Epistemology
Posted: 06 August 2011 08:55 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I’m just curious.  Can any of you (1) prove, or (2) give evidence that it is not the year 1984 A.D., and you are not actually a middle aged Asian man named “Sun Tzu” who is strapped to a hospital bed in a psychiatric ward, and that all your current beliefs about your life and your memories aren’t actually just a series of psychotic hallucinations?  In other words, how do you know your beliefs, experience, and memories are real, and not just the psychotic hallucinations of a middle aged Asian man strapped to a bed in a psychiatric ward back in 1984?


***** Bonus points if you get the reference to The Art of War and George Orwell tongue wink

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Posted: 06 August 2011 10:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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This is a version of the philosophical exercise of asking, “How do you know your brain is not in a jar in some scientist’s laboratory and what you think is reality is just a virtual world being fed to you.”  First, I have zero evidence that I am an Asian man or that my brain is in a jar.  Second, I have lots of evidence that my senses can be trusted if I recognize the limitations of my senses.  If a stick is half submerged in water, then it will look like it is bent when in reality it is straight.  On a hot day I might think I see a pool of water on the horizon, but I know this is an illusion.  If I avoid these pitfalls, my senses can be trusted.  Self esteem, as defined by Nathaniel Branden, is confidence in the mind’s ability to correctly apprehend reality and make good decisions.  I know from experience (evidence) that I am pretty good at interpreting reality for the most part, coming up with decisions about how to handle that reality, and then after I have implemented my coping strategies I usually see good results from them.  I would not be able to cope successfully with reality if I was interpreting it incorrectly.

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Posted: 06 August 2011 12:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yep, this form of radical skepticism stems at least back to Descartes, who realized that for all he knew about the world around him, he could still just be dreaming a strange dream.

There is no way to completely foundationalize epistemology. All we have is a best-effort sort of project. All else is mirage.

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Posted: 06 August 2011 12:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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dougsmith - 06 August 2011 12:05 PM

Yep, this form of radical skepticism stems at least back to Descartes, who realized that for all he knew about the world around him, he could still just be dreaming a strange dream.

There is no way to completely foundationalize epistemology. All we have is a best-effort sort of project. All else is mirage.

I first read it in Descartes

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Posted: 06 August 2011 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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(I should add for the sake of clarity that Descartes is rather famous for thinking he could foundationalize epistemology. His project was not a success, but his original skepticism was nonetheless fruitful, particularly in helping foster modern empiricism).

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Posted: 07 August 2011 08:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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john76 - 06 August 2011 08:55 AM

I’m just curious.  Can any of you (1) prove, or (2) give evidence that it is not the year 1984 A.D., and you are not actually a middle aged Asian man named “Sun Tzu” who is strapped to a hospital bed in a psychiatric ward, and that all your current beliefs about your life and your memories aren’t actually just a series of psychotic hallucinations?  In other words, how do you know your beliefs, experience, and memories are real, and not just the psychotic hallucinations of a middle aged Asian man strapped to a bed in a psychiatric ward back in 1984?

I look at the calender, today’s newspapers, browse online etc. and it is 2011.

I am not called “Sun Tzu” because nobody calls me by that name.

But, I cannot prove to you that I exist.

But he didn’t know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi.

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I am, therefore I think.

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Posted: 07 August 2011 01:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Hey guy, didn’t you notice my screen name?  It’s Occam.  What on earth of value would be served to me of even wondering about that.  The simplest approach is to behave in the way and in the environment I observe.

Occam

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Posted: 10 August 2011 09:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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john76 - 06 August 2011 08:55 AM

I’m just curious.  Can any of you (1) prove, or (2) give evidence that it is not the year 1984 A.D., and you are not actually a middle aged Asian man named “Sun Tzu” who is strapped to a hospital bed in a psychiatric ward, and that all your current beliefs about your life and your memories aren’t actually just a series of psychotic hallucinations?  In other words, how do you know your beliefs, experience, and memories are real, and not just the psychotic hallucinations of a middle aged Asian man strapped to a bed in a psychiatric ward back in 1984?

No, I cannot.  Is that question supposed to matter to me, and if so, why?

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Posted: 10 September 2011 08:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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dougsmith - 06 August 2011 03:33 PM

(I should add for the sake of clarity that Descartes is rather famous for thinking he could foundationalize epistemology. His project was not a success, but his original skepticism was nonetheless fruitful, particularly in helping foster modern empiricism).

You don’t think the Cogito is a successful candidate for foundational knowledge?

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Posted: 10 September 2011 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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SethJKurtenbach - 10 September 2011 08:47 AM
dougsmith - 06 August 2011 03:33 PM

(I should add for the sake of clarity that Descartes is rather famous for thinking he could foundationalize epistemology. His project was not a success, but his original skepticism was nonetheless fruitful, particularly in helping foster modern empiricism).

You don’t think the Cogito is a successful candidate for foundational knowledge?

Well ... I suppose it depends what counts as ‘foundational knowledge’. Arguably the cogito is simple logic, it gets him that he exists. OK, grant that. But it doesn’t get him a truly foundationalized epistemology, because the same move doesn’t present himself for any other objects in the universe.

So if his epistemology is successfully foundationalized, it’s also trivially small. And it’s really the other stuff we’re after when we talk about the hopes for a foundationalized epistemology—Descartes would agree.

The rest of Descartes’s hopes rested upon assumptions about the existence of a certain sort of God, who would guarantee the accuracy of clear and distinct ideas. Since they were unproven, they could not serve as adequate foundation.

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Posted: 14 October 2011 07:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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john76 - 06 August 2011 08:55 AM

I’m just curious.  Can any of you (1) prove, or (2) give evidence that it is not the year 1984 A.D., and you are not actually a middle aged Asian man named “Sun Tzu” who is strapped to a hospital bed in a psychiatric ward, and that all your current beliefs about your life and your memories aren’t actually just a series of psychotic hallucinations?  In other words, how do you know your beliefs, experience, and memories are real, and not just the psychotic hallucinations of a middle aged Asian man strapped to a bed in a psychiatric ward back in 1984?


***** Bonus points if you get the reference to The Art of War and George Orwell tongue wink

Since the the phrase ‘the year 1984 A.D’ is a social construct in realation to a calender to facilitate present and past events, by definition of the construct, it is not 1984. It is no more real than the One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater -  a useful fiction of the mind to facilitate society.

Now can you prove or give evidence that my statements are not the case?

Good Day!

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Posted: 16 November 2011 09:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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dougsmith - 06 August 2011 12:05 PM

Yep, this form of radical skepticism stems at least back to Descartes, who realized that for all he knew about the world around him, he could still just be dreaming a strange dream.

True..Descartes was worried about an deamon with infinite powers causing him vivid dreams zipper

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Posted: 18 December 2011 02:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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john76 - 06 August 2011 08:55 AM

I’m just curious.  Can any of you (1) prove, or (2) give evidence that it is not the year 1984 A.D., and you are not actually a middle aged Asian man named “Sun Tzu” who is strapped to a hospital bed in a psychiatric ward, and that all your current beliefs about your life and your memories aren’t actually just a series of psychotic hallucinations?  In other words, how do you know your beliefs, experience, and memories are real, and not just the psychotic hallucinations of a middle aged Asian man strapped to a bed in a psychiatric ward back in 1984?


***** Bonus points if you get the reference to The Art of War and George Orwell tongue wink

While radical skepticism can’t be answered with the degree of certainty and decisiveness that people who like the arguments might like, you should keep in mind the role of the the presuppositions implicit in the language you’re using and assuming that we as a group understand. If you think you’re speaking to others, you’re already granting that:

1) There are other minds
2) We can speak to and understand each other
3) The computer you’re typing on can actually access the internet and spread the message out to other minds
4) etc

If you don’t want to grant all of the stuff you presuppose in your language, then it quite literally makes no sense to ask. If you grant the background knowledge required to make sense of your question within the context of being in an internet forum, we have something relatively stable to move forward from. Once we agree on the background, we can look to things like Occam’s razor (as mentioned above) to help us come to reasonable conclusions about who and when we are, etc.

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