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The Munchaussen trilemma and the personal identity problem
Posted: 20 February 2014 11:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Donald Rumsfeld was an evil bastard. And he got shamed when he said what I’m about to say, but IMO he was completely correct, though his context was a little different.  Here goes: There are things we know. And there are things we know we don’t know. The hard thing to realize is, there are things we don’t even know we don’t know. And I would add, of those latter, there might be things we are completely incapable of knowing, ever. My point is, this is why topics like in this thread are useless. And in general why esoteric philosophy (for example metaphysics, some areas of epistemology, etc.) is useless.  We are confined to using the concepts we know. The answers may involve concepts we not only don’t know we don’t know, but are incapable of knowing or understanding even if we somehow knew they were out there. 

I always think of birds. They no doubt have a certain set of concepts they use to explain the world. But they could never even conceive of say quantum physics, or advanced cosmology, or whatever, in order to discuss the world. In our own way, at our level of consciousness, we are no different from the birds. AND we can’t even know if we ARE different because that would require us to somehow get beyond ourselves. Long story short…it’s just a bunch of word games for the most part. (If you’re interested, you might check out the excellent book entitled The Glass Bead Game.)

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Posted: 20 February 2014 01:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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You might like Wittgenstein’s Poker, Cuthbert, the story of that very argument in the 20th century.

I think it is very useful to identify that we can’t know everything. It is useful even to discuss where our ability to know drops off. Although not necessarily useful in everyday conversation AND particularly not useful when used like kkwan is using it, as a way to say we can’t even know who we are.

Note that he devolves into “those weren’t my exact words” types of discussion when confronted with the simplest question about his logic. He could simply attempt to clarify what he is saying, instead he tries to send us down a rabbit hole.

The reason it is useful to discuss this philosophy is so we can say, “I don’t know everything, and neither do you”. We can say that to the priest who wants our obedience as well as the politician. If we all understand our limits, we eliminate the people who claim to not have limits or claim to have special knowledge unavailable to the rest of us. We claim the right to say, “how do you know that?”

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Posted: 21 February 2014 01:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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CuthbertJ - 20 February 2014 11:27 AM

Donald Rumsfeld was an evil bastard. And he got shamed when he said what I’m about to say, but IMO he was completely correct, though his context was a little different.  Here goes: There are things we know. And there are things we know we don’t know. The hard thing to realize is, there are things we don’t even know we don’t know. And I would add, of those latter, there might be things we are completely incapable of knowing, ever. My point is, this is why topics like in this thread are useless. And in general why esoteric philosophy (for example metaphysics, some areas of epistemology, etc.) is useless.  We are confined to using the concepts we know. The answers may involve concepts we not only don’t know we don’t know, but are incapable of knowing or understanding even if we somehow knew they were out there. 

I always think of birds. They no doubt have a certain set of concepts they use to explain the world. But they could never even conceive of say quantum physics, or advanced cosmology, or whatever, in order to discuss the world. In our own way, at our level of consciousness, we are no different from the birds. AND we can’t even know if we ARE different because that would require us to somehow get beyond ourselves. Long story short…it’s just a bunch of word games for the most part.

That is a very philosophical consideration, Cuthbert…

Are you sure we do not know what we don’t know? How do you know? wink

But sure, there is a lot of wild speculations that is called ‘philosophy’, which is hardly taught at any university.

CuthbertJ - 20 February 2014 11:27 AM

(If you’re interested, you might check out the excellent book entitled The Glass Bead Game.)

I checked it out, but I don’t see the connection? It seems to me the book shows the value of theoretical reflection, but that it is empty when it is disconnected from practical life.

Full ack to Lausten’s response.

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Posted: 21 February 2014 11:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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GdB - 21 February 2014 01:25 AM
CuthbertJ - 20 February 2014 11:27 AM

Donald Rumsfeld was an evil bastard. And he got shamed when he said what I’m about to say, but IMO he was completely correct, though his context was a little different.  Here goes: There are things we know. And there are things we know we don’t know. The hard thing to realize is, there are things we don’t even know we don’t know. And I would add, of those latter, there might be things we are completely incapable of knowing, ever. My point is, this is why topics like in this thread are useless. And in general why esoteric philosophy (for example metaphysics, some areas of epistemology, etc.) is useless.  We are confined to using the concepts we know. The answers may involve concepts we not only don’t know we don’t know, but are incapable of knowing or understanding even if we somehow knew they were out there. 

I always think of birds. They no doubt have a certain set of concepts they use to explain the world. But they could never even conceive of say quantum physics, or advanced cosmology, or whatever, in order to discuss the world. In our own way, at our level of consciousness, we are no different from the birds. AND we can’t even know if we ARE different because that would require us to somehow get beyond ourselves. Long story short…it’s just a bunch of word games for the most part.

That is a very philosophical consideration, Cuthbert…

Are you sure we do not know what we don’t know? How do you know? wink

But sure, there is a lot of wild speculations that is called ‘philosophy’, which is hardly taught at any university.

CuthbertJ - 20 February 2014 11:27 AM

(If you’re interested, you might check out the excellent book entitled The Glass Bead Game.)

I checked it out, but I don’t see the connection? It seems to me the book shows the value of theoretical reflection, but that it is empty when it is disconnected from practical life.

Full ack to Lausten’s response.

My point exactly, we don’t even know that! Unlike the physical sciences where we can construct a bridge and walk across it to test if our engineering “truths” are valid, in this type of philosophy we can’t do that. As for the book, the connection is that as the name suggests, the theoretical reflections are just part of a game. Hesse was poking fun at professional philosophers who treated it like a game where the beads that got manipulated were ideas. If you’ve ever read through a dictionary of philosophy it becomes very apparent much of philosophy was just that: Mr X states A, B, and C.  Mr Y was a student of Mr X but after careful examination concluded A, B, and not C. His student added D, but negated A.  And so on.

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Posted: 22 February 2014 03:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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CuthbertJ - 21 February 2014 11:01 AM

Unlike the physical sciences where we can construct a bridge and walk across it to test if our engineering “truths” are valid, in this type of philosophy we can’t do that.

It is not quite clear to me what you mean with ‘this type of philosophy’. Are there types of philosophy that can be tested? If not, does that mean philosophising is worthless?

CuthbertJ - 21 February 2014 11:01 AM

As for the book, the connection is that as the name suggests, the theoretical reflections are just part of a game. Hesse was poking fun at professional philosophers who treated it like a game where the beads that got manipulated were ideas.

I think you are misled a little by the word ‘game’ in the title. Hesse is quite clear that the glass bead game is a formal structure that is common to mathematics, music, logic, aesthetic etc, i.e. it is a universal language of all science and culture. A ‘sentence’ in a glass bead game can be translated into a theme of Bach or e.g. in a mathematical statement. Taking such a sentence as departing point, one can develop new ‘bead game sentences’ according to the formal rules of the glass bead game, that, on its turn translated into music or mathematics, reveal new musical themes or statements. Joseph Knecht never doubts the intrinsic value of the glass bead game. But even as a student he recognises that the glass bead game cannot be the one and all value: he notices that students leave the academic world of Kastalien, and in the beginning he does not understand why. Slowly, even mastering the glass bead game better than anyone before him, he realises that without a connection with real life, the glass bead game is sterile. So, as said on one of the German blurbs of the book, ‘The Glass Bead Game’ is a call for integrating ‘vita contemplativa’ with the ‘vita activa’. Don’t forget, Joseph Knecht wants to become a teacher after he left his position as ‘Magister Ludi’. Teacher of what do you think?

Interesting however that Knecht’s leap into the real world ends with his death…

CuthbertJ - 21 February 2014 11:01 AM

If you’ve ever read through a dictionary of philosophy it becomes very apparent much of philosophy was just that: Mr X states A, B, and C.  Mr Y was a student of Mr X but after careful examination concluded A, B, and not C. His student added D, but negated A.  And so on.

Well, of course I did, I studied philosophy. It is true that much of the study of philosophy is in fact the study of the history of philosophy (maybe even more here in Europe as in the US). I am not specially favouring this, but I think it is a method to avoid repeating the same arguments over and over again, so you can at least recognise when you think you are developing a new idea. And where it is true that some philosophical problems are very resistant against a final answer, knowing what other philosophers have said helps to get insight into the matter. Many philosophical questions arise again and again in daily culture (‘vita activa’?) and having a reservoir of historical memory of how people reflected on these questions in the past (‘vita contemplativa’?) proof to be helpful.

On the other side, when I was studying my subsidiary discipline (physics), I missed the historical consciousness of the history of physics in the daily curriculum. No wonder that I also chose a semester course ‘history of physics’...

[ Edited: 22 February 2014 04:06 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 22 February 2014 07:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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GdB - 20 February 2014 03:27 AM

kkwan,

I agree with Lausten that in commenting on your citation you interpret ‘an evolutionary artifact’ as ‘just an evolutionary artifact’. That gives you the possibility to criticise it (with a rather lousy rhetorical question (‘If the self does not exist, what is the I we are referring to when we say I and how can we prove something which does not exist to be either true or false?’.))

That you have misquoted me is a fact, which you deny.

My comment was: If the self does not exist, what is the I we are referring to when we say I and how can we prove something which does not exist to be either true or false?

It does not mean an interpretation of “just an evolutionary effect” which both you and Lausten wrongly ascribed to me.

My comment wanted to show that that is not a correct interpretation. ‘Not existing independently’, or ‘existing unchanging’ do not mean ‘not existing’.

What is existence?

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existence

According to the direct-reference view, an early version of which was originally proposed by Bertrand Russell, and perhaps earlier by Gottlob Frege, a proper name strictly has no meaning when there is no object to which it refers. This view relies on the argument that the semantic function of a proper name is to tell us which object bears the name, and thus to identify some object. But no object can be identified if none exists. Thus, a proper name must have a bearer if it is to be meaningful.

Thus, if I (as a distinct object) does not exist, then there is nothing to refer to when we say I and therefore it is meaningless, as such.

This is an error many people here make (see the free will discussions; I even assume that your thread here is derived from the idea that the capability of reasoning is evolutionary advantageous): that explaining a higher order phenomenon with lower order processes means that it is explained away, and that the higher order phenomenon therefore does not exist. It does exist: only not independently.

This thread does not assume what you assume.

It poses the fundamental questions of what we can prove and of personal identity if the sense of self is deflated.

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Posted: 23 February 2014 03:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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kkwan - 22 February 2014 07:46 PM
GdB - 20 February 2014 03:27 AM

kkwan,

I agree with Lausten that in commenting on your citation you interpret ‘an evolutionary artifact’ as ‘just an evolutionary artifact’. That gives you the possibility to criticise it (with a rather lousy rhetorical question (‘If the self does not exist, what is the I we are referring to when we say I and how can we prove something which does not exist to be either true or false?’.))

That you have misquoted me is a fact, which you deny.

You may criticise me that I made it not clear that I did not cite you, but cited something you cited. But my reaction was clearly pointed at the fact that you gave the citation the most unfavourable interpretation, and probably not what was meant, and so made it an easier target for your poorly formulated criticism: a rhetorical question.

kkwan - 22 February 2014 07:46 PM

What is existence?

According to the direct-reference view, an early version of which was originally proposed by Bertrand Russell, and perhaps earlier by Gottlob Frege, a proper name strictly has no meaning when there is no object to which it refers. This view relies on the argument that the semantic function of a proper name is to tell us which object bears the name, and thus to identify some object. But no object can be identified if none exists. Thus, a proper name must have a bearer if it is to be meaningful.

Thus, if I (as a distinct object) does not exist, then there is nothing to refer to when we say I and therefore it is meaningless, as such.

So processes do not exist? Laws of nature describing these processes do not exist? Relations do not exist? Social institutions do not exist? ‘I’ do not exist?

I think you do not agree with the view you are citing, so it is not much use in supporting your own view.

kkwan - 22 February 2014 07:46 PM

This is an error many people here make (see the free will discussions; that explaining a higher order phenomenon with lower order processes means that it is explained away, and that the higher order phenomenon therefore does not exist. It does exist: only not independently.

This thread does not assume what you assume.

I left out the assumption. Now you can try to discuss my view substantially.

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Posted: 04 March 2014 07:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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GdB - 23 February 2014 03:55 AM

You may criticise me that I made it not clear that I did not cite you, but cited something you cited. But my reaction was clearly pointed at the fact that you gave the citation the most unfavourable interpretation, and probably not what was meant, and so made it an easier target for your poorly formulated criticism: a rhetorical question.

That my quotation from the wiki on personal idendity implies if the “self"does not exist, then it is problematic wrt what we are we talking about when we say I.

This problem was posed by my question.

What, if any, is a favorable interpretation? 

So processes do not exist? Laws of nature describing these processes do not exist? Relations do not exist? Social institutions do not exist? ‘I’ do not exist?

Not quite so.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Process_philosophy

In opposition to the classical model of change as accidental (as by Aristotle) or illusory, process philosophy regards change as the cornerstone of reality—the cornerstone of the Being thought as Becoming. Modern philosophers who appeal to process rather than substance include Nietzsche, Heidegger, Charles Peirce, Alfred North Whitehead, Alan Watts, Robert M. Pirsig, Charles Hartshorne, Arran Gare and Nicholas Rescher. In physics Ilya Prigogine distinguishes between the “physics of being” and the “physics of becoming”. Process philosophy covers not just scientific intuitions and experiences, but can be used as a conceptual bridge to facilitate discussions among religion, philosophy, and science

So, if change is the cornerstone of reality, then existence is becoming rather than being.

Hence, processes exist and processes are never deterministic.

The universe is a process and we are all processes in the universe.

As such, when we say I, we are talking about a process, I and not an object, I.

I left out the assumption. Now you can try to discuss my view substantially.

What is your view?

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