts to an appeal  these  The defense of  to irrelevant external  factors, dubious premises, circuitous argument, unable to rationally justify their position,  and when they are  resort to ad homineni  attacks or even violence. The  school,  ideally,  is  an  environment  in  which  values,  141 beliefs, and opinions can be exposed to critical reflective scru tiny. But why do so many feel that religious beliefs, for example, are  sacrosanct and therefore,  immune  from classroom discussion?  With “political correctness” the order of the day, there is clearly a taboo on open-minded inquiry at least as strong as the resistance in Darwin’s day to questioning the authority of the Bible or the rationality of particular religious beliefs. suppose,  The  fear arises,  I  from the fact that children will be induced to question  and possibly reject the beliefs of their parents or church. Rel igious fundamentalism persists not because of inadequacies in our arguments using reason and science, it persists because it is taboo in society  -  indeed,  in most places in the world  -  to promulgate  the arguments of reason and science in refutation of most religious beliefs  (The Satanic Verses and Salman Rushdie’s plight is a case  in point).  I  cannot  remember when  I  last  encountered a  rousing  refutation of any of the thousands of preposterous religious dogmas on prime-time television nor have I seen a disclaimer by a major newspaper regarding the astrology column. We need to learn some where how to discuss sensitive issues without taking up cudgels. These issues can be sensitively handled in the classroom by avoid ing the ad hominem vilification and character assassination that are so common to religious and political argumentation.  It seems  clear to me that if a particular set of beliefs is so fragile that they cannot withstand intellectual examination and critical scru tiny,  they should,  indeed, be rejected.  ° asks whether parents are entitled to view their 23 Eamon Callan  230  Eamon Callan (1988b), pp. 133—142.  142 children as chattels by indoctrinating them. right  to  send  one’s  children  to  denominational  instill one’s own faith.” ’ Callan’s answer is 23 that  “.  .  .indoctrination  is  at  This  least  prima  includes schools  “no”,  “the which  maintaining  facie the  same  evil  whether it is perpetuated by Big Brother or one’s dear parents.” 232 The inculcation of religious doctrine is a paradigm case of indoc trination in that the majority of the beliefs are accepted certain ties and held on the basis of faith,  i.e.,  held non-evidentially  and “immune to criticism and rational evaluation.” 233 Harvey Siegel has argued that children should be protected from indoctrination, regardless of its source, maintaining that it is “undemocratic and immoral.  ,,234  Fundamentalist education, in fact, offers us a classic example of indoctrination. For the aim of such education is to inculcate a set of beliefs in such a way that students never question or inquire into the legit imacy of those beliefs. Indeed, the mark of success of a fundamentalist education is the student’s unswerving commitment to the set of basic beliefs inculcated, and a teacher or schoolmaster whose students did not exhibit such a commitment could not be judged successful... It is.. .disconcerting to hear leaders of the Moral Majority and allied proponents of creationism and fundamentalism claim that parents own their children and should be free to determine their children’s education. Such a view denies that children are morally entitled to grow into autonomous thinkers, capable of making independent judg ments as to the worth of particular beliefs. This view is both morally repugnant in its flagrant disregard for the rights of children as persons, and anti-Zinerican in virtue of its antidemocratic thrust. 235  231  Callan (1988b), p.  136.  232  Callan (1988b), p.  136.  233  Harvey Siegel  234  Siegel  (1984), p. 361.  235  Siegel  (1984), p. 360—61.  (1984), p.  361.  143 For very young children, indoctrination of some sort is prob ably unavoidable for both moral and prudential reasons. However, the authority of the parent or teacher is probably invoked more often to bring about acceptable behaviour in a child than it is to inculcate beliefs.  Is  to tell a child that Mount Everest is the  highest mountain in the world indoctrinary? Not if the child is encouraged to ask how or why the teacher “knows” this. It might be argued from this example that indoctrination is not logically bound to any particular content in the sense that a teacher could quite conceivably convince her students that Mount Robson is the highest mountain  in  the  world  by  suppressing  all  and  counter-evidence  inquiry concerning her claim. It seems clear that if one is to teach, and not indoctrinate, then as soon as a child reaches an appropriate level of intellec tual  sophistication  (perhaps  at  the  Junior High  School  level),  opposing sides of controversial issues must be entertained and rea sons provided based on the weight of the evidence and argument for or against either side. For example, skeptics never seem to appear on  outrageous  television programs  such  as  Oprah  Winfrey,  Phil  Donahue and Geraldo Rivera in which the proliferation of absurd ities and credulities seems endless. We would likely have no reason to fear indoctrination or television programs such as these if we fostered  in  our  children  the  appropriate  cognitive  styles  intellectual dispositions such as the propensity to question,  and to  doubt and to ask “Why?”. We cannot, as Callan argues, undermine our children’s ‘capacity for self determination” since their “rights as  144 adults may be violated by what  happens  to  Appealing to the Kantian notion of respect  them as  236 children.”  for persons and Joel  Feinberg’s notion of “anticipatory autonomy rights,” he states that we,  as  parents,  have  do not  the  right  to obstruct  our  child’s  future capacity for open-minded inquiry and their ability to evalu ate evidence and argument. Richard Dawkins,  the eminent Oxford Zoologist,  argues that  young minds are “preprogrammed to absorb useful information at a high rate”  but at the same time  find it difficult to  “shut out  pernicious or damaging information.” Young minds, Dawkins asserts, are “open to almost any suggestion, vulnerable to subversion” and “friendly  environments  information.”  He  likens  to a  parasitic, child’s  self-replicating  mind  to  an  ideas  or  “immune-deficient  patient” which is “wide open to mental infection” and the incoming deleterious, malignant information as a computer virus. 237 Dawkins refers to these infectious ideas as .rne.mes, 238 ideational organisms generally having great psychological receptive mind to the next.  appeal,  spreading  from one  The survival value of a meme depends  upon its ability to provide us with emotionally satisfying answers to our deepest disturbing existential concerns and dissolve our anxiety about the injustices of an indifferent universe. Dawkins cites “belief in the afterlife” and “belief in a supreme being” as having high survival value,  capable of being passed on from one  culture and generation to the next.  236  Callan (1988b), p.  237  Richard Dawkins  (1993), pp. 34,  238  Richard Dawkins  (1976), Chapter 11.  141. 37.  145 It  can be  Santa Claus  argued,  for  that  telling children that  we are not  really engaging their  example,  is a real person,  active imagination. We are propagating a deception, an illusion; in short, a lie. However, parents who teach their children about God, the Devil, Heaven and Hell, Angels and other metaphysical phenomena are not knowingly deceiving their children since,  in most cases,  they are inclined to believe these things themselves. The fact that children in their  “preoperational stage”  of development,  to use  239 have difficulty in differentiating between fact Piaget’s phrase, and fiction, we, as parents and teachers, have a responsibility not to take advantage of their cognitive  immaturity,  vulnerability,  credulity, and reliance on us for accurate information and correct undistorted descriptions of the world. Do we need these myths and deceptions to teach children about love, good will, and the spirit of goodness and generosity? I think not. One of the dilemmas that humanist liberal educators face is the conflict between their desire for a school environment exnbrac ing a purely secular open-minded, autonomous, critical and rational pursuit of the examined life and the freedom of the individual to, on the other hand, choose and commit himself to what ultimately may be an unreflective life of religious faith and unreason. As Eamon Callan has stated, the moral problems of religious upbringing may grow out of a radical conflict between the twin ideals of educational liberalism. For if the examined life requires something approaching strict fidelity to the rationalcritical principle, coming to live that life would make the option of religious practice virtually ineligible; and where that option does more or less disappear, it is not clear that one enjoys an ampler range of choice than 239  Jean Piaget  (1965), pp. 141—142,  164—166.  146 the indoctrinated zealot who cannot seriously consider alternatives to his faith. ° 24 Moreover,  in a liberal democracy there are serious practical and  moral difficulties in any government taking a strong paternalistic stand  on  whether  the problem of or  not  parents  indoctrination by are  causing  closely  irreversible  scrutinizing  harm to  their  children’s future ability to make autonomous rational choices. The essential tension between religious faith and the Socratic ideal of the  examined  life must,  however,  “made  be  vividly  apparent  children and adolescents as they grow in understanding, this  obstructs  parental  efforts  to  elicit  faith  to  even if in  many  241 As Callan has so clearly pointed out, instances.” The experience of examining religious propositions in the often harsh light of reason will sometimes, per haps commonly, lead to their rejection, but without that experience our children remain ignorant of the reality that confronts them in accepting or rejecting lives grounded on such propositions. Those whose faith can survive the experience will not be entirely at home in either Athens or Jerusalem, but if there is faith worth 242 having, they are the ones who have it. 5.3 Educators are Concerned With Belief  As educators, if we are concerned with cultivating autonomous, critical thinkers we must foster in our students the notion that truth is often tentative and transitory.  Genuine knowledge is a  difficult commodity to secure, but belief is not easily purchased either. If we, as educators, are not concerned with what we or our children believe  -  and this became a societal norm  -  it seems there  would be little need for our services. As John Wilson has recently 240  Eamon Callan (1988a), p.  241  Callan (1988a), p.  193-194.  242  Callan (1988a), p.  193.  192.  147 stated,  “...what would be the point  in spending time,  money and  effort in changing our pupils beliefs and attitudes, if we have no reason to believe that we are changing them in the direction of reason and truth.” 243 One of the basic premises of public education is that we care about, not only the beliefs that our children come to  hold,  more  but  importantly,  the  procedures  and  standards  employed in arriving at those beliefs and how those beliefs are held.  We do not choose our beliefs as we would our clothing or  furniture. In this sense, beliefs appear to be, argue, involuntary  -  as Clifford would  forced upon us by evidence, rational argument,  and reliable, impartial authority or, unfortunately, by indoctrina tion.  For surely,  concerned  with  it might be argued,  these  procedures  and  education must at least be with  correcting  one’s  own  belief s about various matters, bringing them into line with those beliefs accepted by the acknowledged experts in the field under discussion. 5.4 Credulity, Truth, Constructive Skepticism and Education  The high level of credulity of the general populace is an unsettling reality which should be of major concern to educators. 244 Our  young  people  proselytising views,  are  apologists  the for  constant a very  targets large  and  range  of  victims  of  conflicting  some of which a vastly stronger case can be made than for  others. If one is aiming to educate, not indoctrinate, one tries to 243 244  John Wilson (1986),  “Relativism and Teaching”,  p.  95.  In a Gallup poii conducted in 1991 more than half of those surveyed believe in the Devil, three in four occasionally read their horoscopes in a newspaper, and one in four said they believe in the tenets of astrology. More than 70% believe in life after death and only 57% do not believe in reincarnation. (Skeptical Inquirer, Winter 1991, pp. 137-146.)  148 show not only how far particular proposed conclusions are grounded in evidence and well formulated argument, but also how, generally, to go about  testing,  confirming or falsifying any proposed con  clusion in those fields. As Clifford has intimated, there are cer tain intellectual traits or habits of mind that must be cultivated in order to avoid the vices of gullibility and credulity, what I have referred to as  cons tructive skepticism.  As  I have already  claimed, we cannot choose our beliefs in the same cursory manner as we  choose  our  furniture or  clothing.  Lorraine Code has written  that: Cherished beliefs pose formidable bastions of oppo sition to epistemic change. In fact, there is undeniable tension here, for a responsible attitude to knowledge and belief in general is manifested, in part, in caring about what one claims to believe or know. People for whom believing or not believing, knowing or not knowing, are matters of indifference are unlikely to meet even the least stringent requirements of epistemic responsibility. But caring too much, holding on too tenaciously in the face of contradictory evidence, is as bad as caring too little. We are led, in the end, to see just how apposite 245 is Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean. In moral education we must be concerned with, not only the question “What  if everyone did X?”,  but also with the question,  “What if  everyone believed X?” Underlying this conception of education is 246 the ideal of a person who has acquired those intellectual virtues 245 246  Lorraine Code  (1987) Epistemic Responsibility, p. 251.  Ernest Sosa (1985) defines an intellectual virtue as “a quality bound to help maximize one’s surplus of truth over error” and a subject-grounded ability to tell truth from error infal libly or at least reliably... (p. 243) A faculty is “intellectually virtuous” if it does not “lead us astray in our quest for truth: that it outperforms feasible competitors in its truth/error deliv ery potential.” (p. 229) (Sosa’s condition of infallibility is, I would argue, too strong). Sosa refers to his epistemology as “reli abilism”, “the view that a belief is epistemologically justified if and only if it is produced or sustained by a cognitive process that reliably yields truth and avoids error.” (p. 239) “What interests “  149 that enable him to believe responsibly, to have reverence for truth and respect for sound judgement, and to have a propensity for self248 Bertrand Russell maintained that 247 and open-mindedness. criticism a critical skepticism is commensurate with the concept of liberty, the  principle  called,  of  free  expression,  open-mindedness  and what  “truthfulness.”  The fundamental argument for freedom of opinion is the doubting of all our beliefs. If we certainly knew the truth, there would be something to be said for teaching it... When the State intervenes to censure the teaching of some doctrine, it does so because there is no conclus ive evidence in favour of that doctrine. The result is that the teaching is not truthful, even if it should happen to be true... The difference between truth and truthfulness is important in this connection... Truthful ness, as I mean it, is the habit of forming our opinions on the evidence, and holding them with that degree of conviction which the evidence warrants. This degree will always fall short of complete certainty, and therefore we must be always ready to admit new evidence against previ  us in justification is essentially the trustworthiness and relia bility of the subject with regard to the field of his judgement, in situations normal for judgements in that field.” (p. 241). The problem with reliabilism, as I see it, is a problem of justifica tion. A person may decide that Astrology is reliable because it has made 4 of 5 predictions correctly or that prayer is reliable because 4 out of 5 prayers were “answered”. Do these results jus tify belief in prayer or Astrology? Justification is a normative notion and hence precludes the utilitarian nature of reliabilism as a sufficient condition for justification. (Justification is a matter of having good reasons for beliefs.) As Nozick (1993) has stated, “reasons [for beliefs] without reliability seem empty, reliability without reasons seems blind” (p. 64). Nozick points out that a rational principle less reliable than another might be preferred because the latter might “prove disastrous when wrong” (pp. 135—36) 247  Robert Nozick makes this point in the preface to Anarchy, and State Utopia (New York: Basic Books, 1974), when he asserts that “intellectual honesty demands, occasionally at least, we go out of our way to confront strong arguments to our views.” (p. x) 248  William Hare (1979) defines “open-mindedness” as a propen sity and desire to formulate and revise one’s beliefs in light of evidence and argument. (Chapter I)  he  150 249 ous beliefs. Russell  is not  arguing against  the concept of  absolute truth  -  there is a difference between absolute truth and the conviction of certainty in one’s claims to the truth. To hold that truth is an absolute; i.e., a time-independent and person-independent property of  ideas or beliefs  is not  the same as  to suppose that one can  never be certain that we have the truth. Hence, possible to deny certainty [and,  “it is logically  therefore, dogmatism]  and yet to  uphold an absolute theory of truth.” ° Dogmatism rests on a con 25 clusion truth.  of The  certainty  (or  denial  certainty  of  indubitable is  not  intuition),  not  relativistic  absolute  truth,  but  fallibilism. As Peirce has stated: “Estimation of truth thus alters in the course of our experience, but it does not follow that truth itself is altered or alterable.” ’ It seems necessary to retain the 25 notion,  therefore,  if not of absolute truth,  at least of moving  closer to the truth. Karl Popper, not unlike Russell,  stated that  Although I hold that more often than not we fail to find the truth, and do not even know when we have found it, I retain the classical idea of absolute or objective truth as a regulative idea; that is to say, as a standard of which we may fall short. 252 This view of truth is commensurate with the Platonic ideal that it is only by conceiving of an absolute truth that we can make sense of approximating or approaching the truth or that we may possibly be in error.  249  Bertrand Russell  250  Israel Scheffler (1974), p. 112.  251  cs  252  Karl Popper  (1962b), pp. 135-36.  Peirce quoted in Scheffler (1974), p. 113. (1976), p. 21.  151 5.5 Belief and Critical Thinking  Surely one of the key objectives in advancing critical think ing  is  to make  our  students  management. This involves:  aware  (1)  of  the  importance of  belief  knowing how to critically evaluate  the reliability of authoritative knowledge,  (2) believing what we  have good reasons to believe and not believing what we have good reasons not to believe,  (3) realizing that the degree of assent to  a belief should be proportionate to the strength of the evidence in support of that belief and not based on the intensity of the belief or our self-deceptive desires for wanting it to be true,  and  (4)  being prepared to modify or reject beliefs if counter-evidence or counter-argument is disclosed. John McPeck defines critical thinking as the process of “just ifying one’s beliefs.” This process involves assessing “the verac ity and internal validity of the evidence and determining whether  or not  it  is coherent and consistent with one’s existing belief  253 McPeck would agree with Russell when he system.”  argues  that  “reflective skepticism” is a necessary factor in the appraisal of any new proposition or idea and that we should never assent to a belief,  but  hold  it  provisionally or  tentatively,  until  it  is  exposed to judicious critical scrutiny. Furthermore, beliefs should never be held in such a way that they may never be revised, or even rejected, their  in  “truth  the or  light  of new evidence and argument  254 validity.”  McPeck’s  expression  concerning “reflective  skepticism” is construed as “the kind [of skepticismi we engage in  253  John McPeck (1981), p. 35.  254  McPeck (1981), p. 7,9,13,37, passim.  152 when we have beliefs,  reason  to  that  suspect  the normal  procedures,  or  leave something to be desired.” 255  Harvey Siegel  and John Passmore  (1980)  have proposed  (1967>  that we, as educators, must cultivate in our students the “critical spirit” or “critical attitude” moral outlook,  dispositions that are part of the  an ideal of character.  critical thinking as which,  -  in turn,  is  Harvey Siegel conceives of  “an embodiment of the ideal of rationality”  256 “coextensive with the relevance of reasons.”  Siegel argues that “to seek reasons is to commit oneself to prin ciples  governing  nonarbitrarily”, Ennis’  (1962)  such  activity”  impartiality,  , 257 conception  and  which  entail  objectivity.  “judging  Expanding  upon  Siegel concludes that  Critical judgernent must, therefore, be objective, impartial, nonarbitrary, and based on evidence of an appropriate kind and properly assessed. 258 John Dewey’s conception of rationality as dispositional is echoed by Israel Scheffler who describes “rational character” as consti tuting  an  “intellectual  evasions and distortions.  conscience” .  .  which  “monitors  and  curbs  combats inconsistency, unfairness to the  facts, and wishful thinking.” By exercising control over undesir able impulses, it “works for a balance in thought” justice.  -  an “epistemic  ,,259  255 John McPeck (1990), p. 42. 256  H. Siegel  (1980), p. 8.  257  Ennis (1962> defined critical thinking as “the correct ass essing of statements.” (p. 83), but more recently (1991) has defined it as “reasonable reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do.” (p. 6) 258 259  H. Siegel  (1980), p. 8.  Scheffler (1982), p.  142.  153 On the other hand,  credulity is viewed by Barry Beyer,  as it  was by W.K. Clifford and Bertrand Russell, as an intellectual vice. The single most important criterion for acceptance as a critical thinking skill must remain that the skill seek primarily to differentiate truth from falsehood, fact from fiction... A critical thinker approaches infor mation with a healthy skepticism about what is really true or accurate or real as well as with a desire to search through all kinds of evidence to find that truth 260 Critical thinking is discriminating, disciplined, and questioning. We often naively assume that the oppo site of critical thinking is creative thinking, but its actual opposite is undiscriminating, undisciplined, and unquestioning thought in short, the gullible acceptance of claims without careful analysis of their bases of 261 evidence, reasons, and assumptions. -  Matthew Lipman provides supplied by Beyer. tions  and  arguments not unlike the arguments  He agrees with Beyer’s assertion that defini outcomes  predicted  of  critical  too vague and too narrow.  respectively,  thinking  Lipman  outcomes of critical thinking are judgements. education as inquiry wisdom  -  -  have  states  that  transmission of knowledge and cultivation of  then what is wisdom? Lipman maintains that wisdom is “the  the characteristic of critical thinking.” 262 is  skilful,  judgement because it ing,  the  If we conceive of  characteristic outcome of good judgement and good judgement  asserts,  been,  and Cc)  [is]  Critical thinking, he  responsible thinking that  facilitates good  relies on criteria,  is self-correct  (a)  (b)  263 is sensitive to context.  A criterion, Lipman states,  is “a rule of principle utilized  260  B. Beyer  (1985), p. 272,  261  B. Beyer  (1990), p.  262  Matthew Lipman (1988), p. 38.  263  M. Lipman (1988), p. 34.  275.  56.  154 in the making of judgements” and he outlines the logical connection between critical thinking and criteria and judgement. Criteria are reasons, but reasons which are reliable  -  “good reasons.” Critical  thinkers rely upon criteria which have stood the test of time such as validity, teria,  evidential warrant,  consistency,  and relevance. Cri  however, may not have a high level of public assent  (many  people are not interested in objectivity and a search for truth), but have a high level of acceptance and respect within a community of inquirers. Lipman distinguishes between criteria and standards, pointing out that standards represent a vast subset of criteria, as criteria can be thought of as a subset of reasons.  “Criteria spec  ify general requirements, while standards represent the degree to which  these  requirements  need  to  be  satisfied  in  particular  instances. Lipman argues for a sort of epistemic responsibility  -  what he  refers to as cognitive accountability and intellectual responsibil  ity.  Ultimately,  enable  them  empowerment,  to  we  want  develop  students  to  intellectual  think  for  autonomy  themselves;  and  to  intellectual  and this requires accepting responsibility for good  thinking and decision making. This aim will require a component of , which 264 critical thinking which he calls “self-correcting inquiry” aims to discover weaknesses in one’s own thinking and rectify what is at  fault with the methodology.  Finally,  Lipman stresses that  critical thinking must be sensitive to context. account:  264  This takes into  (i) exceptional or irregular circumstances and conditions,  Here Lipman draws upon C.S. Peirce’s essay “Ideals of Con duct”. In this essay Peirce discusses the connection between self correcting inquiry, self-criticism, and self-control.  155 special  (ii)  overall  limitations  configurations,  contingencies, (iv)  the  or  constraints,  possibility  that  (iii)  evidence  is  atypical, and (v) the possibility that some meanings do not trans late from one context to another. In sum, Lipman insists that good judgement cannot be operative unless it relies upon proficient reasoning skills that can assure competency in inference, as well as upon proficient inquiry,  con  cept formation, and translation skills. Critical thinking conceived as “skilful thinking”  -  thinking that satisfies relevant criteria  -  dictates that one orchestrate a vast variety of cognitive skills, grouped in categories such as reasoning skills, concept-formation skills,  inquiry skills, and translation skills. The philosophical  disciplines alone,  Lipman claims, provide both the skills and the  criteria that are presently deficient in the curriculum. Because of his emphasis on criteria,  Lipman’s account comes  perhaps the closest to bringing out the sense in which critical thinking is “critical”. However,  even if we grant that Lipman has  specified three properties of critical thinking,  it is not clear  that they define it. A thinker might be engaged in self-corrective thinking, still  be sensitive to context, and be guided by criteria, and  fail  refers beliefs,  to  to be that  critical.  process  theories,  For  example,  whereby  and so  forth.  one  suppose  looks  This  is  self-criticism  critically not,  however,  at  one’s  enough,  since it might be that an individual is quite good at this and yet be highly resistant to criticism from others.  If the capacity to  take criticism from others is an essential feature of the critical thinker,  then being  self-critical  is  not  enough.  important to take criticism and learn from it,  It  is  equally  but unfortunately  156 many people their  find it  thinking  or  extremely difficult  to  accept  their deeply held beliefs,  criticism of  particularly when  their beliefs lack evidential support or plausibility. Richard Paul argues that we have a natural and “ethnocentricity”  “egocentricity”  -  tendency toward  a tendency to assume our  perspectives and our culture’s perspectives to be the only plaus ible ones, to resist issues from the perspectives of other persons or  cultures.  Our  “primary  nature”  is  spontaneous,  egocentric,  credulous, and strongly prone to irrational belief formation. People need no training to believe what they want to believe, what serves their immediate interests, what preserves their sense of personal comfort and righteous ness, what minimizes their sense of inconsistency and what presupposes their own correctness. 265 R. S. Peters states that “the irreconcilability of the use of reason with egocentricity and arbitrariness is a reflection of its essentially tivity  public  266 character.”  Impartiality  the appeal to public, impersonal tests  -  to revelation,  intuitive insight,  and -  intersubjec  deny any appeals  or any other privileged access  as criteria for rationality. Reason is, in this sense, impersonal, for by “partiality” we unequivocally mean “the intrusion of irrel evant  factors,  say private,  idiosyncratic  associations  often, private hopes or private fears.” Moreover, have no fondness  for miracles which here,  or more  “rational people  in the popular sense,  mean arbitrary discrepancies” 267 or what flume called “a violation  265  R.  266  R.S.  267  D.  Paul  (1987), p. 130.  Peters  Pole  (1972),  (1972),  in Dearden et al,  in Dearden et al,  eds., p. 211.  eds., pp. 155,  159.  157 of  the  laws  of  aforementioned  268 nature.”  sources  must  be  Premises rejected  arising as  from on  inadequate  the the  grounds that they involve privileged access, faith or dubious tes timony. Hume asserted that no testimony is sufficient to establish a mir acle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavors to establish. .whoever is moved by Faith to assent to it is conscious of a continued miracle in his own person, which subverts all the principles of his understanding and gives him a determination to believe what is contrary to custom and experience. 269 .  For many people, seem to  be  a  believe what  at least  from my own experience,  function of  their upbringing  they are told.  Of course  their beliefs  and a propensity  to  it must be admitted that  most of what we know depends upon testimony and authority but in most cases the chain of testimony must come to an end. We can only learn  from testimony what,  at  some point,  was  learned by means  other than testimony. What is needed, it seems, a move  in the direction of  “Fixation of Belief”,  is a sort of intellectual modesty  skepticism.  As  -  Peirce states in the  “doubt is an uneasy and dissatisfied state  from which we struggle to free ourselves and pass into the state of belief; while the latter is a calm and satisfactory state which we  do not wish to avoid,  or to change  to a belief  else. On the contrary, we cling tenaciously,  in anything  not merely to beli  eving, but to believing just what we do believe,  ,,270  partly because  “the instinctive dislike of an undecided state of mind, 268  David Hurne  269  Hume  270  c  S.  (1748),  (1748), Peirce,  Enquiries,  Enquiries,  sec. X, part 1, p.  sec. X,  in P.P. Weiner,  114.  Part 2, pp. 115-16,  ed., p.  99.  exagger  131.  158 ated into a vague dread of doubt, makes men cling spasmodically to the views they already take.” ’ 27 Bertrand Russell declared that credulity is “one of the chief obstacles to intelligence” and, echoing Clifford, stated that “the aim of education should be to cure people of the habit of believ 272 Continuing ing in propositions for which there is no evidence.” his relentless attack on Jamesian pragmatism, he asserted William James used to preach the “Will to believe.” For my part, I should wish to preach the “Will What is wanted is not the will to to doubt.” believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite 273 ...  The “wish to find out” is a disposition of sustained intellectual curiosity and sense of wonder  -  the  “awe factor.”  It  involves a  sensitivity to unanswered questions and explanatory gaps with the attendant ability to challenge assumptions and detect hidden prem ises. 5.6 Fallibilism and Constructive Skepticism  The “egocentric mind”, says Richard Paul, requires a moderated skepticism and a willingness to suspend judgement pending evidence -  a capacity that he calls a higher order “secondary nature” skill.  As Wittgenstein has rightly pointed out, without doubt there would be no need for inquiry. The assumption of certainty and infallibil ity for a belief implies that there in no need for either reflec tion or inquiry. The strength of constructive skepticism lies not in whether it is tenable as a philosophical position,  271  Peirce in P.P. Wiener,  272  Bertrand Russell  273  Russell  ed., p.  (1962b), p.  (1962b), pp. 104-106.  102.  115.  but in the  159 force  its  of  arguments  against  the  claims  describes what he calls “dialogical thinking”  of -  dogmatism.  Paul  an ability to look  at problems from multiple points of view and different frames of reference. He stresses developing critical thinking in the “strong sense”  teaching it so that students “explicate, understand,  -  and  criticize their own deepest prejudices, biases and misconceptions, thereby allowing them to discover and contest their own egocentric and sociocentric tendencies.” 274 Not unlike Siegel and Passmore, the normative component of Paul’s argument is made clear in his plea for developing in our students intellectual virtues which he calls the “rational passions.” A passionate drive for clarity, accuracy, and fairmindedness, a fervour for getting at the bottom of things, to the deepest root issues, for listening sym pathetically to opposition points of view, a compelling drive to seek out evidence, an intense aversion to con tradiction, sloppy thinking, inconsistent application of standards, a devotion to truth as against self-inter 275 est. Here Paul stresses the dispositional requirements of perspicacity, the  need  for  conceptual  sensitivity to vagueness,  clarity  and understanding  of  essences,  ambiguity and superficiality, attention  to precision and detail, alertness to error and fallacious argumen tation and the importance of metacognitive skills. In my view, forces us  to  the great strength of Paul’s account is that it  think about  the extent  to which critical  thinking  depends upon the capacity of the individual toward reflective self criticism -the ability to distance ourselves from our beliefs,  to  be cognitively self-aware. We must avoid self-deception and achieve 274  R.  Paul  (1987), p. 140.  275  R.  Paul  (1987), p. 142.  160 276 in the face of the fallibility of most of a sense of humility what we construe as knowledge. Charles Darwin, for example, appar ently engaged in the practice of making a note of all possible objections to his theories the moment he encountered them. Darwin claimed that he “followed the golden rule, namely that whatever new observation or thought general results, once;  came across me,  which was  opposed to my  to make a memorandum of it without  fail and at  for I had found by experience that such facts and thoughts  were more apt to escape from the memory than favourable ones.” 277 In other words, readily  evidence favourable to our beliefs and hypotheses is  assimilated  and  recalled,  whereas  unfavourable  or  disconfirmatory evidence is often ignored and forgotten. Lorraine Code, drawing heavily upon C.I. Lewis (1956), provides a compelling argument  for what  she  calls  “normative  realism”  -  the  “aim to  understand how things really are.” 278 A kind of normative realism constitutes the implicit ideal of good knowing at the core of correspondence and coherence theories of truth and knowledge... Although actual correspondence relations are difficult, if not impossible to establish, sustaining the effort to do as well as possible is a mark of a virtuous intellectual conduct 279 Implicit in normative realism is the view that to be a good knower is to have a fundamental respect for 276  See William Hare’s (1992) essay “Humility as a Virtue in Teaching.” Lorraine Code (1987) states that “Humility stands as a safeguard against whimsicality in judgement. Imagination is accorded sufficient scope to see the world and one’s own efforts at achieving explanation in a wider context, but humility checks its possible excesses in either direction: toward whimsicality, or toward closed-minded dogmatism, tantamount to a failure of imagin ation.” (p. 234) 277  quoted in R.W. Clark  278  Code, p.  279  Code, p. 131  136.  (1984).  161 truth. A good knower seeks to achieve knowledge that is coherent the with fits world of experience, enables one to live rationally established truths, and ° 28 well, both epistemically and morally. Achieving these goals requires both honesty and humility: honesty not to pretend to know what one does not know (and knows one does not) or to ignore its rel evance; humility not to yield to temptations to suppress facts damning to one’s theory. ’ 28 Code claims that justification should not be impersonal or objec tive in the sense of psychological detachment in which the agent is concerned only with propositions and their logical relations, but should focus on the knowing subject.  However,  this does not  preclude the notion of an objective reality, of how things “really are,”  the  external  possibility  and  of  indifferent  a to  mind-independent our  absolute  reality  convictions  which  is  and which  determines what is true. Probability has to be the guide to life in light of the fact that we almost always have to act under uncertainty. All but the most basic of our actions are connected to the purposes for which we  choose them by beliefs  William  Hare  has  stated  that are only more or less probable. that  students  and  teachers  “need  to  recognize the vulnerability of their beliefs to counter-evidence and counter-argument” and that the “ability to doubt” is crucial if 282 An education, it we are to “entertain criticisms of our belief s.” might be  said,  should leave  students with the ability to doubt  rather than the inclination to believe. Hare reminds us of Dewey’s observation of the  280  Code, p.  161.  281  Code, p.  137.  282  William Hare  “over-simplified”  (1992), p. 229.  human tendency to think in  162 terms of either-or, “hard-and-fast alternatives”  -  a dualistic form  of reasoning in which “they assume that an answer must be right or 283 wrong.”  “This particular dichotomy of ability to doubt versus  inclination to believe”, Hare claims,  “tends to blind us to Hume’s  insight that belief can be proportioned to the evidence.” 284 This probabilistic,  dynamic and revisionary approach to knowledge is  supported by the assertion that Fallibilism recognizes that our claims to knowledge rest on reasons and evidence, and our awareness and understanding of the latter can change. This view, then, is incompatible with the kind of skepticism which regards all claims and interpretations as equally dubious. If, however, those who advocate skepticism as an aim of education really mean to emphasize the point that the last word has never been said, that our assessment of reasons and evidence may in time lead us to a new view, then this is in fact a way of making the point that knowledge is tentative. Clearly this view of skepticism leaves intact the legitimacy of appeals to reason and evidence, since it is in terms of the latter that a new view will be framed. Teachers who embrace fallibilism recognize the possibility of improving their present knowledge and understanding. 285 Fallibility is one of the universal and inevitable conditions of our humanity. There is no possibility of a choice between fallibil ity and infallibility. It is plainly our fallibility which is the primary reason why we must be continually open to skeptical scru  283  Hare (1992), p. 228.  284  Hare (1992), p. 228.  285  Hare (1992), pp. 230-31. Mirroring Hare, Lorraine Code (1987) states that “epistemic integrity” is most strongly evident in the ability to be a “fallibilist” in the “Peircian sense”, to be “cognizant of one’s own potential fallibility even in the most painstakingly won conclusions, even in the nature of things that underlies them. The capacity to serve the intrinsic goods of the practice, to value a just perspective on how things are above one’s own reputation and prestige is a significant mark of intellectual virtue.” (p. 233)  163 tiny and rational criticism. But along with humility and temperance as key intellectual virtues,  there is required a sort of intellectual panache  courage to engage in intellectual risk  -  the  -  to take the time to exam  ine grounds for new and adventurous ideas to challenge the creden tials of things it is customary to believe. I am not here referring to “the power of positive thinking”,  “wishful thinking”, or wasting  one’s time in pursuing propositions which are glaring absurdities. Intellectual courage is the “willingness to conceive and examine alternatives to popularly held beliefs, perseverence in the face of opposition from others  (until one is convinced one is mistaken), and even actively seek  and the Popperian willingness to examine, out,  evidence  Popper’s  that  account  of  would  refute  science is  one’s  own  286 hypothesis.”  Karl  one of walking the tightrope of  sharp criticism and testing of bold new hypotheses and theories with  the  attendant  287 However, tion.”  risk  of  falling  into  “the  chasm of  refuta  this is not something we are naturally inclined  to do. Recent psychological research on reasoning suggests that the existence of possible counter-examples is not a major consideration when people decide whether or not to accept an inference.  People  seem more inclined to search out confirmations of new or pre-exist ing beliefs  and acceptance  dictated by whether or not model and other beliefs.  of it  Hence,  any  new  “fits in”  candidate  for belief  is  with their experiential  students should be encouraged to  take risks with new ideas and original solutions to problems and to  286  James A. Montmarquet  287  Robert Nozick (1993), p. 174.  (1987),  “Epistemic Virtue”, p. 484.  164 present their arguments and views in class without fear of error or criticism. Although one must be open-minded in the manner described by Hare  (1979,  1985),  the  strength  of  mitigated  a  and  tempered  skepticism lies in the force of its arguments against metaphysical gibberish and the claims of dogmatism. As Hume has admitted, one of the characteristics of skeptical argument is that “it admits of no but the strength of skepticism  and produces no answer”,  answer,  lies not in whether it is tenable as a position but in the force of Simply to live a  its arguments against the claims of dogmatism. superficial  life  and unreflective  mankind.  .  opinion,”  dictates  of  .naturally apt to be affirmative and dogmatical in their but  and  small  “a  degree of habit, scrutiny  the  “the greater part of  habit or external authority renders  custom,  to  according  tincture  and caution,  decision,  of  Pyrrhonism”  and modesty which, for  ought  ever  to  might  imbue  “a  in all kinds of  accompany  a  just  288 The warrant for saying that there is no good philo reasoner.” sophical reason for doubt is not easily purchased and when knowl edge is conceived as a prized possession,  one should not be sur  prised that it is hard to come by. The role of skepticism is in the questioning of whether a person has adequate grounds for his asser tions and assumptions and whether his belief system is free from contradiction or absurdities. Skeptical arguments tend to be para sitic, in that they assume the premises of the dogmatist and point out  the  logical  inconsistencies  reasoning of the dogmatist.  288  David Hume,  and  other  faulty  standards  of  This is the essence of the Socratic  Enquiries,  Sec XII,  Part 3, pp.  161-62.  165 approach. The purpose of skeptical scrutiny is to inquire into the evidence for one’s beliefs and the adequacy of that evidence. Skepticism has been a major dynamic force in intellectual his tory and without it we could never distinguish superstition, specu lation,  or emotional responses from meaningful coherent beliefs.  Without  skepticism the  could not  have  enlightenmment  and scientific  occurred and we would have  continued  revolution to  suffer  intellectual inertia under the domination of religious dogma. As C.S.  Peirce once declared:  osophy,  that is,  “All the progress we have made in phil  all that has made sense since the Greeks,  is the  result of that methodological skepticism which is the first element of human 289 habit.”  freedom...  doubt  is not  a habit,  As Peirce has pointed out,  they can prove tenacious,  but  the privation of  once beliefs are in place,  even when the original arguments that  convinced us of them are discredited. One must not, as Sartre has pointed out, act in “bad faith” by abdicating our sense of rational responsibility to self-criticism and self-assessment by deceiving ourselves into accepting beliefs fact.  for which there is no basis in  When people defend creationist  “science” by insisting that  “evolution is only an hypothesis” one suspects that their view is only  sustained by a wilful  failure to  explore  the  structure of  hypotheses and the difference between unverifiable speculation and scientific theory. Such an attitude suggests that we are incapable or unwilling to take responsibility for our beliefs by subjecting them to rational criticism. free will  289  Christians,  and responsibility,  C•S• Peirce,  for example,  believe in  but they often abdicate or exempt  in P. P. Weiner. ed., p.  189.  166 themselves from autonomous epistemic responsibility by dogmatically accepting the authority of biblical claims. John  Stuart  Mill  once  stated  that  “The  fatal  tendency  of  mankind to leave off thinking about a thing when it is no longer doubtful, always  is the cause of half their errors.”  the skeptic,  but who has declared that  myself against being thought  Bertrand Russell, “I wish to guard  ° has 29 to take an extreme position”  severely denounced all forms of dogmatism, particularly the politi cal and religious varieties. William James used to preach the “will to believe.” For my part, I should wish to preach the “will to doubt.” Every man of science whose outlook is truly scien tific is ready to admit that what passes for scientific knowledge is sure to require correction with the progress of discovery; nevertheless, it is near enough to the truth to serve for most practical purposes, though not for all. In science, where alone something approximating to genuine knowledge is to be found, men’s attitude is tentative and full of doubt. In religion and politics, on the contrary, though there is as yet nothing approaching scientific knowledge, everybody considers it de rigueur to have a dogmatic opinion, to be backed up by inflicting starvation, prison, and war, and to be carefully guarded from argu mentative competition with any different opinion. If only men could be brought into a tentative agnostic frame of mind about these matters, nine-tenths of the modern world’s evils would be cured. War would become imposs ible, because each side would realize that both sides must be in the wrong. Persecution would cease. Education would aim at expanding the mind, not at narrowing it. Men would be chosen for jobs on account of fitness to do the work, not because they followed the irrational dogmas of those in power. Thus, rational doubt alone, if it could introduce generated, would suffice to the be 291 millennium.. Russell felt that if society could rid itself of superstition and authoritative belief systems, and teach men and women rationality  290 291  Bertrand Russell Russell  (1962b), p.  9.  (1962b), pp. 104—106.  167 and critical thought,  “it would completely transform our social  life and our political  system”  and  “would tend to diminish the  incomes of clairvoyants, book-makers, bishops, and others who live on the irrational hopes of those who have done nothing to deserve 292 good fortune here or hereafter.” Russell was a severe critic of the education system of his own day  and was  public.  the  appalled by  level  of  credulity of  the  general  If education is simply conveying factual information and  teaching basic skills,  implicitly denying the fallibility of much  of what we claim to know,  then there is little need for conscien  tious inquiry, open-mindedness, or healthy constructive skepticism. Russell impart  argued that  should have  “Education  two aims:  the basic skills and knowledge such as  language,  mathematics,  and second,  and so on,  reading, ..  .  first,  to  writing,  to create those  habits which will enable people to acquire knowledge and form sound judgements for themselves.” 293 Russell felt that “one of the chief obstacles  to  intelligence  is  credulity,”  and  that  “the  aim of  education should be to cure people of the habit of believing in propositions for which there is no evidence.” 294  Critical thinking  would be endorsed by Russell if he were alive today. the fact in his own day,  that  “.  .  He bemoaned  .it is not desired that ordinary  people should think for themselves, because it is felt that people who think for themselves are awkward to manage and cause adrninis  292  Russell  293  Betrand Russell  294  B. Russell  (1962b), p.  9.  (l962b), p. 109.  (1962b), p.  115.  168 trative difficulties.  295  People tend to be  “true believers”,  effortlessly,  automati  cally, and uncritically taking in new ideas without reflection or rational analysis. With the rise of religious fundamentalism and religious cults in recent years we are witnessing the development of a mass state of mind which depends upon suspension of critical faculties  on  -  developing  the  Alice-in-Wonderland  capacity  believe is six impossible things before breakfast every day.  to The  French mathematician Henri Poincare once remarked that rampant cre dulity is caused by the fact that the truth can often be stark and cruel, and hence we would rather console ourselves by a process of self-deception and delusion. Skepticism also challenges established institutions and perhaps we fear, as Russell suggested, if we teach students to be critical thinkers that they will not restrict their outrageous  television  programs  and  commercials,  skepticism  to  horoscopes,  and crystal ball gazers. Maybe they will start asking  awkward questions about economic, social, political, and religious institutions. Yes, skepticism is a risky business  -  but examine the alterna  tives. How are we to negotiate a very tenuous future if we don’t instill in our children the intellectual dispositions and tools to ask  the  crucial  and urgent  questions  of  those  authority in a democratic society? For example,  in positions  of  there is enough  nonsense and rubbish disseminated by the political parties, commer cial advertisers and Sunday morning evangelists that the propensity and habit of impartial skepticism should be encouraged as a nation  295  Russell  (1962b), p.  109.  169 al  pastime,  like physical  By  fitness.  this  I  not mean that  do  debunking should become a national sport. Although skeptics have performed a useful social function by exposing the proliferation of charlatanism  and  fraud  associated  with  beliefs,  paranormal  skepticism imposes an important responsibility.  It is clear that  when one simply and totally closes the door to further inquiry into a phenomenon, there is no room left to study it. Unless established by the proper intellectual dispositions and virtues  -  and scien  tific inquiry provides a paradigm of those virtues and dispositions -  then such a course is not healthy skepticism.  Skeptics should  critically examine alternate beliefs and belief systems by first attempting to understand the historical, spective of the people who hold them. seriously, emotive  Otherwise,  If they expect to be taken  particularly by their targets,  epithets  “drivel”  social and cultural per  which the  “cranks”,  like  sometimes  accompany  materialistic,  they should also avoid  “crackpots”, their  humanistic  and  “claptrap”  debunking  exposures.  assumptions  of  some  skeptics may paradoxically play themselves out in a kind of relig ious  crusade  endorsing  scientific  fundamentalism  or  a  sort  of  deified rationality. But even though charges against skeptics of closed-mindedness are often brought in as a shoddy rhetorical device to prop up an otherwise  hopeless  argument,  there  may  be  a  serious,  though  muddled, point lurking somewhere behind such charges. Believers in God and creationism often point to the logical truism that it is impossible to prove the non-existence of something.  One must be  cautious about using the claim “there is no evidence to the con trary” to establish the truth or existence of something. Maintain-  170 ing a state of open-mindedness is certainly a good thing but in cases where there is no physical evidence either way (for example, Russell’s “Five-Minute Hypothesis” ), a contention about something 296 existing or being true often deflates into a vacuous metaphysical statement  or  mere  speculation,  precluding  rational,  scientific  logical inquiry. But as Thomas Huxley once stated, later reaffirmed by Karl  Popper,  “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evi  dence” and “the more a fact conflicts with previous experience, the more complete must be the evidence which is to justify our belief in it.” If critical thinking is to be effective, there is a necess ity for a delicate balance between the two conflicting imperatives of skeptical scrutiny and open-mindedness. If one is able to oper ate in only one of these modes,  then critical thought is imposs  ible. All good scientists function in both modes but politicians, theologians, and the general populace rarely seem to do so. I  have  attempted  to  defend  the  enlightenment  project  of  rationality and have presented arguments for a normative theory of critical thinking by specifying what I believe are the characteris tic  dispositions  which will  remain unanswered,  many of  cultivate which  can  such  thinking.  only be  Questions  answered by much  needed empirical research. How can these dispositions be fostered? Are they  innate? Are they a  function of  intellect? Can they be  instilled by example? Dispositions are grounded in belief systems and we need a convincing culturally based account of their develop ment which is not contingent upon the dubious premises of concept ual or cultural relativism. It is my view that, to a great extent, 296  Russell, in making one of his logical points, declared that you cannot disprove that the universe was created five minutes ago.  171 dispositions are acquired by and are a function of organizational and interpersonal social interaction. For example, if a child grows up in a family which is open-minded, anti-dogmatic, models accept ance of multiple points of view and which encourages their children to doubt and question may encourage those attendant dispositions. In the classroom,  teachers should stress the tentative nature of  much of what we claim to know and that reliable knowledge can only be purchased by appealing to rigorous intellectual standards and practices. Too much of what goes on in the classroom today is the product of a didactic pedagogy directed at ramming information into students minds to facilitate the reproduction of what they learn on an examination so that it can be easily quantified. This is not to say that we should not test the extent of a student’s  “factual”  knowledge, but unless we focus our attention more on how and why we know what we claim to know, we can test little else. In twenty-five years of teaching senior high school mathematics I have found that most  of  the  students  I  encounter  in Grade  11  and  12  have very  little conceptual understanding of mathematics and are seriously lacking in their understanding of both reasoning skills and the mathematical principles  that  justify any mathematical knowledge  2 that they claim to “know”. Students may know that X 2 that X 2 x X  =  +  =  2 and 2X  they often do not understand or know the  4 but X  fundamental principles that justify them and,  consequently, often  reverse the responses. Moreover, students rarely think of attempt ing to falsify a general principle that they intuitively think to be correct. For example, assume that  (A  +  B)’  =  A  in elementary algebra they often wrongly +  1 B’  -  a misapplication of an exponent  172 297 Students need to understand that polynomial multiplication law. is justified by a real number axiom called the distributive law, an extremely  important  understood before a  algebraic  principle  that  should be  student exits grade nine.  Instead,  clearly however,  students are often taught mathematics by a “recipe” approach memorization  of  procedures,  processes  carrying out algebraic operations.  and mnemonic  -  devices  the for  In science, more effort should  be directed at understanding how and why scientific theories are derived,  rather than simply knowing what those theories are.  The  scientific method can be used as a paradigm of intellectual integ rity by explaining the standards, have been  employed by great  principles and practices that  scientists  such as  Charles  Darwin,  Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman. A dispositional theory, however, is clearly problematic in the sense  that  appeals  to  is a  it  vulnerable  vague  to  collection my  the of  behaviourial  traits.  If  intellectual  virtue,  constructive  charge  ill-defined  arguments  theory of critical thinking obtain,  of  for  an  circularity or  immeasurable  ethics  skepticism  and  and  of  belief,  dispositional  then our present approach to  education will need to be re-examined and revamped.  A classroom  atmosphere of free inquiry, open-mindedness and critical skeptici sm, following the lead of an education system which promotes inde pendence  of  thought,  will  not  only  require  an  overhaul  of  the  curriculum, but will demand the employment of teachers who posses the necessary intellectual and dispositional equipment.  297  It will  Rarely do student think of attempting to falsify a general principle such as this. For example, a simple substitution such as (3 + 5)2 = 32 + 52 would suffice. 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U,  <—. 0—  -<  Iwo Ictw  -Ct  CD  CD  -  loIxi Iii Ii-i  I  Cl) 0)  Cl) 0  CD  •H-  uo wH  II (DC-i  0  0  0  Ct  iF—  ‘-1 xj  OCD  H,  çt  (DF Cl)  CD  0.0 i-I  C4  -  Ct  IZlF-  0  0  CI çt  I—  CD  0-.  H-  CD  Ct ••  CD  0  ‘-1  0  11 10..  I ICt  I  IlCD  I’  Ii-. .  I..  —  .<  CD  <  •  Cfl Cl)p  CT)  I—i-  CD  F—  CD  Cl)  ‘—  --.  .—_  Ii—  hi 10)  1H 10  IP ICt  I lo  -  :  w  o :i H  •H  o, 4-çt  fi OCD  -  -ii-iO  CI) H0  -  o  -  U  •  I—i  ‘.<  ®  iCDiICl)<  IHm,  Ic-t-I I0-  CD  ICl2I—  CD  Cl)  CT)  M  •  0’  0 0) Ct -0  13  Lxi ..  0)  0) Cl)  WLQ  IHt’J  •H-  i  1130 0) -  loCt I’lF-  I’xiH  i  IHr)  10-.— hi 10):  0) co 1Ct 1H 0  I0-’  10.  ILxi<  0’ l—0) M -<  CD  0.-  I-lI--’  CD  H• CD iQ  Cl)  0  H  0)  ‘-1  0  0  ••  -  ‘1  ‘<  CD  hi  Ii-•  hi  10  lCD  10)  (CD  I  —.J  —  CD  P1  ‘  CD  <  0 ‘1 H  Cl)  •  l  0  CD  0-.  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