Author Topic: Propositional vs. Non-Propositional Evidence  (Read 3541 times)

Propositional vs. Non-Propositional Evidence
« on: March 26, 2013, 10:31:24 PM »
So this is an interesting distinction those interested in philosophy should be aware of.  Namely, the distinction between two kinds of evidence.

Propositional evidence takes the form of a THAT clauses or appeal to a proposition which can be true or false.  For example:  "That is the man who killed smith" or "John is holding the murder weapon" etc.

Non-Propositional evidence are other kinds of evidence, like appearances (or seemings).  How do you know when you have a headache?  Doe you first have to know the proposition "I have a headache?"  No, it just fucking hurts.  This feeling isn't propositional in nature.  Your evidence is the raw feeling.  Or perhaps you know what street you are on by seeing a street sign.  Again, non-propositional evidence.

This distinction is important in evaluating the rationality of theistic beliefs.  I tend not to make a blanket claim like "all theists are irrational," for this reason.  While they make lack propositional evidence--which they most certainly do--I don't know what kind of non-propositional evidence they have.  Perhaps their non-propositional evidence s quite good and it justifies belief if God (though they wouldn't know that God exists, since knowledge entails truth and it isn't true that God exists).

So, perhaps theists are irrational.  I don't know.  All I know is that I am not in an strong enough epistemic position to make this judgement.  And i'm sure none of you are either.
"Engaging in philosophy is salutary, even when no positive results emerge...The color is brighter, that is, reality appears more clearly as such." ~Kurt Godel.

"Do not weep; do not wax indignant. Understand." ~Benedict De Spinoza

Offline Plu

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« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2013, 03:03:28 AM »
The problem with Non-Propositional evidence is that there are plenty of people in padded rooms right now who have loads of non-propositional evidence that they are Napoleon, while any kind of observation of these people will let you deduce that they are in fact, not Napoleon.

But if you assume that their non-propositional evidence is correct, they aren't acting irrational either.

Offline Sal1981

Re:
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2013, 04:34:39 AM »
Quote from: "Plu"
The problem with Non-Propositional evidence is that there are plenty of people in padded rooms right now who have loads of non-propositional evidence that they are Napoleon, while any kind of observation of these people will let you deduce that they are in fact, not Napoleon.

But if you assume that their non-propositional evidence is correct, they aren't acting irrational either.
He isn't exactly saying they're correct, just that he hasn't access to that non-propositional evidence (of theists).
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" --- Richard P. Feynman

Offline Plu

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« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2013, 04:39:44 AM »
I know, but lack to that non-propositional evidence doesn't stop us from labeling a host of other people as "irrational", so I'm just wondering what the difference would be with theists.

(Unless of course Chaoslord wouldn't call anyone irrational, I suppose.)

Offline bennyboy

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« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2013, 10:27:29 PM »
Interesting subject.

I don't think anything is ultimately "provable."  All you can do is experience, and if you're lucky, you will know of a word which can be used to describe that experience.  Even something as simple as "Look.  There's an apple" is really just shorthand for "Look.  There's a shiny, bumpy red shape with a green thingy on top."  The only requirement for verifying apple-ness is that you've seen a configuration of shapes and colors that people called "apple," and learned to use that word.

So to look at religious experience, a few things would have to happen to achieve this same level of literal meaning.  Enough people would have to have an experience to condense all the descriptive language about it down into a single word.  You'd have to have the experience yourself, and be told by someone that the word for your experience is "nirvana" or "absorption" or whatever.

I'm not so sure I like this pair of words.  Even propositional evidence is subject to philosophical agreement: non-solipsism, non-idealism, etc.  And at least some apparently non-propositional evidence is considered so because people can't, or won't, do the behaviors which would be required to verify a proposition.
Insanity is the only sensible response to the universe.  The sane are just making stuff up.