Re: PHIL: Justificationalism (Was: Dynamic Optimism as a tool in logical reas...

From: Dan Fabulich (
Date: Sun Jan 16 2000 - 20:37:05 MST

'What is your name?' '' 'Do you deny having written the

> Except that they, the relativists, are not scientists or philosophers of
> science. Can you name one either way?

Name one what? Relativist?

> They "give up" on Hume's problem -- that hardly solves the problem.
> And, PCR/CCR has _no_ first principles at all. . . that is the answer
> to relavitism's claim that nothing can be proven without unjustified
> first assumptions.

You're reading a different book. I'm not talking about SKEPTICISM, I'm
talking about RELATIVISM. They're commonly lumped together by empiricists
like yourself. ;)

No, relativists claim that truth is in some important way relative to the
context of the question/statement. In moral theory, for example, you have
relativists who claim that morality is determined within a given culture,
but that there is no universal Right; there's just right-for-your-culture,
right-for-my-culture, right-for-the-Germans, right-for-the-Moslems, etc.
(Contrast this with the view that we have no way of *knowing* what is

Similarly, extending this idea to epistemology, you have people like Kuhn
and Feyerabend arguing that there is no truth at all, even so-called
"scientific" truth, except that which is relative to customs and other
cultural factors. On this account, there is no Rationality when you're
considering what constitutes good evidence and what doesn't. Take, for
example, the Copernican revolution. On this account, there is no
Rationality to which Copernicus and Galileo were adhering and to which the
leading intellectuals of that day were not adhering; instead, there is
merely rational-for-the-Church, rational-for-Galileo, etc.

Think of it as a descriptivism for rationality, eh?

To see closer up how PCR leads one to this conclusion, notice that to the
extent that we're calling PCR an epistemology, it determines when we're
justified in claiming "knowledge." That is, it's a sufficient answer to
the question "how do you know?" to say "well, I'm a pancritical
rationalist, and this view, though criticizable, has withstood criticism,
and that's how I know." But then we get to ask what constitutes valid
criticism. Max More gives a handful of reasonable-sounding principles in
his discussion of PCR on the ExI website, (does it conform to sense data?
is it simple? is it self-consistent?) but you'll notice that he left off
the criterion of agreeing with Scripture.

Now, your first reaction should be "that's a feature, not a bug!" (I'm an
atheist.) However, under PCR what constitutes valid criticism, while
itself up for criticism, is relative to what, in your reflected view,
constitutes valid criticism. (If not, then I can't use the argument I
presented above to underwrite my claim that I "know.") Suppose the
Cardinal says to you that the Earth certainly does NOT move. "Well, how do
you know, Cardinal?" "Because my view has withstood all valid criticism."
Emphasis on the VALID. Criticism which doesn't take the truth of
Scripture into account, after all, isn't valid... Ask anyone in the 15th

Arguments from hindsight ("well, he DIDN'T withstand criticism, now, DID
he?") are not, in this case, 20/20, unless you happen to think that losing
the war in memespace happens to be a form of valid criticism. Of course,
if you do, cryonics, extropianism, and Rand's objectivism, all being
relatively 'fringe' ideas, must also be regarded as "irrational" on
account of THEIR not having won the war. Arguments of the form "not yet,
but our time is coming" could just as easily be applied to the Cardinal's
argument, and still IS, surprisingly often!

Finally, and this is the argument normally raised against the Cardinal by
PCR lovers everywhere, is: "The Cardinal did not offer the Scripture for
criticism." To which the Communist cries: "It was the Cardinal's gravest
error. So, tell me, why have you not signed up for the inevitable utopia?
Why have you not offered your LOGIC up for criticism, eh? The standards
of truth are in the hands of experts now. You'd have to be INSANE to
contradict them."

> They saybecause of that we can not
> prove our own existance. They basically believe that NO knowledge is
> possible. Relativism is absurd.

Again, that's skepticism. Relativism is completely different.

> They claim theoretic statements are not and _can not_ be true, a rational
> language of science is not possible, and unobservables (e.g., atoms) do not
> exist.

Only the second of those applies to relativists, the claim that a rational
language of science is not possible.

> They are opposed to Realism, Instrumentalism, and Descripivism.

An odd group... Do you mean ethical descriptivism? If so, what can you
make of the argument that it was (is?) morally right to believe that the
Earth stands still while the heavens move around us?

Anyway, relativists don't OPPOSE these ideas, per se, they just argue that
their truth is relative to culture, conceptual scheme, or something like


      -unless you love someone-
    -nothing else makes any sense-
           e.e. cummings

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