Saturday, September 15, 2012

The path to total skepticism


The path to total skepticism might go like this. We should believe only what we can prove to be true. However, proofs have premises, and we can demand proof for those premises. The premises of the proof of the proof will need proof, as well as the premises of the proof of the proof of the proof, not to mention the premises of the proof of the proof of the proof of the proof. This can go on forever, and therefore we can never reach a point where we can rest in our knowledge. 

71 comments:

cautiouslycurious said...

So, why should we believe only what we can prove to be true? Can you prove that? The argument doesn't even get off the ground. However, if you want to define knowledge as %100 percent certainty, then I would agree with the total skeptic, but that would be kind of pointless since we can arrive at, with a reasonably high confidence, all sorts of positions that are true. That is how I define knowledge, not the %100 percent, you don't know you're not a brain in the vat, why does that matter, kind of knowledge.

Ilíon said...

"This can go on forever, and therefore we can never reach a point where we can rest in our knowledge."

Actually, it *can't* go on forever. Soon or late, no matter the subject, one reaches the premise or premises which cannot be rationally supported by a prior proof.

Therefore, the skeptic logically reaches the dilemma:
1) abandon, as provably false, the premise that "We should believe only what we can prove to be true."
2) conclude that we can know nothing, nothing at all.

Ilíon said...

... so, yes, the premise that "We should believe only what we can prove to be true" is indeed the pather to "total skepticism" ... just not in the way, nor for the reason as, you phrased it.

rank sophist said...

curious,

The only certain premises are Aristotle's three axioms. Any other philosophy leads to skepticism, including yours. It is impossible even to arrive at positions with "confidence" unless you have a solid underlying framework with which to define "confidence" and "near-certainty". This is why empiricism, scientism and logical positivism are incoherent.

cautiouslycurious said...

Rank,

I'm not really sure what you're getting at. Are you really saying that it is incoherent to say that relativity is more accurate than Newtonian mechanics? Or that we can't be confident that relativity is more accurate than Newtonian mechanics? This is a fairly simple empirical fact, and I can make sense of it based on empiricism, so I'm not really sure why you consider it to be incoherent.

How confident are you that all other philosophies lead to total skepticism? How did you determine that confidence level without a solid underlying framework with which to define "confidence"? I fail to see how you can use the three axioms to determine your confidence level, unless you meant to say that there are 5 certain axioms, the 3 of Aristotle's, your statement about other philosophies, and the statement that there are only 5 axioms. I'm interested in how you accomplish this.

I'm also not sure why you think we can't also use models that have been empirically verified to increase confidence. For example, the formula P[A&B]=P[B&A] is incredibly useful, but according to you, we can't use it because its not one of the three axioms. However, we can observe that describing sets in reality follows the communitative property. How do you deny statements such as P[A&B]=P[B&A], but then go on to affirm things like A v -A? How did you reach these conclusions, by what method and by what justification?

I understand that there are a lot of questions here, but they are more for you to think about these issues than genuine inquiries. I hope that how you answer these questions will also answer the questions/objections you posed to me. If they happen to be different or don't answer the objections, I would be willing to go back upon clarification.

rank sophist said...

I'm not really sure what you're getting at. Are you really saying that it is incoherent to say that relativity is more accurate than Newtonian mechanics? Or that we can't be confident that relativity is more accurate than Newtonian mechanics? This is a fairly simple empirical fact, and I can make sense of it based on empiricism, so I'm not really sure why you consider it to be incoherent.

On your philosophy, I would indeed say that. How is X more accurate (or less false) than Y, if there is no ground P on which we can measure them? It simply cannot be.

Think of it this way. I'm an empiricist, and I want to go about showing that X is probably true and Y is probably false. How do I judge? Sense data. But sense data itself is not infallible, nor is there any way, as an empiricist, for me to verify or falsify sense data without begging the question. The only option is to show, like Hume, that nothing besides sense data exists, and to then swallow the skeptical solution that we cannot ever know for sure if sense data is reliable. But this spells the end of science. Findings X and Y are judged on senses P, but the accuracy of P is indefinite. Therefore, X and Y are both indefinite.

Further, it is impossible to judge the probability of P's truth without begging the question, because every probability equation must presuppose P on empiricism. However, without knowing the probability of P's truth, we cannot know the probability of the truth of X or Y. Hence, there is no way for science to be performed, and we are left in skeptical nonsense.

How confident are you that all other philosophies lead to total skepticism? How did you determine that confidence level without a solid underlying framework with which to define "confidence"? I fail to see how you can use the three axioms to determine your confidence level, unless you meant to say that there are 5 certain axioms, the 3 of Aristotle's, your statement about other philosophies, and the statement that there are only 5 axioms. I'm interested in how you accomplish this.

The three axioms:

1. The law of identity: A is A.
2. The law of the excluded middle: there is nothing between A and not-A.
3. The law of non-contradiction: nothing can be both A and not-A in the same way at the same time.

All solid reasoning is built on these principles. The other "axioms" you think I'm presupposing are in fact based on these. Because of the three axioms, it becomes possible to check sense data against logic, which prevents Hume's skeptical paradox from obtaining.

Say I see an object A. If I know that A is A, that there is nothing between A and not-A and that nothing can be both A and not-A, I'm already well on my way to understanding A. I'm also able to check my observations of A against a solid framework.

(By the way: these axioms are axiomatic because they cannot be doubted. Anyone who argues against them presupposes them.)

I'm also not sure why you think we can't also use models that have been empirically verified to increase confidence.

What is "empirically verified"? This sounds like a contradiction to me. Remember: P is uncertain, and so any "verification" that rests on P is uncertain, which means that findings X and Y are both uncertain. Further, any verification of P begs the question, because one must presuppose the accuracy of P in order to make a definite statement about P's accuracy. And, unlike the three axioms, P can be doubted without contradiction.

cautiouslycurious said...

“On your philosophy, I would indeed say that. How is X more accurate (or less false) than Y, if there is no ground P on which we can measure them? It simply cannot be.”

Accuracy is based on which one predicts reality best. We impute the consequences of each idea (more like follow the definition) and then look at reality. It’s then just a matter of empirical findings that determine which one is more accurate.

“Think of it this way. I'm an empiricist, and I want to go about showing that X is probably true and Y is probably false. How do I judge? Sense data. But sense data itself is not infallible, nor is there any way, as an empiricist, for me to verify or falsify sense data without begging the question. The only option is to show, like Hume, that nothing besides sense data exists, and to then swallow the skeptical solution that we cannot ever know for sure if sense data is reliable. But this spells the end of science. Findings X and Y are judged on senses P, but the accuracy of P is indefinite. Therefore, X and Y are both indefinite.”

When you group everything as sense data, then it does become circular, but it is no more circular than me objecting to your reasoning by saying that you are assuming reason to reason, which is also circular. Try to prove your axioms without begging the question and you will see that you have created a double standard.

As for the proposition that they are unreliable, we can contrast that with the proposition that they are reliable and see which one has a better track record of making predictions (i.e. which one is more accurate). Since they are generally good at making predictions, we can reject the hypothesis that they are unreliable and accept the hypothesis that they are reliable (in general).

“Further, it is impossible to judge the probability of P's truth without begging the question, because every probability equation must presuppose P on empiricism. However, without knowing the probability of P's truth, we cannot know the probability of the truth of X or Y. Hence, there is no way for science to be performed, and we are left in skeptical nonsense.”

You do realize that certain things are defined in probability, right? For example, the probability of something is a defined term, so it is true by definition.

“All solid reasoning is built on these principles. The other "axioms" you think I'm presupposing are in fact based on these. Because of the three axioms, it becomes possible to check sense data against logic, which prevents Hume's skeptical paradox from obtaining.”

All this does is verify that sense data is logically consistent, it does nothing to verify its truth. This has the same problems that coherence theory of truth has. I fail to see how this prevents total skepticism.

“Say I see an object A. If I know that A is A, that there is nothing between A and not-A and that nothing can be both A and not-A, I'm already well on my way to understanding A. I'm also able to check my observations of A against a solid framework.“

You’re not even close to being on your way to understand A. All you’ve done is given it a label. Given these axioms, you have no idea how X behaves or what its attributes are. You still know nothing about A. Feynman would like to tell you something about what it means to understand something: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05WS0WN7zMQ

“(By the way: these axioms are axiomatic because they cannot be doubted. Anyone who argues against them presupposes them.)”

By this reasoning, I’m surprised you left off Descartes’ “I think therefore I am.” Wouldn’t this be axiomatic since anyone who argues against it must also think, and therefore exist? This shows that there might be other axioms that you haven’t considered yet that preclude total skepticism. So, this leads me back to my previous question, how do you determine your confidence level that all other philosophies lead to total skepticism (i.e. that you haven’t missed other axioms)?

cautiouslycurious said...

(cont.)

“What is "empirically verified"? This sounds like a contradiction to me. Remember: P is uncertain, and so any "verification" that rests on P is uncertain, which means that findings X and Y are both uncertain. Further, any verification of P begs the question, because one must presuppose the accuracy of P in order to make a definite statement about P's accuracy. And, unlike the three axioms, P can be doubted without contradiction and by what framework.”

I don’t see where the problem is. I never said that verification is %100 accurate. However, we can say that certain models are as accurate as anything we know (e.g. P[A&B]=P[B&A], evolution) and that other models are horribly inaccurate (e.g. there is a God who will intervene at your request, i.e. intercessory prayer works) based on empirical findings. These are tools that we can then use to reach other conclusions, although not to a greater accuracy than the tool. The conclusions from say mathematics are not going to be any more accurate than the axioms, but the axioms are very accurate to begin with so the loss in accuracy to the conclusions is almost nil. Not certain, yes; very accurate, yes. However, you are free to doubt this and try to pray your cancer to go away without contradiction; we just wouldn’t consider you rational. The moral of the story is, just because you can doubt something without contradiction doesn’t make it rational to do so.

BeingItself said...

In my experience what separates the modern scientific skeptic from the typical believer is the number of and complexity of starting premises.

Most skeptics strive to keep unprovable premises to a minimum, whereas the believer is much more promiscuous, happily taking on board bushel baskets of metaphysical "principles" (the PSR, etc.)

The skeptical worries raised by the OP plague us all. Nobody has a bullet proof epistemology, even God, if she exists.

ozero91 said...

Honest question, how does one deny the PSR without undermining the explanatory power of modern science?

rank sophist said...

Accuracy is based on which one predicts reality best.

This just begs the question. Consider: if reality = foundation P, then we must suppose senses S with which to detect P. But it is impossible to know if S accurately represents P, because findings X and Y presuppose the accuracy of S. This means that the accuracy of S is indefinite and impossible to test without begging the question.

In other words, by saying that reality is our ground, you merely presuppose that sense data is accurate, which is what's being debated.

Try to prove your axioms without begging the question

We both know that it's impossible to "prove" logic without presupposing it. I submit, though, that the three axioms cannot be escaped as the only foundations for reasoning. Sense data can be questioned without presupposing sense data (see: Parmenides, Descartes), which is not the case with the axioms.

As for the proposition that they are unreliable, we can contrast that with the proposition that they are reliable and see which one has a better track record at making predictions

Not without begging the question. The quality of your predictions is based on the accuracy of sense data (i.e. perceptions of outer world P), and so you cannot rely on a "track record" without presupposing the accuracy of your senses S. Again, though, that S accurately represents P is what's at issue, and so any appeal a track record is an appeal to the accuracy of S, which is what's at issue. Therefore, you've simply begged the question again.

the probability of something is a defined term

If empiricism is based on the actual world P, then all we've got are perceptions S. Every single thing that we think is based on S. Otherwise, you're dealing in a priori truths that empiricists reject. This means that math and probability (M) are products of S--"useful fictions". However, if this is the case, then M presupposes the accuracy of S, and so we cannot use M to judge the probability that S is accurate without begging the question. Further, M cannot tell us the probable accuracy of findings X and Y if S is uncertain, because, if S is uncertain, then M, X and Y are uncertain. Therefore, it is impossible to perform science.

All this does is verify that sense data is logically consistent

If we absolutely must weed out skeptical arguments, we simply appeal to Putnam's brain in a vat argument (semantic externalism), David Deutsch's argument against solipsism, and so forth. Unfortunately, empiricists cannot appeal to semantic externalism without forgoing empiricism.

rank sophist said...

Feynman would like to tell you something

Feynman was a stunningly brilliant scientist. He was also a philosophical dunce.

I'm surprised you left off Descartes' "I think, therefore I am."

That's because Descartes presupposed the three axioms. Consider: I cannot doubt my own doubt.

1. I = I, doubt = doubt and so on. Law of identity.
2. There is nothing between I and not-I, or doubt and not-doubt. LEM.
3. I cannot both doubt and not doubt simultaneously, or be I and not-I simultaneously.

Unless he presupposed these, he would be free to conclude, "I think, therefore I do not exist", "I think, therefore I am not I and I do not think", "I am in a state between thinking and not thinking, therefore I both exist and do not exist". And so on. As was typical, Descartes got sloppy.

Not certain, yes; very accurate, yes.

Just begs the question again. Accurate results presuppose accurate senses, which are the very things at issue.

BeingItself said...

ozero91,

You ever heard of quantum physics? Physicists have no need for the PSR, and they are doing just fine.

cautiouslycurious said...

“This just begs the question. Consider: if reality = foundation P, then we must suppose senses S with which to detect P. But it is impossible to know if S accurately represents P, because findings X and Y presuppose the accuracy of S. This means that the accuracy of S is indefinite and impossible to test without begging the question.”

This isn’t true on model-dependant realism. I would be interested in how you define reality. A little more on the matter, I can sort out real things and fake things from observations even though S does not accurately represent P. How do I do this? Simple, I have a model that accommodates such aberrations. I know my eyesight is not the best, I know it has defects and when I see something that is predictable based on my model, I know it is not real. I know a little about human anatomy so I know that feelings don’t match up with reality. I know that people can be on the verge of dying of hypothermia, yet feel incredibly warm; the body says that it’s warm but the model (thermometer, the surrounding ice, etc.) says that it is freezing out; even though the sensation is real, the corresponding feeling is not (we have updated our model of temperature over simply using the feeling of hot and cold). Whether something fits into the model or not determines whether it will be judged real or not. So how do you change the model? Well it depends, new sense data could easily do so (e.g. finding a new species), making better predictions is another way (e.g. relativity vs. Newtonian mechanics), there are some things that we say we can’t imagine how they could manifest empirically (e.g A=-A), we simply consider them nonsensical/impossible.

“We both know that it's impossible to "prove" logic without presupposing it. I submit, though, that the three axioms cannot be escaped as the only foundations for reasoning. Sense data can be questioned without presupposing sense data (see: Parmenides, Descartes), which is not the case with the axioms.”

Yes, I know that you submit that, but how to you know that it is so? How do you measure your confidence in that statement and know that it is more likely true than false? For that matter, why do you suppose that reasoning must be valid or grounded in some way? Why can’t A=-A? Why is this simply asserted/assumed other than the fact that it accords with observation?

“If empiricism is based on the actual world P, then all we've got are perceptions S. Every single thing that we think is based on S. Otherwise, you're dealing in a priori truths that empiricists reject. This means that math and probability (M) are products of S--"useful fictions". However, if this is the case, then M presupposes the accuracy of S, and so we cannot use M to judge the probability that S is accurate without begging the question. Further, M cannot tell us the probable accuracy of findings X and Y if S is uncertain, because, if S is uncertain, then M, X and Y are uncertain. Therefore, it is impossible to perform science.”

This is not what I would think would follow from empiricism. I would say that mathematics and probability don’t adhere to reality and to the extent that they do, they have axioms that adhere to empirical observations. You can create any mathematics that you like, but its conclusions won’t be true unless its axioms are also empirically true for that application. In this sense, it wouldn’t be an a priori truth since we need to verify its axioms, but it is not solely based on sense data; it is based on the definitions of the axioms and empirical observation. Perhaps I am not an empiricist, I am not really a fan of philosophical packages; I’d rather pick and choose what works best and leave the labels out of it.

cautiouslycurious said...

(cont.)

“If we absolutely must weed out skeptical arguments, we simply appeal to Putnam's brain in a vat argument (semantic externalism), David Deutsch's argument against solipsism, and so forth. Unfortunately, empiricists cannot appeal to semantic externalism without forgoing empiricism.”

Before you said that there are three axioms and all other philosophies lead to total skepticism. Are you now saying that there are additional axiomatic philosophies that preclude total skepticism or that not all other philosophies lead to total skepticism? How are sure that you haven’t missed one that is supported by empiricism and by what justification?

“Feynman was a stunningly brilliant scientist. He was also a philosophical dunce.”

As a philosophical dunce (and by that, I mean as someone who doesn’t view philosophers in a positive light, i.e. not a fan of ‘sophisticated’ philosophy), I don’t find this point compelling. I would like it explained how he is wrong, not simply have it asserted that he is. I would like to know how labeling something (whether it be a duck, el pato, or A) increases our understanding of it. I provided my thought on this matter and I would like you to explain yours.

cautiouslycurious said...

ozero91,

“Honest question, how does one deny the PSR without undermining the explanatory power of modern science?”

I don’t see how denying the PSR would undercut science. We can look for reasons without assuming that there are reasons and we can find reasons for events, entities, and propositions without assuming that everything has a reason.

ozero91 said...

If you do not assume everything has a reason, does it follow that there are some events, entities etc that do not have a reason/explanation? If so, how do you determine that? Just questions, I actually dont know much about the PSR apart from its definition.

cautiouslycurious said...

"If you do not assume everything has a reason, does it follow that there are some events, entities etc that do not have a reason/explanation?"

No, not that I'm aware of. We could deny the PSR and everything could have a sufficient reason, we simply wouldn't assume it outright. It only follows if we accept that it is false, it does not follow if we don't accept it because we lack the appropriate justification for it.

BeingItself said...

"If you do not assume everything has a reason, does it follow that there are some events, entities etc that do not have a reason/explanation?"

No.

Suppose an atom decays at time t. Was there a reason that event occurred at exactly that time? It seems not. As best we can tell, there is no reason or cause. Could there be? Sure.

But the dogmatic PSR believer asserts there just has to be. Why? Because the PSR believer believes the PSR, come what may.

rank sophist said...

That isn't true on model-dependent realism.

Oh, you follow that thing? Argued with a proponent of that system recently.

Model-dependent realism is necessarily false. Why? Because it's circular. Hawking, its ill-informed creator, is far worse than Feynman when it comes to philosophy. Let's say I follow this system of his. How do I propose to support my conclusion that it's accurate? Science, of course. The human mind constructs "models" of its exterior, based on sense data. But science is based on sense data. In other words, the "proof" of model-dependent realism rests on science, which presupposes the accuracy of the senses.

1. Science is based on sense data.
2. Science tells us that the human mind builds models of its environment.
3. Thanks to these models, science can continue to rely on sense data.

In other words, "sense data is reliable because sense data is reliable": "science is accurate because science is accurate". A similar line of reasoning:

1. The Bible is infallible.
2. The Bible says that it is infallible.
3. Because I can trust the Bible, I know that's infallible.

But this is merely to say that the Bible is infallible because it's infallible. Hawking has committed the same fallacy with his ridiculous "model-dependent realism", and he has failed utterly to prove his case. If he's proven anything, it's that he's a philosophical snake oil salesman.

Why can't A=-A?

Because any attempt to demonstrate this is bound to presuppose it. If A=-A, then A is presupposed. A must first equal A before it can equal -A, and -A must equal -A before it can be the result, or neither option would exist in the first place. Hence, even the equation A=-A requires the law of identity, in order for it to have any content whatsoever. Same goes with the LEM and LNC.

it is based on the definitions of the axioms and empirical observation.

Empirical observation is based on sense data. That's what "empirical observation" means. And, on empiricism--or on whatever empiricism-derived system you're using--"axioms" too are based on sense data. That's the only place from which they can come. In other words, you're still stuck with the problem of unreliable senses, which cannot be mitigated by appeals to other sense-derived "models" or suchlike, on pains of begging the question.

Are you now saying that there are additional axiomatic philosophies [...] ?

No. It's just that contemporary philosophers sometimes slip into Aristotle-inspired language now and again. You see it in semantic externalism, talk of "natural kinds" and "intentionality", and so on. These aren't their own axioms, but rather they follow from the first three, whether or not such philosophers realize it. Doesn't mean there aren't things of value to be found in the work of the analytic greats.

I would like it explained how he is wrong

I'll have to watch the video. I hadn't bothered before because Feynman was so legendarily hostile to--and incapable of understanding--philosophy. I'll get back to you on this particular point soon.

rank sophist said...

Okay, I can see that what Feynman is saying there is absolutely irrelevant to the discussion. "A is A" does not describe a name, but rather an identity. A must be A, or it is not anything at all. This is far deeper than a name. The bird in Feynman's example is still subject to the law of identity even if we admit that it has different names the world over. Unless the bird we refer to by these names is that bird, on a metaphysical/ontological level, then it cannot even exist. "That bird" must equal "that bird", regardless of the names we apply to it, or there is no "that bird" in the first place. This is why the law of identity is so important.

cautiouslycurious said...

“1. Science is based on sense data.
2. Science tells us that the human mind builds models of its environment.
3. Thanks to these models, science can continue to rely on sense data.”

There is no guarantee that the models the human mind builds will accurately predict its environment or that they will determine that sense data is accurate so the conclusion here is not assumed in a prior premise, hence so is not circular. Like I said before, these models don’t always shed a good light (hey, it could be worse) on the reliability of our senses, so it is quite a stretch to say that this process assumes the reliability of our senses when it could so easily determine them to be unreliable.

“In other words, "sense data is reliable because sense data is reliable": "science is accurate because science is accurate”

Sense data is reliable because the models we create inform us that they are (generally) accurate. We need nothing other than the empirical findings, a working model, and the definition of accurate to come to this conclusion. A model is no more sense data than a prediction is a data point. We don’t assume that certain models are accurate. We don’t assume that science can create accurate models. This is simply what has been demonstrated over time.

cautiouslycurious said...

(cont.)

“Okay, I can see that what Feynman is saying there is absolutely irrelevant to the discussion. "A is A" does not describe a name, but rather an identity. A must be A, or it is not anything at all. This is far deeper than a name. The bird in Feynman's example is still subject to the law of identity even if we admit that it has different names the world over. Unless the bird we refer to by these names is that bird, on a metaphysical/ontological level, then it cannot even exist. "That bird" must equal "that bird", regardless of the names we apply to it, or there is no "that bird" in the first place. This is why the law of identity is so important.”

I still don’t see how this gets us any closer to understanding anything about that bird. All you are doing is repeating the observation by saying that the bird that we saw is that bird that we saw. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t introduce any new information that increases our understanding. Let’s suppose you and I go to a pond and we say that bird is Bird A, that other bird is Bird B and Bird A is not Bird B. What has this exercise taught us about the birds?

As a side note, I still think of this as a labeling of “that bird”, it is simply a label with a lot of unknown variables in it. For example, I could say that the attributes of “that bird” is of “that bird”.height, “that bird”.weight, etc. for all of the attributes of “that bird” and then compare those with the attributes of “this bird” for an identity relation, but I can’t find out those variables without empirical investigation and the label doesn’t appear all that useful for understanding the bird.

Also, how do you know that “that bird” is actually a bird? This was kind of my point about labels, if you don’t think sense data is accurate, at most, what you have done is given a label to a certain sensory experience. Maybe “that bird” doesn’t really exist. Maybe “that bird” is actually a fish. How does the law of identity help you establish this/accurate sense data? If we can’t actually establish that “that bird” is actually a bird, then in what sense have we given that observation anything more than a name tag?

rank sophist said...

There is no guarantee that the models the human mind builds will accurately predict its environment or that they will determine that sense data is accurate so the conclusion here is not assumed in a prior premise, hence so is not circular. Like I said before, these models don’t always shed a good light (hey, it could be worse) on the reliability of our senses, so it is quite a stretch to say that this process assumes the reliability of our senses when it could so easily determine them to be unreliable.

You seem to have missed my point. We have learned, through the senses, that the mind builds models of the environment. This is blatantly fallacious. If the senses are unreliable, then there is no telling whether or not the mind really does build models of the environment, because all of our tools for learning this "fact" have rusted away. You cannot appeal to the models without begging the question, because the idea that there are models is itself based on sense data, whose reliability is up for debate.

Even if such a model determined that one of our senses was unreliable, the model must itself exist in order for its analysis to mean anything. But that the model exists is based on empirical observation--sense data. Hence, a model cannot tell us that our senses are unreliable unless our senses are reliable (i.e. unless science is accurate), and we are left in circularity.

Sense data is reliable because the models we create inform us that they are (generally) accurate. We need nothing other than the empirical findings, a working model, and the definition of accurate to come to this conclusion. A model is no more sense data than a prediction is a data point. We don’t assume that certain models are accurate. We don’t assume that science can create accurate models. This is simply what has been demonstrated over time.

It can't have been demonstrated unless the senses that we used to perceive said demonstration are accurate. But that's what's at issue.

Further, again, why do we hold that models exist? Science. But science is based on sense data. Therefore, we have no reason to believe that models exist unless sense data is accurate--the models themselves cannot tell us whether or not sense data is accurate unless sense data is accurate in positing the existence of such models. Again, it's just question-begging circularity.

rank sophist said...


I still don’t see how this gets us any closer to understanding anything about that bird. All you are doing is repeating the observation by saying that the bird that we saw is that bird that we saw. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t introduce any new information that increases our understanding. Let’s suppose you and I go to a pond and we say that bird is Bird A, that other bird is Bird B and Bird A is not Bird B. What has this exercise taught us about the birds?

It's an ontological statement that allows us to begin observation. If A is A, then it follows that A is something with an identity. So, then, what does it mean for A to be A? What makes it A rather than B? We already know that A is a certain kind of thing--now, we just have to find out what kind of thing it is. The law of identity, then, tells us that every "entity" has an "identity"--as Quine, who rejected it, said: "No entity without identity"--, which means that it may be known and that it has certain essential traits.

This is no small step. It's very large, in fact. Philosophies have risen and fallen on this small law alone. (The ones who think they've gotten away from it never really have--they've just hidden it well.)

Also, how do you know that “that bird” is actually a bird? This was kind of my point about labels, if you don’t think sense data is accurate, at most, what you have done is given a label to a certain sensory experience. Maybe “that bird” doesn’t really exist. Maybe “that bird” is actually a fish. How does the law of identity help you establish this/accurate sense data? If we can’t actually establish that “that bird” is actually a bird, then in what sense have we given that observation anything more than a name tag?

If the law of identity and the two axioms that follow from it hold, then we can get out of the skeptical paradox regarding the senses along Putnamian lines. The argument itself is ludicrously complicated, but, essentially, it relies on the mind-independence of truth conditions and propositional content. For it to work, though, A must equal A both inside and outside of the mind. Considering that we have no reason to stipulate that A = A is mind-dependent--such a notion is rather incoherent--, it makes sense that philosophers didn't really endorse such a position until the last few hundred years, when common sense flew out the window.

grodrigues said...

@ozero91:

"If you do not assume everything has a reason, does it follow that there are some events, entities etc that do not have a reason/explanation? If so, how do you determine that? Just questions, I actually dont know much about the PSR apart from its definition."

These are actually very good questions. Just do not expect to get any decent answers from your interlocutors.

Also pay no heed to the foolish talk about QM allegedly violating PSR, it is just the talk of ignorants. Even in the most naive formulation of the PSR (which is not the Scholastic one), QM, qua scientific theory, is silent about it. It is only ignorance, fallacious reasoning and bad philosophy masquerading under the authority of science doing the work.

More could be said; but just to tie in with your questions, the PSR (in whatever formulation) is a first principle and as such it admits of no demonstration only of dialectical justification. But suppose someone wants to deny PSR. If he denies it, then he is excused of providing evidence for his denial by the very nature of the denial. But then why should we accept the claim as true? Might as well go home as rational discourse is down the gutter. But if the denier does provide a reason, he is implicitly appealing to what he is denying -- after all, he feels himself justified in giving a reason why PSR does not obtain in reality. Employing reason against reason is self-refuting and should not be tolerated.

@cautiouslycurious:

"You can create any mathematics that you like, but its conclusions won’t be true unless its axioms are also empirically true for that application."

Mathematics is the study of *something*. Call it the mathematical universe (no implied Platonic adherence). Since it is a recognizable something, it is part of reality, maybe not the material reality we usually call "universe", but reality none the less. Its conclusions are true, ergo you do not have the faintest idea of what mathematics is.

"In this sense, it wouldn’t be an a priori truth since we need to verify its axioms, but it is not solely based on sense data; it is based on the definitions of the axioms and empirical observation."

Ok, let us do a simple experiment. Take a mathematical theorem, say Diaconescu's theorem: every topos satisfying the internal version of the axiom of choice is Boolean. Now enlighten me, where is the empirical evidence for it or any of its premises.

"I don’t see how denying the PSR would undercut science."

Scientific knowledge is knowledge through causes. No causes, no scientific knowledge.

cautiouslycurious said...

grodrigues,

“Mathematics is the study of *something*. Call it the mathematical universe (no implied Platonic adherence). Since it is a recognizable something, it is part of reality, maybe not the material reality we usually call "universe", but reality none the less. Its conclusions are true, ergo you do not have the faintest idea of what mathematics is.”

If I take plane geometry and apply those principles to the Earth, the conclusions I get are not going to match reality (i.e. not accurate) because the Earth is not a plane. Do you disagree? The axioms of the mathematics have to be empirically true for the application, otherwise we get inaccurate conclusions. This doesn’t have to be that complicated. You didn’t understand what I wrote, ergo you do not have the faintest idea of what reading comprehension is :).

“Scientific knowledge is knowledge through causes. No causes, no scientific knowledge.”

Denying the PSR doesn’t mean no causes, it means we don’t assume that everything has a cause, that we don’t assume causes before we find them.

B. Prokop said...

What does "PSR" stand for?

cautiouslycurious said...

Rank,

“We have learned, through the senses, that the mind builds models of the environment.”

This isn’t accurate. The models come before the sense data. They are guesses, hypotheses that are then tested by new sense data and then evaluated based on those merits. If the models are reliable, and they say that our senses are reliable, then that is the definition of reliability.

“Even if such a model determined that one of our senses was unreliable, the model must itself exist in order for its analysis to mean anything. But that the model exists is based on empirical observation--sense data. Hence, a model cannot tell us that our senses are unreliable unless our senses are reliable (i.e. unless science is accurate), and we are left in circularity.”

An example of a model that could determine our sense data to be inaccurate yet is accurate would a probabilistic model. If the best we can do is make predictions by chance, then it follows that our sense data is an unreliable tool for making predictions. This is pretty much the definition of being unreliable, so yes, an accurate model can reach the conclusion that our sense data is unreliable.

“Further, again, why do we hold that models exist? Science. But science is based on sense data. Therefore, we have no reason to believe that models exist unless sense data is accurate--the models themselves cannot tell us whether or not sense data is accurate unless sense data is accurate in positing the existence of such models. Again, it's just question-begging circularity.”

If you don’t think they exist, then don’t. Consider them to be ‘useful fictions’. Also, I don’t see how models come from sense data. Models can be created in the absence of accurate sense data (they just probably won’t be very useful).

cautiouslycurious said...

(cont.)

“It's an ontological statement that allows us to begin observation. If A is A, then it follows that A is something with an identity. So, then, what does it mean for A to be A? What makes it A rather than B? We already know that A is a certain kind of thing--now, we just have to find out what kind of thing it is. The law of identity, then, tells us that every "entity" has an "identity"--as Quine, who rejected it, said: "No entity without identity"--, which means that it may be known and that it has certain essential traits.“

Where is the understanding? Remember, this line of conversation began when you said that the axioms allow you to be well on your way to understanding A. I still don’t see where we understand anything about A and it appears that you don’t think so either, rather simply that it allows for understanding. I suppose my issue is with your unstated argument about how to get from the label to the actual understanding, but you don’t seem to want to open up that can of worms. If not, then I think this point is going to die out.

BenYachov said...

>What does "PSR" stand for?

Principle of Sufficient Reason.

Cheers brother Bob.

grodrigues said...

@B. Prokop:

"What does "PSR" stand for?"

Principle of sufficient reason (warning: it has several formulations, so sometimes care must be exercised).

@cautiouslycurious:

"If I take plane geometry and apply those principles to the Earth, the conclusions I get are not going to match reality (i.e. not accurate) because the Earth is not a plane. Do you disagree? The axioms of the mathematics have to be empirically true for the application, otherwise we get inaccurate conclusions."

Yes, you get wrong conclusions *about* the field of application, but I was not talking about the field of application, but mathematics itself. So maybe before complaining about the reading comprehension skills of others, maybe you should be a little more careful in the future?

"Denying the PSR doesn’t mean no causes, it means we don’t assume that everything has a cause, that we don’t assume causes before we find them."

Denying PSR means that (in one formulation) there are some contingent states of affairs that have *no* explanation at all for why they are the way they came to be. So first you have to tell me how do we recognize such states of affairs, and second you will have to tell me how declaring that they have no cause, or in the Aristotelian sense, a be*cause* as causes are modes of explanation, does not spell the end of science.

ozero91 said...

The way I see it, A=A allows us to begin making useful conclusions about an object of inquiry. So we don't simply approach A and say, oh we cannot possible study or understand it because it might be B. Though this idea seems hard to articulate, since I havent done much reading into axioms yet. Does anyone have a good analogy?

cautiouslycurious said...

grodrigues,

“Yes, you get wrong conclusions *about* the field of application, but I was not talking about the field of application, but mathematics itself. So maybe before complaining about the reading comprehension skills of others, maybe you should be a little more careful in the future?”

And I wasn’t talking about that, ergo you misunderstood what I was saying. It was more tongue in cheek than anything else, but I understood what you meant. I knew we were talking about two different issues, hence the reference to reading comprehension skills. I'm still at a loss as to what I should be more careful of? Perhaps I should add a caveat that my posts are intended for readers with a at least a GED (and just to make it clear, I'm holding up my condescension and sarcasm sign)?

“Denying PSR means that (in one formulation) there are some contingent states of affairs that have *no* explanation at all for why they are the way they came to be.”

No, it doesn’t. Not accepting that something is true is not the same as accepting that it is false.

rank sophist said...

The models come before the sense data.

But what's at issue is whether or not the models exist in the first place. How do you argue for them? Science--just like Hawking. Science has to be accurate if we are going to posit these "pre-existent" models. But science is based on the senses, whose accuracy cannot be demonstrated without an appeal to "models", which can only be shown to exist by the senses, which can only be shown to be accurate by models, which can only be shown to exist by the senses...

As you can see, it's a vicious circle. There's nothing of value to be found in "model-dependent realism".

Also, I don't see how models come from sense data.

It's because science is our evidence for their existence. If the models could be posited before science, without requiring scientific evidence for their existence, then it wouldn't be circular. But that's not what Hawking believes--it's more like Kant's philosophy. Yet, if Kant's philosophy is true, then a priori logic is valid and empiricism is false. Every path leads to one road, then: the falsehood of empiricism and its derivatives.

you don't seem to want to open that can of worms.

What you're asking is how we translate ontology into epistemology. Let me demonstrate.

1. If A = A, then there is something that it means for A to be A rather than B.
2. A = A.
3. Therefore, there is something that it means for A to be A rather than B.

1. If A is essentially different than B, then it has identifying traits that mark it off from B.
2. A is essentially different than B.
3. Therefore, it has identifying traits that mark it off from B.

1. If the law of identity is not mind-dependent, then the traits that separate A from B exist before we know them.
2. The law of identity is not mind-dependent.
3. Therefore, the traits that separate A from B exist before we know them.

1. If there is a certain "pre-existent structure" in A (the last syllogism), then A has an essence.
2. There is a pre-existent structure in A.
3. Therefore, A has an essence.

1. If A has an essence, then we know A by knowing its essence.
2. A has an essence.
3. Therefore, we know A by knowing it's essence.

1. If we know entities in the external world, then we know their essences.
2. We know entities in the external world. (See Putnam.)
3. Therefore, we know their essences.

1. If we know water, then water has an essence.
2. We know water.
3. Therefore, water has an essence.

1. If gold was not a metal with atomic number 79, then it would not be gold.
2. An essence is the trait that determines all other traits in an object.
3. Therefore, the essence of gold is to be a metal with atomic number 79.

rank sophist said...

Pardon me--the second-to-last syllogism should read "gold" rather than "water".

rank sophist said...

To expand on a few points above.

1. If the law of identity is not mind-dependent, then the traits that separate A from B exist before we know them.
2. The law of identity is not mind-dependent.
3. Therefore, the traits that separate A from B exist before we know them.

Is the law of identity really mind-independent? This is a big one. Kant would say no. But Kant's view, which is too complex to attack here, contains inherent inconsistencies that must ultimately bring its downfall. The later quasi-Kantians, like Jacques Derrida, are all crippled by various, often circular, pitfalls, even if they're different than Kant's own.

Hume would also say that the law of identity isn't mind-independent. But Hume's argument is based on a theory of knowledge that Wittgenstein proved was false. Further, Hume's views resulted in the problem of induction and other absurdities, which only grew in magnitude in the centuries after.

The exact details of all of these philosophies are far too complex to hash out here; but suffice it to say that none of these systems work. We may, then, conclude that the law of identity is mind-independent on the grounds that all mind-dependent versions of it are false.

1. If we know entities in the external world, then we know their essences.
2. We know entities in the external world. (See Putnam.)
3. Therefore, we know their essences.

This is another controversial one. However, as Putnam convincingly shows, semantic externalism ("meanings ain't just in the head") must be true. See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin_Earth_thought_experiment. Semantic externalism is not perfect on its own--it must be combined with "intentionality" and Aristotelian/Scholastic essentialism to be fully functional--, but it's a fairly decisive refutation of the idea that the mind determines all exterior meaning. Putnam's argument against brains-in-vats, which is predicated on externalism, also destroys the idea that the senses could be a total illusion.

John W. Loftus said...

A does not equal A. Never did.

rank sophist said...

Loftus,

I know you need desperately to drum up traffic for your rathole of a blog, but please do so elsewhere. It's been clear for a long time that your grasp of philosophy is next to non-existent. Although I have no doubt that your blog post on this subject would be entertainingly false, I will not give you the satisfaction of adding to your monthly hits.

Now, if you're brave enough to present an argument here, then that's another story.

ozero91 said...

Rank, when you say A=A are you saying A1=A1 (a thing is equal to itself) or are you saying A1=A2 (say, one electron is equal to another, distinct electron.) I looked at the link and it seems like the author (Bloom) is forwarding the claim that two distinct things, like two electrons, are not equivalent.

rank sophist said...

ozero,

A1 = A1. "Everything is something." That's the law of identity. A1 = A2 ("types", "kinds", "species") comes much later, after A1 = A1 has been affirmed.

BenYachov said...

I read that "argument" by Bloom on how A doesn't equal A. I cheapskate that I am stood for a full 20 minutes in Barnes and Noble reading it out of his latest book.

What a piece of shit sophistry! Not to mention a fallacy of the undistributed middle.

At best it's bait N' switch with the terminology.

(i.e One ship towing another savaging it for spare parts are not "equal".)

At worst it's a denial of First Principles which makes it hopelessly irrational.

As always if I deny God tomorrow his book is still crap.

cautiouslycurious said...

Rank,

“It's because science is our evidence for their existence. If the models could be posited before science, without requiring scientific evidence for their existence, then it wouldn't be circular.”

I think this is clouding the issue. Science, as in the scientific method, contains more than one part. It contains hypotheses (i.e. models), and then the test of those hypotheses (i.e. empirical observation). To say that science is the evidence of models isn’t really correct. Models are part of the definition of science and we don’t need empirical evidence for labels so that part evades the charge of circularity. To borrow from the map and territory analogy, labels are the map legends and they can be created in the absence of any investigation, but in order to know whether or not they actually apply to the territory, we have to investigate the territory. This is the ‘essence’ of empiricism, to learn about the territory, we have to actually investigate the territory. Also, these labels don’t ‘exist’ in any meaningful sense inside of the territory, only on the map. Basically, these parts that you are saying are circular don’t fall inside of empiricism because they are not considered (or at least I don’t consider them to be) knowledge.

“1. If gold was not a metal with atomic number 79, then it would not be gold.
2. An essence is the trait that determines all other traits in an object.
3. Therefore, the essence of gold is to be a metal with atomic number 79.”

I could have just as easily said that gold is defined to be an element with 79 protons , but it still leaves me the question of how do I know what I am looking at is gold? How do I count the number of protons without sense data?

cautiouslycurious said...

(cont.)

“However, as Putnam convincingly shows, semantic externalism ("meanings ain't just in the head") must be true. See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin_Earth_thought_experiment.”

Is the thought experiment the part where he convincingly shows it must be true? If so, consider me unconvinced. When I reached the part where it asked “when an earthling and his twin on Twin Earth say 'water' do they mean the same thing?”, I apparently got the answer incorrect. To me, if one twin brought a sample of H2O to the other Earth and vice versa, the inhabitants of each Earth would still consider the samples to be water even though they are ‘different’ because I don’t think they are referring to its chemical composition. Why does he suppose they are referring to the chemical composition of the substance when they are not even advanced enough to know about chemical compositions?

Also I might add that this assumption is inherent from the beginning: “The one difference between the two planets is that there is no water on Twin Earth.” Instead, it should be “The one difference between the two planets is that there is no H2O on Twin Earth.” This might prime someone to come to his conclusion because he has introduced a misleading statement that imbues the term with his own meaning. We have no idea what they mean when they say water. We would only know that they are referring to the chemical composition if we show them the sample with the different chemical composition with all other conditions the same and they say it is not water, but they could just as easily say that it is and considering that both samples are indistinguishable to them, I would suspect they would refer to them by the same label.

Also, if they are defining water by its chemical composition, it has the undesirable side-effects that they don’t know whether what they are referring to as water is actually water and that they would be referring to the same thing. If someone asked them to define water, they would have to give the same answer. For example, they would both say “I define water as H2O” and they would be referring to the same thing. However, if one said “I define water as H2O” and the other said “I define water as XYZ” it would violate the assumption that the twins are molecule by molecule identical.

Let’s consider another example. Same two Earths but replace the term water with the term blood and replace the chemical compositions with Type A and Type B. Do you think that the two twins are referring to two different things when they say the term blood? I hope not since we happen to live in a world where we can tell the difference and we still use the same term to refer to any of the different types. So I could have a bag of Type A blood and my twin could have a bag of Type B blood and we would still be referring to the same thing when we use the term blood. The twin thought experiment only works if you project your meaning of the term water onto the other world, which undermines the conclusion. I think that the blood example shows that you can come to an alternate conclusion simply by picking a word that is used in a different way.

rank sophist said...

I think this is clouding the issue. Science, as in the scientific method, contains more than one part. It contains hypotheses (i.e. models), and then the test of those hypotheses (i.e. empirical observation). To say that science is the evidence of models isn’t really correct.

Blame Hawking for that one. He's the guy who was incompetent enough to build his system on question-begging premises.

Models are part of the definition of science and we don’t need empirical evidence for labels so that part evades the charge of circularity. To borrow from the map and territory analogy, labels are the map legends and they can be created in the absence of any investigation, but in order to know whether or not they actually apply to the territory, we have to investigate the territory.

And this is exactly why empiricism is a bankrupt system. The map eats the territory, and all we're left with is map after map after map, with no territory in sight.

Tell me this. Our senses are the map. The "real world" is the territory. But how do we access this territory if our map is ripped into tiny pieces? Further, how does the "legend" remain if the map shredded? Because that's what happens when the senses are inaccurate, despite what you say. Hawking wrote that model-dependent realism has been proven by science. This, as shown above, is circular. The only way to salvage model-dependent realism from his foolishness is to say that models are true a priori, which is to say that they are categories of our minds that cannot ever be investigated, since they are the very possibility of investigation. Is this what you're saying? Because, if that's the case, then you've merely fallen into Kantianism, which means once again that empiricism is false.

You have two options, here. Either the models are prior to all investigation, which means that their existence is neither verifiable nor falsifiable nor subject to scientific inquiry, or they can be and have been discovered by scientific hypothesis and testing. With the first option, you forgo empiricism and admit that there are places into which science and the senses cannot tread; with the second, you're left in circularity. These are your only two options. Choose wisely.

Also, these labels don’t ‘exist’ in any meaningful sense inside of the territory, only on the map. Basically, these parts that you are saying are circular don’t fall inside of empiricism because they are not considered (or at least I don’t consider them to be) knowledge.

But this begs the question, because what's at issue is whether or not there is any territory. Given inaccurate senses, it seems impossible to say one way or the other. You can't just presuppose it.

rank sophist said...

I could have just as easily said that gold is defined to be an element with 79 protons , but it still leaves me the question of how do I know what I am looking at is gold? How do I count the number of protons without sense data?

Did you read my posts? I defended the thesis that we can have a posteriori sense data of the world, using Putnam's externalism. Further, you could not have "just as easily" defined it like that, because that would not be true. Atomic number 79 defines gold, because we know for a fact that all of gold's traits are born from that essential part.

To me, if one twin brought a sample of H2O to the other Earth and vice versa, the inhabitants of each Earth would still consider the samples to be water even though they are ‘different’ because I don’t think they are referring to its chemical composition.

This is irrelevant to the argument. Whether or not they realize what they mean, they must necessarily mean different things, because they are referring to different things. That's the entire idea of the thought experiment. When each of them says "water", the "waters" to which they are referring are totally different compounds, and so they literally cannot mean the same thing. Hence, causal history in some way determines meaning, which means that meaning is not "just in the map" but also "in the territory", prior to investigation.

Same two Earths but replace the term water with the term blood and replace the chemical compositions with Type A and Type B. Do you think that the two twins are referring to two different things when they say the term blood? I hope not since we happen to live in a world where we can tell the difference and we still use the same term to refer to any of the different types.

Blood remains the same substance even if its type changes. If every type of blood wasn't really a type of blood, then it would follow that some humans had blood, but others had something else that was not blood. This is ridiculous. Water, in Putnam's example, would have totally different chemical structures on each planet. One would be water (H2O); the other would be something (XYZ) that the "Twin Earth" people called water. So, would we mean the same thing when we referred to these things as "water"? Of course not--that's the point. They're totally different substances, regardless of what we think about them.

cautiouslycurious said...

“Further, you could not have "just as easily" defined it like that, because that would not be true. Atomic number 79 defines gold, because we know for a fact that all of gold's traits are born from that essential part.”

What if, overturning a very clumsy mistake; we discovered that gold actually has 78 protons? What consequences would this have? Would we say that because Atomic number 79 defines gold, that gold doesn’t exist? Would this mean that we will have to update our naming conventions concerning pawn shops and normal conversation? Does the substance we used to call gold vanish into thin air? No. That wouldn’t happen because we don’t define gold by its atomic number and gold is not defined by its atomic number (whatever that means). We observe a particular substance, give it a label, assign it a bunch of unknown variables and then try to discover those variables through empirical means. We might be wrong about those variables, but that doesn’t mean the thing we labeled doesn’t exist.

“When each of them says "water", the "waters" to which they are referring are totally different compounds, and so they literally cannot mean the same thing.”

Of course they can mean the same thing. Define water as any substance that is a liquid between 0 and 100 degrees Celsius and then H2O and XYZ are both water. They could consider XYZ and H2O to be water and be referring to the same thing: a substance that is liquid when between two given temperatures. As with blood, we don’t define it by its chemical composition, we define it by its capacity to carry necessary substances through an organism so it doesn’t matter what the chemical composition is so we can have many types of blood. Similarly, we can have many types of water. Let’s see if this helps, answer this question as if you are part of the thought experiment, “How do you define water?” If the answer is different for your twin, please answer for him as well.

“Blood remains the same substance even if its type changes. If every type of blood wasn't really a type of blood, then it would follow that some humans had blood, but others had something else that was not blood. This is ridiculous. Water, in Putnam's example, would have totally different chemical structures on each planet. One would be water (H2O); the other would be something (XYZ) that the "Twin Earth" people called water. So, would we mean the same thing when we referred to these things as "water"? Of course not--that's the point. They're totally different substances, regardless of what we think about them.”

I would. This is exactly how blood is typed, whether it gets a positive result on some test. The same could be done for water. Like I said before blood is defined by its ability to transport necessary substances through a body, it doesn’t matter what the chemical composition is. Everyone has blood even though they are different mixtures because we don’t define blood by its composition. Yes, Type A and Type B are types of blood, but it would be equally valid to say that Type H2O and Type XYZ are types of water.

cautiouslycurious said...

(cont.)

“Tell me this. Our senses are the map.”

No, I won’t tell you that because our senses aren’t the map. The model is the map and our senses test the model. Senses are no more the map than a test is a hypothesis and I hope you wouldn’t say.

“You have two options, here. Either the models are prior to all investigation, which means that their existence is neither verifiable nor falsifiable nor subject to scientific inquiry, or they can be and have been discovered by scientific hypothesis and testing. With the first option, you forgo empiricism and admit that there are places into which science and the senses cannot tread; with the second, you're left in circularity. These are your only two options. Choose wisely.”

Option 1, but there’s no dilemma here. Like I said before, models are guesses so we don’t have to have them verified at the point of creating the model and since they are not knowledge, there’s no need to forgo empiricism.

“Also, these labels don’t ‘exist’ in any meaningful sense inside of the territory, only on the map. Basically, these parts that you are saying are circular don’t fall inside of empiricism because they are not considered (or at least I don’t consider them to be) knowledge.

But this begs the question, because what's at issue is whether or not there is any territory. Given inaccurate senses, it seems impossible to say one way or the other. You can't just presuppose it.”

This is just a tad annoying. I was responding to a point totally unrelated to whether there is a territory. I was responding to your question of where do labels appear in the territory and the answer is that they don’t. Also, I wasn’t aware that the question was whether there is any territory; I thought the question we were talking about was the reliability of our senses. However, before we start to talk about the territory, how do you define it?

rank sophist said...

What if, overturning a very clumsy mistake; we discovered that gold actually has 78 protons? What consequences would this have? Would we say that because Atomic number 79 defines gold, that gold doesn’t exist?

It would follow that gold was not a metal with atomic number 79, because some other, more fundamental aspect was the source of all of the features of gold. Nothing more, nothing less. But we know inductively that this is not the case, because science shows that atomic number 79 really does determine gold's aspects. If future findings suggested otherwise, then all we would say is that gold is defined by something else: not that gold has no definition. That's a non sequitur.

Of course they can mean the same thing. Define water as any substance that is a liquid between 0 and 100 degrees Celsius and then H2O and XYZ are both water.

It has nothing to do with imposing labels. H2O and XYZ are not the same substance, regardless of our names for them. We could define them as whatever we wanted, but it would not change the fact that they are fundamentally different things.

Similarly, we can have many types of water.

Even if we had "many types of water", we would merely be calling different substances by the same name. Further, blood is not defined by its type. Blood type could be compared to the levels of hardness or softness in water: it is an additional but not fundamental aspect of the substance in question. So, we can have "multiple types of blood" in the sense that various types fall under the blanket "blood", and we can have "multiple types of H2O" in the sense that various levels of mineral content fall under the blanket "water". This does not solve the H2O-XYZ disparity.

Let’s see if this helps, answer this question as if you are part of the thought experiment, “How do you define water?” If the answer is different for your twin, please answer for him as well.

Since the thought experiment is predicated on the assumption that neither Oscar nor his twin knows the chemical structure of the substances in question, it would follow that both would answer by describing macroscopic features.

I would.

You couldn't. It's impossible. If you said that Twin Earth water was "water", in that it was the same as Earth water, then you would be stating a falsehood.

Like I said before blood is defined by its ability to transport necessary substances through a body, it doesn’t matter what the chemical composition is. Everyone has blood even though they are different mixtures because we don’t define blood by its composition.

If, without knowing about the existence of blood types, you said that "my blood is compositionally identical to yours"--if you were Type A and the other was Type B--, then you would be stating a falsehood. Both are blood, but they are not identical. If no one knew about blood types, it would still follow that the "propositional content" of your statement was mind-independently false. Likewise, if you called Twin Earth water "water", then you would mean something different than we do when we say "water", because we are referring to two different things. We would not be aware that we were referring to different things, but these differences would change our meaning anyway.

rank sophist said...


No, I won’t tell you that because our senses aren’t the map. The model is the map and our senses test the model. Senses are no more the map than a test is a hypothesis and I hope you wouldn’t say.

There is no territory. The senses don't sense any territory: they're completely untrustworthy, in this scenario. So, how do models escape from this problem? Let's find out.

Option 1, but there’s no dilemma here.

Then we are left in Kantianism, and it follows that we cannot really ever know the outside: we can only know our representations of the outside, which have been bent and distorted to fit our "models".

Like I said before, models are guesses so we don’t have to have them verified at the point of creating the model and since they are not knowledge, there’s no need to forgo empiricism.

Models can't be guesses if they're prior to science. Everything that we know about the outside world--all of science--is really just a set of models that we cannot change or understand, because they are prior to all science or observation. As a result, it follows that empiricism is false, because unchangeable models such as logic and reason become the very possibility of empiricism. In the end, then, we're stuck in transcendental idealism.

This is just a tad annoying. I was responding to a point totally unrelated to whether there is a territory. I was responding to your question of where do labels appear in the territory and the answer is that they don’t. Also, I wasn’t aware that the question was whether there is any territory; I thought the question we were talking about was the reliability of our senses. However, before we start to talk about the territory, how do you define it?

We are talking about the relationship between the map and the territory: the "senses and models" and the "exterior world". You were assuming that our labels could be confirmed in the "exterior world", but my position is that, with untrustworthy senses, it's impossible to say whether or not a territory (objective, mind-independent reality) even exists. With your affirmation of Kantianism, though, you agree with that assessment: there isn't anything knowable other than our a priori models, which determine and categorically limit all possible knowledge. The "territory" is then reduced to Kant's "noumena": an unknowable, unreachable, indescribable set of entities that must be utterly warped by our models or categories before we can understand them.

cautiouslycurious said...

Rank,

“It would follow that gold was not a metal with atomic number 79, because some other, more fundamental aspect was the source of all of the features of gold. Nothing more, nothing less.”

You just said that “If gold was not a metal with atomic number 79, then it would not be gold.” Now you’re saying that if gold is not a metal with atomic number 79, it would still be gold. I don’t know how to interpret these statements coherently.


“It has nothing to do with imposing labels. H2O and XYZ are not the same substance, regardless of our names for them. We could define them as whatever we wanted, but it would not change the fact that they are fundamentally different things. “

They are not the same chemical composition (i.e. substance), but when the twins say the term water, they are both referring to and mean the same thing. The conclusion of the thought experiment depends on the fact that the terms refer to different things, but they don’t. Here’s what I see as happening. Putnam say that the term water from H2O Earth refers to H2O and the term water from XYZ Earth refers to XYZ. I’m saying that water from H2O Earth refers to H2O U XYZ and that water from XYZ Earth refers to H2O U XYZ. Yes, they are chemically different, but it doesn’t matter because, despite what Putnam says, the inhabitants mean the same thing when they say water, regardless of the compositional difference.

From the wiki: “Yet, at least according to Putnam, when Oscar says water, the term refers to H2O, whereas when Twin Oscar says 'water' it refers to XYZ.” To dispute Putnam’s conclusion, I am simply disputing how the term is being used in regards to referencing, not whether XYZ and H2O are compositionally the same. If we are talking about the same thought experiment, this has everything to do with imposing labels. We can talk about the chemical composition of the objects, but that would be outside the scope of the thought experiment so you would need to present something else in order to do so.

“Since the thought experiment is predicated on the assumption that neither Oscar nor his twin knows the chemical structure of the substances in question, it would follow that both would answer by describing macroscopic features.”

Right, this is precisely my point. They would define water not by its chemical composition so when they say the term water, they both refer to and mean the same thing when they use the term water. If they say that water is a liquid between 0 and 100 degrees Celsius, then they are referring to both H2O and XYZ as water and they would consider both samples to be water. It appears like you are taking the definition of water being H2O and projecting that definition onto the inhabitants by saying that they wouldn’t say that XYZ is water, that it’s something different. But it’s not; XYZ is also being referred to by H2O inhabitants as water.

cautiouslycurious said...

(cont.)

“You couldn't. It's impossible. If you said that Twin Earth water was "water", in that it was the same as Earth water, then you would be stating a falsehood.”

They are both water: a liquid substance when between 0 and 100 degrees Celsius (or other superficial feature by the inhabitants). Each referent is not identical, but the label will refer to each referent equally. If you change the label, then you might be able to say it’s impossible to say that they’re the same. I never said that they are identical; I simply said that I would apply the term to both substances and that seems to be a perfectly valid statement to make.

“If, without knowing about the existence of blood types, you said that "my blood is compositionally identical to yours"--if you were Type A and the other was Type B--, then you would be stating a falsehood. Both are blood, but they are not identical. If no one knew about blood types, it would still follow that the "propositional content" of your statement was mind-independently false. Likewise, if you called Twin Earth water "water", then you would mean something different than we do when we say "water", because we are referring to two different things. We would not be aware that we were referring to different things, but these differences would change our meaning anyway.”

Here, we are no longer talking about the label blood, but a certain variable that we have assigned to the blood label. However, in the thought experiment, the term water is treated like a label, not a variable. If we treat the term water like a label, as the inhabitants do, then your point is not analogous. It is only analogous if it is treated like a variable. However, when it is treated like a variable, then the thought experiment fails to prove its point.

cautiouslycurious said...

(cont.)

“The senses don't sense any territory: they're completely untrustworthy, in this scenario.”

What do you mean by this?

“Then we are left in Kantianism, and it follows that we cannot really ever know the outside: we can only know our representations of the outside, which have been bent and distorted to fit our "models". “

If that is Kantianism, then I’ll add that to the list of things I disagree with Kant about.

“Models can't be guesses if they're prior to science. Everything that we know about the outside world--all of science--is really just a set of models that we cannot change or understand, because they are prior to all science or observation. As a result, it follows that empiricism is false, because unchangeable models such as logic and reason become the very possibility of empiricism. In the end, then, we're stuck in transcendental idealism.”

Models aren’t prior to science, they are a part of science. The models themselves do not change (since they are merely definitions, they don’t change because I said so, good ol’ semantics), but whether we accept them or not changes depending on empirical observation. Also, if you don’t understand a model, then you couldn’t use it as a model. For example, Newtonian mechanics is one such model. It hasn’t changed since it was first created. However, the model that we consider to be the best can change depending on new observations, but those observations don’t change the model. I’m not sure why you think this is contrary to empiricism; I find your reason to be grammatically confusing.

rank sophist said...

You just said that “If gold was not a metal with atomic number 79, then it would not be gold.” Now you’re saying that if gold is not a metal with atomic number 79, it would still be gold. I don’t know how to interpret these statements coherently.

It's not that complicated. A is A: gold is gold. As above, A is A outside of the mind. Therefore, gold is gold outside of the mind. What we're left asking is what makes gold gold. As of right now, our best knowledge tells us that "being a metal with atomic number 79" is what makes gold the kind of thing that it is. If it no longer had atomic number 79, it would not have the various attributes that it did.

If we found out that something more thoroughly defined gold than atomic number 79, then it would still follow that gold = gold, because the law of identity would still be true. From what we know, X is gold if and only if it is "a metal with atomic number 79". If, somehow, we discover something more fundamental, it would follow that that was the essence of gold--not that gold had no essence.

They are not the same chemical composition (i.e. substance), but when the twins say the term water, they are both referring to and mean the same thing.

You assert this but cannot back it up. Present an argument.

To dispute Putnam’s conclusion, I am simply disputing how the term is being used in regards to referencing, not whether XYZ and H2O are compositionally the same. If we are talking about the same thought experiment, this has everything to do with imposing labels. We can talk about the chemical composition of the objects, but that would be outside the scope of the thought experiment so you would need to present something else in order to do so.

You appear to have missed the point of the thought experiment. Here it is, simplified: Earth-Oscar has only encountered Earth-water, whose composition he does not know. When he says "water", he must necessarily be referring to Earth-water, because he could not possibly be referring to Twin Earth-water--the difference is in a composition that he does not know. Ditto for Twin Earth-Oscar. But they must be referring to different things, because Earth-water and Twin Earth-water are different even if Earth-Oscar and Twin Earth-Oscar don't realize it. Hence, meaning is mind-independent.

rank sophist said...

They would define water not by its chemical composition so when they say the term water, they both refer to and mean the same thing when they use the term water. If they say that water is a liquid between 0 and 100 degrees Celsius, then they are referring to both H2O and XYZ as water and they would consider both samples to be water.

It is not about the content of positive labels, but about mind-independent semantics. Merely asserting that a similarity in labels accounts for a similarity in meaning just begs the question against Putnam's argument, which is that labels are determined by the environment, and not vice versa.

Each referent is not identical, but the label will refer to each referent equally.

Begs the question. Whether or not labels determine meaning is what's being debated.

What do you mean by this?

1. My senses tell me that there is a "territory".
2. My senses are inaccurate.
3. Therefore, the existence of a "territory" is uncertain.

Models aren’t prior to science, they are a part of science.

Then you've merely entered circularity, and the argument is over.

If models are part of science, then their existence must be provable or falsifiable by science. But it can't be, because that's circular. As a result, we have no reason to posit the existence of these "models", since their existence cannot be tested without begging the question. And, because there is nothing outside of the senses and science on your view, we have no further logical recourse for positing their existence. Model-dependent realism: dead again.

Also, if you don’t understand a model, then you couldn’t use it as a model. For example, Newtonian mechanics is one such model. It hasn’t changed since it was first created. However, the model that we consider to be the best can change depending on new observations, but those observations don’t change the model.

There are no models. Why? Because we cannot say that they exist without going beyond sense data and/or begging the question. You can assert their existence until the end of the world, but, unless you have some kind of justification, no one has a reason to listen to you.

B. Prokop said...

This entire discussion reminds me of that wonderful final scene in the movie Dark Star, in which the captain of the spaceship argues with an artificially intelligent nuclear bomb that the orders it received to go off (inside the ship) shouldn't be followed because the bomb cannot prove that it receives valid data through its sensory inputs.

I won't tell you how the argument turns out. You really need to watch the movie!

cautiouslycurious said...

“It's not that complicated. A is A: gold is gold. As above, A is A outside of the mind. Therefore, gold is gold outside of the mind. What we're left asking is what makes gold gold. As of right now, our best knowledge tells us that "being a metal with atomic number 79" is what makes gold the kind of thing that it is. If it no longer had atomic number 79, it would not have the various attributes that it did.

If we found out that something more thoroughly defined gold than atomic number 79, then it would still follow that gold = gold, because the law of identity would still be true. From what we know, X is gold if and only if it is "a metal with atomic number 79". If, somehow, we discover something more fundamental, it would follow that that was the essence of gold--not that gold had no essence.”

So it’s a label with a bunch of variables attached to it. You could have just said so and left out all the flowery language. Also, this undermines your stance that we know anything about gold without sense data. Like I asked before, how do we know that the number of protons gold has is 79 without relying on sense data to count them? Without these findings from sense data, gold is no more descriptive than an empty label. Also, could you please demonstrate how this label exists outside the mind?

“You appear to have missed the point of the thought experiment. Here it is, simplified: Earth-Oscar has only encountered Earth-water, whose composition he does not know. When he says "water", he must necessarily be referring to Earth-water, because he could not possibly be referring to Twin Earth-water--the difference is in a composition that he does not know.”

I understand the point of the thought experiment (you’ve conveniently missed the part where I described what Putnam is saying and my objection to it). It doesn’t follow necessarily. Like I said, they could be using a definition which refers to both substances from both planets, similar to how we use the term blood. You have to argue for your conclusion, not just assert it.

“It is not about the content of positive labels, but about mind-independent semantics. Merely asserting that a similarity in labels accounts for a similarity in meaning just begs the question against Putnam's argument, which is that labels are determined by the environment, and not vice versa.”

I didn’t say that because they are using the same label that they are referring to the same thing. I said that because they are defining the substance by its macroscopic features (to which you agree as well) that they would be referring things that fit that definition as the same like we do with the term blood.

“1. My senses tell me that there is a "territory".
2. My senses are inaccurate.
3. Therefore, the existence of a "territory" is uncertain.”

Right, but what do you mean by “territory” and inaccurate senses? For example, if we are simply a computer simulation (for ease, Matrix style); do you consider our senses to be inaccurate for that hypothetical? Or would you say that we simply do not have access to the whole of reality and can just model a subset of that reality? If we are in the Matrix, then we can still model the flow of bits and bytes and how they manifest to our senses so we would still be able to learn and interact with some sort of reality with “inaccurate” senses so I don’t know what you would mean by inaccurate senses. If “territory” means something more removed than the Matrix, then you’ll have to explain what you mean more clearly.

“If models are part of science, then their existence must be provable or falsifiable by science.”

No, they don’t. I simply don’t understand how you are coming to that conclusion. I already said that models don’t exist on the map so asking how I justify them existing on the map is somewhat ingenuous.

rank sophist said...

So it’s a label with a bunch of variables attached to it. You could have just said so and left out all the flowery language.

Whether it's a label or a metaphysical fact is what we're debating. You've only begged the question again.

Also, this undermines your stance that we know anything about gold without sense data.

Never held that view. What are you talking about? As above, I believe that the senses are grounded in logic, and that we can use logic to prove that the senses are not illusory.

Also, could you please demonstrate how this label exists outside the mind?

Already did, above. Proof by contradiction: all systems that posit it inside of the mind are incoherent, from Hume to Kant to Quine.

Like I said, they could be using a definition which refers to both substances from both planets, similar to how we use the term blood.

You've begged the question again. Think about this. If I defined a human as "a ball of wax that can jump", and we all agreed that this was true, then would my application of this label to humans be true, false or indeterminate? If it's true, then it follows that science is relative. If it's false, then there are "labels" that are true or false outside of the mind. If it's indeterminate, then you've entered skepticism. Make up your mind.

By the way, if it's false, then it follows that Earth-Oscar and Twin Earth-Oscar are referring to different things. Their knowledge of water is based entirely on macroscopic features, which, in this thought experiment, would be the same. Even if they defined "water" as you say, the question is whether or not this is a viable theory of meaning.

I didn’t say that because they are using the same label that they are referring to the same thing. I said that because they are defining the substance by its macroscopic features (to which you agree as well) that they would be referring things that fit that definition as the same like we do with the term blood.

But the substances to which they are referring are different, regardless of how they define those substances. This means that the meaning of their statements to some extent is independent of intention.

If “territory” means something more removed than the Matrix, then you’ll have to explain what you mean more clearly.

Specifically, I'm thinking of Descartes's "evil demon", who fed Descartes wholly false sense information that could not even be trusted to be self-referentially coherent.

No, they don’t. I simply don’t understand how you are coming to that conclusion. I already said that models don’t exist on the map so asking how I justify them existing on the map is somewhat ingenuous.

Then how do we posit the existence of the models? There are only two options.

1. We use science to verify or falsify their existence.
2. We use logic to posit their existence.

(1) is impossible, as you agree. (2) means that empiricism is false, and that logic is prior to sense data. Further, if you hold that logic is a "model", then you've entered circular territory again. You cannot use a model to prove the existence of models.

How, then, do you justify your model-dependent realism? Seems like there's no way other than bare assertion, which is a fallacy.

cautiouslycurious said...

Rank,

“You've only begged the question again.”

You don’t know what this means, or at a minimum, know when to say it. I merely restated your position back at you. If I was begging the question, then you were the one that is guilty for using the fallacy.

“Never held that view. What are you talking about? As above, I believe that the senses are grounded in logic, and that we can use logic to prove that the senses are not illusory.”

Sorry, I don’t recall anything about showing that the senses are in anyway accurate, especially by using logic alone.

“You've begged the question again. Think about this. If I defined a human as "a ball of wax that can jump", and we all agreed that this was true, then would my application of this label to humans be true, false or indeterminate? If it's true, then it follows that science is relative. If it's false, then there are "labels" that are true or false outside of the mind. If it's indeterminate, then you've entered skepticism. Make up your mind.”

It would be true by definition. You’ve taken a label, given it a definition and then asked when applied to the label whether its definition matches its definition. The answer is yes. However, your implication that this means that science is relative is a non-sequitor. Also, your repeated misuse of the term begging the question is getting old already. Using it when I repeat a fact that we’ve agreed on, define a word, or when I restate your position back to you is just ridiculous.

“Their knowledge of water is based entirely on macroscopic features, which, in this thought experiment, would be the same. Even if they defined "water" as you say, the question is whether or not this is a viable theory of meaning.”

“Viable theory of meaning” is throwing up a red flag for me. When I talk to someone about morality, whenever “viable theory of morality” comes up, I suddenly become a non-realist because they include elements that I don’t think exist. The most I can say is that what I have put forward is consistent and accurately describes how we would refer to objects in ways to convey information. However, I can’t say that you would think it to be a viable theory of meaning without knowing your specifications for that phrase. If you don’t think this is a valid theory of meaning, then this is going to be a case like Zeno’s paradox where Zeno says I can’t fire the arrow and I say, “just watch me.”

“But the substances to which they are referring are different, regardless of how they define those substances. This means that the meaning of their statements to some extent is independent of intention. “

Apparently my objection hasn’t sunk in yet. Demonstrate that they are referring to two different things, don’t just beg the question. In case I need to be clearer, I disagree on this point; please provide some sort of justification for it.

“Specifically, I'm thinking of Descartes's "evil demon", who fed Descartes wholly false sense information that could not even be trusted to be self-referentially coherent.”

Is this even coherent? I can’t make sense of it. How can something that is not self-referentially coherent be translated into sense data? Have any examples?

“Then how do we posit the existence of the models?”

Like I said, we don’t. In order to see two objects, we don’t need to postulate the abstract number two floating in some mathmativerse. The implications of what we mean are transparent through simulated sense data.

rank sophist said...

You don’t know what this means, or at a minimum, know when to say it. I merely restated your position back at you. If I was begging the question, then you were the one that is guilty for using the fallacy.

The begged question in question was the statement about "labels". A name is a name, and it's subject to change; this I admit. However, the semantic content--whether or not our names are merely "labels with variables attached"--is not open to change. Our names for things, on my view, are connected to mind-independent propositional content that cannot be changed by a mere change of language. You deny this. However, this is what's at issue, and so, by describing it as a "label with variables attached", you most certainly beg the question.

Sorry, I don’t recall anything about showing that the senses are in anyway accurate, especially by using logic alone.

I was invoking Putnam's brain in a vat argument. It's an argument from semantics that shows, through logic alone, that our senses cannot be an illusion. It is far too complicated to replicate here--trust me.

It would be true by definition.

Begs the question again. Whether or not meanings work like this is what's at issue. You have not presented an argument to support this view--in fact, you could not, because it presupposes so many other variables.

Also, your repeated misuse of the term begging the question is getting old already.

What's getting old is your inability to argue for points before asserting their truth.

When I talk to someone about morality, whenever “viable theory of morality” comes up, I suddenly become a non-realist because they include elements that I don’t think exist. The most I can say is that what I have put forward is consistent and accurately describes how we would refer to objects in ways to convey information.

Well, that's a shame. Because you have not presented an argument against them other than one from personal incredulity.

However, I can’t say that you would think it to be a viable theory of meaning without knowing your specifications for that phrase. If you don’t think this is a valid theory of meaning, then this is going to be a case like Zeno’s paradox where Zeno says I can’t fire the arrow and I say, “just watch me.”

So, in essence, you have given up all pretense of rational justification for your system.

rank sophist said...

Apparently my objection hasn’t sunk in yet. Demonstrate that they are referring to two different things, don’t just beg the question. In case I need to be clearer, I disagree on this point; please provide some sort of justification for it.

How could they not be referring to different things? The only conceivable alternative is to assert that meaning is wholly invented by us. But the onus is on you to show that. The Twin Earth argument is an argument against the very theories of meaning that you espouse, and you have failed to explain how your system stands up under Putnam's scrutiny. I've shown how your arguments that Putnam's system is inconsistent fail, but you have not defended the theory that must be false if Putnam's is true. It seems, then, that Putnam wins by default.

I'm not begging any question, here. I have demonstrated that it would be impossible for the Oscar twins to refer to the same thing, because those two things are different in reality. Your response has been to assume that what we mean is determined entirely by intention. But how is that the case when there's clear evidence to the contrary? You can't just assume that truth is definitional: you have to argue for it. Thus far, you have not.

Is this even coherent? I can’t make sense of it. How can something that is not self-referentially coherent be translated into sense data? Have any examples?

It doesn't matter what you assume--pretend someone's cast a spell over you, or that you're on a perpetual LSD high. You can't trust sense information in any way, shape or form. That's the only point, here.

Like I said, we don’t. In order to see two objects, we don’t need to postulate the abstract number two floating in some mathmativerse. The implications of what we mean are transparent through simulated sense data.

In other words, you are reduced to argument by assertion.

cautiouslycurious said...

Rank,

“Our names for things, on my view, are connected to mind-independent propositional content that cannot be changed by a mere change of language. You deny this.”

This is false; I never claimed that our labels change the content of mind-independent content.

“However, this is what's at issue, and so, by describing it as a "label with variables attached", you most certainly beg the question.”

It is what I mean when I use the term. I am no more begging the question than whenever someone uses a word. If this is you’re criteria for begging the question, then we would be guilty of it tens of thousands times over. By the way, Putnam begged the question 376 times in his thought experiment. Do you think its invalid now?

“Begs the question again. Whether or not meanings work like this is what's at issue.”

This is another example of the phrase being misused. You asked me a question that begged the question so I responded that it would be true by definition. That is what it means to beg the question so if you want a better answer, please don’t beg the question.

“Well, that's a shame. Because you have not presented an argument against them other than one from personal incredulity.”

It’s a shame that I reject a claim because it hasn’t met its burden of proof? Sorry, but that’s reasoning 101.

“So, in essence, you have given up all pretense of rational justification for your system.”

No, I’ve given up all hope of convincing you since you’re uninterested in what I have to say. The point of mentioning the paradox is that someone is saying that something is possible even when it has been shown to be otherwise. They were unable to update their assumptions and remained fixed into their incorrect position. You’re saying I can’t do something when I have already done so, hence Zeno’s paradox.

cautiouslycurious said...

(cont.)

“How could they not be referring to different things?”

I’ve already explained this many times over. At this point I would simply be repeating myself. If you want an answer I recommend that you refer back to what they are referring to/mean when they use the terms (Hint: we both agreed and they were the same).

“The only conceivable alternative is to assert that meaning is wholly invented by us. But the onus is on you to show that. The Twin Earth argument is an argument against the very theories of meaning that you espouse, and you have failed to explain how your system stands up under Putnam's scrutiny.”

I don’t see much force behind his argument, other than mere assertion that they are referring to different things. If it is on my onus to show that Putnam’s argument fails, then we’ve just gotten to the point where you have given up trying to justify your system and have begun trying to shift the burden of proof onto me.

“I'm not begging any question, here. I have demonstrated that it would be impossible for the Oscar twins to refer to the same thing, because those two things are different in reality.”

But as we agreed earlier, they are not only referring to the stuff on their planet when they use the term “water.” That is the entire point. When you say that they do, you are begging the question.

“It doesn't matter what you assume--pretend someone's cast a spell over you, or that you're on a perpetual LSD high. You can't trust sense information in any way, shape or form. That's the only point, here.”

That is still self-referentially coherent and you still have access to the territory. If this is what you mean by inaccurate senses, then the conclusion of your syllogism is simply a non-sequitor.

“In other words, you are reduced to argument by assertion.”

If by arguing by assertion you mean pointing out a straw man, yes. Seriously, what is it with you pointing out logical fallacies where none exist? I wasn’t even using that point for my argument so I have trouble taking you seriously. It’s gotten to the point where it looks like you’re re-enacting the scene from Supper Troopers, but instead of saying “Meow” you’re using logical fallacies, although it’s more tragic than funny.

rank sophist said...

It is what I mean when I use the term. I am no more begging the question than whenever someone uses a word. If this is you’re criteria for begging the question, then we would be guilty of it tens of thousands times over. By the way, Putnam begged the question 376 times in his thought experiment. Do you think its invalid now?

I don't care what you mean by it. You were trying to cash out my definition in a way favorable to your argument, and I called you on it. Now just drop it.

This is another example of the phrase being misused. You asked me a question that begged the question so I responded that it would be true by definition. That is what it means to beg the question so if you want a better answer, please don’t beg the question.

You don't seem to understand what begging the question means. It means assuming what is under debate. It's a form of circular logic. If I engaged in any fallacy--which I did not--, it would have been the false dichotomy (or trichotomy, in this case).

It’s a shame that I reject a claim because it hasn’t met its burden of proof? Sorry, but that’s reasoning 101.

Hey, look. Another argument from personal incredulity. Why haven't they met their burden of proof? You have yet to explain this.

No, I’ve given up all hope of convincing you since you’re uninterested in what I have to say. The point of mentioning the paradox is that someone is saying that something is possible even when it has been shown to be otherwise. They were unable to update their assumptions and remained fixed into their incorrect position. You’re saying I can’t do something when I have already done so, hence Zeno’s paradox.

I think you've given up hope because you've lost this debate. And, no; you have not done anything remotely similar to Zeno's paradox. What you're suggesting is sloppy thinking, which can of course be done. But that isn't a justification. "X can do Y" does not entail "X should do Y", nor does it entail "X is justified in doing Y".

I’ve already explained this many times over. At this point I would simply be repeating myself. If you want an answer I recommend that you refer back to what they are referring to/mean when they use the terms (Hint: we both agreed and they were the same).

We never agreed that they were the same. You never explained why they were the same, outside of your endless question-begging assertions. The argument is about whether "X intends Y" is equal to "X means Y", and you have not explained how or why this can be true.

I don’t see much force behind his argument, other than mere assertion that they are referring to different things. If it is on my onus to show that Putnam’s argument fails, then we’ve just gotten to the point where you have given up trying to justify your system and have begun trying to shift the burden of proof onto me.

Actually, we've gotten to the point where you have utterly given up, because you've lost. As above, you have not provided a reason to explain how "X intends Y" equals "X means Y", and Putnam has argued in detail that the two are not necessarily connected. You have failed to rebut him, other than by asserting that "X intends Y" really does equal "X means Y", which is not an argument but a fallacy.

rank sophist said...

But as we agreed earlier, they are not only referring to the stuff on their planet when they use the term “water.” That is the entire point. When you say that they do, you are begging the question.

This relies on your claim that changing a definition changes meaning. But you have not argued for that position; you've merely asserted it.

That is still self-referentially coherent and you still have access to the territory. If this is what you mean by inaccurate senses, then the conclusion of your syllogism is simply a non-sequitor.

If the territory is a total illusion, and if there are no laws of logic or regularity imposed on this illusory territory, then my syllogism is not false. You cannot show otherwise with empiricism.

Seriously, what is it with you pointing out logical fallacies where none exist? I wasn’t even using that point for my argument so I have trouble taking you seriously. It’s gotten to the point where it looks like you’re re-enacting the scene from Supper Troopers, but instead of saying “Meow” you’re using logical fallacies, although it’s more tragic than funny.

You said earlier that you were not into formal philosophy. It shows. Time and time again you have casually offered up fallacious arguments, perhaps thinking that the off-hand debates you've had with friends are logically sound. But, if this is their level of rigor, then it is clear that they are not.

cautiouslycurious said...

Rank,

“Hey, look. Another argument from personal incredulity. Why haven't they met their burden of proof? You have yet to explain this.”

I shouldn’t have to explain it. I used it as an analogy, not as an argument. I could’ve used an example from evolution, but that doesn’t mean that I would be obligated to give you a biology lecture along with it. By the way, they did not meet their burden of proof because they didn’t offer any evidence, it was assumed to be agreed upon and then they equivocated with the word. It would be like me and you going to a magic show and agreeing that magic exists and then you claiming that I couldn’t be a naturalist because I believe in the supernatural (i.e. real magic). Also, I fail to see how rejecting this line of attack is an argument from personal incredulity.

“We never agreed that they were the same. You never explained why they were the same, outside of your endless question-begging assertions.”

::Face palming:: I asked you to answer for them as to what they mean when they say water. They answer with the same response. They, as in both of them, mean (Insert Macroscopic Feature Here). Because it is stipulated by the thought experiment that the substances are empirically identical, (Insert Macroscopic Feature Here) would apply to the substances of both worlds, as in, both H2O and XYZ. I never had to explain why they were the same, since it’s stipulated in the thought experiment that they are both water as defined by the inhabitants. I didn’t have to assert it, Putnam asserted it.

“As above, you have not provided a reason to explain how "X intends Y" equals "X means Y", and Putnam has argued in detail that the two are not necessarily connected. You have failed to rebut him, other than by asserting that "X intends Y" really does equal "X means Y", which is not an argument but a fallacy.”

Are you saying here that when Human H2O says that he means (Insert Macroscopic Feature Here), he actually intends to mean (Insert Chemical Composition Here)? How can he intend on referring to the chemical composition when he doesn’t know anything about chemistry to begin with? And you have basically said that he means to mean something other than what he said he means, how is this even occurring in a conversation about meaning? If you had your way, we wouldn’t be able to have any conversation because any idea you want to convey could be sabotaged by anyone who thinks you intended to say something different. Again, go back to the thought experiment, just ask them what they intend to mean and then that would answer the question. However, since they don’t know anything about chemistry and by the fact that they have to answer the same exact way, their answer won’t validate your hypothesis.

cautiouslycurious said...

Rank,

“Hey, look. Another argument from personal incredulity. Why haven't they met their burden of proof? You have yet to explain this.”

I shouldn’t have to explain it. I used it as an analogy, not as an argument. I could’ve used an example from evolution, but that doesn’t mean that I would be obligated to give you a biology lecture along with it. By the way, they did not meet their burden of proof because they didn’t offer any evidence, it was assumed to be agreed upon and then they equivocated with the word. It would be like me and you going to a magic show and agreeing that magic exists and then you claiming that I couldn’t be a naturalist because I believe in the supernatural (i.e. real magic). Also, I fail to see how rejecting this line of attack is an argument from personal incredulity.

“We never agreed that they were the same. You never explained why they were the same, outside of your endless question-begging assertions.”

::Face palming:: I asked you to answer for them as to what they mean when they say water. They answer with the same response. They, as in both of them, mean (Insert Macroscopic Feature Here). Because it is stipulated by the thought experiment that the substances are empirically identical, (Insert Macroscopic Feature Here) would apply to the substances of both worlds, as in, both H2O and XYZ. I never had to explain why they were the same, since it’s stipulated in the thought experiment that they are both water as defined by the inhabitants. I didn’t have to assert it, Putnam asserted it.

“As above, you have not provided a reason to explain how "X intends Y" equals "X means Y", and Putnam has argued in detail that the two are not necessarily connected. You have failed to rebut him, other than by asserting that "X intends Y" really does equal "X means Y", which is not an argument but a fallacy.”

Are you saying here that when Human H2O says that he means (Insert Macroscopic Feature Here), he actually intends to mean (Insert Chemical Composition Here)? How can he intend on referring to the chemical composition when he doesn’t know anything about chemistry to begin with? And you have basically said that he means to mean something other than what he said he means, how is this even occurring in a conversation about meaning? If you had your way, we wouldn’t be able to have any conversation because any idea you want to convey could be sabotaged by anyone who thinks you intended to say something different. Again, go back to the thought experiment, just ask them what they intend to mean and then that would answer the question. However, since they don’t know anything about chemistry and by the fact that they have to answer the same exact way, their answer won’t validate your hypothesis.

cautiouslycurious said...

(cont.)

“This relies on your claim that changing a definition changes meaning. But you have not argued for that position; you've merely asserted it.”

If this isn’t obvious to you, I give up. If I define X as “A plane figure with three straight sides and three angles” and then change that definition to “A plane figure with four equal straight sides and four right angles” and you don’t think that changes the meaning of X, then I give up. If you can’t tell the difference between a triangle and a square, I give up. If you need me to hold your hand through something as simple as this, then I can’t bring you up to speed over the internet. The other way to explain it would be through programming, but that would simply be a waste of time.


“If the territory is a total illusion, and if there are no laws of logic or regularity imposed on this illusory territory, then my syllogism is not false. You cannot show otherwise with empiricism.”

I asked whether this was coherent and asked for an example where it is not even self-referentially coherent. The examples you gave would still follow the laws of logic and the individual would still have access to and be able to model the inputs. You can call it illusory as much as you want, but it is still a territory that can be modeled and understood.


“You said earlier that you were not into formal philosophy. It shows. Time and time again you have casually offered up fallacious arguments, perhaps thinking that the off-hand debates you've had with friends are logically sound. But, if this is their level of rigor, then it is clear that they are not.”

It’s funny how people around here criticize other’s credentials so easily and how incorrect it has been in this thread. Before I was told that I didn’t have the faintest idea of what mathematics is, yet that is what I majored in. Now it’s being insinuated that the discussions I have concerning philosophy are with laymen, yet they tend to be with those with philosophy degrees. I said that I am not a big fan of philosophers and ‘sophisticated’ philosophy (statements that seem profound simply by virtue of being obscured through language, Dennett calls these deepities); I am not necessarily against all philosophy. I am half expected to be charged with another logical fallacy here, perhaps mere assertion for the degree in math?

rank sophist said...

I shouldn’t have to explain it. I used it as an analogy, not as an argument. I could’ve used an example from evolution, but that doesn’t mean that I would be obligated to give you a biology lecture along with it. By the way, they did not meet their burden of proof because they didn’t offer any evidence, it was assumed to be agreed upon and then they equivocated with the word. It would be like me and you going to a magic show and agreeing that magic exists and then you claiming that I couldn’t be a naturalist because I believe in the supernatural (i.e. real magic). Also, I fail to see how rejecting this line of attack is an argument from personal incredulity.

It should be obvious by now. It's because you haven't actually argued for anything on this front. "That can't be true!" is all you've had. And, from the above, it's still the only argument you're using.

I asked you to answer for them as to what they mean when they say water. They answer with the same response. They, as in both of them, mean (Insert Macroscopic Feature Here). Because it is stipulated by the thought experiment that the substances are empirically identical, (Insert Macroscopic Feature Here) would apply to the substances of both worlds, as in, both H2O and XYZ. I never had to explain why they were the same, since it’s stipulated in the thought experiment that they are both water as defined by the inhabitants. I didn’t have to assert it, Putnam asserted it.

But the argument is that, even if the macroscopic features are the same, that doesn't entail that we mean the same things by referring to them. These macroscopic features are clearly not the same things, since it is impossible for different things to be identical. Unless, of course, you are going to argue against this trivial truth.

Are you saying here that when Human H2O says that he means (Insert Macroscopic Feature Here), he actually intends to mean (Insert Chemical Composition Here)?

I am saying that he intends option A and means something akin to option B. He must necessarily mean something different than he intends unless A) intention wholly determines meaning; or B) it is possible for different things to really be identical. The first option nets us total relativism, while the second violates the law of non-contradiction.

How can he intend on referring to the chemical composition when he doesn’t know anything about chemistry to begin with?

He doesn't intend it at all--he merely means it.

rank sophist said...

If you had your way, we wouldn’t be able to have any conversation because any idea you want to convey could be sabotaged by anyone who thinks you intended to say something different.

This isn't true, because Putnam's theory places meaning outside of interpretation. Even if I intended to refer to water, I would mean something else; and, even if someone listening to me interpreted my statement in a third way--"water" as "beef jerky", for instance--, it would not follow that he was correct. The meaning is not determined (at least, not entirely determined) by our own intentions or interpretations.

Again, go back to the thought experiment, just ask them what they intend to mean and then that would answer the question.

But it doesn't, because the very idea is that they mean different things regardless of their intentions.

If I define X as “A plane figure with three straight sides and three angles” and then change that definition to “A plane figure with four equal straight sides and four right angles” and you don’t think that changes the meaning of X, then I give up.

These definitions presuppose the triangles and squares to which you're referring. For example, even if you defined a "square" as "a plane figure with three straight sides and three angles", it would not follow that the "square" that you intend to discuss really does fit that description. Instead, it would mean that you intended "square" and meant "triangle", just like the Twin Earth clones intend "water" and mean H2O or XYZ. A triangle is a triangle no matter what you intend or what you name it, just like H2O and XYZ are H2O and XYZ regardless of what anyone on either Earth claims.

I asked whether this was coherent and asked for an example where it is not even self-referentially coherent. The examples you gave would still follow the laws of logic and the individual would still have access to and be able to model the inputs. You can call it illusory as much as you want, but it is still a territory that can be modeled and understood.

I asked you to imagine a world in which no law of logic could be trusted. Descartes and David Hume both did this without too much trouble. And, as Hume would tell you, your models are worthless in this environment.

Now it’s being insinuated that the discussions I have concerning philosophy are with laymen, yet they tend to be with those with philosophy degrees.

Who said that your friends were laymen? I said that your debates with friends were not logically sound. And, if your friends are philosophy majors, then I can only assume that you lose a lot.

cautiouslycurious said...

Rank,

“But the argument is that, even if the macroscopic features are the same, that doesn't entail that we mean the same things by referring to them. These macroscopic features are clearly not the same things, since it is impossible for different things to be identical. Unless, of course, you are going to argue against this trivial truth.”

That’s what they mean when they say water. It doesn’t matter if they apply to two different chemical compositions; they are using the label in a macro sense so it doesn’t matter what the chemical substance is; they are both water just like how two samples of blood can have two different compositions. If you want a word to mean H2O, then you have to create a new one or add onto the existing definition, but that would then violate the terms of the thought experiment. You’re completely missing the issue. The issue is not whether they are the same substance, but whether they mean the same or can coherently mean the same thing when they use the term water. The answer to that question is yes, evident by the hypothetical response in the thought experiment and by real world examples.

“I am saying that he intends option A and means something akin to option B. He must necessarily mean something different than he intends unless A) intention wholly determines meaning; or B) it is possible for different things to really be identical. The first option nets us total relativism, while the second violates the law of non-contradiction.”

False dichotomy; I’ve outlined a third option, but you seem content in ignoring it.

“I asked you to imagine a world in which no law of logic could be trusted. Descartes and David Hume both did this without too much trouble. And, as Hume would tell you, your models are worthless in this environment.”

And I asked you to outline such a world because I could not imagine it and I think Descartes or Hume could either. How would A!=A translate into sense data? I can’t imagine how it would. Oh, and if you could quote Descartes or Hume explaining how it could, that would be appreciated.

“These definitions presuppose the triangles and squares to which you're referring. For example, even if you defined a "square" as "a plane figure with three straight sides and three angles", it would not follow that the "square" that you intend to discuss really does fit that description. Instead, it would mean that you intended "square" and meant "triangle", just like the Twin Earth clones intend "water" and mean H2O or XYZ. A triangle is a triangle no matter what you intend or what you name it, just like H2O and XYZ are H2O and XYZ regardless of what anyone on either Earth claims.”

Perhaps I explained this poorly. At no time was I referring to an actual object and trying to see if the definition fit some sense data and came to the wrong conclusion that way. This was simply a change in definition, as if I were to go into the dictionary and swap the definitions for square and triangle. So, from now on, when I and everyone else says “square” we mean a three sided polygon and when we say “triangle,” we mean a four sided polygon with right angles. We have changed the usage of the labels so as to change the meaning of the words, correct?

Also, this “Instead, it would mean that you intended "square" and meant "triangle", just like the Twin Earth clones intend "water" and mean H2O or XYZ” doesn’t make any sense to me. I didn’t intend “square” and mean “triangle”. When I said square before, I meant a four sided polygon with right angles. From now on, I mean a three sided polygon. The same applies for triangle. At no point in time did I intend square and mean something other than what I specified as to what square meant. Square doesn’t mean something other than how I defined it. This is the definition of meaning so I don’t know why you are arguing against this trivial truth.