• PossibleAaran
    155
    I see your point. The evil demon hypothesis is one which is empirically indistinguishable from the Realist hypothesis. I agree with you on that, since they both have all of the same predictive consequences. You infer from this that the two hypotheses aren't meaningfully different and that it is just a verbal matter of whether to say that, for example, the laws of physics are the laws which govern the behaviour of the demon, or not. 'We may as well have a demonology department' and it would be just the same as our ordinary physics department. I agree with everything except your inference that the two aren't meaningfully different. For you to infer that from the facts which you have mentioned, you require the premise that two hypotheses are meaningfully different only if they have different empirical consequences, and this amounts to the premise that two hypotheses are meaningfully different only if they predict a difference in what we perceive.

    That premise is a form of Verificationism, and I can't see why you would accept it.

    Excuse me for only extracting parts of your post for discussion. All of it is excellent, but I fear that each of our posts will spiral into large treatises before long! I will try to get to the heart of our disagreement.

    But then what, in what way is it being used? When are you applying or using "schmexperience" properly? How would you know? What is the nature of the "self" who's "having" "experience" in this new sense? Or does schmexperience not have a haver? Or is the haver of a different kind? If so what?gurugeorge

    Say that X is schmexperienced if and only if X is given to conscious awareness in such a way as to provide a sensible answer as to why the subject should believe that X.

    So I might schexperience a patch of red only if the redness is given to my conscious awareness in such a way as to provide a sensible answer as to why I should believe that there is a patch of red. Of course the notion of 'given to conscious awareness' is somewhat metaphorical, but I don't think this is a barrier. Anyone can get a handle on what it is for something to be given to consciousness just by reflection on his own present awareness. One might doubt that anything ever is given in this sense, but that does not mean that the concept is meaningless; just that it is not an accurate description of anything.


    "In another sense" - in WHAT sense, precisely? What is this "seeing" you're talking about?

    Normally seeing implies or presupposes a bunch of physical-world-story stuff. But if you're not implying that, then what is the testable content of this "seeing", what are the conditions for whether one is "seeing" in this sense? When can one correctly be said to be "seeing" (shcmeeing? :) ) in this sense, and when not?
    gurugeorge

    One is 'seeing' that X in the sense I have in mind only if X is given to consciousness in such a way as to provide a sensible answer as to why the subject should believe that X. That is when one can be said to be seeing something in my sense; when the thing seen is so unproblematically available to consciousness as to preclude any further sensible doubt about whether it exists. Again, maybe you doubt that there is anything which is available to consciousness in this way, but that doesn't speak to the meaningfulness of the concept.

    No, rather it's saying that bracketing all presuppositions isn't necessarily the best way to build an indusputable system of philosophy. We already know how that ends up, it ends up in solipsism with a thing that has no name and character "experiencing" various things that may or may not be the case. Yes, a very solid foundation for a philosophy.gurugeorge

    Perhaps you are right, but I don't think its anywhere near as clear as you make it out to be. Many philosophers have this habit these days. The habit of just saying 'oh its just obvious that bracketing all presuppositions leads to solipsism' and then adding 'such a philosophical method is useless'. But very rarely, if ever, does anyone take the time to look at the matter in detail. You seem to be doing just the same thing here.

    If so, then you should have no problem with the camera test.gurugeorge

    My issue with the camera test is that it presupposes that Realism is true. No one who didn't already accept Realism would accept the camera test.

    Again, given =/= indisputable. "Given," like "experience," etc., etc., already carries some baggage from the larger world. "Given" in distinction to what?gurugeorge

    Given in the sense of, as Stace puts it, 'logically given'. Indisputable in that what is given provides a satisfactory, non-question begging, answer to the question "why should I believe that?". What is given is the ultimate starting point for argument.

    But you already knew that nothing is indisputable, that's already built into the ordinary way of looking at things. You just need a reason to dispute, but staring at your sensations and dreaming up alternative logical possibilities doesn't give you a reason to doubt the ordinary application of some ordinary concept.gurugeorge

    I reject the doctrine that there is an 'ordinary way of thinking' with respect to pretty much anything. Everybody thinks differently, and in this case there may, for all I know, be very great differences in what people take to be indisputable. In any case, that you ordinarily think that nothing is indisputable is not a good reason for you to suppose that it is true. What is ordinarily thought is just a matter of what you have been conditioned by culture and evolution, together with your own individual background, to believe.

    It is worth pointing out, since you have many conceptual doubts, that the sense of 'indisputable' I have in mind is that something is indisputable if and only if there is a non-question begging answer to the question as to why it should be believed. Do I ordinarily think that nothing is indisputable? No. I was initially inclined to think that a lot of what I believe is indisputable. Perhaps I am wrong, but that is what I thought.

    To shift the discussion slightly, your posts always presuppose that there is such a thing as 'our ordinary concepts' and that is your fixed point from which you argue that my position warps those concepts into meaninglessness. I reject the idea that there is any substantive body called 'our ordinary concepts'. People sometimes have the same thing in mind and use the same word to represent it, but quite often people have quite different or slightly different things in mind whilst using the same words. I might use the word 'knowledge' and mean by it something like indisputably true belief, but you might use that word in a very different way, even though when talking to each other, we never notice that difference in our communications. I also think that most people have no very precise concept at all for the concepts which are discussed in philosophy - knowledge, reason, space, time, morality, perceive, mind, physical, and so on, and because the concepts are so vague ordinarily, I think it even less likely that people often have exactly the same thing in mind by them, even though this goes unnoticed in every day communication.

    From your perspective, the ordinary is the paradigm of meaning and it isn't clear how any non-ordinary concept is meaningful unless it is very carefully explicated. But as I see it, its the ordinary which is vague, full of variation and inconsistency, and in desperate need of explication. I guess I'm an Aristotelean or a Carnapian, and you are Wittgensteinian.

    PA
  • Deleted User
    0


    I think we're finally converging on a joint understanding which seems like a worthwhile achievement, but I'm not sure what you mean by "That premise is a form of Verificationism, and I can't see why you would accept it.". When I talk about meaning, I'm talking about collective utility, in the same way as it is collectively useful for us to all agree broadly on the meaning of the word 'tree' so that we can use it in a conversation. I might have my own private meaning, but it's not something I can share because it serves no purpose.

    It's like that with the 'cause' of a perceived effect it could be physical or it could be an evil demon, and whichever you believe may have subjective meaning to you, but it is as pointless as a personal definition of the word 'tree' in public discourse because it has no shared meaning. If 'evil deamon' and 'physics' have exactly the same effect then their shared public meaning is the same. It doesn't seem the same because actually when we think of an evil demon we're certainly not thinking of something like the laws of physics, we're thinking of something like an malicious person, but with horns. But we've just established that if there is an evil demon doing all this he's not like that at all, he's extremely consistent, apparently benign (or at least disinterested), just like the laws of physics are.
  • gurugeorge
    436
    To shift the discussion slightly, your posts always presuppose that there is such a thing as 'our ordinary concepts' and that is your fixed point from which you argue that my position warps those concepts into meaninglessness. I reject the idea that there is any substantive body called 'our ordinary concepts'. People sometimes have the same thing in mind and use the same word to represent it, but quite often people have quite different or slightly different things in mind whilst using the same words.PossibleAaran

    Yes but that's a feature, not a bug. We can certainly tighten up our language and our concepts for any given purpose, narrowing our focus but what I doubt is the idea that we can (or need to) tighten up our language in a general (non-domain specific) way by means of things like the Cartesian method.

    As Wittgenstein said, I paraphrase, the philosophizing in the Tractatus is like a special case of the philosophizing in the PI, it's not that there's anything wrong with philosophical theorizing in general, because doing so does help you see things in a different light - it's not like the Cartesian excursion is fruitless, because you learn what not to do, what's a waste of time - the problem is when you're theorizing philosophically but you think you've got something more objective and more indubitable than you had before, when really you're just getting into even murkier territory where we don't know what up or down is (metaphorically speaking).

    Just as an aside, I'd say that Wittgenstein is closer to Aristotle than maybe you think. Aristotle would have had no truck with any of this kind of nonsense either :D I always thought it was quite ironic and amusing that Wittgenstein lamented he'd read no Aristotle, since he was sort of starting to reinvent Aristotle in On Certainty :)

    Given in the sense of, as Stace puts it, 'logically given'. Indisputable in that what is given provides a satisfactory, non-question begging, answer to the question "why should I believe that?".PossibleAaran

    Yeah, that's the thing, I don't think there is such a thing in the ordinary realm, but I don't think there's any such thing as a non-question begging answer as to what it is you're seeing when you're looking at matters from a truncated, phenomenalist point of view either. It's even more mysterious, so it can't be a purifying foundation. Isn't that what Carnap found out, after all?
  • Wayfarer
    6.3k
    always thought it was quite ironic and amusing that Wittgenstein lamented he'd read no Aristotlegurugeorge

    Whereas I find it comforting to know. ;-)
  • Pollywalls
    67
    I think science doesn't necessarily have to be correct. it just has to work. how can we know whether it works? what is it even to have knowledge? we are just functions designed to conclude. that is probably intrinsically valuable for all of us. Is there a difference between something physical and something conceptual? conclusions can't resolve skepticism. or can they? is it even logical to be logical? what is the proof of the proof of the proof of the proof of anything? how can we justify the regress argument? I can't seem to find a solution. maybe I should give up. there might be no solution. I feel so frustrated about it.
  • tEd
    16
    I think science doesn't necessarily have to be correct. it just has to work.Pollywalls

    This is a great issue. I'm studying physics. I'm at that point where I have to choose between engineering and pure science, and I'm leaning toward engineering. Why? Because that's seems to be the real reason we believe in science --because it works. It does stuff for us. It's the same with math. A few people in my calc classes are going for pure math. I can't relate to that. The numbers detached from reality have no appeal for me. I want to operate and maybe even create machines that get things done.

    is it even logical to be logical? what is the proof of the proof of the proof of the proof of anything? how can we justify the regress argument? I can't seem to find a solution. maybe I should give up. there might be no solution. I feel so frustrated about it.Pollywalls

    The only philosophers to have held my attention so far have been pragmatists and Wittgenstein. How do we get out of the endless tangle of words? For the most part they go nowhere, it seems to me. X means Y means Z means...nothing. Or it's all finally justified in practice. Does anyone really know what they are talking about if they can't do anything with it? On the other hand, some of this talk motivates the millions. I guess that's doing something with it. Of course it's all got to be simplified into jingles and talking points in that case. Because others are impatient dummies like myself, waiting for the talk to become relevant to what they want and what they fear.
  • Pollywalls
    67
    does a calculator "know" whether its input numbers are correct? nothing proves that they are incorrect. there is an observer in our brains, which recognizes flaws in our reasoning, but the observer can not observe its own flaws, because it doesn't need to. it wasn't meant to.
  • PossibleAaran
    155
    There are some difficulties in what you said, or perhaps just difficulties in my understanding it. You say that 'when you are talking about meaning, you are talking about collective utility', and you give the example that it is collectively useful to agree that the word 'tree' means a specific kind of object and this allows us to 'use it in conversation'. I agree with this, but what is the relevance? Here is what you say:

    It's like that with the 'cause' of a perceived effect it could be physical or it could be an evil demon, and whichever you believe may have subjective meaning to you, but it is as pointless as a personal definition of the word 'tree' in public discourse because it has no shared meaning. If 'evil deamon' and 'physics' have exactly the same effect then their shared public meaning is the same. It doesn't seem the same because actually when we think of an evil demon we're certainly not thinking of something like the laws of physics, we're thinking of something like an malicious person, but with horns. But we've just established that if there is an evil demon doing all this he's not like that at all, he's extremely consistent, apparently benign (or at least disinterested), just like the laws of physics are.Inter Alia

    We need to be very careful not to fall into the veil of perception doctrine here. Talk of 'what causes the perceived effect, a physical object or a demon?' makes it sound like what we perceive is an image which is caused by one of these two; the veil of perception doctrine. I am presently perceiving something which I normally call a laptop. Does it exist unperceived? If the evil demon hypothesis is true, it doesn't, since the demon just puts these things before me like a show, and 'turns them off' when I am not watching. Your objection to the evil demon hypothesis was that is not 'meaningfully different' from the Realist hypothesis that things exist unperceived. My answer was that there is a clear difference in the things postulated by each hypothesis: the Realist posits unperceived laptops, the evil demon hypothesis posits an unperceived evil demon. Your thought is not that because they have all of the same empirical consequences, there is no significant difference between them. Is that right? I took that from your use of words like 'pointless'. You say further that the two hypotheses have 'the same public meaning'. I'm not sure what a public meaning is and how it is different from meaning simpliciter.

    I think at last we can locate the substantive disagreement between us.

    it's not like the Cartesian excursion is fruitless, because you learn what not to do, what's a waste of time - the problem is when you're theorizing philosophically but you think you've got something more objective and more indubitable than you had before, when really you're just getting into even murkier territory where we don't know what up or down is (metaphorically speaking).gurugeorge

    I don't think there's any such thing as a non-question begging answer as to what it is you're seeing when you're looking at matters from a truncated, phenomenalist point of view either. It's even more mysterious, so it can't be a purifying foundation. Isn't that what Carnap found out, after all?gurugeorge

    Our disagreement is that you don't think any non-question begging rationale can be had for our beliefs, at least not if you push questioning far enough back. You seem to think this is obvious. I'd be interested to know why you think it is so obvious, and also whether you would be prepared to characterize this as a kind of Pyrrhonian Scepticism, since it is just what those ancient sceptics used to maintain?

    PA
  • Deleted User
    0
    Your thought is not that because they have all of the same empirical consequences, there is no significant difference between them. Is that right?PossibleAaran

    Yes. It might be easier if we split our terminology into 'hypothesis' and 'explanation'. The Realist hypothesis might be something like "if I open my eyes the laptop will be there" or "if I use any automated measuring device on the laptop, it will record some interaction with it, whether I'm looking or not". Their 'explanation' for why these hypotheses are so successful at predicting results is that the laptop exists unpercieved.

    The Idealist's 'explanation' is that an evil demon simply makes all these things appear the way they are (or some other non-realist position) but their hypotheses seem to remain the same, they still act as if it will be there when they open their eyes, they are unsurprised when the automated camera reveals an image of it, etc.

    The explanations are internal, they matter to none but ourselves (at any one moment), like our own private definition of 'tree'. Only our hypotheses are public because they dictate how we behave, what we say etc, like the public meaning of the word 'tree'.

    So whilst both the Realist and the Idealist have the same public hypotheses they are effectively the same in the field of public discourse.

    What is meaningfully different (and I should have mentioned this earlier) is when one's explanation leads one to the next hypothesis. Then the quality of one explanation can be judged objectively. Is it leading to hypotheses in the public realm (behaviour, predictions etc.) that are proving more successful? This is where Realism trumps Idealism. I don't know of any examples where the 'evil demon' explanation has yielded any new hypotheses that have proven useful. I know plenty of new hypotheses (the whole of science) which have resulted from believing in a Realist explanation.

    As I have mentioned elsewhere, this is where my issue with Idealism lies, not with its foundational logic, which I agree is flawless, but with what it's proponents go on to hypothesise (usually some variant of "you should therefore let me do whatever my book/god/guru says without judgement"). Such hypotheses do not logically follow from the 'explaination' Idealists are perfectly entitled to privately hold, but from a deception, a trick of metaphors. You and I might agree that an evil demon might be doing all these things, but if so he is a completely consistent and predictable one. The unscrupulous then take this agreement to mean an actual Evil Deamon is causing all these things, one with the attendant horns, capriciousness, and malice and we'd better then hang crosses on our doors just in case, the logic of Skepticism simply doesn't lead there.
  • Deleted User
    0
    Your thought is not that because they have all of the same empirical consequences, there is no significant difference between them. Is that right?PossibleAaran

    Yes. It might be easier if we split our terminology into 'hypothesis' and 'explanation'. The Realist hypothesis might be something like "if I open my eyes the laptop will be there" or "if I use any automated measuring device on the laptop, it will record some interaction with it, whether I'm looking or not". Their 'explanation' for why these hypotheses are so successful at predicting results is that the laptop exists unpercieved.

    The Idealist's 'explanation' is that an evil demon simply makes all these things appear the way they are (or some other non-realist position) but their hypotheses seem to remain the same, they still act as if it will be there when they open their eyes, they are unsurprised when the automated camera reveals an image of it, etc.

    The explanations are internal, they matter to none but ourselves (at any one moment), like our own private definition of 'tree'. Only our hypotheses are public because they dictate how we behave, what we say etc, like the public meaning of the word 'tree'.

    So whilst both the Realist and the Idealist have the same public hypotheses they are effectively the same in the field of public discourse.

    What is meaningfully different (and I should have mentioned this earlier) is when one's explanation leads one to the next hypothesis. Then the quality of one explanation can be judged objectively. Is it leading to hypotheses in the public realm (behaviour, predictions etc.) that are proving more successful? This is where Realism trumps Idealism. I don't know of any examples where the 'evil demon' explanation has yielded any new hypotheses that have proven useful. I know plenty of new hypotheses (the whole of science) which have resulted from believing in a Realist explanation.

    As I have mentioned elsewhere, this is where my issue with Idealism lies, not with its foundational logic, which I agree is flawless, but with what it's proponents go on to hypothesise (usually some variant of "you should therefore let me do whatever my book/god/guru says without judgement"). Such hypotheses do not logically follow from the 'explaination' Idealists are perfectly entitled to privately hold, but from a deception, a trick of metaphors. You and I might agree that an evil demon might be doing all these things, but if so he is a completely consistent and predictable one. The unscrupulous then take this agreement to mean an actual Evil Deamon is causing all these things, one with the attendant horns, capriciousness, and malice and we'd better then hang crosses on our doors just in case, the logic of Skepticism simply doesn't lead there.
  • PossibleAaran
    155
    So whilst both the Realist and the Idealist have the same public hypotheses they are effectively the same in the field of public discourse.Inter Alia

    Now I see what you mean by this. Thanks for the clarification.

    I don't know of any examples where the 'evil demon' explanation has yielded any new hypotheses that have proven useful.Inter Alia

    But this is less clear. I thought you said that the evil demon explanation and the Realist explanation have the same hypotheses. So if Realism has useful hypotheses so does the evil demon explanation.

    I know plenty of new hypotheses (the whole of science) which have resulted from believing in a Realist explanation.Inter Alia

    Could you give a specific example of a hypothesis which only results from Realism and not the evil demon hypothesis? (Again, if what you said above is right, there are none, and so I am puzzled).

    (usually some variant of "you should therefore let me do whatever my book/god/guru says without judgement")Inter Alia

    I have never met an Idealist who takes that line (to be sure, I haven't met many Idealists at all!).

    PA
  • gurugeorge
    436
    Our disagreement is that you don't think any non-question begging rationale can be had for our beliefs, at least not if you push questioning far enough back. You seem to think this is obvious. I'd be interested to know why you think it is so obvious, and also whether you would be prepared to characterize this as a kind of Pyrrhonian Scepticism, since it is just what those ancient sceptics used to maintain?PossibleAaran

    It just goes back to my original points re. doubt - the reason you dig back behind presuppositions in the ordinary way of inquiry is when and if you have some anomaly or some other reason to doubt. Some hint from experience that things may not be as you think they are. That's the home of doing something like "examining our presuppositions."

    Other than that, I don't think there's any general need to have "indubitable foundations" - so it's not so much that I don't think any non-question-begging rationale can be had, it's that I wonder at the purpose of the exercise of looking for some non-question-begging, over-arching rationale, given that the usual process of knowledge-gathering doesn't require such things.

    As Popper says somewhere, you don't need to drive piles infinitely deep to have a secure foundation for a house - not even if it's built on sand.

    IOW, we examine our presuppositions in a certain general type of context, and there's a reason why we check our premises, and that context and reason is usually discomfort at some anomaly, some way in which our experience isn't going as the words and concepts we're using (to characterize the world) would predict it would go. Doubt is the active searching process for an alternative explanation consequent upon such an anomaly.

    So there's a one-to-one match between the procedure of examining our presuppositions, and some problem or anomaly that prompts the procedure. Essentially, it's a contextual flipping of the usual hierarchy, where we trust our presuppositions (and the tiny but fairly secure fortress of established scientific fact) and that gives us leverage to doubt the evidence of our senses. Here instead we trust the evidence of our senses (although in fact we no longer know what these "senses" are or what "evidence" would mean in the flipped context) and we think that gives us leverage to doubt our presuppositions. But there's no general "examining of presuppositions" required in the ordinary context, there's no reason to be constantly on tenterhooks second-guessing our presuppositions.

    Or to put it another way, one can envisage such a reason to doubt the entire chain of our presuppositions to its depths - but it would have to be something world-shakingly, majorly anomalous, like people turning into bananas, or a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man stomping through Times Square.

    A philosopher merely dreaming up some alternative possibility from the one we think obtains, and demanding that we secure our propositions against that imaginary scenario, isn't going to cut it - that's not even an anomaly, it's not a reason to doubt, it's just an imaginary way we could be wrong.
  • AngleWyrm
    64
    Doubt is the active searching process for an alternative explanation consequent upon such an anomaly.gurugeorge

    I like this, as distinct from confidence, which is a measure of proportions of success/failure. Nice perspective.
  • PossibleAaran
    155
    It just goes back to my original points re. doubt - the reason you dig back behind presuppositions in the ordinary way of inquiry is when and if you have some anomaly or some other reason to doubt. Some hint from experience that things may not be as you think they are. That's the home of doing something like "examining our presuppositions."gurugeorge

    Right, ordinarily.

    Other than that, I don't think there's any general need to have "indubitable foundations" - so it's not so much that I don't think any non-question-begging rationale can be had, it's that I wonder at the purpose of the exercise of looking for some non-question-begging, over-arching rationale, given that the usual process of knowledge-gathering doesn't require such things.gurugeorge

    I have some difficulty with this. In a way, there isn't a need for all sorts of things that we insist on doing. There is no need to have literary critics, but we have them. There is no need to figure out the history of the romans, but we try. There is no need to figure out whether the universe is temporally finite or eternal, but we try. What drives all of these inquiries isn't some desperate need to solve the problems, but curiosity. Equally, one might simply be curious whether a non-question begging rationale can be had for all of what one presently believes. It might be that there is no dramatically important reason why we must have that rationale; its just that one wants it, or wants to see whether it can be had. That's how it is for me anyway.

    On the other hand, the question whether the rationale can be had seems important for the following reason. Many of us often assume that some beliefs are silly, or absurd, or unreasonable, or just plain crazy. We often criticize rival systems of belief on that ground. Perhaps its Christianity, or Islam, or Hinduism, or the old Norse or Greek mythologies. Perhaps its belief in the immortal soul and the afterlife. These are just the examples that come to mind and which many people often dismiss for being rationally sub-standard. When you look into those criticisms, what they often come to is the criticism that no non-question begging rationale can be given for those beliefs. But how silly are these criticisms if we can't provide a non-question begging rationale for our own beliefs when it comes to a persistent sceptic? If we can't provide a non-question begging rationale for even the simplest things then this kind of criticism, which is prevalent in culture, is completely unfounded. Many philosophers today don't see the point of looking for a non-question begging rationale for what they call 'common-sense', but they fail to see the point that if you can't do it, a certain kind of rational criticism on which we rely all the time turns out to be a hollow game.

    PA
  • Deleted User
    0
    But this is less clear. I thought you said that the evil demon explanation and the Realist explanation have the same hypotheses. So if Realism has useful hypotheses so does the evil demon explanation.PossibleAaran

    So, here I'm talking about the 'real' evil demon hypothesis, which results from what I said about the public meaning of words. The words 'evil' and 'demon' already have a public meaning, they refer collectively to a powerful, capricious creature who intends harm and has taken steps to bring about that harm. The hypotheses resulting from the true 'evil demon' explanation would be that next time you look at your laptop and shut your eyes, when you open them again it will have turned into a skull, just to freak you out, or be made entirely of razor blades so you can't pick it up. To say that an actual 'evil demon' was responsible, this time, for making the laptop pop back into existence in a completely harmless way just like he did last time and all the hundred times before that is not to describe an 'evil demon' by the public meaning of the word at all. You might not want to ascribe the phenomenon to the laws of physics, but if you want to draw such mundane, benign hypotheses from your explanation, it has to be of a mundane, benign nature.

    This is what I mean by the deception of metaphor. Whilst we cannot say what causes the laptop to appear to us again every time we open our eyes, we can say that the cause is mundane, benign (or at least disinterested), extremely consistent and unobservable to us or our machinery. That rules out certain things by their public meaning. Demons are one, God is another, the mad scientists/brain in a vat a third. Oddly, a matrix-like simulation is not ruled out by this requirement as its very purpose would be to be mundane and consistent, so it's not a complete argument for realism so much as an argument against certain forms of anti-realism.
  • PossibleAaran
    155
    To say that an actual 'evil demon' was responsible, this time, for making the laptop pop back into existence in a completely harmless way just like he did last time and all the hundred times before that is not to describe an 'evil demon' by the public meaning of the word at all.Inter Alia

    Perhaps the description 'evil' is misplaced then. Try instead, 'deceiving demon'. He certainly does deceive, since he fools everyone into thinking that the objects they perceive also exist unperceived when they don't.

    Whilst we cannot say what causes the laptop to appear to us again every time we open our eyes, we can say that the cause is mundane, benign (or at least disinterested), extremely consistent and unobservable to us or our machinery. That rules out certain things by their public meaning. Demons are one, God is another, the mad scientists/brain in a vat a third. Oddly, a matrix-like simulation is not ruled out by this requirement as its very purpose would be to be mundane and consistent, so it's not a complete argument for realism so much as an argument against certain forms of anti-realism.Inter Alia

    I would add 'deceiving demon explanation' to the simulation explanation insofar as both are mundane and consistent. Is it right that you think there is no reason to prefer Realism over these kinds of mundane and consistent alternatives?

    PA
  • Deleted User
    0


    I still have a problem with 'demon' because of its anthropogenic connotations. Nothing in my understanding of the term 'demon' would predict such consistency, but in general principle I agree that so long as the terminology is not deceptive, that it does not imply hypotheses that are not actually ever made, then they are of equal value.
  • gurugeorge
    436
    Equally, one might simply be curious whether a non-question begging rationale can be had for all of what one presently believes. It might be that there is no dramatically important reason why we must have that rationale; its just that one wants it, or wants to see whether it can be had. That's how it is for me anyway.PossibleAaran

    Yes, but what I'm arguing against is the idea that motivated some of the early modern philosophers - they took seriously the problem of general foundations for knowledge, they thought you actually do NEED such a general foundation otherwise normal inquiry can't proceed properly. That, I think is wrong, and the truth is somewhere inbetween - it's a good exercise to examine our presuppositions generally now and then, sure, and as you point out it's something that arouses curiosity anyway. But it's not something that's necessary (such that if we don't do it, we must down tools and resolve the problem before knowledge-gathering can proceed any further).

    One criticizes religion for being question-begging on specifiable, verifiable grounds that are fairly close to the surface. In order to do that, one doesn't need to have examined one's own presuppositions - although that can be done, it doesn't affect the "bite" of the criticism of religion on its own terms.

    e.g. one doesn't need to have indubitable foundations for knowledge in general to criticize a religious argument for taking it for granted that "everything must have a cause."

    And on the other hand, a lot of the criticism of religious (and these days now, quasi-religious political) dogmas is because people base other-people-killing policies on thin foundations. You say you've had a vision of the Virgin Mary? Well and good, but why do you think that gives you license to slay the unbeliever?

    Basically, it's all the other way round from what philosophers thought it was, for a long time: we don't build our picture of the world up from guaranteed-to-be-valid-nuggets (either bits of clear reasoning or bits of clear, indubitable experience); we have an ongoing model of the world that we ongoingly juggle into existence, which is the thing we believe in and trust, until such time as an anomaly crops up and we have to revise the model. That model is always, in its most fundamental nature, conjectural. (Which is the same thing as my earlier "stipulation," as "grammar", as the apriori, etc.) (I should add of course that the validity of our world model in its most general terms is guaranteed in a limited sense, by evolution. IOW, up till now the world has been a particular way that we've evolved to fit in with, so we can be sure the world is largely the way our model models it, at least in terms of "middle-sized furniture.")

    So in that context it's perturbances that motivate the resolution of something called "doubt." And while it's a theoretical option to extend that doubt to the whole of the background of the knowledge-gathering process, at that point since the type of perturbance that would have to crop up to motivate a serious inquiry at that level would have to be absolutely enormously weird, a playful inquiry isn't going to get very far, because it has no actual anomaly of that "size" to work on.

    Or: yes, doubt at that over-arching (or to switch the metaphor foundational) level is possible, but we haven't yet found a reason why doubt at that level, doubt about the presuppositions of knowledge in general, has to be taken seriously. For the doubt to be taken seriously, you'd have some evidence to work on, and you'd need evidence of a weird anomaly on a massive scale that would be the evidence that JUSTIFIES THE DOUBT. And again, merely imagining alternative possibilities isn't a reason to doubt.
  • PossibleAaran
    155
    Yes, but what I'm arguing against is the idea that motivated some of the early modern philosophers - they took seriously the problem of general foundations for knowledge, they thought you actually do NEED such a general foundation otherwise normal inquiry can't proceed properly. That, I think is wrong, and the truth is somewhere inbetween - it's a good exercise to examine our presuppositions generally now and then, sure, and as you point out it's something that arouses curiosity anyway. But it's not something that's necessary (such that if we don't do it, we must down tools and resolve the problem before knowledge-gathering can proceed any further).gurugeorge

    I'm not sure how many of the early moderns thought that. Hume certainly didn't, since he thought no such foundation was possible and yet still wrote on history. Descartes didn't think so either. He just thought that if he could secure such a foundation for his fundamental metaphysical ideas, it would give those ideas a huge advantage over alternatives; it would make them stable and lasting. It wasn't that he thought you couldn't do inquiry otherwise; the Aristotelean program before him had done so and he knew this. He just thought it would be better to have the foundation in place, and that still sounds right to me.

    One criticizes religion for being question-begging on specifiable, verifiable grounds that are fairly close to the surface. In order to do that, one doesn't need to have examined one's own presuppositions - although that can be done, it doesn't affect the "bite" of the criticism of religion on its own terms.

    e.g. one doesn't need to have indubitable foundations for knowledge in general to criticize a religious argument for taking it for granted that "everything must have a cause."
    gurugeorge

    Why can't they take fore granted that everything must have a cause? Why do they need to prove this principle using premises only a religious sceptic would accept? Why can't they just assume it to be true and get on with Theology? Isn't that just what we do with something like 'sense perception is reliable, on the assumption that no non-question begging rationale for that belief is needed? What can the criticism of the principle of sufficient reason amount to if that very same criticism can be levied against 'sense perception is reliable'?

    Moreover, why can't the religious believer just say, as Plantinga does say, 'the cognitive faculty which produces belief in God is reliable', and take this as an assumption which can't be provided any non-question begging rationale? And when someone dares question this axiom of theirs, why can't they just say 'I don't need to put my religious belief on any more secure foundation'?

    we have an ongoing model of the world that we ongoingly juggle into existence, which is the thing we believe in and trust, until such time as an anomaly crops up and we have to revise the model. That model is always, in its most fundamental nature, conjecturalgurugeorge

    Doesn't the Norse Pagan have that? He has a model of the world which he ongoingly juggles and which he trusts, until such a time as an anomaly crops up. He has no way to prove to you that he will go to Valhalla on death so long as he dies a warrior's death. Its just part of his model, like 'sense perception is reliable' is part of ours. What's the difference?

    Another way to appreciate this last point is to appreciate that we don't have an ongoing model. each one of us has our own on going model which is different to others - and sometimes radically so - and all of them are conjectural on your understanding. But this, surely, makes every model, no matter how seemingly absurd, equal in authority to every other.

    PA
  • javra
    525
    Another way to appreciate this last point is to appreciate that we don't have an ongoing model. each one of us has our own on going model which is different to others - and sometimes radically so - and all of them are conjectural on your understanding. But this, surely, makes every model, no matter how seemingly absurd, equal in authority to every other.PossibleAaran

    You raise good points. Yet there remains this: the Viking, the young Earth Christian, and the physicalist atheist, when they are in close enough proximity to interact, will all hold implicit accord on everything which is common to all three. They may each enter into immediate conflict upon such an encounter due to disagreements—even that of an all-out war—yet even in so doing they each will hold implicit accord in what causes what in relation to their immediate, concrete, commonly shared reality (hence, in the reality of causation); in who said or did something prior to the other saying or doing something (hence, in the reality of temporal sequences and, thereby, of time); in the truth that they are standing upon a solid substratum which affects each equally (hence, in the reality of a physical realm applicable to all); etc.

    Each of the three individual’s explanations for causation, time, physicality, etc. will indeed be different—and each will project upon the others a belief that the others lack an adequate understanding of what is metaphysically true—yet this commonly shared reality between each will itself hold its own metaphysical validity in so being.

    To me at least, the more mature caricatures of the Viking, the YE Christian, and the physicalist atheist would only have grounds for conflict when contradictions occur in regard to what is commonly shared.

    They share one world but hold different explanations for it. This, in itself, is not grounds for conflict for it is a difference that makes no significant difference. But when these explanations for the shared world a) are not demonstrated to be and b) infringe upon the others understanding of what the shared world is, then the explanations of each takes away from the extended-self of the others. By “extended-self” I’m keeping in mind that context is itself one aspect by which the self is defined; e.g. who I am is in part defined by whether I’m a BIV puppeteer by others or not; by whether the world I inhabit is fully deterministic or else can facilitate the reality of freewill; by whether the laws of nature are stable—and some can from this extrapolate eternally fixed—or, to address the other extreme, can change on a dime at any time for no reason whatsoever; etc. A different subject but I'm hoping this issue of an extended-self can be at least partially understood.

    To simplify, I’ll only address the YE Christian and the physicalist atheist. They both hold common knowledge of a multitude of givens regarding the here and now—including that of both being humans inhabiting planet Earth. Yet the first claims that Earth started about 6,000 years ago on causal grounds of God and the latter claims that Earth started about 4.5 billion years ago on causal grounds of physical laws. The latter’s claims are accordant to the empirical sciences at expense of any divinity being real and the former’s claims are accordant to one of many interpretations of divinity being real at expense of the empirical sciences. Add some politics into this as regards what the nation to which they both hold citizenship should do and conflicts as regards explanations can then unfold on grounds of contradictions in terms of what is.

    Despite such potential conflicts, there yet remains the common reality. I’m upholding that while this reality common to all (“uni-verse” will carry the same connotations) may be reinterpreted metaphysically—such as via inquiry into metaphysics regarding substantiations for what is—it nevertheless can neither be ignored nor denied as a core metaphysical component of reality.

    Not that all this serves as any resolution to the problems addressed. But to me at least it reframes the problems in a way that is more acceptable. So, with such outlook, it’s not an issue of everyone for themselves in terms of metaphysics but an issue of which explanation for the whole best accounts for what is common to all in noncontradictory manners … ideally, in as impartial a fashion as is possible, imo.
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