Jim Slagle: Epistemological Skyhook, Pt. 1: Plantinga | Who Shaves the Barber? #4

naturalized epistemology
Alvin Plantinga

Episode 4: Jim Slagle’s Epistemological Skyhook, Part 1: Plantinga

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In this interview with epistemologist Jim Slagle, we discuss the Epistemological Skyhook. That is, the argument that certain philosophical positions (such as naturalism and determinism) give us a reason to believe in skepticism, which in turn, gives us a reason to doubt the reasoning that got us to the position in the first place. If the argument is correct, then while it is possible that naturalism or determinism might be true, it is impossible for us to believe in them. In this first part of our two-part discussion, we focus on Alvin Plantinga’s version of the argument.

Audio

Video

Next week: The Epistemological Skyhook w/ Prof. Jim Slagle, Part 2: Skepticism, Theism, Mind
Special thanks for Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.

Topics discussed

00:20 – Determinism v. Naturalism Skyhook arguments
10:46 – Externalist epistemology
14:30 – Externalism as a way out for the determinist
18:57 – Self-reference
20:38 – Humean loop
25:25 – Introducing Plantinga
29:17 – Naturalized epistemology
34:15 – Problem of evil
37:07 – Plantinga’s Skyhook
40:55 – Does evolution select for truth?
49:34 – Language, truth, and reality
1:02:03 – Plantinga and the Humean loop
1:05:22 – Fallible foundationalism
1:11:20 – Theism and properly basic beliefs
1:15:41 – Freudian and Marxist Skyhooks
1:20:13 – Compatibilist objection

Sources

The Epistemological Skyhook: Determinism, Naturalism, and Self-Defeat by Jim Slagle…

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The Münchhausen Trilemma

There are many forms of radical skepticism: skepticism of the external world, skepticism of other minds, and skepticism of rationality, to name just a few. They arrive at skepticism via different channels, some more successful than others.

Agrippan skepticism is an ancient Greek variety. It is perhaps the hardest-hitting attack on the possibility of knowledge in the history of philosophy. I don’t know of any satisfactory solution.

Epistemologists agree on this much: in order for a belief to count as knowledge, it needs to be at least a justified true belief. What does it mean for a belief to be justified? It means we have a reason for believing it. If this reason will work as justification, it must be a reason that we know.

Of course, if we know this reason, it must be a justified true belief. So what is its justification? It has to be some other reason that we know. And we’re off on a regress.

The problem can be put this way: justification can only happen in three ways:

  • Regress argument: belief A is justified by belief B, which is justified by belief C, which is justified by belief D, and so on.
  • Circular argument: belief A is justified by belief B, which is justified by belief A.
  • Dogmatic argument: belief A is axiomatic. It requires no justification.

None of these options succeed in justifying a belief. Regress arguments fail to justify because they never bottom out at some belief that is already justified.…

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Train of Thought #87

I love following trains of thought.

I was staring at a fireplace listening to music. I had the following progression of thoughts:

  1. The bass line in this song is really awesome.
  2. It’s a very active bass line. I don’t know much about music and almost nothing about good bass playing. Any active bass line is going to sound good to me.
  3. Does that mean that, since I don’t know much about music, none of my opinions about music matter?
  4. I have strong opinions about music. Favorite albums, artists, songs, instrumentalists. To someone who knows a lot about music, those opinions must seem superficial and misguided.
  5. This is true even if we agree that taste is subjective. Even among matters of subjective taste, some taste is refined and some misses all the nuances of the form. Some is based on understanding the medium and some is based on irrelevant associations.
  6. Does this mean that all of our opinions about subjects in which we are not experts are misguided?
  7. Actually, even if we’re experts, we can always assume that there’s another expert who knows the subject more, or we can imagine one in the future who will. That person’s opinion is based on more and better evidence than mine. Shouldn’t I just automatically adopt his position?
  8. Does this mean we shouldn’t believe any of our beliefs? Should we assume all our beliefs are wrong? Should we just believe what the most knowledgeable expert beliefs?

My train of thought took me to radical skepticism, as they often do.…

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