Sunday, July 05, 2009

How We Know Things Part 2

Do you see these chairs?

Followup to the other post I did on this "how we know things" topic. I posted the same blog piece you see in part 1 over at CARM. Crystal Star did not respond but Emuse took up the challenge. Emuse is an intelligent guy who I have always respected as a thinker.

Essentially he's taking issue with the Thomas Reid argument part of the thing. This first statement he makes is bout this proposition in the TR argument:

No empirical evidence can prove the existence of the external world, other minds, or the reality of history, or other such basic things.

Originally Posted by Emuse View Post
This assertion is extremely clumsy and ignores many important distinctions.
No it is not and you can't prove it is. you are totally wrong. I guess you never read Descartes. show me the data then. where's the epistemological data?
It is correct to say that the external world cannot be proved empirically or on the basis of rational argument. The existence of the external world must therefore be assumed because rational or empirical proof of it is impossible in principle. It is not reasonable to ask for a type of proof (ie, empirical) if the type of proof is known to be impossible.


No it's not. Rational proof of the external world is possible in principle if and only if you are wiling to make judgments and assumptions, not if you demand epistemological proof.
the empiricist dilemma is absolute. you can't get out side your perceptions to check them and make sure they are true.

The epistemological level is above (or should I say "more primary?) than that of the empirical level. The epistemological level would demand an absolute means of accounting for the appearances we take for granted as the world around us. No amount of empirical data can ever guarantee that level of knowing because any data that would be had as part of a world illusion would also be illusory.

At this point the sphincter mind set reductionist crowd usually says something like "that's so stupid to doubt our experiences of the world, it's right there in front of you I have no reason to doubt it." But look at what they are doing. they are making an assumption. At that point they are willing to leap across the barrier, the chasm of logic, to make a leap of faith and assume their perceptions are real. Yet when I want to do this concerning my perceptions of God's presence they assert it's just an illusion caused by chemicals. So atheists are always trying to privilege their position while disadvantaging mine.

They want absolute proof in terms of God. But they are not willing to supply that kind of proof for their own view point, they expect that to be granted a prori as part of the presumptions imposed by science the gate keeper of reality. Rational proof of the external world depends upon one assuming certain thins, such as the inviolability of perception otherwise how could any proof ever break out of the circle of epistemological doubt? Unless you can get outside your own perceptions to check it you can't trust the data, but what do you perceive with if not your own perceptions? At some point you have to make a leap of faith to assume that data is accruate. You must rust sense data or you are doomed to remain in the morass.

The same is true of history. We cannot transport ourselves into the past or bring the past into the present so that it can form a part of our ongoing experience. Therefore empirical proof of historical events is impossible in principle.

look, you are right. But there's the problem. it doesn't help your side it helps my side. Because to the extent that you prove we can trust external reality through scientific evidence you also prove we can trust that God is real or that there is a Transcendental Signifier in the real world through the same mechanism and the same forms of assumptions that you get with science.

By "same mechanism" I mean you have to trust sense data to give an accurate portrayal of the world around you. By "mechanism" I mean both reason and the epistemic assumptions we make that enable us to take the reality of the world for granted.

still me:
(1)the scientific studies prove that RE meets the criteria.

that's the first reason.

(2) TS proves we have to assert the reality of TS in order to even speak or think. So we have to assume it is beyond the mind.

However, in relation to the claims of Christianity, this is not the case. Empirical evidence that Jesus is risen from the dead is not, in principle, impossible.

that's not the issue. We are talking about the existence of God. we are not talking "Christian evidences." you don't come to belief in Jesus based upon belief in the resurrection. you accept the resurrection as a consequence of belief.

It is quite within his capacity to appear and prove himself empirically. Heck .. he could have remained on earth and left us with undeniable proof. However, it is not enough to assume that everything fits into the category of "that which cannot be proved" and try and arbitrarily lump everything into the same category.

he proves himself to me. That's a stupid argument. how silly can you get? that's down right anti- intellectual. (no offense).

Actually I blew that response. I really wasn't on target as to what he was arguing. He's not trying to limit our capacity to aruge for the Res he's trying to limit the capacity for arguing that there's a category of unprovable. But what I should have said was that we have to assume the state of affairs we know. Given what we know about the world with the data we have available to us in status quot, resurrection is unprovable. But even if God did make himself known in the way he describes or even in another more evocative or less questionable way, there would still be room to say "this is only an illusion, or a dream." I'm sure there will be atheists if there is a white throne of judgment who stand before it and refuse to admit its real. I am betting if the there's a hell some atheist will be there several million years before they begin to get the drift.


It runs much deeper than this. We have already seen that external reality is something that must be assumed. Once we assume external reality, we assume the existence of others. One important aspect of external reality (an important basis on which we assume it to be external) is that others around me share the same experiences as me at the same time.

that argument turns against you with the Reid argument, because it proves RE can meet the same criteria that we use to make that assumption.

thus RE is fitting within the same assumption paradigm.
It's funny how they never heard me say that I am making the same assumption. what he said:

external reality is something that must be assumed. Once we assume external reality, we assume the existence of others.
That is really the basis of he Reid argument. They are assuming that whips up on my argument and yet that's what I'm saying myself. Somehow they never hear that, nor do they hear what I say when I continue and add that it turns in favor of my argument disproves their position it means that all we can do is make a judgment and the criteria we use to make it is met by Religoius experience! They usually wind up giving the same criteria as well.

he's also contradicted himself at this point because above he tries to narrow the margin of unprovable to the point of casting doubt upon the category, now he seems to embrace the category.

For example, if there is a chair in the room then it will not be the case that others will experience it and I won't. It is not simply enough to say that experiences must be regular and consistent. There must also be shared or shareable in principle. If someone has regular, consistent experiences but those experiences are not shared by others around that person then a problem is likely to be assumed so your statement is woefully incomplete.

Now you know that I have included "shared" every single time. I have proved they are shared. millions of people all over the world, maybe as many as 1 in 4 have mystical experience. All over the world they stack to be the same. they are all alike that is proved clearly and definitely by, you got it, the ever loving M scale!

Nope. It is also the fact that the experience is shared by others around me. If I could see a chair in the room but others around me could see no chair then I would seriously doubt what was going on with my mind.

But not all expressions are shared. you have a different level of consciousness than other people. But still assume you are real even though no one else but you knows what it's like to be you.

Of course that hits at the Cogito. The only thing we can be sure of apart from any assumptions or external reality is the cogito guarantees our own existence. But even that has been cast into doubt by subsequent philosophers (subsequnt to Descartes of course). I'm not sure my interjection of this point isn't also a screw up. I guess I was getting at the idea that some things on the most basic level can be ventured and that includes being itself and our relationship to Being.

And that fact that it is not regular and consistent to the same degree cannot be arbitrarily skipped over as though it is unimportant. Not only that, it does not possess that quality of being shareable.

it doesn't have to be. Religious experience is, but it doesn't have to be the case that every single experience is shared. who else is you? who shares your experience of being you?

I come closer to knowing that than you do because I had a partner in the womb. But even so he is not me.

This is plainly false. Believers all over the world come to very different and diverse interpretations of their experience. Some do not even credit the cause of the RE as having consciousness but simply see it as a guiding force.

No they don't. you are ignoring the facts.
(1) I am speaking of the special experience called "mystical" or "peak" not just any experience of belief. So this is limited to a smaller group within the group of all believers. It's not all.

(2) this is new evidence that has emerged since the 80s but its' empirical, scientific and conclusive.

Appeal to the consequent.

no, take a class.
I didn't have the patience to explain it. He said this in relation to the idea that Mystical experience has real and lasting positive effects. He thinks that's a appeal to the consequent. That's easy to mistake for cause and effect, which is what is begin argued. The tests given are empircal. The people have the change in response to the mystical experience and then it's positive and useful and lasts, nothing about that is an appeal to the consequent. No more so than saying that one responded to a cold medicine by feeling better is an appeal to the consequent.

Here's description of appeal to the consequent (which is not a fallacy)

How to Think

© Copyright 1999, Charles King

Gerogetown University

Appeal to consequences

You can also make an argument, or more normally a counter-argument against someone else’s point of view, by appealing to consequences. These kinds of arguments normally have two different forms. You can appeal to the consequent conclusions to which someone is committed in making his argument, or you can appeal to undesirable consequences that flow from the course of action advocated by someone else. If you can show that the consequences of someone else’s position are either false or inconsistent, you have made a strong counter-argument of your own.

Here is how both kinds of argument work. Suppose you are discussing with someone when the United States should intervene militarily abroad. Suppose also that your companion is arguing that the United States had a moral obligation to intervene in Bosnia and Kosovo because of the humanitarian disasters taking place there. You might make a counter-argument by appealing to consequences: If you believe that countries have moral obligations to intervene abroad, then the United States—and most other countries, based on their own moral precepts—would be in a state of near-continual war, invading this or that country based on a supposed moral obligation. That is an argument from consequences. If the consequences of your argument commit you to conclusions that you do not hold, the argument cannot be totally sound.
This quotation actually makes appearl to the consequent a positive thing one should do in an argument rather than a fallacy.

Here is one that uses appeal to the consequences as a fallacy:

It's called "the fallacy page"

Arguing that a proposition is true because belief in it has good consequences, or that it is false because belief in it has bad consequences is often an irrelevancy. For instance, a child's belief in Santa Claus may have good consequences in making the child happy and well-behaved, but these facts have nothing to do with whether there really is a Santa Claus.
That's how he's using it. Typical atheist thinking. The only thing they can think of is that I just assume because I believe in something it must have positive effects. The fact that these effects are derived from empirical data, and we are trusting empirical data at the moment because we have agreed that we are going to make epistemic judgments to accept empirical data when it can be validated, so this is not the consequences of belief, it's the consequence of an experience. The belief is an explanation of the experience!

If we accept that as a fallacy, not only would there be no debate, no policy debate, but atheists could never argue that religion is bad.

It's only a fallacy when the assumption is that the consequences comes from the belief itself, but when the data is empirical and it doesn't come from the belief but the experience, the belief follows as an explanation that's not fallacious at all.

(next quote he responds to by me:
therefore, we have as much justification for assuming religious belief based upon experience as for assuming the reality of the external world or the existence of other minds).

I completely disagree. Your arguments so far gloss over so very important distinctions between the phenomena you are describing. Let us take other minds as an example.

NO NO NO read the link man. you don't' read the material. this is exactly what Hood says. I just got through summarizing that chapter in my book because Hood asked me to. It met with his specifications. It's his findings. read them.

I can see that I have a particular ontology (two arms, two legs and so on) and have direct knowledge that I possess a mind. I see other beings with the same physical ontology to myself and which engage in similar/identical behaviors. That they have have a mind such as my own is the best explanation for their perceived behavior. So the claim that there is no empirical support for the claim that other minds exist is misleading to say the least.


you are arguing from analogy

That contradicts your previous position. The only way he can get out of the contradiction is to admit that this statement is based upon the assertion and the epistemic judgments he's willing to stipulate above. That means no proof, just leap of faith. So we can still cast doubt on the external world if absolute proof is sought.It's only because he's willing to accept the criteria that we can make that leap. It's the diving board. But then that includes RE because it meets the criteria (regular, consistent, shared).

Empirical evidence on the "shared" characteristic of mystical experience means not that people have the very same experience but that mystics all over the world have experinces and relate to them in the same way.

from Gackenback
Lukoff (1985) identified five common characteristics of mystical experiences which could be operationalized for assessment purposes. They are:

1. Ecstatic mood, which he identified as the most common feature;
2. Sense of newly gained knowledge, which includes a belief that the mysteries of life have been revealed;
3. Perceptual alterations, which range from "heightened sensations to auditory and visual hallucinations (p. 167)";
4. Delusions (if present) have themes related to mythology, which includes an incredible range diversity and range;
5. No conceptual disorganization, unlike psychotic persons those with mystical experiences do NOT suffer from disturbances in language and speech.
It can be seen from the explanation of PC earlier that this list of qualities overlaps in part those delineated by Alexander et al.
There is far better evidence in the work of Ralhph Hood jr. of University of Tennesse Chattenouga. Hood's M scale demontrates that when the specific names are taken out mystical experince and the relationship of mystics to their experinces and the funciton of those experinces in their over all belief systems are identical. See the link to Hood's text book read pages 321-325.

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