• Metaphysician Undercover
    4.4k
    Rigjt, so the particular difference is sufficient reason for the general condition of being different?Janus

    Yeah, that makes sense to me.

    Now consider this. Anytime that we describe what is, it is always based in abstraction, and the abstraction is produced by the person making the description. So no matter how hard we try to describe a particular situation, the description is always going to come out in general terms. So "what is" is always a generalization, and this cannot be avoided, it is a human judgement, which relies on generalization. The PSR holds, because there will always be a reason why whomever made the generalization, made it. A generalization as the act of a living creature, is not a random act. Whatever is expressed as "what is", is always the product of abstraction, generalization, and there is always a reason for the way that "what is" is expressed. What "is", is always how we as human beings see the world, and there is always a reason why we see it in that way, because living creatures like human beings, produce things for a reason. .
  • Janus
    5.9k
    No disagreement here, but, as I keep saying, this is too weak to even be called a Principle, and doesn't really sound like the PSR in Leibnitz's or Scholastic tradition, which, as I understand it, requires the world to be objectively "rational" through and through.SophistiCat

    Sure, but there have been significant other non-theistic treatments of the PSR.The following excerpts are taken from the SEP article on the PSR, and they support what I have been arguing; that the PSR can be understood to be an important principle in its relation to human experience and understanding, and cannot simply be dismissed as "weak" (or "banal") unless it is interpreted as claiming that the world is "rational through and through":

    In the Critique of Pure Reason (1781, 1787), Kant claims to provide a proof for the PSR by showing that

    [T]he PSR is the ground of possible experience, namely the objective cognition of appearances with regards to their relation in the successive series of time. (B/246/A201)

    Relying on his transcendental method Kant argues in the “Second Analogy of Experience” that a certain version of the PSR is a condition for the possibility of experience, and as a result also a condition for the possibility of objects of experience. Yet, this argument also restricts the validity of the PSR to human experience, i.e., to things which appear in space and time. Any use of the PSR that transgresses the boundaries of human experience is bound to generate antinomies.


    And this:

    The PSR is the subject of Schopenahuer’s 1813 doctoral dissertation: The Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. In this work, Schopenhauer provides a brief history of the PSR, and then raises the questions of the justification for the PSR and the proper scope of the principle. Schopenhauer follows Wolff in distinguishing among four kinds of reasons, corresponding to four kinds of objects, and charges that much philosophical confusion arises from attempts to explain objects of one kind by reasoning that belongs to the other kind. These four kinds of explanation, or four variants of the PSR, share the very same ground. Along Kantian lines Schopenhauer suggests that it is the subject’s activity in regularly connecting representations that is the ground of the PSR (The Fourfold Root, §16).

    Whether some principle in philosophy is "weak" or "banal" is really nothing more than a matter of taste, i.e. how it relates to your own philosophical interests; there is no objective matter of fact about it. Obviously I disagree with you that the PSR is weak or banal, but I don't object to your finding it weak or banal for you; my objection is to the way you seem to be attempting to paint it as being an objective fact.

    Ah, but here you are making a much stronger statement. This is no longer just about our knowledge-seeking, isn't it?SophistiCat

    No, I think it is your own presuppositions that lead you to interpret it that way. When I speak about "the world" I mean the world as it is experienced, understood and known; which effectively is all the world for us.

    Well, what would be the alternative? Remember, the very framing of this conversation presupposes, for good or ill, subjects and objects: things in the world and our explanations, reasons, causes, which are about those things.SophistiCat

    Well, we could be mindful of the naive realisms and general reification that our dualistic language can lead us into and try to find more creative ways to talk around the conceptual difficulties inherent in language.

    I meant "Cartesian" in its method: start with the one idea that you cannot possibly deny, put it at the center of your explanatory scheme.SophistiCat

    OK, I see what you mean. If the "one thing" is taken as the cogito on its own, though, as Descartes did not, then this is Kantian through and through. Kant accepted the cogito, the "I think" but rejected the reificatory ergo sum.

    not only do we have to concede that there are brute facts, explanatory termini that admit no further explanation, but that there isn't even a unique, rational choice to be made about what those brute facts should be.SophistiCat

    This seems to contradict your previous statement about "starting with the one idea that you cannot possibly deny". And again, a brute fact is only such because, and as long as, we cannot explain it. Of course we cannot explain absolutely everything, there will always be the questions about absolute origins and fundamentals. If we are theists we can claim the PSR applies to those as well; the rationality of reality is guaranteed by God. But if we are not theists then the real, considered in absolute terms, cannot be either rational or irrational; to say it is either would be a category error. The 'actualities' of origins and fundamentals, are, in principle, outside of human experience and understanding, except insofar as we can say that they provide the unknowable conditions for the possibility of anything at all; and in that sense we can say that they are sufficient reasons, for if they were not sufficient conditions there would not be anything at all.
  • Janus
    5.9k
    The PSR holds, because there will always be a reason why whomever made the generalization, made it.Metaphysician Undercover

    So, we must think that our seeing of particular differences is sufficient reason for our generalizing of identities?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.4k
    So, we must think that our seeing of particular differences is sufficient reason for our generalizing of identities?Janus

    No, not "generalizing of identities" the contrary of this. We must refer to the law of identity itself. The law of identity recognizes the identity of a thing within the thing itself, such that the thing is what it is and nothing else. This actually disallows any generalizing of identities, because the identity is specific to the particular. However, when we as human beings assign identity to a thing, we cannot avoid some degree of generalizing. This makes the human assigned identity other than the identity of the thing itself. When the humans assign identity, they seek to differentiate the thing from other things, such that they can hand it an identity. The differences assigned (those "seen" by us) are assumed to be derived from the identity of the particular thing itself, not from a generalizing of identities..
  • Janus
    5.9k


    By 'generalizing of identities" I meant 'classing things in terms of kinds', I wasn't referring to recognizing particular entities in their singularity.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.4k

    Then I think I would agree. But I go even further to say that when we identify a thing as a particular, it is not strictly the "the seeing of particular differences" which is the reason for this, because there could be some other reason. This might be that we see the thing as the same thing, as time passes.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    2c. We must have reasons and explanations for everything. Brute facts are incoherent and unacceptable as objects of knowledge. This is closely related to 1c. Again, I think this is what some proponents of the PSR would say, but I do not agree with this.

    So everything is explainable but then I wonder why this is so. Does that mean the Being must be explainable. Why something rather than nothing. Or perhaps there are some fundamentals, invariants, in nature, which can't be explained away (Constants maybe)?
  • SophistiCat
    476
    Sure, but there have been significant other non-theistic treatments of the PSR.Janus

    No, I think it is your own presuppositions that lead you to interpret it that way. When I speak about "the world" I mean the world as it is experienced, understood and known; which effectively is all the world for us.Janus

    Well, if you completely eschew any non-mental aspects of the PSR and treat it idealistically-epistemologically, then you end up with tautologies of the sort that (paraphrasing) "the condition for being an object of experience is to be capable of being an object of experience," and the like.

    there isn't even a unique, rational choice to be made about what those brute facts should be.SophistiCat

    This seems to contradict your previous statement about "starting with the one idea that you cannot possibly deny".Janus

    I was not endorsing anthropic explanations as the most rational - I was playing an advocate in order to show that they are not obviously irrational (as some objectors reflexively react to them). If we were discussing the merits of anthropic explanations, I might criticize them as well (on the grounds of parsimony perhaps). So I still say that there cannot be a completely rational decision about the way we choose to structure our explanations. It will depend on the sort of question we are trying to answer and our epistemological preferences. The world does not dictate that decision to us - it constrains it at best; the world is not "rational" as such.

    Of course we cannot explain absolutely everything, there will always be the questions about absolute origins and fundamentals.Janus

    Indeed. And we don't even have to be foundationalist in our explanations, but go for something more like a web of beliefs.

    If we are theists we can claim the PSR applies to those as well; the rationality of reality is guaranteed by God. But if we are not theists then the real, considered in absolute terms, cannot be either rational or irrational; to say it is either would be a category error. The 'actualities' of origins and fundamentals, are, in principle, outside of human experience and understanding, except insofar as we can say that they provide the unknowable conditions for the possibility of anything at all; and in that sense we can say that they are sufficient reasons, for if they were not sufficient conditions there would not be anything at all.Janus

    Yes, for a theist the PSR makes a lot more sense, since there is an obvious locus of reason, as well as a direct connection between reason and the world (In the beginning there was the Word...) Although, depending on the variety of belief, a theist might still reject the principle.
  • Janus
    5.9k
    Well, if you completely eschew any non-mental aspects of the PSR and treat it idealistically-epistemologically, then you end up with tautologies of the sort that (paraphrasing) "the condition for being an object of experience is to be capable of being an object of experience," and the like.SophistiCat

    I'm not really clear on what you are driving at here, but, in any case, "the condition for being an object of experience is to be intelligible" is not a tautology: it may not even be true, or it may depend on what you mean by 'experience' or 'intelligible'. So, there are possible investigations here that are certainly rational and not by any means vacuous.

    So I still say that there cannot be a completely rational decision about the way we choose to structure our explanations. It will depend on the sort of question we are trying to answer and our epistemological preferences. The world does not dictate that decision to us - it constrains it at best; the world is not "rational" as such.SophistiCat

    You seem to be making a psychological point here, that we are not "completely rational", and I have no argument with that; granted that we are not perfectly rational enquirers, in the most narrow sense of 'rational'. Also granted that all of our knowledge rests upon grounds (premises, axioms, presuppositions) that are themselves groundless in the sense that they cannot be demonstrated, logically or empirically.

    But it is our condition, assuming that we come from and inhabit the world, that dictates, not the precise, but the range of, presuppositions which are possible to us, and this constraint can only be understood by us in rational terms. It is in this sense that the world must be, for us, rational. Understanding the limits of rationality is itself inevitably a rational exercise, in other words. The world can also be understood poetically, metaphorically; but I would still want to argue that this is a kind of rationality, a kind of less precise, more colourful plumbing of the depths or an emotive or associative measuring of things against other things. Poetry and metaphor have their own sufficient reasons.

    The one point where I remain unsatisfied with your argument is that you seem to want to claim that humans do not always reason in terms that presuppose, explicitly or even just implicitly, that there are sufficient reasons to be discovered for whatever they are reasoning about, and yet you have not provided an example of a reasoning which could be shown to be such as to support that claim.

    A related question is whether something being a sufficient reason for the existence of something else rules out that there could be other, or even more fundamental reasons, for that existence. To assert that would be to assert that nothing but the ultimate origin and ground of all things (whatever that could be) could qualify as being the sufficient reason for anything. If you wanted to argue for an alternative that could still affirm that, I would be happy to see what you come up with.

    To pre-empt you, perhaps you could accept an affirmative position on that question (which would, I think also be an interpretive matter) where the principle would be reduced to a mere PR; a principle stating that for the existence of anything there must be reasons. On the other hand, I could sustain a negative position on the question by 'manifolding' or 'pluralizing' the PSR, and stating that for the existence of anything there must be sufficient reasons.
  • SophistiCat
    476
    You seem to be making a psychological point here, that we are not "completely rational", and I have no argument with that; granted that we are not perfectly rational enquirers, in the most narrow sense of 'rational'.Janus

    No, my point is not that we are unable to find the completely rational understanding due to our own limitations, but that there may not be this completely rational understanding to be found - it's not out there, waiting to be discovered. Not only is there no necessity about the world, its existence and its shape, but even for this contingent reality there isn't a single right way to understand it. Even if we had all the facts that we cared to know, we still could find different ways to make them intelligible for ourselves.

    And yes, I arrive at this conclusion through reasoning, so if you want to say that the PSR is at work here in the sense that whatever I find to be reasonable to believe must have sufficient reasons in my mind, then sure.

    The one point where I remain unsatisfied with your argument is that you seem to want to claim that humans do not always reason in terms that presuppose, explicitly or even just implicitly, that there are sufficient reasons to be discovered for whatever they are reasoning about, and yet you have not provided an example of a reasoning which could be shown to be such as to support that claim.Janus

    Well, this may sound immodest, but you have me for an example - see above. The reason I don't presuppose that there are sufficient reasons to be discovered is simply that I don't see any reasons to make such an a priori commitment. I try to make sense of what I see, because that is in my nature, but I admit that the world doesn't owe me an explanation. The world has appeared fairly "reasonable" to my eyes up to now, but I realize that no reason - only my inductive instincts - justifies the assumption that it will continue to do so. And that there may be more to the world than is evident to my eyes. And that that which I see and understand can be reasonably understood differently.

    A related question is whether something being a sufficient reason for the existence of something else rules out that there could be other, or even more fundamental reasons, for that existence. To assert that would be to assert that nothing but the ultimate origin and ground of all things (whatever that could be) could qualify as being the sufficient reason for anything. If you wanted to argue for an alternative that could still affirm that, I would be happy to see what you come up with.Janus

    That will depend on how one construes sufficient reason. Spinoza apparently took it in a strong sense, which requires a commitment to necessitarianism. More generally, beyond the scope of the classical PSR, reasons, causes, explanations have been treated in more fluid and varied ways, which do not necessarily imply necessitarianism or even foundationalism. But that is a topic too broad to be covered here.
  • Janus
    5.9k
    That will depend on how one construes sufficient reason.SophistiCat

    I think we mostly agree now, and I think the whole issue with the PSR really boils down to this question. I can't see how we can avoid thinking that the reasons, or the conditions, that allow for the existence of things must be sufficient, just on account of the fact that the things in question do exist. Of course, there will always be, beyond our current knowledge, further conditions for the existence of any thing, ad infinitum, that we will never have the resources or the time, to be aware of, nor the complexity of intellect to incorporate into an understanding of the total range of conditions, since everything would seem to be interrelated with everything else, and the complexity is simply beyond us.

    I guess my whole argument could be encapsulated in saying that the idea that something could be without the (unique?) conditions that allow for its being seems incoherent. It would amount to saying that the thing is totally independent of everything else. So, in that sense, I would say, where you perhaps would not, that we are committed to an a priori assumption that everything is interconnected and that any particular thing finds its sufficient conditions for being in that matrix of interconnectedness, because a denial of that seems simply incoherent.

    It seems inconceivable that any particular thing could simply come to be from nothing, and it seems inconceivable that there could be, within the cosmos, a separate milieu of nothingness, out of which anything could come. Of course when it comes to the whole cosmos, or the microphysical, it may be a different matter; but I think there we just face ultimate mystery. Neither the 'virtual existence' of the "quantum vacuum" nor the conditions that gave rise to the Big Bang could be absolutely nothing as we conceive, or more accurately fail to conceive, it.
  • Posty McPostface
    5.1k
    Returning back to this, there seems to be a sort of Sorites paradox when trying to delineate where does 'Sufficiency' in the Principle derive from... Where does epistemic closure occur for any material conditional under sufficiency of a reason? I mean, you can keep on splitting things into infinity until you arrive at some form of logical atomism or monadology no?

    Hope that's not too vague.
  • Relativist
    342
    The PSR may commit a category error by asserting there are "reasons." There are causes for everything, and when we understand the causes we can label this the "explanation." However, the presence of causal "explanations" for everything does not imply that everything necessarily has an explanation. In particular: if there is a first cause, then by definition it was uncaused. There's no basis for claiming it must therefore have a non-causal explanation. i.e. there's no basis for claiming the first cause "must" be something that exists out of metaphysical necessity. In fact, that seems unlikely because all known objects that exist out of metaphysical necessity are abstractions, and abstractions lack causal efficacy.
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