[Read more] for my attempt to sort this all out.
These are all fascinating and worthy questions, but I think we need be clear about which one’s we’re asking (or, perhaps, should be asking).
As I’ve said before, it is useful to distinguish between *ethical* question regarding virtue, and *epistemic* questions of knowability (never mind “ontologic” questions of reality :-). At the same time, as in the case of “epistemic virtue“, the lines aren’t always clearly drawn.
Let me start with a single assertion: “Good is really better than evil.”
Is that statement true? I believe it is. Do I “know” it is true? What does that mean? I define knowledge as “contextually accurate, paradigmatically justified belief.” If you grant a paradigm which includes transcendent reality and empirical validation, then I probably can say I know that the above statement is true. If you adopt strict rationalism as your only valid form of proof, then probably not. Conversely, if you are willing to grant that statement itself as self-evident, then the question of proof becomes moot, and we argue about other things based on that.
Thus, all I can really say a priori is that “I believe” certain things are true:
As to whether I can “prove” any of those things are true, or say that someone “must” believe them — that all depends upon which priors you give me (including, say, logic). Many proofs depends on reductio absurdum, which isn’t even valid in all forms of logic. Things which are consistent in one system may not even be well-formed in another (think of Boolean logic vs. Quantum systems).
So really, Alan, if you want me to go beyond “descriptions” to actual “claims”, you have to ante up *something*. Is there anything that you believe in? Is there anything, no matter how mundane or exotic, we _can_ agree on as an unquestionable absolute?
Or, conversely, is there at least single specific question you want me to answer which can be decoupled from all the others?
In classical debate, I’ve heard that typically one side defends a singular proposition while the other attacks it using multiple arguments. Is that the sort of format you’d prefer — and if so, which side you would like?