Friday, May 29, 2009

5b Is the relativist right?

In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy you'll find a clear and concise description of moral relativism,

"Moral relativism has the unusual distinction—both within philosophy and outside it—of being attributed to others, almost always as a criticism, far more often than it is explicitly professed by anyone.

Nonetheless, moral relativism is a standard topic in metaethics, and there are contemporary philosophers who defend forms of it: The most prominent are Gilbert Harman and David B. Wong.

The term ‘moral relativism’ is understood in a variety of ways. Most often it is associated with an empirical thesis that there are deep and widespread moral disagreements and a metaethical thesis that the truth or justification of moral judgments is not absolute, but relative to some group of persons.

Sometimes ‘moral relativism’ is connected with a normative position about how we ought to think about or act towards those with whom we morally disagree, most commonly that we should tolerate them."

Let's concentrate on the thesis that as a matter of empirical fact, there are deep and widespread moral disagreements across different societies, and these disagreements are much more significant than whatever agreements there may be.

This thesis was fed by the anthropologists who were fascinated with the diversity of cultures. Who doesnt know the famous Margaret Mead with her well known "Coming of Age in Samoa" (1928).

There seems to be empirical hard evidence, which supports the relativist thesis. Outspoken opponents of the thesis are of course moral objectivists. Their thesis would even be the very opposite of the relativist's thesis.

But how hard is the evidence? Margaret Mead's research -- especially her work in Samoa -- has come under more recent criticism for inaccuracies and naivete. We 'compare' societies, it is said.

However, if societies were clearly organised entities, like the shelves in supermarkets they would be easily comparable. In fact cultures typically are rather heterogeneous and complex internally, with many dissenting voices. Moreover, they often interact and sometimes influence one another, and they may change over time.

And then we have the problem of the biased observer. Like the criticism on Margret Mead shows, we may evidently question the methodoly used in describing other societies.

Then there should be "deep and widespread moral disagreements", but can that not be due to our misinterpretation or misunderstanding of other societies?

Maybe a number of 'disagreements' on issues like polygamy, arranged marriages, suicide as a requirement of honor or widowhood, severe punishments for blasphemy or adultery, female circumcision or genital mutilation (as it is variously called), and so on are related to religious ideas.

And the moral objectivist could say, that the emphasis doesnt need to be put on the disagreements at all - they can be resolved in a rational debate - but on the worldwide moral agreements.

For example, the role-reversal test implied by the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) has been prominent beyond Western traditions: A version of it is also endorsed in The Analects of Confucius, The Way of the Bodhisattva of the Indian Buddhist philosopher Shāntideva, and elsewhere.

Hans Küng (1996) and others have maintained that there is a common “global ethic” across the world's major religious traditions regarding respect for human life, distributive justice, truthfulness, and the moral equality of men and women.

As you may realize, there is a huge debate going on about this relativist and objectivist point of view. It gets even more complicated when we add another thesis to our discourse on relativism.

This thesis is, that the truth or falsity of moral judgments, or their justification, is not absolute or universal, but is relative to the traditions, convictions, or practices of a group of persons.

That means that e.g. the moral judgement "Female circumcision is wrong" may be true relative to one society, but false relative to another. Besides that, different societies may have different standards of justification

Here we get involved in various philosophical issues. For instance the allegation that moral judgements can have truth-value. Just recall philosophers like Ayer (1938), Stevenson and Hare (1950) with their claim that ethical sentences do not express propositions. Instead, ethical sentences express emotional attitudes, which was called emotivism.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Here we see a serious and complex debate. An interesting observation is that this debate seems to be the successor of the debate on ethics in Oxford in the period 1920 -1950.

Authors in today's arena are Philipa Foot and Martha Nussbaum and David B. Wong with his “Pluralistic Relativism” (1996). know your homework now ^_^.

The Discussion

[13:20] Daruma Boa: ok^^
[13:20] itsme Frederix: Consistent intro Prof. Great.
[13:20] herman Bergson: Thank you Itsme...
[13:21] herman Bergson: In a way frustrating too....
[13:21] herman Bergson: The present day discussion on this subject is really interesting
[13:21] Alarice Beaumont: sorry... totally late :-(
[13:21] Alarice Beaumont: good evening everybody
[13:21] Daruma Boa: hi alarice
[13:21] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:21] herman Bergson: I can only mention a few details
[13:21] itsme Frederix: I agree with Nussbaum, but she still comes up fro old Greek virtues
[13:21] Gemma Cleanslate: Halllooooo
[13:21] Ze Novikov: waves
[13:21] herman Bergson: Hello Alarice :-)
[13:22] itsme Frederix: and is rationalist
[13:22] Alarice Beaumont: Hello Herman :-))
[13:22] herman Bergson: Yes...and emotion in relation to morals
[13:22] herman Bergson: not just ratio
[13:23] herman Bergson: But what interesting what I already mentioned in the former lecture....
[13:23] itsme Frederix: not just yes - thats what makes it interesting - still reading her books
[13:23] herman Bergson: relativism shows up in many shapes...
[13:23] Samuel Okelly: wouldn’t that suggest an unnecessary polemic between emotionalism and rationalism?
[13:24] herman Bergson: What appears clear to me is that absolute relativism is self-refuting
[13:24] itsme Frederix: Sam that might be a rational view - isn't it
[13:24] herman Bergson: No I dont think so Samuel
[13:24] Superbus Atlas: I am puzzled about your notion of 'global concensus'. Presumably relativists aren't part of this, so in what sense is it a concensus?
[13:24] herman Bergson: I think is is especially about the justifications of moral judgements
[13:25] herman Bergson: It was a believe of Hans Küng and others that such consensus exists
[13:25] Samuel Okelly: if not herman, why should we presuppose that the emotional response can not be identical to the rational response?
[13:26] Samuel Okelly: to do so merely clouds and comp,icates the issue in my view
[13:26] herman Bergson: I think that you also have to take into account the question How can we know moral standards
[13:26] Samuel Okelly: sure
[13:26] Superbus Atlas: This is the problem for the moral absolutist.
[13:26] herman Bergson: I dont know Nussbaum that well to tell you what she thinks about that
[13:27] itsme Frederix: Sam, thats good thinking - I think/guess Nussbaum is telling us the same in a way
[13:27] Laila Schuman: i worry about power and propaganda... and how these things influence a society
[13:28] herman Bergson: These are justified in several ways.....
[13:28] itsme Frederix: Laila rationality in moving emotions has always been a strong weapon
[13:28] herman Bergson: most to worry if they are justified by relativism
[13:28] Laila Schuman: yes Itsme... exactly the problem
[13:29] itsme Frederix: in my opinion thats proves/states the "fact" that there is no absolute moral thruth
[13:29] herman Bergson: I wouldnt dare to say that so explicitely
[13:30] itsme Frederix: every on has to set his goal and make the best of it on a reational way
[13:30] Samuel Okelly: i disagree itsme as it seems little more than an adaptation of the loki’s wager fallacy
[13:30] herman Bergson: Explain Samuel
[13:30] itsme Frederix: explain please Sam (Norwgian myth)?
[13:31] Samuel Okelly: well, to infer that there is no objective moral truth because we can not know it seems flawed..
[13:31] Samuel Okelly: an absence of proof is not “proof of absence”
[13:32] herman Bergson: That is what I just wanted to say too Samuel...
[13:32] itsme Frederix: oke, no proof of absence does not proof
[13:32] Superbus Atlas: if you can never know it, how do you know what it is??
[13:32] herman Bergson: the fact that we have trouble justifying a moral truth doesnt proof that relativism is true/right
[13:32] Superbus Atlas: it might be that killing babies is cool
[13:33] itsme Frederix: why always these extreme examples (jews last lecture, babes this one)
[13:33] Superbus Atlas: misses the point itsme
[13:34] Superbus Atlas: it was an epistemological point, not a moral one
[13:34] itsme Frederix: in many ways we do not know the extreme, just try to get the common right
[13:34] herman Bergson: There is in our rational make-up that knowledge of a beginning, one starting point....and we tend to look for that in many areas
[13:35] herman Bergson: Is this a kind of transcendental feature or a biological inclination ^_^
[13:35] Samuel Okelly: as i said previously i think the key question is not "IS slavery wrong?" but "WHY is slavery wrong?"
[13:35] Samuel Okelly: and can this be answered without resorting to chaos theory, nihilism or "might is right" argumentation
[13:35] herman Bergson: If the later we are back to relativism....where the objecivity is related to our frame of mind :-)
[13:36] herman Bergson: Yes Samuel....and there could be a global consensus...
[13:37] Superbus Atlas: what if 1 person does not agree with the global consensus?
[13:37] itsme Frederix: Sam - mostly (if not always) these why tends to raise another IS and we end searching for the absolute premisse/axiom/
[13:37] herman Bergson: Yes Superbus...what then
[13:37] herman Bergson: Why should he accept that consensus and drop his standard...
[13:37] Superbus Atlas: indeed
[13:38] herman Bergson: That is a fundamental question
[13:38] itsme Frederix: Sounds like Abraham questioning God about Sodom
[13:38] Superbus Atlas scratches head
[13:38] herman Bergson: Can rationality help out in this matter?
[13:38] herman Bergson: But if we say that....why the primacy of rationality?
[13:38] Superbus Atlas: You mean 'global' rationality?
[13:39] Superbus Atlas: A Kantian idea
[13:39] herman Bergson: Well that may be one solution....
[13:40] Superbus Atlas: But nobody has ever found a truly global rationalty
[13:40] itsme Frederix: Still Kant end with ... what may we hope!
[13:40] herman Bergson: This disagreement with the global consensus has to mean that the individual and global standard are contradictory
[13:40] herman Bergson: Otherwise it is a matter of 'who cares?'
[13:40] Superbus Atlas: How could one ever know if one had global consensus... do we ask everyone in the world what they think?
[13:40] herman Bergson: This being contradictory is the essence of relativism....and its problem
[13:41] Superbus Atlas: i don't think the idea of global consenus is coherent
[13:41] Samuel Okelly: is morality decided by a democratic show of hands? i dont think so.
[13:41] herman Bergson: Ok....drop the global aspect...even then the contradiction between a group and individual has to be resolved
[13:42] itsme Frederix: Mill argues that even if there is wide consensus - there is need for disagreement - just to show the consensus
[13:42] herman Bergson: But neither by a "Leap of Faith" , Samuel :-)
[13:42] Superbus Atlas: but if we drop the global, what is left of our 'absolute'
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: hmmm
[13:43] herman Bergson: Well..let's start on a small scale first then, Super :-)
[13:43] Samuel Okelly: with respect herman that is a seperate discussion which i am willing to defend but view as a digression here
[13:43] itsme Frederix: Super and global did sound already like some soft absolute I think
[13:43] herman Bergson: Agreed Samuel :-)
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: have to go now i am afraid very interesting
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: see you
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: :-0
[13:44] Ze Novikov: bye gemma
[13:44] Alarice Beaumont: bye gemma :-)
[13:44] Daruma Boa: bye gemma
[13:44] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye gemma :-)
[13:44] Superbus Atlas: honestly, i just cannot understand what a moral absolute is even supposed to mean
[13:44] herman Bergson: That is not the issue, I would say...
[13:45] herman Bergson: It is about the justification of moral standards...
[13:45] Superbus Atlas: ok
[13:45] herman Bergson: The relativist might relate it to a group or a culture...
[13:45] herman Bergson: The objectivist wouldnt do that
[13:46] herman Bergson: He looks for a general justification
[13:46] herman Bergson: which isnt dependent on the idividual opinions
[13:46] Superbus Atlas: then his standards are relative to the community/culture
[13:46] Superbus Atlas: isn't that relativism?
[13:47] herman Bergson: That it is indeed...
[13:47] Superbus Atlas: aha
[13:47] herman Bergson: But like that related to our culture or independent of any culture in its justification
[13:47] itsme Frederix: now the point is can a culture be relative - or are there some absolute virtues which make a culteru superbe?
[13:47] Superbus Atlas: well
[13:48] Samuel Okelly: how does the moral relativist define justice?
[13:48] Superbus Atlas: wittgenstein though maths was relative to culture
[13:48] Superbus Atlas: to community rather
[13:48] herman Bergson: a global community then?
[13:48] itsme Frederix: Herman, global or universal
[13:49] Superbus Atlas: a community of mathematicians is still a community
[13:49] herman Bergson: well looks like the whole universe fitts into mathematics, Itsme :-)
[13:49] herman Bergson: But mathematicians are not mathematics...
[13:49] itsme Frederix: thats what I mean, global sounds like soft universal - the claim is almost the same
[13:50] herman Bergson: yes..
[13:50] Superbus Atlas: who says what is mathematics?
[13:50] Superbus Atlas: mathematicians
[13:50] Samuel Okelly: please excuse me folks but i need to leave :(
[13:50] Superbus Atlas: the community thereof
[13:50] herman Bergson: Well..Itsme had an interesting question about that...
[13:50] Daruma Boa: so bye samuel
[13:50] Samuel Okelly: thanks herman :) cheerio for now :)
[13:50] itsme Frederix: I mentioned math in my question I left for you Herman. Do we invent math or do we discover math?
[13:50] herman Bergson: are mathematical truths invented or discovered?
[13:51] herman Bergson: I mean...if you try to agrue for a relativist mathematics...?
[13:51] herman Bergson: But I think these are nice questions for your private studies...
[13:52] herman Bergson: We wont solve them here that quickly ^_^
[13:52] itsme Frederix: well almost always math is used as an example of absolute - still this question of me is valid
[13:52] itsme Frederix: and illustrative for this discusion topic
[13:53] herman Bergson: Yes it is Itsme and also a complex debate among mathematicians :-)
[13:53] herman Bergson: It is a fascinating question
[13:53] itsme Frederix: I know, so we do not have to wonder that moral "truth" might be complicate too
[13:53] Daruma Boa: sorry to leave also
[13:54] herman Bergson: Indeed Itsme...
[13:54] herman Bergson: Bye Daruma....
[13:54] Daruma Boa: bye see you^^
[13:54] Ze Novikov: bye
[13:54] herman Bergson: And all of you thank you for your partcipation....
[13:54] itsme Frederix: Still math can be used, so maybe we should state some moral laws to
[13:54] Jangle McElroy: Thanks Prof
[13:54] Jangle McElroy: Bye everyone
[13:54] Alarice Beaumont: subject is really difficult
[13:54] herman Bergson: Bye Jangle
[13:55] Alarice Beaumont: thanks Herman :-)
[13:55] herman Bergson: Terribly difficult Alarice
[13:55] Ze Novikov: yes tyvm herman
[13:55] herman Bergson: But to know how difficult a subject is , is already valuable knowledge
[13:55] Alarice Beaumont: yes.. in english even more.. getting more difficult since you started choosing to talk about a subject and not persons....
[13:56] Alarice Beaumont: have to try and translate all that lol
[13:56] Alarice Beaumont: thanks ...
[13:56] herman Bergson: take your time, Alarice...all will be posted in our blog
[13:56] itsme Frederix: more difficult if you try the WHY, its already diificult to be just moral (if you can/)
[13:56] Alarice Beaumont: yes... it will take time.. :-)
[13:57] herman Bergson: Yes Itsme....the issue of justification...
[13:57] Alarice Beaumont: well... it's difficult to talk about moral.. who fixes moral and why??
[13:57] itsme Frederix: is it a relativme answer if I say we will never ever find the answer?!
[13:57] Alarice Beaumont: your moral might be different than mine
[13:58] herman Bergson: First of all you cant say 'never'
[13:58] herman Bergson: neither proofs our inability to find it that relativism is the right answer
[13:59] Ze Novikov: must 'fly' see you all soon bbfn
[13:59] itsme Frederix: well if I use never I'm absolute - contradiction again -
[13:59] herman Bergson: Bye Ze..:-)
[13:59] Alarice Beaumont: bye everybody .-)
[14:00] itsme Frederix: its alway the old Gödel (you can not proof the system is right as long you are in the system)
[14:00] Superbus Atlas: bye all
[14:00] herman Bergson: Bye Alarice :-)
[14:00] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye Alarice :o)
[14:01] itsme Frederix: and thats why we seek for absolute answers - to get out of it
[14:01] Odious Noyes: many thanks all, and Prof. -- I must be off
[14:01] itsme Frederix: I quit, getting to much talky
[14:02] herman Bergson: We ran into that Gödel theorem more than once here :-)
[14:02] itsme Frederix: its "universal"
[14:02] itsme Frederix: or better its human all to human
[14:02] Laila Schuman: lol
[14:02] herman Bergson: Yes..:-)
[14:02] itsme Frederix: free to N.
[14:03] itsme Frederix: Herman I like these lecture - straight and still no answers but thats not the purpose so... Great THX
[14:03] itsme Frederix: Bye to you all - keep going -

Thursday, May 28, 2009

5a Is the relativist right?

Relativism is sometimes identified as the thesis that all points of view are equally valid. You certainly know such situations, where the other ends or actually kills a debate by saying: "Oh well, that is YOUR opinion."

What was the debate about,...... the truth? And do we have to conclude now that there is no truth but only us with all our opinions? Ok, we hold a lot of opinion, but something isnt right here. Isnt there an opinion, which is not just an opinion, but which is also true? Or is the relativst right?

Relativism comes in many flavors. You can be an epistemological relativist, a moral relativist, a cultural relativist , an aesthetic relativist and so on. But all these relativistic theories have two things in common:

1) They all assert that one thing (e.g. moral values, beauty, knowledge, taste, or meaning) is relative to some particular framework or standpoint (e.g. the individual subject, a culture, an era, a language, or a conceptual scheme).

2) They all deny that any standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.

Relativism is at least as old as philosophy. I dont know how it is with you, but I constantly live in a state of philosophical schizophrenia. On the one hand I have the (intuitive) idea that there is some truth, and on the other soon as I think, yes that could be the truth, I immediately question this "truth'.

Which way to go? The first discussion on relativism maybe: Let's listen in and hear what Socrates (390 B.C) has to tell in his conversation with Theaetetus:

Socrates: You say that knowledge is perception?
Theaetetus: Yes.
Socrates: Well, you have delivered yourself of a very important doctrine about
knowledge; it is indeed the opinion of Protagoras, who has another
way of expressing it, Man, he says, is the measure of all things, of the
existence of things that are, and of the non-existence of things that
are not:-You have read him?
Theaetetus: O yes, again and again.
Socrates: Does he not say that things are to you such as they appear to you,
and to me such as they appear to me, and that you and I are men?
Theaetetus: Yes, he says so.

Is Protagoras right? True is how something appears to you, which is derived from perception? There is something odd in his thesis. For if “X appears to me to be Y (or looks Y to me)” and “X appears to you to be Z (or looks Z to you)” are equivalent respectively to “X is Y” and “X is Z"

Or as Socrates said...the wind appears to me warm and to you the wind appears to be cold. So do we have to conclude now that the wind is warm and cold at the same time?

There is another strong argument against extreme relativism. Especially against those people who always say "Yes, but that is YOUR opinion." We run into a strange situation here, for the person who utters that statement, claims that his opinion is the right opinion, while you claim that your opinion is the right one.

That cant be right. It cant be possible that two people hold opinions, which are contradictory. This shows to be untenable especially when the opinions relate to events in the future.

It is like the weathermen on TV. One promises you a bright and sunny day and the other promises you a stormy and rainy day.

But it is not that simple. Imagine two men: Tycho Brahe (an advocate of a geocentric picture of the solar system, 1590) and Johannes Kepler (an advocate of a heliocentric view,1610) as they gaze to the east at sunrise.

Although they do see the same object, the sun, they see it very differently. Tycho sees the sun rising, whereas Kepler sees the horizon dipping or falling away from the fixed and immobile sun. Hence there is no neutral observational framework that allows them to determine who is correct.

As a philosopher to be qualified as a relativist is a kiss of death, a negative image. But in the 1960s many historians and philosophers of science reacted against what they saw as the insufficiently historical and overly formalistic approach of the dominant philosophy of science of their day.

The key insurrectionists were Norwood Russell Hanson , Stephen Toulmin , Paul Feyerabend , and, above all Thomas Kuhn, whose "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" (1970b, first edition 1962) has sold over a million copies.

I then was a university student of philosophy and read Kuhn (bought one of that million copies:-) and Feyerabend. They didnt surprise me. Their views fitted in perfectly with my own ideas. I smile when I remember those days as a student.

None of these writers, save Feyerabend in some of his varied moods, viewed themselves as relativists, but many of their views suggested relativistic conclusions to many of their readers.

I kept notebooks, in which I wrote down all MY philosophical ideas. And then I learnt a lesson, because when reading Kuhn and Feyerabend I had to discover that they already had published almost every thought I had written down in my own notebooks.

So far I only talked about epistemological relativism. I think the "That is YOUR opinion" relativism is a dead end street and untenable, even self-refuting. However, the epistemic realm includes standards or norms for justification and reasoning (e.g., logic, probability theory, guidelines for revising beliefs),

ideals of rationality, standards for intelligibility and explanation, epistemic commitments and values (e.g., learning the truth, gaining insight, avoiding error, avoiding ignorance),

virtues (e.g., being open-minded) and vices (e.g., having a tendency to jump to conclusions). This is a mixed bag, and one can be a relativist about some of the things in it (e.g., standards of explanation) but not others (e.g., logic).

So next lecture we will look into moral and cultural relativism.

The Discussion

[13:27] itsme Frederix: What to do? The unmoved mover view or .. stay relative
[13:27] herman Bergson: What do you mean, Itsme?
[13:27] itsme Frederix: well the unmoved mover idea is the same (in a way) as absolute truth
[13:28] itsme Frederix: it give a fixed point, an absolute coordinate
[13:28] Samuel Okelly: just as an absence of proof is not of itself a proof of absence, where is the "logic" to relativism?
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: very open ended
[13:29] herman Bergson: Yes Gemma
[13:29] herman Bergson: I have to think about your remark samuel..:-)
[13:30] herman Bergson: I am wondering myself to what extend I am a relativist myself
[13:30] itsme Frederix: just a proof of one occasion is not a proof for all Sam?!
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: i think most of us are under the skin
[13:30] herman Bergson: But it fascinates me
[13:30] itsme Frederix: why make an occasion absolute and master
[13:30] Samuel Okelly: I can’t help but see a naive arrogance in assuming that an individual subjective understanding of Truth represents Truth in its totality.
[13:31] herman Bergson: Explain Samuel
[13:31] herman Bergson: is there a difference between truth and Truth for you?
[13:31] Samuel Okelly: it appears self-evident that our "understanding" is subjective
[13:32] herman Bergson: true
[13:32] herman Bergson: truism
[13:32] herman Bergson: so?
[13:33] Samuel Okelly: but though we may not be able to ascertain the nature of objective truth, then why assume that an objective Truth does not exist?
[13:33] itsme Frederix: a subjective statement this SELF evident
[13:33] herman Bergson: Ok..Samuel....
[13:34] Samuel Okelly: This to me is an arrogant and narrow-minded view
[13:34] Samuel Okelly: (in a philosophical sense)
[13:34] herman Bergson: we may not be able to ascertain the nature of objective truth?....where did you get that?
[13:34] herman Bergson: I mean your knowledge of that objective truth?
[13:35] Samuel Okelly: with respect, how we obtain knowledge of an objective truth is a seperate debate
[13:35] herman Bergson: That is what we are all looking for...that anchor point
[13:35] herman Bergson: For the relativist it is the quintessence of the debate right now
[13:35] itsme Frederix: why accept ontological objective truth but say you can not know (epistological) it
[13:36] Samuel Okelly: science, philosophy and religion all search for truth and understanding
[13:36] herman Bergson: A pragmatist wouldnt agree Samuel
[13:36] herman Bergson: it is an assumption
[13:37] Samuel Okelly: on what grounds would they disagree?
[13:37] herman Bergson: Well..the pragamist isnt interested in truth and understanding at long as it works
[13:38] herman Bergson: whatever it is...a scientific theory..a social plan..
[13:38] itsme Frederix: how do you judge it works
[13:39] itsme Frederix: in many cases you need some ethical goal or idea
[13:39] herman Bergson: Well..Itsme...seems clear to me..empirical data will proof if you are right or wrong
[13:40] herman Bergson: If your theory says it wont blow up, and yet it blows up...didnt work...did it? :-)
[13:40] herman Bergson: Yes...I agree Itsme..
[13:40] itsme Frederix: agree, but that does not mean blowing up is the right thing
[13:40] herman Bergson: But that is the next station....moral and cultural relativism
[13:41] itsme Frederix: this presumes moral knowledge does not influence epistomological things?
[13:41] Samuel Okelly: “everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts” (forget who said that)
[13:42] herman Bergson: Well Samuel...where to get that objective truth..a relativist would drool to see that
[13:42] herman Bergson: I dont agree Samuel..
[13:42] herman Bergson: You are not entitled to your own opinions
[13:43] herman Bergson: If you have the opinion that it was a good thing to gass 6 million jewish people, you are not entitled to that opinion
[13:43] Samuel Okelly: as a person of faith it is hardly surprising that I would challenge relativistic ideas ;-)
[13:44] herman Bergson: may enjoy your opinion, but I would prosecute you for it
[13:44] itsme Frederix: still its faith and not fact
[13:44] herman Bergson: what...? the death of 6 million peole?
[13:44] Samuel Okelly: to use your own analogy ppl WERE prosecuted in 1930s Germany
[13:44] itsme Frederix: no that person of faith
[13:45] herman Bergson: It is about entitled to have your own opinion....
[13:45] herman Bergson: and I think there are limits to that
[13:45] itsme Frederix: that in itself is a opinion
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:46] itsme Frederix: which you may wish to be used as fact
[13:46] herman Bergson: And there we are back to the basics...
[13:46] herman Bergson: to kill a debate by refering to a thought as just a private opinion
[13:46] Samuel Okelly: i see it less as a question of “entitlement” and more of one of empirical observation, we each self-evidently have our own understanding
[13:47] itsme Frederix: did not mean to kill any idea Herman
[13:47] Superbus Atlas: sorry i'm late!
[13:47] herman Bergson: Dont take it personal Itme..
[13:47] herman Bergson: this is a open debate..
[13:47] itsme Frederix: mmm double things in that sentence in this context herman
[13:47] herman Bergson: But your remark shows how relativism works..
[13:48] itsme Frederix: I know how to use it
[13:48] herman Bergson: it is my opinion that it wasnt right to kill 6 million people...
[13:48] herman Bergson: That is not just an opinion
[13:48] Samuel Okelly: why was it wrong in your opinion herman?
[13:49] herman Bergson: it is about the fact that someone says..ok..that is just your opinion
[13:49] Samuel Okelly: the interesting question is not so much "is X wrong?" but "WHY is X wrong?"
[13:50] herman Bergson: that is another dimension indeed Sauel
[13:50] Jangle McElroy: Is it then partly about the view of the crowd, consensus, rather than the individual point of view? Surely not - for example the crowd condemned Jesus in front of Pilot.
[13:50] itsme Frederix: not pragmatic if it is right (or wrong) take the fact for granted and go to the next
[13:50] herman Bergson: That is also an important issue Jangle...the opinion off the crowd
[13:51] herman Bergson: Is truth just a majortity vote?
[13:51] Superbus Atlas: Truth is relative to a community
[13:51] herman Bergson: If you say yes..that is fundamental relativism
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: yes it is!!
[13:51] Qwark Allen: mmmm
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: great example
[13:51] Superbus Atlas: But that does not make the biggest community correct
[13:51] Qwark Allen: i`m not with that opinion
[13:52] itsme Frederix: Even if that is the case you might wish there is room for other opinions (On Liberety - Mill)
[13:52] Samuel Okelly: FTR, i believe in an objective Truth (which includes an objective morality ;-)
[13:52] herman Bergson: No Superbeus...
[13:52] Superbus Atlas: Why not pray tell
[13:52] herman Bergson: YEs..I understand Samuel...that is a real fundametal thing too..and personal...
[13:53] itsme Frederix: Sam why that Capital
[13:53] herman Bergson: I dont want to put that to the debate
[13:53] Qwark Allen: i`m glad the new papua head hunter society doesn`t rule the world, or at this point will be admissible the
[13:53] Superbus Atlas: As long as you have to justify yourself to a community, you are not a relativist
[13:53] Samuel Okelly: "Truth" as a noun denoting an idea itsme
[13:53] herman Bergson: I dont agree Superbus.
[13:54] Qwark Allen: got to go
[13:54] itsme Frederix: I see the Platonic Idea
[13:54] Qwark Allen: cya thursday
[13:54] herman Bergson: also that community is just a majority vote only
[13:54] Samuel Okelly: sorry folsk must dash
[13:54] Samuel Okelly:
[13:54] Samuel Okelly: †
[13:54] Samuel Okelly: † (( take care everyone )) †
[13:54] Samuel Okelly: †
[13:54] Samuel Okelly:
[13:54] herman Bergson: Bye Sam
[13:54] Superbus Atlas: If the majority disagree, you may still be right - but then you simply belong to a different community
[13:54] Ze Novikov: bb
[13:55] Superbus Atlas: Everything else is Nietzsche
[13:55] itsme Frederix: Sup that means disagreement give fundamental borders - thats not the way to solve it
[13:55] Jangle McElroy: Surely everything is Nietzsche, not everything else? :)
[13:55] Superbus Atlas: :)
[13:56] Superbus Atlas: Justification opens up paths to other communities
[13:56] herman Bergson: I thank you all for your participation..:-)
[13:57] herman Bergson: Next lecture will be on moral and cultural realivism :-)
[13:57] itsme Frederix: By the way Jan? is Nietzsche part of everything
[13:57] Superbus Atlas: oo my favorite subject
[13:57] herman Bergson: feel free to continue the debate tho :-)
[13:57] Jangle McElroy: justification can also create a sense of legitimacy in the beliefs of others - such as views against those opportating terrorism. Debate and argument of their views magnifies their right to exist in some sense.

Friday, May 22, 2009

4b Is time traveling possible?

In my former lecture I paid attention to one of the two views on time, time as an absolute, a structural dimension of our universe. It is often metaphorically described as a stream or flow and in that sense understandable in relation to time traveling.

The opposing view is that time does not refer to any kind of "container" that events and objects "move through", nor to any entity that "flows", but that it is instead part of a fundamental intellectual structure (together with space and number) within which humans sequence and compare events.

This second view, in the tradition of Gottfried Leibniz and Immanuel Kant,holds that time is neither an event nor a thing, and thus is not itself measurable nor can it be travelled.

It is related to an ongoing discussion about words like past, present and future. What do these words mean. Do they describe real mind-independent properties of events, which would put the events in some linear relation to eachother? Time travelers will like this approach.

The other position is, that these words are so called token-reflexive, they refer to themself and can be translated in specific relations. These are the relations of earlier than, simultaneous with, and later than.

Thus, past, present. and future do not exist, or rather they have no mind-independent existence. This is not to deny the reality of time simpliciter, but only time conceived along certain lines.

Dividing time into present and future is roughly analogous to dividing space into here and there. There is, of course, nothing inherent in the structure of space that so divides it; it is divided into here and there only from the perspective of a particular observer.

Similarly, the division of time into past and present is a function of the way we experience reality, and is just as much dependent upon the perspective of a particular observer as is the division of space into here and there.

This approach deals with a kind of analysis like this: Ceasar crossed the Rubicon (E) contains a reference to a past tense, however, this reference doesnt mean more than the statement "E was earlier than this utterance"

One word on Duration. The only philosopher who emphasized this concept in relation to time was Bergson (1911) According to him, physical time is something spatialized and intellectualized, whereas the real thing, with which we are acquainted in intuition (inner experience), is duration.

Unlike physical time, which is always measured by comparing discrete spatial positions—for example, of clock hands—duration is the experienced change itself, the directly intuited nonspatial stream of consciousness in which past, present, and future flow into one another.

It is interesting in the context of the philosophy of time, but I don't see much relation with the issue of time traveling here.

One word on the spatio-temporal relation. Einstein had realized in 1905, that space and time, are intimately connected with each
other. One can describe the location of an event by four numbers.

Three numbers describe the position of the event. The fourth number, is the time of the event. Thus one can think of space and time together, as a four-dimensional entity, called space-time.

For a detailed discussion on the possibility of time traveling, based on Einstein's Relativity Theory I'd like to refer to a lecture of Stephen Hawking "Space an Time Warps'. I have the text for you available in a notecard.

This is all way over my head, but there is one important difference with the time traveling we discussed last Tuesday. In fact in this case it isnt the real SF-like time traveling, but only a matter of clocks running slower or faster.

And here we see that the time traveler isnt immune at all for this moving in time. It has serious consequences. So, I would conclude that there is time traveling and "time traveling" (with time machines and the like).

Let me finish with a quote from Stephen Hawking: "The conclusion of this lecture is that rapid space-travel, or travel back in time, can't be ruled out, according to our present understanding. They would cause great logical problems, so let's hope there's a Chronology Protection Law, to prevent people going back, and killing our parents."

Check also this superb articles:
Time Traveling :
Time :

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

4a Is time traveling possible?

It wouldn't surprise me, if Stephen Law added the question about the possibility of time traveling to his list because it excites our imagination.

But more meaningfull is the fact that it stimulates us the think about the phenomenon time itself.

Because, if you have a moment, the more I studied on the concept of time, the more I discovered that there doesnt exist at all something that can be called time.

Oh yes, there is time, no doubt about that, however, nobody knows what it is, which means...we have a lot of theories.

Take the idea of time traveling. When you google on that, you absolutely need the capability of time traveling, if you want to check out all the hits, which I got: 264.000.000.

When we want to talk about time traveling we already have to begin with a big assumption. We must assume, that time is part of the fundamental structure of the universe, a dimension in which events occur in sequence.

Time travel, in this view, becomes a possibility as other "times" persist like frames of a film strip, spread out across the time line.

Sir Isaac Newton subscribed to this realist view. He was forced to assume that time is some absolute, an infinite to protect the idea of an eternal God.

So we commonly think of time as a stream that flows or as a sea over which we advance. If time flows past us or if we advance through time, this would be a motion with respect to some hypertime.

For motion in space is motion with respect to time, and motion of time or in time could hardly be a motion in time with respect to time.

If motion in space is meters per second, at what speed is the flow of time? Seconds per what? Moreover, if passage is of the essence of time, it is presumably the essence of hypertime, too, which would lead one to postulate a hyper-hypertime and so on ad infinitum.

The idea of time as passing is connected with the idea of events changing from future to past. We think of events as approaching us from the future, whereupon they are momentarily caught in the spotlight of the present and then recede into the past.

This is so closely related to our feeling that all our political or economical predictions are events that lie waiting in the future and will just come to us and move into the past.

In such a concept of time time traveling would be possible, I guess. However, we need to keep a sharp eye on the distinction of logical and physical possibility, for we will get confused by all kinds of paradoxes.

A classic one: I travel back in time and kill the father of my father, my grandfather. So my father will never be born. And consequently neither will I, though i am here in the past.

The interesting thing here is, that this only is a logical paradox, for what strikes me in such stories is that the timetraveler himself is left out of the picture completely as well as the concept of physical being.

I mean, when I travel back in time am I , myself, not affected physically by this process or do I have to assume that it is a completely immaterial process?

In other words, if we talk about a real physical proces what is the material substance of the time traveler, if you accept that all material processes are causal processes in time?

Even more complicated it becomes when we suppose that we can travel to the future. First of all this future must be a realized reality. It has to be "there" ....somehow, somewhere.

Suppose I am not too audacious and just jump 10 years into the future. There I see, how I die in a carcrash. That IS my future?

Whatever I do when I return to my own moment of time, I will end up in that carcrash. You mean that life is just a detemistic chain of cause and free will?

I have to stop....I need some more time. So the next lecture will be on time and time traveling too, if you do't mind....Too many unresolved questions left.

The Discussion

[13:20] itsme Frederix: mr. Bergson I missed the concept of duration
[13:20] herman Bergson: As I said..I had to stop....this is just the part that assumes that time is some kind of
[13:21] Vico Rabeni: yes it is - but only in one direction
[13:21] Vladimir Apparatchik: Herman - I think your problem here is that you are thinking in time "jumps", travelling in time would be just like travelling in space I think
[13:21] herman Bergson: But only as a metaphor Vico
[13:21] itsme Frederix: Your thesis about hypertime is not reflecting the space-time continuum in modern relativity -
[13:22] Vladimir Apparatchik: Yes itsme
[13:22] herman Bergson: No Itsme as I said....this is more the Newtonian time concept
[13:22] Clear Clarity: I´ve read a book that says past is frozen, fixed, immobile, so there is no energy there. Because of that, we can't travel there
[13:22] itsme Frederix: Oke, but U used it nicely to tell some nice paradoxes
[13:23] herman Bergson: That, Clear , suggests that the past has some independent reality
[13:24] itsme Frederix: Clear in a way the same about the future ?!
[13:24] herman Bergson: And especially the ontological status of what we call past and future are an issue here
[13:24] herman Bergson: If they really have an ontological status....but the Myth of passage (through time) suggests it
[13:24] Clear Clarity: I guess so. I think the guy thinks of past as some imaginary thing, since if it exists, has mass, then it has energy
[13:25] herman Bergson: Ok....that is Einstein :-)
[13:25] Clear Clarity: (: yes
[13:25] itsme Frederix: Do we stick to Newtonian time (whatever it is) or can we add some more "advanced" concepts & I still miss "duree"
[13:25] Vladimir Apparatchik: And Einstein implies that both past and present and future all exist together
[13:26] Paula Dix: yes ive read somewhere time travel is possible according to einstein
[13:26] herman Bergson: If you dont mind Itsme I'll save that for the next lecture...
[13:26] herman Bergson: Acording to Newton time was some absolute...and I know since 1915 we have a different idea about that
[13:27] itsme Frederix: Oke, if we accept space-time continuum, and visualize (riemann space) time travel is nothing special - but takes some energy
[13:27] Paula Dix: a lot of energy?? :)
[13:27] herman Bergson: I think time travel as presented in literature and movies is a fiction
[13:28] itsme Frederix: all physical formula's do accept "negative" time (except entropy law thermo dynamics?)
[13:28] herman Bergson: Most interesting in this is StarTrek and space travel
[13:28] Vladimir Apparatchik: Not sure quantum mechanics does itsme
[13:29] Paula Dix: oh yes the worm holes!
[13:29] herman Bergson: yes..things like that..
[13:29] itsme Frederix: The thing in startrack is that travel in time means also space distortion/displacement! according to the rules I guess
[13:29] Paula Dix: yes, warp drive
[13:29] herman Bergson: Well...I guess an amazing impossibility
[13:30] herman Bergson: But so attractive
[13:30] Daruma Boa: perhaps not^
[13:30] itsme Frederix: What is impossible Herman
[13:30] Paula Dix: i think they slowly adapted the warp thing to become worm holes to fit into modern theories
[13:30] herman Bergson: This traveling through space and time as shown in StarTrek
[13:30] Vico Rabeni: like teleporting in sl
[13:30] herman Bergson: lol indeed Vico
[13:31] Yakuzza Lethecus: but isn´t that beaming ?
[13:31] Daruma Boa: hi q^^
[13:31] herman Bergson: Hi Qwark :-)
[13:31] Qwark Allen: ˜*•. ˜”*°•.˜”*°• Helloooooo! •°*”˜.•°*”˜ .•*˜ ㋡
[13:31] Qwark Allen: Hey!
[13:31] itsme Frederix: Maybe it happens all the time ;) but we do not notice it (so what is the mportance than - thinking back to last week brain vat)
[13:31] Clear Clarity: But they made real teleporting recently. Sure, it was just a nuclear particle, but they teleported it some meters
[13:31] Alarice Beaumont: Hello Qwark :-))
[13:31] Qwark Allen: ♥☺☮☺♥!!!Alarice !!! ♥☺☮☺♥
[13:31] Qwark Allen: ******* Herman *******
[13:31] Qwark Allen: daruma
[13:31] Qwark Allen: and all
[13:32] herman Bergson: Yes Clear...I have heard about that too....
[13:32] Qwark Allen: i`ve been trapped at a black hole
[13:32] Qwark Allen: and time stoped for me
[13:32] Daruma Boa: lol qwark
[13:32] Daruma Boa: how was it?
[13:32] herman Bergson: but micro physics is a completely different chapter....
[13:32] Daruma Boa: tell us
[13:32] Qwark Allen: very quiet
[13:32] Qwark Allen: eheheheh
[13:32] Paula Dix: lol qwark
[13:32] herman Bergson: Even the concept of time used there is , as I read, not compatible with the concept of time in macro physics
[13:33] Paula Dix: quiet & dark, qwark? :))
[13:33] itsme Frederix: Herman we still might gain someting from it - as micro neurology
[13:33] Qwark Allen: yes
[13:33] Qwark Allen: cause of gravity
[13:33] Vladimir Apparatchik: You should look much older to us now Qwark
[13:33] Qwark Allen: we don`t understand well, what is that
[13:33] Qwark Allen: no
[13:33] Qwark Allen: at this point i was alive
[13:33] Qwark Allen: and all of you death
[13:33] Qwark Allen: eheheheh
[13:33] herman Bergson: No indeed Qwark...the more you read about time the more you know , that we dont know
[13:33] Qwark Allen: it`s the opposite
[13:34] Qwark Allen: the bigger you are from the gravity point (earth) the faster is the time
[13:34] itsme Frederix: Some mentioned that speaking about macro & micro might misslead us to some continous concepts - which not neccesary have to be like that
[13:34] Vladimir Apparatchik: sorry - you are right
[13:34] Qwark Allen: the far you are, the slower time is
[13:34] herman Bergson: Yes Qwark, but that also has its physical effects
[13:34] Paula Dix: yes, matter "attracts" (slow) time, the same as it does to light, right?
[13:35] Qwark Allen: yes
[13:35] herman Bergson: and in the theory of time traveling the time traveler himself is never affected
[13:35] Vladimir Apparatchik: Do we look older?
[13:35] Qwark Allen: ah
[13:35] Qwark Allen: i see
[13:35] Qwark Allen: we can travel to future
[13:35] Qwark Allen: never to past
[13:35] itsme Frederix: so Herman we created a timeless timer a unmoved mover - back to the old days
[13:35] Paula Dix: yes herman i never got that!!! traveller should get some effect also
[13:36] herman Bergson: Oh..that is a new approach....explain Qwark..plz
[13:36] Qwark Allen: cause of rosentall-einstein bridges
[13:36] Qwark Allen: when we bend space and time , and create one of those bridges, we can travel there
[13:36] herman Bergson: I'll check that Qwark..thnx :-)
[13:36] Qwark Allen: but it`s allways to future
[13:36] Daruma Boa: lol
[13:36] Qwark Allen: never to past
[13:36] Qwark Allen: yes
[13:36] Paula Dix: so we can speed time, but not slow it?
[13:37] Qwark Allen: i saw a doc recently with the guy with funny talk
[13:37] Qwark Allen: and wheel chair
[13:37] Qwark Allen: saying exactly this
[13:37] herman Bergson: Stephen Hawkins
[13:37] Qwark Allen: yes
[13:37] itsme Frederix: Quark yes, that is one of the "proves/theories" that implies one-way direction of time and neglects the inversability in other theories
[13:37] Vladimir Apparatchik: Qwark - we can have closed time loops possibly
[13:37] herman Bergson: He once remarked that there never have been timetravelers form the timetraveling isnt probably impossible
[13:37] Qwark Allen: we are at a point in space
[13:38] Vladimir Apparatchik: but we can't go back before the time when we created the time machine that creates the loops
[13:38] Qwark Allen: to go to other and come back to a previous position of earth
[13:38] Qwark Allen: i don`t know how to do it
[13:38] Paula Dix: yes, except the UFOs are time travellers :))))
[13:38] Qwark Allen: that we don`t know
[13:38] herman Bergson: They have to be...
[13:38] Qwark Allen: we know they travel faster then light
[13:38] itsme Frederix: paradoxes again, speculation irrational reasoning, to uch brain jumops
[13:38] Qwark Allen: cause of the use of gravity
[13:38] Vladimir Apparatchik: we'll only get time travellers from the future once we create a timemachine
[13:39] Qwark Allen: they don`t travel to a point
[13:39] herman Bergson: Ok..then we'll wait for that Vladimir :-)
[13:39] Qwark Allen: it`s the point that gets close to them
[13:39] Qwark Allen: by creating a distortion at gravity field
[13:39] Paula Dix: I see, then the need of much energy, to distort space
[13:39] Qwark Allen: yes
[13:40] Qwark Allen: check element 115 at youtube
[13:40] Qwark Allen: and bob lazar
[13:40] Qwark Allen: you`ll understand how it works
[13:40] Paula Dix: ah, ok, from that comes the idea of black holes as worm holes?
[13:40] Qwark Allen: no
[13:40] itsme Frederix: Don't expect any visitors from future, neither alians coming to earth - we made an awwfull time ans place of it - So it exist, these alians are intelligent enough to neglect us.
[13:40] Qwark Allen: black holes are just huge stars that gravity took over of them
[13:41] Qwark Allen: at the end of their lifes
[13:41] herman Bergson: Yes Itsme ..maybe we are in quarantaine....
[13:41] Paula Dix: but being so massive, arent they natural time travel machines?
[13:41] herman Bergson: for centuries already :-)
[13:41] Vladimir Apparatchik: This is a good link
[13:41] Qwark Allen: the theory says, that at a black hole, there isn`t such a thing, called time
[13:41] herman Bergson: Ah..rules for timetravelers
[13:41] herman Bergson: Yes we might need them
[13:41] Qwark Allen: eheheheh
[13:41] Qwark Allen: yes
[13:42] Clear Clarity: There is a movie that says we are some kind of virus infesting Earth... not a bad idea
[13:42] itsme Frederix: one thing for sure - its interessting and challanging way of passing time talking about time
[13:42] Qwark Allen: at the LHC, they will study that question
[13:42] herman Bergson: Yes Itsme.....
[13:42] herman Bergson: One little sidetrack...
[13:43] Paula Dix: lol itsme
[13:43] herman Bergson: Did you ever think about how far a human can travel in a lifetime...even when he was able to use the speed of light..
[13:43] itsme Frederix: just about 80 years
[13:43] herman Bergson: We wouldnt even reach the edge of our galaxy alive....
[13:43] Qwark Allen: we can travel faster then the speed of light
[13:43] Yakuzza Lethecus: Can we age at the speed of light ?
[13:43] Qwark Allen: but not at speed of light
[13:43] Daruma Boa: and who knows how far??
[13:44] Qwark Allen: no
[13:44] herman Bergson: so the idea is that we are imprisoned in our solar system....
[13:44] itsme Frederix: do we exist at the speed of light
[13:44] Qwark Allen: cause of the mass that we gain by travelling so fast
[13:44] herman Bergson: and then the fantasy of time traveling is so appealing
[13:44] Paula Dix: hows that qwark?? faster than light??
[13:44] Yakuzza Lethecus: we might exist but there is no essence
[13:44] herman Bergson: Ye Qwark..that too....we have to go on a diet as well
[13:44] itsme Frederix: Yep there were some publications
[13:44] Qwark Allen: tachion particle, not discovered yet
[13:44] Qwark Allen: and the bend of space
[13:44] Paula Dix: ok
[13:45] Qwark Allen: tachion it`s 10 times the speed of a foton
[13:45] Clear Clarity: Only way out of Solar System will be movable "worlds"
[13:45] Qwark Allen: so we can travel 10 times faster
[13:45] herman Bergson: Ok....I think we traveled enough time into the future now to get ready for the other side of the time the next lecture
[13:45] Paula Dix: lol Clear yes, like Rama
[13:45] itsme Frederix: Qwark are you sure that is lineair
[13:45] Qwark Allen: by the regular ways , i mean
[13:46] Qwark Allen: it`s what some cientist say
[13:46] Qwark Allen: and writed about
[13:46] Qwark Allen: i`m only a reader
[13:46] Qwark Allen: :-)
[13:46] herman Bergson: So am I and even not a this is heavy stuff..:-)
[13:46] Qwark Allen: but i believe we can throught some "worm hole" travel to future
[13:46] Qwark Allen: or to other place in the universe
[13:47] Daruma Boa: my opinion too
[13:47] Paula Dix: i hope so! :))
[13:47] Daruma Boa: perhas we land in sl^^
[13:47] herman Bergson: We wont reach them....were it only because we get killed by all radiation in space
[13:47] Qwark Allen: teleportation, will be possible in a near future
[13:47] Vladimir Apparatchik: Qwark - in Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum mechanics we could go back in time - but not to our universe
[13:47] Qwark Allen: cause of quantic computers
[13:47] itsme Frederix: one of the things is all those mathematical forms are translated/visualized to our perceptions - that makes weird pictures
[13:47] Paula Dix: oh, yes, the multiple universes thing!
[13:48] herman Bergson: Yes...parallel worlds....
[13:48] itsme Frederix: The point is Herman about // do they join somewhere
[13:48] Vladimir Apparatchik: So we kill our Grandfather in a different universe with a different me (or not me of course because he/me is then never born)s
[13:49] itsme Frederix: think about euclidian and non-euclidian geometry
[13:49] herman Bergson: I'll think about it , Itsme ^_^
[13:49] Paula Dix: seductive ideas, infinite universes where all is happening to each of us
[13:49] herman Bergson: not sure what....but I will :-)
[13:49] Daruma Boa: perhaps that topic is too big for our brain in the jar^^
[13:49] Paula Dix: lol
[13:49] Qwark Allen: we need first to try to know more about the reality here
[13:49] herman Bergson: Yes..all those ideas....
[13:49] Qwark Allen: we don`t know really much about this one
[13:50] itsme Frederix: So before speaking about // universes please define // and the axioms you use
[13:50] Daruma Boa: yes and we cant think so far
[13:50] herman Bergson: And even that appears to be pretty difficult Qwark :-)
[13:50] Qwark Allen: yes
[13:50] herman Bergson: Ok...let's say ..our time is up....
[13:50] Daruma Boa: which time?;-)
[13:50] Qwark Allen: we need a diferent mathmatic and physic to
[13:50] herman Bergson: In the next lexture I will try to bring some order in this time business.
[13:51] Qwark Allen: Hello sir energy phisic will help a lot
[13:51] herman Bergson: Hello Rodney...exactly in time ^_^
[13:51] Daruma Boa: lol
[13:51] Vladimir Apparatchik: Good idea Herman :)
[13:51] Daruma Boa: his time^^^
[13:51] Alarice Beaumont: oh sorry... phone.. gotta go..
[13:51] Qwark Allen: that is why so exciting this experiments at LHC
[13:51] itsme Frederix: we only used // in a space way, what about a universe hidding just 1221 years ahead that // in time?
[13:51] Rodney Handrick: Hey Herman
[13:51] Qwark Allen: loool
[13:51] Qwark Allen: lol
[13:51] Alarice Beaumont: oh i won't be on thursday :-(
[13:51] herman Bergson: And I'll also add Duration to the list
[13:51] Daruma Boa: bye alarice
[13:51] Daruma Boa: see u next week then
[13:52] Yakuzza Lethecus: i should travel back in time to visit the first 150 lectures i missed
[13:52] Paula Dix: lol
[13:52] itsme Frederix: Aliani maybe a // session will help, or a //Alian
[13:52] herman Bergson: Yes Yakuzza.....
[13:52] herman Bergson: Thank you all for taking the time to be here :-)
[13:53] Paula Dix: very interesting! :))
[13:53] itsme Frederix: well it was just // time, got plenty of that
[13:53] Yakuzza Lethecus: thx again herman
[13:53] herman Bergson: Me too Itsme..:-)
[13:53] Qwark Allen: ******* Herman *******
[13:53] Qwark Allen: ty
[13:53] Qwark Allen: got to go to
[13:53] Qwark Allen: OMG
[13:53] Clear Clarity: Thank you Herman
[13:53] Yakuzza Lethecus: so lets see how happy i can still be through philosophy on thothica
[13:53] Qwark Allen: darn time
[13:53] Yakuzza Lethecus: bye!
[13:53] Qwark Allen: always against us
[13:53] herman Bergson: Bye Qwark give my regards to Gemma ^_^
[13:53] Vico Rabeni: thank you
[13:53] Qwark Allen: ok
[13:53] Qwark Allen: i will
[13:53] Qwark Allen: :-)))
[13:53] itsme Frederix: OKE was fun, looking forward to the next lecture prof.
[13:54] Daruma Boa: i will go too
[13:54] Yakuzza Lethecus: thursday right ?
[13:54] Paula Dix: Yakuzza, whats going on on Thothica?
[13:54] Daruma Boa: see u thursday.
[13:54] Jangle McElroy: Thanks. I look forward ot reading the lecture, sorry I got calld away. Does that mean I was in 2 places within the same time event?
[13:54] herman Bergson: Thnx Itsme...I'll work on it..
[13:54] Daruma Boa: bye and thank u herman
[13:54] herman Bergson: Yes Jangle were multitasking in parallel worlds :-)
[13:54] Paula Dix: lol
[13:54] Jangle McElroy: I hope one of me got to eat.
[13:55] Yakuzza Lethecus: Its if does philosophy make u happy or so
[13:55] Yakuzza Lethecus: ,,Does philosophy make ur happ"
[13:55] Yakuzza Lethecus: something like that
[13:55] Jangle McElroy: :)
[13:55] Yakuzza Lethecus: bye
[13:55] herman Bergson: At least your mind was fed Jangle
[13:55] Clear Clarity: Going... goodbye everybody
[13:55] Jangle McElroy: It will be nourished :)
[13:55] Yakuzza Lethecus: it started together with this class :(
[13:55] herman Bergson: Bye Clear

Friday, May 15, 2009

3c The final lecture on Skepticism

Let's begin with some more logic.

(( P entails Q) AND NOT-Q) entails/logically implies NOT-P
That is te logic the skeptic uses to show that he is right. To prove that this is a valid reasoning we create a so called truth-table. Looks like this.

((p --> q) & ~q) --> ~p
..1..1.. 1. 0. 01.. 1.. 01
..1..0.. 0. 0. 10.. 1.. 01
..1..1.. 1. 0. 01.. 1.. 10
..1..1.. 0. 1. 10.. 1.. 10

.....(3) ...(4) (1). (5). (2)

Step (5) is the final evaluation. It says: whatever truth-value p and q have, you will always get to the same conclusion. That is what those four 1-s mean.

This is the well known 'modus tollendo tollens' law of logic.
Information from Wikipedia -------------------------- quote

Modus tollens became well known when it was used by Karl Popper in his proposed response to the problem of induction, falsificationism.

However, here the use of modus tollens is much more controversial, as "truth" or "falsity" are inappropriate concepts to apply to theories (which are generally approximations to reality) and experimental findings (whose interpretation is often contingent on other theories). Thus (to take a historical example)

If special relativity is true, then the mass of the electron has a specific dependence on velocity.
Experimentally, the mass of the electron does not have this dependence (Kaufmann (1906)[4]).
Therefore, special relativity is false.

Einstein rejected this argument on the grounds that the alternative theories that appeared to be validated by the experiment were inherently less plausible than his own. -- END QUOTE

I give you this quote because it is so interesting and gives rise to many philosophical considerations. But not now....let's stick to the skeptic and the possibility to find a refutation.

Ok ....this was the original deduction:
If I know that I sit at my computer, then I know that I am not a brain in a vat.
I do not know that I am not a brain in a vat. So,
I do not know that I sit at my computer.

What we have to do is to show that "I do not know that I am not a brain in a vat" makes no sense, or even that the whole argument makes no sense

St. Augustine's "Contra Academicos" (354 – 430) was the last major attempt before the Renaissance to come to grips with skeptical questions in epistemology (theory of knowledge).

Augustine was strongly attracted by Cicero's views and the Platonism of the Middle Academy. Part of the resolution of his personal religious crisis was his realization, presented in"Contra Academicos" and earlier writings, that skepticism can be completely overcome only by revelation.

From this standpoint philosophy becomes faith seeking understanding and I assume that not everyone of you will be satisfied with this conclusion. At least I, myself, dont think that this standpoint is very convincing. Yet this conclusion held till Descartes.

The Cogito of Descartes (died 1650) seemed a refutation of skepticisme. We CAN know something for certain, namely, "I think, so I am." Of course skepticism was refashioned and redirected to show that Descartes had found nothing certain at all.

Without hesitation you may call David Hume (died 1776) as the creator of our modern skepticism. When we examine what we believe and what leads us to believe it, we find that "Philosophy would render us entirely Pyrrhonian, were not Nature too strong for it." , as Hume said.

The skeptical problems notwithstanding, we are naturally constrained to believe all sorts of things. according to Hume. Under normal conditions we find that we are led by nature to believe that the future course of events will resemble the past course, and on this we base our so-called "reasonable" or "scientific" views and expectations about the world.

But nature does not refute complete skepticism. It only prevents us from believing in, or accepting, the doubts that result from skeptical reasonings.

In 1764 Thomas Reid, also a Scottish philosopher concludes that when the conclusions of philosophy run counter to common sense then there must be something wrong with philosophy.

Nobody can believe and act by complete skepticism, he claimed, and as a solution he formulated his comon sense realism. Nowadays this approach to face skepticism is called Philosophicla realism.

That is also the origine of our own brain in the vat, an idea formulated by Hilary Putnam in 1981. The funny thing is that Putnam has clarified that his real target in this argument was never skepticism, but philosophical realism.

Philosophical realism is the view that the categories and structures of the external world are both causally and ontologically independent of the conceptualizations of the human mind.

Later Putnam adopted a rather different view, which he called "internal realism". Internal realism is the view that, although the world may be causally independent of the human mind,

the structure of the world—its division into kinds, individuals and categories—is a function of the human mind, and hence the world is not ontologically independent.

So the premis "I do not know that I am not a brain in a vat." is false, when we adhere this philosophical realism and begin the debate about what it means when I say "I KNOW P.

Our skeptic argument depends on the assumption that the external world is mind-independent and that it is logically possible for sense experience to represent there to be a physical world of a certain character even though there is no physical world, or at least no physical world of that character.

We can deny that assumption of independence. We can maintain that facts about physical objects hold simply in virtue of the holding of the right facts about sense experience.

Any world in which the facts of sense experience are as they actually are is a world in which there is an external reality of roughly the sort people take there to be. In fact the later view of Putnam.

We could choose another strategy and claim that the whole skeptic argument is in fact an empty shell. Is it a hypothesis: is my brain in a vat or not? Get real, who cares? Whether the hypothesis is true or makes no difference at all.

I keep experiencing the same reality, having the same sensory experiences, so what is the big deal with this skepticism? Well...there is one weak point in this view. It still is logically possible that one day some creature comes by and show me that I am a brain in a vat.

You also could say...OK this skeptical argument holds and makes sense, but only in a context where you demand extremly high epistemological standards, for instance in a philosophical debate.

But in the normal daily context, or in a context of practical scientific research this argument has no meaning at all.

Now what should we conclude? Have we found a definite refutation of skepticism? I dont think so and I wonder if it is necessary.

The fundamental claim of skepticism is, that we should be aware of the impossibility of THE FINAL ANSWER. Everytime a philosopher shows up, claiming he or she has the final answer (think of people like Dawkins, Rand, Marx and so on) the skeptic will raise his hand and ask a question.

Skepticism is not a philosophy like materialism, idealism or empiricism, it is a basic philosophical attitude like history shows. And here we might conclude with the observation that skepticism is a part of our nature, which keeps us open minded.

The Discussion

[13:36] Samuel Okelly: hello every1 :) apologies for being late
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:36] Ze Novikov: smiles
[13:37] herman Bergson: Well for now this wil be my last word on skepticism....but we will run into it time and again I am afraid
[13:37] itsme Frederix: why afraid?
[13:38] herman Bergson: not literally Itsme..of course...
[13:38] herman Bergson: In fact ..I love it ^_^
[13:38] itsme Frederix: sorry was close reading
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:38] herman Bergson: Most interesting is that we cant escape this kind of reasoning
[13:39] Aby Karsin: Do you think that skepticism always leads to a dead end (no knowledge so no action perhaps)?
[13:39] itsme Frederix: More interesting is that we might get a use out of it, just sharpening our reasoning and thoughts
[13:39] herman Bergson: No Aby..that is not the meaning of skepticism
[13:39] Alarice Beaumont: no.. skepticism helps to proof and motivate peopel to go on looking
[13:39] herman Bergson: It is not denying knowledge at all
[13:40] herman Bergson: It questions the justification of knowledge
[13:40] Cailleach Shan: One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions.
[13:40] Aby Karsin: insn' skepticism saying that we can't have a complete knowledge?
[13:40] Cailleach Shan: This is my dictionary definition....
[13:41] Alarice Beaumont: well.. i don't think scepticism is negativ...
[13:41] herman Bergson: I dont know what you mean by complete knowledge, Aby, but absolute certainty...yes that is questionable for the skeptic
[13:41] Alarice Beaumont: one need natural scepticism to explore things
[13:41] Ze Novikov: indeed
[13:41] Rodney Handrick: agreed
[13:42] herman Bergson: Yes....that is why Skepticism through history never was a philosophpy
[13:42] Aby Karsin: i was aiming to Montaigne when I said that
[13:42] itsme Frederix: mmm Herman told us already skeptism is natural, and now we create a degree natural natural
[13:42] herman Bergson: As I said in another lecture...
[13:42] Alarice Beaumont: accepting everything like it is would be a step backwards
[13:43] herman Bergson: to some extend philosophy has been the continuing fight against skepticism through the ages
[13:43] Ze Novikov: yes
[13:43] herman Bergson: I think that the real target of the skeptic is dogmatism
[13:43] itsme Frederix: philosophy no doubt makes a claim it can not prove but which is in my opinion valuabl
[13:44] herman Bergson: Yes Itsme ..I agree..skepticism doesnt upset me at all..^_^
[13:44] itsme Frederix: what about sofists
[13:45] herman Bergson: hmmm....we should re-read Plato's dialogs on that issue Itme
[13:45] Samuel Okelly: i see skepticism as highlighting the limitations, in an epistemological sense, of what it means "to know"
[13:45] herman Bergson: Oh yes Samuel....absolutely
[13:46] Ze Novikov: bingo !!
[13:46] itsme Frederix: but, there is always a but, we should not loose our ground by highlighting
[13:46] herman Bergson: So look forward to question 19...^_^
[13:47] herman Bergson: Just a little deviating from the subject....
[13:47] herman Bergson: When I saw this modus tollendo tollens I thought...where did that come from
[13:47] herman Bergson: who invented it....
[13:47] herman Bergson: why should I accept it....
[13:48] herman Bergson: and then you dig into the history of logic......amazing
[13:48] herman Bergson: Aristotle never thought of this way of reasioning
[13:48] herman Bergson: he never wrote about the :if ....then " relation in logic
[13:49] herman Bergson: It took 300 years....Philo of Alexandrai...who did
[13:50] herman Bergson: and in the Middle Ages it was al,most ignored too, because they focused on Aristotelian syllogisms
[13:50] herman Bergson: With the rise of science....hypothetical reasoning..........mankind was willing to accept this way of deduction...
[13:51] herman Bergson: and then we have reached 1590 or so Francis Bacon and all after him
[13:51] herman Bergson: And now this way of reasoning is the core of our logic...amazing
[13:51] herman Bergson: But this just as a side track ^_^
[13:53] itsme Frederix: On the other way, in math the prove using a statement and proving it would lead to a contradiction was used in early days (euclidian)
[13:53] herman Bergson: Cailleach show typing but it never shows???
[13:53] Cailleach Shan: So Herman, if I really am just a 'brain in a jar' then everything is just the way it is and all I have to do is just sit and watch the play. I quite like that idea.
[13:53] herman Bergson: chat lag...
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: well i do not
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: i think she is caught in the type
[13:54] herman Bergson: Yes. Itsme..the Stoics knew of this kind of reasoning too...but the syllogistic logic of aristotle was dominant for ages
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: that happens
[13:54] itsme Frederix: just for the record, we are all a brain in the jar/skul as long as we think we are just brain
[13:55] herman Bergson: Yes is like in the Matrix..^_^
[13:55] herman Bergson: Another remark for the future...
[13:55] herman Bergson: that quote from Wiki
[13:56] herman Bergson: Were Einstein didnt accept the Popperian falsifiacation because his theory was more plausible...
[13:56] herman Bergson: That is a very interesting observation...
[13:56] itsme Frederix: in a way these logic lectures make us speakless, and herman sparkling
[13:56] herman Bergson: I guess it wil show up when we discuss the possibility of knowledge
[13:57] herman Bergson: Itsme...plz ^_^
[13:57] Cailleach Shan: lol.... that's very logical Itsme
[13:57] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:57] herman Bergson: me Spock from now on
[13:57] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:57] itsme Frederix: meant to be a good gesture
[13:57] Ze Novikov: where are the ears?
[13:57] Samuel Okelly: when it is asked "... Get real, who cares? " arent we being asked to give up on searching for "truth"? because in order for us to "get real" we surely need to establish what "real" actually is
[13:57] herman Bergson: I appreciate that Itsme ...:-)
[13:57] Cailleach Shan: Prof. Spok
[13:58] herman Bergson: You may choose....
[13:58] herman Bergson: we have the Startrek Spock and the educator Dr. Spock of RL
[13:58] itsme Frederix: Sartre
[13:58] bergfrau Apfelbaum: herman and class! : -) thanks for the interesting hour! unfortunately I must now go :-((( need still another gift. it is logical that I come too late if I do not go now
[13:59] Ze Novikov: :))
[13:59] herman Bergson: It is Bergy...:-)
[13:59] itsme Frederix: Berg you might gain from relativism and speed of light
[13:59] bergfrau Apfelbaum: :-) sry"" see u on tuesday
[14:00] herman Bergson: Ok..:-)
[14:00] itsme Frederix: Nice lecture Herman, give us some tools and training in reasoning
[14:00] herman Bergson: Well...I have stirred your jars / vats enough I think...:-)
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: might be good
[14:00] Ze Novikov: again thxs herman very much...see you all next week if not sooner..
[14:01] itsme Frederix: its mostly java what you find in a jar
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: I will be away next week and will miss 2 classes
[14:01] herman Bergson: No..LSL script Itme..:-)
[14:01] Cailleach Shan: Me and my jar will time travel back to my RL reality now..... cu everyone and thanks.
[14:01] Samuel Okelly: thanks again herman :) cheerio for now every1 :)
[14:01] herman Bergson: Oh dear Gemma.....take care and be strong :-)
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: yes thank you :-)
[14:02] herman Bergson: Bye Samuel
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: Bye
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: all
[14:02] Rodney Handrick: bye
[14:02] Alarice Beaumont: this was a lot today again :-)
[14:02] itsme Frederix: Good lecture good class thx all I was able to participate
[14:02] Socratle Kiranov: bye (en bedankt)
[14:02] Alarice Beaumont: bye everyone :-))
[14:02] itsme Frederix: Socrate that is niet grieks
[14:02] Socratle Kiranov: nope :)
[14:03] Socratle Kiranov: sorry
[14:03] Yakuzza Lethecus: thx
[14:03] Yakuzza Lethecus: cya all!