Monday, April 25, 2005

Plausibility

'The Carnival of the Godless' tends to be a little light in the intellectual department (although Richard's edition was quite good); non-specialist blog carnivals, I suppose, usually are. In the most recent one I did find this post at "Guide to Reality" quite interesting, though, not so much because of its formulation of the question of God's existence is particularly deep, since it's a summary so concise it doesn't even really do justice to the attempts of the atheistic side, much less the theistic side; but because the issue of plausibility is quite an interesting one. I think we can only talk about something's being plausible against a set of background assumptions -- antecendent credibilities and probabilities, as Newman might have said. An example: you are faced with a (bare) allegation that a friend has committed fraud. For this to be plausible it must fit with what you already accept to be true about your friend. Now suppose the same allegation backed with evidence. Whether you find the allegation plausible will depend on your prior views of both your friend and the sort of evidence being brought against him. So plausibility is really relative to prior suppositions. And this means that plausibility will depend on the person: what is plausible to a Samoan village council will not necessarily be plausible to a Pennsylvanian jury. But in the end we all only convince each otehr by what we each find plausible. So the natural question in juding the plausibility of any issue is: what prior knowledge can and should we agree upon, in order to determine whether this is plausible or not?

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