Timothy Darling's Reviews > Epistemology: The Justification Of Belief

Epistemology by David L. Wolfe
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's review
May 07, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: brain-food, philosophy, religious, doctoral-reading
Recommended for: students of philosphy, students of apologetics, debaters
Read from May 04 to 07, 2012

I took way too many notes on this book to try to put them all here. Suffice it to say it raises two important points in my thinking. One, that I am decidedly philosophically ill equipped to judge this book. I have too weak a background in the language of epistimology to state an opinion on whether or not this is a good book. It is certainly a complicated book and requires more careful reading than I am currently accustomed to. I found myself retracing my steps two and sometimes three time in order to gain even a little understanding of what I was reading.

Second, it gives a reasonable set of parameters by which to judge whether a personally held belief is valid:
Consistency (internal freedom from contradiction)
Coherence (whether or not the internal statements of the belief system are inter-related)
Comprehensiveness (the applicabllity of the interpretive scheme to all experience)
Congruity (how appropriate is the system to the experience it proports to interpret?)

Once this set of tests are forwarded, the rest of the book relates back to them, building them into an epistemological juggernaut. Wolfe even shows how they are used by Jesus, Paul and Moses. Once he got to this point in his discussion it became helpful. The reader could see how to apply them to his own thinking.

Finally Wolfe relieves the reader of two serious sources of doubt. One is the idea that doubt is valid when the only alternative to rejecting the criticism is adopting the critic's own view wholesale. This is not an arguement against the epistemology of the belief holder but against faith itself, and the critic also holds faith whether he admits it or not. The second is the idea that hearing criticism is tantamount to expressing a lack of faith. On the contrary, it is an expression that the ideas we have faith in can stand scrutiny.

I do not recommend this book for just anyone. It will be terminally boring and inaccessible to many. In addition, some will not agree with the author's idea that we do not hold faith in terms of certain knowledge and ultimate truth, but in terms of probability and likelihood. He does clarify that in every day terms, the former ideas still apply, but he likes to maintain an attitude of humility ... that he could be wrong.

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Quotes Timothy Liked

“We all know dogmatists who are more concerned about holding their opinions than about investigating their truth. ... if they are mistaken, they will never discover it; they have condemned themselves to perpetual error. Human beings (including myself) sometimes use their beliefs for wish-fulfillment. Too often we believe what we want to be true.”
David L. Wolfe, Epistemology: The Justification Of Belief

“I do not have it in for relativism. In many respects I find it a fascinating, even attractive, alternative. It engenders epistemological humility, defeats an arrogant pomposity in belief, even promotes a sort of democratic ideal in matters of knowledge. Perhaps its most comforting feature is that it requires no hard work at all in the matter of justifying beliefs.”
David L. Wolfe, Epistemology: The Justification Of Belief

“Surely it is the one who fears he is wrong who avoids criticism. The one who is sure he is right invites it. It only illuminates the strength of beliefs and makes them more available to others.”
David L. Wolfe, Epistemology: The Justification Of Belief

Reading Progress

05/04/2012 page 42
46.0% "We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty ... well maybe not, but the end of chapter 2 almost says as much, with the caveat that the book isn't over yet."
05/04/2012 page 42
46.0% "Got to move on to something else. Distraction is becoming downright compelling."
05/04/2012 page 55
60.0% "Got to move on to something else. Distraction is becoming downright compelling. I even fouled up my update."
05/04/2012 page 55
60.0% "Got to move on to something else. Distraction is becoming downright compelling. I even fouled up my update."

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