Do extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence? Is there a burden of proof against extraordinary claims? Should we literally assume that something extraordinary doesn’t exist until it is proven to exist?
Many people say that those who claim that bigfoot, ghosts, and gods exist are making “extraordinary claims” and we should reject the existence of these things because we don’t have enough evidence for them.
What’s “extraordinary” mean? It refers to claims that conflict with what we think we know about the world. Many claims are extraordinary because they are extreme (likely false) or potentially impossible. (more…)
Many people equate “justified” with “justification”—they think beliefs are justified if and only if we give a good justification for them. A sign of this attitude is found in statements such as, “We should only believe something if we can observe it’s true.” I will explain that not all our beliefs require justifications to be justified because (a) we have justified beliefs that we can’t give justifications for, (b) such an assumption is self-defeating, and (c) such an assumption would lead to an infinite regress or vicious circularity. (more…)
We should generally prefer beliefs and theories that are well justified and don’t require ambitious metaphysical or religious assumptions. “Metaphysical” beliefs are beliefs about reality, and “ambitious” beliefs are difficult to justify in a satisfying way that would lead to anything resembling certainty. We attain absolute certainty when we have a belief that couldn’t possibly be wrong. (more…)
Some people at this point might have assumed that philosophy is the quest for truth. This might be true, but philosophy requires nuance and we need to realize that philosophy might not always need to give us “the truth” to be important in our lives. Even if philosophy doesn’t give us “the truth,” it still gives us better and more justified beliefs, which are often more accurate than other beliefs that aren’t based on philosophical thought. (more…)
Our arguments depend on assumptions. We prefer these assumptions to be intuitive and coherent with our other “knowledge” rather than counterintuitive and incompatible with our other “knowledge.” We might not be able to fully explain how we know “1+1=2” but we find it to be an intuitive belief, and we think it’s absurd (and perhaps incoherent) to deny that it’s true. Intuitive arguments are not only very common in philosophy, but it’s possible that all our justifications are grounded in intuition in one way or another. (more…)
Philosophers often discuss what beliefs are intuitive or counterintuitive to support their conclusions. I will argue that we should prefer theories and beliefs that are intuitive or sensitive to our intuitions rather than ones that aren’t.1 The fact that a theory or belief is intuitive isn’t conclusive proof and a theory or belief being counterintuitive isn’t a conclusive disproof, but it is one important element when evaluating the plausibility of a theory or belief. Intuitive beliefs range from things we know with high degrees of confidence—such as “1+1=2”—to beliefs that are merely plausible enough to take seriously as “possibly true.” When a theory isn’t intuitive, then we call it counterintuitive, absurd, or revisionistic. Revisionism exists in degrees from not at all to totally counterintuitive. I will argue that we should prefer that our theories are intuitive rather than revisionistic for at least the following three reasons: (more…)
Some people have thought that knowledge is impossible. It might seem implausible to think knowledge is impossible, but there are important philosophical concerns we can have about knowledge and challenges to the possibility of knowledge can be illuminating. First, I will discuss what “knowledge” means and suggest three different definitions: (a) justified true belief, (b) certainty, and (c) a deep understanding. Second, I will discuss that the belief that “knowledge is impossible” seems to be self-defeating. Third, I will discuss an argument against the possibility of knowledge known as the “Münchhausen Trilemma” and explain where it might go wrong. The argument supposedly shows how unsatisfying any proof is in order to show that none of our beliefs are proven—and knowledge is impossible. I reject the Trilemma because it is too demanding about what counts as a “justified belief.” Proof or evidence is not always necessary to have a “justified belief.” (more…)
I would like to know whether or not knowledge is possible, and whether or not it’s possible for a belief to be justified without observation. If observation is the only good reason to have a belief, then it’s not clear that we can have knowledge concerning mathematics, morality, or logic—and it might even be impossible to have knowledge about anything. Perhaps we can have good reasons to believe something based on common sense assumptions or self-evidence rather than observation. I will argue that that some beliefs are justified as “common sense assumptions” that are not self-evident, and they aren’t justified through observation. These assumptions are justified by embodying various intellectual virtues better than alternatives. (more…)
There are many myths and misunderstandings that prevent clear thinking, good debate, and proper argumentation. I will discuss ten myths about beliefs, but first I will describe knowledge. (more…)
We don’t always think about what really makes our beliefs justified or rational but we tend to be pretty good at identifying which beliefs are justified or rational anyway. We can often take a uncontroversial example of a justified belief then assess why another belief is or isn’t justified by how similar (or analogous) it is to the uncontroversial one. For example, the belief in the law of gravity is a good example of a highly justified belief. It is rational to hold such a belief (in part) because of how well it helps us predict the future. However, the belief that energy can be created or destroyed seems to be unjustified insofar as it has never helped us predict the future. (more…)