Jef Allbright writes:

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:

> But our main criterion for what to believe should be
> what is true, right?
I find it fascinating, as well as consistent with some difficulties in
communication about the most basic concepts, that Stathis would express
this belief of his in the form of a tautology.  I've observed that he is
generally both thoughtful and precise in his writing, so I'm very
interested in whether the apparent tautology is my misunderstanding, his
transparent belief, a simple lack of precision, or something more.

Thanks for the compliments about my writing. I meant that what we should believe does not necessarily have to be the same as what is true, but I think that unless there are special circumstances, it ought to be the case. Brent Meeker made a similar point: if someone is dying of a terminal illness, maybe it is better that he believe he has longer to live than the medical evidence suggests, but that would have to be an example of special circumstances.
If he had said something like "our main criterion for what to believe
should be what works, what seems to work, what passes the tests of time,
etc." or had made a direct reference to Occams's Razor, I would be
comfortable knowing that we're thinking alike on this point.  But I've
seen this stumbling block arise so many times and so many places that
I'm very curious to learn something of its source.

The question of what is the truth is a separate one, but one criterion I would add to those you mention above is that it should come from someone able to put aside his own biases and wishes where these might influence his assessment of the evidence.
> We might never be certain of the truth, so our beliefs should > always be tentative, but that doesn't mean we should believe > whatever we fancy.

Here it's a smaller point, and I agree with the main thrust of the
statement, but it leaves a door open for the possibility that we might
actually be justifiably certain of the truth in *some* case, and I'm
wonder where that open door is intended to lead.

I said "might" because there is one case where I am certain of the truth, which is that I am having the present experience. Everything else, including the existence of a physical world and my own existence as a being with a past, can be doubted. However, for everyday living this doubt troubles me much less than the possibility that I may be struck by lightning.

Stathis Papaioannou


In response to John Mikes:
Yes, I consider my thinking about truth to be pragmatic, within an
empirical framework of open-ended possibility.  Of course, ultimately
this too may be considered a matter of faith, but one with growth that
seems to operate in a direction opposite from the faith you express.

- Jef


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