Fun With Boghossifying: Asking a Faith Question the Boghossian Way

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Here’s a fun question to play with. Perhaps you know that Peter Boghossian calls on his followers to substitute out the word “faith” whenever they see it, and replace it with “pretending to know what you cannot know.” For example, “The righteous shall live by pretending to know what they cannot know.”

Now, I don’t think much of that, for multiple reasons I don’t need to repeat here. And I thought I was done with Boghossian for a while. But then I thought, We could have some fun with this.

I’d like a volunteer to Boghossify this for me that way, please.

Abe has faith. Does Abe have any evidence for his faith, or is he just pretending to know what he cannot know?

And then I’d like you to tell me the answer to that question, and what led you to that conclusion. Important:  be careful to Boghossify before you move on to your answer!

Thank you.

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16 Responses to “ Fun With Boghossifying: Asking a Faith Question the Boghossian Way ”

  1. No need to be bashful, now. My logs show a couple dozen people have looked at this already. We’re all just waiting for that one brave volunteer. If you want to just Boghossify it and let someone else answer the follow-on questions, that’s okay too.

  2. Well, I’ll take you up on that:

    “Abe pretends to know what you cannot know. Does Abe have any evidence for pretending to know what you cannot know, or is he just pretending to know what he cannot know?”

    Hee hee.

  3. Thanks, Neil. We’re off to a good start!

    To be more fair to Boghossian, we could change the pronouns. In my blog post I intended “you” as the generic “you;” I could have used “one” instead. So it could also be stated this way:

    “Abe pretends to know what he cannot know. Does Abe have any evidence for what he’s pretending to know (which he cannot know), or is he just pretending to know what he cannot know?”

    Now for the follow-on questions!

  4. I don’t get it. Maybe Abe has something he considers evidence, but it still doesn’t give him a solid basis for knowing, so that’s why he must still pretend to know instead of really knowing. Or maybe Abe has no evidence at all. Maybe Abe doesn’t need evidence but just loves to celebrate his pretending.

    What am I missing?

  5. I venture to suggest that the answer is indeterminate.

    There is nothing in the statement, “Abe pretends to know what he can not know,” which allows the presence or absence of evidence to bear any influence on the situation. It is given that Abe’s knowledge claim is false (although he pretends otherwise, for what it matters); no amount of evidence he can cite to support his position is going to change that fact. The assertion, “Abe pretends to know what he can not know,” is thus compatible with both Abe having overwhelming supporting evidence, and no evidence whatsoever.

    In conclusion, we can not know, from the stated conditions, whether or not Abe has any evidence to support his false knowledge claim.

  6. Abe can have some evidence, but not enough to know what he cannot know. That’s why he is pretending to know what he cannot know. So Abe can have no evidence or a little evidence but not the critical amount of evidence that leads to knowing/knowlege.

  7. “Abe pretends to know what he cannot know. Does Abe have any evidence for what he’s pretending to know (which he cannot know), or does he just have a faith like a disciple of Peter Boghossian?”
    Stated this way, the last phrase of the original has been reworded using the word “faith” and IMO yields a more accurate and revealing counterfactual.

  8. Good thoughts, all. Abe’s knowledge claim is false. Either Abe has no evidence, or there is no way to tell whether he has evidence. If he does, it cannot bear any influence on the situation, as TFBW put it. I take that means it cannot be relevant evidence.

    Now for the next question: We began with this original statement and question “Abe has faith. Does Abe have any evidence for his faith, or is he just pretending to know what he cannot know?” From there we have drawn a pretty solid conclusion.

    And we’ve done it without ever having met Abe. What evidence do we have for our conclusion?

  9. Hi Tom,

    Our conclusion is based on the assumption that the first statement is factual. We have no evidence for that and are accepting your assertion on (dare I say it) faith. Our faith in your statement about Abe led us to work through the question you asked. As such we ourselves were pretending to know what we didn’t know.

    🙂

    Cheers
    Shane

  10. I take that means it cannot be relevant evidence.

    It can be relevant, but it can’t be veridical. It has to be misleading, or at least misinterpreted. It can’t be proof.

    What evidence do we have for our conclusion?

    Given that the thing is an exercise in pure reason, our “evidence” is the supporting argument. If we take it as given that Abe pretends to know what he can not know, then it is possible that this position is arbitrary dogma, or that it is based on some set of evidence that is irrelevant, insufficient, misleading, or simply misinterpreted. The “evidence” for this conclusion is that both of these alternatives are reasonable possibilities, given the conditions of the hypothetical. In the absence of additional information, we can not know if Abe has (non-veridical) evidence or no evidence, as both possibilities are compatible with the specified conditions.

  11. Tom,
    You may know about and already approve of this, but I wanted to let you know that PB is quoting you on his Amazon page for his book, under the “Editorial Review” section.

    Even though the quote ends with …. it seems like he is wanting to use it out of context — as if you are implying that the book is such an intellectual force that it will result in the decline of Christianity.

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