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'Grounding' is the notion that 'because of X, Y', X being the reason one can accept Y beyond pragmatic considerations. In this way, X and Y are analogous to cause and effect respectively.

If it is the case that one can hold a belief without any grounding reason whatsoever, or more strictly, that one should hold beliefs without any grounding reasons, what is to compel one to believe this very proposition itself, namely the proposition 'one can believe X without a reason Y'? Is it not subsumed, in other words, in all cases that one possesses a reason for their belief in a way that supersedes mere practicality and which generates certitude? If so, is the rejection of grounding not susceptible to reductio ad absurdum?

  • I'm not sure why you edited my question to include 'metaphysical'. I was referring to grounding general, simply to the shallow observation that whatever we believe has a reason for being believed. – Ovid Apr 13 '16 at 18:23
  • You can edit it back. But you wanted "beyond pragmatic considerations" though, and I didn't see why what we believe needs a reason for being believed beyond pragmatic considerations. All considerations may well be those, overtly or in disguise. – Conifold Apr 21 '16 at 2:50
  • @Conifold As with most disagreements there was likely a confusion of terms. I do not have the same definition for 'metaphysics' as you do so your edit likely was, in its own right, in keeping with the gist of my question. For that reason I'll probably just keep the edit. – Ovid Apr 21 '16 at 21:10
  • I would see the question as about metaphysics and its importance. If we do not bother to ground our beliefs in metaphysics then we may be able to believe just about anything. Just look at the range of beliefs held by philosophers who do not do so. – PeterJ Jul 4 at 12:06
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Do we believe that the Sun will rise tomorrow because we are logically compelled? I think not. Sure, our belief is more logical than in the centuries past with all that knowledge of dynamics and gravity, but ancient Egyptians believed it no less, and all they had to go on was practical reliance on what Hume called "the uniformity of nature". And in the end our knowledge of dynamics and gravity relies on that same thing. I submit that people rarely believe something for logical reasons, and never for logical reasons alone. Even in mathematics most people now believe the Poincare conjecture not because they inspected Perelman's proof, but because they pragmatically trust a few experts that scrutinized it for three years and delivered a positive verdict. And even the said experts relied on their practical ability to check complex and convoluted deductive chains without slipping up. Mere practicality is certainly not enough for certitude, it even involves taking gambles on plausible guesses, but thorough practicality is where certitude is rooted all the same. Logical reasons are man made rafts kept afloat by the pragmatic sea, and its water better be ground enough, for we have no other. As Quine punned, "the Humean predicament is the human predicament".

But let me address the Question behind the question directly. Classical metaphysics (Platonic, Aristotelian, Thomist, Leibnizian, etc.) postulated A, B and C as grounds, and proceeded to explain the world as intelligible and orderly based on them. It even described how we come to have the beliefs that we have, and why some of them carry certitude. But our confidence in that is only as good as our confidence in A, B and C, or as Kiblinger puts it describing C.S. Peirce's response:

"The only difference is that in this case the facts are all given up front at once — a bitter pill that can be swallowed and then forgotten only at the expense of self-delusion".

The patient was bound to refuse her medicine at some point, and metaphysicists hastened the deed by inserting their certainties into places that plainly could not bear them.

It is rarely noted that the father of pragmatism was an idealist, and an evolutionary metaphysical idealist at that. Here is Peirce in his own words:

"My philosophy resuscitates Hegel, though in a strange costume... Hegel discovered that the universe is everywhere permeated with continuous growth (for that, and nothing else, is the ‘Secret of Hegel’)".

This sounds odd, how is pragmatism a resuscitation of Hegel, even in a "strange costume"? Well, Hegel stood at the threshold between the classical and modern metaphysics. In place of firm A, B and C he put a historical progression of "determinations", but his determinations still unfolded according to firm laws of necessity. But if determinations can change what is there to keep them necessary? Peirce replaced the laws of necessity by evolving "laws of habit", a nod to Mill, and through him, of course, to Hume.

Hume left metaphysics no ground to stand on, Hegel put it back in but let it move. Pragmatism can not deliver absolute certainties, but then again, it can always revise what it got wrong. What seemed like an unholy union of Hume and Hegel turned out to be the saving grace.

  • I'm not sure you capture the point of the objection. The point is not that a specific X seems logically compelling for belief Y. The point is rather that by accepting a system that fundamentally overlooks grounding, upon reflection,such a system overlooks itself. To answer that certain beliefs or metaphysical presumptions can be questioned does nothing to assert the positive theories of pragmatism or any other suggested belief. Indeed, by suggesting that metaphysical principle X can be questioned one is merely assuming one has reasons for questioning X. These reasons are what is mystifying. – Ovid Apr 13 '16 at 18:36
  • We might call them latent reasons, as they go often unnoticed. They are what must be so in order that any proposition be had. The most basic of these reasons require no criterion and no evidence then. They are self-evident. But in any regards, my original question wasn't so concerned with metaphysical grounding per se but more so with grounding period (even if grounding taken in general inevitably leads one to metaphysical grounding). – Ovid Apr 13 '16 at 18:38
  • @Ovid Reasons for beliefs need no logical compulsion. Pragmatism fully embraces grounding in such loose sense: beliefs are put to test through their practical consequences. This does not lead to metaphysical certainties though, and one lesson history taught us is that nothing thought self-evident was, not even laws of logic. Your grounding of "propositions" presupposes correspondence theory of truth, but pragmatism doesn't seek to "correspond" to any supposed "reality", only to have actions based on beliefs meet expectations. In that sense it grounds itself, but not as realist's "truth". – Conifold Apr 13 '16 at 20:38
  • I catch your drift. Your point is that the reasons we believe something are often times indeterminate or interchangeable with other reasons, lacking a compulsory aspect. Your answer is then largely connected to the underdetermination thesis (at least, as I understand it). I might only leave you a question: in what way is one justified in believing a pragmatist definition of truth, or in the underdetermination thesis itself? – Ovid Apr 13 '16 at 21:14
  • @Ovid Pragmatists do not have to be certain that what they believe is "true", with instrumentalist truth if the results aren't satisfactory it is up for revision. But this is simply an open admission of what is de facto the case with all metaphysics. Determinacy of reasons is forged by our hands to fit our purposes, no more no less, it is shaky because that's the best we can do, hence limited compulsion. Underdetermination is a bit of a misnomer, it names taking projected human concepts for "reality", or imagining something like it as a determinate background, but it is a separate issue. – Conifold Apr 14 '16 at 1:18

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