virus: Faith, Logic and Purpose

Reed Konsler (
Tue, 4 Nov 1997 02:51:57 +0100

>Date: Sun, 02 Nov 1997 15:05:20 -0700
>From: David McFadzean <>

>Even if one's goals and intentions are subjective,
>the test of whether or not a given belief is consistent with
>them is not.

Agreeed. Are there non-subjective goals and intentions?

I didn't see anything in the definition of reasonable
that said anything about consistency being a prerequisite.

>If a belief is inconsistent with one's goals I think
>it is safe to say that it is intrinsically unrationalizable.

But to the extent that goals are subjectively determined,
does that mean that some statements can be rational to
one person but unrational (and unrationalizable)
to another? Are you saying that reason is in the
eye of the beholder?

>I don't accept the analogy, it bears only a superficial
>resemblance to Godel's theorem.

:-) Oh yeah! Your mother wears army boots! :-)

>However, even if it
>was a good analogy, so what? Mathematicians didn't give
>up on mathematics, did they? And no-one has found another
>way to find true theorems (Penrose notwithstanding).

Don't try to shift the burden of proof. I'm not arguing that
our hack attempts to make sense of things should be abandoned
because they aren't complete. My position is that you cannot
recommend that people live without faith becuase that is
impossible, to wit: all belief systems are systems based in
faith. In accepting faith we need not lower our respect for
science (or mathematics)'s a non-zero sum game. This
is not a "David: Pro-Reason / Reed: Con-Reason" debate.
It is a "David: Con-Faith / Reed: Pro-Faith" debate. You are
confusing the two becuase you are entertaining a flase dichotomy.

>Rationalization is only a fraud if you falsely claim that you
>arrived a belief through conscious reasoning when you did not.
>I'm talking about after the fact justification of a belief.

How does this relate to the process of making a hypothesis and
(after the fact) assembling the evidence to justify of refute it?

>>Are there rational beliefs which were not once unrational?
>Yes, it is possible to arrive at a belief through conscious reasoning.

Do you really think that people work that way? What makes people
uncomfortable about "the Prisoner's Dillema"? How can I differentiate
beliefs that were derived from conscious reasoning from those which
were once unrational and then rationalized? Do beliefs have a history...
that is, if a belief is rational does it matter what it's origin was?

>>>>1) Who (or what) defines the category "logic" and of what is it comprised?
>>>>2) Who (or what) is the source of "true premises"?
>>>>3) Who (or what) is the arbiter of "valid inferences"?
>>>Given that entire books have been written to answer each of these questions
>>>what kind of answer do you want me to give?
>>A clear one based upon your best understanding.
>If you want a simple answer, you will have to ask a much more complicated

If I were more belligerent, I'd accuse you of refusing to answer questions
that you know will lead to the demise of your position...

How about this:

Is it possible for two individuals, both beginning with true premises and
following valid inferences to arrive at diametrically opposing logical
conclusions about the same question?

>A person is rational to the extent that they are willing to
>change their beliefs based on rational arguments. I doubt anyone
>is completely rational given our genetic heritage and all, but
>many people aspire to be.

Is it more honest to admit that there are some beliefs that cannot
be changed or to insist that you will be able to change ANY belief
based on a rational argument? If you BELIEVE that you are a
rational person, does that help you to be more rational or does
it only help you to convince other people of your logical nature?

>>>Do you doubt it is possible [for a belief] to be rational?
>>Then, no. I have no doubt beliefs can be rational. It is the
>>connection between rational beliefs and reasonable beliefs
>>which is the core of the discussion. You are asserting that
>>there is some close connection. I am asking you to rationalize
>>that assertion.
>Fair enough. First do you concede their is a correlation between
>irrational beliefs and unreasonable beliefs?

Why on Earth would I concede that? :-) Seriously though, the
task is to prove that there exists some correlation between the
"rational value" of a belief and it's "reasonable value". Stating
it in the negative doesn't confuse me. The world is full of
unreasonable rational beliefs and poor decisions based on them.
War, Tradgedy of the Commons, etc...

>>Could you define "context" for purposes of this discussion?
>How about "all beliefs held to be true"? Does that work?

Sure. If reason is a method for deriving new beliefs from
the old ones, such that they are consistent with the context...
from whence come the initial beliefs in which this inductive
ladder begins?


>I mean something assumed to be true for the sake of a particular
>argument. But I don't think any assumptions are beyond criticism.
>If one is called into question, then it must be justified through
>another argument.

Sounds like we're begging for an infinite regress here.

>If you are suggesting that all assumptions are ultimately unjustified
>then I agree and have said as much in the recent past. But given that
>is the unescapable case, we must discard the useless justificationist
>paradigm and replace it with the more useful coherence criterion.

Oh! I like that! "coherence criterion" :-)

>Looking at two contradictory statements:
>1. Most fossils are at least one million years old.
>2. All fossils are less than 10,000 years old.
>Neither can be ultimately justified, but one is more coherent with
>the body of accepted true statements.
>Agree or disagree?

Who's body of accepted true statements? If you are arguing that
conclusions dervied from science are consistent with other scientific
conclusions...well, isn't that tautological? All scientific conclusions
begin from (more or less) the same axioms.

Let me ask you this question: what is the difference between a
subjective axiom and an axiom of faith. Can I convince you that
you don't exist through a rational argument? Doesn't Dennett?
What is the outcome?


Reed Konsler