Hi everyone. I’ve got about ten minutes in between meetings. Sadly, that is not enough time to address all the comments in the blog that require addressing. And it certainly isn’t time to offer the full response to Stephen Maitzen. And it definitely isn’t time to fulfill my promise to Jerry Rivard.
But it is time for a quick comment in response to a question by Clamat who asked:
“Do you disagree that if one makes an assertion one should back it up with evidence?”
So much depends on what one means by *assertion*, *should* and *evidence*.
When Clamat says assertion I take it he means sharing a belief that one holds (or something like that).
“Should” is harder to deal with. There are two main possibilities as I see it:
The should of persuasion: don’t expect people to be persuaded by your beliefs unless you have some reason or ground that person can appreciate for why they ought to adopt your beliefs.
The should of rational assent: you ought not accept a belief unless you have evidence for it.
I agree emphatically with the should of persuasion. Too often we fail to offer independent reasons appreciable to another party for why they should adopt our views. Instead, we simply repeat our views and expect them to be converted. Life typically doesn’t work like that (unless you’re the quarterback or head cheerleader in which case everyone falls in line because you’re cool).
You might call the should of persuasion the Golden Rule should: reason with others the way you’d have them reason with you.
Things are not so clear with the should of rational assent. Unrestricted statements of belief evidentialism tend to start infinite regresses (i.e. what is the evidence for believing “you ought not accept a belief unless you have evidence for it”?) So any evidentialist principle has to be articulated with care.
There is a defensible form of the principle, one in which evidence is construed much more broadly. But on this interpretation the principle becomes innocuous since nobody advocates believing things willy nilly with no reason or ground at all.