Friday, June 29, 2012

Reply to Steve Fuller

As I noted in a recent post, the Spring 2012 issue of Theoretical and Applied Ethics contains a symposium on Ethics, Atheism, and Religion, with a lead essay by atheist philosopher Colin McGinn.  I wrote one of the responses to McGinn’s piece, and one of the other contributors, Steve Fuller, wrote an essay with the title “Defending Theism as if Science Mattered: Against Both McGinn and Feser.”  What follows is a reply to Fuller.  (Readers who have not already done so are advised to read McGinn's essay, mine, and Fuller’s before proceeding.  They're all fairly brief.)

Fuller contra McGinn

My piece was very critical of McGinn, and as the title of his contribution indicates, Fuller is critical of McGinn as well.  But our criticisms are significantly different, and in fact I would take issue with some of what Fuller has to say against McGinn.  In particular, Fuller seems to think that McGinn’s “belief… in the ultimate efficacy and significance of scientific inquiry” is one that “presuppose[s] the existence of God, specifically, the monotheistic deity of the Abrahamic tradition,” whether McGinn realizes this or not.  Fuller also indicates that he thinks that “from a strictly Darwinian standpoint” the value we place in science “is very puzzling.”  In the absence of “a belief… that we are created ‘in the image and likeness of God,” Fuller says, “it is not at all clear why we should continue to hold science in such high esteem.”

He is not much more explicit than that and I would not want to put words in his mouth, but it would seem that what Fuller is claiming is that a high degree of confidence in science is justifiable only if we suppose that both the order of the universe and the reliability of our cognitive faculties are guaranteed by a divine intelligent designer.  (I interpret him as taking this position both on the basis of what he says in this essay and because Fuller has been associated with the “Intelligent Design” movement.)

If this is Fuller’s argument, then in my view it is much too quick.  I agree that neither the order of the universe nor the reliability of our cognitive faculties are intelligible given the conception of the material world associated with naturalism.  But from the falsity of this conception, the truth of theism does not automatically follow.  For suppose that (as I have argued in several places) the Aristotelian teleological and essentialist conception of the material world is correct.  Then the immediate explanation both of the order that exists in the natural world and of the reliability of our cognitive processes is to be found in the natures of material substances themselves -- in particular, in their substantial forms and in the teleology or directedness toward an end that is immanent to them given their substantial forms.  

Does this inherently teleological and essentialist natural order itself require an explanation in terms of a divine cause?  I certainly think so (and have argued for that conclusion too in several places).  But that claim requires further argumentation.  For the Aristotelian-Thomistic (A-T) tradition -- in contrast to the “design argument” associated with Paley -- we cannot go directly from the existence of order in the world to a divine intelligence; an intermediate step is required.  And the reason is that A-T is opposed to the whole picture of the universe as a kind of artifact and God as a cosmic artificer, at least insofar as this picture implies that there are no inherent essences or teleology in nature.  The time-telling function of a watch is not in any way inherent to the parts of a watch but derives entirely from its maker; hence if you know that something is a watch, it follows directly that there must be some intelligence that put that function into it.  But the teleological features of natural substances are inherent to them; that’s what makes them natural (in the A-T sense of the “natural”).  Hence it makes no sense to treat them as comparable to “watches” in need of a “watchmaker.”  That’s just the wrong way to proceed in arguing from the world to God.  (See my many posts on the dispute between A-T and ID theory for more on this subject.  And see The Last Superstition, Aquinas, and my American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly article “Existential Inertia and the Five Ways” for defense of the main A-T arguments for the existence of God.  You can read the latter online by Googling the article’s title, going to about the third search result, and clicking on “Quick View” just below the link.)

Indeed, it is only on the A-T sort of view, rather than the Paley sort of view, that science is intelligible.  For even though God is the ultimate cause of the world and its intelligibility, we do not need directly to appeal to Him or His intentions in order to understand the specific ways in which natural substances and processes work.  For example, even though God is the ultimate source of all causal power, you can know that sulfuric acid will corrode metal without having to make reference to Him, because that is the sort of effect sulfuric acid will have given its nature.  And you can know that roots are for taking in water and nutrients and that eyes are for seeing just by studying roots and eyes themselves, without reference to the intentions of a designer, because that is what they are for given their natures.  Science is possible precisely because natural substances have essences, teleology, and causal power immanent to them, and thus knowable apart from the intentions of their Creator -- precisely because it is really they who act, and not God who does everything, as in the occasionalist picture of divine causality.  The immanent or “built in” character of the essences and teleology of natural substances goes hand in hand with the A-T view (which occasionalism denies) that natural substances are true secondary causes.  And to deny that they are true secondary causes is implicitly to deny that there is a natural order for science to uncover.  (Indeed, as I have argued elsewhere, part of the problem with the view of nature implicit in arguments like Paley’s is that it tends -- even if Paley and his defenders do not intend this -- to collapse into either occasionalism or deism.)

There is a parallel here to the A-T conception of natural law.  Human beings, like every other natural substance, have for A-T a nature or substantial form, and what is good for them is determined by the ends or final causes that follow upon having that sort of nature or substantial form.  But just as we can normally determine the efficient causes of things without making reference to God, so too can we normally determine the final causes of things without making reference to God.  And thus, just as we can do physics, chemistry, and the like without making reference to God, so too can we do ethics without making reference to God, at least to a large extent.  For we can know what is good for a thing if we can know its nature, and we can know its nature by empirical investigation guided by sound (A-T) metaphysics.  At least to a large extent, then, we can know what the natural law says just from the study of human nature and apart from any sort of divine revelation.  That’s why it’s the natural law.  (And just as the conception of nature associated with Paley threatens to collapse into occasionalism -- on which it is only ever God who does anything, with nature contributing nothing -- so too does the view that ethics depends directly on God threaten to collapse into a view of morality as a set of arbitrary divine commands, with human nature contributing nothing.  I have addressed these issues in an earlier post.)

In my view, then, religious apologists make a serious mistake when they try to go directly from the reliability of science or the reality of objective morality to the existence of God.  One reason this is a mistake is that such arguments are unsound.  To show that the conception of nature associated with naturalism is false is, for the reasons I’ve indicated, not by itself to show that theism is true.  Another reason is that this sort of approach tends, in the ways I have also indicated, to lead to a seriously inadequate conception of God’s relationship to the world.  The right approach to natural theology (as I have argued in a recent post and also in the YouTube lecture linked to above) is to begin with premises drawn, not from natural science, but from the philosophy of nature and/or metaphysics.

Fuller contra Feser

If Fuller’s response to McGinn is inadequate, his criticisms of me are, not to put too fine a point on it, bizarre.  His remarks are equal parts hostile, unfounded, and inaccurate right out of the gate, as he begins his attack on my views by writing:

I do not buy into Feser’s self-serving, question-begging construct, “classical theism,” or his corresponding charge that McGinn is “pre-theistic.”  My guess is that in keeping with a certain strand of Catholic sophistry, Feser wants to banish the very idea of atheism as conceptually incoherent, and [sic] that self-avowed “atheists" are simply people who have yet to master the classical theist’s way of making sense of God…. [Feser] want[s] to ring-fence God from serious epistemic contestation…

Where exactly I have “begged the question” Fuller never tells us.  As to the accusations that I resist “serious epistemic contestation,” charge atheism with being conceptually incoherent, and claim that no one who understands classical theism could fail to believe it, what I actually wrote in my reply to McGinn was precisely the opposite.  I said:

A reasonable person might reject such alleged proofs [of classical theism], but to characterize the debate the way McGinn implicitly does is to make a basic category mistake…

and

Now, a critic might intelligibly question whether the arguments for such a divine Cause succeed… But to suggest that belief in the God of classical theism is relevantly comparable to believing in Zeus, werewolves, ghosts, or Santa Claus is to miss the whole point.

and

The point has nothing to do with whether or not classical theism is true, or with whether the arguments for it are ultimately any good.  Even if the atheist were correct, that would not be because it turned out that the God of classical theism really was the sort of thing that could intelligibly be said to require a cause of his own, or was composed of parts, or was merely one instance of a kind among others.

But it seems that Fuller’s animus is actually inspired, not by any purported unfairness on my part toward atheists, but rather by my objections to his own preferred conception of God.  He writes:

[Feser] basically wants to rule out of the discussion those who would argue that divine qualities differ from human ones only by degree and not kind.  Such a person, I include myself, holds that God is an infinite being, but the dimensions along which God is infinite are the same ones in virtue of which humans prove finite.  In that respect, if you scale up all of our virtues indefinitely and imagine them contained within one being, then you have God…

[T]his would not be Plato’s or Aristotle’s way of seeing things… but it would be familiar from defenders of a nominalist approach to universals and an univocal approach to predication, starting with the high mediaevals Duns Scotus and Ockham and leading to Hobbes and Mill in the modern period.  Indeed, it is the theological tradition whose bloody-minded literalness in envisaging God as the cleverest mechanic working with the most tools in the largest possible shop that [sic] animated the imaginations behind the 17th century Scientific Revolution.

Feser demonizes the nominalist tradition as "anthropomorphic" and "personalist" in its conception of God, as if that were a kind of intellectual corruption, if not blasphemy, or [sic] some otherwise settled sacred truth.

End quote.  Now, if Fuller wants to defend theistic personalism, univocal predication, nominalism, etc. he’s welcome to go for it.  I never “ruled out of the discussion” those who would defend such views; I simply disagree with them and have presented arguments against them.  That’s discussion, not a refusal to discuss.  (I address the dispute between classical theism and theistic personalism here, here, here, here, here, and here, and in some of the posts on the dispute between A-T and ID linked to above.  I have discussed the baneful theological and philosophical consequences of nominalism here and here.  These themes are also dealt with in The Last Superstition and Aquinas.)

Does Fuller have anything to offer other than pique?  Not much.  It is evident that one thing he likes about the doctrines in question is that they were, as a matter of historical fact, embraced by the fathers of the scientific revolution.  Is Fuller therefore claiming that they are logically linked to science, so that to accept science one has to embrace theistic personalism, univocal predication, and nominalsm?  Evidently not, for he allows that “Feser, in good Thomist fashion, can logically accommodate a version of scientific inquiry within what he calls ‘classical theism.’”  

So what’s the problem?  Fuller’s answer is as follows:

[O]n Feser’s view, science appears doomed to dwell in a shadow universe vis-à-vis the protected ontological zone reserved for theology.  While this neatly tracks the modern political separation of state and church, it undermines any strong reading of the New Testament doctrine of logos, whereby through language humans partake of the deity’s creative potential.  Without such an interpretation, which is arguably more concerned with the Bible’s literalness than its truth, Christians would not have been emboldened to make the great leap into the modern scientific world-view.

I must confess that I’m not sure what all of this means; or at least, I cannot find within it anything that is both (a) an argument and (b) remotely plausible.  Take the claim that on my view “science appears doomed to dwell in a shadow universe vis-à-vis the protected ontological zone reserved for theology.”  Is Fuller complaining that I think science can be conducted without reference to theology?  If so, then as I indicated above, I think that is indeed essentially the case.  But it obviously is the case, since scientists do it all the time.  They can determine the structure, function, causal powers etc. of tree roots, eyes, sulfuric acid and the like without asking themselves “Hmm, now what exactly did God have in mind when He made a world with roots, eyeballs, sulfuric acid, etc.?”  Empirical science is the study of the natures of material things; it isn’t a kind of roundabout divine psychology, an indirect way of reading God’s mind.  When the biologist discovers something about the structure of tree roots, it really is tree roots that he knows about, and when the chemist discovers something about the structure of sulfuric acid, it is really sulfuric acid that he knows about.  That is why a scientist can find these things out even if he is an atheist.  (Does Fuller deny this?  Presumably not.)

But doesn’t this entail that the world that science reveals to us could exist without God?  Not for a moment.  Determining that sulfuric acid has specifically this kind of effect rather than that requires no reference to God; but that sulfuric acid and anything else have any causal power at all in the first place, even for an instant, is unintelligible without God as Uncaused Cause.  That roots develop in this specific way rather than that can be known without reference to God; but that any change occurs in the world at all is unintelligible without God as Unmoved Mover.  It requires no theological knowledge at all to realize that eyes are “directed at” seeing, specifically, as their natural end; but that anything is directed to any natural end at all, even for an instant, is unintelligible without God as Supreme Intelligence.  

Arguments like the Five Ways establish these conclusions.  But they are not scientific arguments -- not because they are less secure than science but because they are more secure, because they start, not with premises about this or that particular aspect of the natural world (which is what science is concerned with), but rather with premises concerning the very possibility of there being any empirical world at all for science to study in the first place.  That is to say, their premises are drawn from the philosophy of nature and/or metaphysics rather than from natural science (as, again, I explained in a recent post).

What about Fuller’s claim that this “undermines any strong reading of the New Testament doctrine of logos, whereby through language humans partake of the deity’s creative potential”?  Once again I’m not even sure what Fuller means.  Is he claiming that classical theism and/or the A-T view of the relationship between theology and science is incompatible with the Christian doctrine that human beings are made in the image of God?  How, exactly?  After all, the A-T view of human nature, which I endorse, is that our distinctively intellectual powers -- on which language rests -- cannot in principle be given a materialistic explanation, and that it is precisely these immaterial intellectual powers that make it true that we are made in God’s image in a way nothing in the rest of the material world could be.  How exactly is this undermined by the A-T view of science?

The only other thing Fuller has to offer in the way of something like an argument against me is the following defense of nominalism:

While Feser is undoubtedly correct that an idealized triangle differs significantly from actual ones, including those drawn to represent the ideal, the key point is not the difference but the similarity. In effect, the ideal triangle serves as a goal or standard, against which actual triangles may be judged, so as to result in measures of distance and, by implication, progress towards realizing the ideal.  It follows that actual triangles are not imperfect versions of some pre-existent ideal but works in progress towards reaching a vividly imagined ideal. The ideal triangle exists for us more as a hypothesis than an indubitable a priori concept, let alone a metaphysical foundation.

Once again it takes a little effort to discern the argument within the murk, but it seems to be this:

1. The ideal triangle serves as a goal or standard, against which actual triangles may be judged, so as to result in measures of distance and, by implication, progress towards realizing the ideal. 

It follows that

2. Actual triangles are not imperfect versions of some pre-existent ideal but works in progress towards reaching a vividly imagined ideal.

But the argument is no good.  Fuller’s claim, as far as I can make out, is that the idealized triangle by reference to which we judge material triangles to be imperfect exists only in the mind, and not in any mind-independent reality.  But while this might conflict with Platonic realism, it is exactly what is affirmed by Aristotelian realists, who take universals to exist only in either the things that instantiate them or in minds which grasp them, rather than in a Platonic third realm.  Hence Fuller’s argument hardly establishes nominalism; at most it would be incompatible with some version of realism, not all of them.

To be sure, Fuller speaks of “imagining” the ideal rather than (as realists would) of “conceiving” it.  Here I assume he is either being sloppy or doesn’t realize that there is a difference between forming a mental image of something and grasping it with one’s intellect.  On the other hand, perhaps Fuller knows exactly what he is saying and means to deny the distinction realists would draw between imagination and intellect.  But in that case his argument is just a blatant non sequitur, for from the premise that an idealized triangle exists only in the mind it doesn’t follow that the way in which it exists in the mind is as a mental image rather than as an abstract concept.  (I’ve discussed the difference between images and concepts in several places, such as here.  As you’ll also see from that post, if Fuller thinks Aristotelian realism claims that concepts are “a priori” he is sorely mistaken.)

It is also true that Fuller says that the idealized triangle is not “pre-existent,” and at least some Aristotelian realists -- for example, Scholastics like Aquinas -- would say that it pre-exists its instantiations in the world in the divine intellect (which is not the same as a Platonic third realm distinct from any intellect).  But it is hard to see how Fuller could consistently deny this aspect of the Scholastic realist position.  For since Fuller is keen on the idea of God as a kind of Paleyan watchmaker, he would presumably want to say that the idealized forms of things pre-exist in this watchmaker’s mind, as the patterns in light of which he makes things.  

Group hug!

To conclude on a positive note, let me express some agreement with both Fuller and McGinn.  McGinn is perhaps the most prominent advocate of the “mysterian” view that there are certain philosophically problematic phenomena (such as consciousness) which, though they have perfectly natural causes, will probably never be explained scientifically given the limitations on our cognitive powers.  As I have said on other occasions, I think this is the most plausible way for a naturalist to deal with the difficulties facing his position -- and it is a principled way of doing so, given that the naturalist has independent, Darwinian grounds for holding that there are significant limits on our cognitive powers.  

This is one reason I have always found McGinn’s work very interesting (well, apart from what he has to say when he directly addresses religion, which is not very interesting or well-informed).  Fuller also has a kind word for McGinn’s mysterianism:

[T]o be fair to McGinn, he has form in refusing to defer to science as the final epistemic arbiter in matters of mind.  Indeed, he may be the most explicit of the "new mysterian" philosophers who deem consciousness, by virtue of its first-person character, to be beyond the reach of natural science.

So, some agreement between us all!

Except that mysterianism doesn’t work, at least not as a way to avoid theism, for reasons I have explained here with some follow-up remarks here.  (See also my remarks on McGinn’s mysterian approach to consciousness in Philosophy of Mind.)

There, now I had to go and spoil all the ecumenical fun…

226 comments:

1 – 200 of 226   Newer›   Newest»
Hunt said...

"It requires no theological knowledge at all to realize that eyes are “directed at” seeing, specifically, as their natural end; but that anything is directed to any natural end at all, even for an instant, is unintelligible without God as Supreme Intelligence."

I think this is where a there needs to be a certain amount of Zen to appreciate the proper scientific attitude wrt. natural processes. Eyes are not "directed at" seeing. Eyes see. Ultimately, there is no "directed at" in nature. All of that is an illusion at best, anthropomorphic projection at worst. Eyes evolved to see. They are not directed toward seeing.

Anonymous said...

Hunt's mind is not directed at comprehending just about anything posted here. lol. :-)

TheOFloinn said...

Eyes evolved to see. They are not directed toward seeing.

But if they are not ordered/directed to anything, how cold they evolve to see?

Perhaps Hunt is a Paley-ist, who thinks that dead matter cannot be to anything unless it is forced to be, much like the components of a watch or mousetrap are forced by art to the purposes external to them. But while art may imitate nature, nature does not imitate art.

Eduardo said...

Pretty much. Hunt is a naturalist he just doesn't realise that he is simply stating his metaphysics and not getting at all what is being said in the blog.

Not that I am an example of understanding, but Hunt. Anyways let's just see if You get it. In A-T, the world has teleology in a sense that objetcs have a .... This part is tricky so help me here folks. But they have a finality of sort, not a function, but a finality of sort which I still dont know it completely, which means I am a noob at all this.

Now your view is naturalistic. You sort of read in darwinism your metaphysics, now that is not a problem here, but rather you lack of ability to understand what you doing, which makes you be always off pace with everybody else. And that is why your arguments seem to be worthless... As a matter of fact they are sort of worthless, more because you dont understand what you are critizicing.

There you go Hunt, no more bitching about people ignoring you, and that people dont care about your arguments because they are not the kind of arguments they like.

BeingItself said...

I was at a party once where a sun sign astrologer was blathering on about this or that. Soon a sidereal astrologer had had enough and chimed in with her arguments about why sun sign astrology was not "real astrology". Since neither of these people's belief system was tethered to reality, the dispute went unresolved.

And so any dispute between Feser and Fuller.

Eduardo said...

Now i must be quite sincere, every time Feser talks about science and theology, I sort of get curious to read his books XD. But I don't have that pasky international card to buy them, so all I have is google books and their sooooort of complete book collection. * there are other ways though but, it would be best if I didn't speak about it huhu *

Well ... does that mean Fuller pretty much believes that every question can only be TRULLY answered through Science ??? You know go in a lab, get the measuring equipment ready, review the objective of the experiment, Make sure the theory is being experimented in a precise form, make G*d knows how many tests, analyse the data, come to a conclusion about the theory that was being tested.

So this is the scientism Ben Yacov keeps talking about?

BenYachov said...

I was at a party once where evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould was blathering on about this or that. Soon Richard Dawkins had had enough and chimed in with his neo-Darwinist arguments about why Gould's punctuated equilibrium was not "real Evolution".

Since neither of these people's belief system was tethered to reality, the dispute went unresolved.

And so any dispute between Feser and Fuller. (Gee I wonder why I am writing this dangling modifier? I guess my ggrammer & sppellingz si worst then I thought).

Of course I don't know anything about evolution but I believe if I maintain my ignorance of it & associate those who know about it with persons who have studied faerie lore and use ridicule in place of reason I am sure I can convince people more learned in the subject than I have bothered to be to give up this Man came from monkey nonsense.

I mean how could such a stagey not succeed?

Touchstone said...

This post is a good example of the pitfalls that await teleo-centrism, the blinding effects of frivolous metaphysics.

When we say "the purpose of a root is absorb water and nutrients", or "the eyes are designed to see", we are speaking as humans who operate from a psychological disposition of intentionality (and here is a point where Feser specifically, and Thomists generally can profit greatly by being more aware of the science of human biology and psychology). It's "prejudicial" language, but it's handy; it gets the point across and fits with our predilections as humans, to see things as designed or the objects of telic processes.

It's linguistically handy to refer to my boat as "she" ("she needs some work on her electronics"), but I don't get confused that my boat is a person. But "the purpose of the root is to absorb water", while plenty useful, tends to trip some people up -- and Thomist Metaphysics produce a thoroughgoing confusion on this question -- and make telic anthropomorphisms, a façon de parler into telic inferences about reality.

I have a pothole in the end of my driveway I need to fix. It's got an irregular shape that changes over time, as cars drive over it, etc. When it rains, a puddle forms. Is the purpose of that pothole to provide a container for rainwater? Is the rain designed to "fill up potholes" from time to time?

My sense of Feser on reading this is a stronger version of what I often come to in reading Thomist thought: bewitched by language. I'm not a fan of being pedantic on terms, and I understand that Feser and others here actuallly DO mean "is for" in the purely (if second order) sense of teleology.

But at some point an inventory needs to be done on our models, and the language we use. My boat is not a "she" because I refer to it that way, and naturally so. The root is not "for" anything in a Telic sense because we use the "for" in an anthropocentric way, and naturally.

Glenn said...

Jeez, I sure hope my wife doesn't read that. Once she gets it in her head that roots are purposeless, she'll have me out there removing them from the ground. It's not that I mind manual labor, it's just we've got so many trees, and I'd rather spend my time doing something other than de-rooting twenty trees. I can hear her now, "I don't like the bumps they cause in the lawn. It's unsightly. You read what Touchstone said--roots serve no purose. Since they serve no purpose, let's get rid of them."

BeingItself said...

Ben,

Have you studied astrology in-depth? If not, why not?

Like you and Feser, the astrologer can always dismiss the critic as not sufficiently learned in the astrological arts.

Conor said...

Hear that, Doc. You and your fellow Thomists need to bone up a bit on your biology and psychology. Quit wasting time with this philosophy nonsense! I mean, there's like, oh, i don't know, about four-thousand or so posts on this very blog concerning concepts like teleology, intentionality, purpose, etc., and how each have been badly misunderstood ("Is the rain designed to 'fill up potholes'
from time to time?") by those looking to banish them from the natural world. What metaphysical tripe,and no one should actually bother reading it before spouting off, psychologizing, and failing to mount even a rudimentary argument.

Thanks, Touchstone, for both setting those Thomists straight and clearly doing your homework.

Tim Lambert said...

Touchstone said:

"My boat is not a "she" because I refer to it that way, and naturally so. The root is not "for" anything in a Telic sense because we use the "for" in an anthropocentric way, and naturally."

Argument by declaration.
Did you learn that in all of your biology course work?

Nothing in your post is an argument against what Feser is saying. It's simply a statement against what Feser is saying.

You could have kept it neat and clean (yet still in the spirit of your post) if you simply typed "I disagree with Ed".

Touchstone said...

@Glenn,

Based on what you've said, I don't think you *did* hear what I said. Roots are, uncontroversially, functional. But "roots are for..." winds up being an equivocation when you react as you have. There is no "telic-purpose" entailed, as opposed to a "functional-purpose" (trying here, for the moment to avoid using "final purpose" etc.). There may be "telic-purpose", but it's not established or reified simply by the colloquial use of the word "for".

It's incorrect to say I believe that a root has no purpose. It certainly has a purpose in the sense that it is functional, dynamic with discrete inputs and outputs as a process. But *that* kind of purpose is NOT "telic-purpose", and it's an equivocation on 'purpose' -- a philosophical mistake -- to conflate the function with telic intentions at its foundation, of necessity.

It doesn't seem as powerful to say "So you don't believe in 'telic-purpose' for roots, then!", because used univocally, that isn't problematic. Roots may be functional, and yet totally apart from any telic design or chain of contol. They have purpose in that sense.

That the absence of "telic-purpose" is tantamount to "no purpose" exposes the basic blind spot at work here.

BenYachov said...

Have you studied evolution in-depth? If not, why not?

Like you and Dawkins, the Evolutionist can always dismiss the critic as not sufficiently learned in the evolutionary arts.

We all know Evolution is silly. This whole nonsense about Apes turning into humans and bacteria turning into apes etc..Nonsense!

To believe in it is no different then believing something silly like oh let us say astrology.

Granted I can't articulate why belief in astrology is equivalent to belief in Apes turning into men evolution sillyness.

I merely assume it's equivalent because it looks good rhetorically.

Also any attempted analysis of the possible categorical differences between Astrology vs evolution & the red herring of equating them would require philosophy.

And we all know philosophy is just sophistical squid ink used by crafty theists to invent weird myths about a "god" that are no better then the invented superstitions of Apes giving birth to men or Astrology.

No I think I should stick with my original plan.

Even thought don't know anything about evolution, I believe if I maintain my ignorance of it & associate those who know about it with persons who have studied faerie lore and use ridicule in place of reason I am sure I can convince people more learned in the subject than I have bothered to be to give up this Man came from monkey nonsense.

I mean how could such a plan not succeed?

By nightfall I am sure I could make Richard Dawkins himself a creationist. I just have to maybe amp up the ridicule & resist the temptation to learn anything.

It's a good plan isn't it?

Touchstone said...

@Tim Lambert,

Argument by declaration.
Did you learn that in all of your biology course work?

Nothing in your post is an argument against what Feser is saying. It's simply a statement against what Feser is saying.

I'm not presenting here an argument. I'm criticizing the criticism of Fuller by Feser, here, focusing on what I identify as teleo-centric mistakes and misconceptions.

If Dr. Feser (or you or whoever) wants to 'take the high ground', so to speak, and point out just how well grounded he is in the knowledge of our hardwired prejudices toward teleo-centrism, our proclivity to see teleology everywhere, because that's the color of the lenses we peer at the world through, psychologically, then so much the better.

But, having read Dr. Feser here and there for a while now, I do not pick up the marks of a good familiarity with human minds as evolved, natural systems. The prose is almost uniformly Cartesian Dualist -- and yes, I know he's no Cartesian Dualist, but the nomenclature is very much that; minds as disembodied, immaterial, etc. Hylemorphism doesn't help one at all in that respect, it's dualism.

That gives rise to a kind of detachment from human minds as natural phenomena, a "blind spot" that is wont to forget that, on natural grounds, we are inclined toward this error, of seeing teleology everywhere. When you are a hammer, everything seems a nail. When you are a dualist teleocentrist -- and this is our basic psychological disposition, even as a naturalist like me sees it (maybe adding in 'paranoid' for good measure, there), everything looks designed. Or to avoid ID-centric terms that may be out of favor here, everything looks caused as part of a causal ontology.

Science is a form of instrumentation that can help us avoid this trip, alert us to the problem of this blind spot, this pervasive bias.

It does not seem to be valued or deployed instrumentation here. The blind spot seems, at points, to be the end goal, reading this blog at length.


You could have kept it neat and clean (yet still in the spirit of your post) if you simply typed "I disagree with Ed".

I don't think that would have imparted the ideas I wish to impart.

David T said...

"It's "prejudicial" language, but it's handy; it gets the point across and fits with our predilections as humans, to see things as designed or the objects of telic processes."

I think you've missed Feser's point entirely, which in this post is that there isn't a direct path from immanent teleology to a designer. This is the substance of his beef with Fuller. Nor do I believe he would agree with the notion that things are "objects of telic processes." This, like the design point, presumes a mechanistic understanding of nature.

"we are speaking as humans who operate from a psychological disposition of intentionality"

And when you write your posts, you are somehow able to transcend the psychological disposition of intentionality the rest of us humans are stuck with? How is such a feat performed?

BeingItself said...

Ben,

You are really confused.

I have studied both astrology and theology enough so that I have concluded they are both bullshit.

I have also studied biology enough to conclude that it is not bullshit.

My judgments about astrology and theology are not a priori as you confusedly seem to think.

And again you are tilting at windmills of your own imagination. You attribute this kind of thinking to me: "we all know philosophy is just sophistical squid ink".

I do not think such a thing. Never have.

Anonymous said...

>But, having read Dr. Feser here and there for a while now, I do not pick up the marks of a good familiarity with human minds as evolved, natural systems. The prose is almost uniformly Cartesian Dualist -- and yes, I know he's no Cartesian Dualist, but the nomenclature is very much that; minds as disembodied, immaterial, etc. Hylemorphism doesn't help one at all in that respect, it's dualism.

More argument by declaration.

I notice this seems to be a pattern among Gnus. They are un-fimilar with the profound philosophical differences let us say between Classic Theism vs Theistic Personalism. They have some polemical training in arguing against Theistic personalist concepts so they pretend there is no practical difference between the two views or that these differences are not significant rather then do the heavy lifting of articulating a coherent argument against the classic view that is in fact tailored to the classic view.

It's quite lazy if ask me.

Glenn said...

Touchstone,

I understand 'telic' as an adjective meaning, amongst other things, 'purposeful'. That which is purposeful has purpose, thus is 'telic'; and that which has no purpose is not purposeful, i.e., is purposeless, thus is not 'telic'.

When you say, "It's incorrect to say I believe that a root has no purpose", I understand you to be acknowledging, contra earlier claims, that a root is 'telic'.

Treating a root as a kind of finite-state automata is all fine and well. And it does makes for a nice perceptual overlay. But what is the purposeless reason for doing so?

BenYachov said...

BI,

But you haven't studied philosophy otherwise you would be giving us philosophical arguments in favor of either Nominalism, Strong Realism or Conceptionlism.

You would argue against our scholastic moderate realism or show how moderate realism is compatible with some form of Atheist materialism.

But you don't. You just use childish ridicule.

>And again you are tilting at windmills of your own imagination. You attribute this kind of thinking to me: "we all know philosophy is just sophistical squid ink".

>I do not think such a thing. Never have.

I could say I love my wife but God forbid if I beat her everyday & ignored her then that doesn't mean very much no does it.

Since you have got here you have poo pooed learning any philosophy & using any philosophical argument.

Just childish ridicule.

How has that worked for you? Nobody is persuaded and on top of that nobody respects you. In fact we laugh at you behind your back.

Crude and I where having a ball laughing at you when you said to me over at Prof Oreter's blog "Well if the Second Law of Thermal Dynamics did contradict Evolution then Evolution would be wrong".


You haven't even the slightest concept of what a catagory mistake is at all do you?

>My judgments about astrology and theology are not a priori as you confusedly seem to think.

But we are talking philosophy. Which you both refuse to learn or use.

So you are useless.

Glenn said...

s/b "That which has a purpose is purposeful, thus is 'telic'..."

BeingItself said...

Ben,

If any scientific theory violates the second law, then that theory is almost certainly false. It does not matter if the theory is from biology, chemistry, or psychology. There is no category mistake. (But of course the theory of evolution does not violate the second law.)

Sorry, don't mean to threadjack.

George R. said...

Dave T writes:
I think you've missed Feser's point entirely, which in this post is that there isn't a direct path from immanent teleology to a designer.

If this is his point, it certainly has not been made unambiguously. Firstly, in support of what you’re saying, he writes:

Does this inherently teleological and essentialist natural order itself require an explanation in terms of a divine cause? I certainly think so (and have argued for that conclusion too in several places). But that claim requires further argumentation. For the Aristotelian-Thomistic (A-T) tradition . . . we cannot go directly from the existence of order in the world to a divine intelligence; an intermediate step is required.

However, later on he writes the following:

. . . but that anything is directed to any natural end at all, even for an instant, is unintelligible without God as Supreme Intelligence.

I wonder how these two statements can be reconciled. I don’t say they can’t be reconciled; I just wonder how.

Eduardo said...

Errr... people got heavily misunderstood on the whole thing of teleology.

Wow when I saw 21 posts I absolutely knew they were going to be ... bad XD.

- Confusing language problem.

I think it is true that words in philosophy will get you easily, that is just how things are, but once again apparently Touchstone is coming to the conclusion that Thomism is sort of like a finalist position. Now I do remember Feser saying that was not the case, the idea is not to say that the function of the rain is to fill the whole. Thomism seems to have a much more subtle idea of teleology, one that is hard to grasp. Apprently, to me at least, Thomism sees teleology more as a principle that governs certain features of nature, and the whole thing seems to get confused with, function of object which it's form has certain favorable jobs... like a hammer which we use to hit on nails. I mean, I don't claim to fully understand that whole thing but obviously if you think that you are not getting at all.

yeah, Hunt, Touchstone and Connor are not getting at all, sorry folks.

- And touchstone awesome arguments by declaration

Now Touchstone seems to know a bit about thomistic or aristolean philosophy, which apprently he dismisses on the grounds of psicology. errr obiviously that data in psicology is being interpreted with his own lens, so he concludes people must be wrong.


Now just to clarify, yeah what you are doing, perhaps unwantedly since you said you were not argumenting for real, is listing accusations and giving no reasons to why they are good accusations.

Touchstone said...

@David T

I think you've missed Feser's point entirely, which in this post is that there isn't a direct path from immanent teleology to a designer.

No, I understood his point. But the vignette someone else offered here with two astrologists of different "sects" of astrology seems apropos, in reading Dr. Feser: he is (as you are, apparently) concerned with the directness or indirectness of the path to God from nature. That's way beyond the point of the salient problem, though, as I see it. The problematic part is the idea of "immanent teleogy", not the path from that to God as direct or indirect.

That is like the astrologers arguer over the fine points of the zodiac, but agreed on just breezing by the major problem: we have no grounds for thinking the locations of celestial bodies affect our personal destinies or qualities. "Immanent teleology" -- the idea of 'purpose' as an expression of telos rather than just descriptive function, is where things go off the rails, as I see it.

This is the substance of his beef with Fuller. Nor do I believe he would agree with the notion that things are "objects of telic processes." This, like the design point, presumes a mechanistic understanding of nature.
I understand your point. This is Feser as "sidereal astrologer", to my reading, though.


"we are speaking as humans who operate from a psychological disposition of intentionality"

And when you write your posts, you are somehow able to transcend the psychological disposition of intentionality the rest of us humans are stuck with? How is such a feat performed?

I do not know of any magic. But science is a good tool towards minimizing and identifying those kinds of biases and blind spots. The method, with its instrumentation and emphasis on objective analysis, provides us with means to understand and get past this problem to significant degree.

Eduardo said...

@George R.

Sorry, but where exactly is the problem ?

I think the point is this. Rather, Dr Feser's position is this.

There is teleology in th world, a teleology that is part of a certain school of thought, Thomism

That teleology is connected to G*d in a indirect path.

That teleology is not intelligible if you remove G*d of the picture


---------------------------

And the reason why it is within the philosophy itself. The teleology in nature becomes nevessarily grounded on G*d, because of the metaphysical principle of the same philosophy. Sort of like discovering the unmoved mover, I think. Sorry can't claim to be absolutely right on this one.

Eduardo said...

@touchstone

Actually you are almost about to say. "Let's think a priori that naturalism is right ... okay folks from there ... I know you are wrong."

let me explain this. Imagined an experiment where I ask people to describe a rock to me. A person would describe the rock's characteristics through his own worldview or through past experiences with that sort of object or even through his own philosophy.

The problem is this... I have a particular believe in what a ROCK IS. So when people describe the rock to me in any way different from what I see... I will identify that as an error.

See in a sense I know some of the people I interviewed were wrong because I have already dictated what is right. but in this particular case, Feser is coming from his metaphysics to talk about things in the world, there is no point in saying he is wrong just because you have your own metaphysical view that makes you see thing differently, that is of course Petition of principle.

Touchstone said...

@Eduardo
Now Touchstone seems to know a bit about thomistic or aristolean philosophy, which apprently he dismisses on the grounds of psicology. errr obiviously that data in psicology is being interpreted with his own lens, so he concludes people must be wrong.

I don't think psychology can be grounds (in and of itself) for dismissing Thomism. For the record, I don't think Thomism qualifies as "dismissable" -- it's not capable of being right or wrong, as I understand it. That's how things roll with metaphysics. It's "not even wrong".

But that aside, I don't see any barriers for Thomists in being hip to the science thing. Informed by it. YECs and other "special creationist" are naturally threatened by science for predictable reasons, but Thomists don't have grounds the same apprehension, as I see it. And yet, the "factoring in science", or more specifically, "looking at problems with an eye toward humans and human minds as natural phenomena" is conspicuously absent, as I travel hither and yon when I have time, in blogs and forums where Thomists congregate.

Anonymous said...

1: The astrology quip is contentless, and to see it, I'll provide the following rewrite.

"I was at a party once where a neo-darwinian evolutionary biologist was blathering on about this or that. Soon an evo-devo evolutionary biologist had had enough and chimed in with her arguments about the importance of modularity. Since neither of these people's belief system was tethered to reality, the dispute went unresolved."

Of course, the natural reply here is, "It is so tethered to reality. You're just an ignoramus and don't understand the subject." And hey, that would be correct. To understand that, is to understand the Thomist objection here.

Really, we understand that philosophy and metaphysics can be hard - even scary! You may run into ideas you dislike, and which don't have a quick refutation. But you owe it to yourself to at least actually understand what you're criticizing, whether the topic is evolution or astrology.

2: At no point in Feser's post does he use the word "purpose". TheOFloinn referred to "purpose" explicitly to show where mechanists (even theistic mechanists) go wrong. The fact that Touchstone immediately has latched onto "purpose" and is talking about how the whole project seems all Cartesian just serves as evidence for the claim that no, he doesn't know what he's talking about, and doesn't care to learn.

He may object, "I do know, I just find it all so unpersuasive because..." To that, I offer a challenge.

Describe the difference of view between the mechanist/theistic personalist understanding of teleology, and the Thomist/classical theist view.

A clue: "They're the same." is tantamount to "I don't know what I'm talking about."

3: As is typical with so many, Touchstone refers to science having this or that to say about "purpose", and suggests science disproves the Thomist view. But notice that he never says how. It's just a vague waving of arms and gesturing in the direction of Science and assertions that science is on his side. It's not going go to beyond that, because it's not true: he doesn't understand science, much less philosophy, and if he attempts to explain why science reveals what it does, it's going to reveal either confusion on his part (offering philosophy in place of science) or more bluster.

Don't believe me? Just watch him from this point on.

Eduardo said...

Well, perhaps because metaphysics happens before science ever occurs. I mean, how am I going to define anything that I am studying. I mean I am always gonna define and some sort of metaphysical thing so I think that is why you never see THAT in their writings.

Conor said...

Hi Eduardo,

You said:
"yeah, Hunt, Touchstone and Connor are not getting at all, sorry folks."

I thought my comment was obviously tongue-in-cheek. I adopted Touchtone's smug tone to chastise him for first misrepresenting what Thomists mean by "teleology," then failing to construct any argument whatsoever and, finally, for glibly psychologizing his opponents (all that "bewitched by language" and "teleo-centric" hand-waving.). It was also a gentle nudge to, you know, actually read up and--this is important--understand what he's criticizing before cribbing some buzzwords from "Psychology Today" and spouting off assertions.

But, judging by what you folks have to deal with here (i.e. "Being Itself's" clueless sputterings), I suppose it's hard to tell self-parody from the real thing.

Eduardo said...

Actually Conor you are just a long list of my misunderstandings in the net.

And ... yeah, I couldn't tell the difference at all. But to be quite sincere, Potty, Hunt, Itself cabal isn't all that bad, I got much worst, just have to go to places where people are so intellectually superior to you that you can't even understand them ... like YouTube. Oh now that is a place for the strong of mind!!!

David T said...

George,

I don't see the contradiction in what Feser is saying. Yes, immanent teleology ultimately implies God. But it is not a direct implication the way Intelligent Design supposes it is (i.e. like a watch immediately implies a human designer).

David T said...

Touchstone,

The reason I said you missed Feser's point is because you spoke of our tendency to "see things as designed", which is just what Feser is arguing against. The A-T view of the world has nothing to do with seeing things as designed. Yes, you can write this off as akin to arguments among astrologers, which is the venerable Enlightenment position, but some of us here don't agree. Simply asserting a disdain for A-T philosophy doesn't convince anyone.

As far as science goes, I agree it is a wonderful tool. But I think it is entirely mythical to suppose that it is a way of overcoming the philosophical biases you suppose are baked into human nature. I've heard this asserted often enough, but never established. (Actually, demanding more of science than it can possibly offer is, I think, an expression of the human yearning for certainty. How's that for bias?)

machinephilosophy said...

"I have a pothole in the end of my driveway I need to fix. It's got an irregular shape that changes over time, as cars drive over it, etc. When it rains, a puddle forms. Is the purpose of that pothole to provide a container for rainwater? Is the rain designed to "fill up potholes" from time to time?"

This has been addressed both in The Last Superstition and on this blog. It's very likely that it's addressed in Ed's Aquinas book as well.

Not sure what I think about it yet, but if I were to comment on it, I'd damn sure address everything that's already been said about it by Ed in his books and what's been previously discussed on this blog. To not do that would be to insult Ed and the readers of this blog.

You freakin lazyasses come in here thinking you can ignore everything that's already been said about an issue. Typical posturing junior high mentalities with no decorum, intellectual or otherwise.

Crude is right. The key descriptive term for these cognitive dirtbags is: juvenile.

Eduardo said...

That is sort of cruel Machine XD. U_U I am certain there are under 25 yo. I mean look at me, I am 23 and also suck at all this XD.

I mean obviously there not older than 25 ... U_U I am certain ...

I mean let's just think about it, Potty seems to work with biologists and be the type of person who doesn't waste time to post after post 200 and wants THE TRUTH, and defends pragmatism, so he must be more than 35, who had some time to think about life and faces the uncertainties of life. Being Itself keeps saying that he never has time to read stuff, so he must in his 80's and close to die. Hunt must be the youngest one, must be less than 5 years older than me, the guy is young is full of certainty about his world view.

I mean Machine just give them a break, they can't be Juvenile ... RIGHT Õ_o

Eduardo said...

I am certain they are NOT under 25 yo. Totally forgot to fix that.

George R. said...

David T writes:
I don't see the contradiction in what Feser is saying. Yes, immanent teleology ultimately implies God. But it is not a direct implication the way Intelligent Design supposes it is

First of all, you’re misrepresenting the ID position. They don’t say that teleology implies God, but rather that functional, irreducible complexity is best explained by intelligence -- and it surely is.

Secondly, you’re right. Immanent teleology does imply God only indirectly. For immanent teleology directly implies extrinsic teleology; and extrinsic teleology in turn directly implies God. So immanent teleology indirectly implies God through extrinsic teleology. This is the "step" that Ed mentioned above, but he doesn't like to come out and say it explicitly, because it makes his darwinist buddies in the university nervous.

Eduardo said...

Actually George, the contention is closer to what Pailey thinks than it is about darwinism. I mean the point if that Pailey has a different view of what is in reality than Feser, and Feser argues against that view, mainly because he thinks that reality is populated by other elements.

Is not much about darwinism, although darwinism is sort of always there because of the heavy bias towards naturalism or materialism in the writings of many people who speak about the theory.

Touchstone said...

@David T,

Touchstone,

The reason I said you missed Feser's point is because you spoke of our tendency to "see things as designed", which is just what Feser is arguing against. The A-T view of the world has nothing to do with seeing things as designed. Yes, you can write this off as akin to arguments among astrologers, which is the venerable Enlightenment position, but some of us here don't agree. Simply asserting a disdain for A-T philosophy doesn't convince anyone.

I'm under no illusions about convincing Thomists, here. There aren't really any exit doors, other than being bored with it. I know you get some amount of criticism here (not so much compared to other places I've been), but no need to be overly defensive. You are going to believe what you want to believe. I know that, you know that. I'm quite OK with it.

I'm no fan of ID, so I'm not sure why you'd hang an ID-specific denotation of "design" on my words. The Thomist view of nature is just as designed as Dembski's view; nature was created on purpose, and has a purpose that inheres in it. Thomists' view of design is just not so clumsy and absurd as Dembski's "tinkering God" view of nature, and natural history.

But the design superstition comes from somewhere. We are wired to fire on design hypotheses -- not just tinkering God ID notions of design, but "there is purpose inhering in the nature of this" notions. IDists, for all their clumsy theology, at least have an epistemic way of the woods. They could, for example, discover natural pathways for abiogenesis that are mechanistic and evidentially compelling. That can produce enough dissonance to rethink things. Thomistic formulations don't avail themselves of falsifiability -- that's one of the 'design keys' of Thomism.

That is why I take a dim view of convincing Thomists as a goal. I've been arguing with Thomists for a long time now, and empirically, it's a non-starter. And that's fine, there are plenty of interesting conversations to have with all parties remaining in their positions.


As far as science goes, I agree it is a wonderful tool. But I think it is entirely mythical to suppose that it is a way of overcoming the philosophical biases you suppose are baked into human nature. I've heard this asserted often enough, but never established. (Actually, demanding more of science than it can possibly offer is, I think, an expression of the human yearning for certainty. How's that for bias?)

Science eschews certainty. Terrible epistemology. But the method and epistemology that are deployed are not controversial as means to combat bias and error. A vivid example of this that comes quickly to mind is the Pons & Fleischmann cold fusion controversy some years back at the University of Utah. In trying to replicate the results claimed by Pons & Fleischmann (a means of adding an additional measure of objectivity to the experiment), researchers at CalTech and elsewhere not only failed to reproduce the claimed results, but figured out how Pons & Fleischmann botched their experiment. It wasn't fraud (so far as could be told), but a good measure of sloppiness and motivated reasoning (bias) about the conduct of the experiment was uncovered. Science for the win in that case; human nature inclines us to such mistakes, seeing what we want to see. Independent and objective criticism helps find those mistakes and root them out.

David T said...

Touchstone,

Well, the reason I hung the word "design" on you is because you used the word "design" with reference to Thomism.

I'm aware of how science works and am familiar with cold fusion. I've got degrees in physics and electrical engineering and work professionally as an engineer. I don't say that to impress anyone... but for some reason it is always assumed that anyone interested in Thomistic philosophy must be scientifically illiterate and in need of elementary education in the scientific method. Ain't so.

Yes, if you've been trying to falsify Thomism the way you would falsify a scientific theory, then your arguments with Thomists have been a long exercise in futility. Thomism operates at the level of what makes science possible in the first place, not what might contingently turn out from this or that experiment.

For instance, I disagree that science eschews certainty. Scientists assume many things as a matter of certainty merely to get science underway. Like the fact that things with the same natures operate in similar manners across space and time. Without this assumption, experimental replication isn't possible. But when we set up similar experiments, and you get different results than I do, we conclude that your setup isn't really the same as mine, or we didn't really follow the same procedure. We never conclude that balls or pendulums behave differently over there than than do over here, or differently yesterday than they do today. Scientists make these assumptions as a matter of course, and rightly so, but they aren't scientific conclusions. They are the conditions of science itself. It may be that Thomism isn't the right way to think about those conditions, but its competition isn't science but some other way of thinking about the conditions of science (for instance, Kant's.)

Touchstone said...

@David T

Well, the reason I hung the word "design" on you is because you used the word "design" with reference to Thomism.

I don't mind using the word, nor being held to it. I do mind granting ID propagandists the basic definition of the term, though.


I'm aware of how science works and am familiar with cold fusion. I've got degrees in physics and electrical engineering and work professionally as an engineer. I don't say that to impress anyone... but for some reason it is always assumed that anyone interested in Thomistic philosophy must be scientifically illiterate and in need of elementary education in the scientific method. Ain't so.

They are more compatible in one way than science and personal theism; personal theism tends to buy into the epistemic substrate modern science operates from (a shared modernism, so to speak), and so science tends to eat away at their personal theism as science renders an interventionist God superfluous.

But Thomism, for all it's "NOMA" advantages -- Thomistic philosophy is in as close to a "non-ovelapping 'magisteria'" position with science as can be -- Thomist and science are fundamentally opposed in the way their philosophy is "stacked". For the Thomist, metaphysics comes first and has primacy over epistemology. For the scientist, epistemology comes first and has primacy over metaphysics (and yes, science needs metaphysics to get off the ground -- if you don't assume a priori that experiences and evidence reflect to some degree our extra-mental reality, science can't even begin to operate).

That clash is hard to juggle. I do know scientists who are Thomists, and indeed, when your Thomist metaphyiscs has primacy, there's not mcuh trouble with whatever signs come up inside that box. But science's epistemology tends to (OK, must) minimize and strip down its metaphysics, and this makes for a very awkward combination, in my experience.


Yes, if you've been trying to falsify Thomism the way you would falsify a scientific theory, then your arguments with Thomists have been a long exercise in futility.

Yeah, that's not ever been the point or even a sustainably interesting part of the arguments I've had with Thomists.
Thomism operates at the level of what makes science possible in the first place, not what might contingently turn out from this or that experiment.
Well, "possible" I would say is a stolen concept from science, or at least real world experience. But I do understand what you mean by invoking "pure reason" as imaginations or intuitions about meta-scientific questions.

-TS

Touchstone said...

@ David T, continuing...


For instance, I disagree that science eschews certainty. Scientists assume many things as a matter of certainty merely to get science underway.

I think this demonstrates the persistent difficulty in mixing Thomism and science, dialectically. I can see how you might (and did) use "certainty" here to refer to how you hold your metaphysical axioms (like the "evidence reflects reality" idea I mentioned above, or your translational symmetry example just below). But this "certainty" is a "trivial certainty", certain in the sense that one can be certain about definitions when one is doing the defining. It's definitionally certain, based on Thomist principles, or intuitions about metaphysics. But that very much risks equivocation when using it in scientific contexts.

I agree, for instance, that science must establish some bootstrapping metaphysical axioms to get off the ground. But in now way can assert that "evidence reflects reality to some degree" with certainty. I don't have any basis for such confidence. It's just something I must assume to get the research program of science off the ground. That proposition may be false. Or just mostly false, or almost right. Axioms are true because they *must* be, not because they *are* true, or to not use circular terms, because their propostional content is veridical.
Like the fact that things with the same natures operate in similar manners across space and time. Without this assumption, experimental replication isn't possible.
RIght, but are you think this somehow establishes some certainty, somewhere?

But when we set up similar experiments, and you get different results than I do, we conclude that your setup isn't really the same as mine, or we didn't really follow the same procedure. We never conclude that balls or pendulums behave differently over there than than do over here, or differently yesterday than they do today. Scientists make these assumptions as a matter of course, and rightly so, but they aren't scientific conclusions. They are the conditions of science itself. It may be that Thomism isn't the right way to think about those conditions, but its competition isn't science but some other way of thinking about the conditions of science (for instance, Kant's.)
No, Thomism cannot possibly be the wrong way (or "not the right way", if you prefer) to think about things, because "right" is a divide by zero in that context, and undefined term. If you disagree, ask yourself: what could possible happen, come to be or otherwise transpire such that the Thomistic concept of "motion" could be judged to be "not the right way to think" about that condition?

-TS

BenYachov said...

>If any scientific theory violates the second law, then that theory is almost certainly false. It does not matter if the theory is from biology, chemistry, or psychology.
There is no category mistake. (But of course the theory of evolution does not violate the second law.)

Sorry it is a category mistake when you use it as a metaphysical principle which is how YEC's use it as I explained.

You pretended otherwise because you wanted Prof Oerter faulty arguments from Physics against the 1st way to apply.

You are so incompetent BI you can't tell the difference between science vs philosophy. That is not likely to change.

Anonymous said...

If you disagree, ask yourself: what could possible happen, come to be or otherwise transpire such that the Thomistic concept of "motion" could be judged to be "not the right way to think" about that condition?

Similar to how logical positivism was junked: show where the logic breaks down, where the arguments fail, or otherwise.

And I notice you've just drastically changed your tune. You started off with talking about science revealing a world in conflict with Thomism. Now, the problem is that science can never be in conflict with Thomism.

Meanwhile, you have yet to describe the difference between mechanist, theistic personalist teleology and classical theist teleology. And worse, you're making absurd claims like...

For the scientist, epistemology comes first and has primacy over metaphysics (and yes, science needs metaphysics to get off the ground -- if you don't assume a priori that experiences and evidence reflect to some degree our extra-mental reality, science can't even begin to operate).

There it is, that ever-famous idyllic picture of science and scientists both. The metaphysics required to get science off the ground goes beyond what you list, and scientists are not pure beings untouched by metaphysics themselves. The fact that many don't acknowledge their metaphysics, or that often they are unaware they're holding metaphysical as opposed to scientific views, does not mean they aren't working with metaphysical views anyway.

Seriously, before you get yourself locked in this tangle further -- which more and more is starting to look like little more than "I've argued with Thomists in the past, they infuriate me, I dislike them, but I actually have no idea how to attack them other than by BSing and hoping they're not listening" -- sit down. Read what the Thomists are saying. And holster your angry sub-Loftus level atheist attitude. This isn't Debunking Christianity, so you have no echo chamber to fall back on here.

Thomas said...

Is Fuller a theist? I have always thought that he is an atheist who is somewhat sympathetic to ID. Like Bradley Monton. Fuller´s Wikipedia page also describes him as a "secular humanist." But this passage suggests otherwise:

[Feser] basically wants to rule out of the discussion those who would argue that divine qualities differ from human ones only by degree and not kind. Such a person, I include myself, holds that God is an infinite being…

So what´s going on?

Steve Fuller said...

I don’t want to get into any extended discussion about the important questions Feser raises because I’m busy doing other things, and certain aspects of my position that he and others find curious can be pursued in the books I cite in the original article (just as Feser helpfully provided links to his previous blogposts).

But I will directly address some of the questions he raises about my position.

First, my sense of ‘high confidence’ in science is that of a high-stakes gambler who wins often enough to keep on playing and raising the ante. The point about divinely guaranteed cognitive faculties is also put too strongly. I believe that there is sufficient reason to believe that there is some divine support – sufficient to keep us betting on science to get at the truth. As my corrections suggest, God for me is the biggest theoretical commitment we make when doing science (smaller versions of such commitments appear in our usual scientific theories).

Also, I treat the question of science and the question of naturalism as really quite separate ones. You can believe in a self-sufficient natural world (i.e. one with the sort of inherent powers that Feser seems to believe) without believing that science will ever enable you find out about it. And more importantly from my standpoint, you can believe that science can come to a definitive understanding of nature – but not because we discover nature’s inherent powers but because we have rendered its raw material powerful. In other words, scientific practice performs a strong godlike function in the world. Science does not require that nature consist entirely of pre-existing forms bits of matter waiting to be discovered. Nature simply has to be tractable to our informed will. (There is an interesting debate to be had about whether this ‘tractability’ presupposes some loose sense of divine structuring. Maybe it does.)

I don’t believe in ring-fencing theology from science, Feser does. I think a lot of our miscommunication is based on this fundamental point of difference. As I read Feser, an atheist can dispose of theology as an optional extra, since both of them agree that science works perfectly fine as it is. But to be fair to Feser, he seems to operate with a rather dressed down conception of science – it’s more about the individual practices of chemistry, biology, etc. rather than about what makes them all part of some common project to make systematic rational sense of reality. My point is that theology becomes vital to answer why we should think that those fields as contributing to this larger project, which is what makes them all contributors to ‘science’. In that sense, I do believe that that science is about divine psychology -- with the understanding that we possess quite a lot of that psychology (and I also don’t think that ‘Deism’ is a dirty word – though it’s certainly not classical theism! – and that Paley’s view is quite close to Deism).

(In passing: I argue that the nominalist doesn’t need to have the realist view of triangles, while Feser argues that the nominalist doesn’t need to get rid of it. Readers are invited to provide their own punch line.)

Finally, I think Feser may have misjudged the ‘group hug’ at the end of his post because my allusion to McGinn’s mysterianism was meant to be negative, as evidence of his holding a rather diminished view of science’s epistemic reach (as in its ability to fathom the nature of consciousness), corresponding to his atheism. In that respect, his mysterianism is very much as one might expect from a classical sceptic, who wouldn’t have much time for the pretences of either science or theology.

David T said...

TL,

Touchstone,

"I agree, for instance, that science must establish some bootstrapping metaphysical axioms to get off the ground. But in now way can assert that "evidence reflects reality to some degree" with certainty. I don't have any basis for such confidence. It's just something I must assume to get the research program of science off the ground. That proposition may be false. Or just mostly false, or almost right. Axioms are true because they *must* be, not because they *are* true, or to not use circular terms, because their propostional content is veridical.
[DT]Like the fact that things with the same natures operate in similar manners across space and time. Without this assumption, experimental replication isn't possible.[DT]
RIght, but are you think this somehow establishes some certainty, somewhere?"

I think here we are getting to the meat of our differences. One thing I am certain of is that conclusions cannot be more certain than their premises. If the metaphysical premises of science are merely assumed rather than known, then science itself is just one big assumption rather than knowledge, and can never be more than that. Far from supporting scientific knowledge, the thoroughgoing empiricism you are advocating is actually destructive of it. This is something Kant pointed out in the 1700's, in his response to Hume.

A hardcore empiricism does not allow any metaphysical axioms, true, and one of the consequences is that it doesn't allow us to say things that the average person takes as obviously known with certainty - like the fact that microscopes and voltmeters aren't going to change their natures from one day to the next willy nilly. I am quite comfortable in saying I know such a thing as a certainty, not merely as an assumption to get science rolling. This is one reason I am a Thomist rather than an empiricist, astrology notwithstanding.

I'm also comfortable in saying that my position is the one that supports science, not the empiricist one.

Anonymous said...

Out Of Touchstone said… Thomist and science are fundamentally opposed in the way their philosophy is "stacked".

Oh good freaking grief.

Eduardo said...

@Thomas

Perhaps he was talking about in a certain way. IF G*d is real, than I believe G*d is an infinite being.

It is still compatible with being an Atheist and a Humanist no ?

BenYachov said...

>[Feser] basically wants to rule out of the discussion those who would argue that divine qualities differ from human ones only by degree and not kind. Such a person, I include myself, holds that God is an infinite being…

>Perhaps he was talking about in a certain way. IF G*d is real, than I believe G*d is an infinite being.

I think Fuller believes God is a infinite being alongside other being. Not Being Itself. God is only different from us in degree. Classic Theists say He is also different in kind.

Cheers!

Touchstone said...

@David T,


[DT]Like the fact that things with the same natures operate in similar manners across space and time. Without this assumption, experimental replication isn't possible.[DT]

Well no. That would be physics -- a hypothesis on symmetry. Consider: if translational symmetry was false, our experiments would fail to be consistent from place to place. That's not what we see in the world we experience, but if translational symmetry did not obtain, that ITSELF would be a scientific insight, and one that rests on what actually IS a metaphysical axiom, that our experience reflects the nature of the extra-mental world.

The failure of experiments is just science. Falsification is a key tool in the epistemic toolbox for science. Translational symmetry does *not* need to be assumed true, or observed to be true for science to operate. Science must "get off the ground" before translational symmetry can even be tested. By contrast, science *cannot* get off the ground without assuming that experience and sense-data reflect the state of the world around us to some degree. That's the metaphysics we have engage to proceed. Success or failures of various hypotheses do not require such metaphysical commitments.


I think here we are getting to the meat of our differences. One thing I am certain of is that conclusions cannot be more certain than their premises. If the metaphysical premises of science are merely assumed rather than known, then science itself is just one big assumption rather than knowledge, and can never be more than that.

It's predicated knowledge. It's only knowledge if your agree with unfounded, unwarranted but necessary (for science) assumption that evidence and observations reflect reality to some degree. The whole of scientific knowledge is undercut if you don't buy into that metaphysical assumption, and we have no logical basis for asserting such (except sheer necessity to get the enterprise going).

Touching back to my original point on this thread, though -- humans are biological, and as such, are "hard-wired" to accept this axiom; they cannot do otherwise, even if they wish to. For example, if you light a match and hold your hand over the flame, your body will react to pull your hand away no matter how hard you wish to deny the reality of that sense experience. Our physiology and psychology are evolved to make us empiricists at the core, without us choosing such, or being able to avoid it.

-TS

Touchstone said...

@David T, (con't)
Far from supporting scientific knowledge, the thoroughgoing empiricism you are advocating is actually destructive of it. This is something Kant pointed out in the 1700's, in his response to Hume.

The empiricism is self-contained, a coherent epistemic framework within itself. But it has to be boot-strapped, which both Hume and Kant and many others have understood, and the bootstrapping through metaphysical axioms is where matters gets shaky. The warrant for the whole framework is conspicuously missing, so we just make naked assertions about experience being veridical to some degree and move on. With that assumption, the efficacy of evidence-based models does seem to prove out; we can build performative, predictive models based on our experience.


A hardcore empiricism does not allow any metaphysical axioms, true, and one of the consequences is that it doesn't allow us to say things that the average person takes as obviously known with certainty - like the fact that microscopes and voltmeters aren't going to change their natures from one day to the next willy nilly.


This certainty only derives from the sheer consistency of our empirical inputs: we cannot locate cases of microscopes spontaneously or unnaturally "changing their nature", so we place confidence (certainty) in our inductive leap from our specific experiences to make general propositions -- microscopes stay microscopes until they are altered naturally.

It's worth noting that the certainty you are pointing to here DOES necessarily depend on metaphysical axiom. If this average person did not take it as a "given" that evidence and sense-data reflect reality, nothing would be "obviously known with certainty" concerning extramental objects (like a microscope). All that would remain is solipsism. It's precisely because we *are* hardcore empricists that we do have what confidence/certainty we have.

I am quite comfortable in saying I know such a thing as a certainty, not merely as an assumption to get science rolling. This is one reason I am a Thomist rather than an empiricist, astrology notwithstanding.
I fly on airplanes three weeks a month, and take strange and sophisticated high-tech medicines from time to time; I'm confident enough to put my well being in play based on these assumptions. But much of that is just practical; you can't make your way through day to day life without such commitments. After all that, the metaphysical axiom ("evidence reflects...") is still required to underwrite all this. We have no transcendental warrant for this.


I'm also comfortable in saying that my position is the one that supports science, not the empiricist one.

Well, that's the paradox of metaphysics. It affords you the great luxury of non-falsifiability. It has the iron-clad invincibility of the tautology, a trivial truth. Such an approach to science cannot be shaky, or at risk at all, because it does not risk hazards with coming into contact with the real world.

But this awesome advantage also makes it vacuous, trivial. It's epistemically empty. Empiricism is epistemically rich precisely because it *is* risky, at risk, and the thinker is constantly denied certainty, and ever subject to revisions, overturns and other modifications, based on the extra-mental world intruding into our mental processes.

-TS

Sobieski said...

Regarding the issue of “science,” I think, both the advocates of both sides, A-T on the one hand and modern science on the other, tend to talk past each other on the issue. Given the latter view is normative today, however, it is often the Gnus who don’t understand what they are critiquing re: the A-T view and not the other way around. As others have noted, they address the Thomist like they would the ID proponent, who at root accepts many of their principles. The disagreement, however, as Dr. Feser has noted time and again, is at the more fundamental level of philosophy rather than science understood in the modern sense:

"The Modern Scene. Some of the characteristics of this 'modern science' may now be enumerated. Obviously it is different from 'Greek science,' 'medieval science,' and 'Renaissance or early modern science,' all of which seem to have made stronger knowledge claims than does recent science. One may ask whether twentieth-century science is also different on this account from eighteenth- or nineteenth-century science, for present-day scientists now seem less sure of their science than were their predecessors of the preceding two centuries. On the current view, ‘science’ is no longer certain and unrevisable knowledge. Despite being organized and systematic knowledge, it is fallible, ever subject to revision, and always characterized as 'probable' in varying degrees. By and large the content is empirical, experimental, and mathematical in orientation -- what Maritain called empirioschematic or empiriometric knowledge. The favored methodology is conditional or hypothetical reasoning that is 'verified' or 'falsified' by empirical findings. To the extent that it employs mathematical forms of reasoning it has elements in common with applied mathematics or what was earlier known as 'mixed mathematics,' 'mixed sciences,' or 'middle sciences,' regarded by many as its historical antecedents.

"The 'philosophy' that has been embodied in the philosophy of science movement up to now, from the foregoing account, is clearly empiricism of the Humean variety. This is the problem being addressed by the new consensus..." (Wallace, The Modelling of Nature, p. 233)

Wallace has much more to say, but it seems to me the whole notion that science must be fallible or falsifiable only holds insofar as one adopts a modern, empiricist epistemology (e.g., Lockean, Humean, etc.). Of course, this is absolutely rejected by A-T philosophy, which predates such a view.

For Hume, the intellect is collapsed into the imagination, but it is precisely by the power of the intellect that we know the universal and the necessary through abstraction. Given this type of nominalism, which is incapable of knowing the natures of things, and the fact that the best we can know under this epistemological scheme are singulars or collections of singulars, it follows that the only type of knowledge available is that which is probable and necessarily falsifiable:

"Hume was a sensist. He claimed that there is no knowledge in man except sense knowledge and thus denied that man had the supersensory power of knowing that we call intelligence. Such a view of human knowledge, would deny, of course, that causes can be known. For a cause is not a sense datum. It is not something like the colored or the sweet which our external senses can apprehend. Causality is not an appearance. It is not observable and hence not open to any direct measurement (or "presentational immediacy" in Alfred North Whitehead's term). Causality is not a thing, but a dependence of one thing on another..." (Smith, The General Science of Nature, p. 178-9)

(continued...)

Sobieski said...

(...continued)

"The implications of Hume's criticism of cause and effect are incompatible with the existence of the world assumed by common sense and affirmed by science. If, in other words, Hume's criticism of causation can be sustained, then no one thing can ever be said to be the cause of any other; we have no rational basis for calculation or for prediction, since both calculation and prediction assume that the same causes will in the future produce the same effect as they have done in the past, while, so far as anticipation is concerned, we have no ground for supposing that any action may not produce the most totally irrelevant and unanticipated results. There is no more reason to expect that the explosion of gunpowder will follow the application of a lighted match than that it will follow the impact of a jet of water, no more reason to expect that the kettle will boil when it is put on fire than when it is placed on a block of ice." (C.E.M. Joad as quoted by Smith, ibid., p. 181-2)

This is why Thomists like Wallace and Feser explain that philosophers, with no theological or philosophical axe to grind, are leaving Humean skepticism, which is a philosophical dead end, and moving back towards an Aristotelian account of nature (or something akind to it). Some may find skepticism convenient or useful in certain cases, but as regards science, it undermines the entire enterprise.

For Aristotle, however, the arbitrary Humean epistemological limitations do not exist. Though there can be varying degrees of certitude in a given science, due to the nature of its subject-matter (where certainty is measured by the degree of distance of its subject from materiality, matter being the principle of unintelligibility), perfect scientific knowledge for Aristotle must concern the universal and necessary. In that sense, it is not falsifiable. Through a process of induction from singulars, the intellect is able to grasp the one in the many, the universal (or natures of things). This operation is called the first act of the intellect. The second act is proposition formation and judgment. The third is reasoning, the strongest form of which, demonstration, results in necessary knowledge so long as the rules of Aristotelian formal and material logic are followed. So an A-T argument can be false if it violates the rules of logic. But a real demonstrative argument is necessarily true, and is not falsifiable in the sense of a modern scientific theory, founded on an empiricist view of knowledge.

As Hume had no corresponding view of intellect (i.e., it was a faculty akin to that of a really clever monkey differing in degree rather than kind), Aristotelian science is not possible. As such, we are left with probable reasoning at best and skepticism at worst. So the real question to me seems to be who is actually right, Aristotle and his followers or the moderns who moved away from him. The disagreement here is at the level of the nature of human knowledge and science itself. Dr. Feser, of course, goes to great lengths in his book and on this blog to argue for the A-T view. Gnus coming here need to do the same. To their credit some attempt to, other sneer and look down their noses.

reighley said...

David T,

"average person takes as obviously known with certainty - like the fact that microscopes and voltmeters aren't going to change their natures from one day to the next willy nilly"

I do not disagree with your text, but I might disagree with your subtext. I hope you will not mind if I unpack all the ideas that one sentence has raised in my mind.

(1) Wouldn't you agree that this is precisely the definition of a things "nature", that it does not change willy nilly? If I found that my microscope had changed it's nature overnight, wouldn't it be best to suppose that it had ceased to be a microscope? Ie by definition of "microscope" and "nature" it is tautological that microscopes never change their nature.

(2) Perhaps you meant to say that we may always construct microscopes in exactly the same way and they will continue to work in the way familiar to us. Which is to say that physically identical things always have the same natures. This idea is actually very interesting, even though it seems obvious. Probably true, but worth thinking about. See Gibbs paradox and the symmetrization postulate.

(3) You may have been referring to the fact that most of the laws of physics that have ever seemed worth writing down are symmetric with respect to translations in time. It seems worth pointing out that, to the extent that this is true of the laws of physics, it might be overturned by new laws. What if the speed of light was slowly changing for instance? That would alter the index of refraction between glass and air and your microscope would gradually loose focus over billions of years. The statement about "day to day willy nilly" has built into it a time scale : ie the ways of things don't change over time periods on the order of one day. Of course it is really hard to get people interested in time scales much longer than 10^8 days (which is about the age of the species) or less than 10^-8 days (which is about the speed at which your neurons operate). Which is to say that things might actually just be changing really slowly or really quickly and you wouldn't care.

(4) The universe seems to have had a low entropy beginning, and entropy has been increasing : so the nature of things does seem to be changing in fact. Even though it doesn't feel like it. The evidence suggests that close to the beginning of the universe it would have been impossible to build something that even answered to the name "voltmeter" and that the time will come when that is true again.

Eduardo said...

Wow, I was really impressed by some of the insights of Modernist thinking proccess. I mean the whole falsiable knowledge because of the very nature of knowledge within the philosophy was really cool, I never thought of that... I never thought of anything outside the usual materialist/naturalist/modernist mind set though.

I think I have to read more philosophy books, you know get those brains gears going!


--------------------------

On other note, if we are all evolved to be empiricists, shoulcn't we simply give up on science ?

Jack "Vaughn" Bodie said...

Touchstone

How can Thomists' metaphysics be based on "unfounded, unwarranted" assumptions but at the same time have "the iron-clad invincibility of the tautology, [...] trivial truth"?

No, you may be biologically "hard-wired" to reject this, but we admit the assumptions not in order to have any kind of scientific method but because the assumptions are self-evident.

Whether you, or any scientists of your stripe know it, you must affirm with certainty three truths before engaging in any science: your own existence (the first fact); the principle of contradiction (the first principle); and the power of the intellect to know truth (the first condition). Whether explicitly admitted or taken for granted there is no alternative between admitting them and admitting the self-contradiction of universal scepticism.

Without the certainty that David T. speaks of, you would have no way of judging the "sheer consistency of our empirical inputs": isn't that the point of, for example, Goodman's paradox and Kripke's arguments on meaning?

dmt117 said...

TC,

"This certainty only derives from the sheer consistency of our empirical inputs: we cannot locate cases of microscopes spontaneously or unnaturally "changing their nature", so we place confidence (certainty) in our inductive leap from our specific experiences to make general propositions -- microscopes stay microscopes until they are altered naturally"

As Hume pointed out, this is not an empirical conclusion. Without the metaphysical principle that things we haven't yet seen will resemble (and behave like) the things we have seen, the conclusion doesn't follow, no matter how confidently we place it.

Is "microscopes stay microscopes until they are altered naturally" a falsifiable principle? What sort of science could falsify it?

Jack "Vaughn" Bodie said...

Touchstone

When you say "I agree, for instance, that science must establish some bootstrapping metaphysical axioms to get off the ground. But in now [sic] way can assert that "evidence reflects reality to some degree" with certainty." I assume you mean science in the modern sense of the natural sciences?

If so, science does not establish its own bootstrapping axioms. It takes them for granted. Now given the first truths, Thomists have arguments for establishing certainty -- that the reliability of our consciousness is included in our capacity to know truth; that our primary ideas are objectively true, i.e., conformable to objects really existing; that immediate analytical judgments can never be false; that the reliability of our memory is contained in our power to know truth; that whoever grants the premises of logical reasoning cannot deny the conclusion; and so on, and on.

You make claims that lead me to conclude you're ignorant of these arguments. If I'm wrong, perhaps you could point out where the arguments fail?

Eduardo said...

Actually Jack he is not going to tell you where they are wrong, he will just tell you that it is not falsiable by the falsification methods of his choice so it has no epistemic richness, because it can't be falsifified by his falsifications methods of his choice.

Jack "Vaughn" Bodie said...

Eduardo

I think you're right, my good man. But if you don't ask, you don't get :)

rank sophist said...

Jack,

Most empiricists are ignorant--wilfully or otherwise--of Goodman's paradox and its implications. I will not be surprised if Touchstone says that he has never heard of it, or if he claims that it has (per impossibile) been solved without an appeal to essentialism. Nothing is allowed to breach the walls of the empiricist fantasy world.

Edward Feser said...

Folks, please scroll up to see a comment from Steve Fuller today at 3:40 am that I only just now found in the spam box and approved. Sorry about the delay, Prof. Fuller.

Daniel Smith said...

David T: Yes, immanent teleology ultimately implies God. But it is not a direct implication the way Intelligent Design supposes it is (i.e. like a watch immediately implies a human designer).

Sorry to intrude but you've just hit on a pet peeve of mine so...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the Fifth Way a stand-alone proof of God? (Surely it is not an indirect "implication"!)

So I'd argue that (for Aquinas at least) the teleology in nature directly proves God.

In fact, his is a stronger argument than ID because his argument does not rely on complexity (specified or otherwise) but rather proves God from even the simplest things in nature.

Any way, again, sorry to interrupt but - like I said - pet peeve!

Touchstone said...

@Anonymous,


Similar to how logical positivism was junked: show where the logic breaks down, where the arguments fail, or otherwise.

Hand waving. What is the reference for your logic, in that case? What axioms preempt the Thomist axioms? Oops you're already at the head of the chain, you don't have any more "meta-" to appeal to. How would an argument fail? Just a reference or link to A Thomistic principle that was overturned like this would go a long way to dispelling the strong impression of hand-waving here. What's the last Thomistic principle you junked, and how did that happen, similar to the critique of positivism or no?


And I notice you've just drastically changed your tune. You started off with talking about science revealing a world in conflict with Thomism. Now, the problem is that science can never be in conflict with Thomism.

No, the observation was that it's *detached* from the real world, not accountable to it, not even wrong. That's been consistent. Thomists are, in my observation, prone to "dualization" which keeps them removed from thinking about humans as natural, evolved animals. That produces a "blind spot" concerning their teleocentrism, a difficulty keeping in mind our natural proclivity to find purpose wherever we look, telos everywhere because we want to see telos. None of that pits Thomism against science -- Thomism is designed so that it is untouchable, incorrigble -- but it does lead to some bad habits in terms of analysis.


Meanwhile, you have yet to describe the difference between mechanist, theistic personalist teleology and classical theist teleology. And worse, you're making absurd claims like...

I don't do homework assignments on demand. I'm to old to troll in clumsy ways. You're going to have to work a little harder than that.


There it is, that ever-famous idyllic picture of science and scientists both. The metaphysics required to get science off the ground goes beyond what you list, and scientists are not pure beings untouched by metaphysics themselves. The fact that many don't acknowledge their metaphysics, or that often they are unaware they're holding metaphysical as opposed to scientific views, does not mean they aren't working with metaphysical views anyway.

I've been quite clear about the metaphysical underpinnings of science here. Science cannot get off the ground without having to stoop to metaphysical axioms. Metaphysical bootstrapping is necessary. So what's your point here?


Seriously, before you get yourself locked in this tangle further -- which more and more is starting to look like little more than "I've argued with Thomists in the past, they infuriate me, I dislike them, but I actually have no idea how to attack them other than by BSing and hoping they're not listening" -- sit down. Read what the Thomists are saying. And holster your angry sub-Loftus level atheist attitude. This isn't Debunking Christianity, so you have no echo chamber to fall back on here.

Ah, now into full armchair psychology mode. Thanks for the analysis, but let me encourage you to focus on the content, the ideas, rather than trolling like this.

-TS

Eduardo said...

- accusation of hand waving

Touchstone, your axioms are just that fasiability is imperative to knowledge... that is an axiom, is that think empirical or is a rule to set up yourself?

I have 23 years old and I never saw any epistemological rule in nature, such as the one you are claiming.

Second... HAND WAVING ? where ??? there is no hand waving, he told precisaly what you wanted, that is the arguments fail or the philosophy is incoherent, then thomism is gone. You are simply doing a red herring calling people's attention to the fact that there is no other "meta" principles, which have nothing to do with your challenge.

- Detachment from reality

your falsiability principle in order to create epistemic richness is not part of reality too. Or do you have an experience we can all have to show how your falsiability principle is necessary for knowledge ???

Touchstone said...

@Jack "Vaughn" Bodie,


If so, science does not establish its own bootstrapping axioms. It takes them for granted.

"[T]aking them for granted", is what we mean when we invoke metaphysical axioms. An axiom is necessarily "taken for granted". Several times, here, I've pointed out the metaphysical assumptions ("taken for granted") that science must adopt in order to get off the ground.

Now given the first truths, Thomists have arguments for establishing certainty -- that the reliability of our consciousness is included in our capacity to know truth; that our primary ideas are objectively true, i.e., conformable to objects really existing; that immediate analytical judgments can never be false; that the reliability of our memory is contained in our power to know truth; that whoever grants the premises of logical reasoning cannot deny the conclusion; and so on, and on.
Yeah, that's a whole other discussion, but for here, these are principles you "take for granted". The motivations are typically different because the scientist is notoriously conservative in terms of metaphysics (in the modern era, anyway), and adopts only the minimum metaphysical machinery needed to get her research program off and going. The axioms you embrace are more general, embraced to govern "all thinking", and adopted with conviction on their own terms, because of the intuition that they are "really true", not just necessary to catalyze some other endeavor.



You make claims that lead me to conclude you're ignorant of these arguments. If I'm wrong, perhaps you could point out where the arguments fail?

They aren't "failable" arguments. They are precondition for forming arguments and prosecuting them. They are largely underspecified -- Aquinas' "adequation of intellect and object" does not provide operational tests. That's one contribution that science makes to reasoning here, a detailed, deployable framework for assessing, testing, and falsifying (if that applies) "conformance" between concepts in the mind and the actualities of extra-mental reality. But as it's left, "conformance" can be redeployed and redefined as necessary. It's perfectly plastic enough to be indefeasible.

There are numerous similar problem that obtain from vagueness, ambiguity and underdetermination. But none of that operates at an "argument fails" level. Your first truths are not so liable, in principle (hence the name, 'first truths', no?)

-TS

Touchstone said...

@Eduardo

Eduardo said...
- accusation of hand waving

Touchstone, your axioms are just that fasiability is imperative to knowledge... that is an axiom, is that think empirical or is a rule to set up yourself?

No, not hardly. Kant's idea of 'synthetic knowledge' and 'analytical knowledge' is an expression of this rule. The term 'tautology', like 'definition' is an expression of this rule.

If X cannot be 'false', even in principle, it's incoherent to say it's 'true'; 'True' becomes undefined in such a case. So long as one separates 'knowledge' from 'non-knowledge', falsification is a necessary liability. Otherwise, X as a truth is just a 'trivial truth', a definition, a tautology. Tautologies are tremendously useful, but they are epistemically distinct from knowledge ('synthetic' to use Kantian terminology).


I have 23 years old and I never saw any epistemological rule in nature, such as the one you are claiming.

This goes back to at least Epicurus and Sextus Empiricus, the necssity of 'true' and 'false' as meaningful, bound to concepts or proprositions about the world. Perceptions, according to Epicurus, were irrational, which is to say for him, neither true or false. It was not until statements became meaningful as true or false (at least in principle) that we have beliefs that qualify as knowledge. See Sextus Empiricus' Adversus Mathematicos for a similar discourse, using sight.


Second... HAND WAVING ? where ??? there is no hand waving, he told precisaly what you wanted, that is the arguments fail or the philosophy is incoherent, then thomism is gone.

I will just have to keep repeating this, maybe varying it somewhat in hopes it comes across more clearly. Thomistic first principles are not liable to charges of incoherence (at least in the logical sense, I do hold they are vague and underspecified in problematic ways, but also do not see that as qualifying them as 'incoherent'), and they are not arguments which are liable to failure, even in principle.

What you are doing is asking me to prove that your definitions are 'wrong' or that your definitions 'fail'. They are your definitions, and so 'wrong' and 'fail' are not applicable concepts.
You are simply doing a red herring calling people's attention to the fact that there is no other "meta" principles, which have nothing to do with your challenge.
Are you aware of "more first" principles than a Thomist's first principles, by which those 'first principles' might be judged, and potentially discredited or dismissed? I'm not.


- Detachment from reality

your falsiability principle in order to create epistemic richness is not part of reality too. Or do you have an experience we can all have to show how your falsiability principle is necessary for knowledge ???

June 30, 2012 4:39 PM

It's transcendental. If a proposition (a belief we are considering) is not possibly false, even in principle, than it's perfectly meaningless -- by defintion! -- to call it 'true'. Without being possibly false, any statement X cannot possibly tell us anything about the world around us. It can be a definition, which is mighty useful in its own right, but definitions are not beliefs, and therefore not knowledge.

-TS

Eduardo said...

Touhstone, all I can ask you is to show they are definitions and that is all they are.

Second, I am not using any definition because I am a sort of epistemological anarquist, so really I have no definitions that I hold dear. I want you to show that the arguments of thomism are just definitions. Get them, just one please, show them to me that they are just definitions.

And show that your chosen falsification method/principle is really good to tell us what is right and wrong. You can't, of course define right and wrong, they must be shown to rise as we analyse something.


Have to find the text from Sextus to read.

Anonymous said...

What you are doing is asking me to prove that your definitions are 'wrong' or that your definitions 'fail'. They are your definitions, and so 'wrong' and 'fail' are not applicable concepts.

What you are being asked to do is prove that what is argued to follow from those reasonable definitions and first principles, as a matter of fact, does not. If your response here is, "Well, what Thomists believe does in fact follow from their first principles, but...", then the conversation is over, and you've conceded the point to the Thomists.

It does not good to stamp your feet and say in effect, "But I don't want it to be true! And maybe your first principles are wrong!" Maybe the first principles science operates on are wrong too. That's not an overriding concern to most people doing science, and for the same reason it's not a concern to those in metaphysics and philosophy.

Nor can you get science off the hook by saying "Well, they're trying to use as little metaphysics and axioms as possible!" So too does the Thomist, and other metaphysical and philosophical thinkers. (I'll remind you that materialism and naturalism are both metaphysical views.)

Sorry, TS, but you keep swinging and missing. The fact that you think a metaphysical or philosophical argument is not open to refutation or even criticism because "the axioms can't be disproven" underscores a pretty dramatic failing of understanding on your part. Which is why, when I asked you to explain the difference between the teleology of a Thomist and the teleology of a mechanist theist, you stayed quiet: you really don't know.

You need to spend less time around failed thinkers like Loftus, and more time around actual philosophers, metaphysicians, and yes, even scientists. Hitting PZ Myers' blog now and then does not count as learning or understanding science.

Eduardo said...

The damn books are a series of writing XD.... U_U damn I hope the title says something like.

On sight ... sight related or something like that.

Anonymous said...

Eduardo,

Second, I am not using any definition because I am a sort of epistemological anarquist, so really I have no definitions that I hold dear. I want you to show that the arguments of thomism are just definitions. Get them, just one please, show them to me that they are just definitions.

A good question. I think we're going to see an equivocation like this: the conclusions of Thomism's arguments are determined, in large part, on the axioms which they are founded on. It's not that the Thomism's arguments "are all definitions", it's that the conclusions and arguments succeed, if they succeed at all, because they align with their axioms. But that's not fair, because the axioms themselves aren't open to refutation.

Which A) is a ridiculous objection, especially in light of the fact that science as well rests on axioms and metaphysics, and B) is inaccurate insofar as TS's claim goes, because philosophical history is absolutely loaded with examples of philosophical arguments and claims falling on counterargument, without any axioms changing.

Thomists here should actually take TS's wheel-spinning as a compliment, since what he's basically saying is this: the arguments Thomists make are entirely sound and valid. They don't "go wrong" at any point, given their axioms, despite what various philosophers, atheists, and naturalists have said in the past. The problem is that their axioms (little things like the law of non-contradiction, for example) are themselves not open to refutation. Just as how there's no knowledge in mathematics - 2 + 2 = 4, only because of your axioms, which aren't open to refutation, therefore no knowledge can come from math.

Sound ridiculous? It is. But that's the argument TS is presenting. It goes over well with the rubes at New Atheist blogs. Not so well anywhere else, whether atheist or not.

Touchstone said...

@Eduardo,

Touhstone, all I can ask you is to show they are definitions and that is all they are.


Second, I am not using any definition because I am a sort of epistemological anarquist, so really I have no definitions that I hold dear. I want you to show that the arguments of thomism are just definitions. Get them, just one please, show them to me that they are just definitions.

If it's a Thomist argument, it's not a definition (by defintion). For example, if we look at the Argument from Motion, that *is* an argument (whatever I others may think of its soundness).

The definitions obtain as what were called "first truths" upthread, axiom.

By way of example, consider one of Jack "Vaughn" Bodie's offered "first truths":

whoever grants the premises of logical reasoning cannot deny the conclusion
This is definitional. What we mean *by* reasoning here *entails* affirming the conclusion when premisses are affirmed. It's not a statement about the world, it's not a proposition that is liable to be false, even in principle, no matter what the world may hold. "False" is not a coherent concept in that context. This "first truth" just asserts that reasoning entails affirmation of productions based on granted premises.


And show that your chosen falsification method/principle is really good to tell us what is right and wrong. You can't, of course define right and wrong, they must be shown to rise as we analyse something.

To talk about 'right' and 'wrong' we have to define it. It's not a meaningful symbol otherwise. But whatever values we may adopt as the basis for choosing 'right' or 'wrong' for this action, or that action, if 'wrong' is not meaningful, not even possibly, then saying it is 'right' is just vacuous. It's an empty statement.


Have to find the text from Sextus to read.


I couldn't fight the quote I was looking for online, in the time I was willing to spend on it, but I did find this document, which captures some of the same ideas from Epicurus and Sextus Empiricus.

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CEkQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fhume.ucdavis.edu%2Fmattey%2Fphi143%2Fepiepi.htm&ei=RpnvT5zmKYikrQHGn9iOAg&usg=AFQjCNFbHoLHI_4-6znMz9oUvrang4HB6Q

Anonymous said...

This interpretation, if correct, has consequences for Epicurus's case for the void. This is based on the claim that if there were no void, it would be testified against by the senses, which reveal the reality of motion. But Aristotle had given a competing explanation of motion without a void, which would make his claim that there is no void "consistent with our sense-perceptions." Then the theory of the void would be on a par with the meteorological hypotheses, a result Epicurus was trying to avoid. He could do this only by discrediting Aristotle's account of motion within a plenum. But we have no evidence of such an effort.

Eduardo said...

Will read...

Okay Touchstone, my whole point is that, since we end up defining right and wrong, claiming to dimish our philosophical bias on our study of nature is of course meaningless.

The falsification idea would be obligated to follow some kind of method. If we were to put a principle on nature we would be of course, violating the falsification idea since we are already deciding what is true and what is false. So either there is no way of knowing truth or not-truth, and that means we are all wasting time here. Or we can know truth through some method, which my guess is that in your case is to test an idea against the natural/external world? So far I get what you mean or I missed you?

But, I don't get it.

I think that you will inevitably, like you have said before, you will have to bootstrap all knowledge onto to stuff that is not knowledge at all. Or you disagree with me??? Because even if you were to say that, these bootstraping principles have such and such characteristic that is why they are good... that means nothing, we can just keep creating new principle to judge what we believe to be true ... is true.

so why not simply postulate/define they are true and get it over with, instead of inventing unprovable truths to be true or clinging to principles that forces us against itself?

Eduardo said...

Alright, let catalog here some stuff

- Dualism is wrong

- seeing teleology in nature is wrong

- Science helps humanity to minish the philosophical bias while studying nature

- Falseability is paramount to knowledge

- Hylemorphism doesn't take in consideration the human mind as a natural phenomena

--------------------

Touchstone said...

@Anonymous,

What you are being asked to do is prove that what is argued to follow from those reasonable definitions and first principles, as a matter of fact, does not. If your response here is, "Well, what Thomists believe does in fact follow from their first principles, but...", then the conversation is over, and you've conceded the point to the Thomists.

That's never been a point of contention, and I encourage you to read back through my comments in the thread to see if you can find this claim from me anywhere, if you are confused about this.

Rather, what is produced - in airtight contstructs, I grant, and as I keep pointing out - is vacuous.


It does not good to stamp your feet and say in effect, "But I don't want it to be true!

Where are you reading these comments from me? I don't recall saying that or thinking that, here, or anything similar.

And maybe your first principles are wrong!" Maybe the first principles science operates on are wrong too. That's not an overriding concern to most people doing science, and for the same reason it's not a concern to those in metaphysics and philosophy.
It's not an overriding concern in and of itself, but there's no corrigible epistemology built on top of Thomism as there is in science as built off its metaphysical foundations, so the Thomist is *completely* at the mercy of those premises highest in the chain. In science, if we are unable to render the world around us intelligible at all, if we are unable to build performative models and incorporate experience into feedback loops that inform and correct our beliefs, then we can dismiss our metaphysical assumption that our sense-data to some degree reflects external reality. If we have no reflection, we cannot maintain the assumption of reflection.

Thomistic first principles are not liable like that, from everything I've seen. If you have an analog to the scientific case, I'd like to hear it.

In science, forget that we're hard wired to embrace empiricism, to build and refine models of reality based on our experience, from birth (and likely before), if that axiom is problematic, our senses will kick us in the teeth, accordingly. We have a feedback loop to judge. All of the developments and treatments I'm aware of in Thomism lack this aspect, conspicuously. So *everything* rests on first principles in a way science does not.

-TS

Touchstone said...

@Anonymous,


Nor can you get science off the hook by saying "Well, they're trying to use as little metaphysics and axioms as possible!" So too does the Thomist, and other metaphysical and philosophical thinkers. (I'll remind you that materialism and naturalism are both metaphysical views.)

I would suggest brushing up on Thomas' axioms of causality on this question. "A cause produces a similitude", for example, is not posited of necessity. If you think so, then please clue me on what that bootstraps that can't be left out as axiom (determined by empirical or other forms of post facto conclusion, for example).

Not only is that gratuitous as an axiom, it's so underspecified (and not just the brief statement of the axiom, but the development of it) that even should we suppose that our experience indicates a conflict with this axiom as applicable to the real world, it's plastic enough to refashion and redefine ("well, the similitude can really mean...") that it can only rise to truism of sorts, at best, a way to note that a cause produces an effect of some kind, some how. Trivially true.

Sorry, TS, but you keep swinging and missing. The fact that you think a metaphysical or philosophical argument is not open to refutation or even criticism because "the axioms can't be disproven" underscores a pretty dramatic failing of understanding on your part. Which is why, when I asked you to explain the difference between the teleology of a Thomist and the teleology of a mechanist theist, you stayed quiet: you really don't know.

Claim what you like. I don't dance on command like that, just to make me dance. Ask something that doesn't get delivered in the form of a treatise, and you're in better shape.


You need to spend less time around failed thinkers like Loftus, and more time around actual philosophers, metaphysicians, and yes, even scientists. Hitting PZ Myers' blog now and then does not count as learning or understanding science.

Trollin', trollin', trollin'...

-TS

Eduardo said...

what is a vacuous statement Touchstone. since we will not argument anything just declare things, the only is to force to tell us what you got in your head.

Anonymous said...

Rather, what is produced - in airtight contstructs, I grant, and as I keep pointing out - is vacuous.

You haven't "pointed it out". You've asserted it, and little else.

Where are you reading these comments from me?

Since your days at Triablogue? You've made it clear over the years.

In science, if we are unable to render the world around us intelligible at all, if we are unable to build performative models and incorporate experience into feedback loops that inform and correct our beliefs, then we can dismiss our metaphysical assumption that our sense-data to some degree reflects external reality.

Wow. What a muddle you just made.

A) No, the inability to make a model in science does not mean we "dismiss the metaphysical assumption that our sense-data to some degree reflects external reality", because there is 1) no stage at which science tells us to give up, and 2) our giving up would not in and of ourselves show us that the concepts and claims are disjoint.

B) Either way, giving that up would not be a scientific move, it would be a metaphysical or philosophical move. This is not "in science", it's entirely outside of it.

C) Your statement, which amounts to "If we're not making any progress in science, we can always give up and say the world is irrational and/or makes no sense", being offered as some kind of advantage over Thomism, is nothing short of hilarious.

Thomism as there is in science as built off its metaphysical foundations, so the Thomist is *completely* at the mercy of those premises highest in the chain.

As is science. Again, the decision to eliminate axioms is not something that science itself shows us we should do. That's a view and consideration completely outside of science... and insofar as it would be reasoned to, it would itself be governed by other axioms.

Further, no, Thomism is not *completely* at the mercy of the axioms, precisely because what Thomists say follow from the axioms can in principle be shown to be wrong. Thomism is, like any other metaphysical or philosophical view, at the mercy of arguments, reasoning and logic.

Do you understand that no scientific experiment can upend the axioms of science, but it can show a given theory to be wrong? Can you understand that the axioms in a metaphysical or philosophical project may not be able to be eliminated, but the arguments intended to flow from them can be?

Anonymous said...

I would suggest brushing up on Thomas' axioms of causality on this question. "A cause produces a similitude", for example, is not posited of necessity.

The fact that you think axioms flow from empiricism and some kind of scientific experiment just illustrates how clueless you are on this subject. The fact that you seem fatally unaware that empiricism itself is a philosophical school of thought, complete with its own axioms, is the icing on the cake.

Claim what you like. I don't dance on command like that, just to make me dance. Ask something that doesn't get delivered in the form of a treatise, and you're in better shape.

In other words, "I can't do it, anonymous. Stop pointing it out. I ignored it and hoped you would just drop it, please don't expose my ignorance. That's not fair!"

You can't do it, TS. You came in here angrily criticizing teleology, but you don't even know what you're talking about. What a surprise, to anyone who isn't familiar with your antics over the years.

Trollin', trollin', trollin'...

Indeed, you are. Poorly. Rather like Loftus, really. ;)

Face it, kid, you're out of your league here. You won't give the definitions of teleology, because you do not understand them. Just as you don't understand science or metaphysics, or their constraints. You huff and propound, but it's all vacuous - and it's all you got.

The more things change, TS. ;)

Brian said...

Eduardo, chill out. You are posting way too much and saying very little. Free country, and all that. :)


Touchstone, I hope you stick around and interact with Feser and other Thomists here.

Eduardo said...

WHA!!!


I am totally not speaking too much U_U. I have not seen me speak too much XD.


Actually Brian, all I want it to Touchstone to substantiate the stuff he says. U_U what can I do if I evolved to force other people to argument to their positions.

Touchstone said...

@Anonymous

A) No, the inability to make a model in science does not mean we "dismiss the metaphysical assumption that our sense-data to some degree reflects external reality", because there is 1) no stage at which science tells us to give up, and 2) our giving up would not in and of ourselves show us that the concepts and claims are disjoint.

There isn't a need for a stage. It's not a 'binary thinking' problem. The extent to which we are able to be models that render the world around us intelligible is an index to the strength of the metaphysical gambit that underwrites it. Like I said, if we are completely unable to build performative models, we are completely unable to support the metaphysical assumption that sense-data is fodder for building models of extra-mental reality. If we are somewhat successful, we find more strength in that assumption.


B) Either way, giving that up would not be a scientific move, it would be a metaphysical or philosophical move. This is not "in science", it's entirely outside of it.

Uh, as I keep saying, that's metaphysics. We're talking about the metaphysical assumptions we use to get science off the ground, as science. If science is the "house", these assumptions are the philosophical foundation they are built on. Giving up would be a metaphysical move, a metaphysical correction. This is metaphysics as corrigible from our experiences, so that is an option for metaphysical thinking.


C) Your statement, which amounts to "If we're not making any progress in science, we can always give up and say the world is irrational and/or makes no sense", being offered as some kind of advantage over Thomism, is nothing short of hilarious.

Thomism just don't poke its head out that way, does not put itself at epistemic risk. Some see that as a great virtue. I see that as vacuous, trivial. But maybe I'm wrong. What Thomistic axioms do you suppose are corrigible by experience?


As is science. Again, the decision to eliminate axioms is not something that science itself shows us we should do. That's a view and consideration completely outside of science... and insofar as it would be reasoned to, it would itself be governed by other axioms.

The reason science adopts the metaphyiscal commitments it does is to test the "modelability" of the natural world, to see if in fact, our experience can be used as the raw materials for making models that work, that are predictive, precise, objective, falsifiable, etc. That commitment contains the basis for metaphysical correction. To the extent we are unable to render nature intelligble through sense-data in terms of models, discounting the axiom is something "we should do".


Further, no, Thomism is not *completely* at the mercy of the axioms, precisely because what Thomists say follow from the axioms can in principle be shown to be wrong. Thomism is, like any other metaphysical or philosophical view, at the mercy of arguments, reasoning and logic.

Example, please?


Do you understand that no scientific experiment can upend the axioms of science, but it can show a given theory to be wrong? Can you understand that the axioms in a metaphysical or philosophical project may not be able to be eliminated, but the arguments intended to flow from them can be?

Sure, but that's downstream stuff. No *particular* scientific experiment can indict science's metaphysical axioms on it's own: science is a research program, and so the metaphysics are judge by the overall progress (or lack thereof) of the program, not any individual experiment. But the totality of all of our experiments can and should upend science's metaphysical commitments if indeed the totality does not validate the metaphysical gamble, that performative models can be built.

I am not aware of a symmetric situation in Thomism.

-TS

Touchstone said...


Okay Touchstone, my whole point is that, since we end up defining right and wrong, claiming to dimish our philosophical bias on our study of nature is of course meaningless.

OK, I don't think I'm tracking with this, but not sure it matters.


The falsification idea would be obligated to follow some kind of method. If we were to put a principle on nature we would be of course, violating the falsification idea since we are already deciding what is true and what is false.

I'm interpreting this to mean "we decide before hand what the criterion is for 'true', and what the criterion is for 'false'. If I have that right, then we have an important part of our method -- operating definitions, semantic cargo our terms "true" and "false" can carry for us. We know what we mean when we say Proposition X is "true".

The method goes like this (more than the method, the enterprise):

1. Assume, as a metaphysical commitment, that evidence (sense-data) reflects the actual state of extra-mental reality to a sufficient degree that we can build performative models based on our experiences.[This is metaphysics, not physics]
2. Define our epistemology so that we can invest meaning in the world "knowledge" as the product of our enterprise: 'true' means consistent with performative models, and false means inconsistent with formative models, or uniquely inconsistent with non-performative models. "Model" means a mechanical representation of the attributes and dynamics of some aspect of nature. Models are true by virtue of accounting for observed phenomena, making novel, entailed predictions, and being possible false (at least in principle).
3. Generate hypotheses as the driver for natural models.
4. Formulate models that can explain evidence, make predictions and be falsified based on our hypotheses.
5. Test the models through application to our experiences and sense-data.
6. Assess model performance. More precise, explanatory, economical and possibly falsifiable models are judged superior ("more correct", "more true") to models that are less precise, less explanatory, less economical. Non-falsifiability is disqualifier. If the model cannot be falsified, it does not have the basis for being held as "correct" or "true".
7. As an overall assessment that folds back to 1), take an inventory of our models to see if any are performative and if so, how performative they are.
8. For models that perform, assign knowledge. It could be false, but is not yet, false, and tracks with experience in explanatory and novelly predictive ways.

All of that falls apart, becomes vacuous, if our models are not falsifiable. Such models may be formal, trivial, bearing no "content" we would consider knowledge of the extra-mental world.

-TS

con't

Touchstone said...

@Eduardo

So either there is no way of knowing truth or not-truth, and that means we are all wasting time here.
Since is just a way to construct operational semantics for 'truth' and 'non-truth', meanings for those terms that avail themselves of objective, evidence-based, corrigible dispositions.
Or we can know truth through some method, which my guess is that in your case is to test an idea against the natural/external world? So far I get what you mean or I missed you?
You got it.


But, I don't get it.

I think that you will inevitably, like you have said before, you will have to bootstrap all knowledge onto to stuff that is not knowledge at all.

Yep, that happens in 1) above. 1) is just a metaphysical what-if. It's not knowledge. It's just an enabling axiom. It must be there for the rest to get going at all.

Or you disagree with me??? Because even if you were to say that, these bootstraping principles have such and such characteristic that is why they are good... that means nothing, we can just keep creating new principle to judge what we believe to be true ... is true.
People can think what they like, fer sher. And there are no shortage of definitions of working definitions of 'true' that are subjective, capricious, or simply trivial. If there is no value for the thinker in 'true' being contingent on the world outside the mind, then none of the method above will be embraced.


so why not simply postulate/define they are true and get it over with, instead of inventing unprovable truths to be true or clinging to principles that forces us against itself?

Epistemology has to run to ground *somewhere*. It can't be empiricism (or any other practical -ism, or turtles) all the way down.

-TS

Glenn said...

Eduardo,

Actually Brian, all I want it to Touchstone to substantiate the stuff he says.

That he will not (i.e., cannot), can be seen, e.g., here, here, here, and here.

rank sophist said...

Touchstone is tying himself in knots trying to get out of the mess he's made.

I found Fuller's response interesting, though.

First, my sense of ‘high confidence’ in science is that of a high-stakes gambler who wins often enough to keep on playing and raising the ante. The point about divinely guaranteed cognitive faculties is also put too strongly. I believe that there is sufficient reason to believe that there is some divine support – sufficient to keep us betting on science to get at the truth. As my corrections suggest, God for me is the biggest theoretical commitment we make when doing science (smaller versions of such commitments appear in our usual scientific theories).

I'm not entirely sure what your quarrel is with classical theism, then. Both systems seek to guarantee the intelligibility of the world by making reference to a divine source. You imagine God as a kind of perfect artificer, whose human-like intelligence shows through in the created order. Natural things (and human minds) have purposes and logical consistency because they were made by something intelligent. On the other hand, classical theism imagines God as a sustaining force that is constantly shaping reality at every second. Because the CT God is the source of reason, nature--and everything else--is logical.

In both cases, science is only possible because of a more fundamental commitment to divine reason.

Also, I treat the question of science and the question of naturalism as really quite separate ones. You can believe in a self-sufficient natural world (i.e. one with the sort of inherent powers that Feser seems to believe) without believing that science will ever enable you find out about it. And more importantly from my standpoint, you can believe that science can come to a definitive understanding of nature – but not because we discover nature’s inherent powers but because we have rendered its raw material powerful. In other words, scientific practice performs a strong godlike function in the world. Science does not require that nature consist entirely of pre-existing forms bits of matter waiting to be discovered. Nature simply has to be tractable to our informed will. (There is an interesting debate to be had about whether this ‘tractability’ presupposes some loose sense of divine structuring. Maybe it does.)

The larger debate would be your Scotist/Ockhamist voluntarism against Feser's Thomist intellectualism. This combox is too small to engage in it, though. Suffice it to say that it's a messy case that requires more argument from each side.

Regardless, Feser does not believe in a world of "inherent powers". As a Thomist, he is fully convinced that the possession of any power--or of existence at all--is only explicable by reference to God. Without God, nothing could even exist, let alone have powers, let alone be comprehended.

rank sophist said...

I don’t believe in ring-fencing theology from science, Feser does. I think a lot of our miscommunication is based on this fundamental point of difference. As I read Feser, an atheist can dispose of theology as an optional extra, since both of them agree that science works perfectly fine as it is.

Not at all. On the Thomist view, no atheist could have a rational justification for his faith in science. However, atheist scientists have done a fair portion of the work over the centuries. Feser was merely explaining how this could be possible, since these people clearly don't rely on "divine psychology".

But to be fair to Feser, he seems to operate with a rather dressed down conception of science – it’s more about the individual practices of chemistry, biology, etc. rather than about what makes them all part of some common project to make systematic rational sense of reality. My point is that theology becomes vital to answer why we should think that those fields as contributing to this larger project, which is what makes them all contributors to ‘science’. In that sense, I do believe that that science is about divine psychology -- with the understanding that we possess quite a lot of that psychology (and I also don’t think that ‘Deism’ is a dirty word – though it’s certainly not classical theism! – and that Paley’s view is quite close to Deism).

Kind of a random thing to claim about Feser, but okay. In any case, your conception of science as a "common project to make systematic rational sense of reality" once again presupposes voluntarism. A Thomist would largely agree with your over-arching conception of science, but with a key phrasing change: it is a "common project to find systematic rational sense in reality".

Eduardo said...

Touchstone

I think that anything we can think about world is in principle falsiable. Your point of view is biased/leans towards certain types of methods.

Let me put this way. If we were both scientists, and we are SUPPOSE to show that our experiments can be reproduced, because it is how the community decides if we are wrong or right, THAN, I will never propose a theory that can't fall under this type of scrutiny. because right or wrong is decided by the reproduction of the experiment.

But ... it does not follow that my crack pot theory that goes below this radar is false. All you are saying is that, Ed your theory is meaningless because it doesn't fit my epistemology.

When you bring this in philosophy, it just feels awkward, because there is no consensus about epistemology among us, so in the end you are sort of telling your epistemology and going from there without arguing ever to why it is better than other options.

Well to be quite sincere, you do TRY to argue for it, using the idea of meaningless of right and wrong in certain situations. But still I just don't think I can know right and wrong if not through interpretation, which or course is not entirely empirical. heck load of personal bias goes into it, that is why I defend a more systematic idea to discuss these things.

Anyway, my quarrel is more towards we not being able to get rid of certain thing when we analyse data.

Questions for you. Given that you know the thomistic claims about reality, how would the world be if we negate their claims ???

Eduardo said...

To be quite sincere to you Touchstone. Actually, I do see your point, and I pretty much like a systematic approach to theories so I can test them out against our experiences.

Even though; none of them could be true, even though they are compatible with "reality". it is just that we humans have a great imagination. I believe I can find a naturalistic explanation for everything and at the same time find a theistic based explanation for everything, and pretty much go from metaphysics to the next just playing around with experimental data. In the end of the day it could be all bullshit, mere superstition of an inferior limited mind.

So this whole thing about creating a loop method is to me worthless. I don't need the loop, I just need to know how the world would be if the theory was wrong and; because I have played around with so many different views, I always have some other view to fall back to if one goes wrong; without talking about ad hoc.

Really I see your point, but it only works if you work under a paradigma, outside the paradigma view, which is pretty what I am biased towards, no need to loops, just gimme the experiment and the rest I will work it out.

So the metaphysics to me is a whole new field of discussion, that simply works different from the previous idea.

Anonymous said...

There isn't a need for a stage. It's not a 'binary thinking' problem.

My reply did not argue that 'binary thinking' was needed. I pointed out that science, as science, at no point indicates "Okay, there is no model for this whatsoever". The absolute best you get to is an inability to make a scientific model - but that would not mean that no model existed.

The extent to which we are able to be models that render the world around us intelligible is an index to the strength of the metaphysical gambit that underwrites it.

According to what scientific finding?

Like I said, if we are completely unable to build performative models, we are completely unable to support the metaphysical assumption that sense-data is fodder for building models of extra-mental reality.

And once again, the metaphysics come prior to the model building, not after. Axiom are not "supported" by models. Do you even know what an axiom is? It's as if you remember some times, but then forget when it's inconvenient.

We're talking about the metaphysical assumptions we use to get science off the ground, as science.

Uh, and you've been suggesting that what axioms we keep come from the successes or failures of science, even those axioms which are used to get science off the ground to begin with. hence your saying "In science, if we are unable to render the world around us intelligible at all, if we are unable to build performative models and incorporate experience into feedback loops that inform and correct our beliefs, then we can dismiss our metaphysical assumption that our sense-data to some degree reflects external reality." You're starting off with axioms to get science off the ground, and then suggesting that an inability to make scientific models would give us license to dismiss those same axioms. Which, again, illustrates that you really don't understand the role axioms play, or how science performs.

There is no scientific finding or string of findings - binary or not - that results in the scientific conclusion, "Thus, we should give up on these fundamental metaphysical axioms." There is, at best, a philosophical argument leading to a philosophical conclusion. You can put science aside here.

But maybe I'm wrong. What Thomistic axioms do you suppose are corrigible by experience?

Once again, the very fact that you think axioms are something which are determined by or supported by scientific experiment shows that you don't understand them. You're telling me, "Show me the experience you could have that would falsify the law of identity, or the law of non-contradiction. Otherwise, the LNC or LOI is vacuous."

You're welcome to that move. It's hilarious. ;)

That commitment contains the basis for metaphysical correction. To the extent we are unable to render nature intelligble through sense-data in terms of models, discounting the axiom is something "we should do".

Another utter misunderstanding of science and metaphysics both, along with yet again, a repeat of the claim "If I can't make a scientific model of it, then I should believe no model exists".

Anonymous said...

Example, please?

http://bit.ly/KTY86F

But the totality of all of our experiments can and should upend science's metaphysical commitments if indeed the totality does not validate the metaphysical gamble, that performative models can be built.

The fact that you feel strongly about your own misguided axiom is not support for it. Once again, you ignore the arguments that can be launched against metaphysical projects, the success of arguments against philosophical ideas, sans experiments, in the last (see: logical positivism), and you continue to duck and dodge the question about teleology. And for every post you, despite your criticisms of it, refuse to explain the differences between Thomist and mechanist theist teleology, you expose yourself, Emperor Without Clothes style.

As I said, your crap works on the rubes at Debunking Christianity. Here? Not so much. ;)

Anonymous said...

But the totality of all of our experiments can and should upend science's metaphysical commitments if indeed the totality does not validate the metaphysical gamble, that performative models can be built.

Not to mention, this statement makes the big claim about the self-correcting nature of science into emptiness. Talk of a vague "totality of experiments" being decisive with regards to metaphysics is not only wrong-headed, it's exactly the thing TS keeps falsely accusing Thomism of being: vacuous. A vague appeal to a hypothetical scenario for which the gut would be the judge.

Eduardo said...

Of course the T-Stone here is obviously not the one in front me XD!!!

maybe ...

Arthur said...

It seems to me that Touchstone's main complaint boils down to the idea that Thomism isn't falsifiable, something that makes it "vacuous", apparently.

The problem there should be obvious enough. Why think that everything needs to be falsifiable? If I look through a logic textbook I'm bombarded by all kinds of knowledge that isn't scientific or falsifiable, yet is knowledge nonetheless. No science experiment could make me abandon the Law of Non-contradiction, but doesn't that make it more certain, not less?

The other major weakness I see is that Touchstone thinks that science gives us real knowledge, but doesn't think that the axioms we need to make it work do. The problem there is that no conclusion can be more certain that it's own premises. If the axioms science is based on aren't real knowledge, then neither is science.

If nothing else, guys, you're helping me see the value of metaphysics. You can think that logic, metaphysics and other non-empirical, non-falsifiable forms of enquiry are "vacuous", or you can think that they're not. What you cannot consistently do is trust science while mistrusting its foundations. Anyone who waxes lyrical about the wonders of science while mistrusting metaphysics and philosophy seems to be caught in incoherence.

reighley said...

Arthur,

"What you cannot consistently do is trust science while mistrusting its foundations."

How do you respond to the observation that those scientists who worried about metaphysics seemed to have very different metaphysical assumptions. Compare Isaac Newton to Niels Bohr to Albert Einstein to David Bohm. There is a great diversity of opinion there, even though it is all ultimately in service of the scientific project of theoretical physics.

Individual scientists and individual models have metaphysical foundations, but the project as a whole seems to permit a great deal of variability in what those foundations might be.

rank sophist said...

Individual scientists and individual models have metaphysical foundations, but the project as a whole seems to permit a great deal of variability in what those foundations might be.

Two of the core metaphysical foundations of science are that A) the world exists and B) we can gain true knowledge through observation. I seriously doubt that any of these men disagreed with these views. Empiricists like Touchstone, on the other hand, are thoroughgoing skeptics about fundamental stuff like the possibility of true knowledge.

Eduardo said...

Personally I think that as long as one does not hold a principle that take away the value of science, as at least one form of knowledge. I think that person will never be at odds with what we call science today.

Sobieski said...

@Arthur

There have been a lot here to keep up with, but I think your assessment is correct.

It seems to me that Touchstone's main complaint boils down to the idea that Thomism isn't falsifiable, something that makes it "vacuous", apparently.

The problem there should be obvious enough. Why think that everything needs to be falsifiable? If I look through a logic textbook I'm bombarded by all kinds of knowledge that isn't scientific or falsifiable, yet is knowledge nonetheless. No science experiment could make me abandon the Law of Non-contradiction, but doesn't that make it more certain, not less?


From an A-T perspective, Touchstone's methodology would not be objectionable in certain contexts, like specialized physical sciences, in which highly contrived experiments and specialized equipment are used to test theories about nature which concern details not available to common sense experience. For Aristotle, the method of a science can vary depending on the variability of subject-matter. Further, for Aristotle, there are different types of argumentation from perfect demonstration yielding necessary truths to dialectic, rhetoric and poetics, which argue for truths to varying degrees of certainty.
I would think even by today's standards, certain types of mathematical disciplines would not be held to be falsifiable; certain principles being laid down and the rules of mathematics being followed, necessary truths result.

The problem is when methods like Touchstone proposes, coupled with a mechanistic view of nature and empiricist epistemology, are universalized into a metaphysic for all knowledge. A-T proponents will never grant that.

The other major weakness I see is that Touchstone thinks that science gives us real knowledge, but doesn't think that the axioms we need to make it work do. The problem there is that no conclusion can be more certain that it's own premises. If the axioms science is based on aren't real knowledge, then neither is science.

This is precisely true. While mathematical disciplines may proceed by positing principles (e.g. Euclidean geometry), Aristotle does not proceed this way in his sciences. While it is true that the axioms he lays down are not a matter of demonstrative proof, they are nonetheless defended as true and not merely posited. In fact, they are as you say more true than the conclusions derived from them as a matter of proof. They are arrived at by means of induction, which culminates in the agent intellect's abstraction of universals (natures) from sense data. Aristotle often uses dialectics as well to survey the common opinions found among his predecessors to determine their truth before laying down his own principles. For example, he spends time in the Metaphysics defending the principle of non-contradiction from those who would deny it. In the Physics, he argues against Parmenides doubts concerning the existence of change.

(continued...)

Sobieski said...

(...continued)

If nothing else, guys, you're helping me see the value of metaphysics. You can think that logic, metaphysics and other non-empirical, non-falsifiable forms of enquiry are "vacuous", or you can think that they're not. What you cannot consistently do is trust science while mistrusting its foundations. Anyone who waxes lyrical about the wonders of science while mistrusting metaphysics and philosophy seems to be caught in incoherence.

They are certainly not vacuous. But they are not falsifiable in an empiricist way. Principles or axioms can be shown to be false using reductio-style arguments (dialectics). Proofs can be shown to either not be necessary because they have premises which are not necessary (opinion) or because they have false premises or because the construction of the argument does not conform to the rules of logic. But it is true, that given premises which are necessarily true and given that the rules of logic are followed, the resulting conclusion which follows is necessarily true. Aristotle deals with demonstration in the Prior and Posterior Analytics, and St. Thomas has commentaries on these works. I have found John Oesterle's "Logic: The Art of Defining and Reasoning" and Vincent Smith's "The Elements of Logic" useful secondary resources.

Touchstone said...

@rank sophist,

Two of the core metaphysical foundations of science are that A) the world exists and B) we can gain true knowledge through observation. I seriously doubt that any of these men disagreed with these views. Empiricists like Touchstone, on the other hand, are thoroughgoing skeptics about fundamental stuff like the possibility of true knowledge.

I don't mind the label 'skeptic', but I neither have any qualms about A) or B), and affirm them unreservedly, nor do I doubt that true knowledge is possible, and find it actual, in abundance. The falisifiability of the metaphysical assumption that evidence enables knowledge of the natural world remains conceptual (in other possible worlds, it might fail), but in our world, we have produced and continue to produce real knowledge, validating the original bootstrapping metaphysical gamble of science.

David T said...

TC,

With respect to bootstrapping science with metaphysical assumptions, then discovering that since produces real knowledge, I'd like to hear more about the framework within which this is determined. How and on what basis is it concluded that science is in fact producing real knowledge? This basis must be independent of both science and the metaphysical assumptions behind it, since both are validated by the process. What is this third way of establishing both science and its metaphysical assumptions?

rank sophist said...

I don't mind the label 'skeptic', but I neither have any qualms about A) or B), and affirm them unreservedly, nor do I doubt that true knowledge is possible, and find it actual, in abundance. The falisifiability of the metaphysical assumption that evidence enables knowledge of the natural world remains conceptual (in other possible worlds, it might fail), but in our world, we have produced and continue to produce real knowledge, validating the original bootstrapping metaphysical gamble of science.

You seem to have completely missed my point. Whether science is producing true knowledge right now is the question--and empiricism has no answer to that question. All of our "advances" and everything that we claim to understand may very well be (and likely are) false, on the empiricist view.

Hume's problem of induction and Goodman's paradox make any kind of science utterly meaningless. We don't really know anything about gravity, or relativity, or space-time, or particles, or quantum mechanics--all of these things are based on inductive observations that have falsely been expanded into "laws". In truth, these observations are unconnected and tell us nothing in particular about the world. We also can't say that "gravity", for example, isn't rather "pievity"--a principle that works like gravity when we observe it, but appears as an infinite series of pies when we don't observe it. This is the world that empiricism has created. Good luck trying to do science in it.

Eduardo said...

lol, I love the idea of pies showing up while I am not looking at it hahhahaahah.

Eduardo said...

Man G*d help the scientists aren't looking at this, you can imagine the nervous break down of empiricist scientists.

They will just say the same thing as TC and then conclude that philosophy is worthless, whetever I believe is true and F*** you all!

awww mman, pievity... I like that

reighley said...

rank sophist,

"Hume's problem of induction and Goodman's paradox make any kind of science utterly meaningless."

I don't want to trash realism, because I am sympathetic to it, but I think the case can be overstated. I can imagine a completely pessimistic scientist, who is engaged in theoretical physics simply because she has an aptitude for it, it's fun, and it pays the bills. It is true, and it is important, that her mathematical models carry built in certain assumptions about nature that can only be called metaphysical, but our imaginary scientist does not need to "believe" them herself. This is because they come to her as a tradition and a technique, not as something explicitly asserted.

She will for instance know to write wherever possible her equations in a Lorenz invariant form, and will see immediately that this privileges the blue/green scenario over the grue/bleen. So Goodman's paradox will not cause her to loose any sleep at all.

She will be inclined to see her job as explaining all the extant experimental data, a task which has not yet been accomplished. It is understood that the laws of physics are only an approximation to the truth. Part of her job will be to identify the energy scale at which the approximation is valid. Finding that combination of experiment, theoretical model, and energy scale will count for her as knowledge.

It should count that way for us as well. The statement of the form "an observation X can be explained by model Y valid within domain Z" can be known to be true deductively. Induction doesn't enter into it.

Sobieski said...

@David T

With respect to bootstrapping science with metaphysical assumptions, then discovering that since produces real knowledge, I'd like to hear more about the framework within which this is determined. How and on what basis is it concluded that science is in fact producing real knowledge? This basis must be independent of both science and the metaphysical assumptions behind it, since both are validated by the process. What is this third way of establishing both science and its metaphysical assumptions?

Yes, it seems all knowledge including the theory of falsifiability must itself be provisional at best, but it seems Touchstone is a pragmatist. A scientist posits a model or theory and finds it works to explain the phenomena under investigation. If some datum comes along later that falsifies the model or theory, then he revises and repeats the process ad infinitum, looking for another theory to better fit the data.

The focus for moderns was quantification, prediction and control, but not necessarily a true description of nature. We see this with Newton. He made no truth claims with respect to the nature of gravitation, for example, and his conception of nature, while useful, has been supplanted (so far as I know) by theories like relativity and quantum mechanics. Under Hume, this is probably the best sort of knowledge we can hope for, and ultimately his view winds up as a dead end in skepticism.

By way of contrast, Aristotle was concerned with giving a true description of reality instead of finding a means of harnessing it. He gives an account of motion against Parmenides, for example, which entails matter, form and privation as principles of change and the definition of motion as "the act of a potency insofar as it is in potency." This was ridiculed by the moderns and viewed by many as useless, but it is a definition of motion. The moderns just assume motion and move on with their quantificational approach.

The real problem is when one attempts to elevate this scientific pragmatism to the level of a metaphysic, along with a corresponding empiricist epistemology. To be fair, modern science has made real advances in knowledge (e.g., medicine, biology, chemistry, etc.), but these advances, as Wallace argues, should be situated in a realist ontology, which can objectively found them.

Sobieski said...

Also, I should have mentioned that there were provisional theories in Aristotle's time as well. Some ancient Greeks argued for geocentrism (Ptolemy), while others argued for heliocentrism (Aristarchus of Samos?). Arguments for the former were thought to be stronger, but Aristotelians, like St. Thomas, held such theories could be revised given new evidence (sorry, don't have a citation off the top of my head). When one is talking about the general principles of nature or those of metaphysics, however, one is not talking about knowledge that is provisional in the A-T view. They would be defended as absolutely certain.

Eduardo said...

I wonder if one could face all experiences that humanity had; and yet see a way to, without calling upon new principles, make his world view coherent.

Any ex-empiricist who try it before ?

Touchstone said...

@David T,


With respect to bootstrapping science with metaphysical assumptions, then discovering that since produces real knowledge, I'd like to hear more about the framework within which this is determined. How and on what basis is it concluded that science is in fact producing real knowledge? This basis must be independent of both science and the metaphysical assumptions behind it, since both are validated by the process. What is this third way of establishing both science and its metaphysical assumptions?


The metaphysical assumption that evidence evinces reality such that models can obtain predicates the semantics of 'real knowledge': beliefs obtained and affirmed through input extra-mental reality. Epistemology must bootstrap somewhere, and so the anchor is laid in the bet on the senses; if we can make models with it perform, we define that as knowledge, "real knowledge" because it comes from outside the mind, from the senses (it's not simply declarative or analytic, in other words).


-TS

Touchstone said...

You seem to have completely missed my point. Whether science is producing true knowledge right now is the question--and empiricism has no answer to that question.
It's not a coherent question. "True knowledge" is not defined in that context, apart from science's epistemology. That is, "true" has concrete meaning as a reference to performative models, as a correlation between sense experience and those models. You seem to be asking "how do we know 'scientific true' is 'really true', which is inchoate; 'really true' is a divide by zero, there. There is no referent for the symbol.


All of our "advances" and everything that we claim to understand may very well be (and likely are) false, on the empiricist view.

See above. Please define what you mean by "false", here? What is the measure of falsehood as you've used it, here?


Hume's problem of induction and Goodman's paradox make any kind of science utterly meaningless.

Hume's problem is only a problem for thinker that has to have certainty, and all the way done, or the illusion of same, since no such certainty avails. "Grue" is a recapitulation of the problem of underdetermination. Empirically, we might consider A, that rubies are always red, and B, that rubies are red only when they are being observed, else they are blue. All of our evidence is compatible with A & B, so we deploy parsimony to deal with the underdetermination problem. A is parsimonious. "Grue" is not economical, and ad-hoc with respect to "green", so it's judged inferior.

Both of these challenges are valuable because they *sharpen* the semantics of scientific epistemology, and invest *more* meaning in the terms we use in the process.

We don't really know anything about gravity, or relativity, or space-time, or particles, or quantum mechanics--all of these things are based on inductive observations that have falsely been expanded into "laws".
What do you mean by 'really know'. As you're using it, I cannot identify any criterion for it's use. I know what I mean by 'know' as consistent with sense-data and models that track against it. But you seem to be using the term in a way I can't apply, here. What does "really know" mean when applied to, say, gravity, to pick on the subjects you brought up?

In truth, these observations are unconnected and tell us nothing in particular about the world. We also can't say that "gravity", for example, isn't rather "pievity"--a principle that works like gravity when we observe it, but appears as an infinite series of pies when we don't observe it. This is the world that empiricism has created. Good luck trying to do science in it.
Ok, I can see from this and the Grue/bleen issue that you're overlooking parsimony here as part of the heuristic. In cases of underdetermination, prefer parsimony. That's how scientific epistemology works, and works well, in practice.

-TS

Touchstone said...

@Sobieski

Yes, it seems all knowledge including the theory of falsifiability must itself be provisional at best, but it seems Touchstone is a pragmatist. A scientist posits a model or theory and finds it works to explain the phenomena under investigation. If some datum comes along later that falsifies the model or theory, then he revises and repeats the process ad infinitum, looking for another theory to better fit the data.
Yeah, science is not "empiricist" or "rationalist" in any exclusive way. Science integrates evidential liability with conceptual analysis, blends empiricism and rationalism. Since (at least) the time of William James, differences between rationalist and empiricist philosophy that did not implicate practical differences were inert, from a scientific perspective. Maybe I should say 'vacuous', there, the term I used previously. Trick question: if the distinction doesn't yield a difference, does it make a difference?


The focus for moderns was quantification, prediction and control, but not necessarily a true description of nature. We see this with Newton. He made no truth claims with respect to the nature of gravitation, for example, and his conception of nature, while useful, has been supplanted (so far as I know) by theories like relativity and quantum mechanics. Under Hume, this is probably the best sort of knowledge we can hope for, and ultimately his view winds up as a dead end in skepticism.

You brought up Newton, and then point out that his ideas were improved upon by Einstein's, which in turn were upgraded by Niels Bohr's (et al), and which leave us without a unified theory that spans from Planck scales all the way, and from low to high energy contexts. Isn't that progress? How is that a dead end, then? It seems you are identifying a fruitful path of discovery and knowledged, honed and improved steadily over generations, as a 'dead end'.

-TS

Anonymous said...

Trick question: if the distinction doesn't yield a difference, does it make a difference?

So, we default to idealism, or even solipsism, since neither make a difference with regards to what we learn in science.

Eduardo said...

Touch I think that there is nothing to discuss with you. Your position seems to be.

- Anything that stops science form happening, or being coherent is wrong or meaningless

- Anything that can not be investigated by science is vacuous

- If my epistemology is shown to have some kind of absurdity, I use a principle that eliminate a priori any such thing




Your position is basically one that can never be argumented against unless the adversary give you the victory at the very beginning.

I mean was surely nice to hear some ideas I have thought before being defended ... your argumenting skill was not so good until you came to the scientism stuff.

David T said...

TC,

I'm not sure you answered my question.

My original question was based on this:

The falisifiability of the metaphysical assumption that evidence enables knowledge of the natural world remains conceptual (in other possible worlds, it might fail), but in our world, we have produced and continue to produce real knowledge, validating the original bootstrapping metaphysical gamble of science.

You answered by saying:

if we can make models with it perform, we define that as knowledge

We have just pushed the problem off science and onto the models made with it, but the problem remains the same: Without resorting to metaphysical assumptions or assuming the truth of the science on which they are based, how do you know models are performing?

The other thing I would point out is that in the original quote you wrote robustly of "producing real knowledge." In the answer, you only wrote of defining knowledge. Just so I don't misunderstand, in the first quote when you wrote

but in our world, we have produced and continue to produce real knowledge,

this is just the same as

but in our world, we have defined and continue to define real knowledge.

or do you think there is any distinction between producing and defining knowledge?

David T said...

Touchstone, I keep calling you TC rather than TS. Sorry.

Touchstone said...

@Anonymous,

So, we default to idealism, or even solipsism, since neither make a difference with regards to what we learn in science.
Heh. You have that precisely backwards. It's because solipsism, for example, doesn't admit of any practical distinctions ("practical" being the concept you've apparently overlooked, here), it's inert.

It may be obtain -- it's not falsifiable, not possibly, even in principle. But that's precisely why it's ignored (er, "not defaulted to", perhaps I should say by way of negating your objection). Solipsism is inert -- it doesn't add anything to equation.

Rather than default to it, we just can't be bothered with it.

-TS

Anonymous said...

Heh. You have that precisely backwards. It's because solipsism, for example, doesn't admit of any practical distinctions ("practical" being the concept you've apparently overlooked, here), it's inert.

And you haven't thought this through. It's not just that solipsism doesn't admit any practical distinctions with external world realism. External world realism doesn't admit any practical distinctions with solipsism. The same holds for idealism.

So by your standard, either we drop external world realism (we can get by just fine with solipsism or idealism, thank you very much), or we embrace idealism or solipsism (parsimony).

Touchstone said...

@David T,

The "TC" label was pretty clearly aimed at me from your quotes. No worries.


We have just pushed the problem off science and onto the models made with it, but the problem remains the same: Without resorting to metaphysical assumptions or assuming the truth of the science on which they are based, how do you know models are performing?

The metaphysical assumption *is* the foundation for that assessment. If we can use evidence to build models that perform, that match predictions, say, when we garner test evidence, then we have "cashed the check" written by our metaphyical assumption ("Our experiences evince extra-mental reality...").

That is to say, our metaphyical assumption establishes the semantics we use for performance: correlation between our experiences and the results of models we build.


The other thing I would point out is that in the original quote you wrote robustly of "producing real knowledge." In the answer, you only wrote of defining knowledge. Just so I don't misunderstand, in the first quote when you wrote

but in our world, we have produced and continue to produce real knowledge,

this is just the same as

but in our world, we have defined and continue to define real knowledge.

or do you think there is any distinction between producing and defining knowledge?

The metaphysical assumption declares the semantics, the conceptual basis for knowledge ("performative models are 'true'"). The practice of science delivers on those semantics ("look at all these models that work"). If you don't have your metaphysical assumption, your bootstrapping proposition that establishes the grounds for knowledge, none of the practice can get off the ground. That's why science commits to the metaphysics it does.

-TS

David T said...

TC,

I still don't understand how you know your models are performing. A model performs well if it successfully mimics the reality of which it is a model. For example, I know a model of an M1 tank performs well if it mimics the performance of a real M1 tank; which implies I have knowledge of the real M1 tank independent of the model so I can compare the two.

But, by hypothesis, you don't have reliable access to reality independent of science or the metaphysical assumptions on which it is based, both of which are to be validated by your process. So on what basis do you determine if a model is working or not?

David T said...

TC,

I didn't understand your last answer. I simply asked if you think "producing" knowledge is the same as "defining" it, because sometimes you write the one and sometimes the other. If you don't see a distinction, fine, but if you do I would prefer not to equivocate between the two.

Sobieski said...

@Touchstone

It's not a coherent question. "True knowledge" is not defined in that context, apart from science's epistemology. That is, "true" has concrete meaning as a reference to performative models, as a correlation between sense experience and those models. You seem to be asking "how do we know 'scientific true' is 'really true', which is inchoate; 'really true' is a divide by zero, there. There is no referent for the symbol.

As others have noted, these are assertions. Like I said in other posts, I don't see your methodology problematic in an A-T context so long as it is situated properly and understood within a proper ontological (realist) context. But you are defining true here in the sense of pragmatism, i.e., as what works, and given the probably nature of scientific reasoning, as constantly subject to revision. Beyond that, you seem to say that 'true' basically has no meaning or objective status. (Sure our models may approximate our current experience of reality, but there is no way to know whether they really correspond to reality -- in this sense, I find your position very Kantian). The obvious rejoinder, then, is why do we have to take your claims seriously? They ultimately have no objective basis upon which your interlocutors can accept them.

Touchstone said...

@David T,


I still don't understand how you know your models are performing. A model performs well if it successfully mimics the reality of which it is a model. For example, I know a model of an M1 tank performs well if it mimics the performance of a real M1 tank; which implies I have knowledge of the real M1 tank independent of the model so I can compare the two.

If I recall, you are a software guy. So, to invoke software idiom, it's "duck typing": in some software languages, if it 'walks like a duck, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it *is* a duck', meaning that an object that responds to the interface of A *is* an A, for the practical purposes of the machinery.

For models of reality based on sense input, the "real M1" *is* our sense input. If we can generate sense input A2 from sense input A1, where A1 => A2 is entailed by our model, we have an isomorphism.

For example, if we we have the sense input of a ball dropping off a table (A1), and the ball hitting the floor a short time later (A2), we have our "real M1 tank", our reference inputs, the normative experience.

If, in our investigations we can develop a model that serves as a function F, where F(A1)=>(A2), necessarily, via the mechanism(s) in the model, we have a "working" model. "Performing well" is a function of precision in replicating A1=A2, economy in entailment, and novelty with respect to other competing models.

In summary, then: if our experiences are A1=>A2, then that is our "real M1 tank", by virtue of our metaphysical commitment(experience evinces reality). A model is performing if it can predict and explain by mechanism, and of necessity, and in such a way as to be falisfiable in principle, A1=>A2. Such a model is the "model of an M1 tank".

-TS

rank sophist said...

Touchstone,

You really think it's that easy to defuse the grue/bleen paradox? Wrong. There's a reason why empiricist philosophers are still struggling with it. Parsimony, in this case, is impossible to define. If I observe that something is green, then why should I predict that other, unobserved things of this type are green? How am I justified in selecting this prediction over all others? How is it a smaller jump than predicting that these unobserved things are blue? It isn't. Every single prediction is an arbitrary shot in the dark. On empiricism, there is no logical reason to say that something is "green" rather than "grue", because the sense data used to prove them is identical and Ockham's razor favors neither.

As for the definition of "true knowledge", I'm merely describing the opposite of "mistaken knowledge", or that which does not conform to the real world. The empiricist has no way of showing that his scientific knowledge--every scrap--is not mistaken. It's impossible without an appeal to metaphysics.

David T said...

TC,

For example, if we we have the sense input of a ball dropping off a table (A1), and the ball hitting the floor a short time later (A2), we have our "real M1 tank", our reference inputs, the normative experience

And this sensory experience is taken to be veridical? That there is a real ball out there corresponding to our sensory experience, that it is the same ball at the beginning and end of the experience, and that it has not changed its properties in a significant way from the start to the end of the experiment? Also, that our experience of time substantially corresponds to reality (i.e. the order of events in our experience corresponds substantially to the order of events in reality)?

Touchstone said...


As others have noted, these are assertions.

Hold on. I was pointing out that I don't have any meaning to attach to "true" in rank sophist's complaint, here:


"You seem to have completely missed my point. Whether science is producing true knowledge right now is the question--and empiricism has no answer to that question. All of our "advances" and everything that we claim to understand may very well be (and likely are) false, on the empiricist view. "

I don't need to argue that I'm unaware of any operational definition for 'true' as s/he is using it here. I'm simply unaware of it. What is it?

Like I said in other posts, I don't see your methodology problematic in an A-T context so long as it is situated properly and understood within a proper ontological (realist) context.
I don't presume to know what you would classify as proper, but this methodology does locate itself in realist ontology.

But you are defining true here in the sense of pragmatism, i.e., as what works, and given the probably nature of scientific reasoning, as constantly subject to revision.
Right. If 'true' is going to have meaning, it will have to be defined *somehow*, right? What is the definition mine is competing against, here? Is there one?


Beyond that, you seem to say that 'true' basically has no meaning or objective status.

No, the above is how 'true' gets invested with meaning, with objective meaning. Unlike other notions of 'true', which are subjectively intuitive, this definition necessarily depends on intersubjective experience and qualification. There precession of the perihelion of Mercury is determinable by instrumentation, not to mention the experiences of all human observers. It's as objective as objective gets for us, and this grounds the pragmatist's definition of 'true'. Not only is it objective in that it's dependent on uniform, shared experience, the knowledge must be entailed by the model in mechanistic (non-subjective, mind-invariant) ways.

(Sure our models may approximate our current experience of reality, but there is no way to know whether they really correspond to reality -- in this sense, I find your position very Kantian).
Again, you are committing to conspicuously undefined, and (to me) intractable terms. What is your standard for determining if our experiences "really correspond to reality"? I'm not aware of how that gets done, apart from the method and epistemology I've been describing. What is the measure you are using, here? From what you say above, it apparently must be 'meaningful' and have 'objective status' for you.

So what is this measure?
The obvious rejoinder, then, is why do we have to take your claims seriously? They ultimately have no objective basis upon which your interlocutors can accept them
No one "has to". The method works, and this can be observed for yourself. One who denies it these days either lives in a cave (in which case the presence of their posts on this blog are problematic), or demonstrably *lives* by credibility and utility of these claims.

-TS

Touchstone said...


And this sensory experience is taken to be veridical?

Yes. This is what the metaphysical assumption does for us. It *assumes*, without reducible justification, that experience is veridical, at least to an extent sufficient to build models. When I posit "evidence reflects extramental reality..." or "experience evinces reality..." as my metaphysical bootstrap, that is declaring our sensory experience to be veridical (to some significant extent).

That there is a real ball out there corresponding to our sensory experience, that it is the same ball at the beginning and end of the experience, and that it has not changed its properties in a significant way from the start to the end of the experiment? Also, that our experience of time substantially corresponds to reality (i.e. the order of events in our experience corresponds substantially to the order of events in reality)?
Yes, insofar that that is what our experiences indicate. The metaphysic is more conservative than I think you are thinking, here, though. By "experience" we are not talking about intuitions, conclusions, indirect references, etc. We mean our "percepts", fundamentally. What we "sense" in the *sensory* sense is the basis for veridicality.

Time is tricky. We don't "sense" time in a sense that is univocal with the sense deployed in our assumption. The succession of percepts via our senses provides a "meta-sense" of time flowing by. But this is an integrative function, not something that is perceived directly per our assumption.

-TS

Anonymous said...

No one "has to". The method works, and this can be observed for yourself. One who denies it these days either lives in a cave (in which case the presence of their posts on this blog are problematic), or demonstrably *lives* by credibility and utility of these claims.

No, they don't. You're confusing accepting a claimed result of a metaphysical view and incorporated experience with accepting the metaphysical view itself. It's back to the idealist/solipsist example: the idealist and solipsist can make perfect sense of the experiences had, even the experiments performed, without needing to commit to the extra details the believer in the external world commits to. So you can't say "well, you're accepting my standards because look, technology". Even before examining your system, others can make sense of the same experience.

Now, again. You said that there is no way to tell the difference, empirically, between solipsism and idealism, and a belief in the external world. No test separates them. You used this to say that therefore solipsism/idealism make no difference and can be discarded. But neither, then, does the external world itself. And since solipsism and idealism are arguably simpler than the external world belief (let's put aside whether one is simpler than the other right now), it seems that by your standards, the external world is eliminated.

You see similar with other minds. There is no sensory experience of another person's subjective states, and one's own subjective states are undeniable. So, goodbye to other minds - everyone else is a zombie.

Sobieski said...

@Touchstone

Trick question: if the distinction doesn't yield a difference, does it make a difference?

Like I mentioned earlier, the fact that a philosophy has different concerns than the modern sciences doesn't somehow invalidate the former or make it 'vacuous.' Scientists can engage in their respective fields without reference to philosophy. But some are also interested in meta-scientific questions, which enters the philosophical realm -- some are concerned to ground their theories in and know reality in itself.

Isn't that progress? How is that a dead end, then? It seems you are identifying a fruitful path of discovery and knowledged, honed and improved steadily over generations, as a 'dead end'.

Sure it is progress. My point was not that science (as understood in the modern sense) is a dead end, but that the philosophical context in which it has traditionally been situated (Humean empiricism) is.

Touchstone said...

@Anonymous

And you haven't thought this through. It's not just that solipsism doesn't admit any practical distinctions with external world realism. External world realism doesn't admit any practical distinctions with solipsism. The same holds for idealism.

So by your standard, either we drop external world realism (we can get by just fine with solipsism or idealism, thank you very much), or we embrace idealism or solipsism (parsimony)

Neither is parsimonious with respect to realism. On solipsism, to say with that example, I have no empirical differences to examine (no direct means of discounting solipsism), but I do have to account for the ramifications of solipsism.

If I'm alone in the universe, language is problematic. Given our experience of language, solipsism has an explanatory deficit as a model competing with realism, which posit other minds and real objects as the basis for language.

Parsimony is not a preference for "shortest name", or "shortest description". It depends on 'all other factors being equal' as a qualifier. This is where solipsism fails -- the other factors aren't equal. Solipsism and realism are underdetermined in terms of any given phenomenon *qua* phenomenon. But solipsism as a model cannot account for the existence of phenomena. To posit some structure or process that creates and sustains our experiences is more cumbersome than those ostensible objects of our experiences being real, actual.

-TS

David T said...

TC,

Well, now we are in a circle. If you remember, the point of the procedure was to validate both scientific knowledge and the metaphysical assumptions behind it. The argument was that science produces real knowledge, and "real knowledge" is defined as models performing with reference to normative experience. Now we are saying normative experience is veridical because we assume it is via the original metaphysical assumption that got science rolling. So we are calling in as evidence the very metaphysical principle the procedure is supposed to validate.

Time may be tricky, but it didn't seem tricky at all when you described the normative experience against which science and its metaphysical assumptions are validated. If time is so tricky, how can the normative experience be relied on to ground science and its metaphysical assumptions in reality?

Anonymous said...

If I'm alone in the universe, language is problematic.

Not at all.

Given our experience of language, solipsism has an explanatory deficit as a model competing with realism, which posit other minds and real objects as the basis for language.

No, solipsism and idealism do not have a deficit. Nor does mere external world realism get you to "other minds". There could be an external world, but you could be the only mind present in it. At no point do you ever sense or experience another mind, and input/output of language does not require a mind. Unless you think your computer is conscious.

Do you?

Furthermore, idealism and solipsism copes, practically, with objects just fine without having to add some unverifiable "external world" to the mix. Remember, all you have to begin with, and all your view really relies on at all, is sensory experience. But the experience doesn't require the object conceptually or practically - ever.

But solipsism as a model cannot account for the existence of phenomena.

Sure it can. And on what grounds do you decide that the existence of phenomena needs to be accounted for anyway? Remember, you've advertised your metaphysic as being low on assumptions, and in particular eliminating assumptions that are not empirically testable. So when you say....

To posit some structure or process that creates and sustains our experiences is more cumbersome than those ostensible objects of our experiences being real, actual.

...you're making a mistake.

Under solipsism and idealism, experiences are "real, actual". No one denies experiences. It's just that they are all thought. Really, positing this external, unverifiable, assumed "stuff" that functions entirely the same as pure experience would is superfluous, so why do it?

Same with other minds. Why assume that Man X is conscious, or has subjective experience? We certainly never see his subjective experience. We can, and I bet you'll agree to this, explain everything we empirically see regarding him by appeal to blind, "empty" mechanism. And there's no way to empirically verify his subjective states if he has one, anymore than we could verify a rock's if panpsychism were true. So, it's sliced.

Touchstone said...


Like I mentioned earlier, the fact that a philosophy has different concerns than the modern sciences doesn't somehow invalidate the former or make it 'vacuous.'

I guess that depends on what you take 'vacuous' to connote.

Scientists can engage in their respective fields without reference to philosophy.
That's a surprising claim to hear. As I understand it, and from talking now with a good number of scientists beyond just those I work with, and a number of philosophers of science, I understand science to be the practice of philosophy, natural philosophy.

As has been pointed out here, over and over, science cannot operate or get off the ground without grounding in more basic philosophy and metaphysics. Maybe you mean some particular area philosophy that scientists can ignore?

Whenever one forms a hypothesis, and develops a research program for it, I understand that to be philosophy in action.

But some are also interested in meta-scientific questions, which enters the philosophical realm -- some are concerned to ground their theories in and know reality in itself.
Ok, so you are just trying to cordon off science from (the rest of) philosophy, it seems. I don't dispute that some are so interested. In my experience, scientists themselves are generally interested in this same grounding.


Sure it is progress. My point was not that science (as understood in the modern sense) is a dead end, but that the philosophical context in which it has traditionally been situated (Humean empiricism) is.

When would you say was the period where science was "situated in Humean empiricism"?

-TS

Touchstone said...

Under solipsism and idealism, experiences are "real, actual". No one denies experiences. It's just that they are all thought. Really, positing this external, unverifiable, assumed "stuff" that functions entirely the same as pure experience would is superfluous, so why do it?
The problem is not in the experiences, but the provisioning of those experiences. If my mind is the only mind in the world, and I'm not consciously generating those experiences (and I'm not), then something *else* necessarily is.

It doesn't help to suggest it's my subconscious. If so, then that is a different, distinct entity in my world, and it then becomes the subject of my scientific investigation. This then collapses into realism -- my subconscious is precisely that which is external to my (conscious) mind. Realism suffices without the artifice of the omni-creative subconscious. Solipsism takes extra entities and of intractable structure and provenance with respect to realism.

That's why the phenomena must be accounted for. Solipsists can pose a mechanism, but it ends up being a functional superset of realism. Try it if you doubt it, and you'll be famous in philosophical circles if you can beat it.

-TS

Anonymous said...

If my mind is the only mind in the world, and I'm not consciously generating those experiences (and I'm not)

And you know this how? By what experiment or metaphysical principle do you come to that conclusion?

Keep in mind, I keep bringing up solipsism and idealism both. Idealism, obviously, allows for other minds.

then something *else* necessarily is.

Again - you know this how? Because any effect or result must be generated by some cause? Is there an experiment that shows you this? Is it a metaphysical principle?

It doesn't help to suggest it's my subconscious. If so, then that is a different, distinct entity in my world, and it then becomes the subject of my scientific investigation. This then collapses into realism -- my subconscious is precisely that which is external to my (conscious) mind.

To repeat what I just asked, on what grounds do you justify that a mechanism is needed at all? What scientific experiment shows you that all effects have causes?

I'll also repeat, even "different, distinct entities" doesn't get you to an external, material world. Again with the idealism.

Realism suffices without the artifice of the omni-creative subconscious.

It "suffices" by the artifice of omni-present, extremely multitudinous objects, and experiments can't verify the existence of a single one.

Solipsism takes extra entities and of intractable structure and provenance with respect to realism.

See above.

That's why the phenomena must be accounted for. Solipsists can pose a mechanism, but it ends up being a functional superset of realism. Try it if you doubt it, and you'll be famous in philosophical circles if you can beat it.

I doubt a convinced solipsist would care much for the fame. ;)

Again, what experiment shows that a mechanism is needed to begin with?

And really, the existence of the mechanisms and the "subset of realism" works against your position even moreso, since your broad, broad net of "realism" includes everything from idealism to the brain in the vat to many other things. Even on your own terms, which I think I've shown are problematic, you only crawl out of technical solipsism and into a realism so broad that effective solipsisms are included in it.

Sobieski said...

@Touchstone

Right. If 'true' is going to have meaning, it will have to be defined *somehow*, right? What is the definition mine is competing against, here? Is there one?

Sorry, I was assuming you knew background regarding my points.

If you want to communicate with others, there has to be some common objective ground as I am not privy to the contents of your mind or your experience. Truth in the A-T context means the correspondence of the mind to reality. This entails that our minds are really in contact with and know reality. Reality which informs our concepts and reasoning is the common ground between you and me as regards discourse. The moderns don't grant that we can know reality in itself. Descartes and the empiricists who accept his assumptions said that what we know are our ideas. The result is that we don't know reality primarily, but the contents of our minds. For A-T philosophy, ideas are primarily that *by which* we know and place us in direct contact with reality (though ideas can be known secondarily). A big problem in modern philosophy has been to explain or prove how we actually know reality and not just our thoughts or ideas. I really don't want to get off onto that tangent, however, because I think you want to say we know reality. But with all due respect, I just don't think you view gets you there.

Not only is it objective in that it's dependent on uniform, shared experience, the knowledge must be entailed by the model in mechanistic (non-subjective, mind-invariant) ways.

"Shared experience" should point to the fact that truth is indeed objective (i.e., exists or is grounded in reality outside our minds). But when you say truth has meaning with reference to performative models, which make sense of our observations, there is nothing in your position that warrants said models in turn actually correspond to reality as the models are a creation of the mind. The fact that they may 'work' doesn't ground them in reality. In any event, your view reminded me of Kant because he held that we only know phenomena (appearances arising from things), which our minds structure or give form to, vs. noumena (the things as they exist in themselves outside our minds).

(continued...)

Sobieski said...

(continued...)

What is your standard for determining if our experiences "really correspond to reality"? I'm not aware of how that gets done, apart from the method and epistemology I've been describing. What is the measure you are using, here? From what you say above, it apparently must be 'meaningful' and have 'objective status' for you.

Well, on the A-T view of things, human beings have apprehensive powers of soul (i.e., internal and external senses as well as the intellect) that enable them to know reality. So again truth in the intellect would be a correspondence between what is in the intellect with what is in reality. Insofar as it corresponds, there is truth; insofar as it doesn't, there is falsity. On the empiricist view, as I have explained previously, there is no intellect (posited by fiat), which leads to implications such as all truth must be falsifiable because all we can know is singulars, etc. For the sake of time, I won't rehash that.

No one "has to". The method works, and this can be observed for yourself. One who denies it these days either lives in a cave (in which case the presence of their posts on this blog are problematic), or demonstrably *lives* by credibility and utility of these claims.

What I meant was that if your view of truth can't get beyond the mind and thus subjectivism, we have no objective or common basis on which to accept your claims or theory of truth. The fact that models work does not entail that they give us an understanding of reality in itself as I hopefully made clear above. Again, we can think of Newton; he made no ontological claims regarding gravity, for example, and his model has subsequently been revised by newer theories.

reighley said...

@Sobieski,

"think of Newton; he made no ontological claims regarding gravity"

Something like this came up before in the thread about local motion. I tend to feel that mathematics is just as good a language as any for the description of reality (in fact probably better than most). As such I tend to interpret the statement of a physical law as making an ontological claim. Newton may have been uncomfortable with the idea of the gravitational field, but by formulating the theory as he did he is actually stating that the gravitational field is a real thing.

What do you think? In proposing a physical theory, does one by necessity also posit some ontology?

Sobieski said...

@Touchstone

Ok, so you are just trying to cordon off science from (the rest of) philosophy, it seems. I don't dispute that some are so interested. In my experience, scientists themselves are generally interested in this same grounding.

There is some confusion of terms here, I think, because we are coming from different backgrounds. In the A-T view of things, there is a hierarchy of sciences. In general, however, science (episteme or knowledge) is philosophy ("love of wisdom"). The highest science is metaphysics, which considers being as being. Sciences subordinate to metaphysics only consider certain types of being. Philosophy of nature studies mobile and material being, for example, and mathematics studies being as quantified. But these are all sciences.

Science in the modern sense would really be specialized disciplines falling under the philosophy of nature, I think, inasmuch as they consider some further division of mobile or material being. Mathematical physics is a mixed science, which takes a quantificational approach to nature. Biology considers material being as animate, say, or chemistry considers atoms and their interactions, etc.

So on the A-T view, phil. of nature is higher science in the heirarchy and kind of like a metaphysic with respect to those below it. Aristotle, in fact, says that if being was coextensive with material being, then phil. of nature (physics) would be the highest science. Of course, he goes on to prove the existence of an immaterial principle of mobile being, and as a result, shows there must be a higher science. But I digress...

The point is that scientists in the modern sense can engage in their activities without respect to the higher sciences. We don't need to necessarily invoke the existence of God or philosophy of nature to do physics in the modern sense. Though if we seek to see how such a science is grounded (i.e., see how certain of its principles are justified beyond just being posited), we need to move up the chain. Some scientists are interested in this, maybe most as you say, but then they are getting into philosophy where philosophy in the modern sense would be a sort of meta-science. That was my point. Typically, though, the modern sciences are not situated in an A-T philosophy of nature, but in Humean empiricism. So the argument goes, that the lower sciences can't be objectively grounded in a philosophical view, which ultimately winds up in skepticism (due to a greatly limited view of human nature and knowing faculty). That's why Thomists like Feser and Wallace say that some scientists and/or philosophers with no theological axe to grind are moving back towards an Aristotelian view (e.g., Nancy Cartwright).

There is more that could be said or distinguished, but it is kind of a large topic to cover cogently in a combox, and I've got to work tomorrow...

When would you say was the period where science was "situated in Humean empiricism"?

Well, it started with Hume, who was reacting to the developments in science at his time. He has been highly influential since, at least in the Anglo-sphere. I am not an expert in Analytic philosophy, however, so someone can correct me if this is not entirely correct.

Also, you can search for the Wallace quote I cited in an earlier post above. Even if you aren't disposed to agree with him, I would highly recommend his book the "Modeling of Nature," if only for the historical account he gives regarding the philosophy of science. He is not only a Thomist, but has advanced degrees in physics, theology and philosophy. He also a world expert in Galileo. He lays out the A-T view, as well as the shift away from it in modernity (e.g., Cartesianism, empiricism, etc.).

Eduardo said...

I think that in the scientist mind, they are always making ontological claims, doesn't matter how shitty they might look, even to themselves.

Is just the relation that the scientist has with his craft.

But I suppose some scientists will give the theories only description value, mainly because they don't want to muddle the waters between science and their beliefs.

Sobieski said...

@reighley

What do you think? In proposing a physical theory, does one by necessity also posit some ontology?

Well, I think we have to distinguish a mathematical and physical approach to nature because they are not the same. Newton didn't offer a physical cause for gravity, though he held there must be one:

"Hitherto we have explained the phenomena of the heavens and of our sea by the power of gravity, but have not yet assigned the cause of this power. This is certain, that it must proceed from a cause... but hitherto I have not been able to discover the cause of these properties of gravity from phenomena, and I frame no hypothesis; for whatever is not deduced from the phenomena is to be called an hypothesis; and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, whether occult qualities or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosphy." (Sir Isaac Newton, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, 2nd ed., as quoted by William Wallace in From a Realist Point of View: Essays in the Philosophy of Science, "The Reality of Gravity," p. 169)

Wallace further states: "When speaking of the force of gravity, he [Newton] returns to the Aristotelian distinction between physical and mathematical entities, and says: 'I here design only to give a mathematical notion of those forces without considering their physical causes and seats,' and a few lines later makes the point that he is 'considering those forces not physically, but mathematically.'" (Ibid.)

So it seems to me, he is offering a mathematical model of nature, but not necessarily making any metaphysical or ontological claims. I think similar examples can be found in his Optics.

Touchstone said...

@sobieski,

If you want to communicate with others, there has to be some common objective ground as I am not privy to the contents of your mind or your experience. Truth in the A-T context means the correspondence of the mind to reality. This entails that our minds are really in contact with and know reality. Reality which informs our concepts and reasoning is the common ground between you and me as regards discourse. The moderns don't grant that we can know reality in itself. Descartes and the empiricists who accept his assumptions said that what we know are our ideas. The result is that we don't know reality primarily, but the contents of our minds. For A-T philosophy, ideas are primarily that *by which* we know and place us in direct contact with reality (though ideas can be known secondarily). A big problem in modern philosophy has been to explain or prove how we actually know reality and not just our thoughts or ideas. I really don't want to get off onto that tangent, however, because I think you want to say we know reality. But with all due respect, I just don't think you view gets you there.

Thank you, appreciate the overview, and I feel a bit as if I wasted some of your time, sorry; I do think I understood this on your part, or from A-T subscribers generally, at least.

Stipulating an 'epistemic path to reality', and not worrying about nuances implicated in "by which", etc. for now, I still am am unaware of what criterion you apply for 'true', given all you've said, apart from empirical correspondence with models of that reality we maintain (which is what I've been advancing).

That is, given and accepting all you said, for any given proposition X, what provides the test that places X in the 'true' category or the 'false' category (or, if X is not a yes/no proposition, what places it appropriately on the spectrum between 'certainly 100% true' and 'certainly 100% false')?

Remember that you (and others were wondering) what makes the empirical performance of natural models 'true'. I hold that such performance is our basis for *defining* true, the semantic grounds for the label. But you have a "higher authority" for 'true', so I'm trying to nail down that definition in light of what you've said above.

Maybe it's easier to ask for the negation? What would be the criterion you use to say that performative models in science are 'false', and do not reflect 'true reality'? I have talked to a several Thomists who are opposed on metaphysical principles to evolution, so it's not a remote question for me.

What standard, given the A-T understandings you've provided above (thank you), serves to judge the 'truthiness' of a scientific finding of 'true'' for its performative models?

Thanks,

-TS

Touchstone said...


"Shared experience" should point to the fact that truth is indeed objective (i.e., exists or is grounded in reality outside our minds). But when you say truth has meaning with reference to performative models, which make sense of our observations, there is nothing in your position that warrants said models in turn actually correspond to reality as the models are a creation of the mind. The fact that they may 'work' doesn't ground them in reality. In any event, your view reminded me of Kant because he held that we only know phenomena (appearances arising from things), which our minds structure or give form to, vs. noumena (the things as they exist in themselves outside our minds).

There is warrant, as that's how "correspond to reality" is construed in this epistemology. That is, "working models", based on phenomena and matching of experience with those models *reifies* the concept of "corresponds to reality". There is no "outer reality" available for investigation, by definition, because if there were, that would *also* be the subject of investigation, and integrated into the model-based epistemology.

Just so as to avoid unnecessary dancing, a Thomist on an email loop I've been on for years recently pointed out, in a similar discussion that per A-T, the noumenon can be grasped directly. When pressed, that is something like asserting "I just know", he grants. That isn't to put words in your mouth, but if you have non-phenomenal, direct access to the noumenon, how does this get established and shown, objectively, in your view?

That, I think, would satisfy my interest in what is being used to judge the 'true-ness' of my performative-models-are-true epistemology. I can't see any way to apply that except as a matter of subjective conviction or intuition, so that's why I'm asking. From what you've said, there must be some kind of objective aspect to this that I'm missing.

-TS

rank sophist said...

You really think it's that easy to defuse the grue/bleen paradox? Wrong. There's a reason why empiricist philosophers are still struggling with it. Parsimony, in this case, is impossible to define. If I observe that something is green, then why should I predict that other, unobserved things of this type are green? How am I justified in selecting this prediction over all others? How is it a smaller jump than predicting that these unobserved things are blue? It isn't. Every single prediction is an arbitrary shot in the dark. On empiricism, there is no logical reason to say that something is "green" rather than "grue", because the sense data used to prove them is identical and Ockham's razor favors neither.

As for the definition of "true knowledge", I'm merely describing the opposite of "mistaken knowledge", or that which does not conform to the real world. The empiricist has no way of showing that his scientific knowledge--every scrap--is not mistaken. It's impossible without an appeal to metaphysics.


I'd like to add that an appeal to Ockham's razor to solve grue/bleen problem reduces empiricism to absurdity. Consider: you say that it's more parsimonious to assume that unobserved things will be green, rather than blue. If that's true (which it isn't, per above), then Ockham's razor, in this situation, leads us to the assumption that everything unobserved is green. That's the simplest answer, right? If I see a dog, I should predict that everything unobserved in the entire universe will be this dog, right? That's far simpler than predicting that they'll be different entities, according to your logic.

Touchstone said...

@rank sophist,

I'd like to add that an appeal to Ockham's razor to solve grue/bleen problem reduces empiricism to absurdity. Consider: you say that it's more parsimonious to assume that unobserved things will be green, rather than blue. If that's true (which it isn't, per above), then Ockham's razor, in this situation, leads us to the assumption that everything unobserved is green. That's the simplest answer, right?

Oy, no. Our interpretations of all these phenomena are theory laden, necessarily, so when I say that green-when-unobserved is more parsimonious, it does not apply to any simplicity of "greenness", but rather our natural knowledge of physical attributes. Physical objects can and do change color, but when they do so, they do so as the result of natural processes acting upon them, or within them. Some kinds of octopus can change their skin color, quickly and dramatically, but this change happens because of that is happening physiologically within the octopus, reacting to its environment to effect camouflage colors, for example.

The parsimony obtains in our understanding that objects don't just change color willy nilly, or based on reaching some absolute (which would be problematic in GR) time t or some local/relative time offset. That means that "grue" entails a whole new physical dynamic that we are are totally unfamiliar with, a new and heavy "entity" parsimony would discount.

Goodman's problem (and this is a theme, in my view, for many philosophers) is that he thinks about objects in an abstracted, isolated-from-science fashion. Yes, of course if we are considering some alternative use where we have no natural knowledge, grue might be competitive with 'stays green'. But the natural knowledge we do have overwhelmingly supports green-stays-green. To endorse a 'grue view' would entail an overturning of and an a large addition to our existing natural knowledge. Goodman didn't bother (or couldn't bother) to evaluate his options in light of how objects behave in this world, as far as we know. If he had, then the problem, underdetermined as it is, is completely a non-problem, and lopsided in favor of green-stays-green. "Staying green" needs NO NEW MACHINERY. "Grue" entails all kinds of unknown heavy machinery. Grue may be right, but by the principle of parsimony, it gets sent to the back of the bus.

If I see a dog, I should predict that everything unobserved in the entire universe will be this dog, right? That's far simpler than predicting that they'll be different entities, according to your logic.
No, for the same reason as above. These kinds of objections can only get started if we throw all of our natural knowledge out the window and completely ignore it. This is only a challenge if we adopt a kind of metaphysical nihilism and suppose anything can happen at any time for no reason, and *does*. Because "being the dog when no one is looking" necessarily ramifies our models of nature in dramatic and extreme ways.

-TS

Touchstone said...

@rank sophist,
Should have responded to this, first...


You really think it's that easy to defuse the grue/bleen paradox? Wrong. There's a reason why empiricist philosophers are still struggling with it.

You know, I'll be interested to see who these empiricist philosophers are who are still struggling with it. The scientists and philsophers who would classify themselves as empiricists do not consider this a present problem, but rather an interesting and productive challenge that came up in the 1950s and serves as a kind of milestone along with way in the history of modern science and particularly with respect to theory of mind/neurology/psychology questions. Here's an example of a paper a scientist friend recently linked to for a critic who was claiming that "green" and "grue" are the same in terms of simplicity:

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:7TnnY66Tgb4J:itzhakgilboa.weebly.com/uploads/8/3/6/3/8363317/gilboa_green_simpler_grue.pdf+&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjt2JjakzlrrjwjMPh6u5QJWNV8HMIN_dkmFpYdseHhMxEF50QiJOe5cn1I015WzyBMVKTAhGv94pdDgw4o7OK8QByM14Bzjd-goxkrW7iSpv6OX6dXSQ83KpkIGGXnyvl1TnZD&sig=AHIEtbTshQKMtrd8xJjWCZNqoWAykd77Sg

His take is phrased a bit differently than mine above, but it's the same resolution: green is the simpler model when the "language bewitching" is factored out, and natural knowledge is factored in. Both the "informal parable" and the formal treatment are worth reading.

Parsimony, in this case, is impossible to define. If I observe that something is green, then why should I predict that other, unobserved things of this type are green? How am I justified in selecting this prediction over all others? How is it a smaller jump than predicting that these unobserved things are blue? It isn't. Every single prediction is an arbitrary shot in the dark. On empiricism, there is no logical reason to say that something is "green" rather than "grue", because the sense data used to prove them is identical and Ockham's razor favors neither.

It's only a shot in the dark if you do not admit natural knowledge that we already have to be considered. When you do, it's not even a question -- our models that do perform do not support spontaneous time-based color changes. That could be the way reality is, but we have no current knowledge of that. "Blue" needs no change to our theory set, does not require an annex to our performative models. Based on what we do know, then, "bleen" could very well obtain, but it would require, necessarily, an enormous, fundamental and currently unknown addition to our physical models, where "blue" requires nothing to be changed or added.

Parsimony discriminates at the theory level, on a model basis. The observations, as I said above, are underdetermined, considered in isolation.

As for the definition of "true knowledge", I'm merely describing the opposite of "mistaken knowledge", or that which does not conform to the real world. The empiricist has no way of showing that his scientific knowledge--every scrap--is not mistaken. It's impossible without an appeal to metaphysics.

Metaphysics has never been eschewed. It's a necessary foundation. Over and over, this point is made. It's just used, and minimally, where it's necessary, to get the enterprise off the ground with consistent and practical semantics, operational definitions. And the metaphysical assumption could not be more clear: if experience evinces reality, then models which perform against these veridical experiences, are by definition not mistaken, true. That's where the semantics for "true" and "false" (or "mistaken", if you want) *come from*.

-TS

Touchstone said...

Just getting back to a point I did not take time to make originally in engaging Dr. Feser's post here, this section I find problematic:

But doesn’t this entail that the world that science reveals to us could exist without God? Not for a moment. Determining that sulfuric acid has specifically this kind of effect rather than that requires no reference to God; but that sulfuric acid and anything else have any causal power at all in the first place, even for an instant, is unintelligible without God as Uncaused Cause. That roots develop in this specific way rather than that can be known without reference to God; but that any change occurs in the world at all is unintelligible without God as Unmoved Mover. It requires no theological knowledge at all to realize that eyes are “directed at” seeing, specifically, as their natural end; but that anything is directed to any natural end at all, even for an instant, is unintelligible without God as Supreme Intelligence.
I think "It requires no theological knowledge at all to realize that eyes are “directed at” seeing..." is substantially correct, but it misses the salient observation: it *does* take a bit of scientific knowledge to understand that 'directed at' is unwarranted, misplaced as a non-theological or ignorant intuition about eyes. It's not just a case of indulging anthropic language, it is a failure to grasp the observed dynamics of biology, which are that biological processes (reproduction with variable heritance) explore a search landscape incrementally, and stochastically. The 'stochastically' is what negates the basis for 'directed' at.

It's true to say that eyes have the function of seeing. But eyes, or more primitively, light sensing apparati, happen to have substantial advantages for some organisms that acquire them (incrementally). They aren't 'directed at', but, per our knowledge of bioilogy, 'happen to' be incremental changes that confer selective advantages for those organisms in that environment, which tends to favor those adaptations to become fixed in the population (and thus the baseline for new adaptations to 'happen to').

So while it's true to say it takes no knowledge of theology to react purely intuitively, as the intentionality-minded beings we are to say "those eyes are obvious caused on purposes for seeing", the readily available scientific witness is conspicuously missing. It's like that knowledge isn't there, in the post. But if we go look, that knowledge is easily available.

I understand the primary impulse to validate that intuition: why is there any causal power in the first place? etc., But the scientific models we have available to us currently are... anti-telic causes. Causation obtains, but as the result of stochastic inputs, as best science can tell.

So my question is: is this dissonance dismissed because science just 'has it all wrong' and the stochastic processes are not really stochastic, or are stochastic processes *themselves* the instruments of the telos, and "directed to see" rather reflects "the luck of the draw in the randomized card deck God established", That seems an odd way to understand "directed", but it's the only alternative I can come up with besides "Dr. Feser knows better than science that stochastic processes are not and cannot be stochastic" in evolutionary biology.

-TS

rank sophist said...

Touchstone,

You're arguing against a common strawman version of Goodman's paradox, which unfortunately appeared even in The Last Superstition. The original paradox contains no color changes: it merely contrasts observed phenomena with unobserved phenomena. The question is this: on what grounds do we suppose that the prediction "emeralds are green" is true of unobserved emeralds, when it is no less of a jump to predict that emeralds are grue? Neither is simpler because both make giant, arbitrary leaps into the abyss--and, as I said, a continued reliance on Ockham's razor shaves the world down to a single element. There's no way out for the empiricist.

In addition, Goodman counters the natural knowledge argument in his book. Simply assume that grue is the "natural" term, used by some society to discuss things that are observed to be green but are otherwise blue. "Green" is our word for things observed to be green that are otherwise green. There's no structural difference. You've got to show why "green" is logically preferable to "grue".

reighley said...

@rank sophist,

"on what grounds do we suppose that the prediction "emeralds are green" is true of unobserved emeralds"

Is it such a loss to confine ourselves strictly to observed phenomenon? A statistical argument could be constructed along the lines of "all observed emeralds have been green, therefore emeralds observed in the future will also be green".

In that case ones metaphysical assumptions would boil down to statements about the sampling process we are getting our emeralds from. The proposition that "the sampling process by which we are finding emeralds is stationary" is not much stronger than "a universe exists out there, independent of us".

Touchstone said...

@rank sophist,

You're arguing against a common strawman version of Goodman's paradox, which unfortunately appeared even in The Last Superstition. The original paradox contains no color changes: it merely contrasts observed phenomena with unobserved phenomena. The question is this: on what grounds do we suppose that the prediction "emeralds are green" is true of unobserved emeralds, when it is no less of a jump to predict that emeralds are grue?
Because our natural knowledge, not just of gems and crystals, but of all macro-objects (which anything "green" or "grue" entails) weighs against it. Every experience we have supports "inertia" for macro objects, where "inertia" means objects stay as they are unless changed by some other process.

"Grue" necessarily posits "some other process" in addition to the constancy of objects (indeed, by the laws of thermodynamics, any physical change requires a change in information, energy, and entropy.

"Green", then is the null hypothesis, the model of physical matter that we begin with, and maintain for our use currently. The model does NOT hedge on observation for macro objects. We obviously don't see any emeralds when we don't see them (by definition), but that is NOT the basis for our inference. The basis for our inference is that to make an observed emerald "not-green", or anything different than it is when observed ENTAILS new physical processes and machinery which are thus additional and superfluous to our null hypothesis, "green stays green".

Our parsimony does NOT have to even consider observation. The preference obtains without any reference to what we observe when looking or not looking for emeralds or anything else.
Neither is simpler because both make giant, arbitrary leaps into the abyss--and, as I said, a continued reliance on Ockham's razor shaves the world down to a single element. There's no way out for the empiricist.
No, like I said, one has to throw out *ALL* of our physical models to reach parity. As soon as we take heed of the principle of least energy, or the Second Law of Thermodynamics, for example, the null hypothesis (green) is simpler, because "grue" necessarily needs an additional mechanism, an unknown "extra" process to cohere (need to account for observed->unobserved->observed state changes).

If you suppose your objection, if it continues, hinges on what we know about objects when they are unobserved, you've missed the point of this solution. Our physical models optimize for stasis, and require active dynamics for state changes.

In addition, Goodman counters the natural knowledge argument in his book. Simply assume that grue is the "natural" term, used by some society to discuss things that are observed to be green but are otherwise blue. "Green" is our word for things observed to be green that are otherwise green. There's no structural difference. You've got to show why "green" is logically preferable to "grue".

The labels are not important or dispositive, here. The physical models for matter and energy are important, and these form the null hypothesis, the model that computes to (try it!) emeralds staying green, or more precisely, staying what they are, until some other force or process changes them. Changing on observation/non-observation events implies new physical dynamics which are unknown and additional to our existing model.

That may obtain. But it's not parsimonious with respect to the null hypothesis.

-TS

Anonymous said...

I understand the primary impulse to validate that intuition: why is there any causal power in the first place? etc., But the scientific models we have available to us currently are... anti-telic causes. Causation obtains, but as the result of stochastic inputs, as best science can tell.

The causes of science are not anti-telic, nor do "stochatic inputs" make them anti-telic.

One more time, since you see fit to talk about it again after avoiding the question: describe the difference between teleology according to classical theists, and teleology according to mechanist theists.

Clue 1, repeated: if your reply is "they're the same", then it illustrates you have no idea what you're talking out.

Clue 2: if you think the causes and operations found in science are "anti-telic", you again expose you don't know what you're talking about. You're confusing philosophy for science, and don't seem to realize when you've stopped doing one and started doing the other.

rank sophist said...

Is it such a loss to confine ourselves strictly to observed phenomenon? A statistical argument could be constructed along the lines of "all observed emeralds have been green, therefore emeralds observed in the future will also be green".

That completely misses the point of the paradox. A mirror argument can be presented for emeralds' grue-ness: "all observed emeralds have been grue, therefore emeralds observed in the future will also be grue".

If I see an emerald, then why should I assume that it's green in the first place, rather than grue? The sense data supporting each predicate is identical, and, in both cases, I'm making an assumption about emeralds that I haven't seen yet. Either they're going to be green or blue--and how does the evidence favor green? There's no answer.

In that case ones metaphysical assumptions would boil down to statements about the sampling process we are getting our emeralds from. The proposition that "the sampling process by which we are finding emeralds is stationary" is not much stronger than "a universe exists out there, independent of us".

Again, you've missed the point. The idea is that an infinite number of theories can be constructed using the data that we receive from the "sampling process", and that none of these theories is logically preferable to the others.

Touchstone said...

"on what grounds do we suppose that the prediction "emeralds are green" is true of unobserved emeralds"

Is it such a loss to confine ourselves strictly to observed phenomenon?

It's debilitating, epistemically. You've just eliminated induction from your reasoning kit.

A statistical argument could be constructed along the lines of "all observed emeralds have been green, therefore emeralds observed in the future will also be green".
Yes, and when we make that prediction on Tuesday, and check back on Wednesday, or a year from Wednesday, our predictions of stasis are confirmed. Every time. As Hume points out, just because the some has come up predictably for the last many millions of mornings in a row does NOT mean it must or will happen tomorrow. But certainty is for fools. As a matter of predictable patterns and probabilities, our models work, and are useful, and rely crucial on induction. Modern science is predicated on metaphysical uniformities. In order to make "grue" reach parity with "green" we must disregard *all* of our accumulated natural models that work.


In that case ones metaphysical assumptions would boil down to statements about the sampling process we are getting our emeralds from. The proposition that "the sampling process by which we are finding emeralds is stationary" is not much stronger than "a universe exists out there, independent of us".

Perhaps not, but it's plenty strong as a practical commitment, and no matter what you feel about the strength of that, "grue" is distinctly unparsimonious with respect to "green".

-TS

Touchstone said...

@anonymous,


Clue 2: if you think the causes and operations found in science are "anti-telic", you again expose you don't know what you're talking about. You're confusing philosophy for science, and don't seem to realize when you've stopped doing one and started doing the other.


I believe I've pointed out, repeatedly now, that science *is* philosophy. One is doing philosophy when one is doing science, necessarily. Inside of philosophy, I've discussed at some length the the metaphysical commitments needed to get science off the ground ontologically and epistemologically. You can't do *any* science without also doing the metaphysics.

-TS

Anonymous said...

I believe I've pointed out, repeatedly now, that science *is* philosophy.

Not in the relevant sense.

I point out, one more time, your absolute silence - throughout this entire thread - on question one. So I will continue to repeat it, so you can continue to duck it, which in turn continues to expose your assertions for what they are: assertions, without support.

The causes of science are not anti-telic, nor do "stochatic inputs" make them anti-telic.

One more time, since you see fit to talk about it again after avoiding the question: describe the difference between teleology according to classical theists, and teleology according to mechanist theists.

Clue 1, repeated: if your reply is "they're the same", then it illustrates you have no idea what you're talking out.

Clue 2: if you think the causes and operations found in science are "anti-telic", you again expose you don't know what you're talking about. You're confusing philosophy for science, and don't seem to realize when you've stopped doing one and started doing the other.

rank sophist said...

Because our natural knowledge, not just of gems and crystals, but of all macro-objects (which anything "green" or "grue" entails) weighs against it. Every experience we have supports "inertia" for macro objects, where "inertia" means objects stay as they are unless changed by some other process.

"Grue" necessarily posits "some other process" in addition to the constancy of objects (indeed, by the laws of thermodynamics, any physical change requires a change in information, energy, and entropy.


You seem to be extremely confused about what I'm saying here. I am not saying that emeralds will ever change, or that they have ever changed. To say that something is "grue" is to say that I have observed it being green, and that other, unobserved things of this type are blue. That's it. There's no change whatsoever; no extra process. Emeralds that I haven't seen before a certain time (perhaps 10 minutes from now) always have been and always will be blue. Likewise, the statement "emeralds are green" supposes that all emeralds I haven't seen before a certain time always have been and always will be green. But how is there more evidence for this claim than there is for the statement "emeralds are grue"?

"Green", then is the null hypothesis, the model of physical matter that we begin with, and maintain for our use currently. The model does NOT hedge on observation for macro objects. We obviously don't see any emeralds when we don't see them (by definition), but that is NOT the basis for our inference. The basis for our inference is that to make an observed emerald "not-green", or anything different than it is when observed ENTAILS new physical processes and machinery which are thus additional and superfluous to our null hypothesis, "green stays green".

Your inference is a prediction of future findings based on current ones. The paradox is that you cannot define what the current ones are, because an infinite number of incompatible hypotheses may be brought forward to explain them--none of which is logically preferable to the others. That's all there is to it.

Touchstone said...


You seem to be extremely confused about what I'm saying here. I am not saying that emeralds will ever change, or that they have ever changed. To say that something is "grue" is to say that I have observed it being green, and that other, unobserved things of this type are blue. That's it. There's no change whatsoever; no extra process. Emeralds that I haven't seen before a certain time (perhaps 10 minutes from now) always have been and always will be blue. Likewise, the statement "emeralds are green" supposes that all emeralds I haven't seen before a certain time always have been and always will be green. But how is there more evidence for this claim than there is for the statement "emeralds are grue"?

There's not more evidence. Evidentially, the two hypotheses (H-Green and H-Grue) are the same -- that what is meant when I say they are 'under-determined'. Empirically, there is no discerning be H-Green and H-Grue.

The distinction, and therefore the parsimony for H-Green does not come from observing emeralds. Again, I repeat: observation of emeralds is not a discriminating factor here -- that's a design feature of Goodman's challenge.

Instead, you now have two physical models that compete: M-Green and M-Grue. M-Grue is a superset of M-Green, because it has to account, as a matter of physical processes and dynamics, for everything M-Green models, PLUS this new, additional dynamic: emeralds changing from green to blue at point in time t, or set of points in time T. Or, change your property from 'color' to any other attribute you like -- doesn't matter.

M-Grue still has to account for the change, change which does NOT need to be accounted for in M-Green, because there is no change to be accounted for in that hypothesis (emeralds that were green, are green, and will stay green).

Your "10 minutes from now" event *is* an event, and that makes all the difference. In M-Green, there is no need to account for this event, because it's not postulated. M-Grue must account for this event, which makes it "M-Green plus new and unknown dynamics to account for event E which was 10 minutes hence from the posting time of rank sophist's post".

M-Grue is thus necessarily less economical. It may be more correct. Both M-Grue and M-Green operate from the EXACT same observations about emeralds. But M-Grue has to "do more work", and explain more complex dynamics, and with processes or laws/forces we are not aware of at this time. So it loses, cleanly and clearly, as a matter of parsimony.

-TS

Touchstone said...

Your inference is a prediction of future findings based on current ones. The paradox is that you cannot define what the current ones are, because an infinite number of incompatible hypotheses may be brought forward to explain them--none of which is logically preferable to the others. That's all there is to it.

If one accepts the value of economy, as scientists do, the various hypotheses are NOT logically the same. If we apply the principle of parsimony, the heuristic science applies where applicable, the models that compete are NOT equivalent or at parity, just as shown in my previous post.

The only way "none of which is logically preferable to the others" applies is if we ignore all of our natural knowledge, and do not consider the models that support and explain our experiences.

This means Goodman really has discovered a powerful paradox in other possible worlds where the physics are totally inscrutable and anything can and does happen for any reason, any time.

That is very much a problem in such a world. But our world is not like that, if we believe it is real and that our experiences reflect its reality to some significant extant. Once we make that leap, the various hypotheses all have different and varying implications as a matter of physics. Some are totally implausible, others (like Grue), just entail a whole mess of new physical dyanamics and processes.

And this sorts them for the mind that can apply parsimony.

-TS

rank sophist said...

Your "10 minutes from now" event *is* an event, and that makes all the difference. In M-Green, there is no need to account for this event, because it's not postulated. M-Grue must account for this event, which makes it "M-Green plus new and unknown dynamics to account for event E which was 10 minutes hence from the posting time of rank sophist's post".

Again, you're talking about a distorted version of Goodman's original argument. The article you linked earlier did it as well--as did Feser's book The Last Superstition. Many, many people use this inferior version. However, it is not the one I'm using.

There is no event. There is no change. Nothing happens. Versions of the paradox that contain a change are not correct representations of the original argument. They confuse Goodman's argument with Hume's problem of induction, which Goodman himself characterized as a weaker and largely unrelated issue.

Here's the deal. If I say that emeralds are green, I'm talking about two things. One, I'm saying that an emerald I'm observing is a certain color. Two, I'm saying that other emeralds I have not yet observed will be a certain color. The question is how the first can help us predict the second. Goodman says that it can't. This is because the first step is compatible with an infinite number of contradictory second steps, and no empiricist logical principle can show us how one of them is better than the others. For this reason, it makes perfect sense to suppose that the next emerald I see will be blue, or teal, or brown. Again, no change is involved--this next emerald was always blue, teal or brown.

M-Grue is thus necessarily less economical. It may be more correct. Both M-Grue and M-Green operate from the EXACT same observations about emeralds. But M-Grue has to "do more work", and explain more complex dynamics, and with processes or laws/forces we are not aware of at this time. So it loses, cleanly and clearly, as a matter of parsimony.

Again, this is only the case if you're arguing against a distorted interpretation of Goodman's argument. I have no idea why this version is so common, but it creates a lot of confusion in debates like these. Hopefully, I've finally cleared this up.

Sobieski said...

@Touchstone

Sorry for the length (to everyone) in advance.

Just so as to avoid unnecessary dancing, a Thomist on an email loop I've been on for years recently pointed out, in a similar discussion that per A-T, the noumenon can be grasped directly. When pressed, that is something like asserting "I just know", he grants. That isn't to put words in your mouth, but if you have non-phenomenal, direct access to the noumenon, how does this get established and shown, objectively, in your view?

That, I think, would satisfy my interest in what is being used to judge the 'true-ness' of my performative-models-are-true epistemology. I can't see any way to apply that except as a matter of subjective conviction or intuition, so that's why I'm asking. From what you've said, there must be some kind of objective aspect to this that I'm missing.


To recap your view as I understand it, what makes something "true" for you is that one's experience (phenomena) fit mind-developed, mind-dependent models. When a model fails given a new datum, then that model is revised or a new one is developed. And the search for truth goes on. If correct, that account of truth may or may not be problematic in the sense that if you claim our observations are truly informed by reality (i.e., that they place us in contact with reality or the things in reality), then you are a realist as regards truth like any other A-T. If you make no such claim or claim that we only know our ideas or that our models validate our experience, then there is a problem, I think, because truth would ultimately be mind-dependent or mind-derived instead of grounded first in reality.

Starting with Descartes, the (influential) modern philosophers held that we know our ideas primarily. (That may not be your view, but I think it is helpful background to the discussion.) Descartes may say this because he employs his methodical doubt to eliminate all knowledge, except for "I think, therefore I am," which he holds is the unassailable truth upon which he can build his new philosophy. So he starts from the mind/self working out, unlike Aristotle who starts from world working in. Descartes further holds that ideas are innate, and that we can trust that they correspond to what is in reality because God guarantees it to be so. As the God explanation was done away with later, the problem arose as to how we justify that our knowledge is really knowledge of the world and not just a product of the mind. Those who followed Descartes, whether Empiricist or Rationalist, accepted his assumption as regards ideas. The Empiricists are called such because they thought the mind was initially a blank slate (like Aristotle) and because they didn't reject sense experience as the starting point of knowledge. But they were still idealists insofar as they held ideas are what is known primarily. So again, in terms of your view regarding truth, I think it depends on where you fall on this matter, idealist or realist.

(continued...)

Sobieski said...

(...continued)

As regards the A-T view of things, you ask what is the criterion that establishes this view of truth (i.e., as a correspondence to what is in reality vs. a model which correlates our experiences and is "true" insofar as it works)? I think you understand what truth means on the A-T view, but are now asking what is the justification. Like your Thomist friend said, there is no proof in the sense of a demonstration resulting in a conclusion. So how can one hold such a view? It seems to me there are at least three ways: 1) on faith as, for example, when theology proceeds from certain propositions believed on the authority of God revealing; 2) by positing it without proof as, for example, is done in certain mathematical disciplines (e.g., Euclidean geometry); or 3) by positing them as self-evident. (1) is not considered science in the contemporary sense or philosophy. It seems to me that you are holding something akin to (2) with performative models justifying themselves on the basis of working (meta-science claim that science "bootstraps" itself). A-T holds for (3).

Knowledge arising from sense experience for Aristotle is both true and self-evident, much in the same way that the principle of non-contradiction (PNC) or whole-part relationship is self-evident once the constituent concepts are understood. For example, once you know the ideas "whole" and "part," the proposition "the whole is greater than the part" is known self-evidently. Such truths cannot be proven, but are arrived at by other means. This is where the intellect comes in. For Aristotle, there are three acts of the intellect: 1) intellectus / nous / "simple apprehension", which is the intellect's ability to grasp the commonality or nature or one-in-the-many among a group of singulars (after a process of induction from them), 2) proposition formation / definition / judgment and 3) reasoning, where we move from premises to conclusions (well or ill, depending on the rules of logic).

Ultimatley, the first principles of reason are derived from the first act of the intellect. As to their veracity or the veracity of sense experience, they are defended by means of dialectics, which in this case entails showing that it is absurd to deny them or at least that objections are not definitive. Given this background, then, the problem for moderns is to explain how we get outside of the mind, whereas the common criticism of the A-T view is that it is "naive" because it assumes our senses and intellect just know reality. IMO, it is not naive, however, because means for justification are employed (viz., the reductio ad absurdam), just not demonstrative argumentation. Further, it is evident that not all truths can be demonstrated because there can't be an infinite regress in conclusions to premises. Otherwise, we could never have knowledge of anything. So first principles are provided by simple apprehension, where we get our ideas to begin with, and justified by dialectics. (The latter is another type of reasoning, which Aristotle employs in his scientific works to review the opinions of his predecessor and lay down his own priciples; he discusses dialectics in the Topics.)

Sobieski said...

(continued...)

On the empiricist view, however, there is no intellectual faculty in the A-T sense as I read them. I recall both Locke and Hume stating ideas as something akin to images in the A-T view (i.e., singular representations in the mind). When the intellect drops out of the picture, then there can be no universal or necessary knowledge. The best that one can obtain is probable knowledge. It seems to me the requirement in modern scientific method for falsifiability was in part due to this epistemological move. How can one make a universal claim, if there can be some datum (singular thing, event, etc.) that may come along to invalidate it? Further, on the empiricist view, there can be no knowledge of causes because this is something known by the intellect (cf. Smith and Joad citations in an earlier post). Thus, we create laws which account for regularities in nature, but there is no intrinsic connection between cause and effect, which ultimately leads to skepticism. After Hume, Kant responds by saying our minds provide the form of our experience. So science is kind of a discovery of the laws which mind gives to phenomena arising from the unknownable noumena.

Again, a scientist may engage in his profession regardless of these philosophical musings, but if he seeks to ground his views, ultimately he has to move up the chain to some sort of meta-science (the contents of which will differ by school of thought). Maybe you are not beholden to the empiricist "metaphysic," but to the method associated with it. The issue of truth being falsifiable and always revisable is not necessarily a problem in A-T philosophy as I see it, given proper qualifications. If you want to say that the particular method of a science involves modeling, falsification, revision, etc. that is fine. If you want to universalize this method for all knowledge or "non-vacuous" science, then there is a problem because an A-T adherent would argue that there are different degrees of certainty and different methods in various sciences due to variability of subject-matter. The moderns, starting with Descartes, were looking for a universal method, but Aristotle holds that this is not possible. The general method of science is logic, but each science has a proper method suited to its subject-matter. That's why I said if your method is properly situated in the heirarchy of A-T sciences and used in a science where the subject-matter is more remote from common sense experience, applies mathematical models to nature, entails highly contrived experiments, sophisticated lab equipment, etc., it is probably unobjectionable. An analog in the ancient world would be the provisional nature regarding theories of the relationship between the earth and the sun in which Ptolemy argued for geocentrism and Aristarchus argued for heliocentrism. A-T's had no problem saying such provisional theories are revisable upon finding new data. That being said, however, it does not mean the general principles of nature considered in the philosophy of nature are falsifiable or open for revision. They proceed from common sense experience available to all, are thus more certain, etc. These principles may seem worthless in some quarters by today's standards, but again, the ancients had different concerns. Aristotle was concerned to explain the reality of change we experience against Parmenides' view that it was an illusion. Most scientists today are not interested in giving an account or definition of change, and just presume it exists as they take a quantificational approach to nature.

Sobieski said...

(continued...)

Finally, while there are problematic areas (e.g., theories regarding evolution or quantum mechanics), I don't think A-T philosophy per se opposes your method or modern science in general, given sufficient qualifications. There may have to be some conceptual tweaking or rethinking of things, but as Wallace argues, A-T philosophy can provide a realist framework in which to situate and compliment modern science. That's why I would recommend his book as I don't think it is an either-or proposition.

I hope that answers your questions and that I have accurately expressed the A-T view of things. As to falsifiability, a good book on Aristotelian formal and material logic would explain how falsity, necessity or contingency is manifested in the various forms and types of demonstration.

Touchstone said...

@rank sophist,


There is no event. There is no change. Nothing happens. Versions of the paradox that contain a change are not correct representations of the original argument. They confuse Goodman's argument with Hume's problem of induction, which Goodman himself characterized as a weaker and largely unrelated issue.

Hmm, as you are describing it here, it sounds like it is stripped down to being just Hume's induction problem.

But, in any case, I'm having trouble looking this versino you are talking about online. Do you have a link to the version you consider authoritative here? I'd like to read that as was authoritatively (in your view) presented.

Thanks for all the efforts to clarify.

-TS

Touchstone said...

@sobieski,



As regards the A-T view of things, you ask what is the criterion that establishes this view of truth (i.e., as a correspondence to what is in reality vs. a model which correlates our experiences and is "true" insofar as it works)? I think you understand what truth means on the A-T view, but are now asking what is the justification. Like your Thomist friend said, there is no proof in the sense of a demonstration resulting in a conclusion. So how can one hold such a view? It seems to me there are at least three ways: 1) on faith as, for example, when theology proceeds from certain propositions believed on the authority of God revealing; 2) by positing it without proof as, for example, is done in certain mathematical disciplines (e.g., Euclidean geometry); or 3) by positing them as self-evident. (1) is not considered science in the contemporary sense or philosophy. It seems to me that you are holding something akin to (2) with performative models justifying themselves on the basis of working (meta-science claim that science "bootstraps" itself). A-T holds for (3).


Just pulling this out quickly to say that I've read your group of recent posts, find them clear, direct and on point, and especially so in this paragraph. This is the core of what I was asking for, and appreciate getting it, along with all the background.

More to say, but have to be up and getting to work in a few short hours, so will have push any comments I have in response to tomoorow.

We may not agree, but I can appreciate clear, lucid treatments wherever I might find them.

-TS

rank sophist said...

Touchstone,

The simplest source is the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grue_and_bleen

I also recommend the Stanford article: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/relativism/supplement4.html

Hmm, as you are describing it here, it sounds like it is stripped down to being just Hume's induction problem.

Hume's problem of induction is that we can never know if something that has been true up until now will remain true. It's a certainty issue. However, it's possible to bite the bullet and just assume that things will remain the same, because there's a high probability that they will. It's possible that they'll change, but it's a chance in a million. From this, you can assume that emeralds won't change from green to blue, because there's a low probability of that happening judging by past data.

Goodman's paradox attacks this second assumption. The data we use to show that emeralds are probably green is compatible with infinitely many, equally plausible theories. In other words, Goodman believes that things will remain as they always have been, contra Hume; but he also tells us that we cannot define what "the way things have always been" actually means. This is the result of the disconnect between observed ("I perceive this color") and unobserved ("I expect to perceive this color") phenomena. Green is just as likely to have been grue; gravity is just as likely to have been pievity; and so forth. Basically, a scientist could use any set of observations to prove any theory--no matter how ridiculous.

Goodman's paradox is a lot like Kripkenstein's "quus" paradox, in that sense.

reighley said...

@rank sophist,
I am definitely missing some point about Goodman's paradox. I suppose in the worst case we will have to hash out details, but it seems to me that all versions of the paradox suffer from a common weakness.

Regardless of any of the details, it seems to me that there is good reason to believe that any definition which involves a specific future time should be discarded.

For one thing, it assumes that whatever process is feeding us phenomenon is not stationary. This places an accident of our perception, the time at which we are making our observations, at the center of our account of nature. In fact, if we want to believe that the world is a real thing independent of us we should prefer to leave out features which place us at the center of it.

There is also the problem that all the other parts of the world seem to be symmetric with respect to time translation. If emeralds have a "D-day" with respect to their color, we might expect other objects and other properties to have D-days as well. Yet none of them have ever come to pass! If they exist they are all in the future.

Finally a statement about a future time is somewhat counterfactual. I might want to throw out "If it is after 2020, I expect to be finding blue emeralds" just because it is not after 2020.

I think a great deal of value can be gained simply by giving an account of patterns in the finite sample of observed phenomenon. Life requires us to gamble on future observed phenomenon, but it is always and ever will be gambling. The defining feature of the future is, after all, that we don't know what happens then.

rank sophist said...

Regardless of any of the details, it seems to me that there is good reason to believe that any definition which involves a specific future time should be discarded.

Think of it this way.

1. The predicate "green" applies to emeralds if they are observed to be green before time t and also if they are green but not observed before that time.

2. The predicate "grue" applies to emeralds if they are observed to be green before time t and also if they are blue but not observed before that time.

Think of t as just soon enough that you have time to perceive a single emerald and make a prediction about the next emerald.

Eduardo said...

Looks like Goodman's paradox is pretty much the conclusion you would come to have if you did research like I said before, if you jumo from assumption to assumtion you will coime to contradictory models and interpretations of data, and if you were to get them all in the bag you would be incapable of predicting anything *You have no idea what you have right now.*

In the case of a Method-centric, non-metaphysical epistemology, you seem to be stuck with the idea you either don't know what there is in the world, because you have no reason to believe you do. Or you believe you know what your ideas are ... don't know if that is compatible with knowing extra-mind reality

rank sophist said...

One last link about grue: http://stephanhartmann.org/HHL10_Schwartz.pdf. This is the best one. Go to page 5 for discussion of the New Riddle.

reighley said...

@rank sophist,

The point I am trying to make is that the statement "if they are observed to be green before time t and also if they are green but not observed before time t" can be simplified by the assumption (which I am begging, I think we all share) that if an emerald is observed to be green then it is green. So this becomes

"(if they are observed to be green before time t and they are green) or (if they are not observed to be green before time t and they are green)"

I can factor out a term to

"(if they are green) and (if they are observed to be green before time t or if they have not been observed to be green before time t)"

and then the second term vanishes completely because of the excluded middle.

so the predicate green applies to emeralds if they are green. And the critical time t vanishes completely.

However I can't try a similar trick with "grue" because I would need to factor out a term "they are blue" by invoking the principle that an emerald is blue if it is observed to be green. So the critical time remains.

By my lights, the presence of a fixed time in the definition of this predicate is very prejudicial. I cannot see how it can be removed.

Do you not also find it to be suspicious?

rank sophist said...

reighley,

If I am going to make any kind of inductive inference along the lines of "emeralds are green", then the time t cannot be excluded. This is because t represents what I expect to observe next--after I have taken in all the relevant data. In other words, "what I expect to see after t" is an inductive leap in the case of both green and grue emeralds.

Consider this paragraph from the last link I posted:

"To explain this riddle, Goodman introduces the predicate "grue". The definition of "grue" is: x is grue = x is examined before (a future time) t and is green, or not so examined (before t) and is blue. Suppose again that all emeralds examined before t (e.g. emeralds 1-999) are observed to be green. Then they will each be grue as well. The hypotheses "All emeralds are green." and "All emeralds are grue." have equal support, 999 positive instances. Yet their predictions about the color of emeralds examined after t conflict. Goodman does not deny that the evidence warrants projecting the green-hypothesis and not the grue-hypothesis. The New Riddle of Induction is to explain and justify the choice. Why do we predict that emeralds that will be examined after t are green rather than blue, and what warrants our doing so?" (emphasis added)

There aren't any solutions for the empiricist. If you restrict yourself to only what you are currently seeing, then (as Touchstone said earlier) you throw induction out the window and science with it. Conversely, if you accept Goodman's paradox, then there is no way to rationally justify one prediction over another--and science again ceases to exist.

Goodman's own solution is a skeptical one: use the predicate that has become culturally embedded. It's the same solution that Kripke offers to the "quus" paradox. Basically, the idea is that there is no logical way to explain our choices or concepts, so we just continue to do things in the way that they have always been done. It's destructive and completely unsatisfactory. In essence, it forces us to accept total relativism.

Touchstone said...

@reighley,

By my lights, the presence of a fixed time in the definition of this predicate is very prejudicial. I cannot see how it can be removed.

I think the time factor in Goodman's riddles is and has been a very poor design choice in articulating the problem. Have a look at this discussion of Goodman's Paradox by Taner Edis from Truman State University:

http://edis.sites.truman.edu/blogs.dir/117/files/2012/03/goodman.pdf

Specifically, take a look at his "spatial version" of the problem. This rendering of the problem appears to be consistent with the basic thrust of Goodman's own formulation, but it totally removes the time t issue, which I think is just a confounding element, here.

Or maybe not. While Edis' "spatial version" of the riddle ("norks") eliminates the confusion of time dynamics, it seems to me at first and second reading to reduce the problem to Hume's problem of induction. I understand that Schwarz, linked here by rank sophist, holds that there is an additional factor here beyond Hume's insight from Goodman, but haven't read that carefully enough pull it out of there.

In any case, Edis' formulation is quite useful in getting past the time complications in thinking about this issue.

-TS

Touchstone said...

@sobieski,

As regards the A-T view of things, you ask what is the criterion that establishes this view of truth (i.e., as a correspondence to what is in reality vs. a model which correlates our experiences and is "true" insofar as it works)? I think you understand what truth means on the A-T view, but are now asking what is the justification. Like your Thomist friend said, there is no proof in the sense of a demonstration resulting in a conclusion. So how can one hold such a view? It seems to me there are at least three ways: 1) on faith as, for example, when theology proceeds from certain propositions believed on the authority of God revealing; 2) by positing it without proof as, for example, is done in certain mathematical disciplines (e.g., Euclidean geometry); or 3) by positing them as self-evident. (1) is not considered science in the contemporary sense or philosophy. It seems to me that you are holding something akin to (2) with performative models justifying themselves on the basis of working (meta-science claim that science "bootstraps" itself). A-T holds for (3).
This is a good paragraph, thanks. Would you say that your (3) here, then, underwrites your assessment of the 'truthiness' of my scientific conclusions/knowledge (or, your own scientific conclusions, too)?

This paragraph makes sense on its own, but when I try to apply it to my question ("what standard do you apply to the truth claims of scientific epistemology"), it seems like you are point to (3), which seems an appeal to self-evidence. That doesn't sound like what you'd claim though. Is it?

Later, you say:

That's why I said if your method is properly situated in the heirarchy of A-T sciences and used in a science where the subject-matter is more remote from common sense experience, applies mathematical models to nature, entails highly contrived experiments, sophisticated lab equipment, etc., it is probably unobjectionable. An analog in the ancient world would be the provisional nature regarding theories of the relationship between the earth and the sun in which Ptolemy argued for geocentrism and Aristarchus argued for heliocentrism. A-T's had no problem saying such provisional theories are revisable upon finding new data. That being said, however, it does not mean the general principles of nature considered in the philosophy of nature are falsifiable or open for revision. They proceed from common sense experience available to all, are thus more certain, etc.

This seems to confirm (3) as I understood it, though, as I interpret the primacy of "common sense" there as being an exercise in self-evidence.

To put a point on it, then, I understand the "not revisable" ideas of, say, axioms of causality ('a cause produces a similitude') to be invincible due to (3), an appeal to common sense or a sense of self-evidence. Is *that* what would be judging the merits of 'true' for any scientific model that (ostensibly) undermined cause->effect similitudes as a fact of nature?

Thanks,

-TS

reighley said...

"I think the time factor in Goodman's riddles is and has been a very poor design choice in articulating the problem."

Perhaps the decision to call the parameter "time" has lent to confusion, but it doesn't really change things much if you call it "space". In fact it could be any order on the possible data. The parameter is simply an index on the observations.

The core problem is that we are examining the data in some order. It is perhaps very rough but it permits at least to distinguish what we have sampled already from what we are drawing conclusions about.

It is very striking that this parameter shows up explicitly in our model of the world. Grue/bleen is a very different model than green/blue for this reason. Any such parameter like that would be suspect. It was supposed to be an arbitrary index of the sample, not show up in our theory as an independent variable.

Touchstone said...

@rank sophist,

Looking at the Schwarz PDF at lunch, I think Schwarz only has a point on Goodman's Paradox in terms of being an additional problem to Hume's if, as I was cautioning against, we throw science and natural knowledge out the window.

If you haven't read the Taner Edis piece I linked to above, I recommend it, as it gets beyond the time factor distraction. In his spatial rendering of the problem, using "norks", the problem is much more clear; but it looks like Humean concerns about induction, I say, even on a third pass, now.

Here's an illustration from the Schwarz paper you linked to:

Figure 1.

In that, I think the basic problem is distilled as much as it can be. Why X and not Y or Z.

Well, in that case, I return to my original position, which I now think was prescient: scientific knowledge to the rescue!

Why X over Y or Z? Our knowledge of nature provides a strong consilience of evidence that supports the principles of economy and conservation. X is the economical option, and thus the preferred on, just by inference from everything else we have come to know about nature.

This does not mean Y or Z cannot obtain. Either of them or an infinite number of other possible wiggles can fit the three data points. Z might be the right, actual dynamic. But our experience with natural knowledge strongly indicates X, as X is how nature is perceived to work, generally, across a whole mess of dynamics and processes.

Conservation and economy are well-attested meta-principles of natural law. That being the case, insofar as we consider "grue" a natural hypothesis, it gets a back set on the bus, as "Z" in the figure, and "green" gets the node, by the principle of parsimony. Green, as a physical hypothesis, is the more economical, and hews closer to what we have observed over and over about nature. X "looks like nature".

That's provisional; parsimony is not deductive, but a heuristic we have found effective and performative. It's not fool-proof, but it's plenty warrant to prefer "green" over "grue", or "X" over "Z".

Without deferring to scientific knowledge, and empirical feedback from nature, though, I will agree with you the metaphysician, as a metaphysician, or the analytic philosopher as an analytic philosopher is lost, paralyzed by the paradox.

-TS

Touchstone said...

Hmm, that link apparently wasn't right for the image.

The URL is:

http://i50.tinypic.com/e0kdhk.jpg

-TS

rank sophist said...

If you haven't read the Taner Edis piece I linked to above, I recommend it, as it gets beyond the time factor distraction. In his spatial rendering of the problem, using "norks", the problem is much more clear; but it looks like Humean concerns about induction, I say, even on a third pass, now.

Edis appears to feel the need to redefine the paradox because he is attacking the distorted popular version, in which grue emeralds change color after a certain time. How these papers get published is beyond me. In any case, the new version does help newcomers conceptualize the problem, even though it presents a weaker argument than the original paradox.

As any pollster knows, almost all samples of this size are representative of the population; a randomly selected sample is very likely to reflect the characteristics of the whole.

It is here where the author's strawman version of Goodman's paradox shows its weakness. Grue has always been defined in terms of "observed" and "unobserved" at certain times, and never in terms of the probability that we will find emeralds of a certain color before t. A proper frequentist calculation would take into account that, if emeralds are grue, then all emeralds we find before t will be green, and the first emerald we find after t will be blue. Likewise, if emeralds are green, then all emeralds we find before t will be green, and the first emerald we find after t will be green. There is no asymmetry here.

In Edis's terms: if "norks" are grue, then all norks we find during our robot data sampling over the next ten minutes will be green--and the first one found in the eleventh minute will be blue. In other words, we are testing for something that we will find after taking the sample. That's the entire point of the original paradox, and so Edis's frequentist objection fails.

reighley said...

@rank sophist

"if emeralds are grue, then all emeralds we find before t will be green, and the first emerald we find after t will be blue. Likewise, if emeralds are green, then all emeralds we find before t will be green, and the first emerald we find after t will be green. There is no asymmetry here."

The asymmetry looks pretty glaring to me.

rank sophist said...

Why X over Y or Z? Our knowledge of nature provides a strong consilience of evidence that supports the principles of economy and conservation. X is the economical option, and thus the preferred on, just by inference from everything else we have come to know about nature.

How is it more parsimonious to suppose that one arbitrary prediction about "after t" is simpler than the other arbitrary predictions? Remember the critical two-stage distinction in inductive inference. The paradox is that no amount of data from the first stage ("before t") helps us make even the most general prediction about the second stage ("after t"). Nothing gets us from "observed emeralds are a certain color" to "unobserved emeralds are a certain color" when you factor in the t element, because all probability calculations based on sample size end up back at square one--as I believe I showed above.

Conservation and economy are well-attested meta-principles of natural law. That being the case, insofar as we consider "grue" a natural hypothesis, it gets a back set on the bus, as "Z" in the figure, and "green" gets the node, by the principle of parsimony. Green, as a physical hypothesis, is the more economical, and hews closer to what we have observed over and over about nature. X "looks like nature".

What does nature "look like", though? Do current samples look green and future samples blue? Or do current samples look green and future samples green?

Touchstone said...

@rank sophist

How is it more parsimonious to suppose that one arbitrary prediction about "after t" is simpler than the other arbitrary predictions?

Let's just use Figure 1 from Schwarz, to keep things simple. On Figure 1, if we understand X, Y, Z to be possible plots of, say, velocity, then on X, Y, and Z, we do not have "equally arbitrary" hypotheses. Y and Z hypothesize wild fluctuations in velocity, which, incorporating our background knowledge, are expensive in terms of energy and force, compared to X.

X stands clearly ahead of both Y and Z if what is being measured is velocity and we have reason to believe that our objects of observation are natural objects in our world.

Make it super simple: assume that X, Y, and Z are possible plots of hypotheses we might make from measurements of a basketball rolling down an inclined surface, against time. The three measurements are what they are, and we agree that X, Y, and Z all satisfy the observational requirements.

But it takes about 10 seconds to work out the energy problems. X is a natural fit against natural physics in the observational context. Y and Z both require massive and inexplicable changes in velocity. They imply something additional to satisfy the "crazy curves" they imagine.

Our background information, the models we have in hand for physics, *predicts*, without any additional or ad-hoc machinery, a nice, even rise in velocity, until the ball reaches some terminal velocity (due to friction, wind resistance, etc.).

WITHOUT Physics, X, Y an Z are all at perfect parity. There is no reason to prefer short, straight line solutions without physics. But with our natural knowledge, for the "nork" rolling down the incline, X is clearly favored, because we can account for X much more economically than Y or Z.

Taner makes this point regarding "norks". In a "sci-fi" context, where we have little or no background info on "norks", we cannot place much weight behind our preference for norks being green on the other side of the mountains, like they are on this (the observed) side.

But that's a function of our background knowledge. The more we can supply as natural knowledge on background, the more easily we apply parsimony as the discriminating principle between competing hypotheses that are otherwise empirically indeterminate.


Remember the critical two-stage distinction in inductive inference. The paradox is that no amount of data from the first stage ("before t") helps us make even the most general prediction about the second stage ("after t"). Nothing gets us from "observed emeralds are a certain color" to "unobserved emeralds are a certain color" when you factor in the t element, because all probability calculations based on sample size end up back at square one--as I believe I showed above.

Yeah, I think the part that is not getting through is that natural knowledge as background knowledge can and should break what otherwise looks like an n-way tie. To the extent our observations are about something natural (and emeralds are really a good choice in terms of Goodman undermining himself, as we have a lot of background knowledge to apply to emeralds in terms of parsimony), scientific knowledge affords us background knowledge that will distinguish X (or the most consonant hypothesis) from all the other possibilities.

If we can agree on the preferability of X in the scenario above with basketballs rolling down a plane, I think we have gotten somewhere.

-TS

rank sophist said...

Touchstone,

The graph is not meant to be taken literally. The X line is not actually meant to be "straight" as opposed to "crooked"--that is only for purposes of illustration, so that the lines can be distinguished.

Anyway, physics can be grue-ified just as much as any other concept--as I did earlier with "pievity". I believe Schwarz says as much as well. So appealing to such calculations to say that X is simpler merely relocates the problem to a higher level, and in a sense begs the question. Let me demonstrate. Physics are in fact physics*, which behave like physics when observed before time t, but which do not behave like physics when not observed before t. How then do we decide whether we are observing physics or physics*? This throws the basketball's velocity into as much doubt as the color of the emeralds.

David T said...

TS,

I've gone back through your comments and noticed you refer regularly to "natural knowledge." I'm not sure what you mean by this, but it's seem central to your views. Could you explicate what you mean by it?

rank sophist said...

In addition, remember that Edis's discussion of background information is only relevant to his version of Goodman's paradox, which lacks the critical "time t" element. Against this version, it is possible to use frequentist probability to disprove grue-ness--because, sans t, it becomes possible to find blue emeralds during the data-gathering stage. In Goodman's version, blue emeralds appear only after the data-gathering stage is over.

The original paradox mirrors real inductive practice, which must reason from now to after. That is, we reason from the information we have at this second to information we will receive in the next second. Edis's version--and, as a result, his entire case--is fatally flawed because of the omission of t.

Touchstone said...

@David T,

I've gone back through your comments and noticed you refer regularly to "natural knowledge." I'm not sure what you mean by this, but it's seem central to your views. Could you explicate what you mean by it?
Performative models. Performative models that interlock; chemistry build upon, and does not change or violate the fundamental physics underneath it, for example.

Natural knowledge is the network of connected (and stacked) models that explain phenomena, make novel predictions for new and various new phenomena, are falsifiable, and economical with respect to other models.

We can, for example, predict the time it takes for a baseball to drop to the ground from a given position. We can throw the ball every which way, and for any given trajectory, and knowledge of the ground surrounding, predict where it will land and when. That model -- the algorithm that produces those predictions -- is natural knowledge.

-TS

Touchstone said...


Anyway, physics can be grue-ified just as much as any other concept--as I did earlier with "pievity". I believe Schwarz says as much as well. So appealing to such calculations to say that X is simpler merely relocates the problem to a higher level, and in a sense begs the question. Let me demonstrate. Physics are in fact physics*, which behave like physics when observed before time t, but which do not behave like physics when not observed before t. How then do we decide whether we are observing physics or physics*? This throws the basketball's velocity into as much doubt as the color of the emeralds.

Oy, now we are going backwards. Positing time t automatically causes physics* to forfeit the match due to parsimony. Physics* requires another moving part that physics doesn't.

If you take Figure 1 "literally", as measurements of a basketball rolling down a plane, do you understand:

a) why X is more economical from an energy conservation perspective.
b) given a) why X fits with our existing body of knowledge about bodies in motion than Y or Z.

If that's not problematic for you, we are almost there, I think.

-TS

David T said...

TS,

We can, for example, predict the time it takes for a baseball to drop to the ground from a given position. We can throw the ball every which way, and for any given trajectory, and knowledge of the ground surrounding, predict where it will land and when. That model -- the algorithm that produces those predictions -- is natural knowledge

This is what I'm not quite clear about. You seem to be saying that natural knowledge is knowledge of models. When we know, what we know is an algorithm that makes predictions. That's fine... but you also write of baseballs, the ground, and trajectories as the objects about which models make predictions. Are these latter things also known through natural knowledge, or through some other means?

rank sophist said...

Oy, now we are going backwards. Positing time t automatically causes physics* to forfeit the match due to parsimony. Physics* requires another moving part that physics doesn't.

No, you're misunderstanding.

1. Physics behave like physics when observed before time t, and also behave like physics when not observed before t.

2. Physics* behave like physics when observed before time t, but they don't behave like physics when not observed before t.

See? It's the same as grue emeralds: the difference between what we do observe before t and what we don't observe before t. No changes; no additional mechanics. We have a set of observed events--physics events, in this case--that can be constructed into an infinite number of predictive models.

why X is more economical from an energy conservation perspective.

The law of the conservation of energy falls to the New Riddle as well, I'm afraid. Nothing based on inductive inference--no science at all, in other words--is safe from it.

rank sophist said...

Also, if you'd like, physics* can contain less rules than physics proper.

Touchstone said...

See? It's the same as grue emeralds: the difference between what we do observe before t and what we don't observe before t. No changes; no additional mechanics. We have a set of observed events--physics events, in this case--that can be constructed into an infinite number of predictive models.
See below, but I think the riddle of the riddle is solved. This is precisely correct, IF AND ONLY IF we are not admitting any background information into the picture. That's the kicker. Is soon as this becomes a *real* question, a real investigation in the real world, the gig is up, and the problem evaporates, because then we have background knowledge to use for a Bayesian analysis; the infinite hypotheses are then prioritizable.

And just as an aside, there would notbe an infinite number of models, in this case, could not be. Think of a model as an "algorithm" that must produce a given output for a hypothesis; the algorithm has to invoke and rely on existing underlying models, and this severely constrains the "model space". Hypotheses are not so constrained. They are fluffy, can be just a hunch, "lines going all over the place", but through the required dots. Hypotheses are innumerable, easy, fluffy. Models are few, difficult and dependent on other models.


The law of the conservation of energy falls to the New Riddle as well, I'm afraid. Nothing based on inductive inference--no science at all, in other words--is safe from it.

This has been the point I've been trying to make from the beginning! This is ONLY a problem if you do not accept *any* natural knowledge as background information. If you being with "we don't know anything about the natural world", and stipulate that anything can happen for any or no reason at any point; that there are no known physics to draw upon at all (search upthread and you will see this same language being used quite a while ago), THEN this problem is a problem.

Which is just fine by me, as not a problem. For any realist who accepts that we can acquire any knowledge of natural dynamics at all, then the problem is then "solved", or reduced insofar as we can and do rely on that background knowledge as the arbiter for making parsimonious choices among various hypotheses.

It's as impotent, as you have it, as an appeal to solipsism, in that it doubts so much that it is self-defeating. It become more parsimonious -- more economical in terms of explanatory power -- to revert back to realism because the machinery you would need to implement IN PLACE of "knowledge without knowledge", without the benefit of natural input as informative and discrimating, is more cumbersome and dubious than the realism it is trying to compete with.

If you don't have a way to admit and use natural knowledge, you are hosed, and stuck with a philosophy that is a Rube Goldberg mess of a metaphysics, ontology and epistemology compared to the economy and practicality of a paradigm that DOES admit of natural knowledge. That doesn't mean we can't undertake those doubts, but they entail even more problematic doubts if the are embraced than if they are dismissed in favor or paradigms that accept input and judgment from the extra-mental world through our senses.

OK, so I think I understand, now. This is a kind of solipsist card, then, in Goodman's "original form", as you understand it. If so, then it's a different response (I've been responding with the understanding that empirical input was a factor, and thus reasoning based on empirical input -- reasonable I think given the empirical context of the actual riddle), but it doubts too much, and cuts its own legs off in the same fashion solipsism does.

-TS

Touchstone said...


Also, if you'd like, physics* can contain less rules than physics proper.

Now, see, this comment is convincing for me that we are talking pas each other in the use of "physics". It's not just an empty label, or a proxy for "some logically possible dynamics in some logically possible world". We are talking about performative models in *this* world. That's what gives us the warrant to discriminate, to prefer X over Y and Z.

You cannot just say "I'll create a simpler physics" as a *hypothetical*; it must be a simpler, *real*, *performative* physical model. That's the basis for establishing the preference -- it's a real, performative model in *this* world.

For example, take X as the "straight line" for velocity measured for a ball rolling down a plane. We could describe the *actual* model, and enumerate our formulas and calculations, right here, although maybe not within the 5,000 char limit of this particular post.

But if I detail the model that argues for X, I might include something like this:

F1 = m * g * sin Θ
F2 = m * g * cos Θ

where m is mass, g is gravity, Θ is the angle of incline, and F1 is the "normal" force (tangential to the incline), and F2 is "net" force, the force along the incline surface. This doesn't address friction, but you get the idea -- we can provide mathematical models that predict and explain X.

But they aren't just made up! In this case, we begin with f=ma. That's key, because if we don't begin with f=ma, F1 and F2 are not force vectors, and we cannot calculate F2 such that the velocity produces a straight line on our graph that matches X.

What we analyze and decide, insofar as it is a natural question, gets analyzed and decided IN LIGHT of the knowledge we already have.

If you can give me a model for Y that is more economical than the f=ma model I'd be employing (standard physics), you'd have pulled off something truly remarkable! It would have to be corroborated in anything it draws on, just like f=ma, and it would have to be simpler.

I think if you tried to do that, you'd quickly get the force of my point: made-up physics defeats the solution. Only real world models provide us with a solution.

-TS

Touchstone said...

Sorry, got my cos and sin switched around. The acceleration down the plane, without friction, is controlled by sin Θ:

F2 = m * g * sin Θ

and the normal is cosine:

F1 = m * g * cos Θ

-TS

rank sophist said...

This has been the point I've been trying to make from the beginning! This is ONLY a problem if you do not accept *any* natural knowledge as background information. If you being with "we don't know anything about the natural world", and stipulate that anything can happen for any or no reason at any point; that there are no known physics to draw upon at all (search upthread and you will see this same language being used quite a while ago), THEN this problem is a problem.

Which is just fine by me, as not a problem. For any realist who accepts that we can acquire any knowledge of natural dynamics at all, then the problem is then "solved", or reduced insofar as we can and do rely on that background knowledge as the arbiter for making parsimonious choices among various hypotheses.


Very wrong. The idea of the riddle is that it throws all knowledge into question--that's why people are so scared of it. You can't "solve the riddle" by saying that some inductive information is "off-limits" to it. No inductive information is off-limits to it. It eats everything. It destroys all of our foundations for scientific knowledge. Can you prove otherwise? If you pull that off, then you'll be one of history's greatest philosophers.

It's as impotent, as you have it, as an appeal to solipsism, in that it doubts so much that it is self-defeating. It become more parsimonious -- more economical in terms of explanatory power -- to revert back to realism because the machinery you would need to implement IN PLACE of "knowledge without knowledge", without the benefit of natural input as informative and discrimating, is more cumbersome and dubious than the realism it is trying to compete with.

Wrong again. The New Riddle contains absolutely no real predictions of its own--it only suggests them to undermine existing hypotheses. The point is that it invalidates all of our inductive knowledge. In addition, it's impossible to define what "parsimonious" means in this case, and so tossing that word around gets you nowhere.

If you don't have a way to admit and use natural knowledge, you are hosed, and stuck with a philosophy that is a Rube Goldberg mess of a metaphysics, ontology and epistemology compared to the economy and practicality of a paradigm that DOES admit of natural knowledge.

Of course you're hosed. That's the point. That's why the greatest minds in analytic philosophy have been trying to solve it for almost sixty years. Its conclusions are absolutely intolerable. However, you cannot magically bring a philosophy into existence that "admits natural knowledge" just by waving your hands. You have to explain why certain knowledge escapes the paradox--merely stating it doesn't get you anywhere.

rank sophist said...

If you can give me a model for Y that is more economical than the f=ma model I'd be employing (standard physics), you'd have pulled off something truly remarkable! It would have to be corroborated in anything it draws on, just like f=ma, and it would have to be simpler.

I think if you tried to do that, you'd quickly get the force of my point: made-up physics defeats the solution. Only real world models provide us with a solution.


I think you missed my point. All of those things you mentioned--mass, gravity, angle of incline, normal force, net force, the force along the incline surface--can be grue-ified. It takes all of two seconds. These are not hard-and-fast laws of nature, but rather generalizations of observed phenomena. The law of gravity may in fact be the law of gravity*, which inverts when we don't observe it before t. This is impossible, you say? Any law you propose as evidence that it's impossible can also be grue-ified.

Also, my statement that the grue-ified versions could be simpler was a largely meaningless aside. Ockham's razor is almost always subjective, as many philosophers believe these days.

Anonymous said...

There is one massive question that Touchstone will never answer, because of his stupidity:
Where do the laws of physics come from? Why is there uniformity in nature? Why don't objects tend towards the sky sometimes and towards the ground other times?
Consider the following:
All natural bodies follow laws of conduct.
These objects are themselves unintelligent.
Laws of conduct are characteristic of intelligence.
Therefore, there exists an intelligent being that created the laws for all natural bodies.
This being is whom we call God.

Touchstone is playing a mere semantics game when he speaks of function vs purpose.

God is not superfluous. Look at the laws of physics, or the existence of this world, which is just one possible world among many!!! What grants existence to the world! God does; He holds all in being with His.

rank sophist said...

Anon,

Touchstone is actually quite intelligent. No need to lower the dialogue to petty insults.

Sobieski said...

@Touchstone

Ok, here's another long posting, but that's the nature of this topic. It is quite complicated and since I haven't looked at it in a while, I did a little reading. More precisely speaking, there are two types of principle in A-T science: common and proper.

Common
--------------
These are the first principles of human reason and are per se known once the terms of the proposition are clearly understood (e.g., "affirmation and negation are not simultaneously true in the same respect" or "the whole greater than any of its parts"). Once one understands the terms, the truth of the proposition is known immediately and not through a medium of demonstration. "When these principles are said to be proved by a higher science, this means that first philosophy [metaphysics] can demonstrate their truth 'per demonstrationem ad impossibile' [employing dialectical reductio ad absurdam argumentation], as Aristotle does in Book IV of the Metaphysics; no science can demonstrate their truth directly, for they being self-evident have no possible medium of proof." (James Weisheipl, Aristotelian Methodology, p. 18) These truths make scientific knowledge possible.

Proper
--------------
There are two types of proper principle: axioms and definitions. The former are either per se known to the wise as Aristotle says or accepted as proved in a higher science. The latter are the definitions of the subject and predicates, which are the proper medium of demonstration in a science. Example: in A-T philosophy of nature, the proper principles are: the definition of the subject (= natural substance, which has of itself a principle of motion and rest), the existence of the subject (the natural scientist accepts the existence of natural things and motion as a principle), and the real definitions of its properties (motion, place, time, etc. and self-evident axioms concerning these). Ibid., p. 12, 17-8. If I understand correctly, those principles which aren't received or grounded in a higher science (metaphysics in this case) are arrived at by means of a dialectical survey at the beginning of the science:

"The normal procedure in every science is to approach problems dialectically first, as Aristotle does in all of his works, before attempting to discover the proper causes which will solve the question demonstratively. These dialectic approaches to problems do not constitute an intellectual habit distinct from 'science,' but belong to science as a preparation for it. There are many problems in every science which we have not yet solved, and opinion is the best we have so far." (Ibid., p. 36)

(continued...)

Sobieski said...

(...continued)

As to the constituent ideas which make up these principles, how do we arrive at them? Science concerns the third act of the intellect (reasoning) primarily, but implies the first (nous) and second act (judgment of truth or falsity in propositions). These principles are ultimately not a matter of faith or of assertion. They are truths arrived at by another means, namely the first act of the intellect (nous). Long quote:

"First principles are not acquired in the sense that there are prior intellectual principles, for this would result in an infinite regress without any solution to the problem. But first principles are acquired in the sense that potentiality is reduced to actuality. First principles of human reason are potentially in the 'congenital discriminative faculty which is called sense-perception.' This discriminative sense faculty is commonly called vis aestimativa [estimative power] in irrational animals and vis cogitativa [cogitative power] in man... [The latter] faculty judges concrete [singular] situations from the recollection of similar situations; this judgment is called experience... These experiential judgements are themselves potentially universal. They are reduced to actuality by the agent intellect. Therefore universal first principles are indeed acquired from preexistent knowledge, but from knowledge of a very different kind from what has been discussed above for scientific demonstration...

"The habitual knowledge of indemonstrable first principles is called intellectus, or nous. 'All teaching starts from what is already known, as we maintain in the Analytics also; for it proceeds sometimes through induction and sometimes by syllogism. Now induction is the starting-point which knowledge of even the universal presupposes, while syllogism proceeds from universals. There are therefore starting-points from which syllogisms proceed, which are not reached by syllogism; it is therefore by induction that they are acquired.' (Ethic. Nicom., VI, 3, 1139b-26-30) Intellectus, as the habit of first principles of human reason, is the starting-point of all demonstration, for it is in the light of absolutely immoveable first principles that all learning and scientific investigation proceed... The certainty and necessity of scientific demonstrations are derived from these first principles; therefore the first principles are more certain and more necessary in themselves than scientific truths...

"Intellectus, or nous, is called a habit in the sense that its object is objectively immoveable, viz., necessary, self-evident, eternal truths. Subjectively this habit is acquired, but not in the manner other habits are acquired, for the human intellect is by nature disposed to accepting these truths with certainty as soon as the agent intellect illumine the potentially universal judgements of the vis cogitativa. When the sense images and judgements of experience are rendered actually intelligible by the agent intellect, the human mind immediately accepts such truths [e.g., PNC, whole-part], etc. Therefore the habit of first principles is quasi naturalis". (Ibid., p. 61-3)

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