Friday, August 6, 2010

Coherentism Reduces to Relativism and Skepticism

Christianity is not inconsistent with agnosticism, so it's not as if pointing out that agnosticism leads to skepticism will lead agnostics to convert to Christianity unless they simply do not fully understand both Christianity and agnosticism. It is only useful in pointing out internal inconsistencies.
Thus read a message from one of my former nemeses (he has posted here in the past under the name 'The Heretic') reacting to my previous post on agnosticism. One of my biggest flaws is that even though I have a B.A. in Philosophy, I am not a philosopher. I'm just a plebe who knows how to form syllogisms. Apparently, my friend/nemesis holds to a theory of truth known as "coherentism" which says that a belief is true if and only if it is coherent with all or most of his or her other beliefs.

As a layperson who has only a rudimentary knowledge of coherentism, I have a few problems with thinking this way about truth:

For starters, this strikes me as easily reducing to relativism. For example, Mr. Brown may say, "God has revealed Himself in the person of Christ" while maintaining an overall coherent worldview. However, Mrs. Grundy may say, "God has not revealed Himself in the person of Christ" while also having a coherent overall worldview. Each statement may (let us grant) cohere with that person's whole system of belief, but that means that both of these persons possesses the truth given the coherentist schema.

This reduces to skepticism, subjectivism, and relativism, as I said, because if two different people can believe mutually contradictory propositions and yet they can both be said to be "true" by any schema - coherentist or otherwise, then truth shows itself to be different for every system. Presumably, one who is a coherentist could consistently show that a belief system is flawed by identifying inconsistencies within it. Which brings us to The Heretic's statement at the beginning of this post.
I only assert that no living human person has knowledge. On the other hand GOD has knowledge because he is omniscient and it takes omniscience to have knowledge because only by omniscience can one have any knowledge in a coherantist system.
Isn't that the point of God's communicating truth to His creation? We do not have exhaustive knowledge of Creation, but we have been spoken to by One Who does have exhaustive knowledge of creation.

Now the odd part is that The Heretic does claim to be a skeptic. In reality, most debates are an effort to reduce the opponent to skepticism and subjectivism. Given a skeptical approach, nothing I say will be able to satisfy the demands by a skeptic, because even his own worldview is saddled with skepticism and unmet intellectual demands.

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