Philosophical essays

by Doug Shaver

San Bernardino, Calif.

Religion is the mother of the sciences. When the children grew up they left their mother; philosophy stayed at home to comfort the lady in her old age. The long association told more on the daughter than on the mother. (Tobias Dantzig, Number: The Language of Science. Free Press: 1954.)

 

Site contents


Some personal stuff


Who I am. And why I'm here.

How I became a Christian, and why I'm not one any more. The whole story would take a whole book. Here is a synopsis.


The essays

Epistemology etc. (New essay posted April 16, 2013.)

Science

Religion

Miscellany

Old blog (through August 2012)

New blog  


What I believe:

I believe the greatest impediment to human progress is the confusion of epistemology with ethics. This confusion is manifest in many ways, and they are all bad, because they all suppose that in at least some important instances, the truth must be what we wish it to be. It is wrong ever to suppose that virtue confers wisdom on anyone. A moral giant can be an intellectual pygmy; and many of them are, simply because they suppose that since they are good, they must also be wise.

The wisest men are good because it is wise to be good. This is not widely understood because many evil men have claimed to be wise and fooled many into believing their claim. People who believe them cite them as evidence of the dangers of wisdom. What they are really evidence of is the ease with which some people can pretend to be wise.

Fundamentalism in all its forms, religious or political, liberal or conservative, is based on some idea that virtuous people are more receptive than others to the truth, especially moral truth. It supposes that some transcendent power has in some way revealed all important truths to a few people because of their extraordinary virtue and that all other people, if they themselves are virtuous, will intuitively know that those few people must be believed. It supposes that all people are more or less receptive to the truth according to their moral character, that good people know the truth when they hear it and bad people don't. For fundamentalists of all kinds, the only proper exercise of reason is to confirm what virtuous people have already discerned. Any exercise that disconfirms their insights is necessarily improper.

I believe in no revealed truths, because I believe there is no transcendent entity to do any revealing. We can, and we do, discover truths. We all, so long as we remain mentally competent, do it throughout our lives, some more successfully than others. But since none of us can do it perfectly, we also discover many falsehoods and think they are truths. True or false, it is when reason will not confirm our ideas that we most readily suppose that they must have been revealed, since if reason will confirm them, then we need no appeal to revelation. But if reason will not confirm an idea, then there can be only one correct answer to the question "How do we know it?" That answer is: "We do not know it." We may believe it, and if we cannot believe otherwise then we must believe it. But we cannot justifiably claim to know it.



COPYRIGHT NOTICE

Copyright by Doug Shaver. All rights reserved. Several essays on this site include material quoted from other sources. The site author believes in good faith that the quotations are allowable under fair use provisions of U.S. copyright law. All other material is the work of the site author.

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