Saturday, February 11, 2006

Just To Be Absolutly Clear

This will be, I hope, just a quick follow-up to my last post. In re-reading what I wrote, I am not sure I communicated my intent clearly with regard to Ernie's manifesto and its connection to his beliefs. In addition to what I did say, another point of confusion for me is that the argument "X implies/supports Y, I believe/assume Y, therefore I will believe X" is a logical fallacy, and I am quite sure that Ernie would recognize that. So, that makes me wonder if I am really understanding the connection he is trying to make. And because I do not understand how he is making the connection, I do not understand how or why finding either "a) a belief system disjoint from Christianity that better expressed [Ernie's] principles, or b) principles with greater explanatory power" would be sufficient (or necessary?) to cause Ernie to adjust his beliefs.

I also promised to respond in more detail to this:

What I find most intriguing is that your statement of goals could be formulated as:

I. It is better to believe truth than to be self-deceived.

As I said before, I agree with this statement, although I do not see that phrasing as being a goal, but more of a statement of value. The goal would be "to seek truth and avoid self-deception." But that is a minor quibble.

Ernie then said:

I certainly agree with (I) as well but I see that as embodying a fairly rich set of assumptions about:

i) moral value -- "better"

ii) transcendent reality -- "truth"

iii) imperfect humanity -- "self-deceived"

Again, as I said before, I do not understand what Ernie means in (iii). Also, Ernie has been using the word "transcendent" frequently, and that word can take meanings that I would not accept here. provides these definitions:

  1. Surpassing others; preeminent or supreme.
  2. Lying beyond the ordinary range of perception: “fails to achieve a transcendent significance in suffering and squalor” (National Review).
  3. Philosophy.
    1. Transcending the Aristotelian categories.
    2. In Kant's theory of knowledge, being beyond the limits of experience and hence unknowable.
  4. Being above and independent of the material universe. Used of the Deity.

In this context, I would accept the first definition, so that we are talking about what is "really" true, but without any assumption that such reality is "supernatural". Not that I am denying the possibility of such a reality - I just want to be clear that it cannot be assumed. The second and fourth definitions are too close to that meaning. If the third definition is being applied, I wonder how we would make progress. "Unknowable reality" does not seem very practical, at the very least.

So, with that clarification, and assuming an agreeable explanation of what Ernie meant in (iii), I am quite comfortable affirming this as a goal or value. But then, I would not have expected there to be a question about that, for either of us.

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