Filters Redux
August 27, 2008 — 6:59

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Uncategorized  Comments: 9

The argument in Filters and Reliable Cognitive Faculties (below) is probably longer and more complicated than necessary. The problem discussed there is pretty easily displayed, I think, by analogy. The following argument is analogous to O. Mirza’s.
1. There is no ball in box B or it is inscrutable whether there is a ball in B. (From PT)
2. There is no ball in B or I am not capable of rationally accepting that there is a ball in B. (From 1, Def. ‘inscrutable’).
3. :. I have good reason to doubt or deny that there is a ball in B. From (2)
It is the inference from (2) to (3) that seems unjustified. Suppose I’m allowed to peer into box B. After looking closely, I can’t tell whether there is any ball in B. The box is too deep or there’s not enough light, or something along those lines. Mirza is right that I should say that “I am not capable of rationally accepting that there is a ball in B’. But I cannot also conclude that “I have good reason to doubt or deny that there is a ball in B”. I clearly could not rationally deny it. What could be the reason to doubt it?
For perfectly analogous reasons, naturalists cannot conclude that they have good reason to doubt or deny that the process of natural selection included a filter for unreliable faculties. But if someone sees how this argument could be made valid, let me know!

Comments:
  • Larry Tanner

    I don’t find the analogy compelling. In the case of the existence of G-d, what would match up with “box B,” the one we are not allowed to peer into? Although one could consider “box B” to be physical reality, I don’t see any reason to suppose that this “box B” should contain a ball. Similarly, there is no intrinsic reason to claim that G-d might be “in” physical reality.
    But if we shift frames an suggest that “box B” matches us with a supernatural reality, then we have the problem of not being able to apprehend this reality through natural biological or scientific technological means. So, we would not even have access to “box B” in order to peer into it.

    September 4, 2008 — 15:35
  • Mike Almeida

    There is no box we’re not allowed to peer into. There is one box, namely, B. We are allowed to look into the box. After close examination, we are unable to determine whether or not there is a ball in B. This assumption is enough to make premise (1) true. From (1) we infer (2). And from (2) we are–we’re told–able to infer (3). The problem has nothing at all to do with assumptions about the natural or supernatural. It has everything to do with trying to conclude that I have good reason to doubt that p from the fact that it is inscrutable that p. Whether that inference goes through depends on atypical assumptions about the meaning of ‘doubt’.

    September 4, 2008 — 18:54
  • Larry Tanner

    Thank you for the response. But as I asked, on what basis do you assume that there is a ball in B? Do you think a ball is there because someone said so? Because it came to you in a dream?
    This is my whole question. I don’t see what grounds the idea that a ball might be there at all. If one thinks a ball is there, could one just as well posit that a wristwatch is in there too (or instead)?

    September 5, 2008 — 9:10
  • Mike Almeida

    could one just as well posit that a wristwatch is in there too (or instead)?
    Who’s positing? I’m not. I’m wondering what is in the box. Could it be a wristwatch? Sure, or an iguana or a nectarine. As I stipulated, it is inscrutable what exactly is in the box. I look closely and I can’t tell what’s in there and what isn’t. But all of this is a bit beside the point. The point is to underscore the bad inference from ‘it’s inscrutable whether x is in the box (pick your favorite x)’ to ‘I have good reason to doubt that x is in the box’.

    September 5, 2008 — 9:29
  • Larry Tanner

    True or false – it is assumed that something is in the box.

    September 5, 2008 — 9:39
  • Larry Tanner

    I understand that you are mainly showing the bad inference from “it’s inscrutable whether x is in the box (pick your favorite x)” to “I have good reason to doubt that x is in the box.”
    I agree with you on this. But there’s a bigger problem.
    My point is that it’s a bigger problem to warrant the assumption that the ball exists (at least in the box) at all. The bad inference remains a moot point until we can establish, to a reasonable degree, (a) the existence of the ball and (b) the identity of the ball as the ball and as not the wristwatch.

    September 5, 2008 — 9:55
  • Mike Almeida

    True or false – it is assumed that something is in the box.
    False.

    September 5, 2008 — 10:02
  • Mike Almeida

    My point is that it’s a bigger problem to warrant the assumption that the ball exists (at least in the box) at all. The bad inference remains a moot point until we can establish, to a reasonable degree, (a) the existence of the ball and (b) the identity of the ball as the ball and as not the wristwatch.
    I am not assuming that a ball exists. I’m assuming that a ball might exist. For my purposes that assumption is harmless. I don’t need either (a) or (b). I look in the box and I can’t tell whether there is a ball in there. For all I know, every actual ball has been destroyed–none exist. So what? It’s just not relevant here. It remains true that I cannot tell whether there is one in the box.

    September 5, 2008 — 10:10
  • Larry Tanner

    Well…I’m flummoxed.
    If it is not assumed that something is in the box yet we do not have good reason to doubt that something is in the box then we are precluded from reasonably doubting the existing of anything. Anything and everything, we would have to accept, could exist.
    And so what exactly does this get us?

    September 5, 2008 — 10:13