ch 1-3 - FEAR OF KNOWLEDGE : PROBLEMS AND TERMS Key terms:...

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Unformatted text preview: FEAR OF KNOWLEDGE : PROBLEMS AND TERMS Key terms: equal validity; relativism; fact-objectivism; social constructivism; e Problem Addressed in the book. Paul Boghossian, a philosophy professor at New York University, is interested in investigating what he calls "the doctrine of equal validity ," the idea that: "There are many different, yet 'equally valid' ways of knowing the world, with science being just one of them," an idea that he Fnds "radical and counterintuitive" (pp2-3). What is it for two ways of knowing the world to be "equally valid"? We can distinguish two senses of equal validity here. The Frst ascribes equal validity to beliefs themselves, stating that it is just as legiti- mate to believe one thing as it is to believe another. or example, one might think that the validity of the belief that humans evolved from non-humans is equal to the belief that they did not. The suggestion that both of these views are equally valid implies that beliefs are fundamentally a matter of personal prefer- ence. If you prefer to believe that human beings evolved from apes, go for it. If you prefer not too, hey, that's cool too. While it might be true that there is nothing morally wrong (doubtful, but let's suppose) with believing whatever you want, it's quite another thing to say that all beliefs are equally legitimate. We, each of us, regard our beliefs as true , as accurately representing the world. or example, suppose you and I come inside from a rainstorm, completely soaked. Naturally you believe that it's raining. you have that belief not because you love to believe that it's raining outside, but because it is raining outside, and you were just standing in the rain. Suppose you say, expressing your belief, "Wow, it sure is raining out there!" "No, it's not," I say. "What do you mean? We were just in a rainstorm. You're soaked. You mean to tell me that you don't believe it's raining?" you exclaim, clearly confused. "That's right," I say, "I don't believe it's raining." Would you feel inclined here to say "Well, your belief that it's not raining is equally valid with my be- lief that it is raining, so I guess I can't say that you're wrong"? Of course not. You have very good evi- dence for your belief that it's raining, and you are in a very good position to see that someone who did not believe that it was raining would be wrong . Let's try it with a different sort of example. You believe that George Washington was the Frst presi- dent of the United States. I believe that Mayor McCheese was the Frst president of the United States. Are both those beliefs "equally valid," or am I obviously wrong? This is a no-brainer. The two beliefs are 1 not "equally valid" in the sense of being equally well-supported beliefs. Yours is supported by a massive amount of evidence, mine is supported by nothing other than my stupidity combined with my obsession with McDonald's. We regard your belief as a true one, as a correct description of the facts, and we re-...
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ch 1-3 - FEAR OF KNOWLEDGE : PROBLEMS AND TERMS Key terms:...

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