• Michael Ossipoff
    1k
    I'd said:

    If you can't say for sure that that's true, then any claim about all of Reality is questionable.

    You replied:
    That's what I mean. Radical doubt is, must be, painful to philosophers because it undermines everything, from their axioms to their logic.TheMadFool

    But I was just referring to doubt about the controversial claim that all of Reality is discussable and describable.

    I wouldn't say that logic is in doubt.

    I claim that uncontroversial things can be said about metaphysics, and that much about what is, is unontroversially discussable, describable. That discussable, describable domain of what is (other than the physical sciences), I refer to as metaphysics.

    But sure, all assumptions should be subject to question, and radical doubt, skepticism, is the right approach to philosophy.

    For example, I suggest that people be skeptical about Materialism's big brute-fact.

    Michael Ossipoff
  • gurugeorge
    275
    But, given your initial remarks about "getting the idea that there is an anomaly" in one's model, perhaps you think that for some reason Descartes cannot sensibly raise this question about the reliability of sense perception. It would be great if that were so, but how could it be?PossibleAaran

    No, of course he can ask it. But the short answer to the question "Why believe that sense perception is reliable?" is because it is in fact reliable.

    And you can show that sense perception is in fact reliable because you can distinguish reliable perceptions from unreliable ones, and show that we have more reliable ones than unreliable ones: which means that sense perception is reliable. It's not absolutely guaranteed to give a nugget of truth every time, but it sometimes does and sometimes doesn't, and the fact that it mostly does is the very meaning of "reliable."

    Again, it's the two concepts together that apply to reality, not just the one. If perception always gave guaranteed nuggets of truth, we wouldn't have the concept reliable, because we wouldn't have the concept unreliable, there would be no contrast, so we wouldn't notice, so the question wouldn't even come up.

    The longer answer would involve evolutionary biology, anatomy, neurobiology, etc. And it would also involve looking at perceptions in the context of desires and expectations (whether they're fulfilled or not) - perception (for animals and us) is a phase of action in service of desire, and under expectations set by models as aforesaid. This would be connected with pragmatism, but I think pragmatism goes too far in tying truth connections simply to fulfillments. We are talking about truth, which is to say we are ultimately talking about the models/projections of how reality is, and using perceptions to filter the model. But the fact that using our perceptions gets us what we want is definitely tied in with what we mean by the reliability of perception: if we were baulked at every turn by following our perceptions, and ended up starving in a ditch, we wouldn't think much of perception.

    (Now in all the above, I can sense you champing at the bit: you no doubt want to say, "But aren't sense perceptions being used in the very process of checking out whether sense perceptions are reliable?" This seems to be homing in on our disagreement even more: somehow, you think this is circular. But why?)

    Btw, I can't resist it: if Descartes relentlessly asks "why?" then ultimately he's in the position of the child relentlessly asking "why?" in the comedian Louis CK's skit, and his intelocutor is entitled to lose patience with him at some point: "WHY? Aw fuck you, eat your french fries you little shit, goddamit." :D

    https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=louis+ck+why&view=detail&mid=9D4912E6BB08967131D39D4912E6BB08967131D3&FORM=VIRE
  • Banno
    2.6k
    Skepticism is a problem for philosophy because there is no absolute certainty in it. How does one overcome it? Do we fall back on pragmatism or do we just ignore it?TheMadFool

    We can start by clearly differentiating belief from truth. Doubt pairs with belief, not truth.

    One way of viewing scepticism is as a failure of nerve. The sceptic does not have the courage to commit.
  • tim wood
    641
    We can start by clearly differentiating belief from truth. Doubt pairs with belief, not truth.Banno

    Thank you for that. Sometimes this site is worth the price of admission.
  • Banno
    2.6k
    But sure, all assumptions should be subject to question, and radical doubt, skepticism, is the right approach to philosophy.Michael Ossipoff

    Why?
  • Michael Ossipoff
    1k
    But sure, all assumptions should be subject to question, and radical doubt, skepticism, is the right approach to philosophy.Michael Ossipoff

    Why?Banno

    Because there's no assurance that an assumption is right.

    But it was just a comment, not an assertion, and it isn't something that I'd argue or debate.

    I don't mean or want to tell others what to believe or what their attitude should be. So, if you don't think that your assumptions are subject to question, then I have no argument with, or criticism of, that.

    Michael Ossipoff
  • Banno
    2.6k
    Because there's no assurance that an assumption is right.Michael Ossipoff

    Nor an assurance that it is wrong.

    So why is it rational to doubt without reason, yet not to believe without reason?
  • Michael Ossipoff
    1k
    Because there's no assurance that an assumption is righMichael Ossipoff

    Nor an assurance that it is wrong.

    So why is it rational to doubt without reason, yet not to believe without reason?
    Banno

    Because when you admit to yourself that you don't have reason to believe something, then, by definition, you have doubt about it.

    Michael Ossipoff
  • Banno
    2.6k
    Because when you admit to yourself that you don't have reason to believe something, then, by definition, you have doubt about it.Michael Ossipoff

    Then when you admit to yourself that you don't have reason to doubt something, then, by definition, you have belief in it.
  • Michael Ossipoff
    1k
    Then when you admit to yourself that you don't have reason to doubt something, then, by definition, you have belief in it.Banno

    Yes.

    If you don't have reason to doubt it, that's because there's reason to believe it's true, and no reason to believe that it isn't true..

    Or maybe you don't care about the proposition (whatever it might be), or have enough interest in it to know or care whether you doubt it or believe it.

    But then you don't believe it, and, by definition you doubt it, even if you completely-disinterestedly doubt it.

    Michael Ossipoff
  • PossibleAaran
    155
    Now in all the above, I can sense you champing at the bit: you no doubt want to say, "But aren't sense perceptions being used in the very process of checking out whether sense perceptions are reliable?" This seems to be homing in on our disagreement even more: somehow, you think this is circular. But why?)gurugeorge

    Excellent stuff. I was tempted by this thought, and I did write a response explaining why I thought the argument was circular, but I don't think that's right after all. Your argument never uses the premise "sense perception is reliable" and so it isn't logically circular. I'm not sure that the argument is precise enough for me to disagree at this stage.

    And you can show that sense perception is in fact reliable because you can distinguish reliable perceptions from unreliable ones, and show that we have more reliable ones than unreliable ones:gurugeorge

    How, exactly, can you distinguish veridical sense perceptions from non-veridical ones? And how can you show that we have more of the former than the latter?

    This is the crux of it. If you can do that, then you have an answer to those pesky "why" questions.

    Btw, I can't resist it: if Descartes relentlessly asks "why?" then ultimately he's in the position of the child relentlessly asking "why?" in the comedian Louis CK's skit, and his intelocutor is entitled to lose patience with him at some point: "WHY? Aw fuck you, eat your french fries you little shit, goddamit."gurugeorge

    My old supervisor criticized my conception of skepticism for being "childish". I agree that there is a parallel between the child's constant questioning and the sceptical one. But I don't see why that makes the sceptical questioning objectionable. It isn't as though if children do P, then necessarily P isn't sensible.


    So why is it rational to doubt without reason, yet not to believe without reason?Banno

    The word "rational" is vague. I think a philosophical tradition that starts in Socrates and is carried through by various people to Descartes and - in some places - to Russell, defines rational belief as belief for which one has good reasons to hold. I don't think that is the "ordinary" meaning if there even is such a thing as that - I doubt it. But it is a good thing to have reasons for the things you believe and so good to strive to have them wherever possible.
  • Banno
    2.6k
    If you don't have reason to doubt it, that's because there's reason to believe it's true, and no reason to believe that it isn't true..Michael Ossipoff

    The underlying assumption here is that belief requires justification. Why should it?
  • gurugeorge
    275
    How, exactly, can you distinguish veridical sense perceptions from non-veridical ones? And how can you show that we have more of the former than the latter? This is the crux of it. If you can do that, then you have an answer to those pesky "why" questions.PossibleAaran

    Count them. Seriously, just count them. Think of all the times when you've proceeded as if your sense perceptions have been correct, and your desires and expectations have been fulfilled by proceeding on the assumption that they're correct, versus the times you misperceived. You get up in the morning, you see what looks like a toothbrush, you pick it up and find you can brush your teeth with it. You reach for what looks like a door handle and find you can use it to open the door and get out of the house. You go to the train station, you step into what looks like a train and you find it's taken you to what looks like your place of work, which look like it has your workstation, where indeed the work is as you remember leaving it, etc., etc., etc. Maybe on the way home you encounter a situation like this:-

    "I thought I saw a banker's clerk descending from a bus,
    I looked again and saw it was a hippopotamus."

    So there you have a whole slew of desires and expectations fulfilled by taking sense perceptions as veridical, and you have one misperception, one expectation baulked. The ratio I'd say is par for the course for the average day.

    What else are you to conclude other than that sense perceptions are reliable? What else would reliability consist in, other than ... this sort of thing?

    Is it logically possible that any segment of that sequence, or the whole sequence, might be systematically mistaken? Sure, but give a reason for it - until there's a reason to take seriously the idea that there's been systematic, thoroughgoing erroneous perception, then the hypothesis of systematic error is (as I've insisted elsewhere) mere idle imagination.

    But even then, you'll always be juxtaposing correct perceptions against erroneous perceptions, even then correct perceptions still have to be possible in order to demonstrate that the whole sequence of perceptions above was erroneous. And that's because perception does that job: that's the burden of empiricism. Perceptions are truth-makers for propositions, that's the place they have in the economy of thought, and we have no other thing to take their place, certainly not schmerception (which is the truncated, presuppositionless way of looking at perception).

    My old supervisor criticized my conception of skepticism for being "childish". I agree that there is a parallel between the child's constant questioning and the sceptical one. But I don't see why that makes the sceptical questioning objectionable. It isn't as though if children do P, then necessarily P isn't sensible.PossibleAaran

    It's really more that the sceptic or the endless why-questioner isn't quite getting the game. "Why" questions have a limited ambit, always, they're delimited in a given universe of discourse, against a background in which some things are accepted as true. The extrapolation and extension is basically just continually moving the goalposts.

    But we have to be careful here, because sometimes (e.g. a careful detective or journalist, or indeed a scientist or philosopher) pursuing questions a layer or two deeper than the original will discover something useful or interesting. (In this connection, see this wonderful Richard Feynman clip.) But that - knowing when to pursue a "why" question and when to drop it - is what makes inquiry partly an art and a game as well as a science - and partly a matter of judgement arising from long experience with particular fields.
  • PossibleAaran
    155
    Count them. Seriously, just count them. Think of all the times when you've proceeded as if your sense perceptions have been correct, and your desires and expectations have been fulfilled by proceeding on the assumption that they're correct, versus the times you misperceived. You get up in the morning, you see what looks like a toothbrush, you pick it up and find you can brush your teeth with it. You reach for what looks like a door handle and find you can use it to open the door and get out of the house. You go to the train station, you step into what looks like a train and you find it's taken you to what looks like your place of work, which look like it has your workstation, where indeed the work is as you remember leaving it, etc., etc., etc. Maybe on the way home you encounter a situation like this:-

    "I thought I saw a banker's clerk descending from a bus,
    I looked again and saw it was a hippopotamus."

    So there you have a whole slew of desires and expectations fulfilled by taking sense perceptions as veridical, and you have one misperception, one expectation baulked. The ratio I'd say is par for the course for the average day.
    gurugeorge

    This wasn't quite what I wanted. I understand that you think that one can use a track-record argument for the claim that sense perception is reliable. Sense perception got things right on occasions X, Y, Z, N, N+1... therefore sense perception is reliable. My question is, why believe, in any particular case, that sense perception got it right? I look into my bathroom and form the belief that there is a toothbrush on the sink. Why should I believe that there is? Remember, at this point we haven't established that sense perception is reliable, so we cannot appeal to that. Why, then, should I take it that sense perception is getting things right in this particular instance if I can't take it to be reliable yet? If the track record argument works, there must be some reason to believe its premises.

    It's really more that the sceptic or the endless why-questioner isn't quite getting the game. "Why" questions have a limited ambit, always, they're delimited in a given universe of discourse, against a background in which some things are accepted as true. The extrapolation and extension is basically just continually moving the goalposts.gurugeorge

    I think that most sceptics knew perfectly well that they weren't playing the usual 'game' that is played in ordinary life. I don't think that Descartes was foolish enough to think that in ordinary life we pursue why questions all the way through. He even points this out himself in the Meditations. He saw that ordinary discourse involves taking many things for-granted. But his philosophy wasn't a description of discourse in London. It was an attempt to answer all of those why questions that aren't ordinarily answered. In doing this he recognizes that he's pursuing matters much further than they are usually pursued, but he has goals which he thinks are best achieved by doing this.
  • gurugeorge
    275
    This wasn't quite what I wanted.PossibleAaran

    Yeah, I know it's kind of a boring answer. :)

    I understand that you think that one can use a track-record argument for the claim that sense perception is reliable. Sense perception got things right on occasions X, Y, Z, N, N+1... therefore sense perception is reliable. My question is, why believe, in any particular case, that sense perception got it right?PossibleAaran

    There's no reason to believe it in any particular case, not by "reading off" from the perception (or even schmerception) in isolation. The perception's validity isn't given alongside the givenness of the perception.

    But that's not a problem, because the reason to believe (trust in) the validity of any random given instance of perception comes from trust in the general series, which includes also the possiblity of occasional error. It seems kind of paradoxical, but it really isn't. We aren't guaranteed the validity of any given perception, taken in isolation, but we have a reasonable degree of proven confidence in the series as a whole, which means that the given perception is likely to be valid, but may occasionally not be.

    It would be a problem if we were in the position of having to "read off" any given perception's validity from the perception itself in order to have knowledge. But we aren't, so it isn't.

    I look into my bathroom and form the belief that there is a toothbrush on the sink. Why should I believe that there is? Remember, at this point we haven't established that sense perception is reliable, so we cannot appeal to that.PossibleAaran

    You should believe it's a toothbrush because you're having a toothbrush-like perception, that's good enough reason to TRUST that you'll be able to brush your teeth with the damn thing.

    Now that trust may turn out to have been misplaced (maybe it's an alien spaceship), but we know it's highly unlikely to have been misplaced (the chances of it being an alien spaceship, or any of an infinity of other logically possible things, including your hallucination as a brain in a vat, or whatever, is vanishingly tiny, and would require strong proof to counterbalance the chain of expectations-fulfilled that we've gotten by going along with perception as generally valid).

    Why, then, should I take it that sense perception is getting things right in this particular instance if I can't take it to be reliable yet? If the track record argument works, there must be some reason to believe its premises.PossibleAaran

    You can't take any given perception in isolation to be reliable, its reliability is something that can only be validated subsequently as part of a linked network of expectations fulfilled (so long as you're using perceptions as a guide to reality, in order to fulfil those expectations).

    But the expectations' fulfillments are themselves things perceived, after all, so what else do you have to go on?

    IOW, it's not a bug, but a feature. ("It" here being the lack of one-to-one guaranteed intrinsic relationship between a perception and its validity, that's somehow given along with givenness of the perception itself.)

    In doing this [Descartes] recognizes that he's pursuing matters much further than they are usually pursued, but he has goals which he thinks are best achieved by doing this.PossibleAaran

    Yes, and that's been a valuable exercise, but the fact that it hasn't led anywhere is what's instructive.
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