Phenomenological data and absolute certainty

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akuma's chamber
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Phenomenological data and absolute certainty

Post by akuma's chamber » Mon Sep 26, 2016 9:50 am

As with many things, I come across a view/claim that I cannot resolve or that I don't completely buy.

The claim is this:

Absolute certainty is possible only via phenomenological sense-perception in any present moment (that is, sense-perception not separated by time). For example, "I am aware that some experience is occurring as I type this," or "I sense things in this moment".*

Do you disagree?


*For the sake of clarity: I am not referring to knowledge claims with regards to phenomenological data that is separated by time. For example, "the sun will rise tomorrow," or "there is a table in the next room." These are claims that cannot be empirically proved, and therefore, absolute certainty cannot obtain with regards to these examples. I am also not referring to knowledge claims with regards to "veil of ignorance"-type arguments, i.e. we cannot know with absolute certainty that we are just brains in vats, or that (hard) solipsism is true, or that idealism is true, etc.

OuterLimits
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Re: Phenomenological data and absolute certainty

Post by OuterLimits » Tue Sep 27, 2016 5:30 pm

I am having a sense experience right now. Is it coming from a real thing in a real world? Is it virtual? Am I dreaming? A brain in a vat? The experience itself is the only part of it beyond questioning.

I am having a memory right now. Is it a memory of a thing that actually happened? A post-hypnotic suggestion?

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Hobbes' Choice
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Re: Phenomenological data and absolute certainty

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Tue Sep 27, 2016 5:45 pm

akuma's chamber wrote:As with many things, I come across a view/claim that I cannot resolve or that I don't completely buy.

The claim is this:

Absolute certainty is possible only via phenomenological sense-perception in any present moment (that is, sense-perception not separated by time). For example, "I am aware that some experience is occurring as I type this," or "I sense things in this moment".*

Do you disagree?


*For the sake of clarity: I am not referring to knowledge claims with regards to phenomenological data that is separated by time. For example, "the sun will rise tomorrow," or "there is a table in the next room." These are claims that cannot be empirically proved, and therefore, absolute certainty cannot obtain with regards to these examples. I am also not referring to knowledge claims with regards to "veil of ignorance"-type arguments, i.e. we cannot know with absolute certainty that we are just brains in vats, or that (hard) solipsism is true, or that idealism is true, etc.
I'm not sure why absolute certainty bothers you. In a world where people can come along and move a table, why would you doubt that there is a chance you could be wrong that the table is still there?
And by the way - the sun doesn't rise.

akuma's chamber
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Re: Phenomenological data and absolute certainty

Post by akuma's chamber » Tue Sep 27, 2016 9:40 pm

OuterLimits wrote:The experience itself is the only part of it beyond questioning.
Yes, that's my claim too.

In other words, I wonder whether a schema might help to clarify:

There are at least 3 epistemological knowledge sets when determing certainties:

1 a priori (deduction),
2 a posteriori (induction), and
3 phenomenological experience.

Absolute certainty only obtains, in my view, in sets 1 and 3. One can obtain maximal certainty in set 2, and set 1 provides certainty within a framework of axioms which is different to set 3, which uses empirical experience.

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Re: Phenomenological data and absolute certainty

Post by akuma's chamber » Tue Sep 27, 2016 9:47 pm

Hobbes' Choice wrote:
akuma's chamber wrote:As with many things, I come across a view/claim that I cannot resolve or that I don't completely buy.

The claim is this:

Absolute certainty is possible only via phenomenological sense-perception in any present moment (that is, sense-perception not separated by time). For example, "I am aware that some experience is occurring as I type this," or "I sense things in this moment".*

Do you disagree?


*For the sake of clarity: I am not referring to knowledge claims with regards to phenomenological data that is separated by time. For example, "the sun will rise tomorrow," or "there is a table in the next room." These are claims that cannot be empirically proved, and therefore, absolute certainty cannot obtain with regards to these examples. I am also not referring to knowledge claims with regards to "veil of ignorance"-type arguments, i.e. we cannot know with absolute certainty that we are just brains in vats, or that (hard) solipsism is true, or that idealism is true, etc.
I'm not sure why absolute certainty bothers you. In a world where people can come along and move a table, why would you doubt that there is a chance you could be wrong that the table is still there?
And by the way - the sun doesn't rise.
Well, I enjoy the "chase" of resolving philosophical problems. It's challenging and rewarding. Also, my ontology (that is, the network of my philosophical ideas) will probably always need readjusting and modifying...and clarifying philosophical positions helps to "complete" the network so that it becomes more coherent.

Not sure whether you were being facetious with the "sun doesn't rise" comment...but I know the sun doesn't actually "rise".

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Re: Phenomenological data and absolute certainty

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Tue Sep 27, 2016 9:51 pm

akuma's chamber wrote:
OuterLimits wrote:The experience itself is the only part of it beyond questioning.
Yes, that's my claim too.

In other words, I wonder whether a schema might help to clarify:

There are at least 3 epistemological knowledge sets when determing certainties:

1 a priori (deduction),
2 a posteriori (induction), and
3 phenomenological experience.

Absolute certainty only obtains, in my view, in sets 1 and 3. One can obtain maximal certainty in set 2, and set 1 provides certainty within a framework of axioms which is different to set 3, which uses empirical experience.
A priori is not the same as deduction, nor a posteriori induction. Phenomena are things experienced and inform posteriori. But since you have opened with the usual solipsism, you have no right to assert any kind of certainty.
Well, I enjoy the "chase" of resolving philosophical problems. It's challenging and rewarding. Also, my ontology (that is, the network of my philosophical ideas) will probably always need readjusting and modifying...and clarifying philosophical positions helps to "complete" the network so that it becomes more coherent.

Not sure whether you were being facetious with the "sun doesn't rise" comment...but I know the sun doesn't actually "rise".
You've not explained why you want certainty, nor why you think it i achievable.

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Re: Phenomenological data and absolute certainty

Post by FlashDangerpants » Tue Sep 27, 2016 10:00 pm

akuma's chamber wrote:Also, my ontology (that is, the network of my philosophical ideas)
Erm, one of us doesn't know what Ontology means. In keeping with the theme of this discussion, I am open to persuasion about which of us that may be.

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Re: Phenomenological data and absolute certainty

Post by akuma's chamber » Tue Sep 27, 2016 10:05 pm

Hobbes' Choice wrote:A priori is not the same as deduction, nor a posteriori induction. Phenomena are things experienced and inform posteriori. But since you have opened with the usual solipsism, you have no right to assert any kind of certainty.
Sure, but isn't deduction a method for establishing truth-preserving arguments with the use of the a priori? Isn't the same true for induction and a posteriori?

I don't understand what you mean by
since you have opened with the usual solipsism

Where have I opened up with solipsism?


You've not explained why you want certainty, nor why you think it i achievable.
It's not that I want or need certainty, it's that I've stumbled upon a philosophical problem that I want to resolve regarding whether certainty is possible. If certainty is impossible then I'd be happy to go with that.

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Re: Phenomenological data and absolute certainty

Post by akuma's chamber » Thu Sep 29, 2016 11:22 am

FlashDangerpants wrote:
akuma's chamber wrote:Also, my ontology (that is, the network of my philosophical ideas)
Erm, one of us doesn't know what Ontology means. In keeping with the theme of this discussion, I am open to persuasion about which of us that may be.
Well I intentionally used "ontology" there to differentiate it from "Ontology" with a capital "O", similar to how Quine employs it in his "On What There Is" paper. I should have been clear about that. The way I used "ontology" there is as a way to imply how we each have a subjective perspective of reality and being, i.e. we each have personal ontologies about Ontology, if that makes any sense.

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Re: Phenomenological data and absolute certainty

Post by Terrapin Station » Thu Sep 29, 2016 1:07 pm

akuma's chamber wrote:Absolute certainty is possible only via phenomenological sense-perception in any present moment (that is, sense-perception not separated by time). For example, "I am aware that some experience is occurring as I type this," or "I sense things in this moment".*

Do you disagree?
I agree with that and I've said the same thing in different words many times myself.

What I'm confused about, though, is that you say this:
I come across a view/claim that I cannot resolve or that I don't completely buy.
I don't see anyplace where you say why you can't "resolve" that claim or why you don't completely buy it.

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Re: Phenomenological data and absolute certainty

Post by Terrapin Station » Thu Sep 29, 2016 1:13 pm

akuma's chamber wrote:1 a priori (deduction),
2 a posteriori (induction), and
3 phenomenological experience.
As Hobbes pointed out, a priori isn't the same as deduction, and a posteriori doesn't conventionally refer to induction-only. The prior/posterior distinction there is with respect to experience. A posteriori is often defined so that it covers everything that's not a priori--something is either known prior to experience or it isn't, in other words. So a posteriori would cover phenomenal experience, too. (I prefer "phenomenal experience" to "phenomenological experience," because with the latter, anyone educated in philosophy is going to assume that you're intentionally invoking phenomenology a la Husserl. So unless you agree with all of the basics of Husserl's phenomenology, it's probably better to avoid that word. Unfortunately, you still get a Husserl link in some folks' minds with "phenomenal," too, but that happens less often with "phenomenal" than it does with "phenomenological.")
Absolute certainty only obtains, in my view, in sets 1 and 3.
The only thing one could be absolutely certain of with a priori claims is that one believes whatever it is (at that moment). That awareness of being in that mental state at that particular moment is the same as (3) really, though.

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Re: Phenomenological data and absolute certainty

Post by Terrapin Station » Thu Sep 29, 2016 1:22 pm

akuma's chamber wrote:
FlashDangerpants wrote:
akuma's chamber wrote:Also, my ontology (that is, the network of my philosophical ideas)
Erm, one of us doesn't know what Ontology means. In keeping with the theme of this discussion, I am open to persuasion about which of us that may be.
Well I intentionally used "ontology" there to differentiate it from "Ontology" with a capital "O", similar to how Quine employs it in his "On What There Is" paper. I should have been clear about that. The way I used "ontology" there is as a way to imply how we each have a subjective perspective of reality and being, i.e. we each have personal ontologies about Ontology, if that makes any sense.
I don't think that makes much sense, because you're suggesting that the extension of what you're talking about in your ontology wouldn't match your ontology in the literal sense of it being your philosophy or theory of being/existence. But why would you take the extension of what you're talking about to be different than your ontology? If you were to believe that, you should change your ontology.

Also, I don't recall anything like that in "On What There Is," and quickly scanning through it again just now, I didn't see any capital-O "Ontology" distinction in it. Maybe you're thinking of some other paper? Frankly, it sounds more like some Heideggerian nonsense a la his "being," Being," "beyng," hyphenated "beings" like "being-in-the-world" etc.

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Re: Phenomenological data and absolute certainty

Post by akuma's chamber » Thu Sep 29, 2016 1:34 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
akuma's chamber wrote:Absolute certainty is possible only via phenomenological sense-perception in any present moment (that is, sense-perception not separated by time). For example, "I am aware that some experience is occurring as I type this," or "I sense things in this moment".*

Do you disagree?
I agree with that and I've said the same thing in different words many times myself.

What I'm confused about, though, is that you say this:
I come across a view/claim that I cannot resolve or that I don't completely buy.
I don't see anyplace where you say why you can't "resolve" that claim or why you don't completely buy it.

Sure. I think my point was that the claim of absolute certainty has been one I have not been confident about. I've only considered it reflectively and without much discussion with others. So you could say I buy the claim with 95% confidence at the moment, but I'm hoping for that 95% to either move closer to 100% or closer to 0%. Either way, unpacking the claim more just would make it less ambivalent in general for me. I guess I say 95% because I always assume I may be missing something i.e. blind-spots; and because I have yet to discuss the subject at length with others (this being one of the first times); and so I just wanted some clarity or to just bounce ideas off of people.

At the moment, I don't see how the argument is invalid though. Although one issue I have with it is this apparent paradox:

Can one be absolutely certain that absolute certainty is impossible?

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Re: Phenomenological data and absolute certainty

Post by Terrapin Station » Thu Sep 29, 2016 1:39 pm

Ah, okay. That makes sense.

I've talked about this a number of times in a number of different milieus over the years. What I've often done is challenged folks to explain how present phenomenal data, as present phenomenal data, not as something that corresponds or not to something else, could be mistaken, and no one has been able to do that. Usually the move by the folks who for whatever reasons would like it to be uncertain at that point is to dismiss it as something (relatively) vacuous. People like to be able to dismiss things they don't like however they can, haha.

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Re: Phenomenological data and absolute certainty

Post by akuma's chamber » Thu Sep 29, 2016 1:42 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
akuma's chamber wrote:1 a priori (deduction),
2 a posteriori (induction), and
3 phenomenological experience.
As Hobbes pointed out, a priori isn't the same as deduction, and a posteriori doesn't conventionally refer to induction-only. The prior/posterior distinction there is with respect to experience. A posteriori is often defined so that it covers everything that's not a priori--something is either known prior to experience or it isn't, in other words. So a posteriori would cover phenomenal experience, too. (I prefer "phenomenal experience" to "phenomenological experience," because with the latter, anyone educated in philosophy is going to assume that you're intentionally invoking phenomenology a la Husserl. So unless you agree with all of the basics of Husserl's phenomenology, it's probably better to avoid that word. Unfortunately, you still get a Husserl link in some folks' minds with "phenomenal," too, but that happens less often with "phenomenal" than it does with "phenomenological.")
I see. I placed "deduction" and "induction" next to a priori and a posteriori, respectively, because I assumed deduction and induction were the methods by which one arrives at claims in both of those sort of "modes" of experience, if that makes sense.
The only thing one could be absolutely certain of with a priori claims is that one believes whatever it is (at that moment). That awareness of being in that mental state at that particular moment is the same as (3) really, though.
Sure, that makes sense.

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