Monday, June 20, 2011

An Argument from Intuition

In a prior post an argument for intuition was discussed. In this argument, we will discuss an argument for God’s existence from intuition. First, we should reproduce the argument for intuition.

1. If we can hold justified true beliefs independently of any process or perception, then we have intuitive knowledge.

2. We can hold justified true beliefs independently of any process or perception.

3. Therefore, we have intuitive knowledge.

4. The laws of logic are justified upon their examination (application of empiricism).

5. Inference is an application of the laws of logic.

6. Inference must be used upon application of empiricism.

7. If (4-6), the laws of logic must be justifiably known.

8. If (4-7), the justification is known logically prior to empiricism.

9. If (4-8), then (2) is true.

10. If (2) is true, then (3) is true, and hence we have intuitive knowledge.

We must remember that intuition is a belief held independently of any process. This former argument also establishes that we do indeed have intuitive knowledge. But how did we obtain this intuitive knowledge? I do not mean this question to defy the definition of intuition. Rather, I am merely asking for the explanation of the presence of that knowledge. This argument is a modest attempt to account for it.

1*. If intuitive knowledge exists, then God exists.

2*. Intuitive knowledge exists.

3*. Therefore, God exists.

Now the aforementioned argument for intuition accounts for (2*) being true. But what about (1*)? This premise should only be rejected if one thinks it is true that intuitive knowledge exists and God does not exist. Of course, one may remain agnostic about the premise. In this case it is up to the affirmative to show a relation or else the objector may at least refrain from accepting the conclusion.

I believe we do have at least some justification for thinking (1*) is true. For consider the alternatives. Suppose we say naturalistic evolution has produced in us intuitive knowledge. Yet this seems problematic. First, if we mean evolution in the sense of blind processes, then intuitive knowledge just is acquired by means of a process, and hence is not really intuitive after all. Second, if evolution “deliberately” placed it into homo sapiens, then this deliberate action really resembles that of an intelligence after all, and hence we have the conclusion!

One may complain at this point that we have not established the Christian God, but a generic one. However, let us explicate one relation of intuitive knowledge to truth as a category. This God must be the grounds of knowledge. For who else but the objective grounding of truth could supply a means of knowing in the first place, much less an independent means of knowing such as intuition? I do not expect this to persuade atheists or agnostics, however it seems (1*) is very plausibly true. It further seems absurd to reject intuitive knowledge. But if that is the case, then something very much like God—the source of all truth—exists. If he exists, then I submit it is the Christian God, since the Christian worldview is most consistent with the philosophical and theological truths of the world. What do you think?
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  1. Two thoughts:

    What is an example of (2)? I'm not clear on why that should be considered true.

    The JTB account of knowledge has been highly questioned since the introduction of Gettier cases in the 1960s. (As it happens, I'm working on a paper defending the traditional JTB account against Gettier cases, but it remains to be seen if it will be published and what arguments will come against it that perhaps I haven't considered).

  2. Hi Mike. I'm glad you asked! In my prior post of reference in this article, "An Argument for Intuition," I defend (2) from the standpoint of inference itself. For instance, it may be asked how we know the law of gravity is indeed a law (in its most basic form). One may well respond, "well, inductively. Every time I release this apple, it drops to the ground. It never flies upward, or sideways, or whatnot. Therefore, we can conclude the next time it is released, all else being equal, it will fall." This seems sound, and is widely accepted reasoning. However, without (2), how could we conclude this? For no matter how many times we conducted this experiment, we could never apply the inference that is the conclusion. We could only say, "hmm. It falls every time. Interesting." But we could say nothing conclusive about the next time! The very principle of inference is something justified, but not borne of any process. For if it were, it would not be justified (for we would simply assume the laws of logic to be true based on experience with absolutely no reason to justify anything based on experience [as this would be circular]), or it would be justified independently of any process. It is a priori knowledge. Anyway, that's my take on it. :)

  3. I feel like what you're concluding from your examples is that those things depend partly upon perception and process, rather than independently which I would use to say wholly separate. You seem to just think those can't get us all the way there. It's a potentially tricky issue as there are some who would deny any a priori knowledge. I think that's probably extreme, but their arguments give me pause.

  4. I certainly would agree that most things require a bit of both. However, the mere idea of inference cannot be experientially known--for then we must draw inference in order to draw inference! Thus, not surprisingly, inference is logically prior to any process, and hence fulfills the condition of (2). That said, I agree with you that inference alone cannot tell the whole story. On the other hand, most philosophers are not so quick to deny there exists any a priori knowledge; in fact it seems mostly scientists do this (though not completely, of course). It's certainly interesting.

  5. I think the premise would still have a problem because you wouldn't be able to say it's a justified true belief. If you want to apply skepticism to inference, then you have the apply it to justification and truth. Otherwise, it begs the question.

  6. I think begging the question, or vicious circularity, is avoided in so-called properly basic beliefs. Otherwise, we'll discover life in general is irrational, yet that is self-defeating in and of itself! A bit of Kantian transcendentalism (in a limited sense) may be of use. But in any case, inference's potential circularity problem is not absolved, nor can it be, by empiricism. If inference exists, which it seems it must (on pain of contradiction), then it nonetheless is not gained via empirical means (for the rule that allowed empiricism would be inferential).

  7. Could you perhaps explain premise one a little better? It seems to me plausible that intuition could exist independent of a god, so I don't see how it's necessary that god exist if intuition exists.

    "I believe we do have at least some justification for thinking (1*) is true. For consider the alternatives."

    Even if the conceivable alternatives fail, this does not imply that no better alternative exists. Such an alternative may simply be residing in a failure of imagination.

    Moreover, your rejection of naturalistic explanations for intuition appears off-hand at best.

    "First, if we mean evolution in the sense of blind processes, then intuitive knowledge just is acquired by means of a process, and hence is not really intuitive after all"

    Isn't this the genetic fallacy? Why could it not be intuition if it were acquired by means of a process? What is it about 'blind processes' doing the work that invalidates intuition? A lot of research has been conducted on phobias and instincts, and it would stand to reason that these could have formed the basis for intuition in a natural sense.

    I like your arguments about intuition, though!



  8. What do you mean by process? You say that inference is not known by process or perception. But I think it's actually some combination of the two. I would think of reasoning as a process, but you keep only referencing experience. Maybe we're not on the same page.

  9. Hi Mike. What I mean is that the idea of inference must be intuitively known, rather than gained by a process. Inference can (and must in some cases) be gained from rational and experiential means, such as the inductive reasoning that gets us "if I release this ball on earth, it will drop." However, what justifies induction itself? Surely not induction, for then we are being circular. Yet we believe we are rational to accept induction (all else being equal). Either we are completely lucky, or there is no such thing as logic, or we are actually rational in accepting the principle of induction (and hence inference). But if we are rational, it must be independent of any process (epistemologically). That's all I mean.

  10. Hi Lee, thanks for the compliment! As to the first premise, I think we must be careful not to appeal to igorance as an argument against (1*) [I assume this is what you are referencing when you ask for some evidence that we can accept the first premise--1* instead of 1]. In a disjunctive syllogism, the disjunct is true in the case that at least one of the disjuncts are true (or both).

    Now I certainly don't think we have overwhelming justification for (1*), but rather (and more modestly) just some. Because intuition cannot be epistemologically gained by a process, it seems evolution cannot be a legitimate candidate. Why not? Well, there are two major ideas as to natural selection that one will encounter (I am not speaking merely scientifically, but just people-wide, regardless of education level). The first group of people will say that natural selection is a blind process; whatever is most conducive to survival will survive, and that which is lacking will be eventually weeded out (since by definition, it is not conducive to survival). So if our intuiton is accounted for in this way, we only have an explanation of why the people who exist now have intuition, not why intuition exists at all.

    The second group of people will speak of natural selection as though it is an active force; it picks and chooses who/what it wants, and that is those things that will survive. In that case, however, we either have the same problem as before or else worse--we seem to be describing an amoral (or possibly even moral) type of deity! It is because of these two points that I would say the genetic fallacy is not being committed.

  11. "Because intuition cannot be epistemologically gained by a process"

    Intuitive knowledge cannot be gained this way, but I see no reason why powers of intuition cannot. Once you have the powers of intuition, having intuitive knowledge follows according to your first argument. So it seems to me the thing to be accounted for in your second argument is intuition itself; the genetic fallacy would apply if you are saying, as you did then, that intuition (not intuitive knowledge) is not intuitive if it is gained by a process.

    "In a disjunctive syllogism, the disjunct is true in the case that at least one of the disjuncts are true (or both)."

    I take this to mean that if it is true that the source of intuitive knowledge is not natural, it must therefore be supernatural? In this case, both cannot be true, and one must be true. It also seems obvious that you need the powers of intuition prior to having intuitive knowledge; you must have the ability to possess true beliefs prior to possessing them. The source of intuitive knowledge (intuition) is not the same thing as intuitive knowledge. So lets say you mean intuition, instead of intuitive knowledge. Fine, agreed. I think it's source is natural, and I don't see any reason to believe it's source can't be natural. Let me defend the natural hypothesis again:

    "So if our intuiton is accounted for in this way, we only have an explanation of why the people who exist now have intuition, not why intuition exists at all."

    (Once again, I'm taking you at face value in your use of 'intuition' quoted here, rather than 'intuitive knowledge' in your argument.) Natural selection would only get you that far, I agree. Evolution, however, answers the second question(in principle). You are using a laymans misunderstanding of evolutionary processes to make such processes implausible (you admit as much prior to doing so), and this is precisely what Krauss took Craig to task for in his use of physics and mathematics. It is important to remember that natural selection is a process external to the evolution of life itself. It literally means selected by chance: whatever survives, survives, even if it's traits are not most conducive to survival. This accounts for deficiencies in biological structures that a process simply choosing 'most conducive' would have weeded out(and also rules out your "active force" for the same reason). Certain biological structures, by virtue of the inherited traits, may have an inherent statistical advantage for survival, but as we both know, statistical advantage does not necessitate success.

    There is no good reason, and in fact a number of reasons to the contrary, why evolution could not have produced intuition through genetic mutation coupled with natural selection. Remember, the burden is not upon me to prove that the source of intuition is natural; if I can show your reasons for rejecting a natural explanation are spurious, my burden is satisfied. The conclusion may still be true, but the argument fails to be sound. Notice that your first argument for intuition is not demonstrating the independent existence of intuitive knowledge, only our possession of intuition as a logical conclusion from the premise that intuitive knowledge exists.

    I think you reject naturalistic explanations through an ignorance of what they actually explain (off-hand), ergo, there is no good reason to accept premise 1* as true by virtue of your accounting of the alternatives(assuming yet again that you meant intuition). Intuition and a god could, and plausibly would, exist independent of one another; one is not necessary for the other, and vice-versa(that is to say, logical necessity has not been demonstrated).


  12. I see. My confusion was thinking that process included logical processes. If you're merely talking about epistemilogical processes, then I am inclined to agree. I don't have a problem with saying things can be known by a rational means a priori. I just wasn't considering that to be intuition - I think of different sorts of things when I hear that term.

  13. Hi Lee, I think there's a bit of a confusion there. (3) in the first argument is a conclusion derived from (1) and (2), and is not question-begging. Simply because it happens to be definitionally true, it wouldn't follow that no independent reason exists for believing it.

    Also, I'm having trouble distinguishing from intuitive ability and intuition itself. For what is the former without the latter? Either you have intuition or you do not; you cannot gain it by a process (else it's not really intuition at all). Perhaps rather than ability of intuiton you just mean knowledge altogether (of which intuition is a subset). But then the original problem remains.

    As to the genetic fallacy, one must understand why something is fallacious. It's not universally fallacious to infer something based on its origin. Consider the obvious example: If an envelope is sent from a known terrorist who deals in anthrax, then it contains anthrax. Yet the only reason we have for affirming this is not independent testing of the envelope, nor a statement from the terrorist, nor anything else. All we have is a delivery from a terrorist. We are doing this sheerly because of the origin. Yet this is not fallacious. When is it? It is fallacious precisely when we fail to take anything else into account; when good inductive reasoning does not come from the origin, or where we would not expect the origin to play much of an influence (also, it is fallacious in the case of arguing for logical necessity, but that is so rarely used). In any case, I don't see how anything I did was a genetic fallacy. I merely supplied a reason that the evolutionary process could not have enabled intuitive, a priori knowledge (especially since there's just no getting around the "acquired" bit, at least not that I've seen). Perversely, if this were the genetic fallacy, then no argument could ever be brought against naturalism/evolution with respect to internal consistency, for then it would be the genetic fallacy every time.

  14. There can be independent reasons why a true belief is true, or that a person or thing holds this belief, but neither can be independent of something able to hold true beliefs; i.e. the ability to intuit. If no being exists with this ability, no intuitive knowledge exists(because then it's just knowledge, not intuitive knowledge).

    "Also, I'm having trouble distinguishing from intuitive ability and intuition itself."

    Understandable, because they are the same thing. I am drawing a distinction not between those two, but between intuition/intuitive ability and intuitive knowledge. You again assert that intuition cannot be gained by a process, when there is no reason to believe that; intuitive knowledge cannot be gained by a process, but the ability to intuit can (or at least I see no reason why it can't).

    It is fallacious because you have only said that intuitive ability cannot be gained by a process, implying that emerging out of a process is impossible. If there is an argument for why intuitive ability/intuition cannot be gained by a process, you have not given it (only asserted it's truth). Your analogy is fallacious. Even though good arguments may exist to justify the conclusion that the envelope contains anthrax, the source alone is not sufficient to cash out that claim. You have added justification for why the envelope contains anthrax (known terrorist who deals in anthrax), and that is part of what is missing from your "can't be gained by a process" assertion against natural sources for intuition/intuitive ability. If you were to declare that the envelope could only contain anthrax, you would have to somehow establish that it is not possible for said terrorist to send any letter without it containing anthrax. There is a want of reason here.

    "I merely supplied a reason that the evolutionary process could not have enabled intuitive, a priori knowledge"

    I have conceded that intuitive knowledge cannot be gained by a process. You didn't, in fact, give a reason for this, but it seems self-evident for intuitive knowledge. Intuition/intuitive ability, on the other hand, does require a reason for your assertion.

    This is what I need from you: Intuition/intuitive ability cannot be gained by a process because ________________________.

    "Perversely, if this were the genetic fallacy, then no argument could ever be brought against naturalism/evolution with respect to internal consistency, for then it would be the genetic fallacy every time."

    There are any number of arguments that could be brought against evolution/naturalism, but they must be justified. Simply saying that humans could not have come from monkeys, or that species can't evolve very far from their type, is fallacious barring additional evidence/argumentation; i.e. what makes this impossible?


  15. I'm afraid intuitive ability just doesn't make sense to me as defined by you. In the argument above, I have supplied intuition as definitionally a priori knowledge; that is, knowledge independent of any process as a subset of knowledge faculties themselves (rather than intuitive faculties--really the faculty is just the mental for either consideration). I do not say mental faculties cannot be gained via evolution in this argument. But I do say that intuition cannot be justified from a process where man 1 does not have intuiton X, but finds out the truth of X. Then, X is passed on genetically to 2. The problem is there seems to be no way to allow that process to happen truly a priori. Surely we would both agree that for man 1 the knowledge gained was a fortiori, but for 2 the knowledge would be in-born, or a priori. It seems the naturalist would do far better just to deny a priori knowledge altogether, and instead group it under instinct (which is not justified true belief, but rather action or reaction based on predetermined intellectual or physical stimuli).

  16. (I apparently didn't hit submit a month ago when I wrote this)

    If you concede that the mental faculties/intuitive ability/etc. (however you wish to refer to it) can indeed be gained by a process like evolution, I don't see what the mystery is. I may be mistaken, but you seem to be indicating that the only way for knowledge to be a priori is for it to be inserted pre-cognition (man 2). Perhaps it would be best for the naturalist in me to reject a priori knowledge of this sort, as I don't see how anything intuitive can be obtained by a being incapable of intuition when obtained. Clearly, a being needs to have the ability to possess these beliefs before it can possess them, and once the ability is conceded, the subsequent possession seems inevitable. If you have the man, the tools, and the materials, does the existence of houses require a god? If you have the ability to run, does the act of running require an additional layer of explanation?


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