What is truth?

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Terrapin Station
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Re: What is truth?

Post by Terrapin Station » Thu Nov 10, 2016 1:17 pm

Londoner wrote:I'm sure Mr Kant wouldn't require you to abase yourself. You can make up your own meaning for 'noumena' if you want. It is just that clarity about whatever that meaning is would tend to facilitate productive discussion.
I defined how I'm using "phenomena" and "noumena" not too far back in this thread.

To save you from searching for it, here's a copy/paste of it:

"The way I'm using the terms, and I couldn't care less if this coheres or doesn't cohere with how anyone else is using the terms, is simply that phenomena refers to how things appear to be, especially to consciousness, and noumena refers to how things really are, especially objectively. (With "objectivity" being defined as I defined it earlier.)"
So you are distinguishing between basic ideas that it is necessary that we have in order to interpret sensations, and something else described as 'theory'?
I'm making a distinction between concept application, which is part of making sense of something (as well as part of interpretation), with perception, which is simply appearance of "data" via one's eyes, ears, etc. sending information to one's brain.

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Re: What is truth?

Post by Londoner » Thu Nov 10, 2016 2:50 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
"The way I'm using the terms, and I couldn't care less if this coheres or doesn't cohere with how anyone else is using the terms, is simply that phenomena refers to how things appear to be, especially to consciousness, and noumena refers to how things really are, especially objectively. (With "objectivity" being defined as I defined it earlier.)"
It is still a bit difficult to reconcile the 'how things really are' with the 'especially objectively'. 'Objectively' seems to describe the way something is viewed, whereas you would think 'how things really are' would not depend on the viewer.

Can we ever grasp the noumena, or is it by definition beyond our grasp, because we never can view things objectively?
Me: So you are distinguishing between basic ideas that it is necessary that we have in order to interpret sensations, and something else described as 'theory'?
I'm making a distinction between concept application, which is part of making sense of something (as well as part of interpretation), with perception, which is simply appearance of "data" via one's eyes, ears, etc. sending information to one's brain.
So your notion of 'perception' is of data from the environment, prior to any interpretation? If we were talking about seeing, would perception be simply the photons entering the eye? Or the firing of the optical nerve? i.e. the events prior to the brain interpreting these things as an image?

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Re: What is truth?

Post by Terrapin Station » Thu Nov 10, 2016 3:28 pm

Londoner wrote:It is still a bit difficult to reconcile the 'how things really are' with the 'especially objectively'. 'Objectively' seems to describe the way something is viewed, whereas you would think 'how things really are' would not depend on the viewer.
I gave my definition of subjective/objective earlier in the thread, too (and in other threads at least a couple times):

Subjective = mental phenomena, that is, brains functioning in mental ways.

Objective = the complement of mental phenomena, or in other words--"everything else," everything that isn't a brain functioning in a mental way.
Can we ever grasp the noumena, or is it by definition beyond our grasp, because we never can view things objectively?
You can perceive noumena. It still involves perception, obviously, which is subjective (it's function of a brain operating in mental ways), but that doesn't imply that we're not perceiving noumena as it is.
So your notion of 'perception' is of data from the environment, prior to any interpretation?
Data from the environment, as processed by our sensory organs/brains, prior to interpretation, yes.
the events prior to the brain interpreting these things as an image?
Not prior to our brains registering the data, but prior to interpretation. Brain processing does not EQUAL "interpretation."

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Re: What is truth?

Post by Londoner » Thu Nov 10, 2016 4:32 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
Subjective = mental phenomena, that is, brains functioning in mental ways.

Objective = the complement of mental phenomena, or in other words--"everything else," everything that isn't a brain functioning in a mental way.
Yes, I remember. My problem was that since all our thoughts are our brains functioning, doesn't it follow that we can never know the objective? As directly below (but see also my last paragraph):
Me: Can we ever grasp the noumena, or is it by definition beyond our grasp, because we never can view things objectively?

You can perceive noumena. It still involves perception, obviously, which is subjective (it's function of a brain operating in mental ways), but that doesn't imply that we're not perceiving noumena as it is.
I understood that by 'perception' you meant data from the environment prior to it being processed by our brains, so I would have thought perception would not be subjective. (A photon is a photon, whether it enters anyone's eye or not). You write:
Me: So your notion of 'perception' is of data from the environment, prior to any interpretation?

Data from the environment, as processed by our sensory organs/brains, prior to interpretation, yes.
You continue:
Me: ...the events prior to the brain interpreting these things as an image?

Not prior to our brains registering the data, but prior to interpretation. Brain processing does not EQUAL "interpretation."
So we take in the data in its raw form, the photon is translated into a signal along the optic nerve. This signal is registered in our brain, but not yet interpreted, this moment still falling under what you term 'perception'?

Or does 'perception' extend slightly further? Do I understand 'brain processing' to include the sort of things Kant describes as necessary prior conditions to interpretation (i.e. notions like extension and time)? So that 'perception' also includes our putting the sense data into what you might call 'usable condition', but stops short of its interpretation i.e. the creation of a mental picture, the identification of that picture as 'a ship' and so on.

So to return to the opening paragraph, when you define the 'objective' as 'everything that isn't a brain functioning in a mental way', the 'brain functioning' term describes 'interpretation', i.e. the bit that comes after 'perception'. So, in other words, all the process covered by your term 'perception' would be classed as 'objective' (as well as the noumena itself).

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Re: What is truth?

Post by Terrapin Station » Thu Nov 10, 2016 5:08 pm

Londoner wrote:Yes, I remember. My problem was that since all our thoughts are our brains functioning, doesn't it follow that we can never know the objective?
What we know isn't identical to how we know it. What you're wondering there isn't any different than saying something like, "Since we can only observe distant galaxies via telescopes, doesn't it follow that distant galaxies are telescopes?" And the answer, of course, would be that no--it doesn't follow that distant galaxies are telescopes in that case. Telescopes are the means by which we observe distant galaxies, but that doesn't imply that they're the same thing.

So yes, our knowing is subjective, but what we know is not. That's just like saying, "The telescope was made by Meade, but what I'm observing via the telescope was not made by Meade."
I understood that by 'perception' you meant data from the environment prior to it being processed by our brains,
No--why in the world would I mean that by perception? "Perception" isn't some controversial term. It conventionally refers to our mental processing of information that arrived at our brains via our sensory organs. There's no tradition of using "perception" to mean anything different than that. Sure, someone could be using "perception" in some highly unusual way, but you'd expect them to be aware of that and to announce that they're using it in some completely unusual way.

So, since we're talking about something that's ultimately a conscious brain phenomenon, it's subjective (per my definition of subjective, which isn't actually an unusual definition of that term).

As I've pointed out time and time again, NO ONE in philosophy of perception debates is arguing that we're not talking about perception. That is, no one is arguing that we're not talking about the mental processing of information that arrived at our brains via our sensory organs (or if they are, then they're extremely confused, because they're not actually talking about perception in any conventional sense of that term, despite claiming to be doing philosophy of perception). What's at issue, then, is what the relationship is between the information as a mental phenomenon and what casused that information in the first place.
So we take in the data in its raw form, the photon is translated into a signal along the optic nerve. This signal is registered in our brain, but not yet interpreted, this moment still falling under what you term 'perception'?
Yes, and completely uncontroversially. That's what "perception" conventionally refers to.
Or does 'perception' extend slightly further? Do I understand 'brain processing' to include the sort of things Kant describes as necessary prior conditions to interpretation (i.e. notions like extension and time)?
In philosophy, perception talk often extends to conceptual application, too, although whether it should is an issue of controversy. My view on that is that I'd rather that perception talk didn't extend to that, at least not without slightly different terminology, because it tends to blur two different ideas.

Re Kant, again, I don't at all agree with his views. So I don't agree with his take re time/space etc. being concepts that are "necessary prior conditions" etc.
So that 'perception' also includes our putting the sense data into what you might call 'usable condition', but stops short of its interpretation i.e. the creation of a mental picture,
Mental images are part of perception where no concepts are necessary in my opinion.
the identification of that picture as 'a ship' and so on.
That's the part where you get to concepts being necessary.
the 'brain functioning' term describes 'interpretation',
No, it doesn't. "Brains functioning" includes every single thing that brains do, including non-mental things. Hence why I specify "in mental ways"--otherwise that phrase would be redundant. Mentality doesn't imply interpretation, however. Mere consciousness/awareness is sufficient for mentality.

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Re: What is truth?

Post by Londoner » Fri Nov 11, 2016 11:47 am

Terrapin Station wrote:What we know isn't identical to how we know it. What you're wondering there isn't any different than saying something like, "Since we can only observe distant galaxies via telescopes, doesn't it follow that distant galaxies are telescopes?" And the answer, of course, would be that no--it doesn't follow that distant galaxies are telescopes in that case. Telescopes are the means by which we observe distant galaxies, but that doesn't imply that they're the same thing.

So yes, our knowing is subjective, but what we know is not. That's just like saying, "The telescope was made by Meade, but what I'm observing via the telescope was not made by Meade."
The analogy would be more that what we see through our telescopes is light on the visible spectrum. Yet we don't think distant galaxies are nothing but 'light on the visible spectrum'. I would argue (like Popper) that it isn't the case that we see the light then deduce that it comes from distant suns. Rather that we first form the theory that our sun is not unique and then look for empirical evidence.

(After all, there are many possible theories which could explain perfectly well why there are little lights in the night sky. That they are distant galaxies is just one.)
Me: I understood that by 'perception' you meant data from the environment prior to it being processed by our brains

No--why in the world would I mean that by perception? "Perception" isn't some controversial term. It conventionally refers to our mental processing of information that arrived at our brains via our sensory organs. There's no tradition of using "perception" to mean anything different than that. Sure, someone could be using "perception" in some highly unusual way, but you'd expect them to be aware of that and to announce that they're using it in some completely unusual way.

So, since we're talking about something that's ultimately a conscious brain phenomenon, it's subjective (per my definition of subjective, which isn't actually an unusual definition of that term).

As I've pointed out time and time again, NO ONE in philosophy of perception debates is arguing that we're not talking about perception. That is, no one is arguing that we're not talking about the mental processing of information that arrived at our brains via our sensory organs (or if they are, then they're extremely confused, because they're not actually talking about perception in any conventional sense of that term, despite claiming to be doing philosophy of perception). What's at issue, then, is what the relationship is between the information as a mental phenomenon and what casused that information in the first place.
OK, I misunderstood you. I would suggest that the conventional understanding of 'perception' is of a mental action that we understand as involving an outside agency; that when I say I 'perceive' a tree I am distinguishing it from 'imagining' a tree (even though the resulting images in my mind may be identical). That our ideas 'represent' external objects. The trouble is that this begs the question of the similarity between the idea and the (posited) object, which is what we are discussing here.

Why not go the next step with Berkeley? If the mental phenomenon is a representation of the object, why posit an object at all? If you allow any gap, then you open the door to solipsism. Why not eliminate the gap by ceasing to refer to the object at all and simply call the perception (meaning the representation) the reality? Or go with Kant and say (put crudely); maybe there is an object, but it doesn't matter because we can never know it.
So we take in the data in its raw form, the photon is translated into a signal along the optic nerve. This signal is registered in our brain, but not yet interpreted, this moment still falling under what you term 'perception'?

Yes, and completely uncontroversially. That's what "perception" conventionally refers to.
I do not agree. I think 'perception' would usually be understood as conscious brain activity, meaning that to say 'I perceive a tree' I would have gone a step further and have the image 'a tree' in my mind. I have to perceive something. (And you say above that it is 'ultimately a conscious brain phenomenon'.) However, the important thing here is not what the conventional usage is, but what we mean in this dialogue.
In philosophy, perception talk often extends to conceptual application, too, although whether it should is an issue of controversy. My view on that is that I'd rather that perception talk didn't extend to that (Kantian stuff), at least not without slightly different terminology, because it tends to blur two different ideas.

Re Kant, again, I don't at all agree with his views. So I don't agree with his take re time/space etc. being concepts that are "necessary prior conditions" etc.
So how would you deal with his points? For example, our brains receive a string electrical signals through our nerves. Suppose we were unable to put them in any sort of time order? How can we interpret them into ideas of three dimensional objects, unless we already had an idea of three dimensional space? Neither of those ideas are contained in the nervous twitches that convey the raw sense data.

I don't think it is about considering 'space' and 'time' as abstract concepts. It is at the level of: 'Only when I looked out of the window I saw the tree, so the tree is in that direction relative to me'. Unless I can order things in time (first I didn't see it, then I did) and extension (the tree has a location relative to my own location) I could not process visual information even to that extent. (Nor, of course, could I recognise it as a tree, because that requires me to think of that shape as having some sort of continuity from moment to moment).
No, it doesn't. "Brains functioning" includes every single thing that brains do, including non-mental things. Hence why I specify "in mental ways"--otherwise that phrase would be redundant. Mentality doesn't imply interpretation, however. Mere consciousness/awareness is sufficient for mentality.
I'm only trying to understand your terminology, not lay down a rule.

You write: 'Brains functioning" includes every single thing that brains do, including non-mental things'. You can see why it is difficult to understand what it is that brains do that is non-mental. We can take the brain to pieces and say things like; 'that event is only a chemical reaction which is non-mental'. But if we did that, then we could go through the whole brain, and be left with the strange conclusion that our entire brain was 'non-mental'!

But if we come from the other direction and examine 'consciousness', then there is no 'non-mental' bit that we can identify with 'consciousness'. That nerve isn't conscious, that chemical isn't conscious, and so on. So now our description of consciousness would exclude the brain altogether, which seems equally odd.

I think this is the basic problem of perception emerging in another form. We are always trying to find the words to designate a point on the line between what is 'in here' and 'out there', the subjective and objective, the mental and physical, the perceiver and the perceived. But these dualities are not separate areas on the same line, rather (like the brain/consciousness) they are identical things described from different standpoints.

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Re: What is truth?

Post by Terrapin Station » Fri Nov 11, 2016 12:48 pm

Since we're not getting anywhere and that's my only aim, one thing at a time again for a moment:
Londoner wrote:The analogy would be more that what we see through our telescopes is light on the visible spectrum. Yet we don't think distant galaxies are nothing but 'light on the visible spectrum'.
You're going back to the "entirety" idea here, which is subsequently not understanding the argument between naive realism and representationalism and the like. I explained earlier that no one is saying anything about the "entirety" of anything. No one is saying "nothing but" about anything. Do you understand this? I don't want to have to explain it again.

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Re: What is truth?

Post by Londoner » Fri Nov 11, 2016 1:07 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:Since we're not getting anywhere and that's my only aim, one thing at a time again for a moment:
Londoner wrote:The analogy would be more that what we see through our telescopes is light on the visible spectrum. Yet we don't think distant galaxies are nothing but 'light on the visible spectrum'.
You're going back to the "entirety" idea here, which is subsequently not understanding the argument between naive realism and representationalism and the like. I explained earlier that no one is saying anything about the "entirety" of anything. No one is saying "nothing but" about anything. Do you understand this? I don't want to have to explain it again.
If we start with an analogy then these sorts of problems are inevitable. To be clear, I do not think the visible light taken in by the eye is any part at all of those distant galaxies. The visible light is simply what it is, a photon is a photon. That we interpret it as representing distant galaxies is something we do, it is all in our heads. We could equally interpret the same phenomena as 'holes in the dome of the sky' or 'angels inside our consciousness'.

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Re: What is truth?

Post by Terrapin Station » Fri Nov 11, 2016 1:37 pm

Londoner wrote:If we start with an analogy then these sorts of problems are inevitable. To be clear, I do not think the visible light taken in by the eye is any part at all of those distant galaxies. The visible light is simply what it is, a photon is a photon. That we interpret it as representing distant galaxies is something we do, it is all in our heads. We could equally interpret the same phenomena as 'holes in the dome of the sky' or 'angels inside our consciousness'.
All I want to solve at the moment is if you understand that no one is saying anything about the "entirety" or anything, and that no one is saying "nothing but" anything. And I want to make sure that you understand that so that we do not need to go over it again, so that you won't suggest it again, etc.

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Re: What is truth?

Post by A_Seagull » Fri Nov 11, 2016 1:48 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
A_Seagull wrote:What I am saying is that the data from the senses is processed using pattern identification methods to create 'objects', which may subsequently be labelled as a 'tree'.
What is providing the data to the senses in the first place in your view?
I do not know. It could be that naive realism is correct, it could be that we are all brains-in-a-vat. So far as the processing of the data by pattern identification, is concerned,it makes no difference. The process is the same.

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Re: What is truth?

Post by A_Seagull » Fri Nov 11, 2016 1:51 pm

SpheresOfBalance wrote:
A_Seagull wrote:
Londoner wrote:
As one example; where do they originate?

Suppose you 'see' your tree, however actually this is an illusion. Is your sense of the tree still an example of sense data' or not? Some would say yes, others no. The ones who say 'no' say that sense data are an awareness of physical phenomena. But then, if we only have the sense data, how could we ever know that what we are aware of is a physical phenomenon?

Another problem arises from how we interpret sense data. To describe it as 'a tree' (or anything else) is to move away from that sense data and bring in other ideas. So, if we cannot differentiate the sense data from the rest, what does 'sense data' describe? It turns it into a word like 'noumena', that attaches a name to a something, but a something that we can never encounter.

Lots more if you Google 'sense data'.
I think there may be a difference in the meaning of the ways we are using the word 'sense-data', I am not using it as an object of any form. I am simply using the word to mean the data that is incident on the senses.

And regarding your question about physical phenomena: we 'know' that what we are aware of is a 'physical phenomenon' because that constitutes the 'best pattern' that fits the data.

I dare say that some of the concepts of 'the pattern paradigm' do not fit in comfortably with some of the concepts of traditional philosophy which is why I have termed it a 'paradigm' - a collection of ideas and concepts that are self-consistent and fit the facts. Traditional philosophy itself constitutes a paradigm.

And as for your question of :Where do sense data originate? Well I put that one right alongside the question: Why does something exist instead of nothing? Both interesting questions, but neither relate particularly to epistemology.
That's how the religious justify their belief in their god. Science puts that kind of, so called logic, to shame.
I have no idea what you are talking about! :)

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Re: What is truth?

Post by A_Seagull » Fri Nov 11, 2016 1:58 pm

Londoner wrote:
A_Seagull wrote:
I think there may be a difference in the meaning of the ways we are using the word 'sense-data', I am not using it as an object of any form. I am simply using the word to mean the data that is incident on the senses.

And regarding your question about physical phenomena: we 'know' that what we are aware of is a 'physical phenomenon' because that constitutes the 'best pattern' that fits the data.
Although the pattern we have chosen is not itself 'sense data'. We apply the pattern to things that are never presented as sense data (like the workings of the invisible spectrum, or fundamental physics) and some things that are presented as sense data (dreams, illusions) we exclude. So we might argue that it is the pattern which defines what we accept as data, rather than the pattern being fitted to the data. In other words, we are left with the circularity of something counting as 'physical phenomena' - if we think it is!
I dare say that some of the concepts of 'the pattern paradigm' do not fit in comfortably with some of the concepts of traditional philosophy which is why I have termed it a 'paradigm' - a collection of ideas and concepts that are self-consistent and fit the facts. Traditional philosophy itself constitutes a paradigm.
There is no problem finding 'a collection of ideas and concepts that are self-consistent and fit the facts'. That we are part of God's dream, or bodies in the Matrix etc. can all satisfy those requirements. Or, it can be tautological, complicated arguments amounting to simply inventing a word for the answer to the question; (What is the source of phenomena? Answer 'The noumenal'. Problem solved!)

I think the problem arises when we ask what question our idea is supposed to answer. Does it provide a description of 'truth'? Is it a psychological depiction? Is it about language? If an idea purports to be useful, success is not about whether it is consistent etc. but whether can we think of something which would show our idea is wrong, or that it fails to do the job it was meant for.
And as for your question of :Where do sense data originate? Well I put that one right alongside the question: Why does something exist instead of nothing? Both interesting questions, but neither relate particularly to epistemology.
Asking where sense data originate isn't asking the equivalent of 'why does something exist?'. 'Sense data' is a description; when we ask 'where does it originate?' we are asking 'what do you mean by that description?' It evoked the answer from you that it is 'data that is incident on the senses'.

That answer of course assumes an external physical world, which seems inconsistent with the idea that we can only work out that it is the external physical world by applying a 'best pattern' to it. We have already assumed the data is data, i.e. that it was incident on the senses, before we applied the pattern test that was supposed to identify it as data.

My view is that we can never break out of this circularity. We want to identify a point in which our sensations are still raw, untouched by interpretation or thought i.e. pure data that has not been processed. But we can never find that point, we can never distinguish the perception from the perceiver, in your terms; we cannot distinguish the data from the pattern.
As previously stated some of the concepts of the Pattern Paradigm do not fit comfortably with some of the concepts of traditional philosophy. So trying to analyse those concepts from the perspective of the traditional philosophy paradigm is futile. It would be like trying to analyse the concepts of evolution in terms of creationism.
Last edited by A_Seagull on Fri Nov 11, 2016 2:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What is truth?

Post by Terrapin Station » Fri Nov 11, 2016 2:29 pm

A_Seagull wrote:
Terrapin Station wrote:
A_Seagull wrote:What I am saying is that the data from the senses is processed using pattern identification methods to create 'objects', which may subsequently be labelled as a 'tree'.
What is providing the data to the senses in the first place in your view?
I do not know. It could be that naive realism is correct, it could be that we are all brains-in-a-vat. So far as the processing of the data by pattern identification, is concerned,it makes no difference. The process is the same.
Okay, but I'd say then that it doesn't appear that you're talking about (philosophy of) perception at all.

Philosophy of perception concerns itself with the relationship between our perceptions-as-mental-events and the stuff external to us that we're perceiving. There are different beliefs about just what that relationship is, just how it works, but we can't talk about it if we just ignore one side or other of the equation. There has to be our perceptions and the stuff we're perceiving, otherwise we're talking about something else, like simply talking about mental phenomena per se, without any commitment to whether perception is actually occuring or not, how it might be occurring, etc.

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Re: What is truth?

Post by A_Seagull » Fri Nov 11, 2016 2:43 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
A_Seagull wrote:
Terrapin Station wrote:
What is providing the data to the senses in the first place in your view?
I do not know. It could be that naive realism is correct, it could be that we are all brains-in-a-vat. So far as the processing of the data by pattern identification, is concerned,it makes no difference. The process is the same.
Okay, but I'd say then that it doesn't appear that you're talking about (philosophy of) perception at all.

Philosophy of perception concerns itself with the relationship between our perceptions-as-mental-events and the stuff external to us that we're perceiving. There are different beliefs about just what that relationship is, just how it works, but we can't talk about it if we just ignore one side or other of the equation. There has to be our perceptions and the stuff we're perceiving, otherwise we're talking about something else, like simply talking about mental phenomena per se, without any commitment to whether perception is actually occuring or not, how it might be occurring, etc.
Ok I take your point, but no one has been able to prove convincingly that they are not a brain-in-a-vat; so where does that leave your view on perception?

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Re: What is truth?

Post by Terrapin Station » Fri Nov 11, 2016 2:54 pm

A_Seagull wrote:Ok I take your point, but no one has been able to prove convincingly that they are not a brain-in-a-vat;
I agree with that, but it's a phil of science/science methodology 101 mantra that empirical claims are not provable, period. The upshot of that is that no one worries about whether we can prove some empirical claim or other--none of them are provable.

So two tracks commence from that point:

One, the issue becomes non-proof-oriented reasons that we'd believe one possibility over another. We can't prove that we're not brains in a vat, and we can't prove that we are. Well, so if we're going to believe one possibility rather than the other, it can't be about proof. What are the other reasons that we'd believe one or the other?

And two, we get on with doing philosophy about stuff like perception anyway, because there are interesting philosophical issues to tackle without just constantly focusing on the most fundamental epistemological questions.

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