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Circular Reasoning in Atheistic Perceptions

Chaosism
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5/27/2016 1:14:44 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
This topic is broken off from another thread (http://www.debate.org...).

At 5/26/2016 7:50:29 PM, v3nesl wrote:
At 5/26/2016 7:24:10 PM, Chaosism wrote:
... I'm open to the notion that purpose might be more than an aspect of our perception, but I've seen nothing but unfounded and intuitive support for such a thing.

And what other option is there, besides the assumption that our perceptions correlate to reality? ESPECIALLY as an atheist - if your sense of reality is not to be trusted, then you are completely without recourse. You've totally painted yourself in a corner, in my opinion.

This is reminiscent of (if not identical to) the presuppositional apologetics. I'm happy to take a short trip down the epistemological rabbit hole on this topic, but even God cannot save you from this foundational "circular reasoning" claim that is cast upon atheists. I've seen this sort of argument before and I really don't get how this is at all reasonable.

The bottom line: yes, we rely on our experience of perception to determine if our experience perception is correct. But to use this line to undermine atheists' reasoning is like calling someone inferior because they're human when you, yourself, are human. It's nonsensical. We (typically) accept two necessary assumptions:

A1) One's perception/experience is not completely wrong; there is some truth to it.
A2) The greater the consistency, the greater the chances of it being true.

First, A1 is necessary because if we reject this assumption and accept that our perception is completely wrong, then this marks a dead end. Since we are inseparable from these experiences and there is no conceivable alternative, we have absolutely no reason to deny this foundational assumption.

Secondly, A2 is based on the notion of consistency, which is an absolutely critical part of being able to learn anything about anything. For if something is inconsistent, it isn't learnable. So, consistency (which is based on consistent experience) is like our compass. This is actually a fundamental part of our psychology, as well, which takes the name of Cognitive Dissonance, which reflects an aversion to inconsistency. To put this in better perspective, every time that you have perceived that your hand has touched your face, you felt it from both your hand and face (or so your experience dictates). If you touched your face and didn't feel anything, you would detect the inconsistency and analyze the experience to detect the problem.

Memories are part of our experience, as well, which we trust for the most part in accordance with the above assumptions. Without memories, we cannot function at all. I would argue that thoughts, themselves, are also in the same category of experience, but we needn't go that far. So, our experiences form a pretty consistent conceptual model of that which we call reality, which is the extent to which we can know about it. Yes, we compare experience with experiences that are assumed to be true, which is inherently circular.

So, let's make the problem more apparent. Have you have been in a psychiatric facility or dealt with a person that is not what we would call lucid or even sane? I'm not talking about a little confusion, I mean a person that's totally disconnected from reality. I interact with people with varying degrees of mental stability quite frequently, and the majority of these people don't perceive that there's anything wrong with them; they think they're fine. Some people, in encountering some inconsistency (which I sometimes invoke as a calculated decision) can trigger cognitive dissonance and makes them analyze their experiences and actually realize that something"s wrong, regaining a tiny bit of lucidity (which attests to the strength of our aversion to inconsistency). Note this last part is anecdotal, though. ;)

The question is; how do you know that you aren't one of these people right now? If it is indeed the case that you're locked up in a padded cell, right now, and that your perceptions completely indicate otherwise, then how could you ever know? The answer is similar to the Brain-in-a-Vat or the Matrix: you can't. So, what's the solution? It's to continue to abide by the assumptions listed above because, as described previously, there is no alternative whatsoever (a dead end) so we have no reason to not continue to trust our senses.

Now, as for the claim that only God can reveal Truth and knowledge and, thus, the theistic worldview is the only one that can account for knowledge and reasoning: this does not solve the above problem. Given that humans are undeniably susceptible to flawed perception (as evident in the case of the atheist), then the theist still has to rely on his perception to distinguish between the revelations of God and faulty perceptions, so he is necessarily relying on his presumed correct perception and knowledge (which is gained only through perception) to make this judgement. The exact same problem persists in this worldview EVEN if the presupposition is correct. How does one differentiate between revelation and faulty perception without relying on their perception? How can God solve this problem?

I know this is kind of long-winded, but I wanted to express this so it can be exposed to criticism. If I appear to be one of those madmen I mentioned above, please don't hesitate to tell me! ;P
dhardage
Posts: 4,545
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5/27/2016 2:22:09 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
Thank you for that very lucid explanation. I really detest these Sye Ten Bruggencate disciples who can only ask 'how do you know you know?'. We all 'know' the same way, whether theists want to admit it or not.
skipsaweirdo
Posts: 1,864
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5/27/2016 4:13:06 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/27/2016 2:22:09 PM, dhardage wrote:
Thank you for that very lucid explanation. I really detest these Sye Ten Bruggencate disciples who can only ask 'how do you know you know?'. We all 'know' the same way, whether theists want to admit it or not.
"We all know the same way"
Please prove you have met "we all" and therefore can conclude what you claim.
dhardage
Posts: 4,545
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5/27/2016 4:24:22 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/27/2016 4:13:06 PM, skipsaweirdo wrote:
At 5/27/2016 2:22:09 PM, dhardage wrote:
Thank you for that very lucid explanation. I really detest these Sye Ten Bruggencate disciples who can only ask 'how do you know you know?'. We all 'know' the same way, whether theists want to admit it or not.
"We all know the same way"
Please prove you have met "we all" and therefore can conclude what you claim.

I don't have to meet the entire human race to know they are human beings any more than I need to examine every dog to know they are canines and have the biological characteristics of canines. It's the way our bodies and brains function, nothing more.
janesix
Posts: 3,446
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5/27/2016 10:41:44 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/27/2016 1:14:44 PM, Chaosism wrote:
This topic is broken off from another thread (http://www.debate.org...).

At 5/26/2016 7:50:29 PM, v3nesl wrote:
At 5/26/2016 7:24:10 PM, Chaosism wrote:
... I'm open to the notion that purpose might be more than an aspect of our perception, but I've seen nothing but unfounded and intuitive support for such a thing.

And what other option is there, besides the assumption that our perceptions correlate to reality? ESPECIALLY as an atheist - if your sense of reality is not to be trusted, then you are completely without recourse. You've totally painted yourself in a corner, in my opinion.

This is reminiscent of (if not identical to) the presuppositional apologetics. I'm happy to take a short trip down the epistemological rabbit hole on this topic, but even God cannot save you from this foundational "circular reasoning" claim that is cast upon atheists. I've seen this sort of argument before and I really don't get how this is at all reasonable.

The bottom line: yes, we rely on our experience of perception to determine if our experience perception is correct. But to use this line to undermine atheists' reasoning is like calling someone inferior because they're human when you, yourself, are human. It's nonsensical. We (typically) accept two necessary assumptions:

A1) One's perception/experience is not completely wrong; there is some truth to it.
A2) The greater the consistency, the greater the chances of it being true.

First, A1 is necessary because if we reject this assumption and accept that our perception is completely wrong, then this marks a dead end. Since we are inseparable from these experiences and there is no conceivable alternative, we have absolutely no reason to deny this foundational assumption.

Secondly, A2 is based on the notion of consistency, which is an absolutely critical part of being able to learn anything about anything. For if something is inconsistent, it isn't learnable. So, consistency (which is based on consistent experience) is like our compass. This is actually a fundamental part of our psychology, as well, which takes the name of Cognitive Dissonance, which reflects an aversion to inconsistency. To put this in better perspective, every time that you have perceived that your hand has touched your face, you felt it from both your hand and face (or so your experience dictates). If you touched your face and didn't feel anything, you would detect the inconsistency and analyze the experience to detect the problem.

Memories are part of our experience, as well, which we trust for the most part in accordance with the above assumptions. Without memories, we cannot function at all. I would argue that thoughts, themselves, are also in the same category of experience, but we needn't go that far. So, our experiences form a pretty consistent conceptual model of that which we call reality, which is the extent to which we can know about it. Yes, we compare experience with experiences that are assumed to be true, which is inherently circular.

So, let's make the problem more apparent. Have you have been in a psychiatric facility or dealt with a person that is not what we would call lucid or even sane? I'm not talking about a little confusion, I mean a person that's totally disconnected from reality. I interact with people with varying degrees of mental stability quite frequently, and the majority of these people don't perceive that there's anything wrong with them; they think they're fine. Some people, in encountering some inconsistency (which I sometimes invoke as a calculated decision) can trigger cognitive dissonance and makes them analyze their experiences and actually realize that something"s wrong, regaining a tiny bit of lucidity (which attests to the strength of our aversion to inconsistency). Note this last part is anecdotal, though. ;)

The question is; how do you know that you aren't one of these people right now? If it is indeed the case that you're locked up in a padded cell, right now, and that your perceptions completely indicate otherwise, then how could you ever know? The answer is similar to the Brain-in-a-Vat or the Matrix: you can't. So, what's the solution? It's to continue to abide by the assumptions listed above because, as described previously, there is no alternative whatsoever (a dead end) so we have no reason to not continue to trust our senses.

Now, as for the claim that only God can reveal Truth and knowledge and, thus, the theistic worldview is the only one that can account for knowledge and reasoning: this does not solve the above problem. Given that humans are undeniably susceptible to flawed perception (as evident in the case of the atheist), then the theist still has to rely on his perception to distinguish between the revelations of God and faulty perceptions, so he is necessarily relying on his presumed correct perception and knowledge (which is gained only through perception) to make this judgement. The exact same problem persists in this worldview EVEN if the presupposition is correct. How does one differentiate between revelation and faulty perception without relying on their perception? How can God solve this problem?

I know this is kind of long-winded, but I wanted to express this so it can be exposed to criticism. If I appear to be one of those madmen I mentioned above, please don't hesitate to tell me! ;P

This might be somewhat off topic, but may be of use nontheless. As a person who has been floridly psychotic on many occasions, i can tell you there is a marked difference in perception. When floridly phychotic, everything "feels" different. Everything seems sureal and dreamlike. So even psychotic, i have some amount of insight, and i know not to trust my senses. But it is afterwards when i can ferret out what was real and what was delusion or hallucination. I cant always tell so i have only my judgement to rely on. Therefore i think that most people would be able to tell what is real and what is not according to their senses. Although the first time being floridly psychotic i didnt know it, i still knew something was not right, enough to go to the er and tell them i might be insane.
skipsaweirdo
Posts: 1,864
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5/28/2016 8:47:50 AM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/27/2016 4:24:22 PM, dhardage wrote:
At 5/27/2016 4:13:06 PM, skipsaweirdo wrote:
At 5/27/2016 2:22:09 PM, dhardage wrote:
Thank you for that very lucid explanation. I really detest these Sye Ten Bruggencate disciples who can only ask 'how do you know you know?'. We all 'know' the same way, whether theists want to admit it or not.
"We all know the same way"
Please prove you have met "we all" and therefore can conclude what you claim.

I don't have to meet the entire human race to know they are human beings any more than I need to examine every dog to know they are canines and have the biological characteristics of canines. It's the way our bodies and brains function, nothing more.
prove it
RuvDraba
Posts: 6,033
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5/28/2016 8:19:26 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
Thank tiy for posting, C. I find the dishonesty in this form of epistemological critique quite repulsive.

Knowledge is not absolute truth. It's simply relevant, accurate, comprehensive, actionable information: confidence within tolerance.

We can live with such a pragmatic definition of knowledge provided we do diligence to ensure that our quality of confidence and mitigation of any residual ignorance suits the tolerances of the problem. And we can improve confidence to almost any degree through diligent correlation across everything else we can observe, supplemented with continuous improvement in tools, methods and ontologies.

In other words, we can use an X-ray device to identify a tumour we've never directly seen, anaesthetise a patient and cut him open to excise it, provided that we realise that there may be circumstances that the X-ray hasn't seen, and alternative or additional diagnoses may still be needed.

Anyone who finds this approach unacceptable is free to attempt medical diagnoses via revelation, and try prayer instead of surgery. We can leave Chuckie Darwin to sort out the issue of who has the more workable definition of knowledge among our descendants.

But what makes this approach so dishonest and repugnant is the shameless, excluded-middle boogaboo accompanying it: if you can't know everything absolutely then you don't know anything; therefore please swallow my appeals to ignorance, authority and tradition without me ever being accountable hereafter for my own ignorance and error.

Theological apologetics. >Ptui<
Chaosism
Posts: 2,649
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5/31/2016 12:24:59 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/27/2016 10:41:44 PM, janesix wrote:

This might be somewhat off topic, but may be of use nontheless. As a person who has been floridly psychotic on many occasions, i can tell you there is a marked difference in perception. When floridly phychotic, everything "feels" different. Everything seems sureal and dreamlike. So even psychotic, i have some amount of insight, and i know not to trust my senses. But it is afterwards when i can ferret out what was real and what was delusion or hallucination. I cant always tell so i have only my judgement to rely on. Therefore i think that most people would be able to tell what is real and what is not according to their senses. Although the first time being floridly psychotic i didnt know it, i still knew something was not right, enough to go to the er and tell them i might be insane.

Thanks for your reply, Jane. That's quite interesting. I've not encountered anyone who demonstrated this. Most realize afterward (if they remember) that something was wrong because they compare their current experiences to what they remember, in my experience with them. But, then the people I interact with are typically in facilities, so maybe that's an indication that their condition is less controllable.

I do express my sympathies to you for such an affliction, and hope the best for you!
dhardage
Posts: 4,545
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5/31/2016 12:50:55 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/28/2016 8:47:50 AM, skipsaweirdo wrote:
At 5/27/2016 4:24:22 PM, dhardage wrote:
At 5/27/2016 4:13:06 PM, skipsaweirdo wrote:
At 5/27/2016 2:22:09 PM, dhardage wrote:
Thank you for that very lucid explanation. I really detest these Sye Ten Bruggencate disciples who can only ask 'how do you know you know?'. We all 'know' the same way, whether theists want to admit it or not.
"We all know the same way"
Please prove you have met "we all" and therefore can conclude what you claim.

I don't have to meet the entire human race to know they are human beings any more than I need to examine every dog to know they are canines and have the biological characteristics of canines. It's the way our bodies and brains function, nothing more.
prove it

Read any basic biology text. They always have good, lucid explanations of how the human brain and nervous system work. Beyond that, listen to a few lectures by neuroscientists and psychologists. If you think it's different for you, prove that.