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BATTLEGROUND GOD (PART II) (re-dated)

Here’s the second accusation the Battleground God quiz made of me:

“Earlier you said that it is justifiable to base one’s beliefs about the external world on a firm, inner conviction, regardless of the external evidence, or lack of it, for the truth or falsity of this conviction. But now you do not accept that the rapist Peter Sutcliffe was justified in doing just that. The example of the rapist has exposed that you do not in fact agree that any belief is justified just because one is convinced of its truth. So you need to revise your opinion here. The intellectual sniper has scored a bull’s-eye!”

First, allow me to make a qualification which the quiz wasn’t built to handle.  If I were to formulate my actual position, in my own words, I would omit the “regardless of the external evidence” part. But I would NOT omit the “lack of it, for the truth or falsity of this conviction” part.

So I would say that it is justifiable to base one’s beliefs about the external world based on a firm, inner conviction, apart from evidence for the truth or falsity of this conviction, but not regardless of any such evidence if it exists.

Consider my breakfast. I had a coffee and a muffin. I believe it, but do I believe it on evidence? No I don’t. I simply remember that I had a coffee and a muffin. It is not that my memory serves as evidence that I had the coffee and muffin. No, I simply remember the coffee and muffin and that’s enough.

I have failed to be rational? Should I have withheld belief until I had collected some evidence? If so, why? I can’t for the life of me see why.

Now if I had evidence which suggested that I did not have the coffee and muffin, this might call my memory of the breakfast into question. But it would depend on how credible this evidence was to me. It is not the case that just any old evidence against the belief would immediately call my memory into question. It would have to outweigh my confidence in my memory. Still memory is not infallible, and so evidence is not irrelevant. The key thing to notice is that it is not necessary. I can know what I had for breakfast without any evidence at all, based only via the firm inner conviction of my memory of that recent event.

Does this mean that the rapist is as justified in believing God would have him commit rapes as I am in believing I had a coffee and a muffin for breakfast? Both were based upon a firm inner conviction, right? So what’s the difference?

Well, neither of us based our belief on evidence. I suppose the Battleground God quiz believes the only way to scold the rapist is by accusing him of failing to base his belief on sufficient evidence. That would work, except for the fact that it would also rule out my perfectly rational beliefs about my breakfast. I take it that this is no small thing.

What’s the evidence for the quiz’s position that it’s wrong to believe something apart from evidence?

Anyway, I say that my beliefs about my breakfast are warranted because they were produced by properly functioning cognitive faculties aimed at the production of true belief in an environment conducive to their proper function. (Warrant is that which must be added to true belief in order for it to constitute knowledge.)

But, as far as I can tell, the rapist’s beliefs about God and rape were not produced by properly functioning cognitive faculties aimed at the production of true belief. No. His cognitive faculties were dysfunctional in some way. His faculties furnished him with false beliefs. Also, it should have seemed to him that committing rapes was seriously wrong. In this way, his belief that God asked him to commit rapes should have been weighed down with a serious defeater.

Being firmly convinced is not enough. But I never suggested it was enough. What I did say was that evidence wasn’t necessary, and I stand by this. (In addition to the firm inner conviction, certain external epistemic facts must obtain. Though it is not necessary that I know they obtain, or have special access to them. I can know without knowing that I know.

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