About
Content
Store
Forum

Rebirth of Reason
War
People
Archives
Objectivism

Post to this threadMark all messages in this thread as readMark all messages in this thread as unread


Sanction: 3, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 3, No Sanction: 0
Post 0

Thursday, August 5, 2004 - 12:50pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Well said. Actually to take your analysis a few steps farther, for the brain-in-a-vat hypothesis to make sense, you have to assume the existence of the relevant causal relations between brains, vats, and illusions--if there weren't the relevant causal relations, there'd be no thought-experiment (because experiments presuppose causation); but the assumption that the relevant causal relations exist refutes the whole point of the thought-experiment (because universal skepticism is incompatible with an assertion that causal relations exist). Gored on either horn.

Beyond that, since the thought-experiment is expressed in words, it presupposes (a) that language is reliable enough to convey the meaning of the thought-experiment, and (b) that none of the cognitive presuppositions of its reliability contradict the point of the thought-experiment itself. The burden of proof is on the proposer of the experiment to show both (a) and (b)--which would be open to someone with the relevant knowledge, but not open to someone claiming that no one has any.  

(Edited by Irfan Khawaja on 8/05, 12:51pm)




Post 1

Thursday, August 5, 2004 - 4:23pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Good summing-up of the issue. Of course, they are going to post all sorts of fantasies in rebuttal here. But they will all merely prove your article's point.

Even when I was very young, encountering the disciples of all-pervading skepticism, I arrived at the conclusion that everyone who makes an assertion is claiming certainty at some level. In fact, skeptics use their view as an excuse to proclaim absolutes at will, as AR observed.

(Edited by Rodney Rawlings on 8/05, 4:24pm)




Post 2

Thursday, August 5, 2004 - 8:46pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Rand gave me many "Aha!" moments, but you show your firm grasp of my favorite (axiomatic concepts) from my favorite nonfiction book of hers( Intro to Objectivist Epistemology).
Everything fell into place when I read this chapter.



Post 3

Friday, August 6, 2004 - 1:25amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Even when I was very young, encountering the disciples of all-pervading skepticism, I arrived at the conclusion that everyone who makes an assertion is claiming certainty at some level. In fact, skeptics use their view as an excuse to proclaim absolutes at will, as AR observed.
*Sigh*  I've tried to explain why this is wrong to Objectivists over and over and over again. 

I can make assertions whilist not claiming certainty at any level.  All I have to do is assign probablities to all of my assertions and make all my assertions part of a completely self-referential network of beliefs (it's called 'The Scientific Method' Rodney). 

There is nothing at all paradoxical about the statement:  'I am 98% certain that nothing is absolutely certain' and the statement can itself be supported by using self-referential loops of evidence linked in a network.  For instance assertion A can support B and assertion B can support A.  This is not circular so long as at least some assertions make reference to observational data.




Post 4

Friday, August 6, 2004 - 5:40amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
I can make assertions whilist not claiming certainty at any level.  All I have to do is assign probablities to all of my assertions and make all my assertions part of a completely self-referential network of beliefs (it's called 'The Scientific Method' Rodney). 

There is nothing at all paradoxical about the statement:  'I am 98% certain that nothing is absolutely certain' and the statement can itself be supported by using self-referential loops of evidence linked in a network.  For instance assertion A can support B and assertion B can support A.  This is not circular so long as at least some assertions make reference to observational data.
Are you certain that you are 98% certain?

It doesn't solve the problem...it just pushes it back another step.




Post 5

Friday, August 6, 2004 - 6:34amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Are you certain that you are 98% certain?

It doesn't solve the problem...it just pushes it back another step.

*yawn*  If I had a penny for every time an Objectivist has hit me with that one...

There is no problem.  No of course I can't be certain that I'm 98% certain.  I don't need to be.  The whole point of the scientific method is that you can draw perfectly good probabilistic conclusions without certainty.  The fact that I can't be certain that I'm 98% certain is not paradoxical.  It doesn't affect the validity of my statement so long I have reason for thinking that it's highly probable that my statement is close to correct.  There is no infinite regress precisely because I don't claim certainty.  The statement draws it's validity from other probabilistic hypotheses in my reasoning network.  Hypothesis A is supported by hypothesis B.  Hypothesis B can be supported by hypothesis A.  The whole reasoning network can loop back around on itself.  This only works if you use probabilities though.  (Try this trick with things you think you are 'certain' of and you just end up with circular reasoning.

It's Objectivist epistemology that results in an infinite regress.  Are Objectivists certain that they are 100% certain?  Their attempts to try to logically establish precise definitions will inevitably result an infinite regress as Daniel as convincingly argued in his demolition of Aristotlean reasoning on SOLO.  Total precision in definitions is impossible.  Objectivists can't go on trying to define thngs to infinity, so they've got no choice but to try to cut off the chain of reasoning at some point by appealing to so-called 'absolutely certain' axioms (which are anything but certain, as I showed on the Dissent board when I asked for precise explanations of the laws of logic and everyone had a slightly different definition).  The fact of the matter is, you guys aren't certain of anything, any more than I am.  Stop pretending you are ;)

(Edited by Marc Geddes on 8/06, 6:35am)

(Edited by Marc Geddes on 8/06, 6:39am)




Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Post 6

Friday, August 6, 2004 - 8:21amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
No, it's a matter of a language, and certainty means nothing more than lacking reasonable doubts.  If you say there is no problem, then you must be certain that there is no problem.  If you say that you can't be certain that you're 98% certain, then you must be certain that you can't be certain that you're 98% certain.  If you claim that you don't need to be, then you are certain you don't need to be.  A declarative sentence, by its very nature presupposes certainty.

What is certainty in this context?  Nothing more than a lack of a reasonable doubt.  Indeed, you hit upon this when you say:

It doesn't affect the validity of my statement so long I have reason for thinking that it's highly probable that my statement is close to correct.
And, of course, I can ask if you're certain that it's highly probable, I can ask if you're certain that it doesn't effect the validity of your statement so long as you have reason for thinking that it's highly probably that your statement is close to correct...I can even ask if you're certain that it was your statement.

The other problem has to do with what is correct.  If you are to decide that something is probable that it's correct, you cannot assign a probability.  You can argue that one statement is more probable than another to be correct based on evidence, but you cannot argue that any statement, by itself, is likely correct; i.e., you can only do so comparatively.  To compare a probability is to know what 100% probability would be, which is to say:  in order to assign a probability, you must already be omniscient.

Until you achieve omniscient, all you can do is make assertions that you see no reason to doubt.

For a simple example, when I woke up this morning, I turned off my alarm clock by pushing a small slide on the side of it, which I did without looking at what I was doing.  I was certain that it would stop making the obnoxious noise that woke me up.  I couldn't prove it would, but I was absolutely certain that it would.  If it hadn't, I would have been confused, because the evidence would contradict what I knew about my alarm clock from previous experiences.  There was no reasonable doubt that the slider wouldn't work. 

If, perhaps, I smacked my alarm clock with a sledgehammer, then I wouldn't have that level of confidence that the switch works, at which case I'd revert to unplugging it, as my previous experiences with electric devices in general tells me that the alarm clock cannot make noise if it has no power.  I am absolutely confident that cutting off all sources of power to this particular device will cause it to cease working.  All that needs to be said:  I have no reasonable doubts to this claim.

No numbers or probabilities are needed:  you either have a reasonable doubt, or you do not.




Post 7

Friday, August 6, 2004 - 8:27amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Joe: THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Post 8

Friday, August 6, 2004 - 8:28amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
'I am 98% certain that nothing is absolutely certain'
Marc,

So, according to the Many-Worlds theory (which you supported on another thread), does that mean that in two out of every hundred alternate "universes" absolute certainty is possible? Does this mean the Scientific Method is not universal? (or perhaps I should say "multiversal" ;)




Post 9

Saturday, August 7, 2004 - 1:38amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
What is certainty in this context?  Nothing more than a lack of a reasonable doubt. 
'Lack of reasonable doubt' is not equivalent to 100% certainty.   

The other problem has to do with what is correct.  If you are to decide that something is probable that it's correct, you cannot assign a probability.  You can argue that one statement is more probable than another to be correct based on evidence, but you cannot argue that any statement, by itself, is likely correct; i.e., you can only do so comparatively.  To compare a probability is to know what 100% probability would be, which is to say:  in order to assign a probability, you must already be omniscient.

Until you achieve omniscient, all you can do is make assertions that you see no reason to doubt.
That simply isn't the case at all.  People are assigning probabilties to things all the time amd they don't need to be omniscient to do so.  I've given examples quite a few times at SOLO.  Go down to your local book-maker and you can place bets on lots of things.  Future's markets are currently offering odds of 55% that Bush will win re-election for instance.  If you were about to toss a coin you could assign a probablity of 50% that the result would be Heads.   

Yes you are right that probabilities are comparative but you are quite wrong when you say 'To compare a probability is to know what 100% probability would be'.   I don't need to know this at all.  I just need to know what something with a very very high probability is (say 99%, 99.999% or whatever satifies for the problem at hand).

For the coin tossing example for instance, I don't need to know what 100% probability is.  I just need to know that it is very very likely (say 99.9999% likely) that the result will be either 'Heads' or 'Tails'.  But even this is still not 100% certain.

 I couldn't prove it would, but I was absolutely certain that it would.
Know you weren't.  You knew it was very very likely but you coudn't possibly be absolutely certain.

No numbers or probabilities are needed:  you either have a reasonable doubt, or you do not.
You don't consciously need numbers or probablities, but consciously or unconsciously your brain is using them none-the-less. 




Post 10

Saturday, August 7, 2004 - 1:47amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Marc,

So, according to the Many-Worlds theory (which you supported on another thread), does that mean that in two out of every hundred alternate "universes" absolute certainty is possible? Does this mean the Scientific Method is not universal? (or perhaps I should say "multiversal" ;)
Um.. dunno.  You've hit me with a tough one there.  Congatulations.  I'm a bit stumped for once.  Let me think....O.K...got it....

The more I learn about philosophy the less likely I think it is that absolute certainty is possible.  So my probability that absolute certainty is impossible is converging toward 100% over time.  (my probablity is going up all the time).  It's only the final convergent probablity (the one that virtually all rational observers would end up agreeing on once they'd thought about philosophy for long enough and had enough relevant information about the matter under consideration) that gives the actual frequency of alternative universes in reality.  This suggests (but does not prove) that the Scientific Method is universal and there are no universes where absolute certainty is possible. 




Sanction: 2, No Sanction: 0
Post 11

Saturday, August 7, 2004 - 3:11amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Marc,

"Yes you are right that probabilities are comparative but you are quite wrong when you say 'To compare a probability is to know what 100% probability would be'.   I don't need to know this at all.  I just need to know what something with a very very high probability is (say 99%, 99.999% or whatever satifies for the problem at hand)."

You've solved the riddle yourself. Now simply replace the last sentence: "I just need to know ... whatever satisfies for the problem at hand" to the relevant, revealing sentence: "I just need to know ... whatever satisfies for the human problem of living well" ... and you've got it.

Absolute accuracy is necessary for living well as a human, absolute precision is not. We are rational differentiators (distinguishers) who, when placed in a position with limited alternatives for our behavior, can often be absolutely certain of the objective hierarchy those alternatives fall into (the inherent superiority of some alternatives to other alternatives). We aren't "guessing" that food is more nutritious than poison, we are absolutely certain of it.

Also, you've appealed to Popper before. Tell me: When a conjecture becomes falsified and discarded in his system, isn't it absolutely falsified? Aren't discovered falsehoods then, something about which we can be absolutely certain of? You've certainly implied this type of universality and necessity to the useful falsehoods you've utilized in your previous posts. What do you have to say about that (are you contradicting yourself)?

Ed



Post to this thread
User ID Password reminder or create a free account.