The Light of Faith: Fideism sets the epistemic bar too low, Positivism – too high


Our common sense weighs various burdens of proof and evidentiary standards, which it uses to both morally and practically justify our actions to ensure that they are commensurate with the quantity and quality of available evidence.

A burden of proof tells us who must produce the evidence. Evidentiary standards define the level of evidence that must be produced. A given level of evidence, in terms of its quantity and quality, thus will establish various degrees of epistemic warrant. The higher those degrees of warrant, the wider the range of action that can be normatively justified, morally and practically.

In our everyday endeavors, we often reason with uncertainty (nonmonotonic reasoning). This is also true in the life of faith. 

What level of epistemic warrant normatively justifies, more generally, everyday reasonings from uncertainty, more specifically, the life of faith

Regarding the life of faith, fideists are accused of setting the bar rather low, while rationalists and empiricists imagine it to be much higher than most deem necessary. How do we resolve this disparity?

We need only turn to the natural sciences, which not only traffic in falsifiability, experimentally, but which, unavoidably, must also engage in highly speculative, theoretical interpretations on the various thresholds of nature’s causal joints. 

On nature’s causal joint thresholds, whether in quantum physics, theoretical cosmology or speculative neuroscience, for example, scientists must often reason backwards, analogically, from effects and properties as would seem to be proper to no known causes or entities

Such reasoning employs the weakest form of inference, abduction or retro-duction, in conjunction with the strongest, deduction. 

The dyadic cycling of abductive-deductive inference remains a necessary aspect of all human inquiry, but, without inductive testing and falsification, it remains, for some purposes, insufficient, sometimes unavoidably so. 

Such an insufficiency, alone, may or may not render our hypothetico-deductive frameworks inactionable, for sometimes, our reasoning with uncertainty is axiologically forced on us by vital existential (especially ultimate) concerns.

In such cases, we must appraise such alternate interpretations of the facts of existence and aspire to base our existential leaps on options that remain truly live in light of various criteria for epistemic virtue, epistemic warrant and normative justification. 

This all applies to the analogical-abductive and hypothetico-deductive reasoning (sans inductive) of our quotidian existence, of the natural sciences, of metaphysics and of theology.


We thus sometimes resolve questions of epistemic disparity by properly recognizing epistemic parity!





As Karl Popper so aptly observed:

“We may see from this that Wittgenstein’s criterion of meaningfulness coincides with the inductivists’ criterion of demarcation, provided we replace their words ‘scientific’ or ‘legitimate’ by ‘meaningful’. And it is precisely over the problem of induction that this attempt to solve the problem of demarcation comes to grief: positivists, in their anxiety to annihilate metaphysics, annihilate natural science along with it. For scientific laws, too, cannot be logically reduced to elementary statements of experience. If consistently applied, Wittgenstein’s criterion of meaningfulness rejects as meaningless those natural laws the search for which, as Einstein says, is ‘the supreme task of the physicist’: they can never be accepted as genuine or legitimate statements.”

In the life of faith, then, which, most people of large intelligence and profound goodwill agree, can be sufficiently warranted, epistemically, and eminently justified, normatively …

it’s not enough vis a vis its normative actionability for a given option to be both vital, existentially, and forced, axiologically (a value will be decisively frustrated or realized) …

an option must be truly live, exceeding fideism’s low bar of epistemic warrant, while not banging one’s head on the high bar of the rationalistic and/or empiricistic positivists, who, in their anxiety to extinguish the light of faith, would destroy — not only the beacons of the natural sciences, but — the brilliant luminosity of good, old-fashioned common sense!

 

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