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Re: Who's A Justificationist? [WAS Re: Refutation not confirmation]

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  • Paul Zielinski
    Some expanded comments on this post: ... Since you are evidently having extreme difficulty with these basic ideas, let s see if I can help. Classical
    Message 1 of 49 , May 31, 2002
      Some expanded comments on this post:

      Kenneth Allen Hopf wrote:

      > .. which starts with "true opinion"?? Here is what I have said at least
      > half a dozen times: epistemic justification is that which distinguishes true
      > opinion from genuine knowledge.

      Since you are evidently having extreme difficulty with these basic ideas, let's
      see if I can help.

      Classical philosophers distinguished between "episteme" (certain knowledge)
      and "doxa" (opinion). While "doxa" *could* be true, there is by definition no
      certainty of its truth; while "episteme", in contrast, is not only true but also
      either directly known or else demonstratively *proved* to be such, with total

      Thus, in order to get from *true opinion* to *episteme* (certain knowledge), it
      is necessary to "epistemically justify" opinion as *certainly true* (or, in weaker
      versions, at least *likely to be true*).

      That is why it is called "epistemic justification".

      Hume's definition of "knowledge", which is fully consonant with this traditional
      distinction between *episteme* and *doxa*, is "justified true opinion". This
      implies that in order to be properly considered "knowledge", justification must
      start not simply with opinion, but with *true* opinion. Epistemic justification
      then brings us from *true* opinion to true opinion directly known or proved
      *with certainty* (or at least with a determinate probability) to be true.

      At the same time, obviously, there is no legitimate path from *false opinion* to
      "knowledge" is this epistemic sense, regardless of any attempt at justification,
      since we can never "justify" belief in the truth of a proposition that is actually

      In contrast, Popper's theory of scientific "knowledge", as expounded, for
      example, in his "Realism and the Aim of Science", is *non-epistemic* -- since
      Popper does not require "true opinion" as the point of departure for arriving
      at scientific "knowledge", and he also denies that scientific methods can ever
      demonstrate with certainty or even with a determinate probability the actual
      truth of any empirical proposition.

      So Popper neither necessarily starts with truth nor necessarily ends with truth,
      even while he ends with "scientific knowledge". Although he does not rule out
      that a scientific proposition *might* be true -- he just insists that we can never
      know with certainty or with determinate probability *that* it is true, even if it
      actually is.

      Popper holds, however, that science can only make rational decisions regarding
      the *comparative degree of versimilitude* of a set of available alternative theories.
      However, such rational judgments regarding "degree of versimilitude" do not,
      according to Popper, in themselves establish anything about the actual truth of
      the scientifically preferred theory or hypothesis, or indeed about the actual falsity
      of the rejected alternatives.

      That is why I say that Popper's definition of scientific "knowledge" is *non-
      epistemic*. Clearly, this is not "knowledge" as Plato or even Hume conceived it. It is
      more akin to *doxa* -- from the Gr. base dokein, or "seem". A "verisimilar"
      theory is one that *seems* to be true because it is "truth-like". Thus we are
      back to "orthodoxy" (accepted or "received" opinion) as opposed to "heterodoxy"
      (dissident opinion) with "objective truth" recast as a *metaphysical asymptote*.

      When all this is clearly understood, it becomes evident that "epistemic justification"
      -- as you yourself have defined it -- is *simply irrelevant* to the Popperian
      "context of critical preference" in which, according to Popper, questions of
      comparative verisimilitude displace questions of actual truth, and we are moving
      from opinion to *critically tested* and *preferred* opinion, with no immediate
      reference to actual truth or falsity.

      Since Popper's proposals to support rational assessments of comparative
      versimiltude with degrees of corroboration, and my own proposals to relate forward-
      looking predictive reliability to versimilitude, are formulated entirely within this
      context and under these stipulations, there is simply no question of "justification"
      (as you have defined it) playing any role whatever in such preferential judgments,
      since we are going from opinion to opinion, rather than from opinion to
      "knowledge" in the traditional epistemic sense.

      I have tried many times to explain these rather elementary points to you, but my
      efforts have so far apparently met with little success -- since, I suppose, you
      were always too busy posing as some kind of an expert on Popper to listen.

      > This is widely understood by philosophers
      > all over the world, and has been for hundreds of years, seeing as how it
      > goes back to Plato.

      How does tracing this definition back to Plato make it relevant to Popper's
      theory of verisimilitude?

      Ironically, Popper himself detested just this kind of appeal to authority,
      especially when used like this as a means of distracting attention from the
      issues and evading legitimate refutation.

      > It is also quite obvious that there is no contradiction
      > here ... which I suppose is why you resort to the vague locution "starts
      > with *true opinion*".

      Was Hume "vague"? "Knowledge is justified true opinion".

      > In general, you don't strike me as competent. What
      > else can one say when confronted with your blundering illogic? The rest of
      > your comment, like the whole of your post, somehow reminds me of a screaming
      > little Randroid pounding a copy of _Atlas Shrugged_ down on the table and
      > barking out challenges to those who are older and wiser.

      At this point it is clear to me, and perhaps to others, that you really have no clue
      as to what you are talking about. To adopt this kind of supercilious and condescending
      attitude after such a crushing refutation and unwitting self-confutation reveals you,
      Kenneth, to be little more than a philosophical *poseur* with a grossly inflated ego.

      > For the moment, I will leave you twisting in the wind and thrashing about
      > with futile rage. It was evident to me weeks ago that you would come to
      > such an end. To bad for you, really. It means that you will continue to
      > cling to non-growth.

      This is kind of funny, in view of the above, and coming from someone whose
      philosophical clock apparently stopped in -- 1934?

      No -- *1748*.

    • Paul Zielinski
      ... I have already answered this question in an earlier response. Either you have not read the earlier message, or you are still trying to divert the
      Message 49 of 49 , Jun 16, 2002
        Kenneth Allen Hopf wrote:

        > In response to PZ,
        > PZ>Since we are talking only about *estimated degrees of verisimilitude*,
        > >there are *no epistemic claims* involved; and our judgments as to
        > >comparative verisimilitude are, moreover, *inconclusive*.
        > >
        > >Really very simple.
        > KAH>??! How does the fact that we are talking about *estimated degrees of
        > >verisimilitude* make the two statements quoted above equivalent?
        > KAH>Look here, Paul .. do you understand the question? It appears to me
        > >that you do not. I'm not asking you to simply belch out any irrelevant
        > >remark that pops into your empty head. I'm asking you to explain why the
        > >two statements you made are, as you claimed, equivalent. Now you're
        > >telling me that you're talking about *estimated degrees of verisimilitude*.
        > >OK. But so what? How does this make the statements equivalent as you
        > >said? It's a simple question, Paul. If you can't explain, you might as
        > >well just admit it.
        > PZ>Let's see if we can dispose of this canard once and for all.
        > >
        > >The real issue here is: are Kenneth Hopf's charges of "justificationism" at
        > >all relevant to the present discussion?
        > In other words, you refuse to address the question actually put to you,
        > preferring instead to replace it with a different question, one that you
        > think you can frame as a challenge from you to me, and which you believe
        > will demonstrate your intellectual superiority. There can hardly be a more
        > profoundly un-Popperian approach to debate.

        I have already answered this question in an earlier response. Either you have
        not read the earlier message, or you are still trying to divert the discussion
        from the real issue, which is the utter irrelevance of your broken-record
        charges of "justificationism".

        > PZ>Kenneth Hopf has produced the following definition of "justification":
        > >"Justification is what distinguishes true opinion from genuine knowledge,
        > >so-called."
        > >The meaning of this definition of "justification" clearly depends on the
        > >meaning of the phrase, "genuine knowledge". However, in the context of this
        > >definition, "genuine knowledge" clearly must not just be true, but we must
        > >in addition have a warrant for asserting it to be true, or at least for
        > >asserting a likelihood of its truth.
        > >Otherwise, "genuine knowledge" would not be distinguished from "true
        > >opinion", that is, opinion that actually is true but not known to be such.
        > >So there are two possibilities: either (1) "genuine knowledge" is true
        > >opinion *known with certainty* to be true; or (2) "genuine knowledge" is
        > >true opinion that we are warranted in asserting is *probably* true,
        > >although there is no absolute *certainty* as to its truth.
        > Now really, Paul; you mustn't allow a lack of imagination to get the better
        > of you. Your conclusion doesn't follow if by "there are two possibilities"
        > you mean only two possibilities.

        Then what are the others? Name one.

        I say you're bluffing -- as usual.

        > PZ>Thus, according to this definition, "justification" amounts to provision
        > >of a warrant for the assertion that an opinion is either *certainly* or
        > >*probably* true.
        > >
        > >This definition also of course implies that an opinion can be justified as
        > >"genuine knowledge" *only* if it is actually true.
        > No, it doesn't. You should try to be more logically rigorous and careful.
        > When someone says: epistemic justification is that which distinguishes true
        > opinion from genuine knowledge, it is clearly NOT implied that "an opinion
        > can be justified as 'genuine knowledge' *only* if it is actually true."

        It follows directly from your definition that the distinction between true opinion
        and "genuine knowledge" is established by "justification".

        I admit that your mangling of the definition of "epistemic justification" creates
        ambiguities. As written, your definition seems to imply that, given "genuine
        knowledge", we can "justify" it as "true opinion", viz.

        "genuine knowledge" --[justification]--> "true opinion"

        which is the reverse of the classical sequence of

        "True opinion" --[justification]--> "genuine knowledge".

        Properly formulated, I would suggest that the definition *should* read,

        "Justification is that which distinguishes genuine knowledge, so-called, from
        true opinion."

        *Classical* epistemic justification held knowledge to be true, and also *known to
        be true with complete certainty*. For example:

        "...to know and to be certain is the same thing; what I know, that I am certain
        of; and what I am certain of, that I know."

        -- John Locke, Letter to Stillingfleet [1697]

        In this definition, "justified true opinion" is clearly more than true opinion; thus
        "justification" must take us from opinion that is true, to opinion that is *not
        only in fact true* but is *known with certainty to be true*.

        This immediately implies that only true opinion can be justified as "knowledge":

        "We cannot know a proposition unless it is in fact true."

        -- J.M. Keynes, Treatise on Probability [1921]

        This classical attitude to knowledge and "justification" (of belief in the truth
        of a proposition) was expanded by Popper, in response to the advent of probabilistic
        confirmation theory, to include good reasons for believing in a *certain probability*
        of the truth of a proposition.

        Are you saying that your rather sloppy definition means something else? If so, what?
        How does your definition differ from Popper's and other contemporary definitions of
        "epistemic justification"?

        Do you really wish to maintain that we can "justify" a belief in the truth of a
        proposition that is not actually true?

        > You
        > have tried to make this bit specious reasoning your main defense of the
        > notion that the definition isn't relevant to your position. Once it is seen
        > that the argument is indeed specious, your defense goes up in smoke.

        If my argument is specious, then point to the error.

        Since I am not making any claims as to actual truth, my defense against charges
        of "epistemic justification" is rock solid -- even under your sloppy definition
        as written.

        > Try
        > putting the argument in the form of a natural deduction, with statements
        > lined up in a column on the left, and the relevant logical rules on the
        > right. If you can do this without error, and show thereby that the
        > definition implies what you say it implies, I will gladly concede the point.
        > But I conjecture that there is no possibility of this happening.

        My argument is very simple: if "justification" distinguishes "genuine knowledge"
        from "true opinion", then "genuine knowledge" must not only be *actually true*,
        but we must *also* have good reasons for believing that it is true.

        In other words, having reasons for believing in the truth of a false opinion
        does not justify an opinion as "knowledge" in the classical epistemic sense.

        What are the other possibilities? If we cannot say with certainty that an
        opinion is true, and we cannot prove that it has a certain probability of being
        true, how else can we "justify" this opinion as "genuine knowledge"?

        > PZ>Since Popper's critical model of theory choice in science, and my
        > >proposals for relating verisimilitude to predictive power, do not assert or
        > >rely upon upon the probable or certain literal truth of any empirical
        > >proposition, and do not furthermore even assume that a critically adopted
        > >scientific theory or hypothesis need actually be true, the charges of
        > >"justification" by Hopf thus clearly fail; and indeed -- by his own
        > >definition -- are *completely irrelevant* to the discussion in this thread.
        > I have no quarrel with the thesis that Popper's epistemology has a
        > reasonable claim to avoiding justificationism. I have said this repeatedly.

        Even though he says quite clearly that we can support a rational belief in
        the degree of verisimilitude of a theory with its degree of corroboration?

        > And of course, you have repeatedly insisted that you adopt Popper's
        > position, from which we are invited to conclude that you also avoid the
        > charge of justificationism. The problem here is that you *also* make
        > statements
        > that Popper would have rejected, statements that are actually not consistent
        > with your claim to have adopted Popper's view. For example:
        > PZ>We can no more logically *refute* a theory or hypothesis than we can
        > >logically *verify* it. It's just that this Humean logical asymmetry at
        > >least allows us to *pretend* that we are refuting a theory, while if we
        > >pretend that we are verifying a theory by inductive inference, a sharp eyed
        > >logician can expose our pretense on purely logical grounds.
        > >
        > >So what? Either way, it's all pretense.
        > If you really adopted Popper's view, you would withdraw that remark.

        This shows that you really don't understand the implications of Popper's
        critical model.

        As I have said, you really don't even understand Popper. Your problem is not
        just with my proposal, but also with the Popper of "Realism".

        In your view, is Popper's statement that we can support a rational belief in
        the degree of verisimilitude of a theory with its degree of corroboration

        If not, why not?

        > You
        > have been invited to do so repeatedly. So far, you have refused. You have
        > claimed that Popper said essentially what have said here. But he didn't.
        > And the passages you quoted in defense of that claim only made it clearer
        > that he didn't.

        He got around this problem by introducing an *ad hoc* methodological rule against
        "conventionalist stratagems". I have explained this many times. Evidently you
        still don't get it.

        I don't think you have even caught up with LSD (1934).

        > PZ>So if Kenneth Allen Hopf has any shred of intellectual integrity, I think
        > >he should now drop his philosophical pretenses and publicly withdraw his
        > >lame broken-record charges of "justification", and confess that the whole
        > >question of *epistemic* justification, according to his own definition, is
        > >*orthogonal* and thus *fundamentally irrelevant* both to Popper's critical
        > >model, and also to my proposal to rationally connect corroboration,
        > >verisimilitude, and predictive power within the context of critical
        > >preference -- as I have consistently maintained.
        > But as I have explained above, this conclusion of yours is a combination of
        > both a factual and a logical error. The logical error is that you think my
        > definition implies that genuine knowledge must be true.

        Are you saying that "justification" is not, according to your own definition, about
        the distinction between *true opinion* and *genuine knowledge*?

        Is that what you are saying?

        Is this my "logical error"?

        > Since you're
        > talking about verisimilitude, not simple truth, you conclude (mistakenly)
        > that the definition and the issue it outlines must be irrelevant. The
        > factual error is the assertion that you do no more than adopt Popper's view.

        This is just false. You know full well that I have repeatedly stated that I depart
        from Popper's *stated position* on the question of predictive reliability.

        I am simply saying (with Lakatos) that from a rational standpoint this is a
        *natural development* of Popper's critical model -- including his suggestion that
        corroboration of a theory can support a rational belief in its degree of

        Face it, you are gagging on Popper's own words in "Realism". I have you tied
        up in knots.

        So there is no "factual error". Neither is there a "logical error". You are just
        desperately trying to wriggle out of your abject defeat in this debate -- but it
        is just not going to work.

        > This simply isn't true. While you do apparently agree with Popper in some
        > instances, you also defend statements that Popper, I think, would have
        > rejected.

        See above.

        > At least one of these statement, quoted again above, clearly
        > indicates your justificationist bias.

        Here we go again.

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