virus: Faith, Logic and Purpose

Reed Konsler (
Wed, 5 Nov 1997 02:09:37 +0100

>Date: Mon, 03 Nov 1997 16:14:19 -0700
>From: David McFadzean <>

>>Are there non-subjective goals and intentions?
>I'm not sure. What do you mean by "subjective" in this context?

Derived internally. Arbitrary. Based upon historical accident.

>>I didn't see anything in the definition of reasonable
>>about consistency being a prerequisite.
>True, but it should be obvious why you might want to
>avoid goals that are inconsistent with each other.

If only life were so simple. Are we being prescriptive
or descriptive here?

>>>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?
>Partially, yes. The rationality of a belief depends on
>a given context. If I am to judge the rationality of
>one of your beliefs, for example, I have to first somehow
>infer your context. A belief may be rational within your
>own context, but irrational in the context I infer if I
>make a mistake. The reason it is only partially context-
>sensitive is because some beliefs like the standard
>inference rules of logic are required if we don't want
>to stretch the definition of "rational" too far.

Interesting. What is the test for determining if the
context has been infered correctly?


>I thought we covered this already. Faith is unrational.
>A belief based on faith may be reasonable. A rational belief
>may be unreasonable. Where is the false dichotomy?

On the CoV homepage under "Virion Virtues and Sins".

>>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?

Really? I don't think so...but it isn't central.

>>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...
>OK, I will answer your questions as soon as you tell us the nature of truth. :)

The medium is the message.

>>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?
>If the relevant parts of their respective contexts are identical, then
>no. Otherwise, yes.

Is it possible for two real humans to have "identical relevant parts
of their respective contexts"?

>Nobody said that any belief can be changed by a rational argument.

What kind of beliefs are immutable in this respect?

>>rational person, does that help you to be more rational or does
>>it only help you to convince other people of your logical nature?
>I imagine it has both effects but I fail to see the relevance. implies that there is at least one context in which one
both is and appears to be MORE rational by being LESS
critical of something (in this case, one's own ability to reason).
If you will accept that one instance of self-fullfilling prophesy
we can establish the reasonableness of unrational (and
unrationalizable) beliefs.

>If I can get you to agree that there is a correlation between
>irrational beliefs and unreasonable beliefs, then that is the
>first step to demonstrating that there is a correlation between
>rational beliefs and reasonable beliefs.

That isn't much of a challenge considering that the fiat I
would grant you is the logical equivalent of the conclusion
you are trying to make. :-)

>>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?
>Strawman. I'm arguing that beliefs should be rationalizable,
>not rational.

What is the test for rationalizability? I though we already
agreed there wasn't any a priori way of determining that
without actually going through the process.

>>>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.
>No, it is mutually dependence, not infinite regress.

Could you explain that?

>>>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" :-)
>I'm not making this up. :)

I know.

>>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.
>Everyone except maybe a few insane people. Those who believe
>statement #2 above (the creationists) have a less consistent
>belief system then those who believe #1.

Here again you are introducing a new element: consistency.
Could you relate consistent to rational and reasonable?

>>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?
>I don't understand your question.

Dennett convncingly argues that consciousness is a user-illusion of
the brain. Does that change your you "feel"
different knowing this? Do you believe it?

>But maybe this will help you understand where I'm coming from:
>In my view, to claim that I have faith that X is true is the
>same as saying I believe X and I don't need a good reason to
>believe X. I don't care if X is really true. I don't know why
>I believe X and I don't care what you or anybody else thinks.
>To demonstrate my point I will now declare that I have faith
>that faith is a sin. Your move, Reed. :-)

>From my perspective, that declaration is the fullfilment of
my initial premise.

QED. :-)

In an earlier point in the conversation you insisted that
rational people can be pursuaded without recourse to
fraud or violence. I disagree. If goals and context
are inconsistent between people then this hope for
a universal language of communication is an illusion.


Reed Konsler