• Marchesk
    1.6k
    Since we can't step outside of our perceptions, there's no reason to supposed we're inside an objective reality. It's merely a philosophical exercise in what sort of wild scenarios we can imagine which aren't incompatible with our experiences.T Clark


    A Heideggerian critique of that might be that our being in the world is primary, and so abstracting away from that to ask radically skeptical questions about our perceptions of the world is to make a fundamental mistake.

    You're asking this question by starting out saying objective reality exists. We're not in a situation were we can do that. We can only imagine the possibility.T Clark

    This is assuming that our perceptions are subjective, and thus there is an objective gap that needs to be crossed to get at an external world, if it exists.

    But one might start over by rejecting the notion that perceptions are subjective, or at least deny that perceptions make us aware of subjective objects (sense datum).

    I think you are a victim of a failure of imagination. It is a common intellectual malady to believe that words and the world are the same thing.T Clark

    I can understand the brain in a vat argument. But I'm not sure that's the same as being in the world. Maybe we're just imagining that an envatted experience could be indistinguishable from an embodied one, because we don't know enough to rule it out.
  • T Clark
    1.2k
    A Heideggerian critique of that might be that our being in the world is primary, and so abstracting away from that to ask radically skeptical questions about our perceptions of the world is to make a fundamental mistake.Marchesk

    Which is begging the question. Who says being in the world is primary (other than Heidegger)?

    This is assuming that our perceptions are subjective, and thus there is an objective gap that needs to be crossed to get at an external world, if it exists.

    But one might start over by rejecting the notion that perceptions are subjective, or at least deny that perceptions make us aware of subjective objects (sense datum).
    Marchesk

    Are you saying that our experiences are objective? I'm not even sure what that means. I would have thought that personal experiences are the essence of subjectivity.
  • Marchesk
    1.6k
    Are you saying that our experiences are objective? I'm not even sure what that means. I would have thought that personal experiences are the essence of subjectivity.T Clark

    Some of our experiences are subjective, but it's not clear how perception should be classified.

    Which is begging the question. Who says being in the world is primary (other than Heidegger)?T Clark

    Heidegger makes the argument that we're always actively doing things with goals in mind which make sense in terms of a world, and it's only by abstracting from those activities that you can put yourself in a position to have radical doubt, which is an act of forgetting your constant worldly activity.

    Or something along those lines, as I understand it.
  • Wayfarer
    4.8k
    What would be Kant's response to Stove's worst argument critique?Marchesk

    I don’t think Kant would bother responding. You can’t argue with instinctive realists, they have to begin to question their own sense of the solidity of the world before they’d consider it.
  • Marchesk
    1.6k
    So Kant wouldn't have said anything to a hand waving argument either?

    Neither would Wittgenstein, but for a different reason.
  • javra
    332


    Thank you for your answers. We’re in accord about not everything thought of being necessarily true. This, then, includes the thoughts of an evil daemon (bogeyman?) messing around with you.

    What makes realism more plausible than an evil daemon? One element to this is as follows: Conviction in realism is how I and a majority of the world’s populace—both greatly and poorly educated (education being a separate issue from that of intelligence for me)—navigate the world most pragmatically, for it facilitates an optimal flourishing of awareness in regard to worldly givens. The evil daemon hypothesis, however, presents a lack of reliable predictability as to what will be, and posits no way of reliably establishing what is—and, because of this, is debilitating to the living of life.

    My former, yet unanswered question to you was “what justifies the favoring of an evil daemon as true at expense of realism being true?” An answer would now be appreciated.

    --------

    The title of this thread is “what is scepticism”. In your reoccurring arguments you overwhelmingly favor Descartes’ branch of skepticism, even though in your OP you thoughtfully point to different branches of belief that likewise go by the label of skepticism.

    To me, Descartes warped the notion of philosophical skepticism from one of it being a path toward greater wisdom—cf. the Ancient Greek skeptikos, “thoughtful, inquiring”; Platonism standing out as one Ancient Greek example of this—to one of it being a ridiculous, endless stream of debilitating doubts in search for some inexistent grail of absolute certainty.

    All philosophical skeptics throughout history were other than the typical modern strawman of “someone overcome by irresolvable doubts”; all philosophical skeptics that I am currently aware of held certainty of varying strengths in relation to how the world works, and all were realists.

    BTW, Cicero, a philosophical skeptic, favored Stoicism in his “On the Nature of the Gods” … if this is of any interest to anyone. One point to this being a further illustration that philosophical skepticism is not about the rejection of plausible claims on grounds that they cannot be proven with absolute certainty. Cicero, it should be said, was religious … epitomizing a very distinct relation to that of philosophical skepticism and the commonly upheld dogmas of Abrahamic faiths.

    I was more interested in discussing what philosophical skepticism logically signifies rather than debating against an endless stream of arguments about hypotheticals which can neither be disproven nor proven with absolute certainty—i.e., with perfect security from all possible error. This because, to my knowledge, no proposition can be successfully demonstrated to be perfectly secure from all possible error. Not even Descartes’ “(I doubt, therefore) I think, therefore I am” … nor the proposition that absolute certainty is impossible.

    This, again, is not to deny that certainties of varying strengths always occur. The inductive conclusion that absolute certainties cannot be demonstrated, though not itself an absolute certainty, is nevertheless considered by me to be a (less than absolute) certainty of superlative strength. For another example, to doubt is to doubt what is real; thus, it is to in itself be in possession of certainty that something real is.

    At any rate, if you seek solace via some promise of an absolute certainty—be it that realism is true or that some evil daemon concept one is momentarily entertaining is false—I’m not one to be of service in this regard.
  • Inter Alia
    46
    It [science] claims it is the only valid way of seeing the world. The only institutions I can think of that are similar are some brands of religion.T Clark

    It's probably my archaic approach, but I don't seem to have made myself clear here, I'm not comparing science to skepticism, idealism, or theism as options and saying they all think they're the only way to look at the world. I'm saying that 'not thinking they're the only way to look at the world' is itself a way of looking at the world, and the proponents of this way are no less adamant that it's the right way than the proponent of any one of the aforementioned belief systems.

    You express uncertainty that science is always the best way, you are open to other belief systems in other contexts and are skeptical in that sense, but you have not shown any skepticism about the belief that being open to other belief systems in other contexts is right, meta-skepticism if you will, skepticism about the rightness of being skeptical. Maybe being skeptical is wrong, maybe we'd all be better off if we just fervently believed in something?

    Personally, I very much doubt that, but I'm sufficiently skeptical not to be too judgemental about people like certain scientists or religious believers who think that it's better to believe in one thing and stick to it.
  • Wayfarer
    4.8k
    I don't think a straight out comparison between religion and science is either accurate or helpful. I think the comparison ought to be between what is called 'the scientific worldview' and religions.

    Working scientists are generally not engaged in the task of philosophizing about worldviews or how the world ought to be seen; they're busy doing the actual work of science, relating findings to theories, and so on. I think when thus engaged, scientists are sceptics in the original and best sense.

    The 'scientific worldview' is another matter altogether - that is the sense in which science is viewed as being normative in respect of what we ought to think about general questions of life and meaning. And that is the province of popular intellectuals, science writers and broadcasters, like Brian Cox, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, Steve Pinker, et al. In their hands, 'scepticism' has a definite ideological content, with some kinds of ideas being regarded favourably as 'scientific', and others - well, not so much. And I think most of the time what they call scepticism is really more a belief system - the religion of scientism.
  • PossibleAaran
    22
    , interesting post.

    What makes realism more plausible than an evil daemon? One element to this is as follows: Conviction in realism is how I and a majority of the world’s populace—both greatly and poorly educated (education being a separate issue from that of intelligence for me)—navigate the world most pragmatically, for it facilitates an optimal flourishing of awareness in regard to worldly givens. The evil daemon hypothesis, however, presents a lack of reliable predictability as to what will be, and posits no way of reliably establishing what is—and, because of this, is debilitating to the living of life.javra

    The difficulty with the above argument was that, as I stressed to Marchesk, the sceptical problem I was alluding to consists in the fact that humans appear to have no reliable means of establishing that anything exists unperceived. The argument that Realism makes living life a lot easier has no obvious bearing on this issue, since believing what makes my life easier is not obviously a reliable source of truth. It is true that the evil demon hypothesis posits no 'way of establishing what is', but why should that make Realism more likely to be true? The argument appears incomplete.

    My former, yet unanswered question to you was “what justifies the favoring of an evil daemon as true at expense of realism being true?” An answer would now be appreciated.javra

    I am not sure that there is anything that favours the evil demon hypothesis over Realism. But we are presently looking for some reliable source for the belief in Realism, and this question has no bearing on that.

    The title of this thread is “what is scepticism”. In your reoccurring arguments you overwhelmingly favor Descartes’ branch of skepticism, even though in your OP you thoughtfully point to different branches of belief that likewise go by the label of skepticism.javra

    You are not the first to (a) interpret Descartes (mistakenly in my opinion) as driven by an unfounded obsession with certainty and (b) assume that I am also driven by the same obsession. With respect to (a), Descartes wanted his metaphysics to be 'stable and lasting'. He wanted it to have so great a dialectical advantage over any alternative position that it could not be overturned, like Aristotle's system was being in Descartes' time. That's why he sought certainty, and that seems to make perfect sense to me, even if he didn't succeed in the end. The interpretation of Descartes has little bearing on the present issue, so let's move to (b).

    I am not engaging in the
    endless stream of debilitating doubts in search for some inexistent grail of absolute certainty.javra

    I would be happy if anybody could show that Realism was even slightly more probable than the alternatives. You don't even need to show that it is more probable using only premises that a radical sceptic or an Idealist would accept. I would be content if you could tell a story about the faculties of human beings which is such that (c) Realists believe that it is a true account of their own faculties, and (d) listed among those faculties is one which reliably produces the belief that things exist unperceived.

    Let me illustrate with a religious example. Alvin Plantinga is well known for his 'Warranted Christian Belief'. What he does there is tells a story in which human beings possess this cognitive faculty, 'the sensus divinitatis', which reliably produces the belief that God exists (or more exactly, beliefs like, 'God is pleased with me', 'God is ashamed' and the like). If humans have a sensus divinitatis, their belief that God exists is probably true, since it is produced by this reliable faculty. Plantinga admits that he has no way to prove to atheists and agnostics, using only premises which they accept, that we have a sensus divinitatis which reliably produces the belief, or that God probably exists. Still, the story he tells is one which, if true, entails that God probably exists. It is also a story which Theists find plausible; they believe that we have a sensus divinitatis.

    I would be content if you could tell a story like Plantinga told, but for the belief that things exist unperceived. If you could indicate any method at all which is such that (e) it could reliably establish that Realism is true, and (b) Realists actually believe that humans can use this method, I would be content. You do not have to prove that the method you imagine is one which humans could use, using premises only acceptable to sceptics and Idealists. You need, in short, only imagine a method which you can convince yourself is actually available to you. The problem is that Realists are typically unable to do even that. They are typically committed to Empiricism, the thesis that the only reliable sources of belief about the world that we have are sense perception and inference. Sense perception is not reliable about unperceived things, and no one, as yet, has been able to provide a non fallacious inference to the conclusions that things exist unperceived. And hence, their own account of human cognitive faculties is such that we have no reliable basis for the belief that Realism is true.

    At any rate, if you seek solace via some promise of an absolute certainty—be it that realism is true or that some evil daemon concept one is momentarily entertaining is false—I’m not one to be of service in this regard.javra

    I don't think what I have asked for is certainty at all. All I have asked for is that the Realist have some account, which he can at least convince himself is true, of how human beings can have any reliable basis at all for the belief that Realism is true. What I have asked for is incredibly weak. Even Plantinga is able to muster this much for his belief that God exists, and most people think that what he is able to do is quite trivial.

    PA
  • Marchesk
    1.6k
    I don't think what I have asked for is certainty at all. All I have asked for is that the Realist have some account, which he can at least convince himself is true, of how human beings can have any reliable basis at all for the belief that Realism is true.PossibleAaran

    Wouldn't realism being the most likely inference from experience qualify? We don't need to posit demons or computer simulations. We can just say the things in perception continue to exist while not being perceived, along with other things we can't perceive, but we can infer from things perceived, like elementary particles.

    That goes well with science, which doesn't infer demons or simulations or brains in vats, but does infer plenty of unobservables that make good sense of what is observed, along with object permanence.
  • javra
    332


    OK, thanks for the clarification. As to logically inferred innate mechanisms that account for, and thereby justify, belief in realism, one can take a Kantian approach or—if a strict materialist—can strictly focus on consequences of biological evolution. In the Kantian approach, sentience holds within it aprior understanding of causation in the abstract, thereby facilitating belief that things causally continue to be even when not perceived or thought of. In a strictly evolutionary approach, were intellect-endowed sentience (sapient or otherwise) to not have evolved unconscious aptitudes for discerning how things continue to be when not perceived or thought about, the given sentience would perish; lifeforms would either be, for example, quickly killed by stealthy predators or predators would quickly starve to death. This cognitively evolved set of skills then became more pronounced in human beings--the most aware/intelligent lifeforms currently known to our own selves.

    I presume you could find objections to one or the other accounts, or a need to further embellish and clarify them so as to convince those who are doubtful of realism. Nevertheless, both accounts provide that which has been now asked for: logically inferred innate mechanisms that account for belief in realism.

    I am not sure that there is anything that favours the evil demon hypothesis over Realism. But we are presently looking for some reliable source for the belief in Realism, and this question has no bearing on that.PossibleAaran

    Yet, to me, this is the pivotal issue for any philosophical skeptic.

    Please indulge me for a moment: To thoroughly distance myself from modern day equivocations of what skepticism is I a long time ago choose to label my stance of philosophical skepticism one of “radical skepticism”. You see, when one is skeptical about everything—i.e., holds that no proposition can as of yet be demonstrated to be perfectly secure from all possible error—the very notion that “one is skeptical about” this or that in particular becomes aberrantly nonsensical. To a philosophical skeptic of the ilk I’m describing, one becomes dubious of something, not skeptical of it—for to such person not everything is dubious though everything is appraised via skepticism (in the inquisitive sense addressed). Likewise, for another example, there can be no such particular thing as a “skeptical hypothesis”--for all hypotheses of the philosophic skeptic are equally skeptical—including that of “I think therefore I am”. Of course, due to prevailing modern day connotations, this label of radical skeptic again became misconstrued as the position of one who is bogged down in the mires of irresolvable doubts. Bullocks. But I’m back to labeling myself a philosophical skeptic and going against the flow when it comes to what this signifies. Point being, a (philosophical) skeptic by logical consistency cannot be skeptical about any particular thing. They can only have various degrees of doubt/uncertainty regarding any particular thing—and this because they hold certainty regarding others. (For that matter, only non-skeptics every claim to be skeptical about this or that—and guess where they pirated this term from. And next, as Wayfarer commented, they go about calling themselves skeptics.)

    Thanks for entertaining my views so far. My basic point here being, if you present the possibility of an evil daemon as nullifying the truth to realism on grounds of philosophical skepticism, for this to be in any way rational from the vantage of philosophical skepticism, there must be justification for why the presence of an evil daemon is to be deemed credible.

    Otherwise, this has nothing to do with issues of philosophical skepticism.
  • T Clark
    1.2k
    You express uncertainty that science is always the best way, you are open to other belief systems in other contexts and are skeptical in that sense, but you have not shown any skepticism about the belief that being open to other belief systems in other contexts is right, meta-skepticism if you will, skepticism about the rightness of being skeptical. Maybe being skeptical is wrong, maybe we'd all be better off if we just fervently believed in something?Inter Alia

    I don't "express uncertainty that science is always the best way." I am as certain as I am of anything that science is not always the best way.

    As I've said many times on many threads and I will say many times more - metaphysical systems, of which science is one, are not right or wrong, there are more or less useful in particular situations. You seem to be saying that that statement is a metaphysical claim. I'm ok with that. It is my position that it is a very useful metaphysical system.
  • Marchesk
    1.6k
    As I've said many times on many threads and I will say many times more - metaphysical systems, of which science is one, are not right or wrong, there are more or less useful in particular situations.T Clark

    Do you think any other metaphysical system has a more useful answer than evolution as to how humans came to exist?

    Actually, I'm not that interested in useful since a creationist can easily argue that their faith about creation is useful to them. Do you think anymetaphysics than science (really naturalism) has a more true answer?
  • T Clark
    1.2k


    Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is not metaphysics. Evolution is a fact in the world. The theory that natural selection is the primary mechanism of evolution is well supported by factual evidence and is believed by a consensus of those with a strong understanding of human biology, geology, and paleontology.
  • Marchesk
    1.6k
    Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is not metaphysics. Evolution is a fact in the world. The theory that natural selection is the primary mechanism of evolution is well supported by factual evidence and is believed by a consensus of those with a strong understanding of human biology, geology, and paleontology.T Clark

    Right, but science has taken over for metaphysics in the past on questions that can be empirically investigated. At one point, the idea of evolution was metaphysical. That was before Darwin, of course. Same with atomism.
  • Wayfarer
    4.8k
    That word was cherry-picked and taken out of context.

    Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is not metaphysics.T Clark

    But the way it is interpreted has considerable metaphysical implications. I have no doubt at all about the facts of the matter, but considerable doubts about what they are often taken to mean.
  • Marchesk
    1.6k
    But the way it is interpreted has considerable metaphysical implications. I have no doubt at all about the facts of the matter, but considerable doubts about what they are taken to mean.Wayfarer

    You and me baby ain't nothing but mammals?

  • T Clark
    1.2k
    That word was cherry-picked and taken out of context.

    Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is not metaphysics. — T Clark
    But the way it is interpreted has considerable metaphysical implications. I have no doubt at all about the facts of the matter, but considerable doubts about what they are often taken to mean.
    Wayfarer

    That was a mistake. I accidentally copied "scientism" into my post. What I was trying to do was look it up on the web.
  • Wayfarer
    4.8k
    Oh never mind then. But I think the post in which I mentioned it above, gives a pretty good definition, however, there's another thread, namely this one, which might be more related to this particular sub-debate.
  • T Clark
    1.2k
    But the way it is interpreted has considerable metaphysical implications. I have no doubt at all about the facts of the matter, but considerable doubts about what they are often taken to mean.Wayfarer

    Facts don't have metaphysical implications. The questions, "are there facts?" are "what does it take to make something a fact?" have metaphysical implications.
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