Boxing Pythagoras

Philosophy from the mind of a fighter

Archive for the tag “epistemology”

Having Faith in Our Definitions

I recently posted about WLC’s quibbles over the definition of “atheism.” In my opinion, when two people disagree on the definition of a term, the best way of resolving the issue is to go with the definition proposed by the person who self-identifies with the word. For example, in the case of Dr. Craig’s issues with the definition of “atheism,” we should utilize the definition claimed by someone who calls himself an “atheist.” Otherwise, any arguments that are made against that person’s atheism run the risk of becoming straw men, as they are based around false precepts. This week, Dr. Craig’s podcast once again attempts to wrestle the control of a word’s definition away from atheists. In response to Dr. Peter Boghossian’s new book, A Manual for Creating Atheists, WLC discusses what he views as a faulty view of “faith” raised up by opponents of religion.

And, in a marked twist for this blog, I actually agree with William Lane Craig, in this case.

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The Legend of Hippasus

There was once an ancient Greek geometer named Hippasus who belonged to the Pythagorean Brotherhood. The Pythagoreans were a school of philosophers who held a special reverence for numbers and proportion. To these men, mathematics was more than just a method for quantifying and describing the world around them. The Pythagoreans held that numbers, themselves, were divine things, worthy of awe and worship. Relationships between these numbers– what we would now think of as a “proportion” or “ratio” of numbers– were intensely studied, as these proportions were thought to hold the secrets of the cosmos. If one were to divide a string according to some specific ratios, he could produce beautiful music. If one compared the proportions of two legs of a triangle, he could come to understand the remaining leg. Nothing in existence was more beautiful to the Pythagoreans than the discovery of these proportions and the properties they endowed.

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Basics of Epistemology

Pretend, for a moment, that someone has just made a claim, and you are trying to decide whether or not that claim is true. How do you go about evalutating their assertion? How do you decide if that person is right or wrong? How do you know the truth?

Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know. It is the area of philosophy which attempts to create methodologies for discerning truth from falsehood. So, for example, if I were to claim, “I am wearing a green shirt,” how could you verify or disconfirm my statement? Well, if you’re in the room with me, you could simply look at my shirt. However, what if you’re not in the room with me? You might place a phone call to someone who IS with me, and ask them– but how would you know that this new person was telling the truth, and not lying?

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