I’d like to go back again to try and summarize some things (and add/clarify a little) from my first few posts on foundational methods for trying to find out what is true and real:
- We are all human and thus capable of mistakes, and therefore can be wrong in any of our beliefs about reality.
- 100% certainty is not achievable (because of #1), and all statements of knowledge can and should be expressed as relative to other conclusions.
- Some fields of knowledge and study are inherently more certain than others (as discussed here).
- The rules and base definitions (axioms) of math and logic are to be trusted.
- Deductive reasoning (i.e. use of logical methods) will provide certain conclusions assuming the premises (assumptions) of the arguments are trusted and we haven’t made mistakes.
- Inductive reasoning can only be trusted to give conclusions that are probable and the certainty levels in this will range all over the map (I have not discussed this yet). By the way, the scientific method uses inductive reasoning extensively (as well as deductive of course).
- Critical reasoning and objective methods (with the scientific method being an example for science related fields) are to be relied upon in the pursuit of truth.
- More subjective methods can be used only to form best guesses about truth (hypotheses), and cannot be trusted to any high degree of certainty unless they have been subjected to the rigors of the methods discussed above (including extensive peer reviews). Some examples of these methods are:
- Intuition or gut feelings
- Anecdotal stories
- Personal experiences
- Feelings deep within my heart or soul
- Certainty levels for conclusions will grow with the following (assuming the methods above are used in all the cases listed below):
- Increased amount of studies performed confirming the conclusion
- Increased amount of experts in the applicable field confirming the conclusions
- Increased amount of fields of study that agree with the conclusion
- Increased cultural, religious, political (etc.) diversity within the people confirming the conclusions
- If the conclusions contradict my own experiences of my 5 senses then the certainty level is reduced. Care needs to be taken with this because subjective biases could easily be injected here.
- Because I am a layperson to so many fields I will have to rely on reports of experts (the more the better) who I feel have implemented the above methods. This unfortunate fact will cause my certainty levels in a lot of conclusions to be somewhat low. Once again discussing certainty as levels relative to other conclusions helps to bring clarity.
Now there are obviously a lot of details missing from the above list, but at this point I think this is a good summary. I can go further into details later if the need ever arises. However, I do think I should at least have a post about inductive reasoning because it is so important. It should go without saying that I am not an expert on epistemology, so take the above for what it’s worth (or not worth). I would encourage people to study on their own and develop their own list.
I discussed a few reasons before for why I use some of the above as my base assumptions (aka presuppositions). Some could say I take these as faith, but that depends on what your definition of faith is. I will discuss this in my next post.