Is materialism self-evident?

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Is materialism self-evident?

Is materialism self-evident?

Just wondering if this is the case.


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To elaborate... is saying

To elaborate... is saying something is the default position the same as saying it is self-evident?

I think materialism (e.g. all we can detect is material) is the default position but I'm not sure it we can say it is self evident, because it relies on observation rather than the statement being tautological.

 

"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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Yep, it's self evident.

Of course, that doesn't necessarily make it true.

"Metaphysical" or "non-material" or whatever you care to call it - may be the "truth" behind what we see and feel here. But, it strikes me that this should be provable. This non-material state would, by necessity, have to have some detectable effect on our perceived physical reality, otherwise it would make no difference at all if it existed or not (plus it would be un-provable in any way).

Now, there are those who point to quantum mechanics to say that it's all non-material, but I think that's a semantics game. QM describes our material reality, potentially right down to why it's material at all. (Yay for the LHC Smiling ) The idea that it's not really material seems to be like pointing at a Venn diagram and claiming we're all subsets. Conceptually true but not practically so.

*sigh* OK, that was one fool's opinion. Let the science freaks come and teach me to answer such questions. Eye-wink

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I would argue that it is.

I would argue that it is. You know what pisses me off? There are people who might say something like "It is the job of science to investigate the material world", implicitly stating that there is some "non-material" world which can be accessed by the methodologies of another discipline. It seems that “metaphysics” is a label applied to something until scientific investigation demonstrates a meaningful model behind it. I stress that since it is the job of science to investigate phenomenon then it appears, from an epistemological standpoint, to be problematic to say that we can conclude in a phenomenon that cannot be investigated by science (in other words, that a phenomenon is "non-material". Why is this so? Consider it. When it is through some complicated causal chain, which via deduction, we can link some model or external object to some feature of our perceptual experience, then we are performing a scientific investigation. Solely by means of using our intuitive understanding based on our immediate perceptual experience, we wouldn’t get very far, but, by means of accumulating knowledge, we can effectively link causal chains of experienced phenomenon to an external world behind the experiences. Thus, for example, we would be unable to conclude in “dark matter” on the basis of our analysis of galactic motions through telescopes if we didn’t already have an understanding of what galactic motion should look like based on Relativity, which in turn, we wouldn’t have been able to conclude in if we didn’t have a set of equations describing our intuitive basis for relative motion, called “Newtonian mechanics”, which in turn we wouldn’t be able to conclude in unless we had…

You get the idea. So, in effect, by asserting that some phenomenon is beyond the realm of science (or, equivalently, isn't material), we are, in effect, asserting that such a feature has no causal relationship, however complicated it may be, that is needed to explain our perceptual experience. Obviously, there is some confusion about this. We don’t perceive, for example, “electron density”, but through a complex causal chain employing deductive experiments and prior knowledge also based on experiments, we can link electron density to some feature of perceptual experience. If there was no way whatsoever to link some phenomenon to some feature of our perceptual experience, however complex the linking chain might be, then, in effect, we are making assertions about phenomenon that, through no amount of deduction or investigation, can we make conclusions about based upon our perceptual experiences, which are the source of all our knowledge (although, as Kant pointed out, not all our knowledge is derived from perceptual experience. There is a difference). So, you are on impossible ground, epistemologically speaking. To make your assertion, you must relinquish any knowledge claims you might make about this phenomenon at all.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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Xlint replies. I , my belief

Xlint replies. I , my belief or even faith as some might say, is that everything is material. We just lack all the modeling tools of description for much / most of the vast unknown. Like Jill so very Swift, I await science for all the answers to all the mysteries of existence. All is material, period, even time itself, I'd say in confused awe ??? Time, WOW, that is a heavy one !

If "time"could be fully explained, I doubt that I could really understand it. Geezz "relativity", tho I can parrot it just a bit, still makes my head spin. Umm "the long now".

Material requires time, and time requires material ??? Does that make any sense? This is where I get nuts, where my awe (g-awe-d) just leaves me to laugh in bewilderment, and why religion dogma obviously is so very very silly and destructive to helpful thinking.  

After reading Topher here below me in agreement .... g-awe-d for me is all what science is about, the study of existence, and religion best serves as an example of "wrong thinking" as some symbolically call the devil, or antichrist.

 


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Would you agree that the

 

DG,

Would you agree that the claims of theism can be investigated by science.

I was recently discussing what I think is an inconsistency among many skeptics who want to diminish faith-based thinking and dogma, and are willing to do so when it presents itself in the form of conspiracy theories, alternative medicines, psychics, etc, but are seemingly willing to give a pass to the greatest propagator of faith/dogma: religion.

 

They seems to respond to this inconsistency by stating that religion is based on supernatural claim and so cannot be tested by science. But this seems irrelevant: the claims still carry scientific import, either explicitly or tacitly. Furthermore, paranormal claims such as life energies and psychics also rely on supernaturalism, so there is really no ultimate distinction between the two, hence the inconsistency.

Claiming that Jesus was born of a virgin it is a scientific claim about biology. We can look at the science of the claim. Is it scientifically possible? No. Are there any confirmed cases? No. Can we scientifically conclude the claim fails to conform to science and should therefore be rejected? Absolutely yes.

Claiming that Jesus rose from the dead is a scientific claim about biology and physics. We can look at just what needs to happen to rise from the dead (i.e. reversal of decomposition), whether there are confirmed cases of it happening, and evaluate whether it is likely to happen based on that information: the fact it has never been known to happen, and the fact decomposition cannot be reversed means we can scientifically conclude it is highly unlikely to be true, if not impossible.

Claiming that we go to an afterlife contains the scientific claim that our conciseness/mind survives the decomposition of our brains. We can look at the relationship between conciseness/mind and the brain and determine that there is no scientific basis to hold that conciseness can survive the destruction of our brain.

Of course, the believer invokes god/supernatural to bypass the science, but psychics, alt med proponents, or weeping statues believers also invoke god/supernatural, but that does not stop skeptics from investigating those. They just sweep aside the unjustified assumption (the supernatural) and see if the phenomena has a natural explanation.

The person I was discussing this with basically implied that materialism a priori reject supernaturalism:

Quote:
You are chosing materialism as your default assumption, and then opening the door to all challengers. This is a respectable approach, but it does result in the rejection of one-off miracles like the resurrection- if they are not repeated they are unproved.  All I am asking you to do it to recognize this limitation.

Quote:
I am not really arguing with your choice of science as the standard for knowledge. I am just saying that once you have made it that saying that you are open-minded about the supernatural is really just saying "bring me your supernatural phenomena and I will disprove them or tame them." You say that you are open to the possibility, but the game is fixed. A loving God, who created this vast, mostly empty universe for our benefit is never going to be the most parsimonious explanation.

Quote:
The concept of God is something that transcends the material world. By adopting a materialistic outlook, you rule out the possibility of an omnipresent, omnipotent being. Again it is a reasonable point of view, but the decision to adopt it pretty much rules out the Christian god.  The key decision is whether to accept scientific materialism, the rest logically follows.

Quote:
It all comes back to your starting assumption, which is that the supernatural needs to be proven to exist before any supernatural claims are accepted.

Although he is right in one sense (e.g. materialism does not allow for the Christian god), he is implicitly suggesting that materialism is an assumption.


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Quote:DG,Would you agree

Quote:

DG,

Would you agree that the claims of theism can be investigated by science.

Yes. The important point I am trying to make is that if you (when I say "you", I of course do not mean you, Topher, I mean in general) defer to some "non-physical entity" as an explanation for a particular phenomenon, you are in an impossible position. There is no way you could possibly make that claim insofar as material objects, by definition, are precisely those things responsible for our experiences. There would be no way to construct a "causal chain" which refers to the non-material objects in the same way that, for example, we can explain our perception of colors on the basis of energy levels in electrons, and more importantly, when we do link some real object to our experiences by some causal chain, no matter how long, that thing, by definition, is material. We don't consider space-time or dark matter "supernatural", do we? Even though we cannot percieve their effects on an immediate level.

Quote:

I was recently discussing what I think is an inconsistency among many skeptics who want to diminish faith-based thinking and dogma, and are willing to do so when it presents itself in the form of conspiracy theories, alternative medicines, psychics, etc, but are seemingly willing to give a pass to the greatest propagator of faith/dogma: religion.

 

That is because religion has the distinction of being "normal" in our society, while the latter are "fringe". They are all equally ridiculous, however.

Quote:

They seems to respond to this inconsistency by stating that religion is based on supernatural claim and so cannot be tested by science. But this seems irrelevant: the claims still carry scientific import, either explicitly or tacitly. Furthermore, paranormal claims such as life energies and psychics also rely on supernaturalism, so there is really no ultimate distinction between the two, hence the inconsistency.

Precisely. It all has to defer to a meaningless ad hoc and then excuse epistemological failures by deferring to a contradictory notion, rendering the claims useless.

Quote:

Claiming that Jesus was born of a virgin it is a scientific claim about biology.

And we don't soft-pedal reproductive physiology in science classes, do we? To claim someone was born without paternal chromosomes demands ab explanation. "Immaculate conception" is no more an explanation than "supernatural ejaculation".

Quote:

Of course, the believer invokes god/supernatural to bypass the science, but psychics, alt med proponents, or weeping statues believers also invoke god/supernatural, but that does not stop skeptics from investigating those. They just sweep aside the unjustified assumption (the supernatural) and see if the phenomena has a natural explanation.

We should therefore consider two things. Firstly, there are claims about phenomenon. Secondly, there are ontological claims behind them. The former claims can be investigated without problem. The latter are simply untenable as I have shown above.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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DG is not diluted. Nice it

DG is not diluted. Nice it is to know non delusion. Go science philosophy, and please keep in mind us simple farmers, we layman, we kids. LOL RRS. Communicate.


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deludedgod

deludedgod wrote:
Quote:

Claiming that Jesus was born of a virgin it is a scientific claim about biology.

And we don't soft-pedal reproductive physiology in science classes, do we? To claim someone was born without paternal chromosomes demands ab explanation. "Immaculate conception" is no more an explanation than "supernatural ejaculation".

Haha.

Yes, a supernatural explanation is not an explanation at all. Some skeptics seems to think this allows the claim to pass. Obviously this relates back to religion being considered 'normal', which is problematic, because if we seek to encourage critical thinking and build a society of critical thinkers, we will never achieve that if we maintain this social double standard.

 

deludedgod wrote:
Quote:

Of course, the believer invokes god/supernatural to bypass the science, but psychics, alt med proponents, or weeping statues believers also invoke god/supernatural, but that does not stop skeptics from investigating those. They just sweep aside the unjustified assumption (the supernatural) and see if the phenomena has a natural explanation.

We should therefore consider two things. Firstly, there are claims about phenomenon. Secondly, there are ontological claims behind them. The former claims can be investigated without problem. The latter are simply untenable as I have shown above.

That a good way to put it. I suspect people balk at the idea of testing religious claim because they assume we are talking about the ontological claims rather than the actual phenomena in question.

"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 DG that

I agree with DG that materialism is self evident.  It is, I believe, a different class of self-evident because it relies on observation, but we can actually ask a rather pointed question about our philosophical tautologies.  How do I know that I think I exist?  Because I perceived my own thought.  How do I know that I think there is a star around which the earth orbits?  Because I perceived it.  Supposing that I could have a thought and not perceive it, would the thought have existed?

In short, we cannot help but perceive unless we are dead.  If we live, we perceive, even if we are only perceiving our own thoughts or dreams.  We're all familiar with the descent into nihilism that results from the brain in a vat hypothesis, but we also need to be aware of the descent into absurdity that results from the notion of that which defies nature.  If there exists something that can defy "natural existence," then I cannot discount the possibility that I perceive myself to exist while not existing!

In a nutshell, the axiom of identity is self evident because materialism is self evident, and vice versa.  Reality breaks down for different reasons if we don't accept them, which, I think, puts them in slightly different classes, but I'll let the philosophy professors work that one out. 


 

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 Here's a response from

 

Here's a response from someone. I've already responded, but I'd be interested in peoples opinions his approach to justifying materialism.

My argument is that materialism can be justified purely through the supernaturalists inability to justify their assertion of supernaturalism.

This person however thinks that "the only thing that justifies materialism is the fact that it works."

Utility does prove that supernaturalism is unnecessary, but is does not negate my argument, which was merely to apply Occam's razor to materialism and supernaturalism and seeing which is the most justified.

 

Quote:
Quote:
I am justifying it on the ground that the supernaturalist does not have any evidence to postulate anything else.

Before justifying the materialist position, you are asking the "supernaturalist" to use materialist criteria (empirical evidence, falsifiable hypotheses, etc.) to justify his position, and then saying that your materialist position is justified because he can't.

Do you not see the the nonsensical circular reasoning there? Here, let me lay it out a little more clearly.

P1: Supernaturalism isn't justified according to materialist criteria.

P2: All worldviews must be justified according to materialist criteria.

C1: Therefore, supernaturalism isn't justified.

C2: Therefore, materialism is justified.

"Ass-over-end" is an expression that comes to mind. Surely you see the fallacious reasoning there?

 

Quote:
Quote:
When I say we can detect it what I am saying is we do NOT have to beg the question that the material world exists (I would presume you agree with that).

You would presume wrong.

The materialist interpretation of the world is a BELIEF STATEMENT, subject to being incorrect, just like any other belief. What makes the materialist position a MORE COMPELLING belief is not the presumption that the material world exists, but rather the practical utility of the materialist position, as demonstrated over-and-over.

 

Quote:
Quote:
Since all we can observe/confirm is matter and energy, materialism becomes the only rational position. You CANNOT observe only matter/and energy and conclude that there is some else that is not matter and energy (I presume you would agree with that too).

Again, you would presume wrong. This is just shows naivete of the problem of induction. Materialism is the rational position not because of any intrinsic truth statement, but because of our memory of its utility.

 

Quote:
Quote:
and that is true irrespective of whether materialism works or not.

Sigh. If materialism didn't work any better than supernaturalism, there'd be zero reason to eschew supernaturalism in favor of materialism. Take materialism out of the equation, and just leave the rest of your assertion:

"Supernaturalism doesn't work because they can't demonstrate their claims."

First, you're still asserting asserting some form of weak materialism by imposing the demonstration (evidence) requirement. Secondly, that argument can still be assailed by supernaturalists on multiple grounds. They could point to the Bible as demonstration of their claims. Or countless anecdotal experiences of miracles and transcendental events. They could point to relics, social progress, etc., etc. Without the methodological framework and standards of evidence you can draw from materialism, the supernaturalist position is plenty strong.

You're just boxing yourself into a corner. Intrinsic truth claims must be abandoned in favor of utility. Science gives us rational justification for provisional belief, not certainty, and for very good reason.

 

Quote:
Quote:
Just as abstaining from belief in god is justified purely from the theists inability to demonstrate their claim that god exists.

No, this is just an argument from ignorance, no better than the ones theists toss out all the time.

I myself hold rational positions in the absence of the completeness of demonstration. For example, neuroscience hasn't conclusively proven that mind is an emergent phenomenon of the physical brain (that doesn't require a "soul" or some other form of independent agency), yet the evidence increasingly points in this direction, and I choose to believe that the materialist view of mind is the rational position.

Abstaining from belief in God is justified on much stronger grounds than your argument from ignorance. Perhaps the simplest is that the evidence produced by methodological naturalism increasingly indicates that there's no need to consider God in our equations. The concept is irrelevant to the materialist; unnecessary.

Or less simply, but more strongly, I take the ignostic position. No one has yet to define God in any meaningful way. As soon as they put Him into words, they limit Him to to nonsensical logical spaghetti. The concept (so far) is ultimately ineffable, which reduces Him to some mundane quale; not worth even trying to discuss. Again, just an irrelevant concept.

But the point is: stay away from easily assailable truth values, and slam supernatural concepts to the mat with the question of utility.

 

 

 

 

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Interesting read. Seems that

Interesting read. That helps boil down the silliness of creating a separate god of some super natural non material concept, and helps to understanding traditional wacko dogma superstition invention. Basically I found you two to be in vague agreement (?) of the yet indescribable, and a bit like an atheist debating a pantheist about the science question of consciousness.

I work to be open minded, but the concepts and words, "supernatural and immaterial", also don't ring any bells for my dull brain. Heck, even TIME requires the material I say in awe. No material , no time?!?! All has always been. Zero "creation", all is a "transition" .... Whatever.

Religion while it can be a seed to inspire, it essentially becomes pollution to furthering clear honest thinking. I like sci-fi , but I cannot appease the god fantasies of any traditional religion claims, by any philosophical or science definitions. What is Time? , I ask them.

Okay,  I am closed simple minded, and yeah I say, existence (g-awe-d) is atheist (no master), to the so many clueless lost people. Yes, I am a 100% prejudiced atheist, g-awe-d fan !  

Sorry, the best I can do is rant. Thanks a lot for this thread Topher ....  

 

    


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Before justifying the

Quote:

Before justifying the materialist position, you are asking the "supernaturalist" to use materialist criteria (empirical evidence, falsifiable hypotheses, etc.) to justify his position, and then saying that your materialist position is justified because he can't.

Do you not see the the nonsensical circular reasoning there? Here, let me lay it out a little more clearly.

P1: Supernaturalism isn't justified according to materialist criteria.

P2: All worldviews must be justified according to materialist criteria.

C1: Therefore, supernaturalism isn't justified.

C2: Therefore, materialism is justified.

"Ass-over-end" is an expression that comes to mind. Surely you see the fallacious reasoning there?

Your interlocutor has it backwards. As I’ve shown above, material objects are those real objects defined precisely in terms of those things we can causally link to our experiences. All knowledge comes from experience. Even a priori truths require a thinking being to reason them, and such thinking beings cannot be thinking beings without experience. Experience is therefore not a “materialist criteria”. It is the only one. Any object whose causal chain we can draw to our experience is called a “material object”. This has already been established. So supernatural objects must by definition be those things that have no causal responsibility for our experience, leaving us with no grounds to claim their existence.

Quote:

The materialist interpretation of the world is a BELIEF STATEMENT, subject to being incorrect

Several hundred years ago, a “materialist” would have been someone like Locke or Hobbes, who believed that a material world existed, and would be contrast with someone like Berkeley, who believed that it did not. Nowadays, however, a materialist is someone, like you or me, who believes that only the material world exists. This by itself is merely the denial of the existence of “other” objects. It is the rejection of someone else’s positive assertion. It is subject to being incorrect, but as I’ve just shown above, it is simply not possible to make assertions about “supernatural objects” without shooting yourself in the foot, making the issue pointless.

Quote:

Again, you would presume wrong. This is just shows naivete of the problem of induction. Materialism is the rational position not because of any intrinsic truth statement, but because of our memory of its utility.

Materialism is the rational position because (a) there is no possible, meaningful epistemological grounds one could stand on to claim “supernatural objects” exist and (b) because the notion of supernatural is simply incoherent (you and I, Topher, have been over this in the other thread). Induction has nothing to do with it. It is a definitional problem, which cannot be skirted by appealing to some sort of “other ways of knowing” which are outside the “materialist criteria”.

He mentioned this at the bottom, referring to the Ignostic position. The same problem holds true for supernaturalism. No one has yet to define it in a meaningful way.

 

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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Thanks a ton DG. Go science

Thanks a ton DG. Go science philosophy for us layman and kids.

Even our most wildest intuitve mental constructs are 100% material. There is no way around this, none, zillth. It feels good to let go of all self doubt and worry that we are missing some great truth that the supernaturalists spout in so many silly imaginitive ways, both philosophically and religious.

Thanks for your simple wise helpful words DG.

 Forgive me for posting this so often, but for all those who haven't heard this simple short clip, I so wish they would. Who runs the FCC, the embarrassing major media ?

Carl Sagan - Pale Blue Dot - 3 mins

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p86BPM1GV8M

 


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Quote:It is a definitional

Quote:
It is a definitional problem, which cannot be skirted by appealing to some sort of “other ways of knowing” which are outside the “materialist criteria”.

It's possible that your interlocutor doesn't quite understand the nature of words and symbols, and so misunderstands the significance of this being an issue of definition.  If there's a pebble in my shoe, and it's made of granite, that means that in reality, a bit of material, having identity and therefore properties and limits, exists.  I can call it a supernatural ghost if I want, and nothing will change about it's real existence.  I can write a whole discourse on the nature of supernatural ghosts, and in the end, there will be a pebble in my shoe.  The language I use to describe it is just that -- language.

In the same way, it's fine to call something supernatural and say that it exists.  This statement has no effect on the existence of the thing.  Either it exists as something or not.  Among people who try to use words with appropriate precision and clarity, it is said (communicated) that the word "natural" applies to the class of things which exist.  This doesn't alter the existence of anything in the universe -- everything that is, is, and everything that isn't, isn't.  However, as deludedgod has mentioned, your man has it backwards.  We don't make up words, and then the universe changes to match what we've decided.  We simply use words to describe what we perceive.

It's not a small point to make sure that anyone arguing for the supernatural understands this very important point.  We don't start with the assumption of any particular thing's existence or nonexistence.  We just start like this:

1. There are things which exist, and things which do not exist.

2. Things that exist will henceforth be referred to as "natural."

From that point in the conversation, it is absurd to argue that a thing can exist and be in any way "not natural."  As the conversation continues, it becomes the duty of the claimant to describe or propose the existence of a subset within "natural."  The a priori assumption that there are two states of existence -- natural and supernatural == is a remnant from the time when we were not sufficiently skilled in epistemology or science to recognize the flaw in this thinking.

 

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deludedgod wrote:It is

deludedgod wrote:
It is subject to being incorrect,

How could that be done?. It sounds like materialism has been defined in such a way that showing it is incorrect would be impossible.

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Quote:How could that be

Quote:
How could that be done?. It sounds like materialism has been defined in such a way that showing it is incorrect would be impossible.

Let me build up my position just a bit more for complete clarity.  I defend what I call "rational materialism," which is first, the observation that valid logic is the only way to achieve knowledge, where knowledge is justified true belief.  (This naturally bypasses axioms, which are self evident and precede logic.)  Furthermore, it is the admission that reality can only be reliably described through the process of good (or valid, if you like) science.  Science is the description of how we learn about the world.

In a nutshell, then, we have three definitions which, if epistemologically sound, make materialism self evident:

Natural - the set which includes everything that exists

Logic - the description of how humans derive conclusions

Science - the description of how humans gain knowledge of the natural.

As you can see, with these definitions, it is quite impossible to describe anything other than in rational materialist terms and remain coherent.  Note that these definitions do not, in and of themselves, exclude any particular thing from existing.  All they do is create a framework for discussing things which might exist.  To be precise, if someone says that a thing is supernatural, it is not an automatic proof that their thing does not exist.  It is simply an epistemological error.  Either the thing exists or it doesn't, but IF it exists, it is natural.

 

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Quote:How could that be

Quote:

How could that be done?. It sounds like materialism has been defined in such a way that showing it is incorrect would be impossible.

Good point. Scratch that part. Any reasoned inquiry into the world will immediately find it to be correct.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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Topher, I would agree

Topher, I would agree largely with the person you quoted. He is just restating pragmatism (he uses 'utility'). Pragmatism is the strongest foundation of naturalism over supernaturalism. Hamby said something to the effect that 'natural' means 'that which exists'. This is inaccurate. 'Natural' means 'that which has a nature', meaning that it behaves in repeatable, predictable, and observable ways (we can interact with it in some fashion). To say that 'natural' means 'that which exists' would be begging the question of natural vs. supernatural.

Your use of Occam's Razor was on the right track. Occam's Razor is a pragmatic principle. We use it because it works.

(An aside on 'utility': I think the word utility is overloaded, and can get you into unnecessary squabbles. A lot of people think 'utility' implies utilitarian ethics, and a lot of those people will consider utilitarian ethics somewhere in the neighbourhood of Nazism. Therfore, I suggest using the word 'prediction' instead. Everybody knows what a prediction is, and there's little-to-no confusion. If I say "X is going to happen", and X happens, then I've made a prediction. Pragmatism is basically saying, "Use whatever makes the best predictions". As such, it is an unbeatable philosophical foundation. Why? Well, if you can point me to some philosophy that makes better predictions, then it is automatically subsumed under pragmatism. That's why naturalism is a natural (ha! punny) fit with pragmatism. Naturalism, specifically the scientifically supported subset known as physicalism, makes the best predictions. Supernaturalism does not make any good predictions.

Pragmatism comes before naturalism, because we experience things before we know the nature of them. A child experiences colours and sounds before he has an inkling that these colours and sounds represent matter/energy, etc. But the colours and sounds are predictable in some ways, and so his brain, which is a natural prediction engine, starts to develop concepts, such as mommy and daddy, etc. He relies on predictions before he knows that his experiences represent natural things.)

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Quote:Pragmatism comes

Quote:
Pragmatism comes before naturalism, because we experience things before we know the nature of them.

You're making the mistake of putting the mind before nature.  As I've demonstrated, rational materialism is necessary for knowledge to be possible.  This includes knowledge of the pragmatic.

Humans are observers of nature, not controllers of it.  Whether a child has yet become cognizant of the nature of reality, it is still functioning within the rules of reality.  One need not be aware that one is using logic or science to use them. 

Quote:
Hamby said something to the effect that 'natural' means 'that which exists'. This is inaccurate. 'Natural' means 'that which has a nature', meaning that it behaves in repeatable, predictable, and observable ways (we can interact with it in some fashion). To say that 'natural' means 'that which exists' would be begging the question of natural vs. supernatural.

No, it's not.  Regardless of the label we apply to the set, there is a set which includes everything that exists.  For example, let's describe an existing set, Poundcake, which includes everything that exists.  Ok, now that we've done that, we can say that anything at all that exists -- in any way, whether repeatable, predictable, observable, or none of these -- is poundcake.  Everything is poundcake.

This set doesn't prescribe any particular boundaries for anything in it.  That is to say, it doesn't prevent things which are not repeatable, predictable, or observable from being within the set.  So, what is often called supernatural by theists -- ghosts, spirits, gods -- is not ruled out a priori.

Where spirits get ruled out is in the application of logic and science, which I've demonstrated to be necessarily the only means to acquire knowledge and derive conclusions.  When we use valid logic and true empirical data, we realize that only things which meet certain criteria, namely posessing identity and therefore existing as something, can possibly exist in the set, Poundcake.

So, it's not the dichotomy between supernatural and natural that throws a monkey wrench into the theist's propositions.  It's the invention of an empty set as a pressuposition, and the ad hoc assertion that a dichotomy exists.

 

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Or, hell... just think of it

Or, hell... just think of it this way.  There are two sets:  Natural and Supernatural.  Between the two of them, everything that can possibly exist is contained.  Now, just put the two of them in another set:

Poundcake {Natural, Supernatural}

Done.

 

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Perceptive natural. If one

Perceptive natural. If one could "fix my words", it would often be you. Words like unity, and even pragmatic, as simple definitions are easily usable, but as in philosophy they often become so broad, I shy from them and often roll my eyes. It's like, how is this person using that word? Of course the most confused word of use is g-o-d.

That is why I mostly laugh at so much g-o-d and philosophy talk. I mean geez, in one sense of "talk" we can imagine what is not real or natural, but that is just our natural  imagination .... So using Occams Razor, I simply say it's all gawed, and let's instead put our efforts to improving this world of so much unnecessary suffering, for all. 

Geezz people of the world, pragmatically and naturally, we are g-o-d. We are ONE. "Awaken" to what we all obviously are. Let's work at being proud. Think on the kids and help make them truly happy. Fancy philosophical words not required. Tell no lies. Come together, right now, over me .... as WE are g-o-d. GOD Damn IT, no religion of separatism !       

     


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Hamby, I read natural as

Hamby, I read natural as simply pointing out "how" we think. Like yin yang. All words have some opposite we innately imagine, such as natural and so supernatural. It is what we do in our minds, to have meaning. And that is much of why I say the word g-o-d  isn't going away, but my hope is that all would come to know we are and everything is connected, as no separation exists as what we call g-o-d, or existence. Our imagination, all that we are, can be said to be shades of good and bad, healthy and destructive, rational and non rational, and that's our perceived g-awe-d for ya ! 

Words are messy messy things, oh my, damn me. What's the fix? !!! Is there any cure?   Yeah, laughter, I god say ..... shit, we are g-o-d, now what??? Argue about g-o-d?  We so silly .... How come?!!! 


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Hambydammit

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Quote:
Pragmatism comes before naturalism, because we experience things before we know the nature of them.

You're making the mistake of putting the mind before nature.  As I've demonstrated, rational materialism is necessary for knowledge to be possible.  This includes knowledge of the pragmatic.

No, I'm talking about *how* we know things, not about *what* we do know. We do know that reality came before we did. But we know *that* from our experiences, which came before our knowledge of reality. You can't know anything if you don't have any experiences.

Quote:
Humans are observers of nature, not controllers of it.

I never claimed the contrary.

Quote:
  Whether a child has yet become cognizant of the nature of reality, it is still functioning within the rules of reality.

But you can't *know* that you're functioning in reality until you become cognizant of reality. This is a question of epistemology, i.e. How do we know things. You can't say "I know X because I know X." Where did that knowledge come from? It's inherently a question of how our minds work practically. We know things by pragmatism, not by materialism or naturalism. What we do know *is* that materialism (physicalism) and naturalism are true, but we know this through pragmatism, i.e. they make the best predictions.

Quote:


Quote:
Hamby said something to the effect that 'natural' means 'that which exists'. This is inaccurate. 'Natural' means 'that which has a nature', meaning that it behaves in repeatable, predictable, and observable ways (we can interact with it in some fashion). To say that 'natural' means 'that which exists' would be begging the question of natural vs. supernatural.

No, it's not.  Regardless of the label we apply to the set, there is a set which includes everything that exists.  For example, let's describe an existing set, Poundcake, which includes everything that exists.  Ok, now that we've done that, we can say that anything at all that exists -- in any way, whether repeatable, predictable, observable, or none of these -- is poundcake.  Everything is poundcake.

This set doesn't prescribe any particular boundaries for anything in it.  That is to say, it doesn't prevent things which are not repeatable, predictable, or observable from being within the set.  So, what is often called supernatural by theists -- ghosts, spirits, gods -- is not ruled out a priori.

This does not address the question of what is 'natural'. You are defining 'natural' as everything that exists. And then you are conflating that with what we know exists. I define the 'cosmos' as everything that exists, and the 'physical' to be everything we know exists. There may exist something that we cannot possibly know whether it exists. It might even be completely incomprehensible by humans in principle. But it might exist somewhere in the cosmos. It might even be non-physical or non-natural. What could that possibly be? I have no way of knowing. But it remains a possibility. On the other hand, there is a vast universe that I *know* exists. That is the natural and physical universe. That is a strict subset of the cosmos. It may be all that exists, but I can't possibly know that. The universe may be exactly equal to the cosmos, but I can't know that, because the cosmos is 'what exists, whether I know it or not', and the universe is 'what I know exists'.

You are conflating the two. You are saying that 'what we know exists' is 'what exists'. What if there's more that cannot ever be known by us?

The solution to this is epistemology, specifically pragmatism. I don't know if more exists, and so I apply Occam's Razor to reject the supernatural and wait for some pragmatic reason to believe in it.

Here's a parallel: For a long time we didn't know that dark matter existed, because, as we've since discovered, dark matter *does not interact* with other matter except apparently through gravity. Now, the only way we could find out that dark matter even exists is because of its gravitational interaction. We made a prediction that we'd be able to see it by its gravitational lensing, and voila!, we recently have observational evidence that confirms the prediction.

I now propose that it is possible that there is another kind of matter, called 'ignosia', which exists, but it does not interact with any known matter, either by gravity, or by any other interaction. It is non-interacting matter. But it exists, or so I claim for argument's sake. It is part of the cosmos, it exists. It is *not* part of the universe, in the sense that we do not know it exists. In fact, we cannot know. Maybe it doesn't and the claim is useless. The only way to make that distinction is to apply pragmatism. The theory of ignosia makes no predictions, because there's no way to interact with it. So, we apply the pragmatic principle of Occam's Razor and say, "Hey, we don't need to theorize about it, so it might as well not exist; it has no effect either way. Come back to us when you get some evidence."

It would be false to say that because ignosia is 'beyond nature' that it definitely does not exist in the cosmos. The only appropriate thing to do is say we don't know if it exists or not. On top of that, we can adopt a philosophy of naturalism or physicalism which claims that only things we can interact with exist. But that's a separate step. Personally, I'm a physicalist. I only accept the existence of physical things. I acknowledge that the non-physical might exist, but I apply pragmatism to rule it out of my practical existence.

Quote:
Where spirits get ruled out is in the application of logic and science

Logic and science don't rule out spirits. Occam's Razor does. It is a pragmatic principle, not a logical axiom or a strict tenet of science. Science operates under *methodological* naturalism, which does not rule out the actual existence of the supernatural.

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 natural wrote:We know

natural wrote:
We know things by pragmatism, not by materialism or naturalism. What we do know *is* that materialism (physicalism) and naturalism are true, but we know this through pragmatism, i.e. they make the best predictions.

No, pragmatism does not tell us what is true, it only tells us what is useful, what works, what it practical. Pragmatism does not tell us anything about veracity. Using pragmatism for utility is great, but lets not think we are determining truths (lest we arrive at relativism).

Ultimately we are look at the epistemological/ontological justification for supernaturalism, not the scientific/pragmatic justification. Both get us to the same conclusion, that supernaturalism is unjustified, but for slightly different reasons. The latter (scientific/pragmatic) states that there is no reason to postulate the supernatural because materialism does just fine, while the former (epistemological/ontological) states that there is no possible way to postulate supernaturalism to begin with (we have no way of knowing, detecting, defining it).

Both of these arguments are compatible. Furthermore, neither rules out the existence of supernaturalism a priori. We can allow for the supernatural being real, but incapable of being experienced and hence outside the reach our knowledge.

 

natural wrote:
This does not address the question of what is 'natural'. You are defining 'natural' as everything that exists. And then you are conflating that with what we know exists. I define the 'cosmos' as everything that exists, and the 'physical' to be everything we know exists. There may exist something that we cannot possibly know whether it exists. It might even be completely incomprehensible by humans in principle. But it might exist somewhere in the cosmos. It might even be non-physical or non-natural. What could that possibly be? I have no way of knowing. But it remains a possibility. On the other hand, there is a vast universe that I *know* exists. That is the natural and physical universe. That is a strict subset of the cosmos. It may be all that exists, but I can't possibly know that. The universe may be exactly equal to the cosmos, but I can't know that, because the cosmos is 'what exists, whether I know it or not', and the universe is 'what I know exists'.

Theists define the supernatural in contradistinction to the natural, material world.

All we can detect is the material world; matter and energy, thus this is the default position. (The term we use to refer to this set is irrelevant, however as natural being, we tend to use the term natural). From here we can define the supernatural:

The supernatural is either a) some other nature or b) something other than nature entirely.

(a) seems to be making a distinction without a difference... is this 'supernatural nature' material, is is matter or energy? If yes, how is it distinct from the matter and energy of our nature (to the degree that it requires a separate term)? If no, then:

(b) what is it? If there is something other than matter and energy then you must tell us what it is, you cannot just assert that there is something else. As natural beings, how can we know or infer anything about it? And how can something that is neither material or natural interact with our material/natural world?

So the supernaturalist is either making an epistemologically and ontologically bankrupt (and therefore unjustifiable) claim (b), or they are making a distinction without a difference (a). So the theist gets to chose which problem they wish to adopt!

If they can actually comprehend and know anything about the supernatural, then it must, by definition, be part of nature by virtue of the fact they can comprehend it (which makes the natural/supernatural distinction redundant). If it isn't part of nature, then how can they even make the claim that such a 'place' exists to begin with?! You may say this entails a begging the question fallacy that to comprehend something means that something is natural, but unless the theist can demonstrate some 'other way' of knowing other than experience (which is causal and therefore can only point to material), or some way for natural beings like us to comprehend things that are neither matter nor energy, then the problem remains.

You state that something may exist in the universe but we could simply not comprehend it, which I agree with, however that point is moot since what ever it is, if we experienced it then it must still be material/natural. As I say above, how can something non-material, non-natural interact with our material/natural world?

 

natural wrote:
You are conflating the two. You are saying that 'what we know exists' is 'what exists'. What if there's more that cannot ever be known by us?

No, he is saying what we know exists is all we can say/confirm exists. In other words, the fact we allow for 'other things' to theoretically exist, be they natural/material but outside our knowledge, or supernatural, it does not in any way give us an epistemological right to lay claim to knowledge about such things. We are basically stating that our knowledge does not equate to the sum total of existence, however out knowledge does equate to all the things we can claim to know.

 

 [Edited some spelling]

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That's some tasty "fixins"

That's some tasty "fixins" there natural. You seem a great good cook to this simple cowboy. RRS has many fine fancy cooks, as in this thread. I'm just a beans and corn bread guy, thanks for sharing them flavors ya all.    ____________________

 - Wise Topher beat me in this reply, but it seems we are all agreeing, and basically polishing our personal philosophy language styles. Am I missing something?  

 


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I've been watching this

I've been watching this discussion with much interest. I was surprised to see Hamby and DG argue that materialism is self-evident, it's probably the last thing of all which could be called self-evident, for the simple reason that being self-evident and having the overwhelming support of logical argument and proof are two vastly different things - to wit self evident is defined precisely as not requiring proof or argument. Materialism is far from this.

Before I go on  I will clarify the definitions which I am using:

Materialism (as defined by allaboutphilosophy.org) - Materialism as a philosophy is held by those who maintain that existence is explainable solely in material terms, with no accounting of spirit or consciousness.

Self evident (as define by princeton wordnet) - axiomatic: evident without proof or argument

So is it evident without proof or argument that existence is explainable in solely material terms with no accounting of spirit or consciousness? 

Come on! of course it isn't.  Existence includes things such as light, gravity, time, qualia; all of these are immediately accessible to any average thinker without proof or argument, and in the absence of proof or argument to demonstrate why/how they are all logically predicted to fit completely in a material explanation of the world, they self-evidently appear to be anything but.

As I said I'm surprised that anyone is arguing for materialism as self -evident, that it's logically evident by virtue of it's proofs and arguments, there is no question, but to say it is self-evident is just pushing dogma, surely.

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Wow, just when I thought the

Wow, just when I thought the cooking couldn't get much finer, our Eloise adds a cup of new tasty spice. I love this cook out ! It's a miracle for sure. A "self evident miracle", I must say. I am not just lost in space and time , I'm lost in definitions! I am in awe. What a ride! Yippy I yea  !!!      

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Topher wrote:To elaborate...

Topher wrote:

To elaborate... is saying something is the default position the same as saying it is self-evident?

I think materialism (e.g. all we can detect is material) is the default position

I disagree that 'all we can detect is material' is the default position, it's a position to be arrived at once the explanatory power of materialism is argued and demonstrated, and therefore it's not self-evident either. That the category of things we can detect is a single category must be argued, it cannot be ordinarily sensed and it is not axiomatic. For example one must prove that mass is energy, that is not a tautology by any stretch of the imagination. Of course if it was it would be obvious to the ordinary senses that mass behaves like energy and it is not, one cannot see that this is true without the use of logic and quite elaborate experimentation or technology.

I can kind of understand DG's position because mass and energy could be tautological to a scientist. It can be, quite literally, in scientific discussion, redundant to say mass when you've already said energy or vice versa, in certain terms you are merely repeating yourself. But that is a situation which is out of the ordinary, it is not a default position but one which has been arrived at through a long process of critical thinking.

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Eloise wrote:Topher wrote:To

Eloise wrote:

Topher wrote:

To elaborate... is saying something is the default position the same as saying it is self-evident?

I think materialism (e.g. all we can detect is material) is the default position

I disagree that 'all we can detect is material' is the default position, it's a position to be arrived at once the explanatory power of materialism is argued and demonstrated, and therefore it's not self-evident either. That the category of things we can detect is a single category must be argued, it cannot be ordinarily sensed and it is not axiomatic. For example one must prove that mass is energy, that is not a tautology by any stretch of the imagination. Of course if it was it would be obvious to the ordinary senses that mass behaves like energy and it is not, one cannot see that this is true without the use of logic and quite elaborate experimentation or technology.

I can kind of understand DG's position because mass and energy could be tautological to a scientist. It can be, quite literally, in scientific discussion, redundant to say mass when you've already said energy or vice versa, in certain terms you are merely repeating yourself. But that is a situation which is out of the ordinary, it is not a default position but one which has been arrived at through a long process of critical thinking.

By 'default position' I do not mean 'self-evident', rather I am saying only that position is justified; it is the only valid position, and therefore materialism becomes the default position until proven otherwise. So materialism (i.e. all we can detect is material) is where we must start, and we must remain there until falsified (i.e. we detect something that is NOT material).

I don't mean it is the default position because it is self-evident, rather it is the default position because only that position has survived the logic, reason, and observation.

The argument is similar to weak/agnostic atheism being the default position because nothing else is valid.

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Topher wrote:By 'default

Topher wrote:

By 'default position' I do not mean 'self-evident', rather I am saying only that position is justified; it is the only valid position, and therefore materialism becomes the default position until proven otherwise.

I see, I wasn't whether you meant default in an initial sense or in the sense of being justified and I should have asked, my apologies.

That said, I'm neither sure that materialism is the 'only' justified position as there are many objects of unsure nature and not of the traditional 'nature' ascribed to matter which are under the materialistic category a neutral but still monistic philosophy is also quite well justified by the evidence.

Topher wrote:

So materialism (i.e. all we can detect is material) is where we must start,

I guess what you mean here is that we are calling 'all we can detect' material, as in a label for the category which is slightly more broad than it once was; ie  that material nature was once defined rather more narrowly. If that is the case then I don't see a problem with that short of conflating it with being a statement that material 'nature' is absolute or self-evident in any specific form. Which answers your question in a nutshell I suppose.

 

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I was surprised to see Hamby and DG argue that materialism is self-evident

This is not what I stated. What I am arguing is that materialism is supportable by deductive argument, as opposed to merely rejecting arguments in favor of supernaturalism. It is directly analogous to stating that atheism is deductively defensible as opposed to merely rejecting theist a priori and a posteriori arguments. I prefer the term physicalist, by the way.

For me, physicalism starts by asking the following question:

What is a physical object?

For most people, a “physical object” is something comprised of solid stuff which comprises a physical universe. You and I are sufficiently versed in physics to know that this is not true, and we need a better and less vague definition of physicalism.

For me, the obvious answer is that physical objects are precisely those things which are causally responsible for our experiences. We intuitively infer that a real world exists on the basis of our experiences, and that world we label “physical”. The external world which is causally responsible for our experience is that which we consider physical. What else could it be? There is no such property called “physicalness” such that “non-physical objects” could be said to be those objects not endowed with this property. This, for me, is why the notion of a non-physical object breaks down into meaninglessness. When we talk about atoms, or charge density, or electrons or fields or dark matter, we are discussing concepts whose properties we have deduced on the basis of its causing our experiences. If it wasn’t responsible for our experiences, we wouldn’t know about it! We know about Dark matter, about space-time, about all these things, on the basis of deductive chains. Whenever we discover new objects which are part of causal chains responsible for our experience (such as gravitational fields) we merely add it to our repertoire of understanding of the physical world. The physical world is precisely that world we can causally link to our experience. The epistemological necessity of physicalism from this shouldn’t need spelling out.

 

 

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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Topher wrote:natural

Topher wrote:

natural wrote:
We know things by pragmatism, not by materialism or naturalism. What we do know *is* that materialism (physicalism) and naturalism are true, but we know this through pragmatism, i.e. they make the best predictions.

No, pragmatism does not tell us what is true, it only tells us what is useful, what works, what it practical. Pragmatism does not tell us anything about veracity.

If pragmatism doesn't, then nothing does. Name me one truth that we don't know through pragmatism. Remember, you have to go against radical skepticism. In other words, we could be brains in vats. Only way out is pragmatism.

Quote:
Using pragmatism for utility is great, but lets not think we are determining truths (lest we arrive at relativism).

It has nothing to do with relativism. It is about the ability to make good predictions. Relativism does not lead to good predictions.

Quote:

The supernatural is either a) some other nature or b) something other than nature entirely.

The only sensible option is b.

Quote:
(b) what is it? If there is something other than matter and energy then you must tell us what it is, you cannot just assert that there is something else. As natural beings, how can we know or infer anything about it? And how can something that is neither material or natural interact with our material/natural world?

So the supernaturalist is either making an epistemologically and ontologically bankrupt (and therefore unjustifiable) claim (b), or they are making a distinction without a difference (a). So the theist gets to chose which problem they wish to adopt!

If they can actually comprehend and know anything about the supernatural, then it must, by definition, be part of nature by virtue of the fact they can comprehend it (which makes the natural/supernatural distinction redundant). If it isn't part of nature, then how can they even make the claim that such a 'place' exists to begin with?! You may say this entails a begging the question fallacy that to comprehend something means that something is natural, but unless the theist can demonstrate some 'other way' of knowing other than experience (which is causal and therefore can only point to material), or some way for natural beings like us to comprehend things that are neither matter nor energy, then the problem remains.

I agree with your critique of supernaturalism.

Quote:
You state that something may exist in the universe but we could simply not comprehend it, which I agree with, however that point is moot since what ever it is, if we experienced it then it must still be material/natural. As I say above, how can something non-material, non-natural interact with our material/natural world?

To be accurate, I said something may exist in the 'cosmos', not the 'universe'. The cosmos being all that exists, whether we know it or not, and the universe being that which we know exists. It's a minor distinction, but I find it very useful.

Quote:
natural wrote:
You are conflating the two. You are saying that 'what we know exists' is 'what exists'. What if there's more that cannot ever be known by us?

No, he is saying what we know exists is all we can say/confirm exists.

I think you are mistaken in your assessment of his position. He did say something to the effect that he 'showed' that existence requires an assumption of rational materialism. This is the point I was disputing. I could be the one who mistook his position. We'll see.

Quote:
In other words, the fact we allow for 'other things' to theoretically exist, be they natural/material but outside our knowledge, or supernatural, it does not in any way give us an epistemological right to lay claim to knowledge about such things.

He was not talking about our *knowledge* of their existence. He was talking about their *actual* existence. That was specifically my point of contention. He accused me of erroneously putting epistemology (specifically pragmatism) first in the discussion.

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Eloise wrote:Before I go

Eloise wrote:

Before I go on  I will clarify the definitions which I am using:

Materialism (as defined by allaboutphilosophy.org) - Materialism as a philosophy is held by those who maintain that existence is explainable solely in material terms, with no accounting of spirit or consciousness.

Please don't use this naive interpretation of materialism. Materialism does of course account for consciousness. Spirit, no, consciousness, yes. We don't have a complete account, but it does exist, and it is firmly rooted in the brain (a material entity).

Because 'materialism' is so prone to this naive interpretation, I prefer the word 'physicalism', which implies 'physics', which implies 'that which we know exists because of scientific investigation'. Consciousness is a physical process that occurs in our physical brains.

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deludedgod wrote:What is a

deludedgod wrote:

What is a physical object?

For most people, a “physical object” is something comprised of solid stuff which comprises a physical universe. You and I are sufficiently versed in physics to know that this is not true, and we need a better and less vague definition of physicalism.

For me, the obvious answer is that physical objects are precisely those things which are causally responsible for our experiences. We intuitively infer that a real world exists on the basis of our experiences, and that world we label “physical”. The external world which is causally responsible for our experience is that which we consider physical. What else could it be? There is no such property called “physicalness” such that “non-physical objects” could be said to be those objects not endowed with this property. This, for me, is why the notion of a non-physical object breaks down into meaninglessness. When we talk about atoms, or charge density, or electrons or fields or dark matter, we are discussing concepts whose properties we have deduced on the basis of its causing our experiences. If it wasn’t responsible for our experiences, we wouldn’t know about it! We know about Dark matter, about space-time, about all these things, on the basis of deductive chains. Whenever we discover new objects which are part of causal chains responsible for our experience (such as gravitational fields) we merely add it to our repertoire of understanding of the physical world. The physical world is precisely that world we can causally link to our experience. The epistemological necessity of physicalism from this shouldn’t need spelling out. 

I think the confusion over 'material' and 'physical' disappears when you point out that something is physical if, in principle, it could be studied by physics. Matter/energy, forces, spacetime, properties such as spin and charge, information, processes, etc. For example, the solar system is a physical entity. Sure, it exists *as* many individual objects and many forces working their mojo. But it exists as a stable physical process in its own right. It is a physical system, just as an atom is a physical system involving neutrons, protons, and electrons. Human societies are physical systems, as is consciousness, life, etc.

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I hate words

I hate words sometimes.

Anyway, here's the sense in which I mean self-evident in this context.  The concepts (and hence the words which refer to them) of supernatural and immaterial are incoherent.  Nevertheless, they exist (that is, the concepts exist), and their existence is owed to the material.  That is to say, without reference to the material, there would be no concepts.  The invention of these concepts necessitates acceptance of the material.  Like the foundational axioms of philosophy, materialism must be employed to question materialism. 

As topher has pointed out, acceptance of materialism doesn't rule any particular thing out a priori.  It simply dictates that anything which does exist exists as something within the set {All that exists}.  This is a tautology, and so must be true.  It is self evident.  In other words, materialism simply acknowledges the set {All that exists} and gives it the name "natural."  Just to be pedantic about it, try imagining something that exists, but doesn't exist as something.  If that were the case, assigning it to {All that exists} would create a paradox, for the description "a thing which exists in the set {all that exists} is an identity, however minimal.  If, however, we do not include it in {All that exists} we have created another paradox, for {All that exists} does not contain all that exists.

Think of it a different way.  All the materialist asserts is that anything which exists, exists as something.  He uses the words "natural" and "material" to refer to existence.  This is nothing more than the application of the axiom of identity to the universe.  The rational materialist will deduce the conclusion that anything which does not exist as something cannot exist.  This is a deductive conclusion, and is not self evident.  This is why I often speak of rational materialism as opposed to just materialism.  Like atheism, materialism by itself doesn't really tell us anything.  It is only in the application of logic to materialism that we can draw conclusions.

Topher has done a good job of addressing most of what natural has said, so I'm not going to repeat it.

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Oh, and maybe this will

Oh, and maybe this will clear things up even more.  The discussion of what constitutes a physical thing comes after materialism the way I am using it.  That is, once we have admitted that everything which exists belongs to the set of everything that exists, we can set about determining what kinds of things do and do not exist.  It may seem like I'm reducing materialism to triviality, but the exact opposite is true.  By establishing the self evident truth that everything which exists belongs to one set, we are then bound to apply global functions universally within the set.  This eliminates the possibility of special pleading or claims of "other existence" or "other knowledge."

 

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Yeah Consciousness, C. 

Yeah Consciousness, C.  Thoughts of a kid. Is the grass conscious? I say yes. Is a dormant seed? Can we ever find a C particle or cluster of particles we would uniquely label C? Could it in any sense be non physical? I say no. I say C is result of Energy/ Matter. At what point or degree would we say something possesses C ? Umm, a math equation of C? I say yes eventually, maybe soon.    

  Isn't pantheism largely about the unresolved science questions regarding C ?  As a materialist, I appreciate pantheism and have said it's often an xlint help to getting god of abe dogmists out of their dangerous rut.

Thinking on C in a pantheist theme, will physics ever come to say that C is an inherent part of all energy, matter and time? This burns in my head. Something whispers yes. I want that "theory of everything" NOW, damn it. (laughing in hysteria)

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Words have too many damn definitions .... pantheists aren't always theists.

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natural wrote:Eloise

natural wrote:

Eloise wrote:

Before I go on  I will clarify the definitions which I am using:

Materialism (as defined by allaboutphilosophy.org) - Materialism as a philosophy is held by those who maintain that existence is explainable solely in material terms, with no accounting of spirit or consciousness.

Please don't use this naive interpretation of materialism. Materialism does of course account for consciousness. Spirit, no, consciousness, yes.

Oh :| I read that differently. I might be the one in error here but I took that to be saying - spirit or consciousness doesn't account for anything (ie is not required to explain anything) material terms are all that is required to explain existence. so I took 'accounting of' to mean something along the lines of 'accounting by' rather than 'accounting for' ; it comes down to how I interpreted 'of'.. ambiguous word, that one.

I figured on those grounds that it was a pretty good definition of materialistic (or physical as you prefer) philosophy, but I see your objection, natural, if I had read it that way I would have considered it naive, too.

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Eloise wrote:That said, I'm

Eloise wrote:
That said, I'm neither sure that materialism is the 'only' justified position as there are many objects of unsure nature and not of the traditional 'nature' ascribed to matter which are under the materialistic category a neutral but still monistic philosophy is also quite well justified by the evidence.

Such as? What position other than materialism is justified? It seems like you are saying something may exist albeit differently to what we already know exists, but still ultimately material.

 

 

Topher wrote:
No, pragmatism does not tell us what is true, it only tells us what is useful, what works, what it practical. Pragmatism does not tell us anything about veracity.

natural wrote:
If pragmatism doesn't, then nothing does.

I subscribe to correspondence theory of truth, that is, what is true is what corresponds to objective reality. We do this by objectively testing our theories and observations with the universe.

Something may be pragmatic and useful but nevertheless be completely wrong. Belief in god/religion for instance may carry with it useful benefits but it remains incorrect. The problem with pragmatic theory of truth, as Bertrand Russell argued, is that it leads us to relativism in that if two mutually exclusive things are useful, they we must hold them both true. For instance, belief and non-belief in god may both have their own benefits.

You could say the methods we use to determine truth (science) are pragmatic, however we do not determine truth by the methods we use, but rather by whether it corresponds to reality.

 

Topher wrote:
You state that something may exist in the universe but we could simply not comprehend it, which I agree with, however that point is moot since what ever it is, if we experienced it then it must still be material/natural. As I say above, how can something non-material, non-natural interact with our material/natural world?

natural wrote:
To be accurate, I said something may exist in the 'cosmos', not the 'universe'. The cosmos being all that exists, whether we know it or not, and the universe being that which we know exists. It's a minor distinction, but I find it very useful.

I never heard of that distinction used before. I've always used 'cosmos' and 'universe' interchangeably.

 

Topher wrote:
In other words, the fact we allow for 'other things' to theoretically exist, be they natural/material but outside our knowledge, or supernatural, it does not in any way give us an epistemological right to lay claim to knowledge about such things.

natural wrote:
He was not talking about our *knowledge* of their existence. He was talking about their *actual* existence. That was specifically my point of contention.

He said things may *actually* exist outside of our knowledge, so he was not conflating 'what we know exists' with 'what exists' (as you said he was), he stating the exact opposite: what we know exists may not be all that actually exists.

The point I was making was that even if we allow for the possibility that 'other things' actually exist, it does not mean we can know they exists, and that is precisely the problem with theism and supernaturalism. Objectively speaking supernaturalism may be correct in that it may *actually* exists, but there is no epistemological foundation for the claim. Unless the supernaturalist can present 'another way' of knowing, they have no way of confirming their claim, which means they must concede that their position doesn't hold.

 

 

Hambydammit wrote:
As topher has pointed out, acceptance of materialism doesn't rule any particular thing out a priori.  It simply dictates that anything which does exist exists as something within the set {All that exists}.  This is a tautology, and so must be true.  It is self evident.  In other words, materialism simply acknowledges the set {All that exists} and gives it the name "natural."

Exactly. And the problem with supernaturalism is that it is based on the assumption that there are two sets of existence, one material, and one not-material, which violated the law of identity! How can something exist, and by definition have identity, but not be something. To say it is something but in a 'different way' is a distinction without a difference: it is still at the end of the day a 'thing'.

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natural wrote:  To be

natural wrote:  To be accurate, I said something may exist in the 'cosmos', not the 'universe'. The cosmos being all that exists, whether we know it or not, and the universe being that which we know exists. It's a minor distinction, but I find it very useful.

Topher wrote: I never heard of that distinction used before. I've always used 'cosmos' and 'universe' interchangeably. ~~~

  I'm quite sure I have, something like , "Our big bang universe of the cosmos."

  Sometimes I say the grandeur or unmeasurable universe, or, our little bang universe of infinite universes and bangs. How many bangs way out there this day?

  We need more words. GOD, god, gawd, gawed, dog, doesn't cut it. I "invented" gawed, and awela, yawewe, but I'm sure others did too.   I try to make me laugh.

I ain't fucking atheist, I'm god, oh but wait, god is atheist, so okay I'm atheist, as me and god are the same. Words mess with my head, so I mess with them.

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Topher wrote:Topher

Topher wrote:

Topher wrote:
No, pragmatism does not tell us what is true, it only tells us what is useful, what works, what it practical. Pragmatism does not tell us anything about veracity.

natural wrote:
If pragmatism doesn't, then nothing does.

I subscribe to correspondence theory of truth, that is, what is true is what corresponds to objective reality. We do this by objectively testing our theories and observations with the universe.

Something may be pragmatic and useful but nevertheless be completely wrong. Belief in god/religion for instance may carry with it useful benefits but it remains incorrect. The problem with pragmatic theory of truth, as Bertrand Russell argued, is that it leads us to relativism in that if two mutually exclusive things are useful, they we must hold them both true. For instance, belief and non-belief in god may both have their own benefits.

As you describe it, correspondence theory and pragmatism are similar, if not the same. My impression is that correspondence would be justified by pragmatism, actually.

The benefits of religion do not pragmatically justify the existence of gods, they only justify the efficacy of belief for changing psychological states. You see there is a difference in a simplistic or naive application of pragmatism, vs. a more complete and sophisticated application of it.

For example, I've already explained that Occam's Razor is a pragmatic principle. It leads to better predictions. Specifically, it predicts that simpler theories will make as good or better predictions than ones with unnecessary assumptions.

But in your example of pragmatism leading to 'wrong' conclusions, you've applied a naive interpretation of pragmatism which does not include Occam's Razor. When you continue on and complete the pragmatic analysis, you'll see that Occam's Razor rules out the necessity of a god in the efficacy of religious experience.

Pragmatism is an unbeatable philosophical foundation. Any time you point out a theory that is 'better' (i.e. makes better predictions) than pragmatism, it is automatically supported by pragmatism. So the only way you can 'defeat' pragmatism is to present a Straw Man version of it, which does not include a complete application of pragmatic principles.

Quote:
You could say the methods we use to determine truth (science) are pragmatic, however we do not determine truth by the methods we use, but rather by whether it corresponds to reality.

Corresponding to reality means that the theory makes good predictions about reality, right? That's exactly what I'm saying. In what other way can we say that a theory corresponds to reality than to test its predictions?

Here's a little metaphor I've used before. Never got any feedback on it yet, but it makes sense to me. Here it is: A truth is like an arrow. When an arrow is true, it strikes its target. When an arrow is untrue, it fails to strike where you aim. Theories are the same way. If a theory's predictions are accurate, then the theory is true. This is a pragmatic conception of truth. Now, it does not mean we've discovered Absolute Truth or Absolute Reality. We discover truths, not Truth.

Now, you mentioned somebody's critique of pragmatism. I must say that pragmatism as it was originally conceived by Pierce and James is not the same kind of pragmatism I'm talking about. It is more or less the same, but it has evolved. The more we learn, the more pragmatism learns. If pragmatism was statically stuck in its form 100 years ago, that wouldn't be very 'pragmatic', would it?

At it's core, it is very simple. Make a prediction. If it turns out accurate, whatever it was that allowed you to make the prediction is 'true', like an arrow is true.

Regarding when two 'different' ideas have 'benefits'. Are they both 'true'? Again, you must apply the complete set of pragmatic principles. Is the benefit identical? If not, then are we really comparing apples and apples, or apples and oranges? Secondly, have we applied principles such as Occam's Razor? For example, there's the idea that religion helps people's emotional health. What is the prediction? Is the prediction that God exists, therefore religious people will be more emotionally healthy? Or is it the more pragmatic idea that participating in religious groups and rituals will lead to more emotional health? Both theories predict the same result, one has fewer unnecessary assumptions (God). Occam's Razor applies.

Topher wrote:
I never heard of that distinction used before. I've always used 'cosmos' and 'universe' interchangeably.

It is implicit in ideas such as the multiverse.

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natural wrote:My impression

 

natural wrote:
My impression is that correspondence would be justified by pragmatism, actually.

Correspondence theory of truth uses pragmatism, but it is not pragmatism by which we determine truth.

 

 

natural wrote:
Pragmatism is an unbeatable philosophical foundation. Any time you point out a theory that is 'better' (i.e. makes better predictions) than pragmatism, it is automatically supported by pragmatism. So the only way you can 'defeat' pragmatism is to present a Straw Man version of it, which does not include a complete application of pragmatic principles.

I think we are looking at pragmatism from two different perspectives.

There is a difference between the pragmatic maxim in of itself, and the pragmatic theory of truth, which is what I was referring to. Pragmatic theory of truth defines truth by whether something is pragmatic or not, by its utility, however truth and utility are distinct.

I'm certainly not denying pragmatism, however I am denying that pragmatism equates to truth.

From http://www.iep.utm.edu/t/truth.htm#H6:

"A Pragmatic Theory of Truth holds (roughly) that a proposition is true if it is useful to believe. Peirce and James were its principal advocates. Utility is the essential mark of truth. Beliefs that lead to the best "payoff", that are the best justification of our actions, that promote success, are truths, according to the pragmatists.

The problems with Pragmatic accounts of truth are counterparts to the problems seen above with Coherence Theories of truth.

First, it may be useful for someone to believe a proposition but also useful for someone else to disbelieve it. For example, Freud said that many people, in order to avoid despair, need to believe there is a god who keeps a watchful eye on everyone. According to one version of the Pragmatic Theory, that proposition is true. However, it may not be useful for other persons to believe that same proposition. They would be crushed if they believed that there is a god who keeps a watchful eye on everyone. Thus, by symmetry of argument, that proposition is false. In this way, the Pragmatic theory leads to a violation of the law of non-contradiction, say its critics.

Second, certain beliefs are undeniably useful, even though – on other criteria – they are judged to be objectively false. For example, it can be useful for some persons to believe that they live in a world surrounded by people who love or care for them. According to this criticism, the Pragmatic Theory of Truth overestimates the strength of the connection between truth and usefulness.

Truth is what an ideally rational inquirer would in the long run come to believe, say some pragmatists. Truth is the ideal outcome of rational inquiry. The criticism that we don't now know what happens in the long run merely shows we have a problem with knowledge, but it doesn't show that the meaning of "true" doesn't now involve hindsight from the perspective of the future. Yet, as a theory of truth, does this reveal what "true" means?"


natural wrote:
Corresponding to reality means that the theory makes good predictions about reality, right?

It says a proposition is true if it corresponds to a fact (that fact being objective reality). e.g. the proposition that light travels at 300,000 km/sec is true if it corresponds to an objective reality within which it is a fact that light travel at 300,000 km/sec.


natural wrote:
That's exactly what I'm saying.

Then you're not talking about pragmatic theory of truth. 

Pragmatic theory of truth does not define truth by correspondence to an objective reality, it defines truth by pragmatism, utility, irrespective of whether it actually corresponds to reality.

What you are doing is saying those proposition which correspond to objective reality are also the most pragmatic by virtue of the fact they accurately represent reality, and so are the most useful, however that is quite different from 'pragmatic theory of truth' since propositions which can be held for pragmatic reasons need not actually correspond to reality.

One of the criticism of pragmatic theory of truth, as stated in the text above, is that it "overestimates the strength of the connection between truth and usefulness".


natural wrote:
Here's a little metaphor I've used before. Never got any feedback on it yet, but it makes sense to me. Here it is: A truth is like an arrow. When an arrow is true, it strikes its target. When an arrow is untrue, it fails to strike where you aim. Theories are the same way. If a theory's predictions are accurate, then the theory is true. This is a pragmatic conception of truth.

Right, and now the next question is this: what is the target?

The correspondence theory of truth proponent would say reality/facts are the target.

The coherent theory of truth proponent would say other propositions are the target.

The pragmatic theory of truth proponent would say utility is the target.

And the post-modernist would say there is no target, or rather, we make the target!


natural wrote:
At it's core, it is very simple. Make a prediction. If it turns out accurate, whatever it was that allowed you to make the prediction is 'true', like an arrow is true.

Again, no one is denying the pragmatic maxim, the question is how do you determine whether a belief IS accurate to begin with. As shown above, correspondence theory of truth is quite different from pragmatic theory of truth.


natural wrote:
Regarding when two 'different' ideas have 'benefits'. Are they both 'true'? Again, you must apply the complete set of pragmatic principles. Is the benefit identical?

Whether the benefit is identical is irrelevant. The fact remains that when utility becomes the basis for determining truth, one proposition can leads to contradictory benefits, but according to the pragmatic theory of truth, both must be true.

 

(I'll point out that the truth I am referring to in this discussion is objective truth, not subjective truth. Objective truth being mind-independent and subjective truth being mind-dependent, and so relative to individuals).

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Topher wrote:natural

Topher wrote:
natural wrote:
My impression is that correspondence would be justified by pragmatism, actually.

Correspondence theory of truth uses pragmatism, but it is not pragmatism by which we determine truth.


Yes, it really is. Any claim you can make to truth depends on making accurate predictions.

Quote:
natural wrote:
Pragmatism is an unbeatable philosophical foundation. Any time you point out a theory that is 'better' (i.e. makes better predictions) than pragmatism, it is automatically supported by pragmatism. So the only way you can 'defeat' pragmatism is to present a Straw Man version of it, which does not include a complete application of pragmatic principles.

I think we are looking at pragmatism from two different perspectives.

I think so too, and in fact that's what I meant when I said you are relying on a Straw Man version of pragmatism. For example, you brought up Peirce and James when I had already addressed them as being somewhat obsolete. A decent starting point perhaps, but not the state of the art.

Quote:
There is a difference between the pragmatic maxim in of itself, and the pragmatic theory of truth, which is what I was referring to. Pragmatic theory of truth defines truth by whether something is pragmatic or not, by its utility, however truth and utility are distinct.

See, there's that straw man again. Even in my very first post I made it clear that the word 'utility' is problematic, and should be replaced by 'prediction'. But you keep whacking that straw man, over and over.

Quote:
natural wrote:
Corresponding to reality means that the theory makes good predictions about reality, right?

It says a proposition is true if it corresponds to a fact (that fact being objective reality). e.g. the proposition that light travels at 300,000 km/sec is true if it corresponds to an objective reality within which it is a fact that light travel at 300,000 km/sec.

And how do we know that it is 300,000 km/sec? Because that is our prediction, and the prediction is accurate. There is no other way. Specifically, the prediction is 'if you repeat this experiment/observation, then you will come to a result of 300,000 km/sec.' There are many ways to test the prediction via experiment/observation.

You can't speak about 'facts' without implicitly speaking about predictions. Predictions are how we know facts correspond with reality. There really is no other way of knowing.

Quote:
natural wrote:
That's exactly what I'm saying.

Then you're not talking about pragmatic theory of truth.

I'm not talking about your straw man version of it, that's for sure.

Quote:
Pragmatic theory of truth does not define truth by correspondence to an objective reality, it defines truth by pragmatism, utility, irrespective of whether it actually corresponds to reality.

Again, ignoring my emphasis on predictions. You're hung up on the old concept of 'utility'. Just drop it. That's not what I'm talking about.

Quote:
What you are doing is saying those proposition which correspond to objective reality are also the most pragmatic by virtue of the fact they accurately represent reality, and so are the most useful

No, that is not what I'm saying. I'm saying that you can't even begin to talk about 'correspond to objective reality' without depending on the idea of making predictions and testing them.

Quote:
natural wrote:
Here's a little metaphor I've used before. Never got any feedback on it yet, but it makes sense to me. Here it is: A truth is like an arrow. When an arrow is true, it strikes its target. When an arrow is untrue, it fails to strike where you aim. Theories are the same way. If a theory's predictions are accurate, then the theory is true. This is a pragmatic conception of truth.

Right, and now the next question is this: what is the target?

The target is the prediction. If an astronomer predicts that Jupiter and Mars will appear in a particular region of the sky, and his prediction is accurate, i.e. we observe that yes, indeed they are there, then the theory he made his predictions by, i.e. that planets orbit the sun according to the laws of physics, is 'true'. If an *astrologer* predicts that because I was born in August, I will end up getting a promotion at work this month, and this doesn't beat the default chance prediction that people born in August won't have any special difference in success at work, then the 'theory' of astrology is 'untrue'. Maybe the planets really do influence our daily lives. That may be 'the truth' about reality. But using that theory does not make good predictions. Correspondence theory depends on pragmatism.

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natural wrote:Any claim you

natural wrote:
Any claim you can make to truth depends on making accurate predictions.

Yes, but it doesn't necessarily work in reverse.

Correspondence entails pragmatism however pragmatism does not necessarily lead to correspondence. The fact something is pragmatic does not necessarily mean it corresponds to the objective reality.

 

natural wrote:
I think so too, and in fact that's what I meant when I said you are relying on a Straw Man version of pragmatism.

No, I'm not. I'm talking about pragmatic theory of truth which is quite specific from broad pragmatism. You're dogmatically insisting on a very strict definition for a concept which far more broad.

 

natural wrote:
See, there's that straw man again. Even in my very first post I made it clear that the word 'utility' is problematic, and should be replaced by 'prediction'. But you keep whacking that straw man, over and over.

You're still failing to see the difference between the pragmatic theory of truth and broad pragmatism.

You said you preferred the use of 'prediction' over 'utility' because people may become confused by the term, not because it was 'wrong', which it what you seem to be claiming now. 'Utility', 'beneficial' and 'practical' are perfectly valid understandings of pragmatism.

 

natural wrote:
And how do we know that it is 300,000 km/sec? Because that is our prediction, and the prediction is accurate. There is no other way.

Are you actually reading what I am writing?

I am not saying pragmatism is not part of of how we determine whether something corresponds to reality, it *is* how we determine whether something corresponds to reality. The point is pragmatism does not necessarily entail correspondence with reality.

 

natural wrote:
I'm saying that you can't even begin to talk about 'correspond to objective reality' without depending on the idea of making predictions and testing them.

Yes, I never disagreed with this.

 

natural wrote:
The target is the prediction.

You're ignoring other theories of truth.

 

natural wrote:
If an astronomer predicts that Jupiter and Mars will appear in a particular region of the sky, and his prediction is accurate, i.e. we observe that yes, indeed they are there, then the theory he made his predictions by, i.e. that planets orbit the sun according to the laws of physics, is 'true'.

This is true vis-a-vis correspondence theory of true. But there are other theories of truth out there which are not based on correspondence.

 

natural wrote:
Correspondence theory depends on pragmatism.

Again, I agree. But pragmatism does not necessarily entail correspondence.

Correspondence theory of truth is how we determine truths, and pragmatism is simply the means by which we can make that conclusion.

The problem with pragmatic theory of truth is that it tries to determine truths by pragmatism alone and not by the relationship between the proposition and the object.

 

"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:natural

Topher wrote:

natural wrote:
Any claim you can make to truth depends on making accurate predictions.

Yes, but it doesn't necessarily work in reverse.

Correspondence entails pragmatism however pragmatism does not necessarily lead to correspondence. The fact something is pragmatic does not necessarily mean it corresponds to the objective reality.

Let me rephrase what you're saying into my usage of pragmatism: "The fact that you can make the most accurate predictions does not necessarily mean it corresponds to objective reality."

- First of all, on the surface, I agree with this. Before Copernicus, the best predictions came from the epicycle theories. But the planets do not move via epicycles in 'objective' reality. After Copernicus, the universe didn't suddenly change its character and become solar centric. Before Einstein, the best predictions came from Newton's theories. The universe didn't suddenly change from aetheric to relativistic when Einstein formulated relatvity. So, on the surface, making the best predictions doesn't lead to correspondence to reality.

- However, there is no other way to determine 'correspondence' with reality than to test predictions. Therefore, if you simply adjust the emphasis from 'any old predictions' to 'the best predictions', you will see that while pragmatism doesn't tell us 'The Truth' about Reality. It tells us many truths about reality. Remember, I'm using truths like arrows here. So, then we can say that while a small-T truth may not be the ultimate description of reality, it can be the best one we have. And so, pragmatism supports correspondence to the extent that correspondence doesn't insist on having the unchanging, for-all-time, final word on 'what is reality'. We will always be able to find better and more accurate theories that may change our conception of reality. A good example being dark matter. At one time recently, we had no inkling that such a thing could be 'real'. And now we do. It was always there, we just updated our theories to represent it.

- Thus, it becomes clear why I find it important to distinguish between the Cosmos and the Universe. The Cosmos is what really exists, whether we know it or not. The Universe is what we know exists. The Cosmos is 'reality' and the Universe is *merely* our best conception of reality. The Universe is an idea in our heads about the Cosmos. When I speak of the universe in common parlance, I'm attaching the qualifier 'as far as I know' to everything I say. When I say that the universe expanded in the big bang, does this 'correspond' with reality? As far as we know, it does. It is our best prediction... so far. Who knows, maybe some day we'll discover evidence that makes our big bang theory look like epicycles or phlogiston.

- So, with all that in mind, to say that 'pragmatism does not necessarily mean correspondence with reality' is really to say nothing at all, because the only way of determining 'correspondence' is to test predictions. There is no other way. Pragmatism is our *best* and *only* way of determining correspondence with reality. Not ultimate correspondence, not a complete description of the Cosmos. But our best description of the known universe. To say that we can know *anything at all* depends on pragmatism, i.e. making and testing accurate predictions.

Quote:
natural wrote:
I think so too, and in fact that's what I meant when I said you are relying on a Straw Man version of pragmatism.

No, I'm not. I'm talking about pragmatic theory of truth which is quite specific from broad pragmatism. You're dogmatically insisting on a very strict definition for a concept which far more broad.

I think it is you who is being dogmatic. It reminds me of creationists who insist on bringing up old and discredited ideas to criticize evolution. Like saying, well, evolutionists made the mistake of taking Piltdown Man for genuine, and so evolution is crap. My conception of pragmatic truths is not dogmatic, it is simple and flexible and allows anyone to come to the table: Show me your best predictions, and if they are more accurate than mine, I will agree that they are true. 

You have not addressed the concept of predictions at all. You have merely focused on an old and outdated 'pragmatic theory of truth' which may be what is in a philosophy text, but hey, I've heard many a philosopher insist that materialism *must* mean that *only* matter/energy exists. It needn't and doesn't. The best theory of truth is about making predictions. If some old article or text insists that pragmatism *must* stay static, then it is wrong. It certainly doesn't make sense for a pragmatist, who is *all about* using the best ideas, to insist on using a broken idea when there's a better one to be had.

Quote:

natural wrote:
See, there's that straw man again. Even in my very first post I made it clear that the word 'utility' is problematic, and should be replaced by 'prediction'. But you keep whacking that straw man, over and over.

You're still failing to see the difference between the pragmatic theory of truth and broad pragmatism.

You said you preferred the use of 'prediction' over 'utility' because people may become confused by the term, not because it was 'wrong', which it what you seem to be claiming now. 'Utility', 'beneficial' and 'practical' are perfectly valid understandings of pragmatism.

'Utility' is not 'wrong', it is just vague. 'Utility' is the ability to make accurate predictions. I boil down pragmatism to a simple idea: Use the best ideas. That's it, boiled down to a nutshell. Now, if someone asks me, But what do you mean by 'use', and 'best'? I simply tell them, 'best' is determined by which ideas make the most accurate predictions, and 'use' simply means to adopt them as your prediction-making tools. The concept of utility is implicit, but specifically defined as making predictions. Without that, of course 'utility' would be vague and lead to the problems you brought up, such as whether a religion gives some 'benefit' to its believers. With the definition depending on accurate predictions, we see that the religious claims fall down.

The 'best' idea is to define utility as the ability to make better predictions.

Quote:
natural wrote:
And how do we know that it is 300,000 km/sec? Because that is our prediction, and the prediction is accurate. There is no other way.

Are you actually reading what I am writing?

I am not saying pragmatism is not part of of how we determine whether something corresponds to reality, it *is* how we determine whether something corresponds to reality. The point is pragmatism does not necessarily entail correspondence with reality.

And my original point was, is, and remains: If pragmatism doesn't entail correspondence with reality, then nothing does. Why don't you explain your alternate idea of how correspondence works in some way 'better' than pragmatism. What does it practically mean to say "Well, pragmatism leads to believing X, but X doesn't really correspond to reality."? My first question will be, of course, "Well, how do you know what corresponds with 'reality'?" And if you end up with the inevitable "I don't know, other than the ability to make predictions that are accurate," then what is the point of the distinction you're making?

Quote:

 

natural wrote:
The target is the prediction.

You're ignoring other theories of truth.

Quite, because this is the best one.

Quote:
Correspondence theory of truth is how we determine truths, and pragmatism is simply the means by which we can make that conclusion.

And this is different from what I've been saying... how? Let me simplify your compound sentence: Pragmatism is the means by which we determine truths. There, that's better.

Quote:
The problem with pragmatic theory of truth is that it tries to determine truths by pragmatism alone and not by the relationship between the proposition and the object.

When you define utility as the ability to make better predictions, this argument falls apart. That is the whole big point about me distancing from the word utility. It is too vague, and too easily twisted around in a discussion. "Well, what if it is 'useful' to Hitler to kill Jews? Does that mean Nazism is 'true'? What if it is useful to a psychopath to torture innocent children? Does that mean his warped view of reality is 'true'?" Predictions are plain and simple. You can either make an accurate prediction, or you can't. What predictions does Nazism make that are better than our current best ideas? None. What predictions does the psychopath make that are more accurate than anyone else? None. Nazism predicts that we will be better off with a pure white Aryan race. This is a false prediction. It turns out that genetic diversity is important for long-term survival of any species. We will be better off with greater diversity than with less. This is a true prediction made by evolutionary science. Evolution is true, Nazism is false.

Why bother getting side-tracked into these pointless digressions about how pragmatism leads to relativism? Instead, just insist that we talk about predictions rather than utility, and suddenly pragmatism is completely obvious and unbeatable.

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natural wrote:- However,

natural wrote:
- However, there is no other way to determine 'correspondence' with reality than to test predictions.

I am not saying there is another way to determine correspondence with reality. I agree that pragmatism is our best way to determine correspondence with truth.

 

natural wrote:
- So, with all that in mind, to say that 'pragmatism does not necessarily mean correspondence with reality' is really to say nothing at all, because the only way of determining 'correspondence' is to test predictions. There is no other way. Pragmatism is our *best* and *only* way of determining correspondence with reality. Not ultimate correspondence, not a complete description of the Cosmos. But our best description of the known universe. To say that we can know *anything at all* depends on pragmatism, i.e. making and testing accurate predictions.

You're still not getting it are you.

Pragmatic theory of truth claims that if X is useful then X is true. You don't like the term useful/practical/benefital, fine, however if you insist on defining pragmatism as "accurate prediction" then you are no longer talking about pragmatic theory of truth.

The fact the definition of pragmatism, or indeed any term, may have changed over time does not give you a justification for transporting that new definition back to a prior context.

 

natural wrote:
You have not addressed the concept of predictions at all. You have merely focused on an old and outdated 'pragmatic theory of truth'

Predictions are irrelevant to pragmatic theory of truth.

The fact pragmatic theory of truth may be old doesn't mean shit. It still has its supporters, and it is still one of the 3 key theories of truth: correspondence, pragmatic and coherent. All are distinct.

I agree that pragmatism plays a role on determining whether something corresponds with reality, however as I keep saying, that is irrelevant to pragmatic theory of truth, which is a distinct theory. What you are supporting is correspondence theory of truth, not pragmatic theory of truth.

 

natural wrote:
The best theory of truth is about making predictions.

I agree.

 

natural wrote:
If some old article or text insists that pragmatism *must* stay static, then it is wrong.

It doesn't. But the fact words gain new meanings does not give you a justification to transport that new meaning back to a previous context.

 

natural wrote:
It certainly doesn't make sense for a pragmatist, who is *all about* using the best ideas, to insist on using a broken idea when there's a better one to be had.

I'm not insisting you use a "broken idea", I am merely trying to get you to understand that pragmatism and pragmatic theory of truth are distinct.

 

natural wrote:
'Utility' is not 'wrong', it is just vague. 'Utility' is the ability to make accurate predictions. I boil down pragmatism to a simple idea: Use the best ideas. That's it, boiled down to a nutshell. Now, if someone asks me, But what do you mean by 'use', and 'best'? I simply tell them, 'best' is determined by which ideas make the most accurate predictions, and 'use' simply means to adopt them as your prediction-making tools.

I agree, but I think by insisting on pragmatism be define as "accurate predictions" you fail to see alternative contexts. What is 'best' may not always be accurate predictions. Something is pragmatic if it is useful/practical within a given context.

 

natural wrote:
The concept of utility is implicit, but specifically defined as making predictions. Without that, of course 'utility' would be vague and lead to the problems you brought up, such as whether a religion gives some 'benefit' to its believers. With the definition depending on accurate predictions, we see that the religious claims fall down.

If to you define pragmatic as "accurate predictions" then clearly religion is not pragmatic but I reject that strict definition of the term. It has no flexibility. 

It seems your problem with 'utility' is that is allows for religion and other knowingly false propositions to have pragmatic value. However once you make the distinction between 'pragmatic' and 'true', then the fact religion may be useful/practical in certain situations is irrelevant to whether it is true.

Pragmatism to me is best defined as something being useful/practical within a given context. In the context of understanding the world then what is pragmatic is that which gets us the most accurate predictions, thus science has the greater, more practical use to us.

 

natural wrote:
If pragmatism doesn't entail correspondence with reality, then nothing does.

This is only due to your strict circular definition. You are essentially defining pragmatism so it entails "correspondence with reality" by definition.

If however you use the term more flexibly to mean useful/practical then it is easy to see how something may be useful but does not correspond with reality.

 

natural wrote:
Why don't you explain your alternate idea of how correspondence works in some way 'better' than pragmatism.

If you think I am saying we can determine correspondence without pragmatism then you're clearly not understanding what I am saying!

I am saying that correspondence does entail pragmatism, however pragmatism does not necessarily entail correspondence.

In other words: In order to determine correspondence with reality we must have the most useful, and therefore most pragmatic, method available (which is science). However, what is pragmatic may not always lead us to correspondence.

Obviously this makes no sense under your circular definition where pragmatism by definition leads to correspondence.

 

natural wrote:
What does it practically mean to say "Well, pragmatism leads to believing X, but X doesn't really correspond to reality."?

X may have some use, it may be practical, however still be completely false.

 

natural wrote:
My first question will be, of course, "Well, how do you know what corresponds with 'reality'?" And if you end up with the inevitable "I don't know, other than the ability to make predictions that are accurate," then what is the point of the distinction you're making?

You're conflating pragmatism too much with truth. We often believe things not because they are true, but because they are useful, because they have some pragmatic value (such as X being comforting to us).

I think I see why you think you hold to a pragmatic theory of true. To you it makes no sense for pragmatic X to lead to a belief that does no correspond to reality because you have defined pragmatism is such a way it cannot lead to knowing non-true beliefs. However the actual pragmatic theory of truth as it is known by philosophers is not concerned by whether X corresponds with reality, rather it is concerned with whether X has some use, some benefit. 

 

natural wrote:
Quite, because this is the best one.

Correspondence theory of truth is the best and most accepted (although it isn't without its problems) however you cannot just ignore the other theories of truth because you do not adhere to them.

 

natural wrote:
When you define utility as the ability to make better predictions, this argument falls apart.

Utility means more than "better predictions".

 

natural wrote:
"Well, what if it is 'useful' to Hitler to kill Jews? Does that mean Nazism is 'true'? What if it is useful to a psychopath to torture innocent children? Does that mean his warped view of reality is 'true'?"

Again, you need to stop conflating pragmatism with truth.

 

Here an thread on the various theories of truth: http://forums.philosophyforums.com/threads/theories-of-truth-30864.html

 

 

"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:natural wrote:-

Topher wrote:

natural wrote:
- So, with all that in mind, to say that 'pragmatism does not necessarily mean correspondence with reality' is really to say nothing at all, because the only way of determining 'correspondence' is to test predictions. There is no other way. Pragmatism is our *best* and *only* way of determining correspondence with reality. Not ultimate correspondence, not a complete description of the Cosmos. But our best description of the known universe. To say that we can know *anything at all* depends on pragmatism, i.e. making and testing accurate predictions.

You're still not getting it are you.

Pragmatic theory of truth claims that if X is useful then X is true. You don't like the term useful/practical/benefital, fine, however if you insist on defining pragmatism as "accurate prediction" then you are no longer talking about pragmatic theory of truth.

The fact the definition of pragmatism, or indeed any term, may have changed over time does not give you a justification for transporting that new definition back to a prior context.

Hold on a second. *I* am not the one here insisting on bring 'pragmatic theory of truth' into the discussion. I never used it in any of my posts except in reference to your insistence on it.

Do not claim that *I* am 'transporting that new definition back to a prior context'. You are the one who keeps insisting on bringing up the past.

The whole frigging point of my very first post in this thread was to show that I agreed with the person you quoted, as long as it was understood that utility should be replaced by predictions. In other words, I am insisting on *dropping* the old context altogether, because better ideas have arisen since then, and there are simpler and clearer ways to explain pragmatism.

If you want me to distinguish what I'm talking about from 'pragmatic theory of truth', then call it 'epistemological pragmatism'. It's still frigging pragmatism, except updated. It is still talking about what's true and how we can know things.

In my opinion, 'pragmatic theory of truth' is like the Model T Ford, and epistemological pragmatism is like a flying car that runs on matter/antimatter energy conversion. One is descended from the other, but far far better. And you keep insisting that my flying car either a) isn't a car or b) must necessarily run off of fossil fuels, because the Model T did.

Quote:
natural wrote:
You have not addressed the concept of predictions at all. You have merely focused on an old and outdated 'pragmatic theory of truth'

Predictions are irrelevant to pragmatic theory of truth.

I dispute that, below. But regardless, it *is* relevant to epistemological pragmatism. You still haven't addressed it.

Quote:

I agree that pragmatism plays a role on determining whether something corresponds with reality, however as I keep saying, that is irrelevant to pragmatic theory of truth, which is a distinct theory. What you are supporting is correspondence theory of truth, not pragmatic theory of truth.

No, neither. I am supporting epistemological pragmatism. Correspondence theory is in turn indirectly supported by epistemological pragmatism.

What I am saying is that predictions are 'useful' and anything that is really 'useful' depends on making predictions. Utility = ability to make accurate predictions. And following that up with: anything that makes accurate predictions is 'true' like an arrow is true. Truth is like an arrow. Only after that can I invoke correspondence and make the additional claim that such predictions (or rather the theories that allow us to make the predictions) represent reality.

Quote:

natural wrote:
If some old article or text insists that pragmatism *must* stay static, then it is wrong.

It doesn't. But the fact words gain new meanings does not give you a justification to transport that new meaning back to a previous context.

Again, I am in *no* way trying to 'transport' meaning back to a previous context. You are the one insisting on bringing up the Model T. I'm talking about my flying car.  

Quote:
natural wrote:
'Utility' is not 'wrong', it is just vague. 'Utility' is the ability to make accurate predictions. I boil down pragmatism to a simple idea: Use the best ideas. That's it, boiled down to a nutshell. Now, if someone asks me, But what do you mean by 'use', and 'best'? I simply tell them, 'best' is determined by which ideas make the most accurate predictions, and 'use' simply means to adopt them as your prediction-making tools.

I agree, but I think by insisting on pragmatism be define as "accurate predictions" you fail to see alternative contexts. What is 'best' may not always be accurate predictions. Something is pragmatic if it is useful/practical within a given context.

If you really think about it, it does not make any sense to say that *anything* is useful if it does not involve making accurate predictions. Think about it. In what way is it possible to 'use' something, if by using it you do not expect some future outcome from said use, and that the usefulness is measured by how reliably the expected outcomes are met? The word 'use' implies making a prediction about what will happen when such-and-such procedure is undertaken.

In the same way, in what way does it make sense to say something is 'better' than something else if you are not expecting some future result from it that achieves a desired goal (target) more accurately/reliably than the alternative? 'Better' also implies making accurate predictions.

That's the point of epistemological pragmatism. Since predictions are really the underlying 'utility' that the pragmatists were trying to elucidate, we just make the concept explicit. If this relegates 'pragmatic theory of truth' to the junkyard of philosophy (or maybe the smash up derby you seem intent on), then so be it. As a simple matter of fact, epistemological pragmatism is more 'useful' than 'pragmatic theory of truth'. That fact alone is enough justification for a pragmatist, who, again, is all about using the best ideas, to adopt it. 

Quote:
natural wrote:
The concept of utility is implicit, but specifically defined as making predictions. Without that, of course 'utility' would be vague and lead to the problems you brought up, such as whether a religion gives some 'benefit' to its believers. With the definition depending on accurate predictions, we see that the religious claims fall down.

If to you define pragmatic as "accurate predictions" then clearly religion is not pragmatic but I reject that strict definition of the term. It has no flexibility.

Please explain. In what way can you say something is 'useful' without implicitly making a prediction about what will happen when you use it? In what way can you say something 'works' without implying 'for some end result', which again implies a prediction of the future?

Quote:
It seems your problem with 'utility' is that is allows for religion and other knowingly false propositions to have pragmatic value.

No. It allows for people to *claim* that pragmatism supports knowingly false propositions. It allows people to muddy the conversation with equivocation. It is vague and critics latch onto the vagueness to try to twist pragmatism around, making it say things it doesn't really say.

Quote:
However once you make the distinction between 'pragmatic' and 'true', then the fact religion may be useful/practical in certain situations is irrelevant to whether it is true.

I haven't made the distinction between pragmatic and true. In fact, I'm claiming they are the same. But I'm using 'true' like an arrow, not like an Absolute Truth.

Don't forget, as you seem to be drifting from my position, that my conception of epistemological pragmatism concerns our *best* ideas, not just pretty good ideas. Pretty good ideas can be useful, can make decent predictions. But when you put them up against our *best* ideas, they usually fall apart. A pretty good idea is that because religion makes someone feel good, there may be an actual God doing the magical feel-good stuff. But our *best* ideas are that such feelings are naturally occurring in our brains based on our beliefs. God is an approximation. A better approximation is neurochemistry. Who knows, maybe one day we'll have a quantum-level theory of belief that makes the theory of neurochemistry seem like a child's stick figure drawing compared to the Mona Lisa.

This also explains why gaining comfort from religions my be 'useful', but does not support the 'truth' of the religion under epistemological pragmatism. The religion is 'useful' in the sense that it makes a prediction: Belief our doctrines are true and you will feel comforted. That's a prediction. It still comes down to predictions. But notice that this is not the *best* theory. The best theory in this case is that by believing the doctrines, your brain will make you comforted; not that the doctrines *themselves* are true, but simply because the belief in them leads to a neurochemical effect in the brain that results in comfort. So, again, I must insist that we focus on the *best* ideas, when discussing epistemological pragmatism.

Quote:
Pragmatism to me is best defined as something being useful/practical within a given context. In the context of understanding the world then what is pragmatic is that which gets us the most accurate predictions, thus science has the greater, more practical use to us.

Context is important. You can't use Newton's Laws to determine how to invest in the stock market. But in the end it all boils down to whether or not the theory makes good predictions.

Quote:
natural wrote:
If pragmatism doesn't entail correspondence with reality, then nothing does.

This is only due to your strict circular definition. You are essentially defining pragmatism so it entails "correspondence with reality" by definition.

No, I disagree. Making and testing predictions doesn't depend on there being an objective outside world, it only depends on us having consistent experiences. The idea that there's an objective world comes from us making predictions based on our experiences and testing them and seeing that Hey, it looks like there's some sort of consistency here that is independent of myself. In other words, pragmatism supports correspondence theory because correspondence theory makes good predictions. Pragmatism itself (as I'm using it) does not logically equate to correspondence.

Quote:
If however you use the term more flexibly to mean useful/practical then it is easy to see how something may be useful but does not correspond with reality.

I would replace your word 'flexibly' with 'loosely', and point out that it is not more useful to use a loose word like 'practical' or 'useful', because it leads to pointless diversions in conversations. Better, and more useful, is to use the word 'prediction' and be very clear what you're talking about. Pragmatism supports my emphasis on making predictions. I predict that describing pragmatism by 'useful', 'utility', 'works', and 'practical' will cause more confusion and wasted time, and thus be less useful, than using the word 'prediction'. Lo and behold, my prediction came true (I made the prediction in my very first post on this thread, and here we are confused and wasting time over 'utility').

See, this is where you are falling into the trap of pragmatism. You cannot really criticize it by saying 'it doesn't work in such and such situation' or 'pragmatism is so-so, but I have a better idea'. In both cases, pragmatism implicitly supports whatever idea *does* work in such and such situation, and whatever idea *is* better than whatever straw man version of 'pragmatism' the person thinks is real pragmatism.

You favour 'correspondence theory of truth' over 'pragmatic theory of truth'. Why? For, whatever reason you can give, pragmatism usurps that reason, as long as it is really a good, useful reason, and thereby adopts your alternative theory.

My version of epistemological pragmatism simply embodies this idea by saying that whatever is our best idea, judged by its ability to make good predictions and thereby proving itself to be the best, is true. If you point out some better idea that makes even better predictions, then that idea is true. And so on, forever. If you can't practically prove your idea is better, then pragmatism says "Good try, come back when you've got something that actually works better."

So, while you keep poking holes in so-called 'pragmatic theory of truth', which represents pragmatism version 1.0, real pragmatists are leaving you in their dust, cruising along in their pragmatism version 101.7 (over 100 years since Peirce and James' original conceptions of it).

You can't hold pragmatism to its past. That is completely unpragmatic. You are not really criticizing pragmatism in its full and complete form.

Quote:
natural wrote:
Why don't you explain your alternate idea of how correspondence works in some way 'better' than pragmatism.

If you think I am saying we can determine correspondence without pragmatism then you're clearly not understanding what I am saying!

I am saying that correspondence does entail pragmatism, however pragmatism does not necessarily entail correspondence.

In other words: In order to determine correspondence with reality we must have the most useful, and therefore most pragmatic, method available (which is science). However, what is pragmatic may not always lead us to correspondence.

Again, this is your confusion over my position, ignoring that I'm calling the *best* ideas true, not just any-old-ideas. When you say 'what is pragmatic may not always lead us to correspondence', you are talking about 'for some people, who may not really know the deep inner workings of things, their ideas of what is real may be over-simplified, or in fact completely wrong'. But this is not my position. My position is that the *best* ideas are true, until we find better ones. So, to use James' example of a clock's inner workings, if the average Joe thinks there are little gnomes inside the clock moving the hands, that is not our best idea. Our best ideas regarding clocks are those of clock makers and physicists, who will talk about gears and springs, and potential and kinetic energy and so on.

Quote:
natural wrote:
What does it practically mean to say "Well, pragmatism leads to believing X, but X doesn't really correspond to reality."?

X may have some use, it may be practical, however still be completely false.

This is a nice dodge, by begging the question of what 'false' means. What does it practically mean for X to be false?

And again, it is ignoring that I'm talking about using the best ideas, not just run-of-the-mill ideas.

Quote:

natural wrote:
My first question will be, of course, "Well, how do you know what corresponds with 'reality'?" And if you end up with the inevitable "I don't know, other than the ability to make predictions that are accurate," then what is the point of the distinction you're making?

You're conflating pragmatism too much with truth.

But that's the whole point of claiming that pragmatism is a valid epistemology! Of course I'm equating pragmatism with truth, as long as we understand that I mean truth like an arrow, not like an Absolute Truth.

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We often believe things not because they are true, but because they are useful, because they have some pragmatic value (such as X being comforting to us).

Again, you're ignoring that epistemological pragmatism does not say 'any idea you find useful is true', but 'those ideas that make the best predictions are true'. Best, best, best. Not any. Best.

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I think I see why you think you hold to a pragmatic theory of true. To you it makes no sense for pragmatic X to lead to a belief that does no correspond to reality because you have defined pragmatism is such a way it cannot lead to knowing non-true beliefs.

You have to be very careful here, because *actually* all of our beliefs are imperfect, and contain an element of 'non-true'. No arrow strikes its target 100% of the time.

When I say something is true, I always mean 'like an arrow is true'. Of *course* it is possible that our current conception of reality is not 'the real reality', is not a perfect representation of what actually exists. In fact, I would say that the odds are very good that every single thing we believe is non-true to some extent, every belief we hold does not perfectly represent reality, does not make perfect predictions.

So, be very careful not to equate arrow-truth with Absolute Truth. I do not think it is possible to know Absolute Truth.

So, when you say 'you have defined pragmatism is such a way it cannot lead to knowing non-true beliefs', to me it sounds like you're saying I don't think pragmatism can lead to making mistakes about the nature of reality. That is definitely not what I'm saying. In fact, I would say that all of our understanding is mistaken to one degree or another. Part of pragmatic truths is that they incorporate the understanding that they not only *can* be wrong, but are imperfect almost by definition, and so in some sense *are* wrong in every case. But they are merely less-wrong than any other 'truth' we have conceived. In epistemological pragmatism it makes sense to say that some truths are more true than other truths, just like it makes sense to say that some arrows are more true than other arrows, even though they may both be true, it's just that one is more true than the other. In other words, one theory can make better predictions than another, like relativity vs. Newton's laws. We hold that the universe *is* relativistic, while acknowledging that newton's laws are also true to a good extent.

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However the actual pragmatic theory of truth as it is known by philosophers is not concerned by whether X corresponds with reality, rather it is concerned with whether X has some use, some benefit.

To say that they are 'not concerned' with whether X corresponds to reality is an overstatement. They would claim that it's not the best arbiter of truth, but they would also acknowledge the usefulness of correspondence theory. Again, because of the predictions correspondence can make.

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natural wrote:
Quite, because this is the best one.

Correspondence theory of truth is the best and most accepted (although it isn't without its problems) however you cannot just ignore the other theories of truth because you do not adhere to them.

You misunderstood, I'm saying that epistemological pragmatism is the best theory of truth. Correspondence follows from it, but pragmatism is primary. Pragmatism is the foundation.

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natural wrote:
When you define utility as the ability to make better predictions, this argument falls apart.

Utility means more than "better predictions".

And therein lies the reason not to use it to describe pragmatism. It is so overloaded in common parlance, and even in philosophical language, that its 'utility' as a descriptor for pragmatism is quite low actually.

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Here an thread on the various theories of truth: http://forums.philosophyforums.com/threads/theories-of-truth-30864.html

No surprises there. More confusion about the words 'useful' and 'utility'. Funny: The last two or three comments mirror this conversation pretty closely.

Let me pose a simple question to you: You think that correspondence theory of truth is a better theory of truth than pragmatic theory of truth (as you are describing it); Why is correspondence better? Focus on the word 'better'. In what way is it better?

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It occurs to me that in some

It occurs to me that in some instances I'm equivocating on the word 'true'. In some cases I say truth is the ability to make predictions, and in other cases I say that only the best predictions are true. Let me clarify.

I'm sticking with the idea that truth is like an arrow. Thus, two contradictory ideas, X and Y, may both be true, if they both make predictions that are accurate. However, it will inevitably turn out that one (X) makes better predictions than the other (Y). In this case, my instinct is to say that X is true and Y is not true.

What I really should say is that when pragmatism is used to justify correspondence theory, we use the best theories. So, Y is still true. It is *less* true than X. And X is the most true, so we say that X represents reality, with an implied 'to our best approximation so far'.

Perhaps I'll start saying X is real, rather than X is true, to describe the best theory. For example, Newton's Laws are true, but not real, and Einstein's relativity is both true and real. (Not quite satisfied with the word 'real', but I'll stew on it.)

I still maintain that the best theory of truth is the ability to make predictions. It demystifies truth, so that it becomes an attainable thing.

In regards to correspondence theory of truth. Correspondence theory is 'true', because it allows us to make accurate predictions. But again, it is using yet another word for 'truth', so instead I might dub it the correspondence theory of reality, rather than truth. That which is real is that which corresponds to the theory that makes the best predictions (i.e. the most pragmatically-true theory).

So, to sum it all up, basic epistemological pragmatism holds truth to be about making predictions. Some theories make better predictions than others, so we favour them. This is called pragmatic justification. Use the best ideas. On top of that, we make the additional claim that the theories that make the best predictions represent reality. This is pragmatic correspondence. Pragmatic correspondence is pragmatically justified, because it allows us to make even better predictions.

The key is the ability to make predictions. I'm a little surprised you haven't touched on the idea of making predictions at all.

You wouldn't believe how many people I've talked to who cringe in disgust at the idea that it is even *possible* to make predictions. And yet we all do it all the time, every single day. Pretty much any action we undertake has an element of prediction involved in it.

To me this is the most interesting aspect of the idea of 'truth'. The world is not pure chaos, there is also cosmos, the underlying order of things. The fact that we are able to predict anything at all is the raw proof of this.

And yet so many people I have met are like, "What? You think you know what's true?"

And I'm like, "Of course! We all know things that are true." But the look on their faces is one of pure disgust. So I ask them, "Are you saying that you don't know anything at all? That knowledge is impossible?" They don't reply, because they don't have a good answer.

It's relativism run amok. No, pragmatism does not lead to relativism. It leads to objectivity and rationalism, because these are the best tools for making predictions. And yes, we can make predictions, and they can be accurate. We can know the future. Not perfectly. But enough to put our knowledge to good use.

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natural wrote:What I am

natural wrote:
What I am saying is that predictions are 'useful' and anything that is really 'useful' depends on making predictions

But these may not always lead to truth (i.e. correspondence with reality)

 

natural wrote:
Again, I am in *no* way trying to 'transport' meaning back to a previous context.

You are redefining pragmatism/utility and then insistent that this new definition apply to pragmatic theory of truth. 

 

natural wrote:
If you really think about it, it does not make any sense to say that *anything* is useful if it does not involve making accurate predictions. Think about it. In what way is it possible to 'use' something, if by using it you do not expect some future outcome from said use, and that the usefulness is measured by how reliably the expected outcomes are met? The word 'use' implies making a prediction about what will happen when such-and-such procedure is undertaken.

In the same way, in what way does it make sense to say something is 'better' than something else if you are not expecting some future result from it that achieves a desired goal (target) more accurately/reliably than the alternative? 'Better' also implies making accurate predictions.

The point is something being 'useful' or 'better' is context-dependent. You are begging the question that to be useful or to be better must lead to correspondence with reality (i.e. truth. That is only true within the context of understanding the world. 

Telling a dying patient that they are going to get better will probably be useful in that it will easy their passing, comfort them. What you've told them is false, but useful, given the context.

I can imagine how it is possible for belief in god (fear of god) is the best way for an individual to be moral.

Both examples have pragmatic value.

 

natural wrote:
Please explain. In what way can you say something is 'useful' without implicitly making a prediction about what will happen when you use it? In what way can you say something 'works' without implying 'for some end result', which again implies a prediction of the future?

See above. In neither case does the usefulness or practicality or the proposition leads to a correspondence with reality, however it does have pragmatic value.

 

natural wrote:
I haven't made the distinction between pragmatic and true. In fact, I'm claiming they are the same.

Well there's your problem.

 

natural wrote:
This also explains why gaining comfort from religions my be 'useful', but does not support the 'truth' of the religion under epistemological pragmatism. The religion is 'useful' in the sense that it makes a prediction: Belief our doctrines are true and you will feel comforted. That's a prediction. It still comes down to predictions. But notice that this is not the *best* theory. The best theory in this case is that by believing the doctrines, your brain will make you comforted; not that the doctrines *themselves* are true, but simply because the belief in them leads to a neurochemical effect in the brain that results in comfort. So, again, I must insist that we focus on the *best* ideas, when discussing epistemological pragmatism.

It seems you are defining 'best' as 'true'. Thus the best predictions are the ones that lead us to truth, in that our best predictions correspond to reality. But that is of course assuming that what it best within a context is also what is true (i.e. is what correspond to reality). It isn't.

 

natural wrote:
No, I disagree. Making and testing predictions doesn't depend on there being an objective outside world, it only depends on us having consistent experiences. The idea that there's an objective world comes from us making predictions based on our experiences and testing them and seeing that Hey, it looks like there's some sort of consistency here that is independent of myself. In other words, pragmatism supports correspondence theory because correspondence theory makes good predictions. Pragmatism itself (as I'm using it) does not logically equate to correspondence.

Which means you must accept that what is pragmatic does not always correspond to reality.

1. If you define 'truth' as being 'that which corresponds to reality' then it means pragmatism can lead to non-true conclusions, because what is pragmatic does not always correspond to reality.

2. If you define 'truth' as 'that which is pragmatic' then clearly what is true to you does not depend on whether it correspond to reality. 

If you accept 1, then you accept correspondence theory of truth, not pragmatic theory of truth.

If you accept 2, then you accept pragmatic theory of truth, not correspondence theory of truth.

 

natural wrote:
See, this is where you are falling into the trap of pragmatism. You cannot really criticize it by saying 'it doesn't work in such and such situation' or 'pragmatism is so-so, but I have a better idea'. In both cases, pragmatism implicitly supports whatever idea *does* work in such and such situation, and whatever idea *is* better than whatever straw man version of 'pragmatism' the person thinks is real pragmatism.

I am not saying pragmatism does not work, I am saying that in certain contexts what is pragmatic does not necessarily lead to truth (i.e. correspondence with reality).

 

natural wrote:
You favour 'correspondence theory of truth' over 'pragmatic theory of truth'. Why? For, whatever reason you can give, pragmatism usurps that reason, as long as it is really a good, useful reason, and thereby adopts your alternative theory.

Your redefinition of pragmatism is stopping you from understanding pragmatic theory of truth as it is understood in philosophy.

Correspondence theory of truth states that proposition X is true if it corresponds with reality. i.e. the proposition "snow is white" is only true if snow is in fact white. (And pragmatism does play a role in determining if X corresponds to reality.) 

Pragmatic theory of truth states that proposition X is true if it is useful. (It is irrelevant whether X correspond to reality.)

You may not like that understanding of pragmatic theory of truth, but that is how it is understood within philosophy, and how it is describes everywhere. You are redefining pragmatism to the point where it no longer relates to pragmatic theory of truth.

Also, note that correspondence theory is in fact the most accepted theory of truth, and with good reason.

 

natural wrote:
My version of epistemological pragmatism simply embodies this idea by saying that whatever is our best idea, judged by its ability to make good predictions and thereby proving itself to be the best, is true. If you point out some better idea that makes even better predictions, then that idea is true. And so on, forever. If you can't practically prove your idea is better, then pragmatism says "Good try, come back when you've got something that actually works better."

But this does not ensure correspondence with reality, which means what is the best within a given context may not always be truth. If you are happy with that, then fine. However you cannot just beg the question that what is the best is by definition true.

 

natural wrote:
My position is that the *best* ideas are true

But the *best* idea may not always correspond to reality, however if you think the best idea is by definition true, then clearly truth does not depend on correspondence with reality.

 

natural wrote:
This is a nice dodge, by begging the question of what 'false' means. What does it practically mean for X to be false?

Not corresponding with reality.

I define truth as that which corresponds with reality, and false as that which does not correspond with reality.

So something can be useful, it can be practical, but not correspond to reality and thus be false.

I am not defining true and false by utility. The fact something is useful does not mean it is true.

Do you agree that something is only true if it correspond to reality?

 

natural wrote:
And again, it is ignoring that I'm talking about using the best ideas, not just run-of-the-mill ideas.

Again again, this is ignoring that the best ideas may not always correspond with reality.

 

natural wrote:
You misunderstood, I'm saying that epistemological pragmatism is the best theory of truth. Correspondence follows from it, but pragmatism is primary. Pragmatism is the foundation.

Actually pragmatic theory of truth and correspondence are completely distinct from each other.

Correspondence theory or truth DOES NOT follow from pragmatic theory of truth. It's a bit like ways intelligent design follows from the theory of evolution!

http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/Truth_theories.html

 

Topher wrote:
Utility means more than "better predictions".

natural wrote:
And therein lies the reason not to use it to describe pragmatism.

Because you want to strictly define pragmatism in a way that the term is not even used!

 

natural wrote:
Let me pose a simple question to you: You think that correspondence theory of truth is a better theory of truth than pragmatic theory of truth (as you are describing it); Why is correspondence better? Focus on the word 'better'. In what way is it better?

Correspondence theory of truth is better because it actually describes reality. What is describes as true is actually how reality is.

Pragmatic theory of truth does not describe reality, instead it is focused on what works, but what works does not always correspond to reality, thus pragmatic theory of truth allows for truths which are not actually true according to correspondence theory.

"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:Do you agree

Topher wrote:
Do you agree that something is only true if it correspond to reality?

No, I stick by the idea that truth is about the ability to make predictions. You haven't addressed my points at all, you've constantly gone back to the 'pragmatic theory of truth', have not addressed the idea of making predictions, and insist on focusing on 'utility'. There is no point continuing the debate if it just goes in circles.

An arrow is true when it strikes its targets. An idea is true when it makes accurate predictions. This is not the same thing as saying that it corresponds with reality. That is a separate issue. The concept of reality itself is a question that is answered by pragmatism, not assumed, as it is by correspondence theory. We use the idea of reality because it allows us to make better predictions, which makes it a true idea.

The problem with correspondence as you are proposing it is that it is impossible to find any truth. You can never know if any idea corresponds with reality, because the only way to determine correspondence is to make predictions, and you don't accept that making predictions implies truth. So, truth is completely unattainable to you.

Epistemological pragmatism cuts through that problem by acknowledging that yes, indeed, predictions imply truth, just as an arrow that strikes its target is called 'true'. Correspondence with reality is a by-product of pragmatism. Without the underlying pragmatism, correspondence is useless; it cannot find any truths, it is impotent.

Quote:
natural wrote:
Let me pose a simple question to you: You think that correspondence theory of truth is a better theory of truth than pragmatic theory of truth (as you are describing it); Why is correspondence better? Focus on the word 'better'. In what way is it better?

Correspondence theory of truth is better because it actually describes reality. What is describes as true is actually how reality is.

Without pragmatism, correspondence theory cannot give you any truths. You do not know any true things based on correspondence alone. None. You don't even know if the earth orbits the sun, because you have no way of determining the correspondence.

The only way to do it is to test predictions, which is, as you say, no guarantee that the theory corresponds with reality. So using correspondence to define truth leaves you without any truth to work with. Only by accepting that truth *means* the ability to make accurate predictions can you start to gain truths out of correspondence theory.

My challenge to you is to show one single truth that correspondence theory describes that does not in any way involve making and testing accurate predictions. Name one thing that corresponds with reality, and explain how you have determined that it indeed corresponds with reality, without testing any predictions whatsoever. Just one. If you can't, then you must concede that correspondence theory is a dead end. Truth as defined by correspondence with reality is a worthless definition because it gets us nowhere.

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