Saturday, July 11, 2009

Right Living or Right Thinking?

I have come across several people who have told me that right practice (orthopraxy) is more important than right beliefs (orthodoxy). We're all familiar with the phrase "You can talk the 'talk', but can you walk the 'walk'?" In terms of "orthodoxy" and "orthopraxy" it is, "You may have orthodoxy, but do you have orthpraxy?" These same people interpret this to mean that orthopraxy is more important that orthodoxy. I disagree.

Right Living (Orthopraxy) presupposes Right Thinking (Orthodoxy). How one lives is dependent on how one perceives the world. Perception always precedes action. In order for someone to determine that an action is required (or not), a perception must be made. If a person makes the wrong perception, the wrong action may very well follow. Of course, if the right perception is made, the right action may very well follow also. This is not a definite equation because one still has to make a decision based on, not just one perception but, numerous perceptions; and it may not always be clear which of those perceptions should take precedence over the other(s). To make that determination (action), other perceptions must be invoked.


Our actions are the result of a long chain of perceptions. If one perception is incorrect, it may throw off the system beyond that point. Luckily, some perceptions can force us to correct (another action) other perceptions, and that will help put us back on the right path to the right actions (orthopraxy).

Here is where "Understanding" (Education) versus "Memorization" (Information) becomes part of the idea. You can read my post "Information vs. Education" to get the details, but here's a quick summary: A focus on Information leads to being able to make right decisions in a set number of situations, while a focus on Education does not have the limitation of a "set number".

I'm not saying that Right Living (orthopraxy) is not important, because it is (read my post "What's Important About Consistency?" and follow the links to other posts). Right Living is the logical outworking of Right Thinking. Right Thinking (when all perceptions are taken into account) cannot lead to wrong living. At the same time, Right Living cannot guarantee Right Thinking.

Here's an episode from William Lane Craig's (of Reasonable Faith) Defenders Podcast "Introduction to Christian Doctrine"



This also ties back to my post "Judgment Day- Part 1".

48 comments:

  1. "If a person makes the wrong perception, the wrong action may very well follow. Of course, if the right perception is made, the right action may very well follow also. This is not a definite equation because one still has to make a decision based on, not just one perception but, numerous perceptions; and it may not always be clear which of those perceptions should take precedence over the other(s). To make that determination (action), other perceptions must be invoked."

    How can one know that they are making the correct choice in any given situation? I will throw out that they cannot know with absolute certainty.

    In the ethical equation, what place does intention have in your schema?

    If intention does not matter, then someone who did have right thinking could simply lay down rules for right living, and badabing you're done. Like Moses and the Torah.

    If no one has laid down the rules for right living based on their right thinking - then we are somewhat at a loss to know the ethical thing to do in a given situation.

    If right thinking is possible, how does one achieve absolute certainty? If one could achieve absolute certainty, what is the place for faith?
    And again, if someone did have absolute certainty of right thinking, how would they have wrong perception?

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  2. by "throw out" I was being idiomatic. I did not mean "get rid of" but rather "put out the idea."

    Language. Sheesh.

    Wanted to clarify before I got myself in a rut.

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  3. Did I say something about absolute certainty?

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  4. Nope, but if you don't have absolute certainty about right thinking - well, then you can never know with certainty that you are thinking rightly.

    So how can you ever be certain that you have right practice? In the ethical system you are describing, intention is irrelevant, no?

    So basically if your facts are wrong, then your actions will be wrong - and it is impossible to know if your facts are certainly right.

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  5. Do you need absolute certainty to know that something you believe is true?

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  6. "Do you need absolute certainty to know that something you believe is true?"

    That's an epistemological question and I don't really know the proper way a Christian would approach epistemology, especially with the differentiation between different sects in regards to theological frameworks.

    But "to believe" and "to know" (in the sense of being sure something is true) are two different things, and I think they would have different epistemological parameters. If you believe something, you can believe it by faith or by good reason. I would argue that in the epistemological framework of "to know", one would either have to experience something, or that someone else had experienced AND that the other person's experience was REPEATABLE (as in the scientific framework).

    Knowing something and believing something are two seperate things, although related - so your question doesn't make any sense.

    If you believe it's true, it's not relevant to whether you know it's true. If you believe in unicorns, it doesn't matter if you do not know (have not experienced, nor has anyone else experienced, there is no empirical data for) unicorns existing. You believe in unicorns.

    If you know unicorns exist, then you certainly would believe in them.... but knowing something is not a pre-requisite for faith, whereas if you do know something - there really isn't a need for faith because you've already experienced it (knowledge by experience rather than belief by faith).

    If you "know" that what you "believe" by "faith" is true, then all you are really saying is.... "my standard for knowing something is true" is "faith," and measures of certainty aren't even relevant.

    Within the Christian framework, the answer to your question would be NO - because Christians do not have absolute certainty that what they believe is true, but they believe it anyway and it probably wouldn't be far fetched for them to say that they "know" that it is true - because the Bible tells them so, because they have "experienced" it, so on and so forth.

    Really, all I am wondering without going on bunny trails is.... if you say that "Right thinking is pre-requisite to right living," and you have no means of certainty about "right thinking" then what's the point? You won't ever be certain that you are "right acting" because you won't be certain that you are "right thinking" and so far in your system, unless I perceive incorrectly, intention is irrelevant.

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  7. I'm not asking the question of Christians, I'm asking the question of you, Sam.

    You make the claim "it is impossible to know if your facts are certainly right."

    My question to YOU is this: "Is is possible to know THAT statement is 'certainly right'?"

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  8. "I'm not asking the question of Christians, I'm asking the question of you, Sam."

    But in doing this, you aren't really developing your argument or ideas.... you're just changing the topic to what I believe - which is irrelevant to a discussion of Christian apologetics/theology since I am not a representative of what Christians believe.

    You still aren't dealing with the possible shortcomings of the ideology you blog about; and even if the ideology itself has no shortcomings - there are still areas that haven't been addressed by your responses - such as the role of intention in morality.

    When I said, "it is impossible to know if your facts are certainly right" I was responding to your article which says "Of course, if the right perception is made, the right action may very well follow also. This is not a definite equation because one still has to make a decision based on, not just one perception but, numerous perceptions; IT MAY NOT ALWAYS BE CLEAR WHICH OF THOSE PERCEPTIONS SHOULD TAKE PRECEDENCE OVER THE OTHER(S).To make that determination (action), other perceptions must be invoked". (capitals for emphasis)

    And so far you haven't told me the means whereby one could be certainly right, so I am merely going on what you have laid out in your post. So far, you have not proposed that one can have absolute certainty of being right... and without that axiom on the table.... I am left with:
    So basically if your facts are wrong, then your actions will be wrong - and it is impossible to know if your facts are certainly right.

    And so far, you haven't provided an argument, or even an axiom to get around that problem.

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  9. Please re-read my post "Misengaged in Battle". You are the one I am talking to at this point. I must understand what your questions are, and where you are coming from to make sure that I am not setting up some kind of strawman.

    You know very well that if you are not clear on the question or challenge being issued, then you cannot adequately address it. I am just making sure that I understand you before I jump in. Taking time to understand is not the same as dodging or avoiding a question or challenge- instead it helps prevent ad-hoc explanations. I would hope that you would take the time and care to understand someone else's questions and challenges to you in this same way.

    Now, if you do not want to clarify enough for me to answer, then our discussion cannot continue without a greater possibility of the creation of a strawman on one or both of our sides.

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  10. You still haven't answered any of the original questions, and you keep asking more questions. I don't mind this, but very often I find that it leads to the original questions going unanswered.

    I'm trying to understand YOUR idea, and I'm just stating where it's unclear, or where things don't make sense. You can't form a strawman if you are just defending your own position.

    I've given about as much detail as I can in the above posts.... I'm not trying to form an argument, I just want to know how you fill in the gaps in yours.

    1) "In the ethical equation, what place does intention have in your schema?"
    2) "How can one know that they are making the correct choice in any given situation?
    3) "And so far you haven't told me the means whereby one could be certainly right, so I am merely going on what you have laid out in your post. So far, you have not proposed that one can have absolute certainty of being right... and without that axiom on the table.... I am left with:
    So basically if your facts are wrong, then your actions will be wrong - and it is impossible to know if your facts are certainly right."

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  11. It is quite easy for me, in this case, to create a strawman of your question in my mind. That's why I am asking clarifying questions. If I think that you are asking something that you are not, then I how can I answer the question you are actually asking?

    Let me do the best that I can with what you have given me.

    First, I want to point out that "intention" could have to do with either the "intention to find right thinking" or the "intention to perform right living". I thought that I had made it clear that the intention that I was promoting is the "intention to find right thinking" because your actions are based on your worldview (thinking).

    I have never indicated that one can know anything with absolute certainty. By the fact that you keep pressing the "absolute certainty" issue (and without any further clarification) I must assume that you are thinking that absolute certainty is required. I do not think that absolute certainty is required to believe something to be true. Absolute certainty of the truth of a claim can only exist if the one making the claim is omniscient (all knowing) of every minute aspect that affects it.

    The way that you know your thinking is correct, is to test as much of it as possible. The Christian worldview makes many claims about the universe that can be tested and many that can't. It also makes claims about the metaphysical realm that can't be directly tested, but can be tested based on expected effects within the natural realm. As the evidence comes in, if it continues to verify my worldview, then I am reasonable in trusting that it is correct. On the flip side, if evidence mounts that goes against my worldview, then I can be confident that it needs to be changed.

    Does that help?

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  12. "I have never indicated that one can know anything with absolute certainty. By the fact that you keep pressing the "absolute certainty" issue (and without any further clarification) I must assume that you are thinking that absolute certainty is required. I do not think that absolute certainty is required to believe something to be true. "

    This is a can of worms.
    1. So basically if your facts are wrong, then your actions will be wrong - and it is impossible to know if your facts are certainly right. Believing your facts are right is not the same as knowing your facts are right.
    2. No measure of certainty is required to believe something is true, but believing something is true does not make it objectively true. Believing and knowing are two seperate things.
    3. You really have no solid epistemological foundation for determining what is Orthodoxy. You said it yourself, you can't know with absolute certainty what is true. In order to for something to be Orthodox, it must without a doubt be correct. So although you harp about the importance of orthodoxy, the best you can really shoot for is what you believe to be orthodoxy. Although there are some objective protocals (e.g. testing), you're argument for orthodoxy, because of a weak epistemological foundation, still boils down to a form of subjectivism.
    4. You can't be certain of your own orthodoxy. So what's the point?

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  13. I'm gathering that you are saying that no belief can be considered "orthodox" because you also claim that nothing can be known with absolute certainty (your requirement for "orthodoxy"). Am I correct?

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  14. I am saying that by definition of the word Orthodox (Right Way, Right Glory) there can be no error.

    I am saying that you do not have an epistemological foundation allowing you to have absolute certainty.

    I am saying that because you do not have a way to obtain absolute certainty of having no error in your belief system, you cannot be certain of having orthodoxy.

    I am saying that if you cannot be certain of having orthodoxy, you merely have what you believe to be orthodoxy.

    I am saying that if you believe something to be orthodox, it does not follow that by virtue of your belief and your belief alone, that what you beleive to be orthodox is orthodox.

    I did not say " no belief can be considered "orthodox" because you also claim that nothing can be known with absolute certainty." I did say, "given YOUR epistemological foundation given, within YOUR framework given, you are INCAPABLE of ascertaining what is orthodoxy."

    I am saying that in order to claim something is free from error (Orthodox, Correct, Right Glory) - one must be absolutely certain that there is no error.

    In order for someone to claim that THEY BELIEVE something is free from error - one must merely believe that there is no error.

    The epistemological standards between the two ideas are entirely different.

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  15. and to further clarify, I'm not making an argument just examining yours.

    I am working on your claim that "nothing can be known with absolute certainty." I am not making any epistemological claim, just working on the one you have thus far given.

    I am using Orthodox to mean: Right Glory, Right Way, free from error - because that is the meaning of the word "Orthodox."

    And it is simple logic to say that,
    1. Orthodox means free from error
    2. To know something is orthodox, one must know it is free from error.
    3. One cannot know something is free from error with complete (absolute) certainty. In other words, one cannot know something is correct unless they know it is correct.
    Conc: Therfore, one cannot know if something is Orthodox.

    ***
    You can believe something is orthodox, but you cannot know it with certainty. Therefore, it is merely a belief in orthodoxy, and not a statement of orthodoxy. It basically reduces to, "this is what I believe to be orthodox," not "this is what is orthodox."

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  16. So, what do you think is specifically wrong with my claim that "nothing can be known with absolute certainty" given that I have defined absolute certainty as requiring omniscience?

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  17. see above:

    1. Orthodox means free from error

    2. To know something is orthodox, one must know it is free from error.

    3. One cannot know something is free from error with complete (absolute) certainty. In other words, one cannot know something is correct unless they know it is correct.

    Conc: Therfore, one cannot know if something is Orthodox.

    I am not saying anything is wrong with your claim that nothing can be known with absolute certainty. I am saying though, that because of that claim, one can never know whether what they believe is orthodox. Knowing your beliefs are orthodox, is not the same as believing they are orthodox.

    I'm simply stating that given your claim "nothing can be known with A/C" it follows that "one cannot know whether their belief are orthodox or not."

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  18. We are in agreement. But you forget that I promote trying to find orthodoxy by testing. If a test passes, then the initial claim is true. If a test does not pass, then the initial claim is false.

    I'm trying to figure out where you see a problem. Do you have a problem with testing?

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  19. Test these claims:

    Jesus was the Son of God.
    Jesus rose from the dead.
    Jesus was born of a virgin.

    You can't test those in any meaningful scientific sense.

    You can see if they are consistent within the literature, but even the claims in Star Wars and other mythologies are consistent within their own literature. That is something different altogether from testing.

    The problem is epistemological. You have no means to know what is orthodox. Saying, "we can test it" is really just saying "I will compare it to what I believe to be orthodox, because I have no way of KNOWING what is orthodox."

    If you don't know what is orthodox in the first place, by what measure do you test something to find out if it's orthodox? And if you already know what is orthodox, then you would have no need to evaluate something and reason about it, you would already have the knowledge of what was orthodox.

    On top of that, without certainty one can never be capable of knowing that their beliefs are orthodox.
    ***

    To try to simplify this.

    Your epistemological foundation and methodology don't seem to be sufficient for being capable of determining orthodoxy.

    One last example that is relevant,
    Taking the eucharist at mass on the sabbath is a moral obligation of the faithful.

    That is a claim.
    There are arguments that easily explain why this is orthodox belief. So long as your framework is Roman Catholicism. Without that framework, the claim not only doesn't seem orthodox, but doesn't even make sense because the ideas of "the eucharist" and "the mass" have a definite and specific meaning in Catholocism that would have no relation to what they would mean in Protestantism. Basically it comes down to, "because we believe in the teachings of Catholicism, we find the teachings binding." There is no way to "think" their way into truth, it's just a matter of faith.

    But since you say we can test claims to find out if they are true, I am curious how you would approach the claim:

    A) Taking the eucharist at Mass on Sunday is a moral obligation of the faithful.

    Because I assure you, without a shadow of a doubt, there are VALID (although I am not saying sound) arguments that through logical testing will show this to be "correct" (valid is a better word when dealing with logic because it has a specific meaning in the context of logic). You cannot prove the arguments themselves are invalid (because they aren't), you can merely say "this part isn't true" and therefore it's unsound. But the problem is with Christianity, "truth" is not built around an empirical epistemology but rather around a story/tradition.

    If you were to strip yourself of everything you had been taught and try to empirically piece together what was "truth" employing logic and empirical methods, you would NEVER come up with Christianity - it's simply not structured that way. It's a faith religion.

    ***
    In summary: without a stronger epist. method "orthodoxy" has little "objectification" and is somewhat meaningless in the context you are arguing for it.

    Sorry for the length, I'm trying to go into as much detail as I can to explain the crux of this although the posts on 24July and 23July are about as clear as I can get. I fear that further explanation may have just made things muddier.

    In plain english, I'm just saying that based on what you have to work with, you can't really know if anything you believe is really orthodox.

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  20. This comment is to indicate that this is where I am combining the conversation from my post "Does Doubt Equal Disbelief? Part 2". From this point on, I will be referring to comments on both posts, so if you haven't read those comments, please do, so you have more context.

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  21. "You can't test those in any meaningful scientific sense. "

    That is quite a large claim. I want to focus in on that for a little while. Can you test that claim in any meaningful scientific sense? How would you respond to scholars who believe that they have established that the resurrection took place in history (I will refer you to Gary Habermas, Michael Licona, William Lane Craig, and Ben Witherington III).

    Do you think that if the resurrection is established, it would vindicate all of Christ's claims (including that one about him being God)? Why or why not?

    Do you believe that testing is a result of doubt?

    Do you believe that your worldview makes no (0, zip, zilch, nada) assumptions?

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  22. "How would you respond to scholars who believe that they have established that the resurrection took place in history (I will refer you to Gary Habermas, Michael Licona, William Lane Craig, and Ben Witherington III)."

    They aren't published research scientists. If you can show me an example where they do establish the virgin birth or resurrection in a meaningful scientific way, please do e-mail me and I will look it over. The only way I can think of right now would be a time machine....

    And no, just because a few people wrote about it, even if they are generally credited as historians (this is a different topic altogether than science) that does not mean that "the resurrection is established in history." You might as well say, Muhammad's visit from Gabriel or Joseph Smith's appearance from Moroni were historically established. I will check out whatever links you can provide, but I have to ask you this - using the methodology of above "scholars", would that vindicate Joseph Smith's visions, Muhammad's visions, or the
    the other virgin born man-God's of history?

    Using this methodology of said scholars, can we also establish the virgin birth of Horus, Krishna, and Mithras?

    Tell me what makes their methodology so certain that they can "establish the resurrection"? It doesn't matter if they BELIEVE they have established, the point is.... have they established it? Some people BELIEVE the earth is 6000 years and BELIEVE they have established it, but their methodology would have a hard time standing up in a junior high science class.

    I am going to leave off answering the rest of the questions as this is getting way, way, way off what I was originally trying to point out - which still has not been addressed in either post. Is this Christian apologetics or "what is the commentator's worldview?"

    1. Your epistemology is shaky in the above post and it needs to be addressed.
    2. "Doubt does not equal disbelief" is just mincing words. If you are advocating the objectivism of language/ideas, then you are depending strongly on subjectivism to establish your argument. It's circular.

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  23. Dr. Ben Witherington III - Seminary graduate. Theologian.
    Mike Licona - historian, author, apologist.
    Dr. William Lane Craig - philosopher/theologian.
    Gary Habermas - philosopher/theologian.

    To put a twist on does doubt equal disbelief....
    Does theologian equal trained research scientist?
    No.

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  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  25. Sam, as I have said before, I ask questions that may seem like they are "off topic" to eventually make a point and answer your initial question. Everything that we are discussing is pertinent to the question. You seem to think that the things we are going over are not related in any way (am I correct?). If you want a careful, and thought out response to your question, you must permit me to continue. If you don't understand why, please read my post about consistency among disciplines.

    I have no problem answering your question, but you have to let me build my answer- if you don't allow me to build my answer, then I must assume that you want me to give you a "half-baked" answer- frankly, that would be an insult to a man of your level of intelligence. :)

    I'm going to go back several comments ago. Please answer these questions; your answers will help me build a more thought-out response:

    1. Do YOU require 100% certainty before you will believe something to be true?

    2. If so, how would YOU test for 100% certainty of anything?

    3. What do you think is specifically wrong with my claim that "nothing can be known with absolute certainty" given that I have defined absolute certainty as requiring omniscience?

    4. What's wrong with objectively defining MY words?

    5. Do YOU really want ME to define the words YOU are using to make YOUR points subjectively?

    6. If you don't answer any other questions, answer the last two.

    7. I'm not a trained research scientist, a trained philosopher, or a trained theologian. Do you use those facts to judge the validity or soundness of my scientific, philosophical, or theological arguments?

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  26. 1. Not relevant
    2. Not relevant

    3. Re-posting argument again,
    1. Orthodox means free from error

    2. To know something is orthodox, one must know it is free from error.

    3. One cannot know something is free from error with complete (absolute) certainty. In other words, one cannot know something is correct unless they know it is correct.

    Conc: Therfore, one cannot know if something is Orthodox.

    4. In the English language, doubt and disbelief mean the same thing. So you aren't really objectively defining them.... you are trying to shift the meanings to make your point, but in doing so, you are no longer talking about the English terms "doubt" and "disbelief."

    5. On non-technical terms, the plain english definition is fine. The only time one needs to define terms is if they are being used in a technical sense, and I'm pretty sure I haven't used any of those in this post. "No self" in plain english would mean "there is no self." In Buddhism it is a doctrine that needs explanation, in that sense, it makes sense to define. I am still just using basic terms though, nothing needing definition beyond it's plain english meaning.

    6. Ditto.

    7. That's a funny question. Your personal qualities are irrelevant to the validity or soundness of your arguments. I judge the validity of your arguments by the only test for logical validity - logic. I don't know if I have brought up soundness.... because if it's not logically valid, there is no reason to even discuss soundness.

    That's why I have posted thrice my argument for "what is wrong with your claim that 'nothing can be known for absolutely certainty'." It is posted above in this comment. That's all I'm waiting for a response on.

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  27. Okay, then. Let's focus on your last statement.

    Here's your quote:

    "2. To know something is orthodox, one must know it is free from error.

    3. One cannot know something is free from error with complete (absolute) certainty. In other words, one cannot know something is correct unless they know it is correct.

    Conc: Therfore, one cannot know if something is Orthodox."

    By posing all this, you have made my questions 1 and 2 relevant. You are saying that 100% certainty is impossible (I'm saying the same thing). Those questions are asked to verify that I understand what you are saying (if you will answer them, then I can be certain that I understand you).

    You are saying that I am saying that 100% certainty is required before someone can act on that knowledge. I am not. I would assume that you believe that 100% certainty is not required to believe it to be true or to act upon a belief either (am I correct?).

    But then again, you seem to flip-flop (that's why I'm trying to get clarification) when you challenge my statement in question 3. Are you saying that my statement is incorrect? I just want to know if you agree or disagree with it. If you agree with it, then we can work out the logic and reason together; if you disagree with it, then you must explain why you expect me to accept the truth of your premises with 100% certainty (you seem to claim omniscience here, but offer me no proof- you expect me to accept with 100% certainty that you know these things with 100% certainty).

    If you agree, why are you challenging the statement?
    If you disagree, you have no basis for an argument against it.

    I asked #7 because of your comment:

    "Dr. Ben Witherington III - Seminary graduate. Theologian.
    Mike Licona - historian, author, apologist.
    Dr. William Lane Craig - philosopher/theologian.
    Gary Habermas - philosopher/theologian.

    To put a twist on does doubt equal disbelief....
    Does theologian equal trained research scientist?
    No."

    You have implied in this post that you are rejecting their conclusions because they are not "trained research scientists" rather than by examining their arguments. I just wanted to know if you are willing to dismiss my arguments for the same reason. Since you stated that you are not, I must ask, "what makes me different from them, that my arguments should not be dismissed based on the same fact as your dismissal of their's?"

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  28. All I am saying is that.... given the argument above....

    One cannot KNOW what is Orthodox.

    That's the full extent of what I am saying. That's all. I'm trying to make the point, "if one cannot have absolute certainty" then "one cannot know they have orthodoxy." That is all I am trying to say. Given that "one cannot KNOW what is Orthodox" how does it shape your ideas about Orthodoxy>Orthopraxy?

    Or do you simply see no dilemma in the fact that you cannot know what is Orthodox? If it all reduces to belief anyway, what is the point of your apologetics?

    As for #7....
    "You can't test those in any meaningful scientific sense. "

    That is quite a large claim. I want to focus in on that for a little while. Can you test that claim in any meaningful scientific sense? How would you respond to scholars who believe that they have established that the resurrection took place in history (I will refer you to Gary Habermas, Michael Licona, William Lane Craig, and Ben Witherington III)."

    Testing something in a scientific sense is ENTIRELY DIFFERENT from seeing if something is logically valid. Their arguments could be valid, but if their science is hogwash it's irrelevant. False premises can't produce sound arguments.

    And again, my questions continue to be let go by the wayside.... What methodology do they use to "establish the historical resurrection"?

    Whatever logical argument they present certainly could be valid, most good Christian arguments ARE valid. But the reason they are unsound is because they are simply based in false premises, hogwash science, or at the very least one must turn to neo-Platonist epistemology and "worlds of form" in order to ignore the simple truth in front of their eyes.

    Just because an argument is logically valid does not settle much. Every different religion in the world has logically valid arguments for their beliefs. If being logically valid was our sole criteria for whether something was true or not, we would be in trouble - especially since logical validity has no bearing on truth.

    To determine soundness, one must evaluate premises.

    So again, you can continue to skip over my questions, or you can tell me the methodology they use to "establish the resurrection."
    ***
    I think I'm about to voluntarily withdraw.

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  29. As I have stated before, I agree that 100% certainty cannot be obtained. I'm not sure why you keep thinking that we don't agree there. If you read my post about doubt, you will see that I argue that 100% certainty is not required to be justified in believing something to be true. If it were, then no one could be justified in believing anything (that includes you and the premises you pose for your arguments).

    We agree that logical validity is not the sole requirement for a sound argument. I affirm that the premises must be true. My point here is that if YOU cannot be 100% certain of the truth of YOUR premises, why are you using them to argue against me?

    Complete this sentence: "Since one cannot know what is Orthodoxy (100% certain), they can(not)..."

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  30. "If you read my post about doubt, you will see that I argue that 100% certainty is not required to be justified in believing something to be true. If it were, then no one could be justified in believing anything (that includes you and the premises you pose for your arguments). "

    Because I'm not talking about BELIEF. I'm talking about KNOWLEDGE.

    "Since one cannot know what is Orthodox, they cannot know their beliefs are Orthodox." It follows from that statement, that Orthodoxy may never be achieved. If Orthodoxy is the most important criterion in religion, that puts us in a pickle since we have no means for attaining it.

    Without the means to know one's beliefs are orthodox, in a religion like Christianity which you talk about where orthodoxy is so highly valued - there is a problem. The goal is orthodoxy, but you are left with less than optimal means to attain it.
    If the consequence for wrong belief (heterodoxy) is eternal damnation, it kind of sucks that your God doesn't give you a surefire means for making sure you have access to orthodoxy. At best, you can make an educated guess and then believe in it.... which still isn't the same as being able to have knowledge of orthodoxy.

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  31. "you will see that I argue that 100% certainty is not required to be justified in believing something to be true. If it were, then no one could be justified in believing anything."

    using a quantitative measure for something like certainty is curious as there is no method of obtaining a quantitative measurement of certainty unless we are talking about statistics.

    I am going to say that....
    With certainty if I do not drink water for 40 days I will die.
    I don't need to merely believe it, I know it.
    And if there is any reason to doubt it, we can deprive people of water for 40 days and show that they will in fact die. One need not believe. One can know.

    If there is a scientific fact, we can establish it, record it, and replicate it. Statements about God are not like scientific facts.

    There is no way to establish the statement about God as true or false, no way to record it, and no way to replicate it.

    I am totally justified in believing that if I do not drink water for 40 days I will die. I am not justified in believing that if I do not believe in God I will go to Hell when I die. Nevertheless, people believe whatever they want.

    Belief is a rather meaningless and empty concept if we want to discuss truth. If want truth, we must have knowledge. 3 year olds believe there is a monster in the closet. In order to know if that is true or not, they must open the closet and investigate for themselves.

    Unfortunately, God is nowhere to be found.

    We can show why the human body requires water to function. We can show that when you deprive any mammal of water for 40 days (okay maybe not camels, but you get the gist), it will die. We don't have to believe. We test, then we know.

    Here is the crux:
    Unfortunately we can't do this about God. Yet, Christianity requires us to have orthodox beliefs or face hell-fire. It's tricky. If I don't believe Jesus is the Son of God, I go to hell. Yet I have no way of knowing the truth about the matter - it reduces to faith.

    Apologists don't know that Jesus is the Son of God anymore than Richard Dawkins or Martin Luther know that Jesus is the son of God. They merely believe it. Belief and knowledge are two distinct things.

    No one needs ANY certainty to believe something. No one needs ANY evidence to believe something. If we want to talk about the TRUTH WE DO KNOW, we must first ascertain that it is knowable, and then set out to find it. I argue that God is NOT knowable, there is no means to know God, and because there is no means to know God, he cannot be found.

    If someone told me about the monster in my closet, I would go check it out, see nothing was there, and forget about it.

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  32. I'm glad that you clarified that you are talking about knowledge rather than belief. Let me see if I understand you correctly. You are saying:

    100% certainty is required for knowledge.
    I can know things.
    Therefore, 100% certainty is possible.

    Is that correct?

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  33. To the first point, yes. Epistemology is the "theory of knowledge" and that's why I kept using that word.

    To the second point.
    Nope.
    You need to explain what you mean by 100% certainty. It's an ambiguous term and I don't know what you mean by it. We can just scrap that term. My point I kept trying to drive home was that you have no means of knowledge of orthodoxy, and yet (in your system) your eternal salvation or damnation depends on at best an educated guess that your beliefs are orthodox.

    I'm about to try to simplify empiricism (of which there are many variants) in the span of a few minutes. So bear with me, it won't be all inclusive. I'm just trying to filter to the basics.

    Empiricism 101:
    We can know things.
    All knowledge must be filtered through our experience and senses.
    We can reason to some knowledge, but it must be based upon some sort of experience.

    Further: Buddha, Aristotle, Hume

    Rationalism 101:
    Reason can know things apart from experience.

    Further: Plato, Descartes

    Transcendental Idealism - see Kant.

    I'll leave it here for now....
    But do you see the huge glaring problem of trying to combine the two statements below:
    a) you must have orthodoxy
    b) you have no means to know orthodoxy

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  34. I think that I'm seeing a fundamental difference is our views of knowledge and how its obtained. I will be publishing a post about my view later. For now, though...

    When I stated "100% certainty" in my attempt to clarify your argument, I was referring to your illustration of someone being without water for 40 days. You have no reason to doubt that truth, so you say that you "know" it. I am assuming that you would also say that you have "100% certainty" that someone deprived of water for 40 days would die. "100% certainty" is meant to be taken to be knowledge sans any level of doubt.

    Now, with that further clarification of the term "100% certainty", does that argument accurately describe what you are thinking?

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  35. "100% certainty is required for knowledge.
    I can know things.
    Therefore, 100% certainty is possible."

    X is necessary for Y.
    Y.
    Therefore X.

    I believe that argument is logically invalid.... see affirming the consequent.

    And no, it does not accurately describe what I am thinking.

    And as stated before this is the problem you as the apologist MUST address:
    "But do you see the huge glaring problem of trying to combine the two statements below:
    a) you must have orthodoxy
    b) you have no means to know orthodoxy"

    In other words, God expects you to have correct belief in him or face hell fire (Either A or B). You have no means to know if you have correct beliefs, and it is very possible you have incorrect beliefs (Not A)*. Therefore you must face hell fire (B). Via exclusive disjunctive syllogism.

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  36. The argument for Y came from your example of someone being deprived of water for 40 days and dying. That seemed to be your only evidence that you gave for being able to know something. I'm not affirming the consequent in this argument, I'm just using what you gave me.

    You still seem to be equating "100% certainty" (absolutely no doubt) with "knowledge". That is what I am trying to find out. I don't really need an argument at this time (I was just trying to come to a conclusion based on the information you are providing), I am just looking for an affirmation or a denial- we can deal with an argument later.

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  37. I am not claiming that "orthodoxy is required" for orthopraxy. I am saying that orthodoxy is more likely to produce orthopraxy than heterodoxy (please read the post again). Since I am not making that claim, I have no need to defend it. We have seen time and time again that doctrine leads to practice and practice leads to doctrine. I don't think anyone would dispute those observations. People can focus on either one first and end up with the other. The purpose of this post was to determine which is the better focus. Assuming that people start with what they think is "right" doctrine or "right" practice, I wanted to show where they each lead (notice that the language that I used was not definitely speaking; it was more general speaking) and make a claim that "orthodoxy should be the focus rather than orthopraxy, because orthopraxy generally follows from orthodoxy". That was the purpose of the post.

    Now, to address your criticism head-on (now that I think I fully realize it). Your claim is that orthodoxy is impossible (based on my view that 100% certainty (0 doubt) is impossible), therefore orthopraxy is impossible (based on my observation that one leads to the other). I would like to add that another objection may also follow the same line of reasoning that you use: orthopraxy is impossible (based on my view that 100% certainty (0 doubt) is impossible), therefore orthodoxy is impossible (based on my observation that one leads to the other). Using both of these, my view seems to be able to neither produce right doctrine (orthodoxy) nor right practice (orthopraxy), no matter with which one one starts. (I think this represents the implications of your question in their most devastating form).

    This can be easily reconciled when you realize that I do not equate "knowledge" with "100% certainty" (different from what I was gathering from your posts- that's why I brought up the issue). Adding the terms "right" or "wrong" to "knowledge" also do not equal "100% certainty" on my view. To use your example of a person being given no water for 40 days and dying: This cannot be known with 100% certainty. We can only infer that it will happen based on repeated examples of the past. However, 100% certainty would require that every possible situation be tested through out time. Since we have not tested every single possible situation in which we could deprive a person of water for 40 days, and we cannot have 100% certainty that he will die in the future (a factor in the future situation may be present that we did not account for that allows him to live), we cannot be 100% certain that it WILL happen THIS time either. But, we can still say that we know what will happen, based on what factors of which we are aware and what experiences we have had with said factors in the past. Knowledge is dependent on those two things (factors and past experience with those factors). 100% certainty is dependent on knowledge of every factor in all experiences throughout time.

    I believe that "100% certainty" can only be obtained when one has "knowledge of everything". However, "100% certainty" is not required to act. If it were, then no one would be justified in doing anything, ever. Knowledge is plenty.

    As I mentioned in another comment on another post, I will go deeper into this topic in another post. I also will address your further (but unrelated to this thread) comment about God holding us responsible for having right beliefs when 100% certainty is not possible.

    Now, my question to you is still if you hold that "100% certainty" is the same as "knowledge"? If it is, then we have something to debate that is still related to this thread.

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  38. "Your claim is that orthodoxy is impossible (based on my view that 100% certainty (0 doubt) is impossible), therefore orthopraxy is impossible (based on my observation that one leads to the other). "

    I didn't claim Orthodoxy is impossible. And really, put aside the 100% certainty. It's meaningless and not really contributing anything. You claim Orthodoxy is possible. So far, I have not said anything to the contrary to that.

    I claimed it was impossible to know if one's beliefs were orthodox given your epistemology thus far.
    And considering in Christianity, heterodoxy can mean hell fire that's a pretty big issue that should be addressed.

    Your reply still hasn't resolved,
    "But do you see the huge glaring problem of trying to combine the two statements below:
    a) you must have orthodoxy
    b) you have no means to know orthodoxy""

    That's the summation of all the above. That's the problem that is still unresolved.

    ***
    If mammals do not have water, they will die.
    Mammals do not have water.
    They will die.

    That's modus ponens. Valid.

    "100% certainty is required for knowledge.
    I can know things.
    Therefore, 100% certainty is possible."

    That's affirming the consequent. Invalid.

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  39. "Now, my question to you is still if you hold that "100% certainty" is the same as "knowledge"?:

    First, I NEVER held that. The only positive statement I made was that "they cannot know with absolute certainty." When someone asks a question, it doesn't mean they necessarily have the views they are asking about.

    For example, if I asked you, "was Jonah in a whale or a large fish for three days?" it doesn't necessarily mean I believe Jonah actually lived in a whale. It just means I want your take on it.

    So all the certainty questions I put out where to try to figure out what your epistemological foundation was.

    If you want to know more about my own epistemology, e-mail would be a better forum for that.

    In the context of this post, I am just interested in how Christians can be certain of the correctness of their own beliefs.

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  40. Since you never held that "100% certainty" is the same as "knowledge", are you assuming that it is in order to ask your question? The meaning of "knowledge" in your question is what I'm concerned with. I apologize that my verbiage was not more clear.

    I hold that knowledge can be obtained without 100% certainty. If knowledge can be obtained without 100% certainty, then things can be known to be true or false without the need for 100% certainty. Orthodoxy is truth. Therefore, orthodoxy can be known to be true.

    The only way that this will not hold is if 100% certainty is required for knowledge. What I assumed you meant by "knowledge" since you asked the question. Since you do not hold that 100% certainty is required for knowledge, then I gather that you don't have a problem with my argument.

    If you have a different problem with my argument, then let me know. But from this point, we will agree that knowledge does not require 100% certainty.

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  41. "If knowledge can be obtained without 100% certainty, then things can be known to be true or false without need for 100% certainty."

    We can simplify that to,
    "If knowledge can be obtained, then things can be known to be true." (If P, then Q).
    [Orthodoxy is truth (X).]
    (Insert my own premise here to solidify the argument:)
    Orthodoxy is a thing. (Y)
    Therefore, Orthodoxy can be known to be true. (Z)

    Premise X is irrelevant to the argument, since it has no bearing on conclusion Z. But given P and Y, it follows that Z, "orthodoxy can be known to be true," via hypothetical syllogism.

    The crucial premise is P, "if knowledge can be obtained." That is where I am going to assert that further explanation is needed to establish that knowledge CAN be obtained.

    I am not saying knowledge can or cannot be obtained, merely that further explanation is needed - and this has always been the driving factor in my comments on this post; a theory of knowledge has to be put down that allows for that argument to be cogent.

    I think you trumped my original argument due to my insertion of "100% certainty" , so I revised it to more accurately state the problem I was trying to put forth.

    To repost my revised original argument.
    1. Orthodoxy means free from error (definition).
    2. To know a thing is orthodox, one must know it is free from error. (In order for P, then Q).
    3. One cannot know something is free from error. (Not Q).
    QED, One cannot know something is orthodox. (Not P). Via modus tollens.

    The crucial premise here is "Not Q". The argument is valid, but if "Not Q" is false, then the argument is unsound. Likewise, in the hypothetical syllogism above affirming your position, the crucial premise is P. The argument is valid, but if P is false, then the argument is unsound.

    Now we get into the trench warfare of philosophy. :-). On one side are the rationalists, on the other the empiricists. Kant tried to solve the epistemological problem, and I would assume that many theists would argue he succeeded or that his solution was unnecessary in the first place - while some empiricists are still unconvinced.

    I am sorely lacking in my knowledge of Kant's epistemology, familiar more with his ethical theory and his categorical imperative - but his defense of theism seems to boil down to "belief in God is justified because it is necessary in order to conceive of ourselves as moral agents" which is just begging the question.

    However, I will be the first to admit I am not knowledgable in Kant and someone more knowledgable might make my statement look rather stupid.

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  42. correction, merely because I fudged up the symbols to the first hypothetical syllogism.

    If P then Q.
    Y = Q.
    P.
    QED, Y.

    If knowledge can be obtained, then things can be known to be true.
    Orthodoxy is a thing.
    Knowledge can be obtained.
    Therefore, Orthodoxy can be known to be true.

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  43. Just to add my piece...

    Orthodox does not necessarily mean "without error" it's generally understood as meaning conforming to commonly accepted belief.

    Although, if you concede that it strictly means "Without error" and that you cannot know this, you cannot (without error) know that to know something is orthodox is to know it is free from error.

    Thus, the statement is self-defeating and inevitably, you cannot know anything.

    This is where assumption (or trust / faith) comes in. You must assume something is true and then base your thoughts and practices on that assumption in a way that logically justifies it and thus confirms your initial conviction.

    To take the example of not drinking water for 40 days, you do not know that if YOU don't drink water for 40 days, you will die. You would have to test this personally to KNOW.

    Furthermore, you do not know that in the past, others have died because they have not drank water for 40 days because you don't know whether yours or anyone elses memories of said events are true or real.

    If you say you've scored high on a memory test, you do not know that you even took the memory test because you don't know whether your memory is reliable.

    Even if you do directly observe someone dying from lack of water intake, you do not know whether your senses are reliably interpreting what you see.

    Following this, if you yourself do die from lack of water intake, you do not actually know that you are dead because you cannot come apart from death and view your lifeless body.

    So where does this leave us?

    We cannot have Absolute Knowledge or Omniscience. We are finite beings and so we can only have Finite Knowledge based upon assumption / trust / faith.

    It is not TRUE knowing in a sense, but it is knowing within the bounds of our being.

    So, we must assume Orthodoxy is free from error in order to act upon it.

    We can assume something is free from error.

    Therefore we can assume something is Orthodox.

    So think the following would need to be redefined:

    "But do you see the huge glaring problem of trying to combine the two statements below:
    a) you must have orthodoxy
    b) you have no means to know orthodoxy"

    as:

    a) you must assume orthodoxy
    b) you have the means to assume orthodoxy

    This confirms my initial statement that Orthodox generally means conforming to the commonly held belief, or in other words, conforming to the commonly held assumption.

    Applying this to the above:

    a) You must conform to the commonly held belief.
    b) You have the means to know what is the commonly held belief.

    With God is absolute certainty. We are not with God, therefore we cannot have absolute certainty.

    Paul says "For now we know in part" and furthermore "Now we see darkly as through a mirror, then we will see face-to-face".

    What we can do is believe (with logical, reasonable justification) that with God is absolute certainty and thus we can act in accordance with this.

    Following from this, we can believe that His Word has come to us in the form of the Bible and turn to it as our guide for right action (right action in the biblical context / framework).

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  44. wer-wind-blows,
    Thanks for that post. I never thought to separate "true knowledge" from "assumption" in this discussion (I do in others, just not this one- don't know why).

    Let me see if I understand you properly. Are you saying something along the lines of:

    True "knowledge" requires having access to 100% of raw data and having 100% understanding of the information represented by 100% of the raw data and 100% of the relationships among 100% of the raw data. In order to have this level of "knowledge" a being must be omniscient. In order to be omniscient, the being must be infinite. Humans are finite. Therefore, humans are not omniscient. Therefore, humans do not possess the ability to have access to "true" knowledge.

    "Assumption" is the highest level of "knowledge" that a finite being is capable of possessing. "Assumptions" are based on having some raw data and understanding some of the information represented by that raw data and some of the relationships among the raw data. Even though "assumption" is not equal to "true knowledge" it is still sufficient to base behavior upon.

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  45. Yeah that's more or less it.

    I mean for example, if we assume that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, then we will base our behavior and thoughts upon it.

    Furthermore, with this assumption comes the connotation that you have finite access to this infinite well of knowledge.

    For example, "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth" From this statement, if we assume it to be true, we may be fully convinced that this is true knowledge on the most basic level of "How and when did the universe come to be?".

    At the same time, we are unaware of all of the interrelations or the "finer details" that lie above the basic level and so in that sense, we have reached the limits of our finite knowledge.

    All of this has started from the assumption, yet this is sufficient for us to be fully convinced in our own minds.

    This is a characteristic that Abraham possessed. He is a model of faith YET even HE had doubts. Yet there was enough data in the universe, from his own experiences and from the collective experiences of his ancestors for him to be fully convinced in his own mind that God would provide him with a son.

    (By collective experiences of his ancestors, I'm referring to the fact that Shem, Noah's son, would have still been alive at this time. Shem would have known Methuselah for around 120 years, and Methuselah was born 263 years before Adam died.)

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  46. wer-
    I think I'm still a little confused. It seems as though you might be using the word "assumption" with two different definitions, and switching between them without explicitly stating that you are doing so. I have two questions that (I think) will get us where I want to go- answer either one or both. :)

    Are you differentiating between "assumption" as being founded on the physical (at least some initial physical data) and "assumption" as being founded on the mental (no initial physical data)?

    Do you think that an assumption in the second sense that I gave is allowed when building an argument? ...Would you consider an argument "weak" or "unsound" because it draws on an assumption in the second sense?

    ...and while I'm at it (another question- this one to bring us back around to the topic)...do you think that an assumption (in the second sense) is justification enough for someone to act?

    Samuel-
    Where do you stand on the these same sets of questions?

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  47. The definition of assumption that I'm holding to is that of what you take for granted. If I've made a distinction, it is not one I was aware of.

    I wouldn't actually go so far as to separate "assumption" into what's founded on the physical and whats founded on the mental as I believe they work together.

    For example, we perceive the physical through our senses yet we mentally make sense of what we perceive. Sometimes we intuitively believe something and then we physically justify our intuition.

    To answer your second question, I believe that you can build an argument starting from a mental assumption, however for it to be sound, you would have to eventually justify why you've made that assumption in a way that is consistent with the first sense & second sense.

    I would only consider such an argument weak if it wasn't justifiable and if it was inconsistent.

    I don't believe that a purely mental assumption is enough justification for someone to act. Say I assume that the moon is made of cheese without checking this and then decide I am going to go up there and eat it. My actions would be inconsistent with reality and also irrational.

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  48. wer-wind,
    I apologize for the delay in my response.

    "...I believe that you can build an argument starting from a mental assumption, however for it to be sound, you would have to eventually justify why you've made that assumption in a way that is consistent with the first sense & second sense."

    I am interested to know what exactly you mean by the word "justify". Do you mean that you must eventually demonstrate (by argument and physical evidence) that that assumption is true? Or do you mean that the conclusion of the argument may be used as a premise to prove the assumption?

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