• Janus
    15.8k
    I think we mostly are in agreement, so I'll just address this:

    By gaining coherence, we hope to also gain correspondence between our theory and its referent extramental states of affairs, but we can't check that directly. So coherence is our only yardstick for truth: to seriously doubt its reliability is the road to madness and damnation! A little fly in the ointment here is that at bottom, coherence relies on logic and any formal system suffers Gödelian incompleteness. But if anyone judges coherence to be unreliable, just try incoherence!Christopher Burke

    It seems to me that when it comes to simple empirical observations, the truth of statements is a matter of correspondence. 'it is raining' is true iff it is raining, 'that tree is taller than this tree' is true iff that tree is taller than this tree, 'my wife is having an affair' is true iff my wife is having an affair, and so on.

    Of those examples the first two are perhaps much easier to check than the third; it obviously depends on how discreet my wife is. Basic science consists in just such ordinary empirical observations, and observations augmented by equipment such as the telescope and microscope.

    When it comes to the explanatory phase, though, the theories that serve as explanations cannot be verified to be true, and even falsification has its issues, so I think we do assess the plausibility of such explanations according to how well they cohere with the whole body of such theoretical explanation.

    I'm not sure about the applicability of Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem to anything beyond Peano arithmetic, but in saying that I'm only parroting what I remember reading; I haven't looked into it much.

    If correspondence is thought as applying to the world as it in itself, an absolute context-independent reality, and not merely to the world as it is experienced and understood by humans, a contingent, relational, contextual reality, then of course it is out of its depth.
  • Christopher Burke
    18
    I think we mostly are in agreementJanus
    I agree about the agreement. I hope that doesn't happen too often. There's no fun in that! But thankfully you've raised several interesting points.

    when it comes to simple empirical observations, the truth of statements is a matter of correspondenceJanus
    I know what you mean here. One can imagine that sensorium level representations (empirical ones) are 'sort of' veridical. Vision is almost ubiquitously used as the exemplar of this. It is highly implausible to assume that our extero-sensations and the percepts formed from them do not correspond with our environment, otherwise our ancestors and ourselves wouldn't have survived. But one still cannot check that directly of course. My view is that raw sensation is a priori biological, but thereafter (ie percepts to some extent, concepts, theories) our representations are shaped by a posteriori personal and cultural factors. Going up the cognitive hierarchy doesn't preclude a putative correspondence with extramental states of affairs, but does make that correspondence more fragile, ie defeasible.

    Using vision as an exemplar unfortunately makes empiricism (ie thinking the world is as we see it) more seductive. We are less beguiled with other senses. It is easier to accept that, for instance, sweetness is our reaction to something rather than being a quality of the sugar cube per se. Yet surely the same caveat should be applied to vision. A bit of reality we represent by the symbol 'grass' is not itself green. It just corresponds to our light wavelength measurements of 495-570 nm, itself of course another way of representing the same bit of reality. Visuospatial distribution (points, edges, regions) seems easiest to claim as veridical, but only because it is supported by tactile and auditory representations. Our claim that sensations correspond to extramental reality is only ultimately justified by other sensations (including those derived from scientific instruments).

    'it is raining' is true iff it is rainingJanus
    Standard truth statements like you give ('p' is true iff p) always make me slightly uneasy.
    - 'p' is a representation (a linguistic statement) supposedly justified by p (its extramental representatum). But how do you know p? Well of course it's by having a another representation of p. For instance, the sentence 'there is a tree' is justified by simultaneously having a percept of a tree. All you have is parallel representations, one linguistic and the other iconic. Truth statements like those seem to me to pretend to have direct access to extramental reality per se as their justification.
    - Mischievously: Is '('p' is true iff p)' only true iff ('p' is true iff p)? Representation is always a 'hall of mirrors'!

    I do hope you disagree with me.
  • Janus
    15.8k
    I do hope you disagree with me.Christopher Burke

    Thankfully I think I do disagree with you on some points, or at least feel the need to point out that we seem to be talking about different things or about things from different angles.

    I know what you mean here. One can imagine that sensorium level representations (empirical ones) are 'sort of' veridical. Vision is almost ubiquitously used as the exemplar of this. It is highly implausible to assume that our extero-sensations and the percepts formed from them do not correspond with our environment, otherwise our ancestors and ourselves wouldn't have survived. But one still cannot check that directly of course.Christopher Burke

    I agree with you in thinking that our perceptions are most plausibly thought to be telling us something about the extra-human environment, or at least about the interactions between us and the environment, and this is borne out by the obvious everyday fact that we humans see the same things in the environment, right down to very precise and specific features of the things we find in the environment.

    And I am saying we can check if it is raining, or if the cow over there is mooing, or if the creek has dried up due to lack of rain, or if my house was burned down in a bushfire, and so on and so on. This is just a claim about the collective representation we call "the empirical world", and not a claim about what it is that might give rise to that collective representation. Within the empirical world correspondence between statements and actualities rules.

    We are less beguiled with other senses. It is easier to accept that, for instance, sweetness is our reaction to something rather than being a quality of the sugar cube per se.Christopher Burke

    Sweetness is what we experience when we interact with certain substances. Whether we are to say the sweetness is in the substance, in the interaction between tongue and substance or in the tongue, or more radically, in the mind, I think comes down to preferences for one or another of several different imaginable ways of thinking about the experience.

    If I say "this apple is very sweet" and I offer it to others to try, I can expect a fair degree of agreement from the others. There may be the odd person whose plate does not register sweetness, but reliable general agreement can be expected.

    Standard truth statements like you give ('p' is true iff p) always make me slightly uneasy.
    - 'p' is a representation (a linguistic statement) supposedly justified by p (its extramental representatum). But how do you know p? Well of course it's by having a another representation of p. For instance, the sentence 'there is a tree' is justified by simultaneously having a percept of a tree. All you have is parallel representations, one linguistic and the other iconic. Truth statements like those seem to me to pretend to have direct access to extramental reality per se as their justification.
    - Mischievously: Is '('p' is true iff p)' only true iff ('p' is true iff p)? Representation is always a 'hall of mirrors'!
    Christopher Burke

    Note I am claiming only that correspondence is checkable within the collective representation, the empirical world. So, I am not saying there is anything more that we can be completely certain of regarding the assertion "there is a tree" than that we all see a tree there. We don't really know what it is that gives rise to us all seeing a tree there, other than there is "something going on" that reliably produces the perception of a tree there. Even the cat sees it; we see her climbing it, trying to catch the birds that apparently also see it and perch in it.

    Perhaps the most parsimonious conclusion is that there is actually a tree there, but we can't be sure; the tree might be a projection of a universal mind. But then if it were a projection of a universal mind and not a mind-independent concrete existent, would it not still be the case that there is a tree there that is independent of my mind and of any and all other minds apart from the universal one?

    It seems to me these are the only imaginable possibilities: concrete mind-independent existent, or projection of a universal mind. can you think of any others? In any case, it seems this is an unanswerable question; people may have their preferences: idealism or materialism, but there seems to be no possibility of a definitive answer. This is where correspondence fails. Problem is coherence seems to be a matter of taste.
  • Apustimelogist
    395
    I'm afraid this "separate ontological being" makes no sense to me. If you do believe in such a realm, surely you are back to something like a Cartesian dualism

    Yes, I don't believe in that. There was a typo. Should have been : "But that doesn't mean you believe..."

    But that doesn't imply the former are physical or even that they are caused by or embedded in the physical.

    How else can you conceptualize your thoughts though without some form of dualism. We live in a universe explained by physical models that explain models of our brain which functionally explain in principle our entire mental lives. Even if you're agnostic about ontology or hard find it an inherently noncoherent concept like I would, these things are hard to ignore. Its very powerful. Its much more than a parallel relationship I think; they aren't really even because the mind just isn't anywhere independent of the brain in any meaningful way.

    But that doesn't mean that the emotional state is physical

    Well it really depends what you mean but my purpose really isn't to kind of re-engineer all our concepts into physical one. But again, even if it is not a physical concept, those feelings we have are inherently to do with our brains.


    You might say; "Ah ... but the physical observables are the real thing!" However if you did that, you would be denying your own subjective experience as real because it isn't observable (by any normative meaning of 'observable'), even by you.

    I don't think its about making a choice between different things being real, its about the explanatory options open to us, and where they lead, which generally goes toward the brain and computational theories etc.

    For Physicalism to be up to the job ...
    Expand it's conceptual repertoire to include psychical concepts ... but then it no longer falls under any normative definition of 'Physicalism'.

    Again, I think this is just implying a naive kind of physicalism which i dont believe people endorse generally. Its like saying that a physicalist shouldnt take a field like psychology seriously or accept its concepts. Its like saying that anyone who accepts psychology can't be a physicalist. This is obviosly not true. Again, just because we have experiential and psychological concepts, doesn't mean we don't want to in principle exain them at some level thriugh physicla models without requiring any other kind of dualistic notions. Thats all I'm really saying ... I think.


    Hope that mind can eventually be explanatorily reduced to (not just mapped onto) physical concepts ... but you and I don't believe that's possible; a long history of scientific 'failure' casts a severe doubt about the possibility; and I think it is logically incoherent.
    If one of these get-outs works for someone, fine. But the cognitive dissonance is not to my taste.

    I just disagree with the idea that, in order to be a physicalist, you have to believe that everything needs to be reduced and explained in some precise, neat, final way. I think we are limited observers and there can be in principle good physical or informational or computational explanations for the limits of what we can and cannot explain. We may not be able to explain everything, we may not be able to have finalize coherent fundamental ontologies about the universe. But I think within what we can explain there is just this centrality by which everything seems to revolve around and which we describe as the physical. I look around the rooma nd see physical things, I think about where my experiences and thoughts come from and think in terms of the brain. etc etc. we have come a hell of a long way in learning how brains and minds work.
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