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Distinguishing Philosophy from Science
Posted: 18 March 2007 06:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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[quote author=“skepticdave”]Newton discovered the strength of gravity but had no explanation of gravity.

Right, Newton famously said that he ‘made no hypotheses’ about the nature of gravitation; that all he was doing was giving us the laws of how bodies behaved under gravitation, and he wasn’t telling us why they behaved in this way. However, in fact Newton was a strong theist, and did believe that god was ultimately responsible for keeping the planets in stable motion around the sun ... so in fact he was making a sort of hypothesis ... :wink:

(Laplace was later able to show that the planets would remain in stable orbits by themselves, using perturbation theory. For more on this, see Neil Tyson’s wonderful essay on The Perimeter of Ignorance ).

[quote author=“skepticdave”]The rest of Newton’s laws still hold true to this day on the macro scale.

Right ... so long as we’re talking about non-relativistic speeds and low grativational fields. (Which we are almost always).

[quote author=“skepticdave”]Although Newtonian mechanics can not explain Mercury’s odd orbit, his laws combined with Keplers laws of planetary movement explain and predict, with the use of mathematics, the orbits of the other planets.

Even more than that ... Newton’s laws of gravity explained Kepler’s three laws. IIRC, using the calculus, Newton was actually able to prove Kepler’s laws from his own more basic laws of gravity.

[quote author=“skepticdave”]Would a more accurate description of the differences between science and philosophy be that science focuses on the problems of facts through the methodology of relying on sense datum and mathematics, whereas, philosophy focuses on the methodologies and conceptual analyses?

Perhaps ... I don’t really think there’s a hard-and-fast distinction to be made between them, however. As scientific knowledge expands, part of its effect is to alter our basic concepts of the world in important ways. We discard older notions (e.g., of magic, witchcraft, the “evil eye”, rain gods, etc.) and replace them with concepts that are better reflections of reality.

So the boundary between science and philosophy will always be fluid.

Right now maybe the most fluid boundary in philosophy is that of Philosophy of Mind ... with new methods of brain science and cognitive psychology, the old notions of the ‘soul’ or the ‘blank slate’ are going out the window, to be replaced by a much more nuanced view of what the mind is and how it works. This has already radically changed how the mind is treated in the philosophy classroom. Much contemporary philosophy of mind is about computing theory, brain science, evolutionary models and cognitive psychology.

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Posted: 18 March 2007 07:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”][quote author=“skepticdave”]

‘Definite’ knowledge?  If by definite you mean knowledge that is absolutely certain, then no, science will never be able to produce such knowledge.  However, scientific data of course can produce predictions that are highly, highly probable.


 
I agree science at best is only capable of statistically high probabilities of confirmation. So, is definite knowledge even possible? If so, then what produces it if not science? If it is definite knowledge that definite knowledge is not obtainable then the original claim is not definite or knowledge.

Scientific theories are distinguished in that they are always, in part, empirically based, and thus their truth depends on the support of further sensory experience (empirical observation) which is always inherently uncertain. A scientific truth is always subject to being destroyed by further sensory experience.

I agree as noted above.


Philosophical and mathematical theories are distinguished in that they need not be supported or negated by empirical observation/sensory experience - they are absolutely true because they exist in a definitional construct that is based on pure logic.

 

The above statement sounds like sophistic prevarication and slight of hand and even assumption. You state that the philosophical claim above is absolutely true because it exists in a definitional construct and is based on pure logic. It needs to be backed up and supported somehow, it sounds circular. How do we know pure logic is pure logic? 

Whereas, it is really only in the realm of pure philosophy that we can conclude something like “all things have causes.” The reason such a conclusion is purely a philosophical one is because there isn’t a scientific experiment that can be devised which can confirm or deny this theory. Such a conclusion is the result of philosophical reasoning alone.


Then can it strictly be called a conclusion or rather an assumption?
There were a time when a scientific experiment could not be devised to show nuclear fusion or mini bangs with particle colliders. Some technology takes time. Claims about morality and ethics are philosophical rather than scientific since they are based on value judgments instead of facts.

Furthermore, if you argued with the clerk that $100 substracted from $50 = $20, then you would indeed be irrational.

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Posted: 18 March 2007 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”][quote author=“skepticdave”]

For more on this, see Neil Tyson’s wonderful essay on The Perimeter of Ignorance ).

I first heard Neil’s lecture on CSPAN-2. Great stuff and I learned a bit about Ptolemy. Neil Degrasse Tyson picks up where Sagan left off in the sense that he does a good job in taking science to the community.

Perhaps ... I don’t really think there’s a hard-and-fast distinction to be made between them, however. As scientific knowledge expands, part of its effect is to alter our basic concepts of the world in important ways. We discard older notions (e.g., of magic, witchcraft, the “evil eye”, rain gods, etc.) and replace them with concepts that are better reflections of reality.

So the boundary between science and philosophy will always be fluid.

I agree.

Right now maybe the most fluid boundary in philosophy is that of Philosophy of Mind ... with new methods of brain science and cognitive psychology, the old notions of the ‘soul’ or the ‘blank slate’ are going out the window, to be replaced by a much more nuanced view of what the mind is and how it works. This has already radically changed how the mind is treated in the philosophy classroom. Much contemporary philosophy of mind is about computing theory, brain science, evolutionary models and cognitive psychology.

Maybe not blank slates yet but I thought the “soul” was already out the window. Or did you just mean “mental phenomena” as existent and separate from the brain? Anyway, yeah I just recently read “Minds, Brains and Science” by Searle-‘84. Interesting lectures but a bit dated I’m looking forward to reading more on the subject.

You probably already know about these guys and Orch-OR?
http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/

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Posted: 18 March 2007 07:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Cory said:

if we go by what pure logic tells us, the existence of a thing, must, by logical neccesity be the effect of infinite causes, and the totality of all things, must, by logical neccesity be infinite, meaning that it has no begining or end. If we don’t accept this, then the only alternative is to assume that something finite can come from nothing. Which is illogical. Another irrational assumption is that something finite can exist without a cause.

Ok, I’m having trouble following this.

Step 1. “the existence of a thing, must, by logical neccesity be the effect of infinite causes”
Why? Why must a finite thing have infinite causes? (as you define all “things” to be, though that raises the question what is something infinite, your “totality” if it is not a “thing”) Why cannot one finite thing cause another?

Step 2. “the totality of all things, must, by logical neccesity be infinite, meaning that it has no begining or end.”
So, I see that the totality of all things must be infinite, since it includes everything. As I think Doug pointed out in the Totality thread, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the totality has no temporal beginning or end, though you can define it that way (and I think you did, by including eternal along with infinity in your description).

Step 3. “Another irrational assumption is that something finite can exist without a cause”
This seems to include an assumption, that things have causes and nothing comes from nothing. Sure, that’s the everyday reality of our experience, but there’s no reason to assume it is a logically necessary assumption about all possible universes. And it sounds a lot like the old idea of trying to avoid an infinite regress of causes that can only be broken by a First Cause (and we all know what THAT usually means). That sounds like a Xeno’s Paradox, an idea that is intuitively appealing but may just not be true. Clearly the arrow gets to the target, and maybe the first “thing” had no “cause” in the sense we usually mean. If you’re going to speculate about the totality (or the phrase Doug used, the “space of all possible worlds”), you don’t have to limit yourself to what seems logically possible based on everyday experience. And quantum mechanics seems to show that reality doesn’t feel limited by the “laws” we intuit from our experiences.

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Posted: 18 March 2007 08:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]
A philosophical belief is one which, logically, can never be empirically supported or invalidated.

That definition of a philosophical belief is itself a philosophical belief. What’s the difference between the claims of a pet psychic and philosophical claims? It is not possible to confirm or falsify certain claims from one who claims to read your pets mind. It stays safe that way. That’s not my definition of philosophy but, then again, I’m no philosopher and neither is a charlatan like a “pet psychic”.

Falsifiability is a cornerstone to the scientific method. Technically, no scientific theory can be proven true, only falsified. If it’s unfalsifiable, it’s philosophy, not science.

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Posted: 18 March 2007 08:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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[quote author=“skepticdave”]Maybe not blank slates yet but I thought the “soul” was already out the window. Or did you just mean “mental phenomena” as existent and separate from the brain? Anyway, yeah I just recently read “Minds, Brains and Science” by Searle-‘84. Interesting lectures but a bit dated I’m looking forward to reading more on the subject.

Well, yes, the immaterial soul is basically out the window. The problem is where we are left in terms of the relation of mental and physical phenomena. Searle, to take one rather extreme example, appears to believe that mental phenomena are a sort of extrusion from brain-stuff, so silicon computers couldn’t have minds.

[quote author=“skepticdave”]You probably already know about these guys and Orch-OR?
http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/

Hameroff is a nut, and his theorizing with Penrose is not taken seriously in the scientific community. (It has actually reflected badly on Penrose). For more on this you should definitely take a look at the recent Beyond Belief conference posting here on the forum, and view the Q&A with Hameroff. He got taken apart. (Check#13 in my post about the conference—should be the eighth message).

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Posted: 18 March 2007 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”][quote author=“skepticdave”]Maybe not blank slates yet but I thought the “soul” was already out the window. Or did you just mean “mental phenomena” as existent and separate from the brain? Anyway, yeah I just recently read “Minds, Brains and Science” by Searle-‘84. Interesting lectures but a bit dated I’m looking forward to reading more on the subject.

Well, yes, the immaterial soul is basically out the window. The problem is where we are left in terms of the relation of mental and physical phenomena. Searle, to take one rather extreme example, appears to believe that mental phenomena are a sort of extrusion from brain-stuff, so silicon computers couldn’t have minds.

[quote author=“skepticdave”]You probably already know about these guys and Orch-OR?
http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/

Hameroff is a nut, and his theorizing with Penrose is not taken seriously in the scientific community. (It has actually reflected badly on Penrose). For more on this you should definitely take a look at the recent Beyond Belief conference posting here on the forum, and view the Q&A with Hameroff. He got taken apart. (Check#13 in my post about the conference—should be the eighth message).

Excellent.

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Posted: 18 March 2007 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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How to distinguish Philosophy from Science?

Here is a question for all to think about.  Dr. Victor Stenger says he is doing science when he says science proves that God does not exist.  Dr. DS Wilson and others say that going beyond proving specifics like weeping statues, the possiblity of anti-natural “miracles,” and the like, science is not in the business of making such prouncements on God because God can neither be proved or disproved to exist.. and thus we are doing philopshy and not science when we say God does or does not exist (afterall, science can only go by evidence in the natural universe).

All these people, by the way, are agnostics at the very least, and agree that most of what is in the various “holy texts” are probably just fables or poor examples of how the world might work, or how humans “work.”

So, when talking about God, when can we say we are doing science, and when are we instead doing philosophy?

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Posted: 18 March 2007 10:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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[quote author=“Barry”]How to distinguish Philosophy from Science?


So, when talking about God, when can we say we are doing science, and when are we instead doing philosophy?

Depends on what is being said about god and what is even meant by “god”. Even though we know what it means many people have differing conceptions of the term “god”.

Science is the discovery of natural causation. If god is still given credit beyond natural causation without actually being the explicit immediate source of that causation (weather for ex.)..........then that is outside the realm of science and “god’ is and always can be invoked. But that is an epistemological cop out suffice it to say.

But science can differentiate or have something to say about the issue you raised, I think, and it is this:

Science can disprove that a deity flattened my tire just as easily that it can disprove that a green gremlin did it when a nail is found in my tire and science can explain how a sharpened piece of metal pierces the rubber and how a piece of chalk cannot. One may say “god” made me run over the nail, yet one may say a green gremlin made that circumstance come about as well but that kind of differentiation is beyond doing science.

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Posted: 18 March 2007 04:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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skepticdave,

Cory: ‘Definite’ knowledge? If by definite you mean knowledge that is absolutely certain, then no, science will never be able to produce such knowledge. However, scientific data of course can produce predictions that are highly, highly probable.

Dave: I agree science at best is only capable of statistically high probabilities of confirmation. So, is definite knowledge even possible?

Of course, you just said yourself that science is only capable of high probabilies of confirmation. 

[quote author=“SkepticDave”]
If so, then what produces it if not science?

Rational relfection, a.k.a pure logic.

[quote author=“skepticdave”]

If it is definite knowledge that definite knowledge is not obtainable then the original claim is not definite or knowledge.

 

No, the original claim (which is indeed definite knowledge) is that definite knowledge cannot be derived via empirical observation, scientific testing.  In other words science cannot give us absolute truth, but only an approximation (approximations that I think are often very sobering and useful, of course).   

Cory: Philosophical and mathematical theories are distinguished in that they need not be supported or negated by empirical observation/sensory experience - they are absolutely true because they exist in a definitional construct that is based on pure logic. 

Skepticdave: The above statement sounds like sophistic prevarication and slight of hand and even assumption. You state that the philosophical claim above is absolutely true because it exists in a definitional construct and is based on pure logic. It needs to be backed up and supported somehow, it sounds circular. How do we know pure logic is pure logic?

Pure logic begins in its lesser and usually more unconscious form when we learn mathematics, and it begins in its higher form when we start thinking logically about logic itself (which really is philosophy).  Animals and human toddlers are largely empiricists, as their logical operations are limited to responding to distinctions that they percieve sensorily. 

Eventually children (usually, at least in western culture) learn math and more abstract definitions and concepts, and as they grow into adults they sometimes to a degree begin to think logically about their logic.  They become philosophers.  But usually it’s only to a small degree.


Cory: Whereas, it is really only in the realm of pure philosophy that we can conclude something like “all things have causes.” The reason such a conclusion is purely a philosophical one is because there isn’t a scientific experiment that can be devised which can confirm or deny this theory. Such a conclusion is the result of philosophical reasoning alone.

Dave: Then can it strictly be called a conclusion or rather an assumption?

Is 2+2=4 a conclusion or an assumption?  If you deny it, then you are denying logic.  When it all comes down to it, there is actually no logical reason to be logical - - a person is logical simply because that is what seems best.  In other words, our valuing of logic is faith based.  We have Faith in reason, in the apparent.  An alternative is to have faith in God and the supernatural, which are in no way apparent.  We might also have faith simply in what feels good, what excites us and gives pleasure (this might be TV, movies, shopping, or often this is also God and the supernatural).  Usually with humans it’s a combination of logic and religiosity or spiritualism.  For instance, there are a few scientists and many some-what intellectuals who have religious beliefs, sometimes very traditional, and sometimes more new agey involving cosmic consciousness, other dimensions, immortality of consciousness, etc.

There was a time when a scientific experiment could not be devised to show nuclear fusion or mini bangs with particle colliders. Some technology takes time.

Devising a scientific experiment to demonstrate a phenomena that exists relative to the conditions of the experiment, merely does that. 

To devise an experiment that proves ‘all things are caused’ is impossible and this is because scientific experiments can only prove that which exist within the bounds of the experiment.  There is no scientific experiment that can test every single thing that can possibly exist.
 
However, it is indeed an absolute truth that all things are caused. 

It’s as true as 2+2=4. 

Claims about morality and ethics are philosophical rather than scientific since they are based on value judgments instead of facts.

Yes, I agree the subject of ethics is strictly philosophical, but moral judgements/ethics are always relative to what you as an individual value, and are in no way absolute.  Life does not inherently have any meaning, but that doesnt mean we shouldnt invent our own meaning.  Why not? 

It seems apparent, when you compare the stability and adaptiveness that has resulted (or failed to significantly result) from various forms of government, that there is a certain way of governing people and a certain way of rearing children that results in a more sustainable, stable, less emotional, more intelligent and thus more adaptive species. 

For the most part I feel that emotions have been useful up until a certain point in our evolution, but we’ve reached a stage where emotions have largely outlived their usefullness.  So my ethics has alot to do with valuing the survival and propagation of that which diffuses and weakens emotions, which, in humans, usually manifest as psychological attachments.  It seems apparent to me that emotional psychological attatchment is primarily responsible for human self-destructiveness (stupidity).

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Posted: 18 March 2007 05:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Cory: if we go by what pure logic tells us, the existence of a thing, must, by logical neccesity be the effect of infinite causes, and the totality of all things, must, by logical neccesity be infinite, meaning that it has no begining or end. If we don’t accept this, then the only alternative is to assume that something finite can come from nothing. Which is illogical. Another irrational assumption is that something finite can exist without a cause.


mckenzie: Ok, I’m having trouble following this.

Step 1. “the existence of a thing, must, by logical neccesity be the effect of infinite causes”
Why? Why must a finite thing have infinite causes?

We might want to agree on something basic first.  If we can agree on that, then we can take it deeper. 

Picture a universe where your consciousness is limited to staring at a white canvas with a black dot in the middle.  My contention is that the white background is causing the black dot, and the black dot is causing the white background.  If there were no background, then the black dot would be impossible.  And if there was no black dot, then the white background would be likewise impossible to percieve.  At the most basic level, a thing can only exist in contrast to another thing.  If there is only one, then there is nothing. 

The lesson here is that duality (cause & effect) is fundamental to consciousness. 

A thing cannot exist unless it is contrasted with another thing, and furthermore, the appearance of things radically varies depending on the consciousness of the entity.  A mountain appears rock solid and large relative to human consciousnes, but if consciousness was to experience, from birds eye view, 50 000 years pass by in 10 seconds, the moutain would appear fluid and small. 

So do you agree with that?

[quote author=“mckenzie”]
What is something infinite, your “totality”, if it is not a “thing”

It is no-thing-ness, formlessness, undividedness, timelessness, unbounded, beyond life and death, without beginging and end. 

Why cannot one finite thing cause another?

You mean, why can’t black cause white?  Well, they mutually cause eachother.  HOWEVER, on top of that, they are also, by logical neccesity caused by a conscious observer, and they (black and white) in part cause consciousness, and what else causes the conscious observer?  A physical body with many cells, organs, bones, water, minerals, etc?  And what does the physical body, with all it’s parts, require to live?  Food, water, air, sun, etc?  And what causes those things?  Infinity becomes all too apparent when you think on this for a while. 

Step 2. “the totality of all things, must, by logical neccesity be infinite, meaning that it has no begining or end.”

So, I see that the totality of all things must be infinite, since it includes everything. As I think Doug pointed out in the Totality thread, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the totality has no temporal beginning or end, though you can define it that way (and I think you did, by including eternal along with infinity in your description).

To say the totality had a begining is to say that it was caused.  Are you entertaining the notion that something can arise out of nothing?  If so, then you would are entertaining the notion of abandoning logic. 

If you’re not willing to abandon logic, then you have to ask youself, What caused the totality?  And if you determine that, then you again have to ask, well what caused the first thing that caused the totality? 

So you see where this is going?  It just goes on and on forever.  Not only that, but the whole point of the concept of totality is to include within it all that can possibly exist.  Therefore, when you start postulating external first causes, then you are violating the definition of the totality, which includes all of these first causes.  Not only that, but the whole idea of a first cause is absurd, because then we are left with the problem of what caused the first cause.  It’s just goes on and on.

If the totality includes everything, then it becomes all too apparent, the more you think about it, that a begining is out of the question.  The totality always was, there was never a time when it wasnt. 

Step 3. “Another irrational assumption is that something finite can exist without a cause”

This seems to include an assumption, that things have causes and nothing comes from nothing.

Sure, that’s the everyday reality of our experience, but there’s no reason to assume it is a logically necessary assumption about all possible universes.

Refer back to that example about the black dot on the white background. 

Consciousness is impossible without cause and effect.  This perspective on cause and effect that I’m presenting is more fundamental than the billard ball concept of cause and effect that most people would refer to.  I’m bringing it down to the most basic level possible.  Consciousness is impossible without dualistic contrast. 

Where there is consciousness, there is cause and effect, duality.

On the other hand, where there is only one, there is nothing.

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Posted: 19 March 2007 04:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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[quote author=“skepticdave”]

[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]
A philosophical belief is one which, logically, can never be empirically supported or invalidated.

That definition of a philosophical belief is itself a philosophical belief.

Of course.

[quote author=“skepticdave”]
What’s the difference between the claims of a pet psychic and philosophical claims?

A philosophical claim is a logical truth, and it is true independent from empirical, sensory experience.  Whereas the claims of a pet psychic are dependent on empirical evidence and sensory experience.

It is not possible to confirm or falsify certain claims from one who claims to read your pets mind? 

If by confirm or falsify you mean: having good reasons for thinking the pet psychic is a fraud or the real deal - - then yes, you can have reasons for being interested in it, or not being interested in it.  There are many things to be interested in, and so we have to have our priorities straight.  Since I can’t imagine the thoughts of a dog our cat being anything other than that which can’t just as easily be discerned from their simple behavior, then the subject is pretty low on my hierarchy of interests.

Just to emphasize what I’m getting at - - -  I am more than just ‘fairly certain’ in my belief that the sun will rise tommorrow.  I am certain that it will - for I have lots of evidence suggesting it will, and being attentive to whether it’s day or night time is a bit more practical then being concerned with what my Dog is exactly thinking.  But the sun rising tomorrow is not an absolute.  There is indeed the slightest chance that the earth could get violently flung out of orbit for some reason - - or perhaps we are in a matrix program and the plug might get pulled before the sun rises.  Unlikely! - - -but still, it’s a possibility.

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Posted: 19 March 2007 08:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Cory,

Picture a universe where your consciousness is limited to staring at a white canvas with a black dot in the middle. My contention is that the white background is causing the black dot, and the black dot is causing the white background. If there were no background, then the black dot would be impossible. And if there was no black dot, then the white background would be likewise impossible to percieve. At the most basic level, a thing can only exist in contrast to another thing. If there is only one, then there is nothing.

The lesson here is that duality (cause & effect) is fundamental to consciousness.

A thing cannot exist unless it is contrasted with another thing,

To me, this sounds like you are conflating existence and an observer’s perception of existince. A thing exists or it does not irrespective of whether an observer observes it. The contrast between your white background and black dot is necessary for us to perceive the distnction between the two things because of how our sensory apparatus works, but there is no reason a black dot needs a white background to exist. I realize this is just a metaphor, but I think we need to separate consciousness from existence.

the appearance of things radically varies depending on the consciousness of the entity. A mountain appears rock solid and large relative to human consciousnes, but if consciousness was to experience, from birds eye view, 50 000 years pass by in 10 seconds, the moutain would appear fluid and small.

Exactly. The appearance to the observer depends on the observer. But the mountain is the same regardless of how it is perceieved.

 

You mean, why can’t black cause white? Well, they mutually cause eachother. HOWEVER, on top of that, they are also, by logical neccesity caused by a conscious observer, and they (black and white) in part cause consciousness, and what else causes the conscious observer? A physical body with many cells, organs, bones, water, minerals, etc? And what does the physical body, with all it’s parts, require to live? Food, water, air, sun, etc? And what causes those things? Infinity becomes all too apparent when you think on this for a while.

Here I think you confuse the complex interactions of things and the difficulty in tracing specific causes with the idea that nothing ever causes anything else. There are multifactorial causes for things, there are proximate and ultimate causes, causation is to some extent a question of scale and definition. To say I cause a rock to roll downhill by pushing it is accurate, though only on a certain level. The fact that gravity and a hill and energy metabolism in my muscles, and countless other antecedant and concurrent things contribute to the circumstances and the action and its consequences doesn’t invalidate the statement and the pragmatic, quotidian level to which it applies.

This sounds a bit like the Buddhist notion that the self does not really exist because no discrete locus or boundary for it can be identified. This may be true on some level, but it is the kind of level that requires years of study and reflection to “realize” in any deep sense, and it does not necessarily prove a more useful paradiogm for living (though that can be argued). You sound like you’re aiming at a notion of causation that ultimately eliminates causation at all levels, or perhaps at all but the level of some vague “infinity,” which still sounds suspiciously like the “alpha and the omega” to me.

Are you entertaining the notion that something can arise out of nothing? If so, then you would are entertaining the notion of abandoning logic.

I’m with Doug on this one. I don’t see any reason to assume that our everyday notions of causality have to be universal laws, so something arising out of nothing, as it appears to us, is not inherently logically impossible. It may be hard to understand, but it’s not a priori illogical.

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Posted: 19 March 2007 01:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]skepticdave,

Cory: ‘Definite’ knowledge? If by definite you mean knowledge that is absolutely certain, then no, science will never be able to produce such knowledge. However, scientific data of course can produce predictions that are highly, highly probable.

Dave: I agree science at best is only capable of statistically high probabilities of confirmation. So, is definite knowledge even possible?

Of course, you just said yourself that science is only capable of high probabilies of confirmation.

So then we have to rely on science for confirmation of truth rather than rationalism!

 

[quote author=“SkepticDave”]
If so, then what produces it if not science?

Rational relfection, a.k.a pure logic.


Rational reflection still doesn’t explain anything. So then, what is rational reflection and how does that differ from the scientific method, if at all?
[quote author=“skepticdave”]

If it is definite knowledge that definite knowledge is not obtainable then the original claim is not definite or knowledge.

No, the original claim (which is indeed definite knowledge) is that definite knowledge cannot be derived via empirical observation, scientific testing.  In other words science cannot give us absolute truth, but only an approximation (approximations that I think are often very sobering and useful, of course).   
Yet “rational reflection” can? How so?

Cory: Philosophical and mathematical theories are distinguished in that they need not be supported or negated by empirical observation/sensory experience - they are absolutely true because they exist in a definitional construct that is based on pure logic. 

Skepticdave: The above statement sounds like sophistic prevarication and slight of hand and even assumption. You state that the philosophical claim above is absolutely true because it exists in a definitional construct and is based on pure logic. It needs to be backed up and supported somehow, it sounds circular. How do we know pure logic is pure logic?

Pure logic begins in its lesser and usually more unconscious form when we learn mathematics, and it begins in its higher form when we start thinking logically about logic itself (which really is philosophy).  Animals and human toddlers are largely empiricists, as their logical operations are limited to responding to distinctions that they percieve sensorily. 

Eventually children (usually, at least in western culture) learn math and more abstract definitions and concepts, and as they grow into adults they sometimes to a degree begin to think logically about their logic.  They become philosophers.  But usually it’s only to a small degree.

I’m still at a loss as to how that explains or even defines “pure logic”.


Cory: Whereas, it is really only in the realm of pure philosophy that we can conclude something like “all things have causes.” The reason such a conclusion is purely a philosophical one is because there isn’t a scientific experiment that can be devised which can confirm or deny this theory. Such a conclusion is the result of philosophical reasoning alone.

Dave: Then can it strictly be called a conclusion or rather an assumption?

Is 2+2=4 a conclusion or an assumption?  If you deny it, then you are denying logic.

I’m not denying that 2+2=4. But how does that prove your point in falsifying empiricism? That is nonseq.


When it all comes down to it, there is actually no logical reason to be logical - -

What?

a person is logical simply because that is what seems best.  In other words, our valuing of logic is faith based.

Speak for yourself.


  We have Faith in reason, in the apparent.  An alternative is to have faith in God and the supernatural, which are in no way apparent.  We might also have faith simply in what feels good, what excites us and gives pleasure (this might be TV, movies, shopping, or often this is also God and the supernatural).  Usually with humans it’s a combination of logic and religiosity or spiritualism.  For instance, there are a few scientists and many some-what intellectuals who have religious beliefs, sometimes very traditional, and sometimes more new agey involving cosmic consciousness, other dimensions, immortality of consciousness, etc.

There was a time when a scientific experiment could not be devised to show nuclear fusion or mini bangs with particle colliders. Some technology takes time.

Devising a scientific experiment to demonstrate a phenomena that exists relative to the conditions of the experiment, merely does that. 

To devise an experiment that proves ‘all things are caused’ is impossible and this is because scientific experiments can only prove that which exist within the bounds of the experiment.  There is no scientific experiment that can test every single thing that can possibly exist.
 
However, it is indeed an absolute truth that all things are caused. 

It’s as true as 2+2=4. 

Claims about morality and ethics are philosophical rather than scientific since they are based on value judgments instead of facts.

Yes, I agree the subject of ethics is strictly philosophical, but moral judgements/ethics are always relative to what you as an individual value, and are in no way absolute.  Life does not inherently have any meaning, but that doesnt mean we shouldnt invent our own meaning.  Why not? 

It seems apparent, when you compare the stability and adaptiveness that has resulted (or failed to significantly result) from various forms of government, that there is a certain way of governing people and a certain way of rearing children that results in a more sustainable, stable, less emotional, more intelligent and thus more adaptive species. 

For the most part I feel that emotions have been useful up until a certain point in our evolution, but we’ve reached a stage where emotions have largely outlived their usefullness.  So my ethics has alot to do with valuing the survival and propagation of that which diffuses and weakens emotions, which, in humans, usually manifest as psychological attachments.  It seems apparent to me that emotional psychological attatchment is primarily responsible for human self-destructiveness (stupidity).

God is dead.

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