1. Welcome to Religious Forums, a friendly forum to discuss all religions in a friendly surrounding.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Our modern chat room. No add-ons or extensions required, just login and start chatting!
    • Access to private conversations with other members.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

Reformed Epistemology

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Ella S., May 27, 2022.

  1. MikeF

    MikeF Proponent of RAEism
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2020
    Messages:
    1,444
    Ratings:
    +795
    Religion:
    None
    I know to Philosophy enthusiasts I am out of my depth, but I am going to continue to try and tread water with my water wings on. :)

    It would be my assumption, perhaps erroneously, that a priori knowledge is all present once the mind exists. From a biological perspective, we receive sensory inputs of all kinds, many of which are responded to automatically without thought. If we are contemplating the information, evaluating it, it does not become knowledge until that process is finished in my view, and once the thinking is done, it becomes a posteriori knowledge. The knowledge doesn't exist until the observation has been processed, it wasn't known all along.

    I would only consider instinctual behaviors as a priori knowledge. We do not have to be taught to suckle from our mother for example, that would be pre-programed knowledge.

    It just seems that anything learned would be a priori knowledge by your definition because it is happening in the mind.

    From my perspective, empiricism doesn't assume the external world exists axiomatically. It is my view that outside of our instinctual behaviors, we are born with a clean slate, a tabula rasa if you will. As infants and toddlers, we struggle to understand the rules of the game, the rules of reality. Think of the toddler playing peek-a-boo. It takes a certain level of experience to understand that just because something isn't seen, it does not mean that it has disappeared.

    The existence of the world is learned, and that understanding grows with the consistency of our experiences. We form reasoned expectations based on the consistency of our experience, which in turn, allow us to predict and anticipate outcomes.

    We can imagine numerous ways in which the world isn't really real, but why? As I've said elsewhere, why build a Rube Goldberg explanation of reality when there is no experience, no information to inform such a choice.

    If evolution is a real thing (not background story to the simulation), then we have only been in the game a short while. Our senses are the result of millions of years of evolution. If they did not provide accurate information about the external world, we would not survive long enough to reproduce. Our senses, statistically across the population as a whole, provide accurate information within the range limit of our biological senses. With instrumentation, we further enhance our senses and confirm our senses level of accuracy. I feel we can be quite confident in our acceptance of the macroscopic world as we perceive it. We have millennia in which billions of people have provided intersubjective corroboration of what we experience.

    As I touched on above, we are all born amateur empiricists. As amateurs we rely heavily on induction. In our macroscopic world and direct observation, this has served us pretty well. But true knowledge is limited by our access to all the information. We have had to slog through in a hit or miss fashion, because that was all that was available to us. We are getting better at this as we go along, which means the remaining problems are just that much harder to solve. Popper devised a way for us to set reliance on unreliable induction aside and devised an empirical system that helps keep the theoretical systems of science empirical and not get off track or trapped in conventionalism.

    My take is that the empirical observation is paramount. We have to have real information about reality upon which to apply logic. The scientific theoretical systems must be synthetic and remain synthetic. Otherwise, the system become analytic and you are no longer talking about reality. Falsifiability and deductive logic may keep science on a straighter course, but you have to start with actual empirical information to get anywhere.

    I think this might be similar to my view. To my mind, Science is a knowledge acquisition discipline that strives to mitigate the fallibility of the investigator. That's it. Methods are going to be problem specific. Methods vary. It is making sure the methods used account for, and counter human error that makes science so successful.
     
    • Useful Useful x 1
  2. Ella S.

    Ella S. Vulcan

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2021
    Messages:
    730
    Ratings:
    +759
    Religion:
    Rationalism
    Here's why: Last Thursdayism (or, if you prefer, confabulation and hallucination, but I'm running with Last Thursdayism as my example)

    It is not necessarily true that there was ever a time in your existence that you did not have memories of last Wednesday, because, for instance, you could have been created last Thursday with all of those memories already implanted in your mind. The universe might not have even existed last Wednesday.

    So for us to think that there was a past, we have to actively analyze the information our mind has in that moment, which is a priori. To come to the conclusion that our observations are a posteriori, we would need to analyze the information we already have available to us through our rational faculties, but as in this case, that might not be true.

    I do think an external world is likely and I don't think I was created Last Thursday, but these are conclusions that I arrive at solely through my a priori knowledge that my mind already has in the present moment.



    I would say that I think our observations cannot be said to be true in and of themselves, but must be analyzed for truth content. This is especially the case due to a number of sensory illusions and hallucinations, which can give us false sensory data.

    At least, in my opinion. Although I think we generally end up in the same place for most pragmatic concerns, since I do think evidence and experimentation is paramount, as did most of the continental rationalists.

    I would say that Karl Popper was instrumental in forming what we now refer to as "critical rationalism," which is a sub-type of rationalism, not empiricism, and did the exact opposite of setting induction aside. Instead, he demonstrated how induction could be used in conjunction with deduction, and that we can prove that it is impossible for highly-formalized models to be true if they contradict the data that they assert exists, thanks to the logical Law of Noncontradiction.

    This focus on impossibility continues to be of special importance to epistemic modal logic.
     
  3. MikeF

    MikeF Proponent of RAEism
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2020
    Messages:
    1,444
    Ratings:
    +795
    Religion:
    None
    This goes back to my question of why would one even entertain such an idea. What would inform one that it is in any way probable or even possible? As I said before, we can imagine an innumerable number of scenarios, an innumerable number of possible worlds, but we want to identify and describe the one world that represents our world of experience.

    This is why demarcation between hypotheses that are synthetic with our world of experience and those that are purely analytic is so important. We think in abstractions. The realm of abstractions is infinite, unbounded, without rules. Within the realm of abstraction we can create abstract systems that are bounded and have rules. Language, Logic, and Mathematics would be examples of such abstract systems. But these abstract systems are not bound by the rules and properties of physical things, of the natural world. These abstract systems with their abstract constructs are not physical, simply mental inventions. As such, all boundaries, rules, properties are malleable; can be invented, adhered to, ignored, or changed at a whim.

    Popper has created a system of rules that allow us to create an abstract system that is synthetic to our world of experience and that prevents us from wandering outside of it, as wandering outside of it would result in any hypotheses or theories derived from this abstract system being no longer synthetic with the real world, our world of experience.

    This ties in with my definition of Science as a knowledge acquisition discipline that recognizes the flaws and fallibility of the human investigator, and which takes active steps to mitigate those flaws and fallibilities. There are so many factors that can impinge on our objectivity starting with the physical hardware of our central nervous system, an aspect of which is that not one human being is identical in the unique neural patterns of their central nervous systems. Added to our basic wiring, we are affected by physiological factors, injury and illness, and chemical insults. We are influenced by socialization and indoctrination, as well as other environmental factors and life experiences. All this can influence and derail our individual objectivity.

    How do we get around this problem? We cannot trust ourselves, our own intuition, and I would say Popper agrees:

    "We must distinguish between, on the one hand, our subjective experiences or our feelings of conviction, which can never justify any statement (though they can be made the subject of psychological investigation) and, on the other hand, the objective logical relations subsisting among the various systems of scientific statements, and within each of them."
    Popper, Karl. The Logic of Scientific Discovery (Routledge Classics) (p. 44). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

    The answer is through intersubjective corroboration. In this way, we can get out of our own heads and distance ourselves from a purely subjective perspective. By comparing the flawed and fallible observations of many observers (I and you among them :) ), we are able to piece together the consistencies, those aspects of our experience that are truly external to ourselves and objectively true.

    Would you consider the hypothesis "Thursdayism" to be synthetic with our world of experience and therefore your definition of "a priori" synthetic as well? If not, my preference would be to hold a definition of "a priori" that is synthetic. :)

    Here I would make a clear distinction between illusion and hallucination. To my mind, an illusion is simply the result of insufficient information upon which to make a definitive determination. The sensory data is accurate, say when viewing a distant object. The light hitting our eyes is real light representing a real phenomena. The ill-defined distant image however may fit the profile of a number of objects. The illusion occurs when we assign the wrong object to the ill-defined, data deficient picture. Any error is resolved by obtaining a more complete data set, for example, changing perspective by moving closer.

    The hallucination is also not false sensory data. The data can be fine, extremely accurate. The sense organs can function properly and within limits. What is occurring is an error in either assigning that accurate sense data to the appropriate synthetic construct, for example, sounds being assigned to abstractions of color, or within the abstraction of thought, abstract constructs representing sense data are being activated and incorporated into thought independent of any corresponding external sense data.

    Illusion is resolved with more information. Hallucination is identified and mitigated by intersubjective corroboration.

    Thank you for the clarification on induction. I should have referenced setting aside sole reliance on the principle of induction, inductive logic, inductive methods, or similar.

    I cannot speak to Critical Rationalism as I am wholly unfamiliar with the term. My take on your comments above would be that I see Popper's work in "The Logic of Scientific Discovery" specifically, as simply creating a clear demarcation between what theoretical systems are to be considered "Empirical" and synthetic to the world of experience, and "Not-Empirical" which would constitute everything else. "Not-Empirical" would represent those things we think about that cannot be said to be real and physically existent phenomena.
     
    • Useful Useful x 1
  4. Ella S.

    Ella S. Vulcan

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2021
    Messages:
    730
    Ratings:
    +759
    Religion:
    Rationalism
    Thursdayism is not meant to be a serious theory. It is a thought experiment to demonstrate that our belief in the past does not necessarily mean that there is a past.

    You continue to assume that there is an external, real world (eta: and other observers outside of yourself). This is not an axiomatic assumption that I make, but something that I derive through reason. You might ask why we should entertain the idea of Last Thursdayism, but the real question is why we should believe an external reality exists.

    There are illusions where we perceive data that is not there. For instance, the scintillating grid illusion.

    That is synesthesia, which can be a form of hallucination, but it is not the only type. There are a variety of different kinds of hallucinations, depending on the cause.

    Psychotic hallucinations are caused by confusing the imagined for the real, which is false sensory data.

    Some hallucinogens work by confusing the way the brain interprets sensory input, essentially creating distortions that become re-interpreted as new patterns by the brain. Thus, the actual observations, such as dancing mushrooms forming a conga line in one's room, are not accurate.

    Precisely my point. The observation must be put in a broader, reasonable context to be made sense of.

    I will say that you are sort of correct in that Popper thoroughly rejects ampliative induction, although I do not agree with him on that point. The form of induction he uses is called "eliminative induction," which is a little bit different from what most people think of when they think about induction.

    It is related to empirical evidence, despite being a form of logic rather than empiricism, and I can honestly understand how paradoxical that sounds.
     
    #104 Ella S., Jun 22, 2022 at 11:08 AM
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2022 at 11:17 AM
  5. MikeF

    MikeF Proponent of RAEism
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2020
    Messages:
    1,444
    Ratings:
    +795
    Religion:
    None
    It is interesting that you characterize my conclusion that there is an external reality as not being a reasoned conclusion, but an axiomatic assumption instead. I guess I am not effective at conveying my thoughts.

    From my perspective, there are two foundational facts, which you may characterize as axiomatic assumptions. The first is that I exist and the second is that I experience. All other knowledge derives from those two facts. Knowledge, to me, is reasoned expectation based on experience. Since we can't instantly be everywhere and know everything about the cosmos, our ability to acquire knowledge is limited by restrictions to our perspective, our ability to observe and experience. We are by default empirical creatures. From the moment we are born we are exploring and testing the world around us, learning, gaining knowledge and confidence. Science is simply the professionalization of this process. I see as axioms for scientific inquiry the following: (1) We (humanity) do not know everything. (2) What we think we know may be incomplete or incorrect. Given this, any knowledge that we hold is held with degrees of confidence, in my view. The greater the experience of a phenomena and the greater that phenomena's intersubjective corroboration from other observers, then the greater our confidence that that phenomena is objectively real.

    This is the basis for my confidence in an existent external reality. It is a reasoned conclusion based on my experience and the experience of billions of others, built only from the assumption that I exist and I experience. It is held with confidence and not as axiomatic fact.

    In regards to the thought experiment 'Thursdayism', as well as similar such thought experiments, I still have concerns as to the usefulness of it. Despite my inability to express myself well, I will endeavor to try nonetheless. :)

    The thought experiment sets up a scenario in which we continue to perceive the world exactly as we do, yet our assumptions as to why and what is occurring are false. But to create this scenario, any technical obstacle to the scenario's actual implementation are waved aside. How, for example, if there are overarching rules that govern the interaction of phenomena, and the simulation would be a set of phenomena of some type, that such a simulation is even possible? If it is literally impossible under any conditions to pull off such a simulation, then the thought experiment tells us nothing.

    The problem we face is that the greater our ignorance, the greater the possibilities we can imagine. Once we begin to nail down some facts, we presumably begin to narrow the imaginable possibilities. Unfortunately, the unknown is quite infinite to imagination. We can waive away the technical requirements of any scenario we can imagine. Thought experiments like "Thursdayism" are no different than literary fiction. "Thursdayism" is one of an infinite number of fictional scenarios that can explain current reality in a manner different from the one we conclude through experience. Why give any more weight to Thursdayism over any other fiction?

    We are confident that we have a past because our experience leads us to that conclusion. Unless and until some new information contradicts that conclusion, we should have no qualms about holding it confidently. :)

    The way I see it is that the only tool we have starts with is experience. Through experience, knowledge is built incrementally, each problem solved leads to opportunity to solve other problems. But all that is unknown shall forever remain unknown until we can gain an experiential foothold on it. Useful speculations, hypotheses, must be rooted upon our growing foundation of acquired knowledge or we become lost in the infinite possibilities of imagination.

    I see thought experiments such as "Thursdayism" speaking more to the psyche of the Philosopher, than shedding any actual light on reality. Contemplating the currently unknowable acts as a kind of Rorschach Test, an indeterminant canvas of the imagination. I find it interesting that in these types of thought experiments, the subject is always a Philosopher in full command of his faculties as opposed to an uneducated person, a child, infant, or someone with a mental impairment.

    We all must come to terms that there is so much about reality that we are never going to know in our lifetime. It is out of our grasp. The best we can do is muddle along with what we do know and hopefully add to humanity's base of knowledge to further the progress of future generations.

    Do you see illusion and hallucination as exceptions to the rule, so to speak. Do you consider their instances to be small and speak to the reliability of senses overall, or do you see them as more ubiquitous and therefore cast strong doubt on the reliability of our senses?
     
  6. Ella S.

    Ella S. Vulcan

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2021
    Messages:
    730
    Ratings:
    +759
    Religion:
    Rationalism
    In contrast, I make no axiomatic assumptions, but I follow the self-correcting methodology of logic.

    It is not logically impossible, nor can it be proven to be, but it is unfalsifiable.

    Again, the point really isn't that we should seriously consider that the entire universe was made last Thursday, but to get us to think about our reasons for believing that we can trust that our memories really took place in the past. It is not necessarily true that our memories represent a real past, therefore it is not impossible that they don't.

    I am aware. I disagree. I think the value of experience can be demonstrated through reason alone, and that experience relies on reason to be made sense of. At this point, I think we're going in circles.

    Not always, it depends upon the thought experiment. Thought experiments are also how the sciences form hypotheses and theoretical models, so I would strongly caution against dismissing them entirely.

    I don't see the relevance of this line of questioning. I do not see illusions and hallucinations as common, but this doesn't matter; they prove the broad generalization that our senses are trustworthy to be false. I only need a single case where our senses are not trustworthy to prove that, but hallucinations and illusions give us many more than just one case where our senses give us false information.

    These special cases were chosen specifically because they best illustrate that our observations only lead to truth when we analyze them according to reason, but I would argue that this is true of all observations. It's just the most obvious in these cases, because we reason that they're false rather than true like we do with most other observations.

    You can make illusions and hallucinations a special case in your worldview if you would like, but I think that would be unjustified.
     
  7. MikeF

    MikeF Proponent of RAEism
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2020
    Messages:
    1,444
    Ratings:
    +795
    Religion:
    None
    My goal in these discussions is to test my reasoning about the world, about reality. If there are points upon which there is no intersubjective agreement, then the hope is to analyze and reconcile those differences. I do not want to preserve my own personal 'worldview', rather, I want to understand to the best of my ability our shared external reality. I certainly do not wish to talk past each other or talk in circles. Sometimes changing tact can be effective in continuing to explore differences, and other times it is simply beating a dead horse. I'm confident you will disengage before your patience is too terribly taxed.

    I agree completely. Thought Experiments can be excellent tools, or poor tools. (eta: In addition, a good speculative thought experiment can be rendered moot, or resolved, by new evidence) I still have concerns with Thursdayism, Simulated World, or Brain-In-A-Vat thought experiments for the reasons previously described.

    If Thursdayism, is as you say, not to be taken seriously, but simply as an apologue with the point being we should never make assumptions but investigate and test everything, then I have absolutely no problem with it. If, on the other hand, we are to give such weight to it that it can be used to support skepticism of our memories actually representing the past, then my criticism stands. As a fictional story, there is no reason to give it any more or less weight or value than any other fictional story that conflicts with it.

    Interesting phrasology. In what way is it logically possible?

    In my understanding, Logic is an abstract system with rules and operators used to make, for example, deductively valid inferences from premises. As a result, Logic isn't sufficient in and of itself, rather it needs to be applied to something, it requires input. What is your starting point and how is it justified? Does your self-correcting methodology of logic solve the Münchhausen trilemma that many (?) consider insurmountable? If experience is not to be taken at face value but considered equally likely to be just illusion, where do you begin?

    Does current technology verify the accuracy, statistically accross the population as a whole, of our biological sense perceptions within their biological limits?

    I think we are saying the same thing here, especially the notion that reason is required to turn sense data into knowledge. To be clear, I am not advocating that we ever rely on the subjective experience of any one individual, sensory or otherwise. We must always remain skeptical of any individuals subjective report. It is through testing and intersubjective corroboration that we gain our confidence in the overall reliability of our senses or experience in general. At the very least, we should not lack all confidence in sense experience. We learn the level of reliability of our individual senses through its consistency and through comparison of experience.
     
    #107 MikeF, Jun 24, 2022 at 6:59 PM
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2022 at 6:16 AM
    • Useful Useful x 1
  8. Ella S.

    Ella S. Vulcan

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2021
    Messages:
    730
    Ratings:
    +759
    Religion:
    Rationalism
    It does not require the violation of any of the laws of logic to be true, such as the Law of Identity, the Law of Excluded Middle, or the Law of Noncontradiction.

    A priori data. That is, the data we have in the mind at any given moment. This includes more than just sensory perceptions.

    I have not overcome the Munchhausen trilemma. Rather, I openly admit that induction cannot lead to absolute, necessary truths. It's merely a process we apply to the information we have available to us to better approximate truth, but it will never be a "verification" in the psuedo-rational sense used by the Logical Positivists. This is the "solution" often referred to as "fallibilism."

    To my knowledge, I think so, at least for everyday purposes.

    I agree, I think we do end up in a fairly similar place.
     
    #108 Ella S., Jun 25, 2022 at 1:01 PM
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2022 at 1:10 PM
Loading...