Saturday, May 12, 2012

Coherentism v Foundationalism contd.

My latest post follows from the following reply I received following yesterday's discussion:

"On the other hand, I suspect that so-called strong atheism can be a foundationalist belief since if I am not mistaken a strong atheist (in contrast to a weak atheist) would claim that he knows with complete certainty that God or some god does not exist."

This is a fair point. If an atheist were to say that they "know for sure" that God doesn't exist, it does seem to have a foundationalist flavour.

Are you saying that people who tend towards coherentism cannot be "strong atheists"? I think I would be happy with that position. I think the argument also works the other way round as well. People who who are fundamental in positive religious belief would probably by necessity be foundationalist in their knowledge about God.

I would accept that it is technically impossible to prove a negative and, in that sense, I wouldn't regard my atheism as "fundamentalist". I do think it is "true" that God doesn't exist, but I would accept that it is not technically possible to prove. I think my disbelief in God or Gods is not based on any foundational beliefs, i.e. ones that we obtain non-inferentially.

A possible philosophical argument would run as follows:
If my approach to knowledge is based on coherentism not foundationalism, then should someone come up with an explanation for God(s) that made sense and was coherent and supported by some evidence then I would happily change my position. Until they do, I will continue to believe that the statement that "God doesn't exist" is true.

Perhaps it would be useful to read some Kant at this stage because I have a nagging suspicion that, whilst I have just admitted the possibility of my belief changing, it is not that simple....

For me to believe in the existence of God I would need to do some major rebuilding of my core beliefs about the world. This is perhaps why I come across as being "fundamentalist". I am almost entirely convinced that God doesn't exist, so changing my mind on this fact would require quite a seismic shift in the way I look at the world. It may in fact be the case that the glue of coherence that binds my beliefs together is so strong that it couldn't conceivably be broken.

No doubt the religious amongst us will object to being labelled as (by definition) either "fundamentalist" or "incoherent". That is not what I am saying. I think it is quite possible for people to base their belief in God on a coherentist approach. They could infer the existence of God based on what they perceive to be the evidence, in a way that was coherent to them.

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