Hardboiled Epistemology

Speaking about princesses, Unk says:

A real princess must be an astonishing thing. And I think that because I’m a metaphysical realist. (I say that for all the hard-boiled out there who think it is fatuous of me: get a serious epistemology, idiots.)

Like Unk, I am a metaphysical realist. I’m working hard on the “serious epistemology” part. Based on recommendations from a couple of commenters here, I’m currently reading through David Oderberg’s “Real Essentialism”, which expounds a form of metaphysical realism known as hylomorphic dualism. I can’t say that I’m sold just yet, but it seems better than the other forms of dualism I’ve read about.

Anyway, philosopher Paul Draper recently delivered the 9th annual Plantinga lecture at Notre Dame University [via ex-apologist], and used an interesting story about hard-boiled eggs to illustrate Plantinga’s sensus divinitatis concept:

Plantinga is certainly correct in thinking that direct or non-inferential evidence can be very powerful. Suppose, for example, that the hypothesis that I had hard-boiled eggs for breakfast is very accurate with respect to a variety of facts, such as the fact that I almost always have hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, that several witnesses claim that they saw me eating hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, and that my cook reports making me hard-boiled eggs for breakfast. (Sometimes I fantasize about having my own cook.) Now consider the competing hypothesis that I had soft-boiled eggs for breakfast and that this took place some time between 7 and 8am. This hypothesis is much less accurate with respect to those facts and also less modest because of the added temporal claim. Yet the probability of it being true might still be very high—at least relative to my epistemic situation if not to yours—if I very clearly remember having had, some time between 7 and 8am, soft-boiled eggs for breakfast. My memories might give me direct non-inferential evidence for the soft-boiled egg hypothesis that outweighs the sizable advantage in accuracy and simplicity of the hard-boiled egg hypothesis. The crucial question is: can the sensus divinitatis do for theism what memory can do for the soft-boiled egg hypothesis?

Since Draper’s larger goal in the paper is to defeat theism by expounding a version of the “Problem from Evil”, he obviously thinks that the memory analogy doesn’t work for “sensus divinitatis”. But his hardboiled memory example is quite interesting, and points to what I was trying to hint at in my posts about “why history matters” and “false memories“.

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