[Read more] for my attempt to — well, maybe not answer his questions, but at least explain what would be needed for me to provide a meaningful answer.
Building on our discussion of context, I would argue that it is not feasible to evaluate such, well, absolute claims. In particular, I don’t think it is possible to meaningfully assess those statements apart from a particular purpose. Put another way, we need to normalize statements against some sort of ‘null hypothesis’. Even a simple statement like “the sky is blue” can get quite tricky, depending the needed precision. Here’s an example of a more contextual rewriting of Alan’s questions in terms of statements that I believe:
Of these, (2) and (3) aren’t possible for us to discuss without some system of ethics, and (4) depends heavily on both (2) and (3). So, (1) is the only one that we can conceivably tackle with our existing epistemic tools.
To do that, though, I think it useful to first understand the relationship between belief and trust. I might summarize my view as:
Beliefs[i+i] = Character(Trust, Experience, Reason; Beliefs[i])
That is, our Beliefs evolve as our Character evaluates the factors of Trust, Experience, Reason, and prior Beliefs. In particular:
Perhaps even more importantly, I interpret this as more like a complex vector field than a series of Booleans. That is, each Belief is not a simple, independent True/False decision, but a complex system with varying degrees of precision, confidence, applicability, and inter-relatedness. The value of logic is that it uses analytic propositions to link two synthetic Beliefs in a discrete chain, so that one testable or accepted Belief can be used to validate another, thus untangling the web into a series of more-or-less distinct strands.
Okay, that’s probably waaay more detail than Alan (or our three readers) really wanted, but hopefully he can dig through these three posts to find something EEEsy to respond to. 🙂