Rational Degree of Belief

I am a statistician by training and profession. I enjoy wrestling with the philosophical underpinnings of probability, logic, epistemology, etc. particularly what it means to know something.  A statistician’s main objective is to quantify uncertainty about a given proposition using models that reflect a belief consistent with all available data. Physics is also based on useful models that are consistent with observed/observable data. The laws of nature may not be changing, but the mathematical formulas we use to describe them can and do change; ask Newton (and possibly Einstein.)

So when can we ever be thought to KNOW something given that new data always seem to throw a monkey wrench into our neat little models? I Like Lord Keynes’ perspective:

If a man believes something for a reason which is preposterous or for no reason at all, and what he believes turns out to be true for some reason not known to him, he cannot be said to believe it rationally, although he believes it and it is in fact true.  On the other hand, a man may rationally believe a proposition to be probable when it is in fact false.  The distinction between rational belief and mere belief, therefore, is not the same as the distinction between true beliefs and false beliefs.  The highest degree of rational belief, which is termed certain rational belief, corresponds to knowledge.  We may be said to know a thing when we have a certain rational belief in it.

– A Treatise on Probability, John Maynard Keynes, 1921

Through my own experiences I have come to know, or attained a certain rational belief, that there is a God in Heaven who is mindful of his children.  Nothing is more certain.  In the coming posts I will show how I came to this knowledge.

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