If you do not believe, you WILL NOT understand

Observer
Observer's picture
Posts: 63
Joined: 2008-09-17
User is offlineOffline
If you do not believe, you WILL NOT understand

If you do not believe, you WILL NOT understand. - Augustine

What do you all think about this notion from the Christian philosopher Augustine?

This thread is NOT about Christianity, this is about epistemology.

Augustine claimed that all humans have "a priori" knowledge that is essential to know anything. For instance, if you do not believe you can trust your senses, you will not gain any knowledge. You did not initially run any test to trust your senses, you simply naturally believe they can be trusted. You have faith in them. Augustine argued that if you did not believe you COULD KNOW something, you would never believe anything. The basic proposition is that in order to understand anything, you have to believe something, that you can actually know anything.

We don’t really have any proof that we can trust our senses. We don’t really have proof that we weren’t created 2 minutes ago with our memories implanted. Yet, we trust that our experiences are real and the senses can be trusted. So we place our faith in what we think is true, even though there is no real way to prove it.

What do you all think? His point was that it takes an act of faith to gain knowledge that comes through senses and stored in memory.


EXC
atheist
EXC's picture
Posts: 3123
Joined: 2008-01-17
User is offlineOffline
If that's the case, then the

If that's the case, then the only possibility for a God would be one that is a deliberate deceiver. So God is the devil. This would contradict the teaching of all religions.

We don't have the free will to not trust our senses and our memories. So it's not an act of faith to base our decision on what they tell us. We're just robots following our programming to trust our senses.

Also, if Augustine is right, is there anything that could be false? Every religion, myth and fairy tale is true as long as we believe it first. Everything would be moral as long as we believe it is moral first. I thought theists were supposed to be the ones against relativism?

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


Observer
Observer's picture
Posts: 63
Joined: 2008-09-17
User is offlineOffline
I think you missed what

I think you missed what Augustine is saying. I probably didn't explain it well.

 

Augustine was not focused on how we know about religions or myths. This is about knowing. This is not post modern view that all things are true.

 

For instance. This is really what Augustin means by the quote. How do I know that a tree has leaves? Well first, I have to believe that my senses are working properly. Second, I have to belief that I can trust what my eyes are seeing. Third, I have to trust that the tree is real. Forth, I have to trust that my memory that what I stored about that tree is true.

 

Augustine claims we naturally believe we can trust these senses and that is how we get knowledge. We get knowledge by trusting in something that can't be proven, that our senses perceive truth.

 

Does that make sense? Once again, this initial sensory trust is not about religion, it is about how we come to know the information ofo reallity.


The Doomed Soul
atheist
The Doomed Soul's picture
Posts: 2148
Joined: 2007-08-31
User is offlineOffline
... but what if i DONT trust

... but what if i DONT trust my senses... because they can be wrong (and have!) as well as contradict each other -_-

Just because my eyes see it, doesnt mean its there... IM LOOKING AT YOU PINK ELEPHANT! YA! YOU HEARD ME!

What Would Kharn Do?


EXC
atheist
EXC's picture
Posts: 3123
Joined: 2008-01-17
User is offlineOffline
Observer wrote:Augustine

Observer wrote:

Augustine claims we naturally believe we can trust these senses and that is how we get knowledge. We get knowledge by trusting in something that can't be proven, that our senses perceive truth.

 

Does that make sense? Once again, this initial sensory trust is not about religion, it is about how we come to know the information ofo reallity.

Kind of. But I think his observation should be evidence that free-will is an illusion. Do we have any choice about not trusting our senses and memory? No. So, it's not belief that is causing us to trust or senses and memory, but rather our natural programming. Therefore free-will belief and choice are just illusions.

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


Wonderist
atheist
Wonderist's picture
Posts: 2479
Joined: 2006-03-19
User is offlineOffline
Observer wrote:What do you

Observer wrote:

What do you all think? His point was that it takes an act of faith to gain knowledge that comes through senses and stored in memory.

We do not need to *believe* that our senses are accurate for us to use them. It is not that we believe in our senses, it is that our senses actually *do* provide a fairly accurate reading of our environment. If they didn't, we wouldn't be here. It is irrelevent what we believe about our senses.

Does a newborn baby 'believe' that its senses are accurate? No. It just uses them. It is only later, after much learning, language, and introspection, that the baby (now a child) can begin to contemplate the fallibility of its senses.

What we need in order to learn is merely the ability to make predictions, and to notice when our predictions come true. We don't even have to be aware of this process, or 'believe' in it, we only require the ability. That's all. Our brains naturally perform this function, and that function arose from evolution. The function doesn't even have to be perfect, just 'pretty good'.

We don't have to have 'faith' in our senses. In fact, it would be foolish to do so. We *know* that our senses can be, and often are, fooled. We know that we have limits to our senses. I cannot see individual atoms, but that does not diminish my capacity to see the leaves on a tree.

Faith is too strong a word. Trust is better. And even then it is not usually a conscious trust, but an implicit one.

In short, Augustine is an idiot.

Wonderist on Facebook — Support the idea of wonderism by 'liking' the Wonderism page — or join the open Wonderism group to take part in the discussion!

Gnu Atheism Facebook group — All gnu-friendly RRS members welcome (including Luminon!) — Try something gnu!


Brian37
atheistSuperfan
Brian37's picture
Posts: 13235
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
Observer wrote:If you do not

Observer wrote:

If you do not believe, you WILL NOT understand. - Augustine

What do you all think about this notion from the Christian philosopher Augustine?

This thread is NOT about Christianity, this is about epistemology.

Augustine claimed that all humans have "a priori" knowledge that is essential to know anything. For instance, if you do not believe you can trust your senses, you will not gain any knowledge. You did not initially run any test to trust your senses, you simply naturally believe they can be trusted. You have faith in them. Augustine argued that if you did not believe you COULD KNOW something, you would never believe anything. The basic proposition is that in order to understand anything, you have to believe something, that you can actually know anything.

We don’t really have any proof that we can trust our senses. We don’t really have proof that we weren’t created 2 minutes ago with our memories implanted. Yet, we trust that our experiences are real and the senses can be trusted. So we place our faith in what we think is true, even though there is no real way to prove it.

What do you all think? His point was that it takes an act of faith to gain knowledge that comes through senses and stored in memory.

He was a philosopher living in an ignorant age. He was not a scientist of any kind, much less a neurologist.

His thinking is flawed because "faith" doesn't require changing positions when new evidence presents itself. Sceintific method when applied properly allows for this change, and demands the scruteny of quality control.

It is merely old thinking.

 

Quote:
We don’t really have proof that we weren’t created 2 minutes ago with our memories implanted.

You also don't have proof that there isn't an invisable pink unicorn living under my bed. That doesn't make it true by default.

 

WE DO KNOW what DNA is, we do know what sperm and an egg are. We do know within a range the average time it takes a human to reach physical maturity.

This is as absurd a question as "If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

As far as Augustine, .......Crap, outdated fluff.


 

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37


KSMB
Scientist
KSMB's picture
Posts: 702
Joined: 2006-08-03
User is offlineOffline
Augustine wasn't an idiot,

Augustine wasn't an idiot, he is just really confused and has a dogma to defend. It comes with being in the "field" of theology and thus being unconstrained by reality. He could probably have been a decent natural scientist or philosopher if he hadn't had his mind warped.


Observer
Observer's picture
Posts: 63
Joined: 2008-09-17
User is offlineOffline
Thanks for your thoughts

Thanks for your thoughts everybody. Interesting points.


manofmanynames (not verified)
Posts: 4294964979
Joined: 1969-12-31
User is offlineOffline
natural wrote:Faith is too

natural wrote:

Faith is too strong a word. Trust is better. And even then it is not usually a conscious trust, but an implicit one.

Faith and trust are terms that are not so easily distinguishable, and you can see this in statements such as these: "I have faith in my wife." and "I have trust in my wife. "I have faith that we can get through this" and "I have trust that we can get through this". It's difficult to say that the word trust is better than faith, and you can see this by the difficulty in distinguishing there usages in the mentioned sentences. 

 

 

 

 


manofmanynames (not verified)
Posts: 4294964979
Joined: 1969-12-31
User is offlineOffline
Observer wrote:ything.We

Observer wrote:
ything.

We don’t really have any proof that we can trust our senses. We don’t really have proof that we weren’t created 2 minutes ago with our memories implanted. Yet, we trust that our experiences are real and the senses can be trusted. So we place our faith in what we think is true, even though there is no real way to prove it.

Stanly Fish wrote a good article on this:

http://fish.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/17/god-talk-part-2/?em

But I'll point out the critics here of what's being said, as you will see are fairly composed of individuals who have trouble with comprehension, and an aversion to the term "faith", because of theists use of the term, even though the term is not confined to the religious, any more so than terms such as "trust" or "hope" are.  I'd wager if they ever accidently use or hear the word "faith" in concerns of relationships with their love ones, they feel a sharp stabbing pain.

 

 

 

 

 


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
 There are some things that

 There are some things that must be true.  These are axioms.  There are three: identity, non-contradiction, and the excluded middle.  Without these axioms, the concept of knowledge is incoherent, and it becomes impossible to think or know anything.

Yes, that is paradoxical, and demonstrates the necessary truth of the axioms.

When we start talking about "knowledge" of the empirical universe, it requires a little bit more logic.  To be very clear, let me restate this:

Axioms precede proof.  They are true by retortion.  That is, they must be true if we are to ask the question of their truth.  Axioms form the foundation for deductive logic, which is necessary to gain knowledge of the empirical universe.

Here's how it works.  Perceptions themselves are a kind of knowledge.  That is, we cannot deny that we perceive.  The question is whether the perceptions represent anything real at all, or if they are our own creation.  Consider that our perceptions must come from without or within.  If they come from without, then something exists outside of us.  If they come from within, then either:

1) all that exists exists within me.

2) something exists beyond me, but I do not perceive it.

If 1, then my perceptions are representations of reality, since I am all that exists.

If 2, then I cannot perceive reality as it really is, so practically speaking, my perception of reality is all that will ever be real to me, so I might as well call it real.

In other words, I must deduce that my perceptions represent something, and this something can be effectively described as "that which is real."

From here, we have the problem of the fallibility of our senses.  It appears that some of the things we believe about reality are true, and others are false.  With a little bit more deduction, it becomes apparent that Reality exists, but my perceptions of it are not always accurate.  This is where empiricism enters the picture.  The only way we can effectively evaluate our perceptions is by measuring them against things which have proven to be reliable and consistent in the past.

Obviously, this is a bit of a shortened version of things, but the important thing to note is that at any step, the alternative to what I've explained is complete incoherence.  That is, if we don't accept the "reality" of our existence, and the "reliability" of our senses, we quickly descend into true nihilism -- no possible knowledge... except... we know there's no possible knowledge, so... that's knowledge... so... nihilism isn't true... and therefore, something is real... and we're back at square one.

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


Otishpote
Superfan
Otishpote's picture
Posts: 36
Joined: 2006-07-27
User is offlineOffline
Hambydammit wrote:There are

Hambydammit wrote:
There are some things that must be true.  These are axioms.  There are three: identity, non-contradiction, and the excluded middle.  Without these axioms, the concept of knowledge is incoherent, and it becomes impossible to think or know anything.

There are coherent systems of formal logic that do not require the law of the excluded middle.

 


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
 Quote:There are coherent

 

Quote:
There are coherent systems of formal logic that do not require the law of the excluded middle.

Fair point.  I don't think that changes anything I wrote above.  

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


treat2 (not verified)
Posts: 4294964979
Joined: 1969-12-31
User is offlineOffline
Observer wrote:If you do not

Observer wrote:

If you do not believe, you WILL NOT understand. - Augustine

What do you all think about this notion from the Christian philosopher Augustine?

This thread is NOT about Christianity, this is about epistemology.

Augustine claimed that all humans have "a priori" knowledge that is essential to know anything. For instance, if you do not believe you can trust your senses, you will not gain any knowledge. You did not initially run any test to trust your senses, you simply naturally believe they can be trusted. You have faith in them. Augustine argued that if you did not believe you COULD KNOW something, you would never believe anything. The basic proposition is that in order to understand anything, you have to believe something, that you can actually know anything.

We don’t really have any proof that we can trust our senses. We don’t really have proof that we weren’t created 2 minutes ago with our memories implanted. Yet, we trust that our experiences are real and the senses can be trusted. So we place our faith in what we think is true, even though there is no real way to prove it.

What do you all think? His point was that it takes an act of faith to gain knowledge that comes through senses and stored in memory.

Scientifically speakIng, if what you believe can not be demonstrated to others, then you're taking a leap of faith, assuming we're talking about a firm conviction, rather than a prediction.