The Application of Empirical Facts and Absolute Truths in Forming a Belief in My Life

Growing up, I, like most Americans, struggled with math. Not just one caveat, but rather the subject in its entirety Algebra with its recurring formulas and necessary understanding of basic arithmetic, which I was promised time and time again would become second nature to me, never fully planted itself into my understanding and instead just skirts across the dirt from time to time before returning to the wind. Constant tutoring and incessant private meetings with my teacher accomplished nothing for my comprehension, while my mother repeated only one thing, “Praise the process, not the result,” only to be misinterpreted by my preepubescent angst as an attack, rather than genuine advice she meant it as.

Reading Peter van Inwagen’s argument Is It Wrong Everywhere, Always, And FarAnyane to Believe Anything on Insuflicient Evidence? I find myself reminded of this advice, when Van Inwagen ultimately says one should only apply empirical facts and absolute truths into forming a belief, which in my mind is the only logical way to form a belief or an opinion.

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Over the years I came to realize that my mother’s advice was not only limited to mathematics, but also was much more applicable to all aspects of life than I initially thought. While my mother’s aphorism may be more general than Van Inwagen’s argument, their point is remarkably similan It is not the end result of a philosophy that truly matters, but rather the evidence and logical inferences they draw upon to form a conclusion Van Inwagen poses the question, “How can it be that equally intelligent and well-trained philosophers can disagree.

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“ when each is aware of all the arguments and distinctions,“ that others are aware of?”

How can people receive the same evidence, but arrive to different conclusions? While this excerpt does not necessarily answer this question, it does address the problem of evidence. Ideally, all evidence would be empirical and objective, with no taint of distortion, where it can be understood and applicable with no further questions to its validity Should this be, it is feasible to believe that all people would arrive at similar conclusions However, evidence that contributes to beliefs and opinions tend to be subjective, due to our own personal understanding ofpast experience and acquired knowledge, rather than evidence that scientifically is supported and objectively proven in ways that do not involve the personal understanding, To Van Inwagen, the more a belief can be proven in ways outside of personal deductions or justifications, the more true that beliefbecomes. For you can always disagree with an opinion, but matters of fact are not to be debated, for they simply are. It is from this that Van Inwagen explores the validity of our beliefs and opinions. In this exploration he coins the term “Philosophical Skepticism,” (Van Inwagen. P. 363) a term referring to the position a person falls into when they cannot decide between two contradicting beliefs or opinions, and following this point, Van Inwagen explores two examples that exemplify this position. First, he cites his arguments between him and another philosopher, David Lewis.

He grants Lewis all due Credit, citing his extensive philosophical insight, brilliant justifications and logical, empirical support of his beliefs, but still ultimately arriving at the conclusion that he disagrees with Lewis. They may agree on a number ofpoints, and even most ofthe inferences made from the evidence, but they still disagree on the ultimate conclusion. This does not necessarily discredit one nor the other, nor does it necessarily discredit the evidence either has presented, instead it exemplifies the inherent ability of human beings to assess evidence and determine their opinion on such. While he does not necessarily articulate this ability, he does make its existence undeniable through this, and one other example: politics. Everyone, regardless of their knowledge of the facts or understanding ofhuman nature, tends to have a political opinion Some of these people are incredibly knowledgeable of the facts and relevant matters, yet many still disagree They may be similar to Van Inwagen and Lewis‘s disagreement, where they agree on all matters and inferences, but still draw a different conclusion In this case, while they may disagree, neither can attack the validity of the others claiml Somehow, in each case, the participants follow the same progression yet do not arrive in agreement. This is where Van Inwagen fails to articulate, but I hope to clarify. At the end of the excerpt he alludes back to it, but does not fully explain our natural inclination to side between two contradicting arguments.

To me, this is where experience comes into play. While many opinions may be formed from objective facts and empirical evidence, our tendency to accept or reject the validity ofthese claims stems from our experience. Take for example thejury from the 0] Simpson Trial. A bloody leather glove found at the crime scene later proven to be his, blood found on his car, traces ofleather on both the murder weapon and the victims, and testimony to support his purchase of the murder weapon, all corroborated the, ifI may, logical inference that 0.]. Simpson was guilty. Yet, after one hundred and fortyethree days oftrial, the jury arrived to the opposite conclusion. Outside of the evidence I cited above, the prosecution provided an array of arguments and testimony that was meant to evoke a sense of deep sympathy for the victim Yet, after seeing and hearing all ofthis, they were swayed away from the conclusion I drew above. Additionally, the lawyer who chose to represent him followed a similar progression, and arrived in agreement with the jury, that 0] was not guilty. Now, I should note, that it is not necessarily factual that his lawyer believed his innocence, because it is just as likely that he could have arrived at such a conclusion yet decided to support him nonetheless, This support represents a position different than “Philosophical Skepticism“ as in this case it is not that the person cannot choose which side to support, but rather that they are indifferent to the truth for ulterior motives.

This is where I must stress the importance of personal experience in the formation ofbelief and opinion, It is near impossible to distinguish between emotion and logic, since it is often our emotion which fuels and guides our logic. It is because of our inability to distinguish between these dyads that we find ourselves in support ofsome arguments and in opposition to others One cannot consider the events of the 0] trial without considering the preceding years that contained many racially dividing landmarks that ultimately contributed largely to the decision ofthejury, which was formed largely from African American and Hispanic Community Members, (UMKCiedu) Now, it is undeniable that one’s racial identity contributes to not only their intersectionality but also to their personal experience with society around them. It is precisely for these reasons that the racial component of the 0] Simpson case cannot be ignored, and therefore neither can the personal experience of the jury. Now, when considering the beliefs of the lawyer, it is a similar case. One cannot believe, let alone deny, that 0] Simpson paid this man a small fortune to defend him He had to have been compensated for his services, or else he would not have represented him, regardless of the evidence, as he was not a public defender and therefore not appointed to Simpson by law, but instead by his own choice. One cannot ignore this fact when considering the validity of the man‘s belief in his assertion that 0.]i Simpson was not guilty

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The Application of Empirical Facts and Absolute Truths in Forming a Belief in My Life. (2022, Jul 25). Retrieved from

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