Is truth constructed or discovered?

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Is truth constructed or discovered?

Is truth constructed by language or discovered by observation?

 

I hold that we have both objective truths about reality and intersubjective (or social) truths within society.

 

The former truths (the weight of a rock, the speed of light, etc) are discovered while the latter truths (the Beatles make good music, ice create is nice, the concept of money and citizenship, etc) are constructed and subjectively or intersubjectively agreed upon.

 

Therefore,

 

Objective truths are independent of mind and are determined by their correspondence/conformity to reality.

 

Social truths are intersubjective and are determined/constructed by language.

 

To put it another way... social truths will die with humans/minds, whereas objective truths will not.

 

 

Postmodernism seems to reject objective truth and hold truth is all social and constructed by language, right?

 

Discuss?

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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I agree with your

I agree with your distinction between social (or political) and scientific (or naturalistic) truth. The former is constructed, the latter is discovered. It goes all along with the axiom that science isn't politically correct, it's not a democratic process. Scientists don't vote on the best theories, they compete with each other or they collaborate, but scientific truth is guided by research, the aim of which is discovery.

“It is true that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. It is equally true that in the land of the blind, the two-eyed man is an enemy of the state, the people, and domestic tranquility… and necessarily so. Someone has to rearrange the furniture.”


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Topher wrote:Postmodernism

Topher wrote:

Postmodernism seems to reject objective truth and hold truth is all social and constructed by language, right?

But this kind of self-conscious compulsively perfectionistic categorization is purely masturbatory. My guess is that you're talking Heidegger here (and maybe Richard Rorty?) but I personally can't avoid having a practical mind, so I have to agree with your statement that "objective" is a convenient label for things that remain constant regardless of who might be discussing it. On the other hand, it's easy to see that the price of gold is a social truth, and thus not objective that sense, but more "consensus".

Language being our means of communication, and social meaning being derived from communication, any social truth (or law, culture, convention) must come from language. Unless "language" is limited to the exclusion of "body language" or misinterpretation.

Those two sets of truth certainly apply to different things, but as I said, to decide that human behaviour must be categorized as one or the other with hard lines is perfectionistic. Why not a sliding scale between objectivity and subjectivity? Too little to base a thesis on without a clear dichotomy?

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 HisWillness wrote:I have

 

HisWillness wrote:
I have to agree with your statement that "objective" is a convenient label for things that remain constant regardless of who might be discussing it. On the other hand, it's easy to see that the price of gold is a social truth, and thus not objective that sense, but more "consensus"

Consensus would be intersubjective, where a subjective proposition is agreed by many. Many people tend to assume that lots of people agreeing on something makes it objective which isn't the case.

 

HisWillness wrote:
Language being our means of communication, and social meaning being derived from communication, any social truth (or law, culture, convention) must come from language

Right.

 

I would add that with objective truths, language is used to communicate, but the objective truth is not contingent on language or indeed anything else mental. Whereas social truths are contingent on language.

 

HisWillness wrote:
Those two sets of truth certainly apply to different things, but as I said, to decide that human behaviour must be categorized as one or the other with hard lines is perfectionistic. Why not a sliding scale between objectivity and subjectivity? Too little to base a thesis on without a clear dichotomy?

I wouldn't say the dichotomy applies to behaviour, but rather to propositions. A propositions truth status either relies on mental concepts (such as language), or it doesn't. If it does then it is fundamentally subjective, if it doesn't then it is objective. And by "relies on mental concepts" I mean that without minds it would not have a truth status... for example, 'ice cream tastes nice' depends on human minds in order to be true (or indeed meaningful), whereas light travels at 300,000 km/sec is true regardless of whether there are minds.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Topher wrote:Consensus would

Topher wrote:
Consensus would be intersubjective

I actually meant to write "intersubjective". Sigh.

 

Topher wrote:
I would add that with objective truths, language is used to communicate, but the objective truth is not contingent on language or indeed anything else mental. Whereas social truths are contingent on language.

 

Absolutely. That's what I was trying to echo.

 

Topher wrote:
I wouldn't say the dichotomy applies to behaviour, but rather to propositions.

 

Understood - I was choosing my words too loosely.

 

Topher wrote:
whereas light travels at 300,000 km/sec is true regardless of whether there are minds.

 

And that's why there has to be (at least) two separate categories of "true", as you suggest. But in this model, it's a simple thing is to express objective truths. The intersubjective truths, however, have a more "fuzzy" interpretation. The idea that men really like boobs is true enough among a consensus to be fodder for stand-up comedians. The idea that religion has an indispensable role in society is another consensus that so many of us have heard over and over. But could we not have degrees of truth with those statements within different groups of people?

 

Obviously no such problem would exist for the speed of light in a vacuum. Any group would get the same measurement (within a reasonable margin of error). But intersubjective truths all seem to me to have a normative side that's inescapable. Even with something like the price of corn, that's consensus, and news can sometimes cause large price movements. Analysts can create a normative environment for those prices.

 

The funny thing about this is that here we have the quantum-mechanics-style observer-affecting-the-observed. With what we call objective, the probabilities are weighed heavily in favour of a consistent result, unaffected by the observer. With intersubjective truth, there's heavy interference by the observer or observers, and quantifying becomes either a question of probability or weight.

 

Okay, I'm going in circles now. Hopefully you can see what I'm stabbing at. Not only is intersubjective truth biased by (seeming) necessity, it's always normative in some sense or another.

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 HisWillness wrote:But

 

HisWillness wrote:
But could we not have degrees of truth with those statements within different groups of people?

Absolutely. Don't see why not. It will be more like a spectrum, although the spectrum would fall under [inter]subjectivity.

 

 

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Topher wrote:Is truth

Topher wrote:

Is truth constructed by language or discovered by observation?

 

I hold that we have both objective truths about reality and intersubjective (or social) truths within society.

 

The former truths (the weight of a rock, the speed of light, etc) are discovered while the latter truths (the Beatles make good music, ice create is nice, the concept of money and citizenship, etc) are constructed and subjectively or intersubjectively agreed upon.

 

Therefore,

 

Objective truths are independent of mind and are determined by their correspondence/conformity to reality.

 

Social truths are intersubjective and are determined/constructed by language.

 

To put it another way... social truths will die with humans/minds, whereas objective truths will not.

 

 

Postmodernism seems to reject objective truth and hold truth is all social and constructed by language, right?

 

Discuss?

I think Postmodernism makes for some entertaining fiction, but when applied to social theory it is an intellectual dead end. Again, Postmodernism neglects the essential difference between social and scientific truths. These two kinds of truth are determined by completely different methodologies.

For example, it is a scientific truth that infanticide occurs in higher primates, but it is a social truth, at least in the developed world, that infanticide is an abhorrent  and criminal behavior. If we were living in the Mid-Paleolithic or in the Mesolithic, however, we might consider infanticide a social truth, needed for population control.

“It is true that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. It is equally true that in the land of the blind, the two-eyed man is an enemy of the state, the people, and domestic tranquility… and necessarily so. Someone has to rearrange the furniture.”


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Topher wrote:The former

Topher wrote:

The former truths (the weight of a rock, the speed of light, etc) are discovered while the latter truths (the Beatles make good music, ice create is nice, the concept of money and citizenship, etc) are constructed and subjectively or intersubjectively agreed upon.

 

But perhaps all truth is objective. If the human consciousness is considered part of the same nature that produces rocks and light, then can't we say music patterns produce a neuro/chemical reaction in humans that often produces pleasure scentsensations. This is an objetive truth is it not?

If scientists study a bee colony, are the facts about the bees getting nectar objective facts or are the bees just getting the nectar cause it brings them pleasure(their social truth)? Wouldn't the truths about what makes bees do what they do be objective?

You need to say there is something special about humans/human consciousness in order to have social truth. If so, what makes our consciousness and thinking separate from the rest of nature?

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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Topher wrote:I would add

Topher wrote:
I would add that with objective truths, language is used to communicate, but the objective truth is not contingent on language or indeed anything else mental. Whereas social truths are contingent on language.

Um... could you give an example of a social truth that is contingent on language?

And just so I'm clear, where do necessity and sufficiency fall in this division?

 

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Hambydammit wrote: Topher

Hambydammit wrote:

Topher wrote:
I would add that with objective truths, language is used to communicate, but the objective truth is not contingent on language or indeed anything else mental. Whereas social truths are contingent on language.

Um... could you give an example of a social truth that is contingent on language?

And just so I'm clear, where do necessity and sufficiency fall in this division?

 

Concepts like money, law, citizenship etc... statements like 'ice cream is nice', or 'this painting is beautiful'. 

 

There is nothing objective about statements like "I am a British citizen" or "money is valuable". Such concepts/statements necessarily require a subject to give them a truth value or to even mean anything. They are necessarily contingent on minds - without minds no truth value would exist.

 

Perhaps it is wrong to narrow the focus on language? I pointed out language because it seems to be via language that we construct these social truths, which are then [inter]subjectively agreed upon. In any case it is 'minds' which are the necessity.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Well, I think it's more

Well, I think it's more complicated than just language.  There are material realities behind these statements, such as "I was born in the geographic location that has been identified as America by native lifeforms to planet earth."

Yes, citizenship is dependent on other humans, and ultimately, on language, but I am having a hard time thinking of something that doesn't have an objective basis.

"This ice cream is nice" is derived from:  This individual organism has an evolved system of mental tools for discriminating between various sources of nourishment, and based on its repeated avoidance of some and seeking out of others, we can tell that some method of discrimination is being employed.

I'm not a huge fan (as you probably have guessed) of linguistic reductionism, if that is indeed a real thing.  I just made up the term.  I don't see how anything can end at language, since language is an emergent property of mind, which is an emergent property of body, which is material.

 

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Hambydammit wrote:Well, I

Hambydammit wrote:

Well, I think it's more complicated than just language.  There are material realities behind these statements, such as "I was born in the geographic location that has been identified as America by native lifeforms to planet earth."

Yes, citizenship is dependent on other humans, and ultimately, on language, but I am having a hard time thinking of something that doesn't have an objective basis.

"This ice cream is nice" is derived from:  This individual organism has an evolved system of mental tools for discriminating between various sources of nourishment, and based on its repeated avoidance of some and seeking out of others, we can tell that some method of discrimination is being employed.

I'm not a huge fan (as you probably have guessed) of linguistic reductionism, if that is indeed a real thing.  I just made up the term.  I don't see how anything can end at language, since language is an emergent property of mind, which is an emergent property of body, which is material.



A statement containing objective elements does not mean that statement itself is objective.

If a statement requires a mind in order to have a truth value or even to make sense, then that statement would necessarily be a subjective issue. "This ice cream is nice" doesn't even begin with make sense unless there is a subject (person) that puts that meaning/truth value to the statement. Without the subject, the statement is neither true or false, or even meaningful.

If a statement is mind independent (i.e. it does not make, nor need, a reference to a subject in order to be true, false, or meaningful) then it is objective. The speed of light is an example of this. Regardless of what humans believe about light, or even whether humans exist, the statement "light travels at 300,000 km/sec" is objectively true.

A statement may (and probably will) contain references to objective things, but that is not what makes a statements truth or meaning objective. What makes it objective is whether it is dependent on minds/subjects in order to be true, false, or meaningful. The fact the statement "this ice cream is nice" contains a objective reference--ice cream--is irrelevant as the key part of the statement is 'is nice', which is an individual subjective value, which necessarily requires reference to a subject that give ice cream that value.

The key question is this: would X have a truth status without minds? If yes, it is objective. If no, it is subjective.

These two types of truths--objective and subjective--are clearly and obviously distinct from each other.

 

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Quote:If a statement

Quote:
If a statement requires a mind in order to have a truth value or even to make sense, then that statement would necessarily be a subjective issue. "This ice cream is nice" doesn't even begin with make sense unless there is a subject (person) that puts that meaning/truth value to the statement. Without the subject, the statement is neither true or false, or even meaningful.

Right.

Quote:
If a statement is mind independent (i.e. it does not make, nor need, a reference to a subject in order to be true, false, or meaningful) then it is objective.

Any statement is mind dependent, for it cannot be made except by one with a mind.  You see where I'm having problems with this?  Any language use entails language subjectivity, and I'm not completely comfortable with cordoning off sections of philosophy as language dependent simply because the (language dependent) statement being made also references something that is language dependent.  It's a matter of degree, not kind, IMO.  When I say that the ice cream tastes good, I'm making a language dependent outward observation of a subjective preference, but the preference exists whether I am capable of language or not.

There are concepts that are mind dependent, and I'm not a hundred percent sure we've established that higher reason is impossible without language.  I can intuitively grasp basic logic, for instance.  If I walk into that tree, the tree will stop my progress.  Small rodents can figure this out without language.  I'm not convinced that having grasped intuitive logic, I might not be able to intuitively understand higher logic as well.  Autism in particular gives me pause when I want to assert the dominance of language.

In other words, any statement will be mind dependent, and some statements reference things that are also mind dependent.  However, there is a real divide between things which exist only because minds exist and those that exist independent of them.  The primary difference that I can find is that mind-dependent things are concepts -- emergent states of mental categorization.  Nevertheless, once a concept leads a creature to produce tangible evidence of the existence of the concept, it becomes a mind independent thing.  Whether a scientist is there to observe a girl choosing oreo ice cream ten times out of ten, she is a real material object, and she is acting in real material ways which can be quantified to any level desirable.  The presence of an observer is not necessary for the actions to be real.

We can say that the material phenomenon of ten ice cream cones being processed into energy by this creature was a result of the acting out of the concept (mind dependent, subjective) of preference for oreo ice cream, but ONLY the concept itself is mind dependent.  All the actions we have observed, including the formation of speech using mind dependent language, are mind independent.

Quote:
A statement may (and probably will) contain references to objective things, but that is not what makes a statements truth or meaning objective. What makes it objective is whether it is dependent on minds/subjects in order to be true, false, or meaningful.

I think you're reinventing the wheel.  The statement "Ice cream is nice," literally means, "I think ice cream is nice."  It is objectively true that Susy either thinks ice cream is nice, or she doesn't.  If the statement "Ice cream is nice" is intended to mean, "Ice cream exhibits the property "nice" in the same way that plants exhibit the property "green," then the sentence itself is nonsensical, for it asserts a mind dependent conceptualization as a material property, when in fact, it is several steps up the ladder, being an emergent conclusion from an emergent property from an emergent state.

There is also the problem of verification.  Other than Susy's words and actions, we have no way to scientifically verify (at this time) the truth of her statement, "I like ice cream."  She could be fooling us, for only she knows the deepest secrets of her own mind.  This goes back to standards of evidence, but it doesn't change the fact that regardless of our ability to scientifically verify the existence of a preference, it nonetheless exists, and we can indirectly be certain of this fact through logic applied to empirical observations.

Quote:
The key question is this: would X have a truth status without minds? If yes, it is objective. If no, it is subjective.

I've yet to see a statement that didn't require equivocation to create such a distinct line.  Any time we make a value judgment, we are doing one of two things:  We are either asserting our own preference, which is an objective reality, or we are trying to assign a global value to it, which is fallacious.  The fact that this is done colloquially all the time doesn't change the fact.  Value is not only mind dependent, it is individually mind dependent.  Any agreement about shared value is simply that.  The fact that many, or most, or virtually all humans share a particular value is a testament to human nature, not to the objective reality of the value outside of any individual human mind.

In short:

1) Value judgments are individually subjective.

2) The material reality behind these judgments is objective.

3) "Value" doesn't exist without a mind to evaluate it, but any statement about global value is necessarily subjective, and therefore invalid as a broad epistemological categorization.

 

 

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 Hambydammit wrote:Any

 

Hambydammit wrote:
Any statement is mind dependent, for it cannot be made except by one with a mind. 

I'm talking about the truth status or meaning (i.e. the value one gives).

 

Mind independent means X does not make, nor need, a reference to a subject in order to be true, false, or meaningful.

 

Hambydammit wrote:
When I say that the ice cream tastes good, I'm making a language dependent outward observation of a subjective preference, but the preference exists whether I am capable of language or not.

Sure, but the preference/value is nevertheless dependent on mind. Forget about language. It seems to have gotten in the way of my point: subjective truths are contingent on mind, objective truths are not.

 

Hambydammit wrote:
In other words, any statement will be mind dependent, and some statements reference things that are also mind dependent.

I'm not talking about the statement itself (of course a statement necessitates a human mind capable of language) but rather the truth status, meaning, value, of that statement.

 

Clearly you see the difference in the truth of the following truth statements:

 

"light travels at 300,000 km/sec"

 

and

 

"ice cream is nice".

 

Both are truth statements, however the former is objectively true, irrespective of whether minds exist, whereas the latter necessities a subject/mind that subjectively finds ice cream nice. 

 

Hambydammit wrote:
However, there is a real divide between things which exist only because minds exist and those that exist independent of them.

Right. And it's the same with truths claims. Some statements are true only because a mind exists that give the statement that truth status, whereas other statements are true independent of minds.

 

Hambydammit wrote:
The primary difference that I can find is that mind-dependent things are concepts -- emergent states of mental categorization.  Nevertheless, once a concept leads a creature to produce tangible evidence of the existence of the concept, it becomes a mind independent thing.  Whether a scientist is there to observe a girl choosing oreo ice cream ten times out of ten, she is a real material object, and she is acting in real material ways which can be quantified to any level desirable.  The presence of an observer is not necessary for the actions to be real.

All this is completely irrelevant to the point. Yes, the ice cream maybe material, the girl maybe material, the action of choosing and eating the ice cream maybe material, however, the truth status this girl assigns to the statement "ice cream is nice" (i.e. that the statement is true or false) is necessarily dependent on the existence of the mind of this girl. If no mind existence, the there would be no truth status to the statement at all.

 

 

Hambydammit wrote:
The statement "Ice cream is nice," literally means, "I think ice cream is nice."  It is objectively true that Susy either thinks ice cream is nice, or she doesn't.

That's true. The law of excluded middle dictates that she finds the statement "ice cream is nice" as either true or false. However, while that is objective, the value she places on ice cream is subjective. A value requires the existence of the person who is making it. There is nothing objective about the value "ice cream is nice" or "ice cream is horrible".

 

Can you define objectivity and subjectivity so we can ensure we are on the same page.

 

I am defining objectivity as independent of mind, and subjectivity as dependent on the mind.

 

For reference, here the wiki article on objectivity, which I agree with:

 

Quote:
Objectivity is both an important and notoriously difficult concept to pin down in philosophy. While there is no universally accepted articulation of objectivity, a proposition is generally considered to be objectively true when its truth conditions are "mind-independent"—that is, not the result of any judgments made by a conscious entity. Put another way, objective truths are those which are discovered rather than created. While such formulations capture the basic intuitive idea of objectivity, neither is without controversy.

...

In philosophy, an objective fact means a truth that remains true everywhere, independently of human thought or feelings. For instance, it is true always and everywhere that '2 and 2 make 4'. A subjective fact is a truth that is only true in certain times, places or people. For instance, 'That painting is good' may be true for someone who likes it, but it is not necessarily true that it is a good painting pure and simple, and remains so always no matter what people think of it. If the painting could claim this, someone who thought the painting was bad would be completely wrong, in the same way someone who says the sun goes around the earth is wrong. So the reliability of mathematics is an objective truth, whereas the beauty of paintings is probably a subjective one.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objectivity_%28philosophy%29

 

Hambydammit wrote:
Other than Susy's words and actions, we have no way to scientifically verify (at this time) the truth of her statement, "I like ice cream."

You don't need to scientifically verify a subjective claim. Subjective claims are verified merely by the person making the claim. If Susy claims she likes ice cream, then she likes ice cream. Unless we have reason to doubt this (e.g. maybe we know she has never ate ice cream, or we remember her saying she in fact disliked ice cream), then it would be truth that she liked ice cream.

 

Technically, you could hook them up to an fMRI and scan their brain but that would miss the point (and I don't even know how you could even conform the subjective value she gives ice cream). Subjective truths are not mean to be treated in the same way as objective truth.

 

Hambydammit wrote:
Value is not only mind dependent, it is individually mind dependent.

Right. This is precisely what I am saying.

 

Hambydammit wrote:
Any agreement about shared value is simply that.

Right. When lots of people agreed on a subjective matter (like value), it is intersubjective.

 

Hambydammit wrote:
In short:

1) Value judgments are individually subjective.

2) The material reality behind these judgments is objective.

3) "Value" doesn't exist without a mind to evaluate it, but any statement about global value is necessarily subjective, and therefore invalid as a broad epistemological categorization.

Exactly. While there is a material objective basis behind these value judgements (the brain, the external world, etc) the value judgement itself it subjective.

 

 

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Ok, I think I've got a

Ok, I think I've got a better grasp on what you're saying.   I get really twitchy when people start talking about language dependence because it's often a ruse for erecting fallacious philosophical "problems" that don't really apply to the question at hand.

I agree that without the existence of a mind, value judgments cannot exist.  I like to make the distinction that these value judgments, while mind dependent, are not independent of the material realities that give rise to consciousness.  In other words, I don't like letting people think that just because value judgments are language dependent, they cannot be evaluated empirically, and are not connected to the material world, as I have explained.

The twitchiness I feel when language is brought up is probably because of my innate sense of revulsion towards post-modernism.  Forgive me if I'm being overly cautious.  When someone starts trotting out subjectiveness, I always feel like they're going towards the limitations of language as a real obstacle to the objective evaluation of material existence.  I've always had severe problems with that stance.

 

 

 

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Hambydammit wrote:Ok, I

Hambydammit wrote:

Ok, I think I've got a better grasp on what you're saying.   I get really twitchy when people start talking about language dependence because it's often a ruse for erecting fallacious philosophical "problems" that don't really apply to the question at hand.

I agree that without the existence of a mind, value judgments cannot exist.  I like to make the distinction that these value judgments, while mind dependent, are not independent of the material realities that give rise to consciousness.  In other words, I don't like letting people think that just because value judgments are language dependent, they cannot be evaluated empirically, and are not connected to the material world, as I have explained.

The twitchiness I feel when language is brought up is probably because of my innate sense of revulsion towards post-modernism.  Forgive me if I'm being overly cautious.  When someone starts trotting out subjectiveness, I always feel like they're going towards the limitations of language as a real obstacle to the objective evaluation of material existence.  I've always had severe problems with that stance.

 

Yes, I can't stand post-modernism either.

I was originally discussing this with Strafio. He holds that all truth is dependent on, and relative to, language, which pretty much puts him in the camp of post-modernism.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Quote:I was originally

Quote:
I was originally discussing this with Strafio. He holds that all truth is dependent on, and relative to, language, which pretty much puts him in the camp of post-modernism.

...and it's why, despite agreeing on atheism, we pretty much disagree in most philosophical discussions of truth and objectivity.

I've always thought of post-modernism as poor-man's religion, to be honest.  It gives you an escape hatch against any part of reality that you'd like to avoid admitting.

 

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 Interesting post.  I

 

Interesting post.  I think you're right on with the ontological distinction between objective and subjective/intersubjective truth.  There is truth that is ontologically determined by human mind(s), and truth that is objective and not ontologically dependent upon human mind.

 

But beyond the ontological discussion is, of course, the epistemological discussion on how the human mind knows objective reality--namely, whether or not, or to what degree, humans can have confidence that we are truly perceiving objective truth when they see it. 

 

The modern/Enlightenment notion seems to be that the human mind is passive in the process of knowing: it simply observes.  Postmodernity is right, I think, to acknowledge that we are not simply passive, but active in the process of knowing; but I think it is mistaken whenever it assumes that activity is necessarily an ontological construction of truth. 

 

One interesting option that critical realist epistemology brings to bear (if I understand it correctly) is that the human mind is active even when it comes to objective truth by suggesting that objective truth can only be seen through a presuppositional matrix which has been (often tacitly) appropriated by the knower. 

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 flatlanderdox wrote:But

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
But beyond the ontological discussion is, of course, the epistemological discussion on how the human mind knows objective reality--namely, whether or not, or to what degree, humans can have confidence that we are truly perceiving objective truth when they see it. 

We can know by the scientific method... observation, blind testing, repeatability, etc. Eventually we refine the science to such as degree we can be practically certain about some theories of reality, and absolutely certain with facts.

 

It's precisely why the scientific method is so stringent: it is to ensure that what science concludes IS how reality actually is.

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
The modern/Enlightenment notion seems to be that the human mind is passive in the process of knowing: it simply observes.  Postmodernity is right, I think, to acknowledge that we are not simply passive, but active in the process of knowing

This appears makes the same mistake of the postmodernists - they see they we (minds) determine social/subjective truths, and they then erroneously extrapolate this 'constructed truth' to all truth. (i.e. objective truths to the postmodernist become constructed too).

 

When it comes to objective truths, we simply record the data, using the best method we have: science. I would agree there maybe some initial interpretation as we build evidence (and it maybe this which causes the postmodernist to make their error), but as we further test our theories and knowledge, we get far more clearer and objective results, which are not relative to minds, culture or time.

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
One interesting option that critical realist epistemology brings to bear (if I understand it correctly) is that the human mind is active even when it comes to objective truth by suggesting that objective truth can only be seen through a presuppositional matrix which has been (often tacitly) appropriated by the knower.

This sounds like a presup argument - that we have to make presupposition before anything can make sense.

 

If this point were to mean would the mind be necessary to comprehend objective truths, then absolutely. I don't think anyone would deny that the human mind is involved in everything, even objective matters. However if it implies that the human mind is required for an objective truth to exist then it would be dead wrong. Simply put: if X would be true without minds, then what you have is an objective truth.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Thanks for the response,

Thanks for the response, Topher.

Topher wrote:

We can know by the scientific method... observation, blind testing, repeatability, etc. Eventually we refine the science to such as degree we can be practically certain about some theories of reality, and absolutely certain with facts.  It's precisely why the scientific method is so stringent: it is to ensure that what science concludes IS how reality actually is.

Does the scientific method not rest on some (qualified, but not absolutely certain) assumptions?  For example: the assumption that the senses yield information that is true, and we are not brains-in-vats (like the Matrix).

 

Moreover, since it is not feasible or possible for a single individual to apply the scientific method on everything that there is to know about reality, would this not also entail that people trust or assume that scientists record and present information truthfully?

 

Topher wrote:
  This appears makes the same mistake of the postmodernists - they see they we (minds) determine social/subjective truths, and they then erroneously extrapolate this 'constructed truth' to all truth. (i.e. objective truths to the postmodernist become constructed too).

 

I'm sorry if I wasn't clear.  That is not what I am suggesting.  I am suggesting that the "activity" in knowing objective Truth lies not in "construction" but in interpretation (especially the appropriation of an interpretive 'grid').  Construction (as I see it) is ontological; Interpretation is epistemological.

 

Topher wrote:
  When it comes to objective truths, we simply record the data, using the best method we have: science. I would agree there maybe some initial interpretation as we build evidence (and it maybe this which causes the postmodernist to make their error), but as we further test our theories and knowledge, we get far more clearer and objective results, which are not relative to minds, culture or time.

 

But would these latter results still not be resting upon the assumptions I mention above?

 

Topher wrote:
  

This sounds like a presup argument - that we have to make presupposition before anything can make sense.

 

That is in the ballpark of what I believe, yes.  Critical Realism does assert the need for presuppositions.

 

Topher wrote:
If this point were to mean would the mind be necessary to comprehend objective truths, then absolutely. I don't think anyone would deny that the human mind is involved in everything, even objective matters. However if it implies that the human mind is required for an objective truth to exist then it would be dead wrong. Simply put: if X would be true without minds, then what you have is an objective truth.

 

By "presupposition" I do not mean "mind" but rather a 'grid' through which the mind encounters and interprets reality (or you might say, a necessary 'lens' through which the mind perceives that which is objectively true).

Cheers.

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 flatlanderdox wrote:Does

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
Does the scientific method not rest on some (qualified, but not absolutely certain) assumptions?  For example: the assumption that the senses yield information that is true, and we are not brains-in-vats (like the Matrix).

Its rests on axioms, which are self evident, or we make relevant/justified assumptions.

 

Todangst writes about this here: [url=http://www.rationalresponders.com/doesnt_everyone_need_to_start_out_with_an_assumption]Doesn't everyone need to start out with an assumption?[/url]

 

The brain-in-a-vat/Matrix 'hypothesis' is pure pseudo-philosophy. Your other example regarding out senses isn't really an assumption but rather an induction. While our sense are not always accurate (i.e. we have hallucinations, pareidolia/non-existent patterns, etc), they are usually accurate giving us not reason to believe they are fundamentally a problem with them.

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
Moreover, since it is not feasible or possible for a single individual to apply the scientific method on everything that there is to know about reality, would this not also entail that people trust or assume that scientists record and present information truthfully?

Not necessarily individual scientists (who may still be trustworthy in their own right), but rather the scientific community and the scientific method. The very methodology of the scientific method allows us to be sure (and more sure over time) about our conclusions. It's not just about trust.

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
I am suggesting that the "activity" in knowing objective Truth lies not in "construction" but in interpretation (especially the appropriation of an interpretive 'grid').

Well of course people will interpret things on the basis of their beliefs, knowledge, biases, etc... everyone is bias. The key is to be at least bias as possible, which is the entire point of the scientific method... it's aids in limiting biases and other impediments that may taint objective conclusions.

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
But would these latter results still not be resting upon the assumptions I mention above?

No necessarily. If it is an axiom, then it is self evident. Alternatively we may make an assumption that may later be established to be true. In other cases we make an inform, justified, albeit unproven assumption. We could not however make a unjustified assumption, as todangst outlines in his essay.

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
That is in the ballpark of what I believe, yes.  Critical Realism does assert the need for presuppositions.

http://www.rationalresponders.com/ontological_and_epistemological_blunders_tag

http://www.rationalresponders.com/an_easy_argument_to_refute_van_tillian_calvinist_presuppositionalism

 

If you're a presupper then you should read those.

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
By "presupposition" I do not mean "mind" but rather a 'grid' through which the mind encounters and interprets reality (or you might say, a necessary 'lens' through which the mind perceives that which is objectively true).

Of course, the mind is needed in order to perceive/comprehend the objective truth, however, the objective truth is not dependent on the mind, e.g. the speed of light.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Thanks again for your

Thanks again for your response, Topher.  And thanks to the links on atheist refutation of presuppositionalism, TAG, et. al.  I did not see anything there, however, that really confounds what I’m speaking of.  Van Til, Bhansen, et al, are not who I am following epistemologically; rather, I am resonating with what I have read of others who are following (and tweaking) the Critical Realist epistemology of Roy Bhaskar and others.  I think there may be similarities between the two camps, however, which is why I said it was “in the ballpark” of what I’m speaking of. 

Topher wrote:
   The brain-in-a-vat/Matrix 'hypothesis' is pure pseudo-philosophy. 

Calling a concept a name does not debunk it, as I’m certain you agree.  I’d like to see a justification of this statement.  I, of course, do not believe the BIV scenario is the case, but I do certainly believe that it is a possibility (as do most professional philosophers I have read who have argued against it).  I’ll explain more below, and perhaps you can interact with these thoughts to establish your notion that BIV is “pure pseudo-philosophy.”  Or perhaps we will find ourselves on the same page.

Topher wrote:
   While our sense are not always accurate (i.e. we have hallucinations, pareidolia/non-existent patterns, etc), they are usually accurate giving us not reason to believe they are fundamentally a problem with them. 

I’m a bit confused, then, how you jump from “usually accurate” to “absolute certainty.” Is that not a non sequitur ?

Topher wrote:
   Not necessarily individual scientists (who may still be trustworthy in their own right), but rather the scientific community and the scientific method.  

Whether you are trusting an individual or trusting a community, you are nonetheless ‘trusting’ (with good reason).  As such, the element of trust is inextricable from the process of knowing, as is the element of testimony.   Would you disagree?  (On 'testimony', you may like to know that the latest issue of the Episteme journal is on that topic and has some insightful pieces.  For the next week or so, you can download the entire issue for free.)

Topher wrote:
   The very methodology of the scientific method allows us to be sure (and more sure over time) about our conclusions. It's not just about trust. 

It allows for confidence, yes, but not “absolute certainty” in any foundationalist sense.  This is where I think the BIV scenario provides a helpful illustration.  Inasmuch as we assume that the signals being sent to our brains are true to reality (and not an artificially constructed and imposed virtual reality such as BIV), the scientific method is very helpful.  Yet it is a confidence ‘from the inside’ of that trusted assumption.  If that assumption is incorrect, and BIV is true, then it wouldn’t matter how many tests were run according to the scientific method, because the method would not have any correlation to actual reality, but only to the virtual reality of the BIV. 

I am not saying, however, that the mere possibility of BIV means that people should believe in it, obviously.  Possibilities do not necessitate belief in themselves.  They should, however, shape the way we perceive reality by fitting into the epistemological equation. 

One way I think that BIV helps us with the epistemological process is that it provides an example in which presuppositions are necessary.  Namely, it is a possible scenario in which I think the scientific method is rendered almost completely impotent.  It also provides a framework of understanding in which we plainly see that you cannot use the scientific method to justify the accuracy of the scientific method. 

It also raises the important point, I think, that “proof” is not the only factor in the epistemological process, and it is very likely not the most important factor in that process.  We do not believe things only because they have been proven (although proof certainly plays into the equation).  We believe p because p seems the most probable, and best resonates in equilibrium when all epistemological factors are considered.

 

Topher wrote:
   Well of course people will interpret things on the basis of their beliefs, knowledge, biases, etc... everyone is bias. The key is to be at least bias as possible, which is the entire point of the scientific method... it's aids in limiting biases and other impediments that may taint objective conclusions. 

But is not the scientific method biased toward the scientific method?  It can be helpful in limiting other biases, but it should itself be limited and understood to be a bias.  Otherwise I think it is taken to myopic and irrational extremes.  Agnosticism, I think, is the closest thing to being truly unbiased.  From what I have seen of Critical Realism, I think it is the most rational approach to dealing with bias and objectivity.


 

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flatlanderdox wrote:Does the

flatlanderdox wrote:
Does the scientific method not rest on some (qualified, but not absolutely certain) assumptions?  For example: the assumption that the senses yield information that is true, and we are not brains-in-vats (like the Matrix).

Oh dear. Many misconceptions. The scientific method chips away at truth, it doesn't achieve absolute certainty. But it's much better than not trying.

flatlanderdox wrote:
Moreover, since it is not feasible or possible for a single individual to apply the scientific method on everything that there is to know about reality, would this not also entail that people trust or assume that scientists record and present information truthfully?

Uh ... no. Double-blind (and sometimes triple-blind) testing is essential to keeping facts away from bias. The interpretation of those facts is sometimes controversial, but not the facts themselves.

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Thanks very much for your

Thanks very much for your response.

HisWillness wrote:

Oh dear. Many misconceptions. The scientific method chips away at truth, it doesn't achieve absolute certainty. But it's much better than not trying.

I'm not sure where the misconception is.  I'm in full agreement with this statement of yours.  It is not I, but Topher who suggested that "absolute certainty" is possible.

HisWillness wrote:
 Uh ... no. Double-blind (and sometimes triple-blind) testing is essential to keeping facts away from bias. The interpretation of those facts is sometimes controversial, but not the facts themselves.

I'm not sure if you are understanding what I mean.  Inasmuch as we cannot personally and rigorously apply the scientific method to everything, and yet claim knowledge of that which we have not scientifically tested, we are implicitly relying upon an epistemological tool other than scientific method: testimony.  There are reliable testimonies, and there are unreliable testimonies; the more reliable testimonies one has (from scientists, for example), the more confidence we can have in our knowledge. 

My point is simply this: in our understanding of reality, we are dependent upon epistemological tools other than scientific method, such as testimony.

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Quote:I'm not sure if you

Quote:
I'm not sure if you are understanding what I mean.  Inasmuch as we cannot personally and rigorously apply the scientific method to everything, and yet claim knowledge of that which we have not scientifically tested, we are implicitly relying upon an epistemological tool other than scientific method: testimony.

And therefore... it's better to believe someone who admittedly hasn't followed the scientific method and believes in something that obviously defies logic.  That's a much better way to get to objective truth.

 

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flatlanderdox wrote:I'm not

flatlanderdox wrote:

I'm not sure where the misconception is.  I'm in full agreement with this statement of yours.  It is not I, but Topher who suggested that "absolute certainty" is possible.

I don't think by "more sure over time" that Topher meant "absolute certainty". My usual approach is to speak in terms of probability. Facts discovered with a rigorous scientific method are certain to a great degree of probability, within a reasonable margin of error. Were you referring to his use of "objective"?

flatlanderdox wrote:

HisWillness wrote:
 Uh ... no. Double-blind (and sometimes triple-blind) testing is essential to keeping facts away from bias. The interpretation of those facts is sometimes controversial, but not the facts themselves.

I'm not sure if you are understanding what I mean.  Inasmuch as we cannot personally and rigorously apply the scientific method to everything, and yet claim knowledge of that which we have not scientifically tested, we are implicitly relying upon an epistemological tool other than scientific method: testimony.  There are reliable testimonies, and there are unreliable testimonies; the more reliable testimonies one has (from scientists, for example), the more confidence we can have in our knowledge. 

My point is simply this: in our understanding of reality, we are dependent upon epistemological tools other than scientific method, such as testimony.

Oh certainly. But in the case of a scientific study, the full details of the study are available so that the reader can duplicate the experiment described in the study. There are also usually multiple studies surrounding things considered fact so that we have more at our disposal than simple "testimony". It's not simply  "he said she said" - the process is very stringent.

But yes, we absolutely trust a community of scientists and peer reviewers to care about the material they're studying. Sometimes it turns out that bias has, in fact, crept into scientific studies, and it doesn't come out until much later. The scientific method, like any human behaviour, is fallible. It just happens to be the most successful epistemology available.

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Hambydammit wrote:Quote:I'm

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
I'm not sure if you are understanding what I mean.  Inasmuch as we cannot personally and rigorously apply the scientific method to everything, and yet claim knowledge of that which we have not scientifically tested, we are implicitly relying upon an epistemological tool other than scientific method: testimony.

And therefore... it's better to believe someone who admittedly hasn't followed the scientific method and believes in something that obviously defies logic.  That's a much better way to get to objective truth.

 

Um...if you say so.  I'd expect less of a non sequitur from a "rational responder."

 

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 flatlanderdox

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
Calling a concept a name does not debunk it, as I’m certain you agree.  I’d like to see a justification of this statement.  I, of course, do not believe the BIV scenario is the case, but I do certainly believe that it is a possibility (as do most professional philosophers I have read who have argued against it).  I’ll explain more below, and perhaps you can interact with these thoughts to establish your notion that BIV is “pure pseudo-philosophy.”  Or perhaps we will find ourselves on the same page.

I think it is pseudo-philosophy because it is philosophy for the sake of philosophy. Yes, it's possible that we are in a Matrix reality. It's also possible that we were all created 5 minutes ago with fabricated memories. And maybe we are all philosophical zombies... These things are pseudo-philosophy because not only could we never know if they are the case, we have not means of finding out, which renders them useless. Furthermore, even if we were philosophical zombies, even if we were in a Matrix reality, even if we were all just created a few minutes ago with fake memories of the past, none of it would change anything. We could not distinguish between this reality and what we normally call reality, which in turn means they have no effect on us.

 

To me, possibility, in of itself, is not a justification for something to be taken seriously. It's true that something must be possible in order to even get off the ground, however I think it must also be useful, it must make predictions, and it must have some way of being tested. Otherwise, you have a useless theory.

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
I'm a bit confused, then, how you jump from “usually accurate” to “absolute certainty.” Is that not a non sequitur ?

I said practically certain with some theories about reality (i.e. we can be certain 'in practice' that evolution is true, although technically we cannot), and absolutely certain about facts (e.g. facts are necessarily true).

 

We can't be absolutely certain about theories, but we can about facts, since fact are certain by definition.

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
Whether you are trusting an individual or trusting a community, you are nonetheless ‘trusting’ (with good reason).  As such, the element of trust is inextricable from the process of knowing, as is the element of testimony.   Would you disagree?

Right, but it is not without justification. Also, this 'trust' should not be equate with 'theistic faith'.

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
It allows for confidence, yes, but not “absolute certainty” in any foundationalist sense.

I never said absolute certainty other than with facts.

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
But is not the scientific method biased toward the scientific method?

I don't even know what this means. The scientific method is just that, a method. It doesn't tell you anything in of itself. It is only a means of examining claims, much like logic only tells you whether an argument is valid or not.

 

The only thing that could even consitute as bias in the scientific method is it starting with methodological naturalism (i.e. it rejects supernatural explanations) but this is only because such explanations cannot be tested, and so are useless.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Right.So, would you mind

Right.

So, would you mind explaining how that's a non-sequitur?  You're the one who believes in something that contradicts science, right?  So, if you're not using the fallibility of people's communication of science to build a foundation for the claim that god belief is as reliable as science belief, what are you doing?

 

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HisWillness wrote:  I don't

HisWillness wrote:
  I don't think by "more sure over time" that Topher meant "absolute certainty". My usual approach is to speak in terms of probability. Facts discovered with a rigorous scientific method are certain to a great degree of probability, within a reasonable margin of error. Were you referring to his use of "objective"?

 

I was referring to his statement that we can be “absolutely certain with facts” (see his first response to me). But this could be a miscommunication of terms.  I do find terms of probability helpful in this discussion as well. 

HisWillness wrote:
  But in the case of a scientific study, the full details of the study are available so that the reader can duplicate the experiment described in the study.

But yes, we absolutely trust a community of scientists and peer reviewers to care about the material they're studying. Sometimes it turns out that bias has, in fact, crept into scientific studies, and it doesn't come out until much later. The scientific method, like any human behaviour, is fallible. It just happens to be the most successful epistemology available.

 

This is an excellent assessment of things, I think.  I imagine where we may differ is in our interpretation of what the success of science means, namely the scope of its implications.  

 

 

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Was my question too

Was my question too difficult, or did you just not care to answer?

 

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flatlanderdox wrote:I was

flatlanderdox wrote:

I was referring to his statement that we can be “absolutely certain with facts” (see his first response to me). But this could be a miscommunication of terms.  I do find terms of probability helpful in this discussion as well. 

Oh, I see the context. Well, if you're 99.99999% sure, you're absolutely sure in practical terms. It would be a bit unreasonable to say otherwise.

flatlanderdox wrote:
This is an excellent assessment of things, I think.  I imagine where we may differ is in our interpretation of what the success of science means, namely the scope of its implications.

The scientific method is just an epistemology, so its scope is whatever we can get our hands on (or observe indirectly). What would the "scope of its implications" mean?

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Topher wrote:  These things

Topher wrote:
  These things are pseudo-philosophy because not only could we never know if they are the case, we have not means of finding out, which renders them useless.

First of all, I must question your definition of “philosophy.”  To disagree with the philosophical quality of BIV is one thing, but to imply that it is not philosophy at all is nonsense.  The very fact that there are certain hypotheses of which “we have not means of finding out” is itself an entirely legitimate epistemological insight, particularly regarding human certainty.  It is “useful” for helping us recognize our epistemological limits.

Topher wrote:
  To me, possibility, in of itself, is not a justification for something to be taken seriously.  

I would certainly agree that there is a difference between “possible” and “probable”, probability being the more desirable of the two.  I am not saying that possibility demands that we give it an equal value to probability.  What I am saying is that possibility helps to establish the epistemological framework, the boundaries in which we must operate.  Possibility of something also factors (however minimally) into our overall personal equation of equilibration (i.e. assimilation and accommodation; think Kuhnian shifts).  Being consciously aware of ‘possibility’ helps us to be able leave that option open to more serious consideration if ever there appears data to support that possibility.

Topher wrote:
  It's true that something must be possible in order to even get off the ground, however I think it must also be useful, it must make predictions, and it must have some way of being tested. Otherwise, you have a useless theory.

This is of course your presumption about what makes something “useful.”  Is something only “useful” because it allows you to make predictions and can be tested?  Or are there other ways in which a proposition can be useful?  I would say there are indeed other ways in which a proposition can be useful.  For example, I think a proposition is useful when it helps to make sense of things, or helps toward establishing epistemological equilibrium.  

Topher wrote:
  We can't be absolutely certain about theories, but we can about facts, since fact are certain by definition.

Could you provide an example of what you would call a “fact”? 

Topher wrote:
The only thing that could even consitute as bias in the scientific method is it starting with methodological naturalism (i.e. it rejects supernatural explanations) but this is only because such explanations cannot be tested, and so are useless. 

Yes, this would be an example of bias.  As well as, I think, the notion that because something cannot be tested it is therefore “useless.”  

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I asked you several really

I asked you several really easy questions.  Please answer them.

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 God in the gaps in 5 ... 4

 God in the gaps in 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ...


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Hambydammit wrote:Was my

Hambydammit wrote:

Was my question too difficult, or did you just not care to answer?

Another hot and irrational response.  You are trigger happy with your conclusions, aren't you?  Of course there is always the absolutely wild and irrational possibility that I have other things to do besides writing posts on RRS, and was also writing a careful response to Topher's post (which precedes yours in order) before I got to yours. 

I don't mind intellectual conversation, but this line of conversation is a waste of time, wouldn't you agree?

FYI: Don't expect another post from me today.  I've already spent too much time on this today, and have some work I need to get finished.

Hambydammit wrote:
So, would you mind explaining how that's a non-sequitur?  You're the one who believes in something that contradicts science, right? 

No, I believe in someone who created science.  But this statement of mine, like yours, is loaded with as-of-yet unjustified presuppositions.  Your response to me was non sequitur because the conclusions you presume I will make do not necessarily follow what I actually said.  In other words, that is not where I'm going with this. 

Hambydammit wrote:
So, if you're not using the fallibility of people's communication of science to build a foundation for the claim that god belief is as reliable as science belief, what are you doing? 

Well, if you would not jump the gun so quickly you would see what I am doing. It is my hypothesis that one of the major fallacies of atheism is in its epistemology (e.g. the Enlightenment notion that we are simply passive observers recording information, and have no active part in the process of knowing). Right now, however, I'm simply trying to establish a common ground of epistemological parameters, things to which all of us might agree.  It leads us no where fast if we just talk around each other making loaded statements that are full of unjustified presuppositions. 

 

 

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Quote:Well, if you would not

Quote:
Well, if you would not jump the gun so quickly you would see what I am doing. It is my hypothesis that one of the major fallacies of atheism is in its epistemology (e.g. the Enlightenment notion that we are simply passive observers recording information, and have no active part in the process of knowing). Right now, however, I'm simply trying to establish a common ground of epistemological parameters, things to which all of us might agree.  It leads us no where fast if we just talk around each other making loaded statements that are full of unjustified presuppositions.

Right - eee --- ohh..

 

Well, I'll be waiting for your coherent epistemology establishing... whatever it is you're planning to establish.

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Hambydammit

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
Well, if you would not jump the gun so quickly you would see what I am doing. It is my hypothesis that one of the major fallacies of atheism is in its epistemology (e.g. the Enlightenment notion that we are simply passive observers recording information, and have no active part in the process of knowing). Right now, however, I'm simply trying to establish a common ground of epistemological parameters, things to which all of us might agree.  It leads us no where fast if we just talk around each other making loaded statements that are full of unjustified presuppositions.

Right - eee --- ohh..

 

Well, I'll be waiting for your coherent epistemology establishing... whatever it is you're planning to establish.

Thanks Hamby.  I'll do my best as an amateur, but it will be difficult simply because the issues are so complex and multi-disciplinary. 

To everyone here,

If you really want to know where I am coming from, you should read Alister McGrath's newest book: The Open Secret: A New Vision for Natural Theology.  It is not a book on apologetics, but does have implications for apologetics.  It's greatest contribution, I think, is that it propounds a holistic epistemological foundation for Christian thought.  He articulates many, many of the things I have been trying to articulate myself for quite a while, but does a much better and much more comprehensive job than I ever could.   

In the meantime.  All of you may be interested in taking a look at the latest issue of the Episteme journal (not a religious journal, by the way), which deals with the epistemology of Testimony.  I just finished reading Peter Lipton's essay, and thought it was quite good.  You can download the articles for free for the next 5 days or so.  Here is the link:  http://www.eupjournals.com/journal/epi.

Have a good day, all. 

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HisWillness wrote:Oh, I see

HisWillness wrote:
Oh, I see the context. Well, if you're 99.99999% sure, you're absolutely sure in practical terms. It would be a bit unreasonable to say otherwise.

I think we pretty much are in agreement on this point, but perhaps differ in our terminology.  I would still hesitate to refer to 99.999% certainty as "absolute certainty" just because it is not precise.  I'm a perfectionist that way, I guess.  But I think I'd agree that 99.9999% certainty should be played out--practically speaking--the same as it would as if you were absolutely certain, at least most of the time.  There may be cases in which that should not be the case. 

HisWillness wrote:
The scientific method is just an epistemology, so its scope is whatever we can get our hands on (or observe indirectly). What would the "scope of its implications" mean?

By "scope of implications" I am thinking about the limits to the kind of questions science can answer.  For example, I do not believe that it is within the scope of the scientific method to determine the meaning of things, or to determine "ought".  I think it is helpful for determining "ought", but only through an interpretive lens other than the scientific method itself.  But this is an entire discussion in and of itself.  Perhaps we can talk about it in another thread sometime? 

I'm going to try my best to keep discussion here relevant to this thread.  It's hard not to chase rabbits!  I've already failed, I'm sure! 

 

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 flatlanderdox wrote:First

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
First of all, I must question your definition of “philosophy.”  To disagree with the philosophical quality of BIV is one thing, but to imply that it is not philosophy at all is nonsense.

I'm not really saying it isn't philosophy, rather I'm saying it is bad philosophy. I think philosophy ultimately should be worthwhile, and the matrix/brain-in-a-vat philosophy achieves nothing. It might be interesting to posture (I think it is interesting) however it really doesn't have a place is a argument, in my view. If an idea/claim cannot potentially be resolved and/or tested in some way then there is not point in discussing it as it simply becomes two people voicing opinions.

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
The very fact that there are certain hypotheses of which “we have not means of finding out” is itself an entirely legitimate epistemological insight, particularly regarding human certainty.  It is “useful” for helping us recognize our epistemological limits.

It's a useful example of the limits of our epistemology, but the claim itself is useless. I think there is a distinction. 

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
Is something only “useful” because it allows you to make predictions and can be tested?

In order to verify the claim, yes.

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
Or are there other ways in which a proposition can be useful?

Perhaps, however we must maintain a distinction between useful vis-a-vis verifying a claim, and some other potential use, such as, brain in a vat or supernatural 'hypothesis' revealing the limits of our epistemology. The fact the brain in a vat idea may be epistemologically revealing does not mean it is a useful theory when it comes to verification, which is what I, and I suspect others, mean when saying X is not useful; we mean it cannot be verified.

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
Could you provide an example of what you would call a “fact”?

The weight of a rock.

The length of a pencil.

The number of keys on a keyboard.

The colour of a ball.

Etc.

 

Topher wrote:
The only thing that could even consitute as bias in the scientific method is it starting with methodological naturalism (i.e. it rejects supernatural explanations) but this is only because such explanations cannot be tested, and so are useless.

flatlanderdox wrote:
Yes, this would be an example of bias.

Right, but it is a necessary 'bias'.

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
As well as, I think, the notion that because something cannot be tested it is therefore “useless.”

Not when you want to verify the claim. For example, if you say a supernatural 'being' caused X, you are making a useless claim, since the supernatural is not testable, thus the claim cannot be verified.

 

 

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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flatlanderdox wrote:By

flatlanderdox wrote:

By "scope of implications" I am thinking about the limits to the kind of questions science can answer.  For example, I do not believe that it is within the scope of the scientific method to determine the meaning of things, or to determine "ought".  I think it is helpful for determining "ought", but only through an interpretive lens other than the scientific method itself.  But this is an entire discussion in and of itself.  Perhaps we can talk about it in another thread sometime? 

You wouldn't get an argument from me. As far as I'm concerned, it would be a strange misuse of science for it to dictate ethics (an example that springs to mind is certain Darwinian arguments for eugenics). 

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 Topher,   Thanks again

 

Topher,

 

Thanks again for your dialog.  I apologize for the delay in my response.

 

:: I'm not really saying it isn't philosophy, rather I'm saying it is bad philosophy.

 

It is probably best, then, to call it simply “bad philosophy.”  Rather than meaning “bad philosophy”, the prefix “pseudo” means that it has the deceitful appearance of philosophy, but it is really not. 

 

::  (Facts, of which we can have absolute certainty):  The weight of a rock.  The length of a pencil.  The number of keys on a keyboard.  The colour of a ball.  Etc.

 

You have provided for us a list of things of which we can only be absolutely certain if and only if you can be absolutely certain that your senses are reliable, and you are not, for example, a brain-in-a-vat.  Yet because you cannot be absolutely certain of your senses (which you admit to), you cannot be absolutely certain about those “facts,” can you?

 

:: I think philosophy ultimately should be worthwhile, and the matrix/brain-in-a-vat philosophy achieves nothing. It might be interesting to posture (I think it is interesting) however it really doesn't have a place is a argument, in my view. If an idea/claim cannot potentially be resolved and/or tested in some way then there is not point in discussing it as it simply becomes two people voicing opinions

 

Well, I would say that the BIV is a hypothesis that can perhaps be tested in a way, but not empirically, and not (necessarily) objectively. 

 

You see, the BIV is a logically coherent hypothesis (it is not self-contradictory) that cannot be falsified by empirical testing, because it renders empirical testing impotent.  And yet you deny that the BIV is the case: why?  You seem to be saying, “because it cannot be empirically tested.”  But that is simply not a valid reason for rejecting it.  When the credibility of a tool is being called into question, you cannot prove that tool’s credibility with itself, obviously.

 

So what keeps our belief or disbelief in that BIV hypothesis from being entirely arbitrary?  Is there some criteria against which it can be tested? 

 

I would tend to say “yes,” but the kind “testing” I’m thinking of is something that is (necessarily) unempirical, and may not be entirely objective.  In fact, I might even say that this is the test you are, tacitly, passing it through when you reject it.  I would say that we reject it because we do not find it “lovely”, and do not see it as possessing the same kind of explanatory power that we find demonstrated in other hypothesis.  We reject it because it is not the “best explanation” (to borrow a term used by Peter Lipton). 

 

“Best explanation” obviously needs some unpacking.  I need to do some more research on that myself.  But I do think it is a trajectory that is extremely promising. 

 

My main point here has been to demonstrate that empirical testing is not the ultimate point at which a belief in something stands or falls.  There is something else at play here.

 

 

Ockham's Razor is only as sharp as you are.


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flatlanderdox wrote:My main

flatlanderdox wrote:
My main point here has been to demonstrate that empirical testing is not the ultimate point at which a belief in something stands or falls.  There is something else at play here.

What would that be?


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KSMB wrote:flatlanderdox

KSMB wrote:

flatlanderdox wrote:
My main point here has been to demonstrate that empirical testing is not the ultimate point at which a belief in something stands or falls.  There is something else at play here.

What would that be?

Uh, yeah. I'd like to know what that is, too. Especially considering it's fairly easy to test things, now that we're extremely good at the scientific method.

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HisWillness wrote:KSMB

HisWillness wrote:

KSMB wrote:

flatlanderdox wrote:
My main point here has been to demonstrate that empirical testing is not the ultimate point at which a belief in something stands or falls.  There is something else at play here.

What would that be?

Uh, yeah. I'd like to know what that is, too. Especially considering it's fairly easy to test things, now that we're extremely good at the scientific method.

Perhaps another way of saying it is this: There is a matrix of epistemic factors that go into what we believe and don't believe (e.g. scientific method, testimony, inference, experience, etc.).  The system of belief that we construct (e.g. Christianity, Atheism, Taoism, etc.) is done via an intricate  process of assimilation and accommodation as we seek a kind of equilibrium.  Even the statutes of science have been formed in such a way, as Thomas Kuhn explains in his landmark book Structures of Scientific Revolutions.

"Proof" is necessary, to a certain degree.  But ultimately, this "proof" must be interpreted, and it can be interpreted in different ways--particularly things about which we can only infer a "best explanation." 

This much seems obvious to me.  The real question, I suppose, is "What constitutes a 'best explanation'?"  I'm hoping to do some more research on this soon.

 

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Quote:You wouldn't get an

Quote:
You wouldn't get an argument from me. As far as I'm concerned, it would be a strange misuse of science for it to dictate ethics (an example that springs to mind is certain Darwinian arguments for eugenics).

*ahem*

There are no darwinian arguments for eugenics.  There are arguments for eugenics that include elements (often, misunderstood) of natural selection.  However, Darwinism, evolution, natural selection... whatever you want to call it, is NOT prescriptive in any way whatsoever.  Any system of ethics must be derived from the concept of a GOAL, which is not present in evolutionary theory.  Natural selection just happens.  To speak of it having a goal is to make an anthropomorphic error.

I am a big believer in the idea that proper understanding of human nature can aid us in forming ethical models, but the crux of any ethical model that includes natural selection is going to involve a prescriptive goal -- that is, people ought to strive for this or that because of this or that.  Such a prescriptive goal will not be derived from natural selection.  It will be derived from some other philosophy, whether it is maximization of individual happiness, group cohesion, social order, or distribution of resources.  In any of those cases, science can help us by giving us information about what humans are strongly likely to do, but it cannot tell us what humans should do.

 

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Hambydammit wrote:There are

Hambydammit wrote:
There are no darwinian arguments for eugenics. There are arguments for eugenics that include elements (often, misunderstood) of natural selection.  However, Darwinism, evolution, natural selection... whatever you want to call it, is NOT prescriptive in any way whatsoever.

Quite right. I was referring to the abuse of Darwin's work by those who have heavy prescriptive agendas, not Darwin's own feelings on the matter.

Hambydammit wrote:
Any system of ethics must be derived from the concept of a GOAL, which is not present in evolutionary theory.  Natural selection just happens.  To speak of it having a goal is to make an anthropomorphic error.

Well said.

Hambydammit wrote:
In any of those cases, science can help us by giving us information about what humans are strongly likely to do, but it cannot tell us what humans should do.

Absolutely. I wish more people understood that.

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flatlanderdox wrote:"Proof"

flatlanderdox wrote:

"Proof" is necessary, to a certain degree.  But ultimately, this "proof" must be interpreted, and it can be interpreted in different ways--particularly things about which we can only infer a "best explanation." 

This much seems obvious to me.  The real question, I suppose, is "What constitutes a 'best explanation'?"  I'm hoping to do some more research on this soon.

I don't know if it's really that difficult. The "best explanation" is the one that best fits observable data. If there's a better explanation forthcoming, then that one will replace or augment the former "best explanation". Einstein's work on gravitation augmented Newton's work on gravitation, and Einstein's work simply fit the observable data better. Newton's math is still perfectly good for engineering, as it matches the observable data pretty well itself.

It's usually easy to find the best explanation for something, and often you'll find that an empirical method is part of that explanation. Other methods, such as logical proofs, don't necessarily do quite as well, despite their obvious value in rational thinking.

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 flatlanderdox wrote:You

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
You have provided for us a list of things of which we can only be absolutely certain if and only if you can be absolutely certain that your senses are reliable, and you are not, for example, a brain-in-a-vat.  Yet because you cannot be absolutely certain of your senses (which you admit to), you cannot be absolutely certain about those “facts,” can you?

This is the fallacy of inductive uncertainty.

 

I don't have to demonstrate that our senses our reliable, or prove that we're not a in a matrix, because you have absolutely zero reason to believe that our senses are unreliable, or that we are in a matrix.

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
Well, I would say that the BIV is a hypothesis that can perhaps be tested in a way, but not empirically, and not (necessarily) objectively.

How can it be tested then? If not objectively and empirically, how is it being tested?

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
You see, the BIV is a logically coherent hypothesis (it is not self-contradictory) that cannot be falsified by empirical testing, because it renders empirical testing impotent.  And yet you deny that the BIV is the case: why?  You seem to be saying, “because it cannot be empirically tested.”  But that is simply not a valid reason for rejecting it.  When the credibility of a tool is being called into question, you cannot prove that tool’s credibility with itself, obviously.

a) it is putting empiricism on trial without zero reason for doing so.

b) if you cannot test it then it is useless. In cannot be tested empirically, and we cannot know about it on the basis of reason alone.

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
My main point here has been to demonstrate that empirical testing is not the ultimate point at which a belief in something stands or falls.  There is something else at play here.

Well what then? Lets not just assert that there is something other, but as good as, empiricism for validating claims, but not stating what this it. If you don't know what this other means of testing is then what are you basing your assertion on?


 

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 hamby wrote:There are no

 

hamby wrote:
There are no darwinian arguments for eugenics.  There are arguments for eugenics that include elements (often, misunderstood) of natural selection.  However, Darwinism, evolution, natural selection... whatever you want to call it, is NOT prescriptive in any way whatsoever.  Any system of ethics must be derived from the concept of a GOAL, which is not present in evolutionary theory.  Natural selection just happens.  To speak of it having a goal is to make an anthropomorphic error.

Well said.

 

Eugenics = ARTIFICIAL selection

Evolution = NATURAL selection

 

The ultimate contradiction of evolution by natural selection!

 

 

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Topher wrote: flatlanderdox

Topher wrote:

 

flatlanderdox wrote:
You have provided for us a list of things of which we can only be absolutely certain if and only if you can be absolutely certain that your senses are reliable, and you are not, for example, a brain-in-a-vat.  Yet because you cannot be absolutely certain of your senses (which you admit to), you cannot be absolutely certain about those “facts,” can you?

This is the fallacy of inductive uncertainty.

 

 

I point to a rather glaring between your "uncertain" premise and your  "certain" conclusion, and you call it a fallacy?  Ok: prove it.

 

Topher wrote:
   

I don't have to demonstrate that our senses our reliable, or prove that we're not a in a matrix, because you have absolutely zero reason to believe that our senses are unreliable, or that we are in a matrix.

 

 

You most certainly do need to justify your conclusion that our senses are reliable if you’re going to make foundationalist assertions of “absolute certainty.”  You likewise need to justify this if you are going to make the argument that we are merely passive and objective observers of reality.

Topher wrote:
   

How can it be tested then? If not objectively and empirically, how is it being tested?

 

 

Resonance.  Explanatory power.  (What I go into briefly in that response to you, and then also in later responses to others.  See also below.)

Topher wrote:
  a) it is putting empiricism on trial without zero reason for doing so.  

 

Oh, so you are suggesting that we believe everything unless we have reason to doubt that it is true?

Topher wrote:
  b) if you cannot test it then it is useless.  

 

How do you test the validity of empirical data?  You can’t.  You have to presuppose that it is true, and then work from that presupposition.  It is not a process that is absolutely certain.  Nor does it need to be absolutely certain in order to be helpful. 

Topher wrote:
   Well what then? Lets not just assert that there is something other, but as good as, empiricism for validating claims, but not stating what this it. If you don't know what this other means of testing is then what are you basing your assertion on? 

 

Again, it is the “test” of resonance and explanatory power, or “best explanation.”  It is not an empirical test.  It is a “test” in the sense of asking whether or not this proposition up against certain criteria.  Some proposed criteria for best explanation:

 

(1) economy, scope, elegance, and fruitfulness – John C. Polkinghorne, “Physics and Metaphysics in a Trinitarian Perspective,” Theology and Science 1 (2003): 33–49

 

(2) “parsimony, elegance, or explanatory power” – Alister McGrath, The Open Secret: a New Vision for Natural Theology, 155.  “simplicity, elegance, consilience, and concision”—ibid, 236.

 

Other explorations related to “best explanation” (pointed to by McGrath in The Open Secret):

 

** Eric Barnes, “Inference to the Loveliest Explanation,” Synthese 103 (1995): 251–78.

 

** Harman’s three canonical essays: Gilbert Harman, “The Inference to the Best Explanation,” Philosophical Review 74 (1965): 88–95; “Detachment, Probability, and Maximum Likelihood,” Noûs 1 (1967): 401–11; “Knowledge, Inference, and Explanation,” American Philosophical Quarterly 5 (1968): 164–73.

 

** Tomis Kapitan, “Peirce and the Structure of Abductive Inference,” in N. Houser, D. D. Roberts, and J. Van Evra (eds), Studies in the Logic of Charles Sanders Peirce, pp. 477–96, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1997;

 

** Ilkka Niiniluoto, “Defending Abduction,” Philosophy of Science 66 (Proceedings) (2000): S436–51.

 

** Ernan McMullin, The Inference that Makes Science, Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1992.

 

** Stathos Psillos, “Simply the Best: A Case for Abduction,” in Robert Kowalski, Antonis C. Kakas and Fariba Sadri (eds), Computational Logic: Logic Programming and Beyond, pp. 605–25, Berlin: Springer, 2002.

 

** Paul R. Thagard, “The Best Explanation: Criteria for Theory Choice,” Journal of Philosophy 75 (1976): 76–92.

 

** Peter Lipton, Inference to the Best Explanation , 2nd edn, London: Routledge, 2004.

Ockham's Razor is only as sharp as you are.