I arrived at the lack of absolute certainty using critical thinking. There are a few assumptions I make that are well grounded and work well, but are nevertheless untested:
1) There is a reality
2) My senses help me to see the reality in which I interact with
Being that I've made at least 1 untested/unproven assumption, and can't get around having at least one, I can never be absolutely certain on anything. Mental masturbation? Yeah. Falling into the theist quagmire? No. Its called intellectual honesty, despite feeling like you're absolutely certain that something doesn't exist.
I think you are trying to take the solipsistic route here, but what you have above doesn't connect for me. more like "human senses are fallible, and I experience reality through my senses, thus my perception of reality is fallible" would make more sense, but while you make those above assumptions, I don't see why you think that they apply to everyone. Sure, you've made those~ although I only see one there~ but as far as I am concerned, reality is not an assumption. Even if you go with the fallible senses route that I present, it doesn't add up; just because senses are fallible doesn't mean that they are ,by nature, corrupted. Since this general reality is shared in the most part by every other conscious being, and since the senses,perceptions, and properties of said reality are likewise shared (in generality) I would say that to state reality is true would not be an assumption. This is not to be correlated to belief in god, since reality is measurable, universally demonstrable, and universally yet independently corroborated by all people.
Having said that, I don't see why leaving doubt for a concept that has been proven false amounts to "intellectual honesty." If you think your assumption that reality is real is valid, then your atheism is another assumption, and you had might as well be a theist as that assumption could be equally as valid. Assumption amounts to belief~ what you are basically saying is that you operate under the belief of reality~ and your atheism is a belief as well.
My point is that you do have to make some ground assumptions, as at some point, you run out of ways to test the foundations of what you hold to be true. I'm not saying that that our senses can't be trusted, I'm saying that I'm making the assumption that they can be. As that's the only workable assumption.
It seems to me to be an unnecessary assumption. Making an assumption at such a fundamental level of reality has a cascading effect, making everything after it an assumption. Not only that, but why assume? Is there a way that we could test whether our senses could be trusted? While some may instinctively say "no," it seems that we could be reasonably sure that for the most part they could. If there are, say, universal qualities to sensory perception, that might lend credibility to their efficacy. But I digress..
From where I sit, when you say that it is a belief that our sense of the world and interaction with reality is accurate, I see two effects. When moving past that base "assumption," everything else becomes a compounded assumption (synonymous with belief, mind you) which at the end of the day could be true~ however unlikely~ but is ultimately unproductive if you are trying to reach any certainty [statistically improbabilities, or in this case doubt, compound as you add variables] as the "true" improbability of anything should be astronomically large... but maybe thats not the best way to word it. How about this; having certainty without assumption is a very useful tool~ and in all reality [ha, how ironic], considering something such as perception of reality an "assumption" seems to lend credibility to the notion that we have a reason to believe its not. I'm not aware of any reason that seriously brings this to doubt, or lends it weight in consideration, aside from mental exercises such as the solipsistic argument, which immediately voids all discussion completely. Its that finality of the philosophical proposal that leads me to question your reasoning; I understand that it truly is personal preference, and I'm only debating as a matter of pass-time, please consider it nothing personal, but once the "solipsist card" is played (and mind you, even if it wasn't your intent, your assertion matches the initial premise) everything else must stop.
The second thing I see is that when you look above that premise, or before it, you are left with an empty void. If the assumption is that our senses can be trusted, then the counterpoint is that they cannot~ I don't see an in-between (keep in mind illusions and other sensory phenomena are functions of the brain, not of the hardware of our senses.) If our senses can't be trusted, which might actually be the defacto position if the belief is that they can, then how would we know? how do we experience that which can't be experienced? how do we know that which, by definition, can't be known? If this isn't the true reality, how could we ever hope to know or understand that? If, like someone mentioned earlier, this is all a complex computer program like the matrix, who cares? How could we know that with out making bald assertions, and in the end, what does it matter? Do we really have a reason to think this isn't truly reality? Is there anything that gives us a reason to think our sensory perception of reality is really a belief, and not at the core of our knowledge?
I hope I've gotten my point across, I see this has become somewhat lengthy. I'm interested in hearing what you have to say~ I was a fan of solipsism for several years (for its uniqueness and seeming profundity) before I had to consider its practical implications as a serious philosophy. hopefully this doesn't come across as too much of a rant, I really do mean to be cordial.
Yes, and I get your point. However, it's still an assumption. We wouldn't know if our senses/brain were incorrect, we couldn't know. As we still need to rely on the same machinery to know as we do to percieve the world - the brain.
The only useful position to take is that reality exists and that we're not in a vats or the matrix. It's the only reasonable assumption, yet, its still an assumption.
In the scientific method, one always allows that one might be wrong in any facet of its knowledge. Future discoveries may cause us/science to modify our ideas. While acknowledging that, we still accept that our current state of knowledge is the best so far. Room for doubt is a rational attitude. It does not mean that we can't accept the status quo as our position.
Refusal to be swayed by a better argument or new information is precisley the kind of thing most atheists despise in the religious. To be intellectually honest, we need to leave a pocket of room for doubt, on the off chance that some new information comes along to cause us to change our minds. In the meantime I label myself an agnostic atheist. That means I call myself atheist, because I acknowledge no god, serve no god, take instruction from no god, fear no god; yet I have that pocket of room for change, which I feel is the intellectual imperative of the person who is science minded.
I tack on the prefix agnostic, because I cannot disprove the existence of "God", because it is a logical impossibility for anyone disprove a universal negative. If a god is supposed to be perfect and ALL LOVING, then that god must be 100% loving. I am not a god, any more than the guy religionists call "God", so I can be atheist, with some room for doubt, (doubt which I explore on an almost daily basis, in the interests of my own valued intellectual honesty and integrity).
So far I remain an agnositc atheist.
@ Gila "In the scientific method, one always allows that one might be wrong in any facet of its knowledge. Future discoveries may cause us/science to modify our ideas. While acknowledging that, we still accept that our current state of knowledge is the best so far. Room for doubt is a rational attitude."
Again, we are talking about God here. We have zero knowledge of God. How can we be wrong in our knowledge toward God? How can we modify our knowledge of God? What is our current state of knowledge in regards to god? How can we have a rational attitude in regards to God?
We can't apply science to God.