The Outsider Test is Hypothetical....

Earlier I proposed an Outsider Test here for all metaphysical and religious commitments.

Let me clarify one misconception about this proposed test based on the following sets of forseen criticisms:

It's impossible to actually test every metaphysical commitment at the same time, since we can never be outsiders to everything. Furthermore, anytime we do test another belief system we do so from inside a different belief system which we are assuming and not at that precise moment testing. That is, we always operate from the inside of some kind of control belief or system. So the objection is that a person can hardly be blamed for not doing something that is impossible to do.

But I never said we could actually test our metaphysical commitments this way. It's a hypothetical test. Scientists and especially philosophers imagine hypothetical thought experiments all of the time.

So let's call this a hypothetical thought experimental test.

What lessons can we learn from it?

Answer that for me, and you'll know what I have been getting at.


Evan May said...

It is a "hypothetical test" in what way?

I say that there are no “outsiders”. I say that it is impossible for someone to step outside of his worldview in order to be an "outsider" to take such an "outsider's test." But you say that it is "hypothetical." But at the same time you want Christians to participate in it. So how does saying "it is a hypothetical test" solve the problem that it is a test that no one can take, and yet you are asking people to take it?

Anonymous said...

I think the hypothetical outsider test helps us realize a few things: 1) Our metaphysical and religious beliefs are dependent to a great extent on the "accidents of history" (when and where we are born) primarily because there are no agreed upon empirical tests to decide between these metaphysical and religious belief systems; 2) Judging from the history of religion it seems undeniable that any religious or metaphysical belief system can incorporate into it any known experiences and so-called “facts” with only a few Kuhnsian anomalies left over. 3) Therefore, a healthy measure of skepticism is warranted when approaching any religious or metaphysical belief system. Skepticism is a virtue.

And since the above three things are true 4) we would do well to question the social conditions of how we came to adopt a particular religious belief in the first place, that is, who or what influenced us, and what were the actual reasons for adopting that belief in its earliest stages.

If you've read my Conversion/deconversion story, I had no initial reasons for adopting the Christian faith, except that everyone I had ever met believed. The reason I adopted it in the first place was because of social conditions--no one I knew doubted it and I concluded at the age of 18 that therefore it must be true. These social conditions provided me the control belief schematic that I used from that moment on to incorporate all known facts and experiences of mine. That’s why they’re called control beliefs…they are like blinders, and from that moment on you only see what your blinders will let you see.

Case in point: Consider the militant Muslims in the world who would nuke us if they could. Don't you wish they would be skeptical of how they adopted their faith in the first place? If so, then why won't you?

Evan May said...


You haven't told me how you solve the problem that there are no outsiders, and yet you want everyone to take some "Outsider's Test."

Your only attempt to solve this has been to call the test "hypothetical," yet you are still wanting us to take a test that is impossible to take.

Anonymous said...

I think The Outsider Test boils down to having a healthy measure of skepticism about what you believe because of several factors which I have laid out. It asks us to really test why we came to believe in the first place, since all of us begin believing because of social factors--all of us!

I just don't think there is anything unfair with asking you to use skepticism as a test, given the factors I have laid out.

The alternative, for the Christian is to claim they alone know the truth, even though if they were born somewhere else there would be a 90% chance they would spend eternity in hell.

Then here would be your new motto: "Our sins send us to hell, but when and where we're born sends us to heaven."

Anonymous said...


"1) Our metaphysical and religious beliefs are dependent to a great extent on the "accidents of history" (when and where we are born) primarily because there are no agreed upon empirical tests to decide between these metaphysical and religious belief systems"

Bottom line is that you want us to assume some kind of naturalistic cause is behind why people who are born in certain areas tend to believe certain things...

The Bible tells us otherwise... Exodus 20:4-6

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

God is Sovereign...

Anonymous said...


We're all outsiders. Some people just don't realise it. Seeing religion in the way John suggests is the most natural thing in the world.