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Posted by Harvey on January 16, 2002 04:48:19 UTC


***Watch this senseless debate between Harv and Alex. They are not fighting about anything they know, for they agree with each other down to the last physics equation. They are arguing about how to call whatever it is they're talking about. Harv wants to call it God, Alex wants to call it Math.***

Aurino, the debate that Alex and I are having is leading edge stuff. It is an argument between mathematical realists as to the nature of the world and why the world acts mathematical. Alex's views, although similar, are quite different than mine. He sees mathematics originating from some basic logical necessity that boils down to existence (and not existing), whereas I see it as boing down to some feature of the world that is undefined or, if you prefer, having a property of ontological mystery (God).

***What they don't realize is that the way they define the source of order in the universe can't possibly change what they know, which means they're fighting over absolutely nothing meaningful.***

Our's is a disagreement of an ontological nature of the world. Hence, it changes our beliefs. Knowledge is fully validated beliefs - I don't think that we can ever really have ontological knowledge. That is, we can at best say that the world is more consistent holding such and such an ontology, but I don't see how we can ever say that we know the world is ontologically such and such. Senses, interpretation of our minds, etc would also separate us from the true nature of reality, thus our 'knowledge' is at best a combination of inductive and deductive articulations.

***When dealing with abstract problems one must never lose sight of their nature. I know we are all eager to use our intellectual abilities to figure out how reality works, but the fact is that everything you can think of is an abstraction, it's not the real thing. All these people here claiming to know what reality is or isn't are wasting their time. They are talking about what they know about reality, not about reality itself. Anyone who thinks their knowledge of reality is not different from reality itself is fooling himself.***

Although it is not possible to have ontological knowledge of the world, having validated beliefs of the world as it appears to us is possible. For the most part, when we speak of having knowledge what we really mean is having validated beliefs based on appearance and pragmatic considerations.

The attempt to understand the world based on appearances and our pragmatic interaction is a valid approach (otherwise technology, science, etc would be wasted endeavors). This endeavor can include a realist belief that the world is actually how it appears to our senses as well other pragmatic considerations.

If we judge the realist approach based on its coherency with the tenets of realism in general, then we can say that we have a valid model of the world. If other models are not satisfactory, then the best we can say is that the realist model is the best model we have at interpreting our senses and successes in the pragmatic sense.

Any program such as Dick's which tries to use abstract principles (e.g., mathematics) by which to make statements about our empirical statements is doomed to failure. As I showed Paul, you cannot make abstract statements unless you are basing those statements on empirical ones. Mathematics or any other abstract line of thought says nothing without having some reference and meaningful terms. Those terms always reduce to our senses as well as pragmatic contact with the world. That's why Dick's program doesn't work (and one reason why philosophers have abandoned any attempt to continue such a program).

Warm regards, Harv

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