Indeed, empirical matters witnessed by the senses, as well as the rational sciences constructed upon them, have been subject to numerous rational doubts that oppose what is known by perception or intellect. And much of this is of a sophistic nature which many or most people find difficult to solve or to clarify its unsoundness. Instead, to refute it, they rely on the fact that this doubt undermines that which is known by perception or necessity, so it does not merit a response. So their response to it would [simply] be that it contradicts that which is indubitably known. On that basis, [one] recognizes it as false in principle, even if he does not address its incorrectness in a detailed fashion.
And if one were to say, “These matters of indubitable knowledge cannot be confirmed [as truth] without rebutting whatever sophistic arguments challenge them,” then no person would be able to confirm any knowledge about anything, since there is no end to what occurs in the minds of some people of sophistic arguments (al-ḥujaj al-sūfisṭaʾīyah).
Just as atheists claim that the beliefs of theists about the objective existence of a god are in error, moral error theorists claim that the beliefs of moral realists about the objective existence of moral rules, prohibitions, virtues, vices, values, rights, and duties are also in error, and for the same reason— what they are talking about doesn’t exist.
If you tried to doubt everything you would not get as far as doubting anything. The game of doubting itself presupposes certainty.
Given that I might be dreaming, hallucinating or sadly deceived into thinking that I am skeptical about the external world, then again by parallel reasoning, I should be skeptical about whether I really am in the state at issue—that is, I should be skeptical about whether I am skeptical about whether the external world exists. Now there’s no stopping. For I might similarly be dreaming, hallucinating or sadly deceived into thinking that I am skeptical about whether I am skeptical about whether the external world exists, so that I should now be skeptical about whether I am skeptical about whether I am skeptical about whether the external world exists. And so on.
Scepticism is best understood as the product of a community of individuals within a particular intellectual milieu, and not as a perspective invented by individuals (say, Pyrrho or Arcesilaus). Indeed, the differences between sceptics and competing schools of thought are fewer than we think and Greek scepticism can be profitably viewed as a natural (one may say, inevitable) response to problems that are the focus of discussion in all of Greek epistemology.
Gorgias’s position, as well as Protagoras’s, exemplified nihilism because it stated that there can be no objective way of determining knowledge of truth. The Sophist position also exemplifies solipsism because the self can be aware of nothing except its own experiences and mental states. Thus, Gorgias reached his three celebrated conclusions: Nothing exists; if it did exist, it could not be comprehended; and if it could be comprehended, it could not be communicated to another person.
On the basis of the empirical knowledge provided to it by the senses, the mind abstracts universal concepts that it holds as mental representations of external reality. As the knowledge of the mind is purely cognitional (ʿilmī ) and notional (iʿtibārī ), the rational faculty is unable to establish the factual existence of any externally existent entity (although it can, once more, affirm the existence of God on the basis of an innate, internal sensus divinitatis). Reason nevertheless comes embedded with the innate (fiṭrī ) and necessary (ḍarūrī) knowledge of certain fundamental axioms (badīhiyyāt), on the basis of which we are able to confer rational assent (taṣdīq) or form logical judgements (aḥkām) with respect to existing entities. The mind possesses necessary knowledge of the external reality mediated to it by the senses, of its own innate logical principles, and of whatever information has reached it by way of reports (akhbār) that have been passed down through recurrent mass transmission (tawātur) (such as, most importantly, the Qurʾānic text and a limited number of mutawātir ḥadīth reports). The principle of tawātur, however, is not limited to guaranteeing the authenticity of verbal reports. It also serves as the ultimate guarantor of the necessary knowledge mediated to the mind by the senses, as well as of the axiomatic principles of reason and of the fiṭra more generally, in the event that any of these sources of widely-shared, necessary knowledge should come to be undermined, impugned, or subjected to systematic doubt. Such doubt is typically the result of doctrines that have been derived through discursive reasoning (naẓar) on the basis of dubious premises that, Ibn Taymiyya contends, unambiguously contradict the necessary knowledge attested to by any of the sources mentioned above.
Were they created by nothing, or were they themselves the creators? Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Rather, they do not possess certitude (Qur’an 52:35-6).
Sound human nature attests by the necessity of its nature and the primordiality of its thought that there is a Wise, All-Knowing, and All-Powerful Maker; “Is there any doubt concerning God, the Originator of the Heavens and Earth?” (Qur’an 14:10).
A central thesis of this book is that analogy-making defines each instant of thought, and is in fact the driving force behind all thought. Each mental category we have is the outcome of a long series of analogies that build bridges between entities (objects, actions, situations) distant from each other in both time and space.
He did not say those with certainty in this or that, but rather left it unqualified, so whatever it is that you have certainty in, the first certainty is certainty in this Lord, as the Messengers have said ‘Is there any doubt concerning God?’ And if you were to say that we have no certainty in anything and we negate all knowledge, then this is the claim of universal skepticism (al-safsaṭah al-ʿāmmah) and it is manifest falsehood for indeed every human being necessarily possesses knowledge.
[T]he point of presenting religious beliefs as revelations is to present them as conceptual truths—as practical axioms of life, as ruling principles that frame new conceptions of worth, happiness, and selfhood—and this puts them into a different logical category than the basket that holds hypothetical claims.
This is something that [ahl al-kalām] and all human beings recognize—that there are some mental conceptualizations and affirmations that are primordial concepts (badīhī) and not themselves in need of proof by definition or syllogism, or else it would entail circularity or an infinite regress.
According to the Taymiyyan model, upon the proper function of the heart in conjunction with the fiṭra, both of which have been designed to successfully acquire true beliefs about God when placed in suitable environments for this to occur, they will produce basic belief in Islam which can be said to be warranted in a properly basic way. As outlined above, it is specifically upon contact with the ‘signs of God’ that basic belief in Him, and subsequently His religion, can be warranted in accordance with Plantinga’s account of proper functionalism.
That belief in gods begins in childhood and typically continues into adulthood places it in the same class as believing in gravity, the permanence of solid objects, the continuity of time, the predictability of natural laws, that causes precede effects, that animals bear young similar to themselves, that people have thoughts and wants that motivate and guide their actions, that some things are morally right or wrong, that their mothers love them, and numerous other ideas about the world… I favor the approach that regards our minds as basically trustworthy to deliver true beliefs and that our naturally arising “childish” beliefs should be regarded as true until we have good reason to suspect them as being problematic. It is not clear to me that we can do otherwise and still function as normal, sane human beings.
The proof that leads to knowledge via rational investigation must be one that goes back to foundations known necessarily from the fiṭrah (muqaddimāt ḍarūrīyah fiṭrīyah). For verily all knowledge that is not necessary (ḍarūrī) must ultimately go back to knowledge that is necessary (ḍarūrī).
This is because if rationally inferred (naẓarī) knowledge is always established on the basis of other rationally inferred (naẓarī) knowledge, this would lead to temporal circularity or an infinite regress of causal effects on a thing that has a beginning [i.e., the human being]. And both options are known to be false by necessity and the agreement of the intellectuals through several ways… So there must be primordial a priori knowledge (ʿulūm badīhīyah awwalīyah) that God initiates in one’s heart and the point of all proofs is to go back to that.
Furthermore, this necessary knowledge can be subjected to shubuhāt (specious objections) and whisperings such as the shubuhāt of the sūfisṭāʾīyah (Sophists) in empirical matters or primordial matters... Shubuhāt in this foundational knowledge cannot be responded to with proofs since the whole point of proofs is to go back to them. So if shakk (doubt) occurs in them, the path to rational inference and investigation has been severed.
This is why it is not possible to debate one who denies sensory or necessary knowledge. Rather, if he is simply recalcitrant and obstinate, he is penalized until he recognizes the truth. But if he is mistaken due to a corruption that his senses or mind have encountered due to his inability to understand such foundations or something similar, then he is to be treated with that [epistemology] that satisfies the conditions of knowledge for him and eliminates its obstacles. And if he is incapable of that due to a corruption in his natural physiology, he is treated with natural medications, or duʿāʾ, or ruqyah, or spiritual reorientation (tawajjuh), or something similar. Otherwise, he is abandoned.
Whenever two persons make opposite judgments about the same thing, it is certain that at least one of them is mistaken, and neither, it seems, has knowledge. For if the reasoning of one of them were certain and evident, he would be able to lay it before the other in such a way as eventually to convince his intellect as well.
According to this kind of theory, to be justified in my belief, I must be able to defend my belief to someone else. I can do this only if I have reasons or evidence that would convince the other party.
In order to resolve a peer disagreement over a given issue, the disputants must appeal to reasons which are independent of both their beliefs about the disputed issue and the reasoning on the basis of which such beliefs are formed.
...There is clearly a close connection between skepticism and disagreement since skepticism is always latent as a possible stance to adopt in any discussion of disagreement. For instance, on the dialectical conception of justification, the very existence of a dispute triggers a demand for justification: a competent and responsible cognizer should be able to defend his beliefs when these are challenged by his epistemic rivals.
We have already distinguished four main senses of meaning: (1) the place of X in a system, (2) human intention, (3) linguistic or symbolic (identity or translation) meaning, and (4) being-as.
…Interestingly, “the meaning of life” also falls into all four of these categories with a slightly different result in each case. We have emphasized the meaning of life as the interrelatedness of one’s actions in a total integrated pattern having a place in the larger life of the community. There is also the meaning of life as something which has taken on a recognizable shape, or at least negatively, the loss of which shape is experienced as meaninglessness. And there is also the meaning of life in the sense of the purpose for one’s life or for mankind as a whole which we found in Sartre, and this can lead to a sense of the meaning of life like that of translation meaning in which one expects the same kind of answer to the question “what is the meaning of life?” as to the question “what does ‘ja’ mean?”
…Thus, the logical root of meaning can be traced to the sense of purpose and a system of purposeful relations. When people speak of the meaningfulness of things, they are usually talking either about (a) the purposive way things seem to hang together or (b) the purpose which this system has as a whole. Correspondingly, meaninglessness can mean either (a) the breakdown of this system or (b) the realization that the purpose for the system as a whole is a human projection having no foundation in reality.