Creationist reasoning Creative reasoning

Creationism is more defensible The view that inference can create justification is more defensible than most people give it credit for.

Who disagrees?

[Ed. note: So the hypertext is supposed to pique interest, but judging from my inbox, it’s also apt to incite incredulity and hostility on the part of some who can’t be bothered to click and see what it’s actually about! Don’t judge a paper by its hyperlink.]

[Later ed. note: I give up on the original pun. It was doomed from the start. I guess there’s some poetic justice in that. Out of an abundance of caution, abstract below.]

Abstract: I defend the unpopular view that inference can create justification. I call this view inferential creationism. Inferential creationism has been favored by infinitists, who think that it supports infinitism. But it doesn’t. Finitists can and should accept creationism.


Comments

Creationist reasoning Creative reasoning — 15 Comments

  1. John Turri writes, “Creationism is more defensible than most people give it credit for. Who disagrees?”

    SH: Not me, but I have a doubt about your thesis.

    JT’s paper, “Can reasoning create justification? Prevailing philosophical opinion says that it can’t, and that reasoning is a mere tool for transmitting justification from one belief to another. But prevailing opinion is wrong. Inference can create justification. Inferential creationism is true. That is my thesis. …

    Adult humans are capable of such unreasoned knowledge, but we are also capable of a more dignified sort of knowledge involving full justification, replete with the value added by reasoning.”

    SH: I don’t think prevailing “philosophical opinion” denies _all_ credibility to creating justification, or at least amplifying it through consensus. However, the next paragraph does introduce “_full_ justification”, of which I remain skeptical.

    JT continues, “”Strong inferential creationism says that inference can generate doxastic justification even when the prompt has no doxastic justification. Weak creationism says that inference can amplify doxastic justification. Neither view entails that inference can generate doxastic justification even when the prompt has no redeeming epistemic property at all. So let’s adjust the end of the objection to read, ‘. . . if those reasons have no doxastic justification themselves.’”

    SH: What is the universally infallible method for deciding whether the prompt has no redeeming epistemic property or not? I don’t think “rational intuition” rises to the occasion. I think this caveat requires an oracle.

    Kent Bach, Accidental Truth and Would-be Knowledge [SH: non-accidental truth]:
    “…what warrant could be such that necessarily any belief that has it is true. I will argue that there is no nontrivial answer to this question, and that in the interesting sense of ‘warrant,’ false beliefs can be warranted. Specifically, a false belief can be warranted in the sense that if it were true, it would not be true accidentally. This is the gap-filling property, the property that makes the difference between knowledge and mere true belief, but beliefs don’t have to be true in order to have it.”

    SH: Perhaps this is the point of the second problem to which you refer? The first thing I thought of when I read the term “inferential creationism”, was the much less intellectual word, faith, belief in things unseen, though in an agnostic sense.

    • “What is the universally infallible method for deciding whether the prompt has no redeeming epistemic property or not?”

      There needn’t be a universally infallible decision procedure. But various theories identify different properties as epistemically propitious.

      • SH: “What is the universally infallible method for deciding whether the prompt has a redeeming epistemic property or not?”

        JT: “There needn’t be a universally infallible decision procedure. But various theories identify different properties as epistemically propitious.”

        SH: I’m asking who or what position claims that ‘Prevailing philosophical opinion says reasoning can’t create justification’? At first I thought you might mean Hume, who challenged the universal efficacy of induction. “Why History Matters: Associations and Causal Judgment in Hume and Cognitive Science” by Mark Collier

        “Hume’s second major contribution to the philosophy of causation involves the epistemological question: How can we make causal inferences? The definitional and epistemological issues are, of course, closely related: if causes are constituted by constant conjunctions, then we can discover causes by searching for invariable sequences. .. This is precisely how Hume characterizes our everyday causal inferences. We ordinarily make causal attributions whenever we observe a frequent repetition between events.”

        SH: Induction is the basis for forming beliefs, and if and when the causal attributions are completely determined, then to the degree that these beliefs exactly match the correct causal attributions, then the certainty of such a belief is established. “Full justification” is an entirely congruent fit in my view.

        I thought your approach might be an alternative to a fundamental causal viewpoint in contrast to Hume. So I looked up an earlier paper by you in 2011,
        http://john.turri.org/research/Believing_Reason.pdf
        In the course of arguing for my thesis, I present a new argument that reasons are causes and offer an informative account of causal non-deviance. … A complete epistemology requires a theory of believing for a reason. Maybe we know some things despite lacking reasons. Call such knowledge baseless. Even if baseless knowledge is possible, surely not all knowledge is baseless. At least some knowledge is reason-based. Inferential knowledge is like this. You have inferential knowledge only if your inferential belief is held for a good reason. We not only believe for reasons; we act for reasons too. There is a presumption in favor of a unified account of believing and acting for reasons. If believing for a reason is a causal relation, then acting for a reason probably is too.”

        SH: I think you start with the same basic assumptions about causality as Hume, and arrive at a similar conclusion to Hume: Inductive reasoning is practically useful on a day to day basis, but then arrive at a much different conclusion when you claim, “Inference can create justification. Inferential creationism is true. That is my thesis. … Adult humans are capable of such unreasoned knowledge, but we are also capable of a more dignified sort of knowledge involving full justification, replete with the value added by reasoning.”

        SH: My question about “What is the universally infallible method for deciding …” is intended to ask how you circumvented Hume’s ‘limitation to human knowledge’ when you claimed “full justification” for your approach? Using a prompt as the undefinable/undiscoverable concept merely shifts the focus from an earlier undefinable concept, so I don’t see how inferential creationism becomes a solution, but rather masquerades as a solution whilst the prompt is beheaded and swept under the rug?

        JT: “Suppose we agree that reasoning is required for and partly constitutive of human knowledge, full justification or warrant. ..
        If you supposedly know that A, then the question ‘How do you know A is true?’ arises, and threatens to renew itself repeatedly, as we saw earlier when briefly considering the two arguments for infinitism. The challenge is to explain how, if at all, the pattern might unfold so as to vindicate the initial assumption that you actually do know that A is true.3
        3The same goes for the supposition that you have a warranted or (fully) justified belief that A is true. For convenience I will typically speak only of knowledge or of justification or of warrant, but what I say typically applies to them all. Exploring residual differences lies beyond this paper’s scope.
        Moreover, finitists have tended to deny something further that infinitists have endorsed: that reasoning is creative, that it can originate warrant.
        This is inferential creationism. (In what follows, I use ‘reasoning’ and ‘inference’ interchangeably. And I won’t explicitly distinguish between creationism about justification, warrant or knowledge.)”

        SH: To me, an explanation of why full justification or warrant, under the heading of inferential creationism, but still using causality as foundational, is still needed. Doesn’t “full justification” suffer the same failure to establish a universal claim for induction as alluded to by Hume? Or do you mean by “But various theories identify different properties as epistemically propitious.” as an answer which provides full justification as a byproduct of inductively based inferential creationism?

  2. My advice: change the title to “In defense of intelligent design” but don’t change anything else. That should take care of all of the objections to your previous view.

  3. This is where I get lost (p. 22-23):

    “Pure inferential instrumentalism is a chimera. It says that inference can transmit justification but can’t create it. That can easily sound like a view worth considering. But the only reason it doesn’t immediately sound utterly ridiculous is that we don’t interpret it literally. Because, literally, inference obviously does not transfer justifica- tion, whereas it clearly does create justification.

    “Suppose that my belief that P is justified. And suppose that I am fully justified in believing that P entails Q. And suppose that I competently deduce Q from P. Of course my concluding belief in Q is thereby justified — and presumably to the same degree, or almost the same degree, as my belief in P. But this is not because the justification attaching to my belief that P gets transmitted to my belief that Q, thereby leaving my belief in P unjustified! Justification isn’t a quantity transmitted and conserved by the inferential relation. The justification for my belief that Q didn’t used to be attached to my belief that P. Nor does the justification for my belief that P di- minish — in perfect inverse proportion — as my belief that Q becomes justified. Rather my belief that P remains just as justified as it was before, for the same reasons as before, and my belief that Q becomes justified to a similar degree. So the total amount of justification in the system has been increased: more justification has been created, courtesy of the inferential relation. Any view that entails otherwise is thereby refuted.

    “So the literal interpretation of pure inferential instrumentalism straightforwardly entails something quite ridiculous, namely, that the total amount of justification in a system of beliefs cannot increase due to inference. I trust that no one (skeptics aside) interprets it that way, which is why they don’t immediately reject it as absurd.”

    No, of course ‘transmission’ doesn’t imply that the “justification attaching to my belief that P gets transmitted to my belief that Q, thereby leaving my belief in P unjustified!”

    But this doesn’t mean that 1 + 1 = 2, either! I would argue that if the justification now also attaching to Q is *exactly the same* as that which previously only attached to P, the total amount of justification has not been increased on iota. Think of it as set-theory, or as Boolean algebra: If you add an already existing member to a set, its cardinality does not increase; and a binary addition of 1 and 1 is still 1 — (True AND True) equals True, nothing more.

      • I guess you’re arguing that *each belief in a single chain* leading from some initial justified belief, P, via entailed beliefs, Q… etc. should be counted as separate justifications for the terminal belief.

        That seems highly counter-intuitive to me. Rather, I would count *the number of chains* leading to a terminal belief.

          • The passage you quoted contains the sentence stating the lesson drawn from the example: ‘So the literal interpretation of pure inferential instrumentalism straightforwardly entails something quite ridiculous, namely, that the total amount of justification in a system of beliefs cannot increase due to inference.’ Then we move on to the plausible interpretation – the one everybody has in mind when they think instrumentalism is so plausible, and which is actually a version of creationism.

    • Thanks for the link. But the paper we’re discussing here has nothing to do with alternatives to evolutionary theory. It’s a view about the potential for inference to create positive epistemic status.

  4. I think you did well to give up your “original pun”, and, as they say, don’t quit your daytime job. Seriously, John McCarthy (famous computer scientist) said, “Machines as simple as thermostats can be said to have beliefs,…” [SH: “but not beliefs about beliefs”]

    This remark elicited quite a bit controversy to which McCarthy later admitted to provoking such a response [probably for funding]. There is a fine line between the abstract and the abstruse, but the ‘quality of good communication is not strained’.

    I think your position on infinitism is well-argued, but since infinitism is already seen in a dim light, it doesn’t seem that valuable in pushing your thesis: “that inference can create justification”, although your point about finitist’s acceptance hits the nail on the head. I felt that your explanation was adroit, and it is my shortcoming not to fathom the nuances of inferential instrumentalism. I think your thesis is quite plausible. I like those fairly rare, witty and clever titles for papers too. McCarthy provided too much of a cattle prod in my history, closer to manipulation. I learned from reading your paper. Thank you.

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