virus: Faith, Logic and Purpose

Reed Konsler (
Thu, 6 Nov 1997 06:15:25 +0100

>Date: Tue, 04 Nov 1997 12:45:56 -0700
>From: David McFadzean <>
>At 02:09 AM 11/5/97 +0100, Reed Konsler wrote:
>>>I'm not sure. What do you mean by "subjective" in this context?
>>Derived internally. Arbitrary. Based upon historical accident.
>I think it is more like the value of money, neither objective
>nor arbitrary.

Are you familiar with the practice known as "arbitrage"?
On what basis are currency traders, at least in theory, able
to make a profit on the trading of currencies?

>>>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?
>Prescriptive. If your goals are mutually inconsistent then
>I think it is obvious that any attempt to attain one
>will thwart another. Maybe I'm going out on a limb here
>but I think it is not very intelligent to set inconsistent
>goals for oneself.

Have you read Jane Eyre? I want to be happy and I
want to obey all the social norms. Who "sets" these
core goals? The problem with being prescriptive
is that, like Popper, you often end up describing
an idealized system with little relationship to the
the dynamic reality.

>>Interesting. What is the test for determining if the
>>context has been infered correctly?
>Experiment, discussion, interrogation :).

And when do you have conclusive proof that you
have properly characterized the context?

>>>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".
>Obviously you are still projecting your own definition of "faith"
>onto my statement.

I'm just reading:

>Through some twist of fate western society has
>come to regard faith as a virtue. To hold an idea
>as true despite all evidence to the contrary is an
>abdication of reason. Convictions are the end of
>knowledge, not the beginning; they are the enemy
>of truth more than lies.

"To hold an idea as true despite all evidence to the contrary"
is not the definition of faith. The key word here is *despite*.
Faith (in my dictionary) is

1) A confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness...
[and I think most relevant]
2) Belief that DOES NOT REST ON [emphasis is mine]
logical proof or material evidence.

The same dictionary defines "assumption" as:

1) the act of...
[and I think most relevent]
2) A statement accepted or supposed true without proof or demonstration.

Let's line those up side by side, shall we?

Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

A statement accepted or supposed true without proof or demonstration.

To me, anyway, they appear identical. In that sense, you are correct,
I am projecting a definition of faith into your statement...but the
implication that it is my personal ideosyncratic defintion is not
correct. In your defintion, the word *despite* is causing the problem...

All science begins, not in some unsupported macro-structure (could
you be any more mystical? "It holds itself up, grasshopper...ohm!"
[joke! :-) ]) but on ASSUMPTIONS, or faith.

In other words:

>Convictions are the end of knowledge, not the beginning;
>they are the enemy of truth more than lies.

Is, in my opinion, diametrically in opposition to my understanding.
Convictions [assumptions, faith] ARE the beginning of knowledge.

>It doesn't matter whether a belief is rational or rationalized
>because all rationalized beliefs become rational in the process.

I need to think on that further.

>>>OK, I will answer your questions as soon as you tell us the nature of
>>>truth. :)
>>The medium is the message.
>OK, the answer to your 3 questions is: rational agents.

Rational agents define the characterisitics of rational statements?
Isn't that a little circular?

>>Is it possible for two real humans to have "identical relevant parts
>>of their respective contexts"?
>Of course. For example, I bet almost everyone on this planet shares the
>context that makes "other people exist" a rational belief.

Are fetuses people?

>>>Nobody said that any belief can be changed by a rational argument.
>>What kind of beliefs are immutable in this respect?
>I was thinking that it would not be possible to logically demonstrate
>that logic itself is invalid, or to prove a contradiction.

Earlier, didn't you question me when I said that science was not
falsifiable. Aren't you now saying the same thing?

>> 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.
>How does your conclusion follow from the premise?

Placebo effect. In circumstances where your internal belief
state has a significant effect on the truth of a premise you
can control the premise with your belief. In that context
it is reasonable to avoid rationalizing the belief. Whatever
the outcome the result is a limitation on your will.

>>>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. :-)
>Right. So why won't you admit that there is a strong correlation
>between irrational beliefs and unreasonable beliefs? Because it
>is not true in your view or because it undermines your position?

For purposes of this discussion, does it make any difference?
Does my belief state change the logical validity of my statements?

I am asking you to provide some evidence that rational
beliefs are correlated with reasonable beliefs. Does
it matter in what "spirit" that question is asked?

>>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.
>Right, you have to go through the process. That is why faith is
>a sin, because it is an unwillingness to go through the process.

Have you ever been born again?

>>>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?
>It is not a new element. Rational means consistent with a given
>context. Reasonable means consistent with a given set of goals
>and intentions.

In that case, aren't you saying that a Creationist's belief about
the age of the Earth is inconsistent with YOUR context? Do
you see the difference?

>>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?
>Arguing that the self is a user-illusion or a meme or whatever
>doesn't mean the self doesn't exist.

Can one say the same thing about God?

>>>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.

>OK, so I'll ask you the same question I asked Richard. If I
>call it faith is it OK with you? Why were you trying to talk
>me out of my belief?

Why are you trying to talk other people out of theirs?
What is the purpose of CoV?

>>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.
>Only if goals and contexts are static. They certainly are not.
>You seem to be claiming that rational people cannot be pursuaded
>without recourse to fraud or violence which is ludicrous.

I'm not saying that you can't pursuade rational people
(you point them out to me, OK?) but that you have the
same chance and use the same techniques to pursuade
"irrational" and "unrational" people.


Reed Konsler