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Why are there laws of nature?
Posted: 27 September 2011 01:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]
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GdB - 27 September 2011 12:59 AM
StephenLawrence - 26 September 2011 11:01 PM

You firmly believe in laws that you have good reason to believe will continue. edit (a contradiction)

What is the contradiction?

The contradiction is you also think there is no good reason to think they will.

When it was not the case, science would be impossible.

In that case GdB science might be impossible because past regularities might not continue. So you should believe science might not work.

But, of course you don’t.

Did you already read Hume and Kant? We are just doing the whole stuff over again…

As if these matters are settled.

There are two things you imagine about certain authorities. 1) They’ve definately got it right. 2) they agree with you.

The philosophy forum is for discussing them. Just about all philosophy is going over the same issues again.

StephenLawrence - 26 September 2011 11:01 PM

Also we’ve discussed what would happen if the laws were different and you’ve said it’s all idle speculation because we don’t know if they could be. (another contradiction)

Again a contradiction? I’m afraid you have to spell it out…

Because you are saying the laws of nature could be otherwise.

And saying we don’t know whether they could or not.

Stephen

[ Edited: 27 September 2011 01:32 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 27 September 2011 01:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]
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GdB - 27 September 2011 12:55 AM

Sorry Stephen, it is just a thinking error. There was a time the man in the street thought witches really exist. The way you, as man in the street, sees natural laws is just wrong. You make natural laws as a cause of the way planets move. But natural laws cause nothing. They are descriptions on how events in the universe are causally connected, but they themselves are not physically discovered.

I actually don’t disagree with that. It misses the point, the man in the street realises it isn’t some gigantic fluke that they have held for so long.

They have held for so long because of the probability of them holding so long not vice versa

Your use of the word ‘statistics’ is rather rhetorical. The physical world is rather stable. There is no proof of that, but you experience it everyday.

The physical world is rather stable is a baseless assumption from your point of view. (it has been for the last 13 billion years isn’t)

But of course you don’t really believe that.

That’s the inconsistency I see in anyone who takes your view of induction and the laws of nature.

I think Hume got it wrong.

Stephen

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Posted: 27 September 2011 01:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]
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StephenLawrence - 27 September 2011 01:16 AM

The contradiction is you also think there is no good reason to think they will.

In that case GdB science might be impossible because past regularities might not continue. So you should believe science might not work.

But, of course you don’t.

No of course not, but you still do not get the point:
1. There is no logical proof that induction works. So, logically seen, empirical regularities can cease any moment.
2. Natural laws are constant. That is demonstrated in our daily life, and by the fact that science is possible. But that science is possible is an empirical fact, not a logical one. So in short: the method of induction works. We know that by induction.

StephenLawrence - 27 September 2011 01:16 AM

Did you already read Hume and Kant? We are just doing the whole stuff over again…

As if these matters are settled.

There are two things you imagine about certain authorities. 1) They’ve definately got it right. 2) they agree with you.

The philosophy forum is for discussing them. Just about all philosophy is going over the same issues again.

No. But our discussion is a repetition of it. And with knowledge of Hume and Kant you would get the clarity needed for discussing this stuff clearly.

StephenLawrence - 27 September 2011 01:16 AM

Because you are saying the laws of nature could be otherwise.

Logically seen, yes. But by induction I know they will not. Or do you deny that knowledge gotten by induction is not knowledge?

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Posted: 27 September 2011 01:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]
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GdB - 27 September 2011 01:34 AM

No of course not, but you still do not get the point:

Let’s see.

1. There is no logical proof that induction works. So, logically seen, empirical regularities can cease any moment.


I don’t think this is important what we are interested in is is there a reason why they don’t cease any minute?

Now as you believe they won’t cease any minute why is that?

If there is no reason why, why do you believe they won’t???

2. Natural laws are constant. That is demonstrated in our daily life,

Ok, this is simply a repeated mistake GdB, you really need to look at this, especially as it’s the crux of the matter

What is demonstrated is that “natural laws” have been constant up till now.

On the one hand you are implying you are taking a leap of faith that they will remain constant because there is no reason why they should. And on the other you are saying it’s demonstratable that they will.

and by the fact that science is possible.

If past regularities turn out not to be constant it will turn out science does not work, so it’s not a fact that science works unless it’s a fact that the laws are constant.

But that science is possible is an empirical fact,

No, I see the mistake clear as day but if I can convince you I don’t know.

not a logical one. So in short: the method of induction works. We know that by induction.

No, we don’t know induction works what if the laws of nature change so that the next predicted solar eclipse doesn’t happen?

Would you say induction worked in the previous cases?

I think you are getting it backwards. Induction works because the laws of nature are necessary (in some sense) or highly probable (in some sense)

Otherwise induction wouldn’t work.

Or do you deny that knowledge gotten by induction is not knowledge?

It might not be knoiwledge GdB, it depends whether regularities hold into the future.

Are you saying we get knowledge that they will from induction?

If you are, I’m saying there must be some objective fact about the world that makes that the case.

So we know there is such an objective fact because it’s highly likely that induction works and induction wouldn’t work without it.


Stephen

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Posted: 27 September 2011 02:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]
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StephenLawrence - 27 September 2011 01:55 AM

2. Natural laws are constant. That is demonstrated in our daily life,

Ok, this is simply a repeated mistake GdB, you really need to look at this, especially as it’s the crux of the matter

What is demonstrated is that “natural laws” have been constant up till now.

On the one hand you are implying you are taking a leap of faith that they will remain constant because there is no reason why they should. And on the other you are saying it’s demonstratable that they will.

It is hardly a leap of faith. You call it a leap of faith, because you are missing the logical proof. I call it a life long experience. By using other pejoratives for the same thing you are not making a logical point.

StephenLawrence - 27 September 2011 01:55 AM

If past regularities turn out not to be constant it will turn out science does not work, so it’s not a fact that science works unless it’s a fact that the laws are constant.

But that science is possible is an empirical fact,

No, I see the mistake clear as day but if I can convince you I don’t know.

Which word of empirical you did not understand?

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Posted: 27 September 2011 02:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]
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GdB - 27 September 2011 02:07 AM

It is hardly a leap of faith. You call it a leap of faith, because you are missing the logical proof.


I’m looking for a reason why of any description.

You say past regularities could cease in the next five minutes.

You believe they won’t but give no reason why?

What other reason why could there be other than you believe the probability is miniscule?

Stephen

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Posted: 27 September 2011 03:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]
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GdB,

So really what I’m looking for is the reason why you believe the probability of past regularities ceasing in the next 5 minutes is miniscule.

Stephen

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Posted: 27 September 2011 04:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]
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Because it never happened until now. Isn’t that obvious?

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Posted: 27 September 2011 05:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 69 ]
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I’ve wiped out whole response GdB, didn’t get the context of your last post right.

Sorry

Stephen

[ Edited: 27 September 2011 06:45 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 27 September 2011 06:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 70 ]
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GdB - 27 September 2011 04:21 AM

Because it never happened until now. Isn’t that obvious?

Aah right, you believe the probability of certain past regularities ceasing in the next 5 minutes is miniscule because it hasn’t happened before.

And that presumably is because you think the reason it hasn’t happened before is because it’s highly improbable.

Is that right?

If so we agree. grin

But surely that’s a combination of induction and abduction, so the best explanation for it never having happened before is that it’s highly improbable?

So where have I gone wrong?

Stephen

[ Edited: 27 September 2011 06:12 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 27 September 2011 07:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 71 ]
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StephenLawrence - 27 September 2011 06:09 AM

Aah right, you believe the probability of certain past regularities ceasing in the next 5 minutes is miniscule because it hasn’t happened before.

And that presumably is because you think the reason it hasn’t happened before is because it’s highly improbable.

Is that right?

If so we agree. grin

But surely that’s a combination of induction and abduction, so the best explanation for it never having happened before is that it’s highly improbable?

So where have I gone wrong?

Well, I think we nearly agree, but not quite. I don’t even know if it is improbable. ‘Improbable’ means that it could happen. But I don’t even know if it could happen. My experience give me the trust (faith?) that natural laws stay the same. Of course, I also have the experience that when I drive to my home in my car I will get there. But at least here I know that there is a chance it will not happen: I could get an accident. How do I know? Because accidents happen every day. Because I had some near-accidents. But I do not have the experience that natural laws change.

So as there is no empirical hint that a god might exist, there is no reason to think that natural laws may change. Even if it is logically possible.

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Posted: 27 September 2011 07:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 72 ]
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GdB - 27 September 2011 07:12 AM

Well, I think we nearly agree, but not quite. I don’t even know if it is improbable. ‘Improbable’ means that it could happen. But I don’t even know if it could happen. My experience give me the trust (faith?) that natural laws stay the same. Of course, I also have the experience that when I drive to my home in my car I will get there. But at least here I know that there is a chance it will not happen: I could get an accident. How do I know? Because accidents happen every day. Because I had some near-accidents. But I do not have the experience that natural laws change.

Ok, so the best explanation for induction giving us knowledge is that laws of nature are either necessary (in a sense) or highly probable in a sense.

The bit I don’t get is why are philosophers either being totally sceptical about induction or saying induction alone can give us knowledge? Why isn’t the solution that it’s a combination of induction and abduction as above?

So as there is no empirical hint that a god might exist, there is no reason to think that natural laws may change. Even if it is logically possible.

And this is where it gets trickier because in what sense do you think it might be impossible if you think it is logically possible?

Stephen

[ Edited: 27 September 2011 07:46 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 27 September 2011 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 73 ]
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StephenLawrence - 27 September 2011 07:43 AM

The bit I don’t get is why are philosophers either being totally sceptical about induction or saying induction alone can give us knowledge? Why isn’t the solution that it’s a combination of induction and abduction as above?

Because ‘they’ (we?) make a distinction between 100% rock solid logical deduction and induction.

StephenLawrence - 27 September 2011 07:43 AM

And this is where it gets trickier because in what sense do you think it might be impossible if you think it is logically possible?

There is no sensible reason not to think so. So until the moment natural laws change, I take them for unchangeable.

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Posted: 27 September 2011 08:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 74 ]
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I think this is in danger of becoming over-intellectualised.  I can’t speak for GdB, so I will talk of my own case.  I can’t remember when I first became aware of the idea that the universe could end in the next instant, but it was probably many decades ago.  I have probably not thought about it since, until this thread popped up!

But the stability of the world I use all the time.  I am making this post on the assumption the world will last at least long enough for someone to read it.  I bought a load of bread for breakfast tomorrow.

So I go through life on the assumption of stability (which is unprovable) while ignoring another fact - the world might end in the next instant.  If pressed to explain or justify that I would probably tell you it’s because I think the chance of the world ending in the next instance is infinitesimal, but that wouldn’t be the honest truth.  For example, when I bought my loaf of bread, I did not think to myself ‘Do I really want to do this?  The world might end before I can eat it.  Nah, the chances of that are infinitesimal but the chance I will need something for breakfast tomorrow are nearly 100%, so I will buy it’.

I didn’t consider an imminent end of the world in the bakers.  It ‘never entered my head’. 

What I can’t remember is whether discovering that the world could end in the next instant worried me at the time.  I don’t remember it doing worrying me, but I have a vague recollection of laughing about it with some of my school mates (which would put the episode about 45 years ago).  That makes me wonder if Steven has recently learnt of this problem of induction or if it has been festering for a while.  Perhaps he’ll let us know.

So I will make my confession explicit - in my thinking I assume what I know to be false (the stability of the world) and ignore what I know to be true (that the world might end tomorrow).  In my defence, that is not a conscious choice.  I do not consciously suppress the knowledge that the world might end, and I did not all those years ago decide not to worry about it (can one do that?).

So I ignore the possibilty of an immindent end of the world NOT because I think it in infinitely improbable.  That would be an after-the-fact rationalisation in my case.  I ignore it by virtue of it not coming into my mind in the first place, unless prompted to by a thread like this.

I think Steve believes people are - or should be - more ‘formally logical’ in their thinking than they are.  He definitely needs to read some Hume! People are people, not epistemological logic machines.  I think on balance that’s not so bad.

[ Edited: 27 September 2011 08:47 AM by keithprosser2 ]
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Posted: 27 September 2011 08:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 75 ]
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Because ‘they’ (we?) make a distinction between 100% rock solid logical deduction and induction.

But induction does get us nowhere GdB as I’m seeing it. It’s a combination of induction and abduction that gets us somewhere .

I believe some philosophers are arguing induction stands up alone.

That’s what I thought you were doing.

There is no sensible reason not to think so. So until the moment natural laws change, I take them for unchangeable.

So there is a possible world in which the laws of nature change tomorrow, but this one can’t be it.

What you are saying isn’t obviously making sense.

Stephen

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