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In other words, what about beliefs rooted in personal experiences that cannot be scrutinized or validated through a rigorous peer-review process? This often occurs in religious, mystical, or spiritual encounters, where the experience profoundly impacts the individual undergoing it. However, these experiences typically lack external validation, except for instances supposedly witnessed by multiple individuals simultaneously (one historically notable example being the resurrection of Jesus, which was purportedly witnessed by multiple observers, with intersubjective agreement among all of them).

If I possess privileged access to certain experiences, yet their nature precludes convincing others or subjecting them to peer review for establishing (worldwide) intersubjective consensus, and yet these experiences remain undeniably compelling, am I justified in trusting them?


A related question I previously asked: Can religious, mystical, or spiritual experiences reveal truth?

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  • In regards to your last paragraph, maybe, but you shouldn't judge someone too harshly if they don't believe you. You should accept that as the reasonable default for other people.
    – TKoL
    Commented Mar 31 at 17:26
  • Privileged access to experiences is not necessarily an insurmountable barrier to intersubjective agreement. If such access exists for a tangible reason people often tend to defer to its possessor in relevant respects (treatment of experts, geniuses, saints, etc., is a testament to that). It may be that even the reason for this privilege is hard to demonstrate, but you better have very compelling grounds for why that is so and why the privilege is real before you go on trusting it. There is a long religious tradition of warning against "devil's deceptions" for a reason.
    – Conifold
    Commented Apr 1 at 3:30
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    Perhaps you can clarify, this is worded differently but seems like a duplicate of your previous question, since all of the answers there answer this question.
    – BurnsBA
    Commented Apr 1 at 14:42
  • Are you implicitly assuming that "peer review" is the, I should say "the" system for determining if something "is correct"? (It's worth nothing that as all scientists point out, every single scientific theory - is wrong. Newton turned out to be spectacularly wrong, Einstein turned out to be staggeringly wrong, string "theory" rofl turned out to be just incomprehensibly wrong, etc. Are you positing "temporary truth" (ie: science), or?? {aside, presumably you mean only by "reputable" journals, not arXiv, not paid journals, etc etc}
    – Fattie
    Commented Apr 1 at 23:27
  • 3
    Is this any different from this question you asked a few months ago? - To what extent is intersubjective agreement required for one to be justified in trusting one's own subjective experiences?
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Apr 2 at 7:09

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If I read your question literally, the answer is straightforwardly no. You can be justified in holding beliefs about a vast range of events only you have experienced. I can believe that I got out of bed at 6.40, made a coffee, drank it, dressed in fresh socks, cursed the Met Office for yet another hopelessly inaccurate forecast, and so on- I don't need any intersubjective consensus, substantial or otherwise, to justify my beliefs about my everyday experiences.

Given that, I assume that what you meant to ask was whether you can be justified in holding a belief that most people would consider false, if it was based on your exclusive personal experience. For example, suppose you experienced a talking mouse, speaking to you directly, the experience being as vivid and realistic as any other. Would you be justified in believing mice can talk? You might say yes, and do your utmost to convince people of the truth of it. They, on the other hand, might consider you to be a crackpot. And therein lies the answer- you might not require further justification for yourself, but you almost certainly would require it if you expect doubters to agree with you.

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  • "I assume that what you meant to ask was whether you can be justified in holding a belief that most people would consider false, if it was based on your exclusive personal experience" I feel you have really expressed the root issue, good one.
    – Fattie
    Commented Apr 1 at 23:36
  • If you HAVE experienced talking to a mouse, consider the possibility that more people have hallucinated talking mice, than people who have actually spoken with talking mice, and adjust your credence that you actually spoke with a mouse accordingly.
    – TKoL
    Commented Apr 2 at 8:55
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a somewhat silly example:

imagine your parent(s) is no longer alive, neither are your mutual acquaintances, there are no pictures, letters, videos, etc., concerning your relationship; are you justified in believing "my parent(s) loved me"?

if we take 'love' to be a sort of mental state of an individual that can at least in principle be inferred from their behaviour, then your own recollections could be evidence enough for you to believe that your parent did (or didn't...) love you, even if there is, in this scenario, apparently no way for a third party to independently look at any evidence

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Peer-review is a process which the editor of a journal starts to assess the quality of a manuscript which is submitted for publication. The term does not apply to arbitrary methods to testify that a certain event has happened.

Everybody may hold the personal believes the likes. And he/she may interprete his experiences in his personal way. But as soon as the persons claims that his experience points to an objetive fact he makes a truth claim. And such claims need to be checked by others to avoid errors, prejudices or other forms of delusion.

Humans have privileged access only to their own perceptions (subjective first-person stance). Claiming that “their nature precludes convincing others” seems like a method to immunize the personal claim against further investigation and possible refutation.

Certain truth claims from the gospel or from other holy scriptures are typical examples that a text attempts to testify itself – see the answer of @Groovy. Today we cannot decide what the historical truth was.

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one historically notable example being the resurrection of Jesus, which was purportedly witnessed by multiple observers, with intersubjective agreement among all of them

Bible is correct because it's written so in the Bible! :) Thank you for this classical example of the circular reasoning.

As for "privileged access to certain experiences", any religious adept of any religion will say the same about their own experience. Moreover you can create a new religion from the get go with some Abbabumba God and people praying to him will get same dopamine boosts and "blessings" as Christians and will claim their privileged experiences are real. And yours are demonic possessions or just fakes. Cause it'll be 1) written so in the Book of Abbabumba 2) They'll clearly feel his presence during prayer.

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    The quran also documents many witnesses to many miracles - ancient witnesses to ancient miracles really can't hold a whole lot of epistemic weight.
    – TKoL
    Commented Mar 31 at 18:01
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    Of course, and I am pretty sure in Islam lots of people use the same argument - it's written in the quran about this miracle, that's why it's true. You don't have to be an atheist to see these are logical fallacies. I am also pretty sure that Lenin's biographies printed in USSR were telling only nice things about him. :)
    – Groovy
    Commented Mar 31 at 18:09
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    @Mark a billion of people believing in Santa Claus or Zeus or Unicorns do not it more real than if 3 people believe in al these things. Moreover myths and propaganda become easier to operate with more followers. And with more followers you can push even more ridiculous claims.
    – Groovy
    Commented Apr 1 at 10:06
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    @Groovy So you don't believe in peer-review and intersubjective consensus? So the whole scientific enterprise of investigation and reaching consensus among researchers is meaningless to you?
    – Mark
    Commented Apr 1 at 10:38
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    @TKoL and Goovy. Science is the wrong standard for the historical Jesus -- instead it is the methods of historians. And in general, historians DO treat books that compile evidence, as supporting evidence for an event. And likewise the testimony of witnesses. They also look at the process of mythologizing, and confabulation within religions, to the point that historians generally accept a historical Jesus, but are often suspicious about miracle stories.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Apr 2 at 22:49
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The term "belief" is often used for things that are not necessarily supported by anything external. If you believe SEP's page on "belief" then...

Anglophone philosophers of mind generally use the term “belief” to refer to the attitude we have, roughly, whenever we take something to be the case or regard it as true.

Further down:

A number of philosophers have suggested that the content of one’s beliefs depends entirely on things going on inside one’s head, and not at all on the external world, [...]

There is no particular reason our brain needs, to believe that something is true, according to these opinions. Specifically, SEP mentions that no particularly deep reflection is required. Whatever someone believes to be true is a valid belief.

Evidence is not necessary nor even sufficient for belief to develop. You will find ungodly amounts of examples in todays social media, in print media, in political committees and wherever people come together where there is incredibly clear evidence for whatever fact, and there are still people not believing it. And this is even true for quite simple, everyday, easily visible things.

You can have any opinion you want on whether this is "justified" or not, but nevertheless it is true.

It is also often, by experience, incredibly hard to change the belief (system) of a person, no matter how good your evidence or logic is. The quips "Don't change my belief with your logic!" or "You cannot use logic to argue someone out of a belief who has not argued themselves into it with logic." are there for a reason and perfectly reflect how the "feature" of belief works in our brains.

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  • Your first sentence is contradicted by the following link
    – TKoL
    Commented Apr 3 at 6:45
  • @TKoL, do you mean the link to SEP I gave? Then you have to explain what you mean. I see no hint of contradiction, in fact, somewhere there is the sentence A number of philosophers have suggested that the content of one’s beliefs depends entirely on things going on inside one’s head, and not at all on the external world, which is exactly what I said in my first sentence. But I'm glad to learn more if you can be more specific.
    – AnoE
    Commented Apr 3 at 7:42
  • The very first sentence. "Anglophone philosophers of mind generally use the term “belief” to refer to the attitude we have, roughly, whenever we take something to be the case or regard it as true." Whenever you regard something as true, with or without evidence.
    – TKoL
    Commented Apr 3 at 8:06
  • It goes on to give some mundane examples of belief: "Many of the things we believe, in the relevant sense, are quite mundane: that we have heads, that it’s the 21st century, that a coffee mug is on the desk."
    – TKoL
    Commented Apr 3 at 8:07
  • Oh I see. I have modified the first sentence a bit to make more clear what I mean.
    – AnoE
    Commented Apr 3 at 8:15

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