• Sam26
    1k
    Many of my thoughts on epistemology come from Wittgenstein's last work called On Certainty. They were developed from my understanding of On Certainty, in particular Wittgenstein's bedrock propositions. However, I don't want to give the impression that what I'm putting forth in this thread is necessarily what Wittgenstein was communicating in On Certainty. I developed my own theory based on some of his thinking, and how I interpreted some of his thinking. So much of my own thinking on this subject is going beyond what's presented in On Certainty. It's my expansion of some of the ideas in On Certainty, for better or worse.

    First, it seems that there are beliefs that arise apart from language, and a belief, whether linguistic or not, is simply a state-of-mind. These mind states are clearly seen in our actions. This is not to say that all actions by living organisms reflect beliefs, but simply to say that all beliefs are reflections of mind states, which in turn are shown by the things we do.

    Second, not only are there beliefs that arise non-linguistically, but our thoughts are also not dependent upon linguistics. This it seems, has to be case if one is to make sense of the development of linguistics. For if there are no beliefs and no thoughts prior to the formation of linguistics (language), what would be the springboard of language? How does one get from a mind of no thoughts and no beliefs, to a mind that is able to express one's thoughts linguistically? It also seems to be the case that language is simply a tool to communicate our thoughts to one another, which also seems to lend support for the idea that thinking is prior to language.

    Third, the basis for beliefs in prelinguistic man is causal in nature, not based on reasoning, reasoning is a linguistic endeavor, at least as how it is defined here. How are beliefs causally formed? It seems to be the case that beliefs arise causally within the mind based on the interactions between our sensory experiences and the world around us. The interaction between our sensory experiences and the world do not necessitate the belief, but are simply sufficient to cause the belief. One acts upon the information given through sensory impressions, which in turn has a causal relationship with the belief.

    Fourth, these three previous ideas form what is bedrock to all of epistemology. For epistemology arises out of language, it is a way of expressing what we know, or what we believe we know by using propositions. Justification come to an end with beliefs that are quite apart from those that arise through any method of linguistic justification. These bedrock beliefs are outside the purview of epistemology.

    Fifth, bedrock beliefs can be expressed in language, as all beliefs can, but they are not dependent on language. For example, "I have hands," is such a belief, and it is expressed using linguistic concepts. However, the belief that we have hands is also shown by our actions, i.e., it is a state-of-mind that expresses itself in actions using our hands. Wittgenstein shows in On Certainty, as he reflects on Moore's claim that he has knowledge of his hands, that it is not a matter of knowing at all. There is something fundamental, something bedrock about this belief, and it is with such beliefs that justification ends. Thus, the idea or the conclusion that knowledge rests on beliefs outside the scope of epistemological concerns, something more fundamental, as expressed in the first three ideas of this thread.

    Finally, the ideas expressed here solve two problems that have plagued some epistemological theories. First, the infinite regress problem, viz., that there is no end to justification, and the problem of circularity.
  • Posty McPostface
    5.1k
    First, it seems that there are beliefs that arise apart from language, and a belief, whether linguistic or not, is simply a state-of-mind. These mind states are clearly seen in our actions. This is not to say that all actions by living organisms reflect beliefs, but simply to say that all beliefs are reflections of mind states, which in turn are shown by the things we do.Sam26

    This seems to point towards qualia and private content. Something I am not too sure about. I think there is merit in calling homo sapiens exclusive to this category as we seem to have issues with expressing our thoughts most of the time, which education and careful examination of facts remedies. There are specific cases, such as extreme forms of Asperger's syndrome or autism that seem to point towards this belief.

    Fourth, these three previous ideas form what is bedrock to all of epistemology. For epistemology arises out of language, it is a way of expressing what we know, or what we believe we know by using propositions. Justification come to an end with beliefs that are quite apart from those that arose through any method of linguistic justification. These bedrock beliefs are outside the purview of epistemology.Sam26

    I have my issues with the justification theory of truth and knowledge. It seems to impose an indirect realist interpretation on the mind and thus linguistics. Hence my above sentiments.

    Finally, the ideas expressed here solve two problems that have plagued some epistemological theories. First, the infinite regress problem, viz., that there is no end to justification, and the problem of circularity.Sam26

    The infinite regress problem just turns on its head and says (according to the justification theory of knowledge and truth) that what are misgivings in language simply corresponds to the fact that language is not mirroring reality, but then how does one go about ascertaining or verifying such a claim?
  • apokrisis
    4.3k
    Second, not only are there beliefs that arise non-linguistically, but our thoughts are also not dependent upon linguistics. This it seems, has to be case if one is to make sense of the development of linguistics. For if there are no beliefs and no thoughts prior to the formation of linguistics (language), what would be the springboard of language? How does one get from a mind of no thoughts and no beliefs, to a mind that is able to express one's thoughts linguistically? It also seems to be the case that language is simply a tool to communicate our thoughts to one another, which also seems to lend support for the idea that thinking is prior to language.Sam26

    I pretty much agree with the rest of your post, but this step is suspect I would say.

    Of course it all depends on how you define thinking. As you say, animals can reason in a causal fashion. Brains are evolved for that kind of Bayesian inference. Certain bodily actions will predict certain experienced outcomes.

    But language is the enabler of what we really mean by thinking - cultural ideas giving a symbolic meta-structure to individual psychology. I can see a tree as a "tree", together with all that flows from that given a structure of cultural belief. And paying attention to a particular tree will result in at least the urge for some comment - a speech act that expresses that cultural belief as some syntactically organised proposition.

    So an animal will see the same tree and - in attending to it - will start "thinking" in terms of relevant acts of orientation and motor response. That is just the way the brain is wired. Attention "loads up" the "output" side of the brain. It causes thoughts about what to do next, or what might come next. So the animal might start scanning the tree for ripe fruit, as it recognises the sight of a fig tree. It might start to cringe and be ready to run, recognising the tree to be the one likely to conceal a leopard sitting up on a branch.

    This is the kind of bedrock epistemology you are talking about - inference based on embodied experience in a world.

    But humans have added a third kind of automatic reaction to whatever falls into the spotlight of attention. We start to form some sentence. We get ready to speak about the thing. Focusing on the tree, we will already be having the same orientation and motor preparation thoughts - hmm, figs, whoah, leopards. But we then have the third unique motor act which is also now an informational or symbolic act. We get ready to make an utterance. And utterances have a grammatical or logical structure.

    Of course, early human responses probably wouldn't have seemed particular rational or philosophical. The utterances that would have sprung their minds, or even been verbalised, would be judged rather matter of a fact, or perhaps a little mystical or customary. That just argues that modern human civilisation has developed a much more overtly logical and rationalising frame of mind. Speech acts are constrained by more careful rules - on the whole, depending on the company we keep.

    So the point is that speech acts did from the start mark a departure point for Homo sap. On one level, it was just the addition of another kind of motor response. See tree, make a noise. Or even if you don't make that noise, automatically you start to think it - feel the urge tickling your throat - just as much as you feel your hands starting to shape so as potentially to climb it, or your taste buds start tingling in preparation for sweet figs.

    But that nascent motor act is also a nascent symbolic act. The syntactical utterance could start to have a semantic meaning. In epistemically dual fashion, the mind of Homo sap was both a biological inference machine, living in a bedrock causal flow of embodied action, and also dwelling in this new realm of cultural belief. Social information was structuring the Homo sap mind. And that has now a different epistemic basis.

    It depends on the bedrock of embodied causal being, but it is also - by design - increasingly detached from it. It wants to be separate, so as to now make possible a human realm of narrative, of fiction, of science, of art, of religion, etc. It wants to forget the bedrock roots of all thought and awareness - the embodied animal condition - so as to be free to invent whatever it finds useful at a cultural level of semiotics.

    I think this makes a big problem for your desire to secure epistemology in bedrock causal knowledge. Yes, that is the bedrock of our mental being. But also, the other aspect of our nature is now the linguistic and informational one that has the aim of transcending this very groundedness. Cultural belief is always demanding to be cut free of what it sees as mundane reality, allowed to go wherever it likes.

    Of course, this assertion of symbolic freedom is problematic. It does in fact still need an epistemology. There are reasons for rules of grammar, rules of thought, rules of reasoned inquiry. There is a best way to use our linguistic freedom - arguably. So we can't just use the epistemology of the bedrock causal view as the guide to how language should "rightfully" operate. There is a reason why "theories of truth" are of such philosophical concern.

    Biology and evolution sorted out the epistemic rules for an animal level of cognition. The epistemic rules for linguistically-structured thought could be another whole ball-game. I would certainly argue that their bedrock seems "mathematico-logical" for a good reason.

    It feels like that instead of looking downwards to our totally subjective biological embeddedness - holding up one hand, then another; or kicking at stones - we should be looking upwards to what it means that we could also be "completely free" within the bounds of some "objective rational attitude" to existence. Where does language - syntactically-encoded semantics - have its real ontic home?
  • Sam26
    1k
    Of course it all depends on how you define thinking. As you say, animals can reason in a causal fashion. Brains are evolved for that kind of Bayesian inference. Certain bodily actions will predict certain experienced outcomes.apokrisis

    There is much here to respond to, but I'll only point out some things that I did not say. First, I did not say that animals reason, but of course I'm using reason as something that takes place in language. Also, I'm not going to pretend that I know all of the nuanced things that go on in the brain of a prelinguistic human, because I just don't. The only conclusion that I want to make is that there are prelinguistic beliefs, and that much of our linguistic based epistemological system rests on these beliefs. You're going much further than my conclusions.

    I think this makes a big problem for your desire to secure epistemology in bedrock causal knowledge.apokrisis

    I also did not say anything about causal knowledge, in fact, I said just the opposite. Knowledge is based on certain causal beliefs. I do not even think there is such a thing as causal knowledge.

    Biology and evolution sorted out the epistemic rules for an animal level of cognition. The epistemic rules for linguistically-structured thought could be another whole ball-game. I would certainly argue that their bedrock seems "mathematico-logical" for a good reason.apokrisis

    I do not understand this. I would not say that evolution sorted out epistemic rules, what does that mean? It sounds like you are giving evolution an intellectual basis. Maybe there are certain causal laws that dictate certain outcomes, but rules imply something else for me.

    Thanks for the response Apokrisis, that took time to write out.
  • Sam26
    1k
    "And the concept of knowing is coupled with that of the language-game (OC 560)."

    This is something important, and it is something that is crucial to understand in relation to bedrock beliefs (hinge-propositions). Why? Because some bedrock beliefs are formed prior to language, or along side of language; and as such, knowing or knowledge is quite a separate endeavor, which only occurs in language or in language-games. Prelinguistically there are only beliefs, so while beliefs do occur at this level (bedrock) as a state-of-mind, knowledge does not occur at the prelinguistic level. Knowledge is supported by the foundation, as well as a host of other concepts used in language-games.

    Not only is, "This is my hand" - "I live on the earth" - "That is a tree" bedrock, but other states like "I am in pain" - "I am happy" - "I am sad," are also bedrock. This is not to say that there cannot be examples of these propositions not being bedrock, and in need of justification - it is only to say that for the most part, and in conjunction with the way Moore is using these propositions, they are bedrock and do not need a justification.

    The problem is that when we use language to talk about bedrock beliefs, it makes it difficult to see them as separate and distinct from language. A belief does not need language (the concept belief does) it is merely a state, but knowledge and all it entails (truth and justification in particular) does require a language, and a language-game. We do not need a language to act, but we do need a language to convey thoughts. The way we act apart from language allows us to observe bedrock beliefs.

    "People have killed animals since the earliest times, used the fur, bones etc. etc. for various purposes; they have counted definitely on finding similar parts in any similar beast.

    "They have always learnt from experience ; and we can see from their actions that they believe certain things definitely, whether they express this belief or not... (OC 284)"

    "If someone is looking for something and perhaps roots around in a certain place, he shows that he believes that what he is looking for is there (OC 285)."

    These passages from On Certainty indicate to me that beliefs are not necessarily rooted in language. In fact, actions tell us more about one's beliefs than mere statements.
  • Banno
    3.4k
    So much of my own thinking on this subject is going beyond what's presented in On Certainty. It's my expansion of some of the ideas in On Certainty, for better or worse.Sam26

    That's the value of On Certainty.

    Would it have been as useful had he finished it? Perhaps not.
  • apokrisis
    4.3k
    First, I did not say that animals reason, but of course I'm using reason as something that takes place in language.Sam26

    That's a quibble.

    You can define reason as a linguistic act. But animals have been observed to reason in terms of working out how to solve some real-life problem. Even a jumping spider can scan a scene and work out how to creep around behind its prey so as to drop down on it. So broadly speaking, animals can "think things through" in a causally efficacious sense. The normal usage of "reasoning" is broad enough that you will in fact have a problem insisting on your narrower definition. And I was only trying to bring this out in describing your position as accepting "animals can reason in a causal fashion".

    I also did not say anything about causal knowledge, in fact, I said just the opposite. Knowledge is based on certain causal beliefs. I do not even think there is such a thing as causal knowledge.Sam26

    That's another quibble so far as I'm concerned.

    But then I don't believe in "knowledge" as justified true belief. I only believe in knowledge as justified belief. Truth is a rather redundant term for the pragmatist, as uncertainty can never be completely eradicated from any state of belief. (A separate argument perhaps.)

    I do not understand this. I would not say that evolution sorted out epistemic rules, what does that mean? It sounds like you are giving evolution an intellectual basis. Maybe there are certain causal laws that dictate certain outcomes, but rules imply something else for me.Sam26

    I doubt I could put it more plainly.

    Evolution produced nervous systems that were up to the task. They embodied epistemologies that worked.

    You now seem hung up on the word "rules". Clearly I'm using it in a loose sense - one that imagines biology to be implementing some kind of "program" for understanding the world. It should be equally obvious - in that I'm taking an embodied/enactive/ecological stance on animal perception and cognition - that that is only then a metaphorical use of the term "rules".

    In fact, given my whole bleeding point was that rules - syntactic structure - are a product of the informational realm of being, the underlying word-play should be clear. Actual rules are the last thing you will find in the biological organisation of the brain. Or in nature generally.

    So my use of the word "rules" ought to have a usefully ironic ring to it in this context. Having just highlighted the actual rule bound nature of speech acts - the reliance on "unnatural" syntactic structure - I then said, so far as biological level cognition goes, evolution then sorts out its epistemic "rules".

    But I didn't use scare quotes because I didn't expect your turn of mind to be so constantly literal.

    Thanks for the response Apokrisis, that took time to write out.Sam26

    Maybe now you can address my actual point - that the epistemology of syntactic speech acts may have a very different bedrock than embodied cognition.

    One is fundamentally subjective. The other, I'm saying, aspires to fundamental objectivity.

    Much mischief is done in "theory of truth" circles because the dichotomous, or complementary, nature of this division is not properly recognised.

    How could Turing have so impressed people with his theory of Universal Computation? Why did folk feel so convinced by Platonic idealism or logical atomism?

    It just seems obvious that reason can grasp at some fundamental objective principles that are "beyond nature". And is the failure then to be able to completely secure them an actual failure?

    These are the kinds of questions which are really bedrock to that other aspect of our being.
  • Banno
    3.4k
    First, it seems that there are beliefs that arise apart from language, and a belief, whether linguistic or not, is simply a state-of-mind. These mind states are clearly seen in our actions. This is not to say that all actions by living organisms reflect beliefs, but simply to say that all beliefs are reflections of mind states, which in turn are shown by the things we do.Sam26

    There are two ways of reading this.

    In the first, I could read it as setting out in some absolute sense what belief is.

    In the second, I could take it as setting out how you intend to make use of the word belief in the discussion.

    Given your Wittgensteinian disposition, I'll take the second.

    In which case I think it worth pointing out that we could make a distinction between a belief and, say, a disposition. In this account a belief would be a statement that is the subject of a statement of belief, and hence subject to whatever grammatical rules might be deemed appropriate. So in "Banno believes that Moore had two hands", the belief is that Moore had two hands.

    And a disposition would be some preceding metal state.
  • apokrisis
    4.3k
    And a disposition would be some preceding metal state.Banno

    And yet a disposition to act "causally in the world" is critically different from one to act "in the realm of truths and facts". So to call them both "mental" - or even metal - would be the matter in question.

    Does one actually serve as bedrock to the other? Or does each have a different ultimate bedrock?
  • Banno
    3.4k
    Second, not only are there beliefs that arise non-linguistically, but our thoughts are also not dependent upon linguistics.Sam26

    This makes me edgy.

    There's something about beliefs arising non-linguisticaly that resembles beetles in boxes. You rescue yourself later in saying that any belief can be stated. But that leaves hanging the nature of non-linguistic beliefs. Are they more than beliefs that have not been stated? If so, don't they exemplify the sort of private mental furniture Wittgenstein cleared out?
  • Banno
    3.4k
    Yeah, I'm not happy with the term disposition.

    An unstated belief is fine; an unstateable belief is nonsense.
  • apokrisis
    4.3k
    So my cat doesn't have beliefs? Or is her scratching at the door a statement of a belief - just not a linguistic one?
  • Banno
    3.4k
    Cats have beliefs.

    The question at hand is, what does that mean?
  • Sam26
    1k
    There are two ways of reading this.

    In the first, I could read it as setting out in some absolute sense what belief is.

    In the second, I could take it as setting out how you intend to make use of the word belief in the discussion.

    Given your Wittgensteinian disposition, I'll take the second.

    In which case I think it worth pointing out that we could make a distinction between a belief and, say, a disposition. In this account a belief would be a statement that is the subject of a statement of belief, and hence subject to whatever grammatical rules might be deemed appropriate. So in "Banno believes that Moore had two hands", the belief is that Moore had two hands.

    And a disposition would be some preceding metal state.
    Banno

    I do believe, that beliefs acquired by humans and animals are all states-of-mind, and also this is how I intend to make use of the word belief throughout the discussion. However, the expression of beliefs, whether through one's actions, or those expressed linguistically, simply reflect a particular kind of state. So it's not either 1 or 2, but both reading are correct.

    I think a disposition has a broader reach than simply a belief. A disposition may reflect various kinds of states, whereas, a belief state reflects a particular state, that of being Mary's belief; and if it is reflected in a proposition, of course it would involve the subject of the proposition as put forth by Mary.

    I'm not sure of the purpose of pointing this out, maybe you could explain how it differs from what I'm proposing.
  • apokrisis
    4.3k
    I see you have no plans for this to go anywhere. But anyway, I’ve already spelt out the difference between Bayesian expectation and propositional structure here.
  • Sam26
    1k
    I also did not say anything about causal knowledge, in fact, I said just the opposite. Knowledge is based on certain causal beliefs. I do not even think there is such a thing as causal knowledge.
    — Sam26

    That's another quibble so far as I'm concerned.
    apokrisis

    This is not a quibble. It goes to the heart of what I am saying. And I do hold to the definition of knowledge, that it is justified true belief.
  • Sam26
    1k
    An unstateable belief is nonsense, are you sure about that? Prior to language there were plenty of beliefs that were unstateable. One needs language to state a belief. What about the beliefs of animals?
  • Sam26
    1k
    There's something about beliefs arising non-linguisticaly that resembles beetles in boxes. You rescue yourself later in saying that any belief can be stated. But that leaves hanging the nature of non-linguistic beliefs. Are they more than beliefs that have not been stated? If so, don't they exemplify the sort of private mental furniture Wittgenstein cleared out?Banno

    Even Wittgenstein held to the idea that beliefs can be nonlinguistic, as in my earlier post in which I quoted him. Remember the belief is not dependent simply upon being something in the mind, it has to be shown within the context of life. Also there is no way to objectively verify what's in the box, they're referring to some thing, but that thing could be any X one wants it to be. If prelinguistic man has a belief, the only way to know if he has it, is by observation, what he does that reflects that belief. I'm not simply pointing to something in the mind, although it's that too.
  • Banno
    3.4k
    I do believe, that beliefs acquired by humans and animals are all states-of-mindSam26

    I have a great respect for your understanding of Wittgenstein. What I find interesting here is how what you have said differs markedly from my own understanding of Wittgenstein.

    I read him as clearing the room of invisible mental furniture; and I would include states-of-mind in that. My belief that Moore had two hands is not a thing in my mind. Indeed, I'm not at all sure it is a thing at all.

    IF I were to follow on with the argument I started, I would have moved to show that dispositions, as defined, were either also such nonsense, or that they amounted to beliefs anyway. Here I would have taken myself as following Wittgenstein in getting rid of private objects.

    Assume that your disposition constantly changes, but that you do not notice the change because your memory constantly deceives you (PI, p. 207)

    It seems that you might read that page in a quite different way to myself.
  • Banno
    3.4k
    Even Wittgenstein held to the idea that beliefs can be nonlinguistic,Sam26

    Prior to language there were plenty of beliefs that were unstateableSam26

    Give me an example. ;)

    Beliefs held prior to language would be stateable, but unstated. That's not unstateable.

    Subtle, but I think worth noting.

    Even Wittgenstein held to the idea that beliefs can be nonlinguistic, as in my earlier post in which I quoted him.Sam26

    Hm. Better point the quote out to me. I say that he thought there could be beliefs that were neer stated, but also that any belief could be stated. In that sense, a belief is not nonlinguistic.
  • Banno
    3.4k
    I'm not simply pointing to something in the mind, although it's that too.Sam26

    That is were we differ. Is it that, too? Is there something in the mind that is the belief, apart from the behaviour? Wouldn't that be a beetle?
  • Sam26
    1k
    I'll respond to this first. What I mean by unstateable is that there is no linguistic forum to state the belief. It's certainly possible that no language would have ever developed, thus all prelinguistic beliefs would be unstateable. You're projecting linguistics into the argument, whereas, I'm talking about a scenario in which there are no linguistics. Your saying that a belief can be stated, which assumes there are linguistics. How does a belief get stated apart from linguistics?
  • Banno
    3.4k
    Obviously beliefs could not be stated if there were no language.

    But that does not render them unstateable; after all, there is language.

    Curiously, and perhaps relevantly, such hypotheticals also require language.
  • Banno
    3.4k
    Yes, I do not really want to follow your line here. I think it badly misunderstands what was said in the OP.

    My apologies. But the present discussion with @Sam26 is one I have anticipated for while, and I am rather enjoying it. I hope to learn something from it.
  • Sam26
    1k
    Wittgenstein never denied that there was something private going on in the mind, he believed that it was much more though, the actions reflect the belief, i.e., that there is something objective going on in the world. He did not deny our states-of-mind. What's primary in terms of belief, is one's actions, i.e., there would be no way to infer that one has a prelinguistic belief other than to point to the actions of the person or animal, but this doesn't take away from the fact these beliefs are mind states. If I were simply pointing to mind states, I would agree that you have a point, but I'm not.
  • Sam26
    1k
    Obviously there is language, and as such they are stateable, but this misses my point.
  • Banno
    3.4k
    Wittgenstein never denied that there was something private going on in the mindSam26

    Hm. Not so fast. He did reject the notion of private objects.
  • Sam26
    1k
    Are you saying that Wittgenstein thought that the mind was somehow empty, that nothing is going on in the mind as we express a belief? And yes he did reject the notion of private objects, I agree. The key here is private. I'm not saying the belief is simply a state-of-mind that is privately held. The only way to know if one has a prelinguistic belief is by observation, thus it's not private, it's public. You seem to be hung up on the idea that it's only a state, but that's not the complete story. It's a state that can be observed by all, in the actions of the person with the belief. The beetle in the box scenario can only be accessed by you, you are the only who can see your particular beetle, i.e., it's not public.
  • Banno
    3.4k
    Are you saying that Wittgenstein thought that the mind was somehow empty, that nothing is going on in the mind as we express a belief?Sam26

    No.
  • Banno
    3.4k
    Are you saying that a belief is a set of behaviours plus a thing-in-the-mind?

    Then I am asking - what is that thing-in-the-mind? And I am suggesting, along the lines of the Beetle in the Box, that while we can talk about the behaviours, the thing-in-the-mind "drops out of consideration as irrelevant".
  • Sam26
    1k
    Banno you are the master when it comes to giving the shortest possible responses to complex questions. roflol
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