RCSaunders wrote: ↑Tue Sep 10, 2019 5:01 pm
Well that was quick, IC. I think I'll take a little longer to respond.
Well, stop saying interesting things, then, and I'll slow down.
Perhaps it's me, but I am a little confused about what you actually mean. For example...No, you did not use those words, but if that is not what you mean, what does it mean when you say a concept, "only narrows the recipient's imagination down to a cluster of similar, possible but not the same concepts?" Or, what does it mean when you later say, "So the claim, 'I know what an apple is,' is deceptive. At most, it means, 'I think I am thinking of something like what you are thinking.' But it's not only not certain knowledge, but we can be fairly sure that the picture in my mind is not the same as the picture in yours.
That's fairly straightforward. I can explain.
An "apple" does put a specifying
( by which I mean not "the same" but "specifying a concrete object," something one could imaginatively "see") image in one's mind. But not all concepts do. Some, like "beautiful" or "cold," may or may not be associated with any specifying image...they may instead only invoke a sensation or experience of some kind, or even an abstraction, as when on speaks of the concept "mind."
So whether it's an image, a sensation, an experience or an abstraction, the important point here is that it is not the same
image, sensation, experience or abstraction that is invoked by the word. In fact, the word "apple" might invoke for you the image
of a red fruit, and for me the sensation
of working on my computer, which would mean our referents were not even from the same category, let alone being the same "picture" in our minds.
There's thus not anything certain
about our communication. If we get it right, then the thing that appears in my mind as a result of your word is close enough to what you're intending that we can participate in some sort of common understanding; but if not, we've miscommunicated. And that happens all the time -- which it would not, if what we were doing was communicating "certain" knowledge.
There is another problem here (for me trying to understand what you mean). I said a concept identifies existents, (not other concepts such as its definition), but your words seem to say a concept only "narrows down" other possible concepts. If that really is what concepts do, how is anything outside the mind ever identified?
As above. We're trying to get a kind of "close enough" fit. That's the best we can do.
The most important question is, if concepts only narrow down other possible concepts, where did the first concepts come from?
You mean in human history? Nobody can really say. Plato thought it was a "realm of higher forms." I don't think that's true. I think concepts are what human beings produce in response to the creation. But I can't be sure some aren't directly implanted by God...that's conceivably true, for some things like moral conscience, perhaps.
But your concepts, and my concepts, are inheritances, mostly. We get them from our parents, our culture and our own experiences. We even can, though rarely do, generate our own, as a way of describing unique perceptions...but they we have to convey them in words, which is always a dodgy business to get "certain."
Here is one thing we do agree on:
Immanuel Can wrote: ↑Mon Sep 09, 2019 5:14 pm
Perceiving is not the same as knowing, after all. Fish "perceive." So do paramecia. That does not mean they have knowledge, unless we strain the meaning of that word beyond the reasonable.
It's what I've said all along.
All that you have said to demonstrate there is no certain knowledge are actually illustrations of fallibility and the fact that knowledge of everything is not possible, but, as I said much earlier in our discussion, the possibility of certain knowledge does not mean infallibility or omnisicience.
I don't see that difference, I must confess. To "have uncertainty" is surely a product of the fallible nature of our knowledge. And to have absolute
certainty would require omniscience. I think the best we can have is proximal
certainty, which is based on an estimation of probability
: as in, "this is very probably true."
That's the limit of "certainty," at least in empirical matters.
I remain convinced human beings can know most things with certainty,
But not absolute
certainty, surely. You're speaking only of enough
certainty to function, survive, avoid serious errors, and so on, no?
I don't say we don't have enough certainty to function. Certainly not.
But we don't have absolute certainty, such that we are warranted in saying "there is NO possibility of me being wrong about X or Y." Epistemic humility and the frequency of our errors advise us against such self-certainty.
Immanuel Can wrote: ↑Mon Sep 09, 2019 5:14 pm
The symbols, "2," "two," "II," and, "10," (binary) "0010" (hexadecimal) are different symbols for the same concept.
Bad analogy. Numbers are non-empirical. My claim that all empirical knowledge is probabilistic is not touched by this example.
It is not an analogy.
It is, though. Numbers are not words. Numbers are the same for the Chinese, the Congolese and the Mancunians. But language is not. Language lacks the fixity of numbers.
I am again confused. Since you earlier agree words are not concepts but only symbols for concepts, I have to assume you are saying a concept is supposed to or does, "communicate knowledge," which you then go on to say they do not do unambiguously. If that is what you mean, I have no idea what you mean by a concept.
What I mean is only that "knowledge," once it passes between any two people, is not exactly and precisely the same "knowledge" in both minds. It's only "something like," if the communication works well. And if it's "very like," then the communication is as good as it gets.
So, how does a concept or word, which is not itself knowledge, communicate knowledge?
Well, propositions are made of words. If the words are not the same, the communication is not precise, no matter what the chosen proposition is.
Take "The boat is in the harbour."
I don't know what "harbour" that is, or what kind of "boat" is suggested there. Yet it's a proposition, and a true one, perhaps. Maybe there is a "boat" in the "harbour," and it's enough information for me to go to my nearest harbour and find something I recognize as a boat. But it's far from "certain" that I understand precisely what you mean, or what you are thinking of, when you give me the proposition and instruction, "My boat is in the harbour: I'll meet you there." We may find each other: but not as a result of precise and certain communication, but rather because you gave me enough
information to find my way to you, and I understood it well enough
to get there.
Where do you think the human inventions of language, mathematics, and logic come from if they are not based on reality as it is perceived?
Mathematics is a system of abstract adjectives, really.
A "two" or a "ten" cannot be found in the real world, apart from its association with a particular noun -- "two sheep," or "ten little Indians," if you will. But all on its own, "two" is nothing but an abstraction. If I say, "Give me two," your first question ought to be, "Two whats
?" because "twoness" is only adjectival, not concrete.
So "twoness" is a way humans use to signify the numerical quantity or size of anything. It has no unique
referents in the material world: only a vast number of possible
objects and referents to which it can be applied. "Twos" cannot be actually found in the world, existing all by themselves. They are human constructs for dealing with a huge range of different experiences.
Counting, which is the foundation of all mathematics, would never have been developed if there was nothing perceived to count.
Of course. But maths did not appear by themselves: they were discovered. This is why we can speak of the discovery of the "O" as being a key moment in the history of maths...things worked differently in the system without that digit. People still lived, and could still quantify and exchange things...say, by putting them in a balance or in a standard container -- or, if I have six sheep and know their names, I don't need to know I have six in order to "count" them; I just say, "Hey, Flossie is missing today," and I know I have to go searching.
Logic would never have been developed, (or needed), if there was nothing perceived to think about or question.
Of course: but that's the point. It "has been developed." It did not simply appear in the environment.
Unless one believes what is perceived is some kind of illusion or hallucination, a la Plato and all the idealists, the directly perceivable (that which we can be directly conscious of) is the ontological,
Okay, but what does "be directly conscious of" entail? It doesn't mean "comes from the external (empirical) world, surely. After all, I am "directly conscious" of nothing so much as my own mind's activities: but my mind does not come to me from the external empirical world.
While I have no use for any of his own philosophy, Bertrand Russell did say one correct thing: "Mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true." The same can be said about logic, especially symbolic logic, as well, and even language so long as it is only the symbology, structure, and mechanics of language that is meant.
Where then is this "certainty" of knowledge of which you spoke earlier, then? If it's not even in maths and logic, which are our best candidates, how do we ever think we have it in our contacts with the empirical world, which depend on our admittedly fallible senses and faulty communications?
A, "self-sufficient system of symbols," would be a work of fiction or a game with rules that determine how it is to be played, but would have no connection at all to reality or what can be true or false.
Oh, not so. But I think you're imagining that truth and falsehood can be checked against some "certain knowledge" we have. And I suggest that they can't. What they can be checked against is only their "close enoughness" for our purposes.
But ultimate truth: that's something only God knows. If He tells us, and assists His communication to be accurate to us, then we might know it too. But if He didn't, then uncertain, probabilistic knowledge is all we could ever have. And we'd have to hope that it would turn out to be good enough to get us what we wish, but that would be the limit of our "certainty."
If language is only what one learns from their parents and their peers, where did language come from?
Theists like myself say it comes directly from God, originally. But linguists today say all languages came from an original singular language, now dead, called "Into-European." That's as much as they know.
Manna or ambrosia, perhaps?
Yes, perhaps. Whatever it is, brookies are tasty enough to inspire visions and ecstasies. So perhaps ambrosia.
Immanuel Can wrote: ↑Mon Sep 09, 2019 5:14 pm
... because artists often lead the way in new understandings of the world and new ways of seeing or articulating perceptions.
Well, that's true enough, but I'm not sure those, "new understandings of the world," have been a good thing. At least they are interesting.
Yes, they are. And you're right: a fair number of those "new understandings" have inspired pretty awful things. I don't think the association between Marx and the Communist excesses fails to be connected, nor that Nietzsche, for all his hatred of Nazism, succeeds in being detached from the "übermensch" of Hitler. As Weaver famously wrote, "Ideas have consequences." And some of those consequences have admittedly been quite terrible.
And so have you been, as well as patient and reasonable, which are so rare today.
I trust I shall not turn "terrible."
I'm enjoying your thoughts. But for your convenience, you'll note I slowed my response a touch.
We can talk again at your convenience. No hurry, because we're deep in a big issue, and I'm sure it will stay interesting.