Kimon’s Stone: Materialism and the Reliability of Beliefs

Discussion in 'Religion and Ethics' started by 5stringJeff, Sep 26, 2005.

  1. 5stringJeff

    5stringJeff Senior Member

    Sep 15, 2003
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    Puyallup, WA
    An excellent post from the Evangelical Outpost...

    In his book Metaphysics, philosopher Richard Taylor asks the reader to imagine a stone that’s just been dug out of the ground, and covered by peculiar markings. On first appearances the markings appear to be accidental, simply the result of millions of years of erosion. As your examine the marking, though, your friend, a professor of ancient languages, arrives upon the scene and promptly renders a translation of the marks:

    Taylor’s point is that because it is entirely possible for the rock to have accumulated “various and peculiar markings” during vast periods of time, there is no reason to assume that these markings were not created by pure accident. However, it would be a grave mistake, says Taylor, to also believe that these markings "reveal some truth with respect to something other than themselves" about the world. In other words, the markings cannot be both the result of chance forces and indicative of any truth beyond the mere fact that there happen to be peculiar markings upon a certain stone.

    Taylor uses this example in order to examine the question, “How is human consciousness any different from the accumulation of accidental markings upon a stone?” Even if we assume that it is possible for nature to create something as inexplicably complex as human consciousness, we cannot assume that consciousness would be reliable. We cannot consistently claim, says Taylor, that human consciousness is both the chance outcome of blind, accidental causes and a reliable belief-forming apparatus by which we discern truths about the world.

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