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Good To See Old Harv Back

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Posted by Aurino Souza on November 18, 2003 19:08:50 UTC

Harv,

However, something strange begins to happen as we expand our theory to encompass what originally was focused on what happened outside of your house at 6:20PM to the wider scene as to what probabilistic issues might affect your arrival. Our theory becomes more and more simplied and unified with other theories that we had of not just your arrival, but your neighbors arrival, and arrival times for every citizen of Toronto. The individual theories become unified such that we can make a whole series of predictions that work well in your situation and a whole bunch of other people.

Except you missed something very important: in order to do that, you have to introduce fictitious entities. And as soon as you do that you start getting in philosophical trouble: how do you justify the existence of those fictitious entities? There is no clear answer to that question, and the usual procedure is to claim that their effects imply their existence. It works for electrons the same way it works for ghosts - you can't see them but they must be there, otherwise how to explain the observables?

The problem you can't deal with, at least according to my criteria, is why you accept the existence of electrons but reject the existence of ghosts, when the reasoning behind both is exactly the same. You believe in electrons, which are things nobody ever saw, but don't believe in ghosts, which are seen by the millions. So how come you charge me with anti-realism, when in my perspective you are the one denying the impressions of our senses? I'm actually a hyper-realist, I believe everything I see and believe nothing I don't.

Now, why would that be so if we were only tracking what was happening in some happenstance regulative manner? Why would we obtain a deeper level of explanation of something that gave us a whole lot more explanative and predictive power than we had previously unless we were actually reaching the facts of the matter in some asymptotic process?

Convention! The reason my neighbour gets home the same time I do has nothing to do with the universe, and everything to do with ourselves.

Think about this for a minute: what is the real reason two people get in a certain place at the same time? Is it because there's a universal law which commands them to do it, a law so absolute they can't possibly have any other option? Or is it because they agreed to a common standard of time, which is ultimately arbitrary?

How do we know when we have grasped something basic such as when we have just ate a hamburger?

Good question, but the answer is far more complex than you seem to think. First, whatever it is that you call "hamburger" is something you experience with your mouth and your eyes. The experience does not change regardless of what you call it. Like the guy in the Matrix says, he could care less if he's eating a steak or having an illusion of doing so, the taste remains the same. So experience is, in a sense, absolute.

But now comes the tricky part: what exactly is a "hamburger"? I mean, how can you be sure that the experience you had can be best described with the sentence "I ate a hamburger"? To cut a long story short, the reason is again, convention! You know you had a hamburger because someone told you so and you decided to abide by their convention. The truth of your description of the experience has nothing to do with the experience itself. If the "hamburger" tasted and looked like the thing you call a "doughnut" you would never agree that it was a hamburger, no matter how hard anyone tried to persuade you.

We do so because everything around us is such that if we didn't just eat a hamburger, then nothing that we ever did would have any meaning.

What does meaning have to do with it? What is the meaning of eating a hamburger?

In essence, if we didn't just eat a hamburger, then we should consider nothing as true - not even our own existence.

It's actually the other way around. Many things that are true do not even have existence, such as mathematical theorems.

Yet, if we begin to doubt the same reasoning that led us to develop a very good understanding and predictive abilities as to why Toronto citizens tend to arrive at their homes as predicted, then we should also doubt the same reasoning processes that led us to believe we just ate a hamburger

Are you suggesting one cannot reject quantum mechanics and still claim he had a Big Mac for lunch? I'm sorry Harv but that's nonsense. Hamburgers are part of your ordinary experience of the world; subatomic particles are not. Hamburgers are real - you can feel, touch, eat them. Subatomic particles only exist as fictitious entities in the minds of physicists.

Could it be wrong? Of course. But, if it is wrong, then to even entertain what is correct or instrumental or empirically constructive is meaningless. We have to grasp onto the world as a real entity which we can for all practical purposes understand, and we just accept that as a given.

You're beating a dead horse. I'm not anti-realist, but no matter how many times I say it you just won't listen...

you cannot dismiss the ontology of science without dismissing the ontology of our experience

I can dismiss quarks and still eat my hamburger alright. Show me a quark and I'll buy your "realist" view. Tell me a quark can only be known through its effects on particle accelerators, and I'll ask you why you don't believe in ghosts then.

If we cannot make sensible choices based on reality as it appears as factual to us, then this also applies to 'useful things'.

What's factual about a quark?????

Useful things are only as good as they are meaningful to us, and in order to find meaning in anything we must apply those attempts for meaning in a manner consistent with our experiences (e.g., logic, math, science).

What if I don't care for meaning? What if I eat a hamburger for the sheer joy of its taste?

If logic demonstrates that there is no real dichotomy between scientific ontology and human meaning then we cannot so easily confine science into a neat little corner that we label "useless as telling us about the world as it is, but helpful in engineering issues".

Come on Harv, you have to be smarter than that. Do you really believe those windows, icons, push buttons, scroll bars in your computer really exist as they appear to you? You should know better than that; those things are illusions created by computer programmers. Illusions can be very useful. I seriously doubt you would be able to operate your computer if you had to think in terms of the billions of bits going around every second.

I don't think you have an intellectual obligation to accept science as true, I think you have an intellectual obligation to stay consistent with any approach that labels science as unrelated to truth.

My approach can be best described as "I don't believe in scroll bars but I click them anyway". I see nothing inconsistent about that. I also think that people who don't realize that dots in a screen are not real objects are in for a hell of a surprise at some point in their lives.

This is the pit that antirealists fall.

I suppose anti-realists wouldn't mind falling in an anti-real pit anyway. Not that I would know as I'm not an anti-realist.

It is not possible to remain in any way consistent to an anti-realist stance and still look with a straight face that sunrise is at a certain time, that the weather will probably be cloudy tomorrow, etc.

You are essentially saying it is impossible to create an illusion with a high degree of consistency. That is bunk, and you don't have to be an anti-realist to understand that.

Once someone dismisses scientific truths, they are in a position, I think, to dismiss all science as truths, and then they must explain to the rest of us why they are carrying an umbrella when the weather forecasters have predicted rain that day.

See comment about scroll bars above.

Are we to believe that they do not believe it will rain, but just see that information as useful? Those kind of answers are ridiculous in my view.

Come on Harv. If I notice I have nightmares everytime I have lobster for dinner, I can come up with any story as to why lobsters cause nightmares, but the truth of the story is irrelevant so long as it keeps me from having nightmares. It could well be it's the little two-pronged fork that causes it, but who cares? It would be just another story anyway.

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