Friday, September 25, 2009

13c A skeptic dip for us all...

Step by step we try to get closer to the roots of knowledge. We moved from belief to true belief, which we described as adequately justified belief or knowlege.

The next step was to analyse what 'adequately justified' could mean. First of all there had to be s specific relation between the person who holds a belief and the the actual fact(s).

For instance a relation of seeing of feeling. Second the justification should be based on rational arguments and logic.

Now there are two roads to follow. One road leads to skepticism and the other to the analysis of the rationality in relation to human knowledge. Let us today pay some attention to the skeptic.

The skeptic asks us why we have beliefs and why we are insisting on them. He wants to know why and how we think to know the things which we say we know. He asks us how we can have the knowledge that we claim to have.

This is not a postmodern attitude at all. It is as old as philosophy itself. Already 300 B.C. Greek philosophers questioned the knowledge claims of others and this line of questioning never disappeared ever since form philosophical debate and discourse.

The more popular formulations are something like: there is no certainty, no absolute truth, nowwhere, so also not in ethics. It is just every man for himself. We thus have no direction in life at all. In fact it is almost total chaos and anarchy.

If it is about beliefs of the past we base ourselves on reports by others or on our own memory. But we know that these reports or my memory are not always reliable.

So how can we establish the reliability of reports or memory? It is not surprising that historians often dont agree on what really happened on a given moment in history.

Bertrand Russell wrote, in The Analysis of Mind (1921): 'There is no logical impossibility in the hypothesis that the world sprang into being five minutes ago, exactly as it then was, with a population that "remembered" a wholly unreal past.

There is no logically necessary connection between events at different times; therefore nothing that is happening now or will happen in the future can disprove the hypothesis that the world began five minutes ago."

And he continues : "I am not suggesting that the non-existence of the past should be entertained as a serious hypothesis. Like all sceptical hypotheses, it is logically tenable, but uninteresting. All that I am doing is to use its logical tenability as a help in the analysis of what occurs when we remember."

What he wants to point at is : "In the first place, everything constituting a memory-belief is happening now, not in that past time to which the belief is said to refer. It is not logically necessary to the existence of a memory-belief that the event remembered should have occurred, or even that the past should have existed at all."

But the beliefs of this very moment? Here we have a reliable source...our senses. But when the skeptic questions the reliability of my senses I can't use sensory experiences as the proof of the reliability of my senses.

Knowledge of the future we only can base on beliefs from the past and present. And we have concluded that we wont get further than the fact, that sometimes the sources of our beliefs are reliable. Sometimes....yes, but when is that, what criteria do we have to use to decide when?

We are in a difficult situation here, when we want to find an absolute reliable source to support our beliefs. So reliable that we can speak of adquately justified beliefs.

Descartes wrote as title above his First Meditation (1641): "Of the things which may be brought within the sphere of the doubtful."

The last paragraph of this Meditation ends with this: "I shall then suppose, not that God who is supremely goodand the fountain of truth, but some evil genius not less powerful than deceitful, has employed his whole energies in deceiving me; I shall consider that the heavens, the earth, colours, figures, sound, and all other external things are nought but the illusions and dreams of which this genius has availed himself in order to lay traps for my credulity; I shall consider myself as having no hands, no eyes, no flesh, no blood, nor any senses, yet falsely believing myself to possess all these things;...."

The ultimate skepticism about our beliefs of the present. How can we logically refute this point of view? What proof do we have? It seems that we have landed in a swamp of doubt and uncertainty.

How do we know that the sources of our beliefs, sensory experience, memory, reports by other, ever are reliable? How can it be rational to believe that the world exists longer than only five minutes, that life is not a Matrix-like dream, and so on?

I suggest that we spend some more of our time on these questions in another lecture .....


The discussion

[13:26] herman Bergson: Not a very hopeful story maybe, but if you have any remarks or questions...the floor is yours
[13:27] ChatNoir Talon: We don't need absolute reliable sources, all we need are probable sources so we can speak of adequatedly justified beliefs.
[13:27] Myriam Brianna: let's kick a stone and say "fuck you"; - even if the world of my senses is only an illusion it is real enough for me. In fact it is my only reality - and, really: What would differentiate such an illusion that caters to all my (apparent) senses from a "real" reality?
[13:27] herman Bergson: Ok...that is a point of view...
[13:28] Frederick Hansome: Have you ANY suggestion as to what constitutes adequate justification of a belief?
[13:28] Sovereign Trafalgar: @
[13:28] herman Bergson: Yes....Myriam that is another trend in contemporary philosophy.....realism
[13:28] Paula Dix: since most people share this "reality", cant we consider it as real enough??
[13:28] Abraxas Nagy: there is no absolute reality
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: belief as knowledge?
[13:29] herman Bergson: Let me answer Frederick's question
[13:29] Frederick Hansome: thanks
[13:29] Quizzle Mode: does collective sensory experience count too? eg lots of people die from eating the same plant, doesn't that suggest that's likely to happen if we eat it too? and therefore it's "real enough" for us?
[13:29] herman Bergson: During the past two lectures and debates a number of new things have come up...
[13:29] herman Bergson: To mention one Hans Albert..
[13:29] Paula Dix: Exact Quizzle, real enough :)))
[13:29] herman Bergson: I would advise you to check on him
[13:30] Myriam Brianna: met him a while ago, a really nice guy ^^
[13:30] Sovereign Trafalgar: I read your text and want to apply Heidegger's phrase, axiom maybe, in answer to the question; that it is a matter of "being and nothingness." That this is the only practical test, though it is subject to the same skepticism.
[13:30] herman Bergson: ANother thing....and that might relate to Quizzles remark is th eissue of Evolutionary epistemology
[13:31] herman Bergson: The problem with an absolute skepticism is two things...
[13:32] herman Bergson: in the first place the skepric isnt sketical about the meaning of his words or the use of languge and the communicative power of it...
[13:32] herman Bergson: the other problem is.....the skeptic is LOGICALLY irrefutable...
[13:33] herman Bergson: But only Logically...how does that relate to rationality
[13:33] Paula Dix: thats what Russell said, "not interesting?"
[13:33] herman Bergson: these are thoughts that will be discussed in further lectures
[13:33] herman Bergson: yes Paula....
[13:33] herman Bergson: It is nic e..the idea...but not interesting...
[13:34] Paula Dix: i met a guy here in SL who claims universe is a big brain and we its thoughts... and he say this seriously
[13:34] herman Bergson: But what is important in skepticism is that it questions our fundamental beliefs...and shows us the weak spots in our epistemology
[13:35] Sovereign Trafalgar: What I mean is the human capacity to extend sensory experience, perception, knowledge through toolmaking has brought us the means to manipulate the foundations of what gives rise to the material universe as we understand it.
[13:35] herman Bergson: the problem with such a statement, Paula
[13:35] herman Bergson: is that you cant verify nor falsify it
[13:35] Abraxas Nagy: exactly
[13:35] AristotleVon Doobie: critical analysis of what we know can only be done individually by the 'bag of evidence' we have filled along our journey, no one's bag will contain the same tools so no one mind wil know the turht
[13:35] herman Bergson: so it is uselus
[13:36] herman Bergson: But that Aristotle tends to some kind of absolute relativism
[13:36] Abraxas Nagy: dangerous
[13:36] herman Bergson: and I don think that that is what we feel comfortable with...
[13:36] herman Bergson: in the sense, that it isnt telling the whole story
[13:37] herman Bergson: Like the poison Quizzle everyone offered or the stone Myriam kicked against....that seems to be the same for everyone
[13:37] Quizzle Mode: as what we know is different to our experience of what we know?
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: the enquiring mind must look to others to share their tools and thus move closer to the truth
[13:38] Paula Dix: Lol we can analyse that statement via psychology, the guy name is Prometeu Jupiter...
[13:38] herman Bergson: Part of the univers :-)
[13:38] ChatNoir Talon: Very interesting, Ari
[13:39] AristotleVon Doobie: someone will always have different tools
[13:39] Sovereign Trafalgar: Is that then some measure of absolute truth? Hard to say if you're not there to experience it, and you only can know that by annihilating yourself I suspect.
[13:39] herman Bergson: Ok Aristotle...that is a view we will see to.....the idea that there is a movement possible towards a truth...
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: turht, LOL, it sits on the horizon and laughs at us
[13:40] Paula Dix: science isnt moving toward truth??
[13:40] Sovereign Trafalgar: The question though, it seems to me, is whether it may happen upon it quite accidently.
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: ahhh, good point Sovereign
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: if you do then pass it on
[13:41] Paula Dix: .
[13:41] herman Bergson: Someone once said that if we would ran into the truth eventually we wouldnt recognize it, because we have no means to be certain about it
[13:41] Paula Dix: lol thats sad... but true i guess
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: lol a play on words Paula
[13:42] Sovereign Trafalgar: my feeling about this is relates somewhat to the biblical, that man cannot look upon the face of God (and survive).
[13:42] ChatNoir Talon: Why do people want "The truth"? Why can't you just be happy with what you can guess?
[13:42] Paula Dix: .
[13:42] Paula Dix: yes, since there is no one only truth...
[13:43] Sovereign Trafalgar: I tend to see it in the more empirical, as a limitation of the species maybe
[13:43] herman Bergson: The reason that people want a fixed truth has to do with our need of a telos...a goal in life.....a meaning in life..
[13:43] Frederick Hansome: Since we seem to agree that there is no absolute truth, could rational folks, such as ourselves, agree on a "truth to a given level of certaintity"?
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: evolution wilnot aloow us to tarry CahtNoir
[13:43] Sovereign Trafalgar: in an evolutionary context.
[13:43] herman Bergson: where are we heading at....are we moving around just randomly?
[13:44] Paula Dix: then we pursue personal truths? personal goals?
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: we are moving toward the vanishing point
[13:44] ChatNoir Talon: I dont quite follow, Ari
[13:44] herman Bergson: Yes Frederick....in a way that may be an option, but thus it mean that truth then is a consensus amoung a certain group of people?
[13:44] herman Bergson: What people, why that people?
[13:45] Abraxas Nagy: but thats what truth is
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: cerebral evolution can not be stagnant
[13:45] Frederick Hansome: that would be as start
[13:45] herman Bergson: Makes truth highly political Frederick :-)
[13:45] Myriam Brianna: what would be the problem in moving randomly? I'm with ChatNoir there, - I don't need absolutes, I'm happy riding the Tiger - and as long as I don't let go I will not be eaten ;)
[13:45] Paula Dix: yes, so following Frederick idea, we are arriving at some social ethics??
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: random,? would that remove cause and effect?
[13:46] Paula Dix: Lol Myriam, i agree, i have no problem on having no reason to being alive
[13:46] herman Bergson: Very good Myriam....As Feyerabend says....science is anarchy
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: the only reason to be alive we make up :)
[13:46] ChatNoir Talon: It's not like if theres no "True truth" there's no reason to live, each one makes his/her own reasons
[13:46] Paula Dix: Yes Ari! I like that!
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: pain and pleasure teach us the reason
[13:47] Sovereign Trafalgar: It seems safe to say that should we ever believe we can measure, or come to understand as a mensurate system, why there are planets, stars and galaxies, we may well come to understand why there are people.
[13:47] Paula Dix: i guess then its a personal thing, each of us has its own reality, a personal truth, and we follow this to build ourselves
[13:47] Myriam Brianna: that would be a "how", not a "why" - (or only in a limited sense)
[13:47] Sovereign Trafalgar: The error in the thinking, seems to me, is to assume people need this information. Is the knowledge a process or an end, given what we think we know about evolution so far?
[13:48] herman Bergson: We first must discuss whether the question "Why are there stars and planets?" is a meaningful question
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: life is like cooking soup, every chef's soup tastes different
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:48] herman Bergson: And God was our Chef cook, Aristitotle?
[13:49] Paula Dix: wouldnt it be only a "human" thing to just go on collecting info? Then we can try to make sense of it...
[13:49] Sovereign Trafalgar: Yes, but does it not follow that happening upon such knowledge tends to bookend humans, life even?
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: Darwin maybe LOL
[13:49] Paula Dix: lol
[13:50] herman Bergson: Yes Aristotle..it is quite possible that we'll end up with him
[13:50] Sovereign Trafalgar: by bookend, I mean give some context to place
[13:50] Paula Dix: Ah,thats interesting!! Aliens will be able to get our art??
[13:50] herman Bergson: Bu tthe question "Why are there stars ? " is meaningless
[13:50] Sovereign Trafalgar: How so?
[13:51] herman Bergson: I timpries that you expect to find a reason foro their exiastence
[13:51] ChatNoir Talon: Logic+Reason+Senses = Good enough for me. If I see a rock that acts like a rock in a place where a rock would be I'll take it as a rock If it turns out tto be an animal well, shit happens/
[13:51] herman Bergson: so in fact you already have answered the questions....Is there a reason that stars exist?
[13:51] Paula Dix: hmmmm herman this means that even if there is a creator to the universe, like some crazy scientist from a very developed species, the quesiton still remains in where this creator came from then??
[13:51] Frederick Hansome: I like that very much, chat
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: I think, therfore I am
[13:52] Sovereign Trafalgar: Perhaps place in existence would be a better way of conceptualizing it, assuming one sees existence as a process.
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: the stars twinkle, therefore they are
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: good thought
[13:52] Paula Dix: lol
[13:52] herman Bergson: yes Paula...always that infinite regress
[13:52] Paula Dix: in space stars dont twinkle!
[13:52] Paula Dix: oh, btw, they found water in the moon :))
[13:53] ChatNoir Talon: So we can't sing twinklw twinkle little star in space? :O
[13:53] Abraxas Nagy: yep
[13:53] AristotleVon Doobie: welll we are not in space :))
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: yes i heard that this morning
[13:53] Paula Dix: lol
[13:53] Abraxas Nagy: amazing isnt it
[13:53] herman Bergson: No ChatNoir...we cant
[13:53] Myriam Brianna: we are in space :x
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: where are we then are lol
[13:53] AristotleVon Doobie: I am sure they have they own beauty in space without th twinkling
[13:53] herman Bergson: Like the nebulas havent color at all..NASA colors them in as they like
[13:53] Frederick Hansome: Chat, is that thought original or is it a quote? I would like to use it elsewhere and want to attribute it properly.
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: really????
[13:53] ChatNoir Talon: WHAT?
[13:53] Paula Dix: lol yes herman
[13:54] ChatNoir Talon: Original
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: i didnt know that Herman
[13:54] Quizzle Mode: twinkling though establishes (possibly) that the star exists not that it is a star
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:54] Paula Dix: i felt cheated when i learned that!
[13:54] herman Bergson: it is disappointingly true
[13:54] AristotleVon Doobie: :)
[13:54] herman Bergson: Me too Paula
[13:54] Paula Dix: its all false colors
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: oh dear
[13:54] herman Bergson: yes
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: another belief shot down
[13:54] ChatNoir Talon: NOW I've got no reason to live :(
[13:54] Paula Dix: like they paint red for hidrogen atoms, and so on...
[13:54] herman Bergson: So much about knowledge of the Universe !!!!
[13:55] Paula Dix: lol
[13:55] Sovereign Trafalgar: Aren't they measuring color by values of heat, radiation or some other spectral analysis?
[13:55] Paula Dix: .
[13:55] herman Bergson: Sovereign...the colors arent there!
[13:55] herman Bergson: They cheat:-)
[13:56] Sovereign Trafalgar: Then you say there is no color, as an argument?
[13:56] Paula Dix: i guess optical telescopes cant be so precise, they uuse other kinds of data co0llection then make a visual thing from them
[13:56] herman Bergson: But the more our discussion continues the heavier the burden becomes for me to show up next time with a real good story about knowledge ^_^
[13:56] Paula Dix: lol
[13:56] AristotleVon Doobie: the colors are just another language to assist in the explanation
[13:56] Sovereign Trafalgar: Or is it that the sensitivities we've used to measure them don't correspond to our sensory abilities?
[13:56] ChatNoir Talon: The bar gets higher and higher in this class
[13:56] herman Bergson: We already have some suggestions..
[13:57] Sovereign Trafalgar: physical, perceptual
[13:57] herman Bergson: But regarding 'adequate justification' of beliefs...read Hans Albert and you're cured :-)
[13:58] herman Bergson: Btw..It was Myriam who mentioned that name last time...a valuable contribution to the next lecture(s)
[13:58] Abraxas Nagy: :D
[13:58] Abraxas Nagy: oops
[13:58] Paula Dix: looking for him...
[13:59] Paula Dix: lol ive found a Hans Albert Einstein, is that the one?
[13:59] herman Bergson: SO I guess we have had a good look at skepticism today and put our view alongside with it.
[13:59] herman Bergson: No...that is the son of Albert Einstein
[13:59] Myriam Brianna: (and a good starting point with Albert is his "Traktat ├╝ber kritische Vernunft", though I don't know if it is available in English
[13:59] Paula Dix: yes
[14:00] herman Bergson: A professor in Hydraulics in the US somewhere
[14:00] AristotleVon Doobie: as I remember so well, this lecture and discussion was wonderful, Herman...thank you....good bye all :)
[14:00] Quizzle Mode: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Albert starting point?
[14:00] ChatNoir Talon: Ciao Ari
[14:00] Abraxas Nagy: bye Ari
[14:00] AristotleVon Doobie: :)
[14:00] herman Bergson: Yes Quizzle..perfect
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: Bye
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: ari see you soon we hope
[14:00] Qwark Allen: ciao ragazzi
[14:00] herman Bergson: Bye Arisotle
[14:00] Qwark Allen: va bene
[14:00] AristotleVon Doobie: as often as I can :)
[14:00] Qwark Allen: heheheh
[14:00] Abraxas Nagy: prego
[14:00] Qwark Allen: ˜*•. ˜”*°•.˜”*°• Bye ! •°*”˜.•°*”˜ .•*˜ ㋡
[14:00] ChatNoir Talon: WHoa! Profferory-looking guy
[14:00] Paula Dix: hi philosophers photos are always of them old?? to give a sense of wisdom??
[14:00] Quizzle Mode: Bye Ari
[14:00] Qwark Allen: nice to see you
[14:01] Qwark Allen: :-)
[14:01] ChatNoir Talon: It's Greek tradition, I guess
[14:01] herman Bergson: Muchos gracias todos amigos y amiguitas
[14:01] ChatNoir Talon: LOL Herman
[14:01] Qwark Allen: ehehhehe
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: law is not
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[14:01] Qwark Allen: ******* Herman *******
[14:01] Qwark Allen: cooolio
[14:01] herman Bergson: So I thank you for todays discussion
[14:01] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ^_^
[14:01] Abraxas Nagy: w0oh0o!
[14:01] Abraxas Nagy: haaaahaaaahaaaahaaaahaaa
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: see you Tuesday we hope
[14:01] ChatNoir Talon: Thank you Herman
[14:01] Abraxas Nagy: thats takes me back
[14:01] Quizzle Mode: lol thank you herman :) another great class, thanks all
[14:01] Frederick Hansome: Thank you, Herman. Good evening all
[14:02] Abraxas Nagy: a few decades
[14:02] herman Bergson: I'll be there ...:-)
[14:02] Abraxas Nagy: bye Fred
[14:02] Qwark Allen: cya soon
[14:02] Qwark Allen: i¨m still in France
[14:02] Abraxas Nagy: ah
[14:02] Qwark Allen: at friends house
[14:02] herman Bergson: Still on vacation Qwark?!
[14:02] Qwark Allen: with a laptop with keyboard azert
[14:02] Myriam Brianna: uh, bye to everyone who's leaving ^^
[14:03] Qwark Allen: indeed herman
[14:03] Qwark Allen: the never ending vacations
[14:03] herman Bergson: I envy you ...lol
[14:03] Qwark Allen: loool
[14:03] Qwark Allen: lol
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