Russell: "Perhaps There is No Table At ALL?"

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Veritas Aequitas
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Russell: "Perhaps There is No Table At ALL?"

Post by Veritas Aequitas »

In Russell's book, The Problems of Philosophy, he raised the point,
"Perhaps There is No Table At ALL?
Russell did not ultimately prove there is a real independent table at all.
Peter Holmes wrote: Thu Apr 08, 2021 12:43 pm perhaps you could get straight to the point I'm making.
For example, do you think that everything that was, is and will be the case in the universe exists only if and because humans exist?
The way you phrased the question is not my point.

My point is,
everything that was, is and will be the case in the universe CANNOT exist independently of the human conditions.

The above is arrived by starting with what is really real empirically and philosophically at present plus being experienced directly.

Btw, have your read Russell's Problem of Philosophy?
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Prob ... Philosophy

I'll borrow from Russell to explain my point.
  • https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Prob ... /Chapter_1

    In daily life, we assume as certain many things which, on a closer scrutiny, are found to be so full of apparent contradictions that only a great amount of thought enables us to know what it is that we really may believe.

    In the search for certainty, it is natural to begin with our present experiences, and in some sense, no doubt, knowledge is to be derived from them [experience].
    But any statement as to what it is that our immediate experiences make us know is very likely to be wrong.

    Here we have already the beginning of one of the distinctions that cause most trouble in philosophy -- the distinction between 'appearance' and 'reality', between what things seem to be and what they are.
Russell used the example of a Table and demonstrate the uncertain reality of the properties [color, sound, shape, texture] of the table via sense-data
  • It is plain that if we are to know anything about the table, it must be by means of the sense-data -brown colour, oblong shape, smoothness, etc. -- which we associate with the table; but, for the reasons which have been given, we cannot say that the table is the sense-data, or even that the sense-data are directly properties of the table.
    Thus a problem arises as to the relation of the sense-data to the real table, supposing there is such a thing.

    It will be remembered that we asked two questions; namely,
    (1) Is there a real table at all?
    (2) If so, what sort of object can it be?


    Thus what we directly see and feel is merely 'appearance', which we believe to be a sign of some 'reality' behind.

    But if the reality is not what appears, have we any means of knowing whether there is any reality at all?
    And if so, have we any means of finding out what it [the object] is like?

    Such questions are bewildering, and it is difficult to know that even the strangest hypotheses may not be true.
    Thus our familiar table, which has roused but the slightest thoughts in us hitherto, has become a problem full of surprising possibilities.
    The one thing we know about it [the table] is that it is not what it seems.

    Among these surprising possibilities, doubt suggests that perhaps there is no table at all.
Throughout his book, Russell never proved there an an independent real table or rather there is a real independent external world, he conceded;
  • Of course it is not by argument that we originally come by our belief in an independent external world.
    We find this belief ready in ourselves as soon as we begin to reflect: it is what may be called an instinctive belief.
    https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Page%3AR ... 12.djvu/41

    So he concluded,
    • Thus, to sum up our discussion of the value of philosophy;
      Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions
      since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true,
      but rather for the sake of the questions themselves ......
      https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Page%3AR ... 2.djvu/253
    There is no definiteness to the existence of an independent external world other than by subjective instinctive beliefs.
    It is on this basis that there is no proven independent external world and that it cannot be proven, that I state,
    everything that was, is and will be the case in the universe CANNOT exist independently of the human conditions.

    The onus is on the realists if they insist,
    to prove the real universe can exists independent of the human conditions.

    Proofs? anyone?
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Terrapin Station
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Re: Russell: "Perhaps There is No Table At ALL?"

Post by Terrapin Station »

So:

(1) Empirical claims are not provable. Period.

(2) Worrying about certainty is stupid. Certainty can't be had. Worry instead about (what one takes as) good reasons for believing P vs not-P.

(3) Re remarks such as "any statement as to what it is that our immediate experiences make us know is very likely to be wrong," well, based on what? And how could that be based on anything that doesn't arrive with at least an implicit claim that "something our immediate experiences make us know" is in fact right? In other words, it's impossible to know that P is wrong if we don't know that not-P is right, but then that means that we can know what's the case, contra this sort of skepticism. Otherwise we'd have no grounds for saying that P is (very likely to be) wrong.
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Re: Russell: "Perhaps There is No Table At ALL?"

Post by Skepdick »

Terrapin Station wrote: Fri Apr 09, 2021 10:48 am (2) Worrying about certainty is stupid. Certainty can't be had. Worry instead about (what one takes as) good reasons for believing P vs not-P.
Given that there's a very large (perhaps infinite) number of reasons for believing P vs not-P. Which ones are the "good" ones?

Oh, but waaaait! Isn't that the exact same problem?

You believe that some reasons are good (G) and some reasons are not good (not-G).

So there's G vs not-G reasons for believing P vs not-P.

So now we are uncertain about goodness. Awkward!
Veritas Aequitas
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Re: Russell: "Perhaps There is No Table At ALL?"

Post by Veritas Aequitas »

Terrapin Station wrote: Fri Apr 09, 2021 10:48 am So:
(1) Empirical claims are not provable. Period.
Empirical claims can be proven via inductive arguments, i.e. induction.

You missed the main point of the OP, i.e.
  • Russell: Of course it is not by argument that we originally come by our belief in an independent external world.
    We find this belief ready in ourselves as soon as we begin to reflect: it is what may be called an instinctive belief.
Therefore all your arguments to counter my non-independent views based on an independent external world is groundless and flimsy.
(2) Worrying about certainty is stupid. Certainty can't be had. Worry instead about (what one takes as) good reasons for believing P vs not-P.
That there is no-absolute-certainty is well understood by one who is average in philosophy.
Do you think whatever reasons by you for believing P vs not-P is valid and sound based on your groundless and flimsy belief in an independent external world?
Russell provided his own basis on what good reasons for believing P vs not-P.
(3) Re remarks such as "any statement as to what it is that our immediate experiences make us know is very likely to be wrong," well, based on what?
And how could that be based on anything that doesn't arrive with at least an implicit claim that "something our immediate experiences make us know" is in fact right?
In other words, it's impossible to know that P is wrong if we don't know that not-P is right, but then that means that we can know what's the case, contra this sort of skepticism.
Otherwise we'd have no grounds for saying that P is (very likely to be) wrong.
I provided the link and Russell gave some examples to support his claim "any statement as to what it is that our immediate experiences make us know is very likely to be wrong,"
Russell stated "any statement" refer to those from different individuals from their own perspective.
Generally there are so many perspectives to 'what it is' [of an object] from different people in different conditions that what-is-p to one is-not-p to others. note the below;
Bertrand Russell wrote: In the search for certainty, it is natural to begin with our present experiences, and in some sense, no doubt, knowledge is to be derived from them [experience].
But any statement as to what it is that our immediate experiences make us know is very likely to be wrong.

It seems to me that I am now sitting in a chair, at a table of a certain shape, on which I see sheets of paper with writing or print.

By turning my head I see out of the window buildings and clouds and the sun.
I believe that the sun is about ninety-three million miles from the earth; that it is a hot globe many times bigger than the earth; that, owing to the earth's rotation, it rises every morning, and will continue to do so for an indefinite time in the future.

I believe that, if any other normal person comes into my room, he will see the same chairs and tables and books and papers as I see, and that the table which I see is the same as the table which I feel pressing against my arm.

All this seems to be so evident as to be hardly worth stating, except in answer to a man who doubts whether I know anything.
Yet all this may be reasonably doubted, and all of it requires much careful discussion before we can be sure that we have stated it in a form that is wholly true.

To make our difficulties plain, let us concentrate attention on the table.
To the eye it is oblong, brown and shiny, to the touch it is smooth and cool and hard; when I tap it, it gives out a wooden sound.
Anyone else who sees and feels and hears the table will agree with this description, so that it might seem as if no difficulty would arise; but as soon as we try to be more precise our troubles begin.

Although I believe that the table is 'really' of the same colour all over, the parts that reflect the light look much brighter than the other parts, and some parts look white because of reflected light.
I know that, if I move, the parts that reflect the light will be different, so that the apparent distribution of colours on the table will change.
It follows that if several people are looking at the table at the same moment, no two of them will see exactly the same distribution of colours, because no two can see it from exactly the same point of view, and any change in the point of view makes some change in the way the light is reflected.

For most practical purposes these differences are unimportant, but to the painter they are all-important: the painter has to unlearn the habit of thinking that things seem to have the colour which common sense says they 'really' have, and to learn the habit of seeing things as they appear.

Here we have already the beginning of one of the distinctions that cause most trouble in philosophy -- the distinction between 'appearance' and 'reality', between what things seem to be and what they are.
Atla
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Re: Russell: "Perhaps There is No Table At ALL?"

Post by Atla »

VA: We can't prove or disprove the external world, therefore there is no external world.

How does someone even come up with such an epic non sequitur?
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Re: Russell: "Perhaps There is No Table At ALL?"

Post by Atla »

Atla wrote: Sat Apr 10, 2021 7:22 am VA: We can't prove or disprove the external world, therefore there is no external world.

How does someone even come up with such an epic non sequitur?
Here are some more non sequiturs:

We can't tell whether or not other people exist, therefore other people don't exist.
We can't tell whether or not there are extradimension, therefore there are no extradimensions.
We can't tell whether the cat is dead or alive, therefore the cat is dead.
We can't tell whether or not Buddha or Jesus actually lived, therefore Buddha and Jesus never actually lived.
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Re: Russell: "Perhaps There is No Table At ALL?"

Post by Terrapin Station »

Veritas Aequitas wrote: Sat Apr 10, 2021 6:36 am
Empirical claims can be proven via inductive arguments, i.e. induction.
One thing at a time. First off, no, the above is wrong. You can't prove any empirical claim, by induction of otherwise. Whatever the empirical claim is, it can still turn out to be wrong.
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Re: Russell: "Perhaps There is No Table At ALL?"

Post by Skepdick »

Terrapin Station wrote: Sat Apr 10, 2021 9:28 am One thing at a time. First off, no, the above is wrong. You can't prove any empirical claim, by induction of otherwise. Whatever the empirical claim is, it can still turn out to be wrong.
And? Inductive Mathematical proofs can turn out to be wrong also.

You seem to be married to the myth of deductive certainty which pre-supposes certain proof-theoretic assumptions.

Disproving a proof signals new information. Surprise! There's something your proof-structure/system doesn't account for.
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Re: Russell: "Perhaps There is No Table At ALL?"

Post by commonsense »

Everything that was, is, and/or will be cannot exist outside the human condition UNLESS a universe can exist without humans, or even can exist with humans who have no ability to sense.

In a universe without humans, no real thing can be sensed UNLESS it is sensed by other creatures, such as an ant.

An ant senses a table, if not in every human way, at least by feeling its structure, else all ants would fall off the edge of a table eventually.

In a universe without humans, or without human sensibility, what was, is, or will be can be sensed outside the human condition.

In a universe without human sensibility, what was, is, or will be can exist.

This leaves us with a question. Can there be a universe without humans or with humans who have no sense, a non-human universe so to speak?
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Re: Russell: "Perhaps There is No Table At ALL?"

Post by Skepdick »

commonsense wrote: Sat Apr 10, 2021 2:56 pm In a universe without humans, no real thing can be sensed UNLESS it is sensed by other creatures, such as an ant.

An ant senses a table, if not in every human way, at least by feeling its structure, else all ants would fall off the edge of a table eventually
In a universe without humans, where would an ant find a "table"?

It's a teleological description we assign to anything that can serve that that purpose.
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Re: Russell: "Perhaps There is No Table At ALL?"

Post by commonsense »

Good point about human handiwork. I should have used a rock rather than a table for an example.
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Re: Russell: "Perhaps There is No Table At ALL?"

Post by Terrapin Station »

commonsense wrote: Sat Apr 10, 2021 2:56 pm Everything that was, is, and/or will be cannot exist outside the human condition UNLESS a universe can exist without humans, or even can exist with humans who have no ability to sense.
Which pretty obviously it can . . . and what would our ontology be like if we said it couldn't? What would humans even be? How would they come about ontologically?
In a universe without humans, no real thing can be sensed UNLESS it is sensed by other creatures, such as an ant.
Only things capable of sensing can sense, sure.
Veritas Aequitas
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Re: Russell: "Perhaps There is No Table At ALL?"

Post by Veritas Aequitas »

Terrapin Station wrote: Sat Apr 10, 2021 9:28 am
Veritas Aequitas wrote: Sat Apr 10, 2021 6:36 am
Empirical claims can be proven via inductive arguments, i.e. induction.
One thing at a time. First off, no, the above is wrong. You can't prove any empirical claim, by induction of otherwise. Whatever the empirical claim is, it can still turn out to be wrong.
I am not using 'prove' in the strictest sense of logic or mathematics.

I am using 'prove' generally in the sense of justification.

One can easily 'prove' the Sun will rise tomorrow' and in the next thousand years based on evidence from the past and past-futures [Russell's term].
The theory has hold true that all past predictions-of-the-future that 'the sun will rise tomorrow' has turned out to be true.
Therefore empirical claims can be 'proven' [justified] to be true with high probability [not 100% certainty] via induction.
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Re: Russell: "Perhaps There is No Table At ALL?"

Post by Terrapin Station »

Veritas Aequitas wrote: Sun Apr 11, 2021 5:55 am I am not using 'prove' in the strictest sense of logic or mathematics.

I am using 'prove' generally in the sense of justification.

One can easily 'prove' the Sun will rise tomorrow' and in the next thousand years based on evidence from the past and past-futures [Russell's term].
The theory has hold true that all past predictions-of-the-future that 'the sun will rise tomorrow' has turned out to be true.
Therefore empirical claims can be 'proven' [justified] to be true with high probability [not 100% certainty] via induction.
You also can't plausibly do probabilities for stuff like this (I don't buy Bayesian probability).

Basically, you're calling reasons to believe something a "proof"?
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Re: Russell: "Perhaps There is No Table At ALL?"

Post by commonsense »

Terrapin Station wrote: Sun Apr 11, 2021 11:59 am
Veritas Aequitas wrote: Sun Apr 11, 2021 5:55 am I am not using 'prove' in the strictest sense of logic or mathematics.

I am using 'prove' generally in the sense of justification.

One can easily 'prove' the Sun will rise tomorrow' and in the next thousand years based on evidence from the past and past-futures [Russell's term].
The theory has hold true that all past predictions-of-the-future that 'the sun will rise tomorrow' has turned out to be true.
Therefore empirical claims can be 'proven' [justified] to be true with high probability [not 100% certainty] via induction.
You also can't plausibly do probabilities for stuff like this (I don't buy Bayesian probability).

Basically, you're calling reasons to believe something a "proof"?
Proof is a reason to believe and conversely one reason to believe an empirical claim is an inductive proof.
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