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Debate With Alan

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Posted by Harvey on October 21, 2002 03:47:59 UTC

Alan,

I'd like to debate with you in this forum:

***"Human constructs" are one form of representation.***

Then please define what you mean by using that term.

***H: "If they are more than that?" A: Here is an issue: does a particular representation correctly match the pattern it is claimed to represent went viewed by method 'x', within the limits of precision given by the definitions of the original pattern, the representation, and the method of viewing (x)? Example: define Mount Fuji (original pattern). Define: a painting purported to be of Mount Fuji (representation). Define "you" and "looking at a painting" (method of viewing). To be talking about "reality", each of these definitions must be compatible and not contradictory, surely? Beyond that, is there more? At least this much more: that this 3-way match is, within its specified margins of precision, a non-contradicting match-up as it presently is defined.***

I agree with you that this identity-relation as composing the predicate, criteria of identity, and referencing object which must be non-contradicting in order to make any sense. However, the predicate and criteria of identity are human constructs. The predicate (e.g., 'this is a pen'), is only considered valid just as long as the 'pen-like' object meets the criteria for a pen. If the pen looked more like a pencil, then that object would not be consistent with the criteria of identity for a pen.

***It seems like "the something more" is "consciousness"; full awareness of both the data and its relationships and degree of definition? The "something more" seems to be that you know you are dealing with accurate relationships if you have full awareness of the relative precision of each of the related items (of you, of looking, of the painting, of Mt. Fuji.)***

Well, anytime we are talking about predicates we are talking about language and meaning. Consciousness is a little undefined, but chimpanzees have been taught language and tests are done all the time with regard to a chimp being asked a question of an object and the chimp finds the object in question. Such experiments show that chimpanzees are able to understand a predicate, are capable of being taught the criteria of identity of certain objects, and are able to recognize the object in question. Does that mean that chimps are conscious? Well, they can be taught to recognize themselves in the mirror, but chimps that do not recognize themselves in the mirror are still able to perform this identification of objects.

***If your definition of original pattern "Mt. Fuji" is too broad to exclude an illusion of that sight; then the possibility of such an illusion is contained already in your degree of precision about defining this original pattern? Seems like the key to knowing reality is to know the full extent of your conscious experience, to know the full origins of all your foundations from which you construct definitions?***

I think that is somewhat doubtful. 'Knowing reality' is a rather dubious term having no real meaning. We know enough about reality to function and survive - maybe even prosper - whether that means we 'know reality' is totally outside our ability to answer.

***Then you can say: I know reality? As any "reduction" is either new and outside the boundary of your definitions and not contradicting them? Or such reduction is already known to you because you know all your definitions historical construction from their smallest ingredients (to have full consciousness is to have access to all the reduction already built into your definitions within their error margins?)***

I don't think so. The reason is that for every reduction that best explains our sensory experiences, there are still future reductions (or, at least, there has been up till now), and therefore, like I said, it is a dubious assertion to say that we know reality. We 'know' enough to survive. You might say we are streetsmart with regard to reality.

***H: "What do you mean 'communion with existence'?" A: I guess I mean "open to all available data (so full historical awareness of the construction from scratch of all one's definitions; so no evasion or obscuration of any existent phenomenon one is capable of detecting). Something like that.***

Do chimps commune with existence? They seem to be open to all 'available' data that threatens their existence.

***The claim "atoms are ultimate reality" is a claim about the future and might be unsustainable. It is a claim that no future test can reduce them. It is probably a claim that exceeds the honest limits permitted by knowledge at that time of what is or is not possible.***

This is an example of human knowledge in general. Knowledge is fallible, but much of it is secure from being 'wrong' in the sense that our experience tends to give us very high confidence in its pragmatic benefits. This is why you probably see such kind of knowledge (i.e., LNC) as infallible since you've never had experiences of it being wrong.

***What might be an accurate claim is: "within the technology and knowledge at such-and-such a time; and within the margin of error of the various definitions at this time; that atoms are ultimate". But EVERY definition can be ultimate within its limitations in that way? Any reduction of atoms after such a careful claim would then be found to make use of freedom of other possibilities available within the inherent broadness of the definitions of that time?***

True, but the real test comes from how well those schemes respond to the discrepancies confronting them. No scheme is infallible.

***Thus within the weak ability of star-measurement equipment at one time, no parralax was found of nearby stars over 6 months of Earth's time to prove that Earth goes around the Sun. Within the limitations of equipment of the day and the false assumption that nearby stars were closer than they are and that the parallax effect would be greater; the question of Earth moving around the Sun was not proven by initial parrallax tests.***

The conception was much better than previous models, and the confidence obtained from the explanation justified the model despite inconsistencies. This kind of situation still exists for science.

***But maybe one can still say that ultimate reality is still that given the knowledge and equipment of that day; the parrallax issue was not resolved?***

It's best not to talk in terms of ultimate reality. We are better off talking in terms of the most effective model at making predictions and seeking the best explanation possible. This approach doesn't need to appeal to anything ultimately true, it has enough success from the past that this alone justifies the tentative acceptance of such models meeting these criteria.

***But this does not seem right. Perhaps no error is possible with full awareness. Perhaps human mistakes are due to limited awareness.***

You are thinking too idealistically. It isn't necessary to see incomplete models as human mistakes. They are successes in their own way, and should be looked upon as successes. Once we give up on this notion of ultimate reality (or ultimate truth) and concentrate on scientific models, we are better off. This way there is no disillusionment that occurs if the models are later shown to be wrong. Of course, we can talk about what is ultimate reality or ultimately true, but such talk is only to bring more meaning to our models - talk shouldn't be used to enforce their truth. This is what happened to Ptolemic astronomy, had it just been accepted as a good model and never as the 'ultimate truth', then Galileo would have been spared house arrest for the remainder of his life.

***But can we ever stop having to make very tentative claims, I think is the issue you are addressing?***

That's right. Our claims must always be stated in fallibistic language.

***If one has full consciousness of the full history of all ingredients making up one's claim; can one not at least say that within those error margins certain patterns CAN be matched together without contradiction?***

We can say it, but it doesn't mean anything. History of science has shown that acknowledgement of fallibility has been more of a strength of science rather than a weakness. This is something that creationists to this day do not understand.

***I suggest: not that "atoms" are ultimate; but that such-and-such "defining relationships" are ultimate? Tautological relations?***

No. Tautological relations are only as correct as our definitions and axioms. If our axioms are incorrect (which happens from time to time), then the tautology is meaningless and even wrong. Forget tautologies, they are a waste of time.

***Since we agreed elsewhere that "relationships exist"; the question is: what about ultimate relationships? A completely honest relationship (no contradictions) would be ultimate?***

Relationships 'exist' in that the definition of existence involves a relationship of some kind. On the other hand, this is not to endorse some Bradleian notion of relations 'as existing'. Even (F.H.) Bradley realized the absurdness of this proposition since relations of relations ad infinitum is ridiculous. Rather, objects, properties, attributes, relations, etc, are human concepts and we do not have an adequate philosophical theory that properly define and explain how all of these constructs are compatible with logical reasoning.

***Existence as a defining relationship? That looks like Christianity (God is Existence is Love).***

I think you might be reading too much into that. Relationships are used as a metaphor in Christian texts, it is quite another to say that Christians thought of God as a pure relationship.

Harv

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