Re: more, briefly

Garry DeWeese (
Tue, 07 Apr 1998 09:55:11 -0600

At 09:52 AM 4/7/1998 -0400, Massimo Pigliucci wrote:

[Moorad Alexanian wrote:]
>> 1) It is logically inconceivable for me not to believe that there is a
>> Creator. Belief in a Creator is an example of what is self-evident to me.
>Wow! You must have a weird definition of "self-evident". The existence
>of the ocean is self-evident. That humanity's history is plagued with
>wars is self-evident. [snip]

According to the standard usasge in epistemology, a self-evident
proposition is one that, once I understand its terms, I see that it cannot
be false. Tautologies, certainly, are self-evident, as are elementary
sentences of mathematics, and such logical forms as modus ponens.

The existence of the ocean is not self-evident. It may be "evident to the
senses" that I am having a certain "ocean-type" sensory experience, but the
belief formed on the basis of that experience, that "There is an ocean," is
*not* self-evident. It involves other beliefs, such as the belief that the
external world exists, that my sensory equipment is not defective (I don't
have "ocean-type" sensory experience randomly), that the cognitive
environment is such that the existence of the ocean is the best explanation
of my "ocean-type" experience (rather than that it is a hallunication
brought on by repeated viewings of Titanic), etc.

That history is plagued by wars is even less self-evident, as it involves
many, rather sophisticated beliefs about the reliability of testimony,
about the nature of historical research and historical facts, etc.

Can belief in God be self-evident? Not as "self-evident" is used in
epistemology. Moorad himself said that doubts can exist alongside
Christian faith. But once I understand modus ponens, I have no doubts, I
have absolute certainty. (Belief in God can, however, be properly basic in
the sense of needing no other justification.)

On the other hand, Moorad claimed that "belief in a Creator" was
self-evident to him, not belief in God (which, I take it, has more content
that belief in a creator). If by this Moorad has in mind the metaphysical
principle that "nothing comes from nothing," then I suppose there are many
who would take this as a self-evident truth. But many don't, so I am not
entirely sure that this metaphysical principle is as much self-evident as
it is intuitive.

Best wishes,
Garry DeWeese