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    Thread: Are feelings and intuitions a valid source of knowledge?

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      Are feelings and intuitions a valid source of knowledge?

      Do emotions enable us to see things in their true light, as we would not be able to do if we were not capable of experiencing emotion? I think that our intuitions tend to draw us in two apparently opposing directions. On the one hand, we are inclined to say that emotional experience can sometimes tell us things about the world that reason alone will miss. That, one might think, is why we evolved as creatures capable of emotion. Yet, on the other hand, we are inclined to say that our emotions can and do profoundly distort our view of things: in anger or jealousy, for example, when the red mist comes down over the eyes, and we can feel the blood pulsing in the temples, things look other than the way they are, and, accordingly, our emotions can mislead us profoundly; literature is replete with examples.

      A cheap resolution of these competing intuitions would be to say that there are cases and cases: sometimes our emotions help us to gain empirical knowledge, and sometimes they hinder us. No doubt this is true so far as it goes, but I think there is more to be said than just that.

      Perception and Reason
      Empirical thinking is ‘answerable to experience’ in the sense that perceptual experiences can themselves provide reasons for empirical belief and judgement. The content of our perceptions—our perceiving things to be thus and so—are, however, only prima facie reasons for the related empirical belief, the belief that things are indeed thus and so. A prima facie reason is a consideration that appears at first sight to be a reason (using the term ‘reason’ in the standard normative sense), but which may turn out, in fact, not to be a reason. For example, your seeing something as red or as square is a prima facie reason for believing it to be red or to be square. But if you were wearing distorting lenses that made blue things look red or rectangular things look square, then your seeing something as red or as square is not a reason (that is, not a good reason) for believing it to be so.

      Let me make one further point about ‘ordinary’ perception, before turning to perception and the emotions, as it will be relevant in what is to follow. I want to take here a fairly wide notion of perception under which the concepts that are deployed in perceptual receptivity—call them perceptual concepts—can also be, in a sense, theoretical concepts. The point can be made most easily in relation to some sort of expertise, of the kind that is involved in playing chess or in a scientific activity. In chess, when one is first learning the skill, it is very hard, if not impossible, to see what is happening on the chessboard: that, for example, one’s queen is being threatened by the bishop. One has to try to work it out through agonizing steps of reasoning, thinking through each move individually. But after experience and training, the expert will be able to see that his queen is threatened: the phenomenology is visual, and the judgement is spontaneous, without any sort of conscious inferential process. The perceptual capacity has become second nature for the expert. Yet, if he asks himself why he sees that his queen is threatened, he will be able (or at least ought to be able) to think of reasons which support his perceptual judgment. But, as we saw from the preceding paragraph in respect of practical deliberation, this question ought consciously to arise for him if and only if its doing so is important for success—in this case winning the game. Similarly, an experienced scientist will be able to see the photon in the cloud chamber, and again, if appropriate to his project, he will be able to think of reasons why he sees things this way. In both these examples, then, the concepts involved in the perceptual contents (that the queen is threatened; that there is a photon in the cloud chamber) will be embedded in a substantial theory. So concepts can be both perceptual and theoretical, and we can allow that the chess expert and the experienced scientist see things differently from the way their inexperienced counterparts see things. Moreover, chess experts and experienced scientists should aim to be intellectually virtuous, able to rely on their habits and dispositions of thought so that doubts and questions arise about the content of their perceptions when and only when they should.

      Emotion, perception and reason
      Let me begin by introducing a term: emotion-proper property. An emotion-proper property is the property that is proper to, or ‘belongs to’, a type of emotion. For example, being frightening is the emotion-proper property for fear. Other examples are being disgusting (proper to disgust), being shameful (proper to shame), being enviable (proper to envy), and being worthy of pride (proper to pride). Some emotions and emotion-proper properties will be (roughly) prudential, and some will be (roughly) moral, and some will be both.

      When we are confronted by things in the environment, and respond emotionally to them, we also, as part of the same experience, typically perceive those things as having the emotion-proper property. For example, if, as a caring parent, you see the out-of-control toboggan hurtling straight for your child, you feel fear, and you see the toboggan as being frightening. Or if you feel disgust at a maggot-infested piece of meat, you see the meat as being disgusting. Or if you are at a party and someone says something to you and you feel angry at the remark, you hear the remark as being insulting. Our ability to perceive things as having these emotion-proper properties will be more or less a matter of training and experience, depending on all sorts of factors which I need not go into here (recognizing maggot-ridden meat as disgusting takes little training or experience; recognizing the offensiveness of certain linguistic expressions or certain ways of behaving at table are things that a child has to be taught). But, drawing on the earlier discussion of perceptual and theoretical concepts, it need not be contentious that, if we do have the requisite training or experience, we can indeed perceive things as having such properties.

      In the typical case, the experience of responding emotionally to things in the environment, combined in phenomenology with the perception of the object as having the emotion-proper property, will also involve the experience of the emotion and the perception as being reasonable or justified. For example, when you feel fear, and see the out-of-control toboggan as being frightening, you take the experience to be reasonable or justified. The non-typical cases are not like this: these are the occasions where one realises at the time that one’s emotional response is not reasonable or justified. For example, you feel afraid of the mouse in the corner of the room, and yet at the same time you know that your feelings are not justified. In these non-typical cases, although the object might still seem to have the emotion-proper property (the mouse does seem to be frightening), one is not inclined, as one is in the typical case, to consider one’s emotional response to be justified. There is, thus, the possibility, which may, of course, not be actualised, of acknowledging, in one’s own case, and at the same time as the emotional experience takes place, that things are not really as they seem: the mouse seems frightening, but you know that it is not, for you know that your fear is not justified.

      it is typical of emotional experience to consider one’s emotion, and one’s perception of the object of one’s emotion as having the emotion-proper property, to be justified. So far so good. But what if, without your knowing it, your emotion is unjustified, and the object of your emotion does not have the emotion-proper property that it seems to have? (Perhaps you think you have the right emotional disposition but you do not; or perhaps your mind is subject to other undue influences that you are not aware of.) In such cases, one’s emotions can distort perception and reason by skewing the epistemic landscape to make it cohere with the emotional experience.

      when we are afraid, we tend unknowingly to seek out features of the object of our fear that will justify the fear—features that would otherwise (that is, if we were not already afraid) seem relatively harmless. This is surely part of what is behind the commonsense intuition that our emotions can mislead us: they are passions, which, like idées fixes, we can be in the grip of.

      The skewing process can be continuous whilst the emotion is in place, operating on new information as it comes in. One’s emotions and emotionally-held perceptual judgements ought to be open to be shown to be wrong by new evidence, but when new evidence does emerge, one tends not only to be insensitive to that evidence, but also, for the sake of internal coherence, to doubt the reliability of the source of that new evidence.

      An extreme case is Leontes in Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, who becomes jealous of his wife Hermione, and is convinced that he has been cuckolded by his boyhood friend Polixenes. Although his jealousy is not justified, everything now seems to him to justify his jealousy in what has suddenly become an emotionally skewed epistemic landscape: the way Hermione and Polixenes behave together; the sudden uncertainty about whether his daughter looks like him; the disappearance of his previously-trusted Camillo, who is now a ‘false villain’. He even rejects the evidence of the oracle of Apollo, that ‘Hermione is chaste; Polixenes blameless; Camillo a true subject; Leontes a jealous tyrant; his innocent babe truly begotten’. Apollo, angry at having his word doubted, immediately wreaks his terrible revenge by bringing about the death of Leontes’ son and wife. Only then does Leontes finally come to recognize that he has ‘too much believ’d his own suspicion’; and then it is too late.

      A possible objection to my position here is that there is nothing special about the emotional case: people are generally subject to all sorts of well-documented cognitive deficiencies, such as the confirmatory bias, and the emotional case is just an instance of this. One response to this objection, which I find independently attractive but will not pursue here, is that perhaps more of these cognitive deficiencies can be traced back to the emotions than might at first be thought. The other response, which I will put forward here, is that there is something special about the emotional case: emotions, and emotionally-held perceptual judgements about things as having emotion-proper properties, are more intransigent than are their non-emotional counterparts, and thus the skewing of the epistemic landscape (for the sake of internal coherence) tends to be towards the preservation of the emotionally-held idées fixes at the cost of the unemotional thoughts.

      Now, given the generality of the normative requirement of intellectual virtue that one be disposed, when and only when appropriate, to reflect on, criticize, and if necessary change our way of thinking of things, this requirement surely ought to include a disposition to reflect critically, when and only when appropriate, on the way that one’s emotions can have this skewing effect. But doing this is not so easy, largely because of the possibility that one’s epistemic landscape has already been skewed without one’s knowing it; so, like Leontes, one is not in a position, from the here and now of emotional experience, to take the dispassionate view of the evidence that the epistemic requirement demands. The problem is a very familiar one to everyday life: how to satisfy this epistemic requirement when one is in the swim of emotional experience. Consider this example. You feel in despair about your job. The job seems hopeless, and it seems to be hopeless for all sorts of reasons which seem to justify your feelings of despair: there are no decent prospects for promotion; most of your colleagues are people with whom you really have very little in common; you do not seem to be able to get the work done properly; the journey to and from home is a nightmare; and so on. Your friends, not in the here and now of this emotional experience, assure you that things only seem this black because you are feeling so despairing (you used not to be like this; perhaps some Prozac might help?). You try to stand back and see things as others do (maybe things will look a bit brighter in the morning). And you might succeed in doing this to some extent. But you could still think that it is your friends who are wrong: they believe these things because they do not see that things really are hopeless and how right you are to be in despair (Prozac might lift the despair, but the job will still be hopeless). The question remains: Is it you, or is it the job?

      This leads me directly to a further, deeper difficulty that presses on those of us who are, prudentially or morally, less than fully virtuous. So far, my focus has been on cases where one is aware through introspection that one is experiencing a particular sort of emotion; in the example just discussed, you are aware that you are in despair. But it would be a grave mistake to think that our emotions are always transparent to introspection in this way. To begin with, one can sometimes not be sure what emotion it is that one is experiencing—it might be fear or it might be excitement as you approach the helter-skelter; the two emotions are phenomenologically very similar. Secondly, one can have an emotion without noticing it—one might be angry with someone and not realise it until it is drawn to your attention. (A sort of limiting case here is emotion that is repressed in the Freudian sense.) Thirdly, without one’s knowledge, an emotion can, through what Jon Elster (1999) has nicely called alchemy or transmutation, be changed into a different emotion, or into some other kind of psychological state altogether. And lastly, emotions can continue to resonate in one’s mental economy long after they are, as it might seem, ‘over’. In all these sorts of case (and others besides), emotion can distort reason in the ways I have been discussing. And this distorting effect can extend to judgements and beliefs that do not, in virtue of their contents, reveal themselves to be ‘emotional’—that is to say, that do not themselves refer to emotion-proper properties as such. But now, one is in the worrying position of not knowing what emotions, if any, are at work, and what judgements and beliefs, if any, have been affected. One can therefore be inclined to think that one is being ‘dispassionate’ in one’s judgment when one is not, or to think mistakenly that one sort of emotion is at work rather than another. Thus one has no way of knowing how to direct one’s watchfulness. Constant checking would not only be practically paralysing; it would also be practically useless. One is in the position of having a normative requirement of intellectual virtue, which one knows of and acknowledges to be reasonable, but which one does not know how to satisfy.

      Of course, if one is, in fact, fully virtuous prudentially and morally, then there will be no skewing of the epistemic landscape in this respect, and the requirement of intellectual virtue will, de facto, be met. But this is only superficially satisfactory, because, if one has, without knowing it, become less than fully virtuous prudentially or morally, the requirement will still seem to be met. And a falling away from full virtue is not always introspectively obvious. Moreover, some thoroughly unvirtuous prudential and moral dispositions involve, if they are deeply embedded psychologically, thinking that one is not in such a state; being self-righteous or being self-satisfied are perhaps examples.

      Let me give an example of the difficulty of knowing whether one’s emotion is skewing one’s epistemic landscape. A long time ago you were very angry with a colleague at work because he failed to turn up to a meeting that you were chairing, and at which his presence was essential. How could he do this when he promised to be there! You thought your anger to be thoroughly justified, on the grounds of his being so unreliable and inconsiderate. The following day, though, he came to see you with a full explanation, and was extremely apologetic. His son had been taken suddenly ill, and had to be rushed to hospital, and there was no chance of getting to a ‘phone; and so on. You put your anger behind you, as you should do, realising that your anger, although understandable at the time, was not justified, for he really had a good reason not to be there, and a good reason why he could not give you advance warning. Later still—much later—you are asked to provide a reference about this colleague. Without your realising it, the content of what you say is affected by the residue of your anger, which still lies deep in the recesses of your mind. Of course, you do not go so far as to state outright that he is unreliable and inconsiderate, for your memory of the incident is at best only hazy; and anyway, as it later emerged, he was neither unreliable nor inconsiderate on that occasion. But still, unknown to you, for you think that you are being fair and dispassionate in what you say, your reference is not as favourable as it would have been if the incident had never taken place. Aware of the requirement of intellectual virtue, which is a virtue that you aspire to, you ask yourself, ‘Am I emotionally involved here? Because if I am, I should be especially watchful.’ But the answer comes back ‘No, I am not emotionally involved’; moreover, you might sense a certain puzzlement as to what sort of emotion might be at work on this occasion. And if you were reminded of the long-past incident, you might insist that any anger that you felt all that time ago is no longer at work, distorting reason.

      The above is copied from the book Emotion, Reason and Virtue by Peter Goldie, University of Manchester and were excerpted from a PDF file that can be found at the top of this Google search: Emotional Feelings: Are They a Source of Knowledge (copy/paste into Google)


      TL;DR - Emotions can easily distort our understanding of things, and furthermore we are incapable of knowing when this is happening. Therefore it's problematic to call anything garnered from emotion or intuition knowledge.

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      You know my position on the subject already. Yes, for me feelings and intuition are valid sources of knowledge. Furthermore, I believe that all knowledge comes with feelings attached to it. For example, some people believe that objectivity is desirable in debates and is superior to subjectivity, however one way of viewing that point of view is that these people have positive feelings about objectivity and negative feelings about subjectivity. Whenever someone thinks they know a truth, they have a good feeling about that, and a bad feeling about the opposite of their view, unless they are open minded enough to try hard not to have negative emotions about views that differ from their own, in which case they probably have positive feelings about open mindedness and negative feelings about narrow mindedness. The chess expert probably feels good about her level of expertise and gains satisfaction from the game in addition to using logic to win the game, she also has an emotional stake in winning even if she tries to suppress that emotion and keep her cool about it. I just do not believe that thoughts and emotions can be separated, and knowledge and feelings go hand in hand, even though emotions distort knowledge but they also add richness to it, plus without emotions there would be no desire for knowledge, since seeking knowledge is driven by satisfaction gained from knowledge or dissatisfaction with ignorance, whereas stagnation in knowledge is driven by apathy or stubbornness, etc.
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      Yes, all these things you say are true (maybe not all, I'd need to look it over again to say that) - but you're not answering the question. At least not in a satisfying way. And I don't mean just satisfying to me, I mean to satisfy the actual point of the original question.

      The question wasn't "Do you like emotions" or "Are emotions important?"

      It was "Are feelings and intuitions a valid source of knowledge?"

      You haven't given any reason to consider anything derived from intuition or emotion to be validly considered knowledge. You haven't refuted any of the points brought up in the OP.

      I've demonstrated - quite well - the way emotions can be distorted with the person being completely unaware that they are. How do you counter this?

      You seem to be consistently trying to redefine either the word knowledge or the words intuition and emotion. They have very little if any overlap. Why is it so important for you to consider your faith and belief to be knowledge rather than just faith and belief? By saying they're not synonymous I'm not trying to degrade the value of belief and faith, Ilm simply pointing out that those things are different from what most people would consider knowledge. If you want to call them knowledge it seems to me you need to somehow present a clear statement explaining how a person can reliably obtain knowledge from such notoriously subjective and distortion-prone sources.

      And by subjective I mean this - Let's say Im standing in a group of people and holding a shoe in my hand. Everyone can see it, feel it, and if we discuss it it becomes clear we all see and feel it the same way - the same colors, textures, etc. But a feeling or intuition is not like that. It's something that exists only inside one persons head and can't be shared with others directly, only through explanation.

      Your trying to redefine terms without being able to justify it in any way smacks of cognitive dissonance. And the fact that you want so badly to redefine them makes it seem like you don't feel that faith and belief alone are good enough. I always thought religion was faith-based - I don't know why people now seem to want to try to justify it as being something else.

      Plato famously defined knowledge as "justified true belief." I don't see how a belief in God can be justified as true since there's no possible way to verify it.


      **EDIT

      some people believe that objectivity is desirable in debates and is superior to subjectivity, however one way of viewing that point of view is that these people have positive feelings about objectivity and negative feelings about subjectivity.
      Objectivity isn't just desirable in a debate, it's pretty much necessary. Not just because of people's feelings about it, but because a debate is the rational discussion of ideas, and if it becomes emotional then it's not a debate anymore but an argument. In a debate you need to present your ideas rationally and be able to defend them rationally. If someone enters a debate and then starts getting emotional they they've failed as a debater.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 07-03-2013 at 03:56 AM.

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      I believe that no two people truly have the same definition of complex concepts such as "knowledge", even if they think they do, because two people will bring different experiences and different understandings to that concept. One can find dictionary definitions, and then argue over which dictionary to use and what the words in the definition mean, and which connotations are valid, but I think that there is more than one right definition. The problem with any communication between any two thinkers is that their concepts will have different meanings, and thus communication is flawed, however, I do not believe this can be avoided because the only way that any two people could have the same meaning for the same complex concepts would be if they had been thoroughly brainwashed after having experienced exactly the same life. Btw, religion has always used the words knowledge and truth, and thus these words have valid theological meaning to believers. No one group owns these complex terms which have many connotations and many meanings.

      For example: I googled knowledge meaning, and according to google, knowledge is defined as "Information and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject." And when I read that I say, right so that includes spiritual and emotional experience and theological education of course, and while spirituality is mostly theoretical but then there are practical aspects of it such as moral values with practical applications to how we live our lives, so clearly this definition includes faith as a branch of knowledge, when I read it. Of course, I know that you will read the same definition, and interpret it completely differently. But I am ok with that, and I appreciate learning about your definiton of knowledge, but I am certainly not going to just swap my definition of knowledge for yours, although of course by interacting with you, I may revise my definition.
      Last edited by JoannaB; 07-03-2013 at 04:12 AM.
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      Ok, good points. And I do concede that you're absolutely right, there are many different definitions of knowledge. I guess you're using the gnostic definition, which I'm not very familiar with. Hmmm.. you know, you could have actually taken a moment to google it and post it here, rather than expect everybody to look it up for themselves!

      Let me google that real quick:

      Gnosis is the common Greek noun for knowledge (in the nominative case γνῶσις f.). In the context of the English language gnosis generally refers to the word's meaning within the spheres of Christian mysticism, Mystery religions and Gnosticism where it signifies a 'spiritual knowledge' or religion of knowledge, in the sense of mystical enlightenment or 'insight'. Gnosis taught a deliverance of man from the constraints of earthly existence through 'insight' into an essential relationship, as soul or spirit, with a supramundane place of freedom.[1]

      Gnosis is a feminine Greek noun, which means "knowledge."[2] It is often used for personal knowledge compared with intellectual knowledge (eidein), as with the French connaitre compared with savoir, or the German kennen rather than wissen.[3]
      So yeah, you definitely mean something very different by knowledge than I do (or is your definition different from Gnosis?) Atheists tend to mean factual understanding that can be demonstrated to be true, whereas Gnosis seems to refer more to what I'd call faith or belief. So I guess we're both right in a sense - you certainly can say that intuition and emotion can provide knowledge in the gnostic sense, but I'm also right in differentiating that from the intellectual knowledge that an atheist would acknowledge as knowledge.

      Lol now I've said the word too many times (mostly just in that last sentence!) and it's losing all sense of meaning...
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 07-03-2013 at 04:46 AM.

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      I don't think they are a valid source of knowledge at all, in fact, I don't think you can gain any knowledge from them what so ever. What I think they are good for is interrupting data. Intuition is just processing data quickly, and for it to be accurate you need to already be knowledgeable of a subject. If you lack the knowledge on a subject then intuition is worthless.

      Emotions are the same, and don't provide new information at all. The emotions are based off our past experiences with things, and we try to judge things based off that experiences. Which is why so many people have irrational fears, because at some point something happened that seemed bad to them, and that past experience colors their emotions towards things that are similar. Those emotions are only as good as the initial experience however and if you face something totally new and original your emotions are not going to be useful for figuring out that new situation. The only time they are useful, is if the new situation is similar to an old one you experienced.

      So no, I don't think either are a useful source of information or knowledge. They provide no knowledge what so ever, and they are only as good at the information you already have. If you got bad information they are going to give bad results.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      Ok, good points. And I do concede that you're absolutely right, there are many different definitions of knowledge. I guess you're using the gnostic definition, which I'm not very familiar with. Hmmm.. you know, you could have actually taken a moment to google it and post it here, rather than expect everybody to look it up for themselves!

      Let me google that real quick:



      So yeah, you definitely mean something very different by knowledge than I do (or is your definition different from Gnosis?) Atheists tend to mean factual understanding that can be demonstrated to be true, whereas Gnosis seems to refer more to what I'd call faith or belief. So I guess we're both right in a sense - you certainly can say that intuition and emotion can provide knowledge in the gnostic sense, but I'm also right in differentiating that from the intellectual knowledge than an atheist would acknowledge as knowledge.

      Lol now I've said the word too many times (mostly just in that last sentence!) and it's losing all sense of meaning...
      No, my definition of knowledge is definitely not gnostic. In fact, gnostic ideas are very far from my own beliefs. "Gnosis taught a deliverance of man from the constraints of earthly existence" that is definitely not something I believe: I do not believe that earthly existence is something evil to be delivered from.

      This definition provided on the following site is close to what my understanding of knowledge is “What is Knowledge?” | Thoughtful Christianity - and please note that for me this is the same knowledge that applies to religious truth as well as to scientific facts, I know them the same way: I use the same set of different tools to examine their truth claims, and for all subjects of knowledge doubt is equally appropriate and does not contradict knowledge at all. I do not know anything without the possibility of doubt.
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      Ok, that article seems to be trying to justify belief and faith as knowledge, in much the same way Gnosticism does. It says you can have knowledge without knowing how you know, and even without knowing that you know. If this is to be called knowledge, then the term knowledge means the same thing as belief or faith, We already have terms for those, why take another one, which most people agree means something quite different, and redefine it to mean the same thing?

      You still have no way to ascertain whether the ideas garnered through intuition or emotion are accurate. Especially if they concern an invisible, intangible being who exists outside of the physical world and can't be observed in any way.

      It's intellectually dishonest to use the term knowledge in this way knowing that people who aren't religious don't consider this knowledge at all. Why not just call it faith or belief? It seems like apologia, like an attempt to legitimize faith and pretend like it's somehow the same thing as facts.

      And this type of "knowledge" is not the same as more concrete knowledge, like the knowledge that there's a red car sitting in the driveway because you can see it there, which can be factually verified by anybody else who can see it. You say that in the grand sense all knowledge is subjective, and that's arguably true, but some things are what we call objectively true, because anyone present can verify them. A completely subjective idea that only exists in one person's head is not verifiable to anyone else, and is on a far more complete level of subjectiveness than verifiable facts.

      It's also true that memories of an event can be very different between different witnesses, but that's largely because they see different parts of an incident and because memory is not perfect. If a group of people are all standing together and I point and say "Look - do you all see that red car?" then there's none of that distortion or subjectivity involved. There might be a colorblind (or blind) person who fails to verify some aspect of it, but that's due to a known and verifiable lack of proper vision on their part, not subjectivity. Or someone might be standing where they can't se the car, but as soon as they move then they can see it too. None of this is true for ideas or feelings that only exist in one person's head.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 07-03-2013 at 05:11 AM.

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      In general if you're after the truth, I think you're much better off scrutinizing yourself for any type of bias or emotion, and doing your best to bracket it out. Evolution has unfortunately left us rather predisposed to believe what we want to believe, which makes sense when you consider the fact that the evolutionarily newer brain regions capable of reasoning and higher functions were simply placed on top of the older much more biased and present moment pleasure oriented regions, and these newer regions are often left subject to the whims of the older ones. We now for a fact that lots of un ideal forces are at play in the forming of our opinions, such as confirmation bias, motivated reasoning, and the halo effect. We also rather often aren't aware of why we believe what we believe, a belief that was formed from hard evidence feels the same as one that was formed from shoddy inference.

      Though I am aware of some work in psychology that suggests that experts, making decisions in their fields, are sometimes better off going with their intuition. (I believe this may have been the work of eminent psychologist and nobel laureteate Daniel Kahneman)
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      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      Ok, that article seems to be trying to justify belief and faith as knowledge, in much the same way Gnosticism does. It says you can have knowledge without knowing how you know, and even without knowing that you know. If this is to be called knowledge, then the term knowledge means the same thing as belief or faith, We already have terms for those, why take another one, which most people agree means something quite different, and redefine it to mean the same thing?

      You still have no way to ascertain whether the ideas garnered through intuition or emotion are accurate. Especially if they concern an invisible, intangible being who exists outside of the physical world and can't be observed in any way.

      It's intellectually dishonest to use the term knowledge in this way knowing that people who aren't religious don't consider this knowledge at all. Why not just call it faith or belief? It seems like apologia, like an attempt to legitimize faith and pretend like it's somehow the same thing as facts.
      Knowledge is completely different than faith. This article explains this. Knowledge can be acquired by different methods which include the five senses and logic and empirical experiments etc. but also include intuition, conscience, etc. - but some of these sources are only appropriate for certain subjects: the sources of knowledge about spiritual matters are different than the sources of knowledge about medicine, although i may still use my intuition as part of the decision making process for whether to go to the doctors or to try home remedies for another day but intuition is of only limited importance there and i am more likely to look at medical knowledge sources that are external to myself, especially doctors who have studied medicine or medical journal articles or pharmacists etc. There are different ways of acquiring knowledge. Yours is a very exclusive definition of knowledge, mine is broader. I do not dispute that your definition of knowledge is correct, I just believe that the term is broader than you define it. And your argument that this is a dishonest use of the term knowledge is not helpful to me at all. No one group owns the term "knowledge" - this is a broad complex concept that has been used for many generations with many connotations, and each person who believe a definition of knowledge believes that theirs is the correct definition. Although I believe that mine is not the only correct definition, it is however the correct definition of the term for me and for many Christians.
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      Why is intuition valid for spiritual matters but not medicine? Seems like if you take spiritual matters seriously and were looking for the truth you would hold the knowledge to the same rigors you would in science and medicine.

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      You talk about knowledge of the spiritual - in what way is that different from faith or belief?

      It's not verifiable. You have no way to know if it's correct or just wishful thinking or bias. If we broaden the definition of knowledge to include things like that, then we'd no longer need the terms faith or belief, they would then just be synonymous with knowledge and we'd need a new term for factual, verifiable knowledge.

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      On emotional versus theoretical concepts:
      The two are not mutually exclusive and therefore the grey area that links them leaves much to circumstance.

      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      ...Moreover, chess experts and experienced scientists should aim to be intellectually virtuous, able to rely on their habits and dispositions of thought so that doubts and questions arise about the content of their perceptions when and only when they should.
      The when and only when part is crucial, and I would guess that those deemed experts at such a thing might be a special case.

      The sense of balance necessary for judging emotion as important versus non-emotion as important, while simultaneously giving precedence to the importance of fact (observable or otherwise)...that is a fine line that as you said yourself can be easily skewed.

      Because emotion tends to be a contributing factor whether we'd like it to be or not in most cases, an expert would be one who could--from experience cross-referenced with an accurate empirical understanding of the circumstances, among other things--be able to make judgements based on a solid combination of both the perceptual and theoretical at any given time.

      If this kind of knowledge were to be instinctual, and in that sense immediate...yes I'd certainly call that person an expert. That's not to say this "expert" would be purely unemotional...in fact I would doubt that, considering it takes a certain kind of passion to endeavor to understand something wholly and from all angles.

      Given the often erratic nature of emotions, and the generally stable nature of empirical knowledge...I would be inclined to say that emotion is valid but only in the sense that it often dictates where we focus our efforts. This is where emotion can, as you said, either help or hinder an inquisitive mind depending on the circumstances. It is what distinguishes an individuals perspective as a shade of grey amongst the obvious black and white.

      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      ...Emotions can easily distort our understanding of things, and furthermore we are incapable of knowing when this is happening. Therefore it's problematic to call anything garnered from emotion or intuition knowledge.
      As for navigating the grey area that less-than-experts can have trouble distinguishing...I personally would rather anchor myself to concrete knowledge. Or better yet a harmonious combination of both.

      Emotional perception might lead me down a rabbit hole, but concrete knowledge--even the kind that must come with the realization that i am perceptually limited in the understanding of--that at least gives me a foothold along the way.

      The way I see it, the former represents the interest...and the latter describes the efforts toward that end. If truth is given priority, a balance between the two seems like the ideal outcome.

      That might just be a value judgement on my part though.

      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      Do emotions enable us to see things in their true light, as we would not be able to do if we were not capable of experiencing emotion?
      Just as an aside, I can relate to that last example. And if I allowed myself to skew toward emotions, I would in all likelihood be giving a valid...yet possibly incomplete and/or innacurate description of the individual. Because I am no expert, I would be satisfied if I were able to strike a balanced chord between what I know to be true and what I feel to be true.

      Knowledge in that sense, as you have since noted, is a kind less strictly defined than cold objective facts.



      But I've been drinking, so that tells you something about my emotional/perceptual bearings.
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      Quote Originally Posted by Alric View Post
      I don't think they are a valid source of knowledge at all, in fact, I don't think you can gain any knowledge from them what so ever. What I think they are good for is interrupting data. Intuition is just processing data quickly, and for it to be accurate you need to already be knowledgeable of a subject. If you lack the knowledge on a subject then intuition is worthless.

      Emotions are the same, and don't provide new information at all. The emotions are based off our past experiences with things, and we try to judge things based off that experiences. Which is why so many people have irrational fears, because at some point something happened that seemed bad to them, and that past experience colors their emotions towards things that are similar. Those emotions are only as good as the initial experience however and if you face something totally new and original your emotions are not going to be useful for figuring out that new situation. The only time they are useful, is if the new situation is similar to an old one you experienced.

      So no, I don't think either are a useful source of information or knowledge. They provide no knowledge what so ever, and they are only as good at the information you already have. If you got bad information they are going to give bad results.

      Emotions provide knowledge about yourself, thats seriously important. A simple way to understand how emotions reveal important information for your life is this: What feels good? What feels bad? (this is not a question of morality, but a reflection of the choices you've made)

      But for the sake of this discussion, its good to separate emotions from intuition. Emotions are generally subconscious reactions to a situation. (depression and peace being exceptions) For the most part, emotions are temporary states of being and we feel we have little control over them.

      Intuition on the other hand doesn't seem to be a reaction to any certain event. It's generally a very subtle feeling - only in rare cases is it ever strong. Intuition is also a long lasting persistent feeling- lasting months, years! And over time, that persistent feeling can grow stronger and stronger until you feel crazy not to listen.

      A lot of people give intuition a bad rap, because they think its judging a situation emotionally. Intuition is not about judging a situation emotionally. Rather it is knowledge that you EXPERIENCE emotionally, however the knowledge was still a logical brain process. Its like this, imagine a music cd. Imagine all the digital information that cd has. But you don't experience that cd as digital computer information, no, you hear music. Intuition may be a feeling - but theres a hotbed of information behind it.

      I dont know if all scientists agree with this but, theres a theory out there that pretty much says intuition is a function of the right brain. Now the left brain and the right brain process information differently. Its been said, because of how the right brain functions it can logically understand the 'big picture' better than your left brain. Right brain - big picture. Left brain - details.

      In other words, while your right brain has come to some sort of understanding, the left brain is still fitting the pieces together. Unfortunately for the right brain, it doesn't convey ideas with words or numbers. It conveys ideas with emotions and pictures - and there you have intuition. Right brain knowledge that you experience prior to the left brain being able to explain it.

      In middle school, I had a deep intuitive feeling that there was something really wrong about suburbia, something that made life feel meaningless. All in all the american dream made me depressed, but I couldn't give you any concise reasons why.

      It wasnt until college that I started to hear arguments that suburbia actually destroys a sense of community-which is like essential for our human needs. My left brain finally understood what my right knew for all those years!

      That's how intuition works. It's extremely important that we dont ignore it, it is after all a legitimate brain function.

      A logical left brain without intuition lacks foresight! The deficiency of foresight is why we are in a huge environmental mess. Plastic bottles? Great for business. You think they planned to drown the sea in plastic? No one saw it coming. Our entire culture thinks almost solely with the left brain. Without engaging in that creative right brain - we are deficient in foresight.

      Now, a lot of people think listening to intuition is dangerous. Its not dangerous, its more dangerous to ignore it. Almost all of formal education is geared for the left. We don't really study emotions in school. And we sure as hell didn't understand our own emotions as students. So I can understand why theres a lot of mistrust when it comes to following intuition. "I followed my heart and now my heart is broken!".

      The real problem is people are confusing emotions with intuition.

      Following intuition = good. Following emotions = bad. Emotions are reactions! Basing an important decision off a fleeting emotion can be really really bad. I mean, tomorrow you might feel completely different!

      Unfortunately, people trying to follow their own intuition end up following fleeting temporary emotions. But the more you spend time on self-reflecting your feelings the more you can spot the difference. Intuition is not fleeting.

      That intuitive feeling can be described as "the feeling that you know or understand something prior to putting it in words". This intuitive feeling is never 'anger' 'hatred' or even 'passion'. Its simply that subtle feeling of knowing.

      So, because intuition is wrapped up in spiritual circles, some people conclude its the folly of religion and anti-logic and anti-science. Its not anti-science because its not anti-logic. Its simply how the right brain packages and delivers information. Lots of scientists follow their intuition when setting up experiments. And because intuition is not the experience of anger or hatred, it has nothing to do with any self-righteous fundie casting judgement on another.

      Does this mean that intuition is always right? Of course not. However, because the right brain deals with the big picture, when it comes to important decisions, its wisdom is greater than that of the left. Of course an even better brain is one that uses both equally.

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      ^ I completely agree!!

      The only thing I would add, which really you pretty well covered right at the end, is that it can be hard to tell what's intuition from what's something else that we THINK is intuition. The right brain is the dreaming brain for the most part - and I don't think many people would always trust that their dreams are factually true. Though as you say the right brain and intuition deal with knowledge of the self quite well - as long as you can interpret them correctly dreams often do contain quite factual information, though expressed symbolically. When an intuition is about something external to the self, that's when there can be some doubt.

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      Is baffled, how can you completely agree with juroara and disagree with me. I completely agree with juroara.

      Edit: the following thought occurred to me. I really have no irrefutable proof that my five senses and logic are more reliable than intuition. Yes, intuition is faulty and may be wrong, but my five senses may be wrong as well as can logic. I believe in God, and I believe that the chair that I am sitting on in real. The sources of those two beliefs are different, however both are refutable and may in fact be wrong. I do not find it useful to regularly doubt the existence of my chair, but I do find it useful to acknowledge that there is room for doubt there.
      Last edited by JoannaB; 07-03-2013 at 05:21 PM.
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      So you agree with Juroara that you can never really tell if intuition is correct or not, especially when it concerns something outside of yourself?

      I provided several examples of how the evidence of the senses can be verified - such as one person holding up a shoe and asking the others if they see it the same way he does, or pointing to a red car across the street and asking what they see there.

      How could you verify intuitions?

      I know you're going to say "But the other people who verify could just be illusions"- of course that whole argument goes nowhere. If we live in an illusion then obviously we can't really know anything, including through intuition. But if we assume as we all do that reality is at least for the most part as we percieve it (it does have a incredible consistency after all, much more than dreams do) then the evidence of the senses IS verifiable.

      Even if you want to insist on the fact that we can't really be SURE, the evidence of the senses is much more verifiable than intuition, at least within that illusion, which we have no evidence is actually not reality. So unless you can provide some reason to really doubt reality, then it makes no sense to live your life assuming the reality we sense around us doesn't actually exist. If you truly believed that then how could you live at all? You wouldn't sit in chairs because they could just be illusion, and yet you do sit in chairs, and you drive your car, and you live your life in absolutely every way as if you honestly beliefe this so-called "illusion" is actually reality, don't you? Therefore your argument that you don't believe it is real falls flat.

      I posit that even though there is some reason to wonder whether reality is exactly as we perceive it, we all live our lives as if it is absolutely real, and furthermore we have no other choice really. If you try to ignore any pressing matter presented in this possibly false reality, such as paying bills or stopping before you go in front of an oncoming bus that's about to hit you, then you will suffer the consequences of those actions just as you would if reality actually is an illusion. Therefore it's really only a nifty philosophical question that has no actual bearing on how we live our lives.

      TLR

      If reality IS an illusion, it's so consistent and so persistent that we are still forced to live in it as if it's reality, so for all practical intents and purposes it is our reality. When it's impossible to tell illusion from reality then what meaning is there in calling it illusion? It is our reality.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 07-03-2013 at 09:54 PM.

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      Ah, but one person holding up a shoe and asking another to confirm whether they see the same is not really verification because what if you hear what you want to hear? What if that other person does not really exist? What if they say they see a shoe but what they mean by that is actually completely different than what you mean by it? I think the thing that I know with the least amount of doubt is that "I exist now" however since I may be completely wrong about who I am, what existence is, and if no other moment exists other than now (and if it does not then now becomes meaningless), so really even that is open to doubt.

      Yes, it may be hard or even impossible to verify whether my intuition is correct, I can believe it is but I may be wrong. However, the same applies to knowledge gained through five senses and logic to some extent. Now you may say that five senses and logic are more reliable than intuition or conscience, and maybe they are but there is room for doubt with any knowledge no matter how it was acquired, and even if we admit that some sources of knowledge are more reliable than others, that does not mean that the less reliable sources are completely invalid just that the chance of being wrong is higher and that it is harder or impossible to prove to other people one's truth claims based on those sources.

      I trust information from sites with .edu or .gov domains more than one's ending with .com, but I understand that someone else may trust .com more and distrust .gov sites. I trust some newspapers more than others. I trust some people more than others. You of course trust a different set of people than I do. Some people trust logic and five senses as the sources of knowledge, and distrust feelings and intuition. Others trust feelings and intuition more. I wouldn't necessarily say that I trust feelings and intuition more than five senses and logic, but for me all of them are in the running as sources for potential knowledge verification, even if their reliability is different.

      Does this make my position clearer?

      Edit: Lest you think that I actually seriously doubt the existence of other people and of time, let me assure you that most of the time I do not. I believe that my five senses are actually probably very reliable much of the time and probably convey a real reality out there externally to me. However, I believe that this belief also requires a certain amount of faith in my five senses, and it is not a given that cannot be doubted. And the same applies to intuition even if i agree that it is less reliable.
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      Well, which is it? You spent most of that post asserting that you're a solipsist, who believes the internal world is real but the external one isn't, and then at the end you say you don't really believe that. And as I already said, your day to day actions indicate that you really aren't a solipsist, otherwise why would you go through the useless actions of paying bills and driving to work etc?

      You're saying "If reality is an illusion, then we can't trust verification any more than intuition because we don't know anything at all". But you also say that you agree that most likely reality is at least for the most part real, and if that's true, then obviously verification is extremely strong evidence - in fact very close to the point of being objective proof (at least as close as anything can be to objective proof). And, assuming reality is actually real, intuition can't be verified and comes from a part of the mind that's notorious for distorting things and presenting them in symbolic ways and also for supplying confirmation bias etc.

      When you don't know the source of a thought you don't know whether to trust that thought or not. And an intuition comes from unknown source. It could be divine or spiritual, it could be from the irrational unconscious.

      Also, arguing for solipsism indicates desperation. Usually when people in a religious debate fall back on "we can't really know anything!" it means they're pretty well out of sensible arguments. Most people see it like this - we can't know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this reality is actually what it seems, but there's no reason to assume it isn't, and unless we don't care about dying we still need to live our lives as if it is real, so as long as we exist here in this 'reality' (whatever it may really be) we're forced to accept it as real. Everything else starts from that assumption.

      So if you're really going to use the argument from solipsism, then nothing else you say has any meaning because you don't believe we can understand the nature of our world. At best all that does is put intuition and verification both in serious doubt. It doesn't indicate that intuition is somehow reliable if solipsism is true.

      So either intuition and verification are both useless (solipsism), or verification is good strong evidence and intuition isn't (accepting that reality is mostly as we perceive it to be). In neither argument does intuition take on any real validity as knowledge (unless you define knowledge as belief).
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 07-03-2013 at 10:34 PM.

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      Just a few points:

      Rather it is knowledge that you EXPERIENCE emotionally, however the knowledge was still a logical brain process. Its like this, imagine a music cd. Imagine all the digital information that cd has. But you don't experience that cd as digital computer information, no, you hear music. Intuition may be a feeling - but theres a hotbed of information behind it.
      I agree with everything you said, except the part where you state that intuition is knowledge you experience emotionally. I'll use the neuroscience background to develop this disagreement:

      Intuition is simply unconscious processing. It basically derives from earlier knowledge (and here I agree with Alric), but it's not necessarily related to emotion. The thing might provoke emotion is actually the fact that you can't justify your intuition. This is because the conclusion you've reached had it's processed hidden, as the means for it were unconscious. One example of the mechanism of intuition is pattern recognition. We tend to have more intuitions with things that hold any resemblance to a situation we've found previously. The thing is, we might not even be aware of this resemblance, but if our brain is, chances are that we are going to end up with an intuition, besides not knowing anything about the subject. This method of subconscious processing can be seen in many experiments. For example:

      A group of people draws cards from 2 decks: picking a red card from any of it gives the person 20 dollars, and a black card the person looses 20 dollars. There's a pattern that defines that a certain deck gives bad results, but it's not easy to spot. The thing is, people can at some point start avoiding that deck several rounds before they even understanding that the experiment is controlled and one deck is bad. This is pattern recognition unconscious processing, and the intuition that a deck is bad a result of it.

      The other component of intuition is heuristics. As most of you may know, they refer to shortcuts our brain uses to act and think about something. Heuristics are of course very useful, because otherwise we'd take ages to process many things we face during the day. They can also trigger an intuition, so it's not always a bad thing to follow it. The most important thing is finding out what triggered the intuition: that is the best way to determine if you should follow it or not. Of course, it's not always enough.

      But sorry, only gave a quick read to the replies, will continue reading ^^
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      No, I am not really a solipsist, you are right, although I do believe that no knowledge is 100% out of doubt's grasp and that includes empirical knowledge, but most of the time I trust empirical knowledge. Most of the time I also trust my intuition, although I realize that it may be more risky to do so. The risk of being wrong is larger. However, on some issues the five senses and logic are in my opinion inadequate, and thus I must use additional tools to find out about such issues. I approach knowledge using a tool box, and my tool box includes logic, my five senses, authority, intuition and/or conscience, feelings, etc. Now for some subject matters I rely more on some of these tools than others because I believe that for those subject matters these tools are more reliable than others. For example, on the subject matter of evolution I rely on the authority of scientists and on my logical evaluation of their arguments. However, on issues of religion I trust a completely different set of tools. On the issue of good parenting, however, I use yet another set of tools and there intuition and feelings are very powerful tools alongside with reason and empirical observation.
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      ^ I completely agree with everything you just said.

      It seems the only point we disagree on is calling intuition knowledge. And as long as I understand that you're using a different criteria for spiritual knowledge than you do for more objective knowledge (Notice I said more objective, not totally objective, as I agree we can't know anything totally objectively, though obviously some things have a lot more objective truth to them than others).

      As long as I understand this difference in the meaning of the word knowledge, then I don't have a problem with you using it that way except for one thing. Most people who haven't been involved in this discussion don't understand that it means something different. They automatically assume you're using it to mean the same thing they mean by knowledge, which gives it more credibility than it deserves.

      And I understand you're not doing that deliberately, you've just always understood the term in that way, and that whenever anybody talks about religious or spiritual knowledge it's to be taken as something different from factual knowledge. However, I'm quite sure that at some point some clever theologian realized that if he gets religious/spiritual people to use the term in this way then, without their realizing it's a deception, they can gain some credibility. The people like yourself aren't implicit in this, they're pawns being manipulated by an evil genius behind the scenes who understood the political power of re-defining words (a favorite trick of people who want to gain legitimacy for dubious claims).

      So now there are armies of people using the term in that way, not knowing that they're being used as pawns in a political game.

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      Ah whereas I think that your definition of knowledge is more narrow than many other people's but that does not mean that anyone is necessarily wrong: the term knowledge is a complex term that has been used to describe many things by many people in many contexts because all these people considered that the term knowledge fit more than one definition.

      Consider the following:

      I know that the earth is round.
      I know my husband.
      I know myself.
      I know what the issue is.
      I know what I like.
      I know the truth.
      I know that I may be wrong.
      I know this person from somewhere but do not remember where.
      I know the difference between art and trash.
      I know what it is like to be a teenager.
      I know that my son could not have committed this crime.
      I know how much 2+2 is.

      And I could give many other statements like this. The term knowledge has different meanings in different contexts. And I do not believe it is right to exclude others' definitions of the term as long as it is a definition that is acceptable in some context, by some group, for some purposes. I provided you the link to the Christian definition of knowledge, and when I talk about faith that is pretty much the definition I use. Now the fact that it took me very little time to google and find that link means that this is a pretty well established definition of knowledge, and I don't think it is just to dismiss it only because you do not belong to the subculture that uses the term knowledge that way. Similarly, it would not be just for me to say that you are delusional in defining knowledge the way you do: your definition of knowledge is also valid, and it is an acceptable definition of the term, used by many people, and just because my definition of knowledge is different from yours does not invalidate either definition.

      Also as the statements above show the meaning of the term knowledge changes depending on context: if I were in a physics class and we had a lab experiment, and my professor asked based on that experiment what do we know, I would consider anyone who cited their intuition in that context to be nuts, ok?
      Last edited by JoannaB; 07-04-2013 at 12:39 AM.
      You may say I'm a dreamer.
      But I'm not the only one
      - John Lennon

    24. #24
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      Didn't we just cover this? I said I'm fine with your using that definition now that I understand it's quite different from a scientific or factual understanding of knowledge. I just think it's only fair to make sure other atheists understand that's how you're using it, because it should be obvious to you immediately that if somebody says "But intuition isn't knowledge" that they're assuming you mean factual knowledge. I assure you, once you make it clear you're using a much broader definition that doesn't imply factual truth then they won't have a problem with it anymore.

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      Except that I am also not comfortable with your definition of factual and of truth, or rather for me the statement that I do not believe that God is part of factual truth implies I do not really believe that God exists, and I very much do believe he exists.
      You may say I'm a dreamer.
      But I'm not the only one
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