I'm not actually skeptical of existence itself. I'm merely pointing out that Descartes showed that we can only be absolutely sure of our own, and all other knowledge of existence is probabilistic.
We must not imagine that probabilistic knowledge is bad. It's very good, and very necessary. But to claim it's as certain as a mathematical operation conducted within a closed system of symbols, like 2+2=4 would just be unreasonable.
We need to distinguish between ontology and epistemology. Human knowledge is fallible: existence itself is not. Things exist or do not. But we may have only degrees of knowledge about them.
All this is true. But it is not with skepticism we start. Probability is not skepticism: it's a type of optimism about what may be the case, not pessimism about the possibility of knowledge.Skepticism cannot come at the beginning of any intellectual inquiry. Something must be asserted before it can be doubted, but nothing can be asserted without assuming something exists about which the assertion is made.
Oh, that's one's very far from absurd. In fact, scientifically, we ought to expect there would be nothing. Why are things like the strong and weak force in the atom so precisely balanced as they are? If they were a hair different, all matter in the universe would dissolve or collapse. There is a huge range of possibility in such an arrangement for things to go wrong, and exceedingly little for them to go right. So why did they go right? That's the question.the absurd question, "why is there something instead of nothing?"
I think you're really being unfair to Descartes here. He was not a skeptic, but someone who used the skeptical method as an heuristic exercise, to eliminate all that was uncertain about knowledge so far. But his purpose was ultimately constructive, not destructive: he genuinely believed he would get back to some certain truths once he had eliminated the uncertainties.All Descartes ever showed was that it is possible for the brightest of minds to make the huge mistake of rationalism, believing one can discover truth by reason alone, while ignoring that which is all there is to reason about, existence, (that which exists).
The original title of his book was not just "Meditations," but rather, "Meditations on First Philosophy in which the existence of God and the immortality of the soul are demonstrated." We do well to take note of that, I think.
Actually, it begins with induction and continues by deduction. It has a kind of recursive pattern of both.Science is neither inductive or deductive.
It works like this: it begins with some empirical observation of a phenomenon, which a particular scientist notices. He hypothesizes a cause or pattern for the phenomenon (induction and abduction). Then he applies the scientific method (testing, recording results, retesting, and so on). Finally, he makes a conclusion. But then that conclusion becomes an axiom from which further deductions can be made. And it can generate new hypotheses...and so on.
I have no idea why you (and most others) are so certain that knowledge of the nature of the physical is only probable.
Because the empirical world often defeats our predictions. We think we know what it will do, but it does not, sometimes.
Do you think the existence of the earth, the solar system, the galaxies, and physical universe, (or you own existence), are only probable.
No: as I said before, they're highly IMprobable.
Consider that at one time, we thought diseases were caused by bad blood, or witchcraft, or foul air. We now know more. But we do not know it all. Our theories are better, but they are not perfect yet. If they were, we could already cure all diseases, for we would know the mechanisms and causes involved with absolute certainty. But we don't.Do you believe it is only probable that there are microscopic organisms, or that some of those organisms cause diseases, and that some specific organisms that cause specific diseases have been identified. Do you believe the circulatory system of blood, the endocrine system, autonomic nervous system and lymphatic systems are only probable?
Only deduction, if the original axioms are true and the logical form of the deduction is correct. If those criteria are met, then we would have certainty. But we have none at all in the material world.If these are only probable, what do you call certain?
I'm sorry...I can't see what your requotation changes there. You've still got two coordinated clauses, which means you believe both equally, and none is subordinate to the other. That means that you believe "Material existence is all that exists," and you also believe "[It] has the nature...etc."You can take things out of context and make them mean almost anything you like. I don't think you did that intentionally, but I never said what your truncated quote implies.
What I said was, "Material existence is all that exists and has the nature it has independent of anyone's consciousness or knowledge of that existence.
If that's right, I quoted you correctly. If it's not, you misspoke on that one.
Oh. So you were trying to say, "materiality is all that is independent...etc."?'Independent of,' means, whether or not anyone is aware of or knows what exists or what its nature is. Another way of saying it is, reality is all that is, the way it is, independent of anyone's knowledge, beliefs, desires, or wishes."
I wouldn't say that was true either. For example, your "self" is not material, and it's not dependent on my desires, knowledge, wishes...and so on. But maybe that's not what you meant.
How can it? "Ontology" is the study of what exists.My definition of existence intentionally excludes any ontological assumptions.
Normally "Physicalism" and "Materialism" are hardly distinct. There's a nuance of difference, but not much.I regard the physical to be a subset of material existence,
They don't. They study the "physical" or "material" world. But in so doing, they imply that there is another realm. Otherwise, why would they bother to put the word "physical" there? They would just call their study "science," or "truth," then. The counterpart of the physical sciences is metaphysics of some kind.
No, no...the point is not the the hypotheses are spurious. The point is that both those that are spurious and those that are not are human constructs. Chimps, dolphins and paramecia do not do science. And the sciences do not pop out of the world like lava out of a volcano either. They are all products of human perceiving, interpreting and imagining. The data they assemble come from the real world, but the assemblage of the data into categories and cause-effect attributions, that's a thoroughly human undertaking.I agree that much of what goes by the name science (supposed scientific theories) is based on spurious hypotheses and preconceived premises.
There is no "science" that is not a human artifact. That doesn't make it bad, spurious or wrong: but that's what it is.
I don't say it does.I do not quite understand why the idea that a "method" is used to accomplish or achieve something that would in some way, invalidate that accomplishment or achievement.Immanuel Can wrote: ↑Sun Sep 01, 2019 2:14 pm I'm not saying they're not good: I'm saying they are a "method," which means they are an artificial arrangement intended to clarify certain kinds of knowledge by eliminating others from the field of vision. They are not the totality of reality or truth. They are constructs -- useful ones, but still constructs.
I think that's where you're struggling with what I'm saying. You're thinking I'm denigrating science: but I'm not. I'm rather advising due caution and humility...the epistemic virtues of good science.
Our science is not infallible. And our knowledge is not perfect. But probabilistic knowledge is very, very good, and we should keep it. And science, while not perfect, is very helpful to improving our situation, and we should keep doing it. But good science has as many safeguards as possible built into it to try to reduce our errors...incautious science does not.
But one overarching method, which is itself called, "The Scientific Method." The other minor methods are only good if they conform to the main method.Of course science uses methods (not just one, but many).
I did not say or intend you to think that. A "construct" simply means "something human beings created," not "a falsehood," or "just made up."They are not, as is implied when someone calls them, "constructs," just made up,
To illustrate, your car is a human construct: but it is neither false nor "just made up." You really have one. And I hope it's a good one. But the arrangement of the materials that make a car into a care come from human beings. Cars are constructs.
I trust that clears that up.
Absolutely. But take out the word "only," because it suggests denigration, and that's wrong.Are lasers only some kind of construct?
There are no lasers in nature. Human beings make them. They are constructs.
Oh, heck no. That's the least of what he did.Bacon's real contribution to science was the observation that to understand something, that thing itself must be examined.
Aristotle had already begun to point out the importance of examining the world. That was a very old idea. What Bacon did was to systematize the method of looking at things, so that it was disciplined by stages and checked against evidence, instead of being merely observed and guessed at. That's why he's called, "The father of the Scientific Method." Otherwise, that honour would probably go to an early Greek, like Aristotle or even Thales of Miletus, who had a similar intuition.
Because it's not self-evident. For example, bacteria were not, until recently, considered an existens. They were not even thought of, though they did, in fact, exist. It is not the case that it's obvious to us what really exists and what does not. What about something like "the self" or "morality"? Practically everyone thinks they exist, and everybody acts as if they do: but it's not obvious how they do....at least, not to everyone.Why would you call, "identifying existents," a problem?Immanuel Can wrote: ↑Sun Sep 01, 2019 2:14 pmAbsolutely. But science cannot solve this problem for itself. It cannot define ontology. All it can do is to take an ontology as presumed, and work from there. Materialism is just such a presumptive ontology, not some sort of self-evident fact.The first and most important aspect of science is the identification of the existents which are existence.
That wasn't my example.2+2=4
The argument that, "ice is a solid," is true in a way that, "ice floats on water," is not, because the first proposition is, "analytic," and the second is, "synthetic," (al la Kant), or to use your example, "2+2=4" is true in a way that, "2 qts. of water mixed with 2 qts. of ethyl alcohol yeilds 3.86 qts. of liquid," is not, is flat-out epistemological mistakes (or more likely an intentional obfuscation of the truth).
I wrote, "everything about "nature" and "material existence" is capable of doubt, in a way that 2+2=4 is not." What that means is that phenomena often deceive us. We think, for example, that ice will form at O Celsius. But it doesn't, if you are not at sea level. So multiple tests at different altitudes will defeat that hypothesis and require us to revise it.
Let's take another example: rolling a ball down a slope. You could do a hundred tests of that, and have every one show the ball rolling downhill. So you conclude: "rolling balls go downhill." But wait...you only performed 100 tests. What about the 101st? What about the 102nd? You didn't do them. What about all the other tests you could do? You haven't done the complete set of tests, so how do you know so confidently that balls with always do that?
You don't. You're taking a reasonable guess. You figure that 100 trials is enough. Why 100? You don't know. Could you be wrong, still? Sure. But you don't think you are. Probably.
Human knowledge of the material world is fallible like that. It's probabilistic, because no person has ever done the complete set of possible tests for even one hypothesis. And yet we still venture conclusions...
That's not absolute certainty. It's only reasonable certainty, within defined parameters. It's probability.
The example of 2+2=4 is worse. "2+2=4," is not a proposition about entities, but about concepts.
That's why it's analytical and deductive...and certain once the basic axioms are granted. But science is not like that.
You're making an unusual and highly stipulative use of the word "true." Most people do not use the word that way. They routinely say "2+2=4 is true." And they're not wrong. "True" mathematically is not the same as "true" empirically. "True" is an adjective that applies to different nouns."2+2=4," is NOT TRUE, because it doesn't state anything about anything.
That's one of the "basic axioms" of which I spoke, which must be in place before your mathematical calculations are deductive and correct. I didn't bother to explain them, because most people don't even know the issue. But I see you do. Consider it addressed earlier, by the "basic axioms" clause.It only describes how a method works by the example: if you have two items, then you have two more of those items, if you count them all there will be four of those items, but that presumes there are items and that they are the same kind of items.
No, no...I have not. Again you've used your own stipulative definition, and treated it as absolute. "Perceived means both "saw," and "categorized as." That's why dictionaries have multiple definitions of one word like that.This is a very old obfuscation. The word, "perception," has two very different meanings. Some use that difference to cover up disingenuous arguments. You have done this, but I know it was not intentional.Immanuel Can wrote: ↑Sun Sep 01, 2019 2:14 pmIt's not just perception. One can perceive something, but not perceive it to be evidence for another thing.If you mean an event or phenomena that is unobserved by anyone is not evidence, it is true, because a thing can only be evidence to an observer. Seeing something is not processing or interpreting it, it is simply being conscious of it. Until there is evidence one perceives there is nothing to process or interpret.
Phenomena are not evidence until they are categorized (or "perceived") as evidence. For example, the blood on a shoe isn't "evidence" for a murder if a murder has not been committed, or if the person noted to have blood on his shoe was in Dallas when the murder took place in Cleveland.
Yes, I'm sorry...but much of what you said was premised on misreadings of what I had intended. Maybe I needed to be clearer. I hope I've been able to clear some of it up.Enough
Sorry this was so long IC. There was much to consider and I'll be interested in your comments.
Yes, you bet.We may not agree on some things, which is what makes our conversation interesting.