Monday, October 7, 2013

How Empiricism Makes People Blind

There is a constant theme I've noticed just about anytime I present a philosophical case for the existence of God (or of any metaphysical reality) to a group of people, and especially to Atheists.  Today, in one of my classes, a good example of this occurred.  I had just finished going over a case for the existence of God, and as soon as I finished, one student responded, basically, "So where's the evidence for the existence of God?  You haven't presented any evidence."

I've seen this sort of thing time and time again.  I present a philosophical argument for some metaphysical claim, and the response is, "So where's the evidence?"

It is very frustrating.  It wouldn't be frustrating if people would say, "Well, I see the argument you're making, but you've committed an error in reasoning just there."  What is frustrating is that we often never get to the point of actually dealing with the argument, because I can't convince people an argument has been made at all.   It is as if some of the people I talk to have some kind of blindness that prevents them from being able to see that a philosophical argument has been made and that they have to deal with it.

For most of the people I talk to, I think the blindness stems from the unquestioned assumption of empiricism.  People have grown accustomed to believing that real evidence can only come from empirical observations or the natural sciences, and so they simply cannot see arguments presented in a different form.  If I do a lab experiment, or read them some scientific paper written up by scientists, they are on board, or at least they will consider the evidence.  But if I present philosophical arguments, they simply don't notice that any evidence has been presented at all.

This is in fact a blindness, because philosophical and logical reasoning can indeed deliver truths about the world.  We need to question the all-too-often-unquestioned empircist assumption that this can't happen.  All arguments need to be dealt with.  We have no epistemic right to reject any argument as wrong until we have refuted its reasoning and shown why it is wrong.  We cannot simply ignore arguments on the grounds that they aren't in a category we are willing to recognize.

(By the way, some presuppositionalists make the same sort of mistake.  I think that in this case the problem stems from having been taught that all arguments for God or metaphysical realities from human reason are futile, so as to be able to claim that we have to simply start by presupposing something without argument.  These sorts of presuppositionalists assert that the senses are unreliable, but also argue that the senses are the only means through which human reason could gain real knowledge--apart from some kind of presuppositionally-accepted revelation from God.  Thus, ironically, these presuppositionalists end up agreeing with the empiricists in denying the possibility of learning anything about the world through philosophical and logical reasoning.  They end up sharing the same blindness, and it shows when one tries to argue philosophically with them.  Note that this is not true of all presuppositionalists, nor must it necessarily be true of presuppositionalism provided it is construed more carefully and usefully.)

1 comment:

A-Girl-With-Many-Wonds said...

Hi, another INTP Christian here. I can relate with what you say here, because I'm so frustrated and bored by all of the conversation I have with radical skeptic and atheists about my faith.
Like yours, my approach is metaphysical but they seem ignoring how to separate systems when reasoning. I told them that I don't see the point of proving or disproving the existence of an Almighty entity that isn't composed by matter. Science is made to describe and analyze the material world, so how can we prove or disprove that God exists by Science? Where in the quanta and the Supernovae hides the evidence? I don't think there's no material evidence of that. Or at least not anymore, as from the plots in the Bible God seemed to hide/eradicate all His material revelations from humans (and maybe because Science appeared, who knows, but it's a possibility).
And then, choosing "Christianity" among all deists confessions seems to be really problematic for the others, when they know you're an INTx. I think most people, even many of the NT types, are still as judgmental and dogmatic as ever. Only the context and the role change. Before, pagans ruled over Christians, then at some time of the History Christians ruled over kingdoms, etc. And now, Science is used as a pretext for some people to discriminate and to dictate their rejection of an Almighty entity to every body, for the sake of reason and Science. I have to say that we Christians aren't the only who are being attacked like that.
What is sad is that we are all busy attacking each others: atheists spend too much of their times attacking our "foolishness"(as they call it), "fervent and blind" (sorry for the adjectives, but you should know what I mean) Christians spend overly too much time judging the others, etc... Everyone should just take an individual choice and not judge or try to force others to chose what they did.