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Some Questions about Certainty

  • May 3, 2012 · 7:00 PM
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The participants' reactions and comments from the meeting on skepticism call for a follow-up meeting to answer the many problems that gave resort to skepticism:

From the premises of certainty (and their validation), how to answer:

  1. The ancient sophistry of nonexistence?
  2. The problem of the criterion?
  3. The trade-off between proof and certainty? (E. C. Scott, segment 13, 49:10)
  4. The transitions from the imaginable/conceivable to the possible and to the probable?
  5. The duality of disembodied mind and mindless body?
  6. The problem of other minds?
  7. The deception from the senses and illusions?
  8. The evil demon, brain-in-vat, Matrix, Inception trickery?
  9. The primary versus secondary qualities?
  10. The idea of ideas being direct apprehension?
  11. The problem of induction?
  12. The inference to perception from sense data/impression?
  13. The sense and reference of terms?
  14. The grue-bleen dilemma?
  15. The correspondence-to-facts problem?
  16. The Gettier problem?
  17. The problem of meaning and significance? ("This shirt is blue.")
  18. The social construction of identity?

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  • A former member
    A former member

    I'm lost. I never have liked the language of chemistry, and I don't care if melatonin is a terminal antioxidant. I don't think I will ever learn that language. It is dry and not enjoyable to me...and I like joy...

    May 13, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    :) Like in Toy Story I and II: "To infinity and beyond?" :)
    I believe that imagination plays different roles in different contexts, from poetry to entrepreneurship; from religion to philosophy and sociology; from alchemy to the multibillion pharmaceutical business... to jump from contingent a posteriori interpretative statements to unperceived "a priori" necessary conclusions ... the examples multiply,,,indefinitely

    May 13, 2012

  • Will

    So the brain's conception of the information transmitted from the senses is more or less powered by imagination, and your frequent mention of atomic make up is just an example of what those senses can't detect? I've been looking at your pov all wrong if that's what you mean, Derek. Not too long ago I watched a vid of Neil Degrasse Tyson laying that down, he explained it really well - about the senses not the conception.

    May 13, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    That is so true. The container, we see it; the atoms, we don't: There is so much 'existence' that we don't see. Nonetheless, it brings consequences for those who choose to play the imaging game. In English, all seem to start with two words: "What if ..." Although maybe that wording is unnecessary...and we just start imagining :) preferably good and beautiful things...

    May 13, 2012

  • Mark G.

    Derek, so, you believe in reality, at least at the atomic level. Are you certain of that?

    May 13, 2012

  • Will

    The container still exists for people who have never heard of atoms. I still don't understand where imagination is supposed to come in.

    May 13, 2012

  • Mark G.

    That reality Derek does exist beyond our physical senses. If the container was not real, then why do we consistently see it as a container? What creates the regularity in the data we perceive? There is some kind of order that exists beyond our senses that creates the regularity. Otherwise, one day we might see the container one way, and another day, we'd see it another day.

    May 13, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    ...the eternal destructive dance of creation and destruction of existence.

    May 13, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    It is all encompassing and not restricted to the present act of observation: how did plastics came into existence (past), and how long and in what directions their existence is going to affect other existents (future)?
    How from our ridiculous present do we address past and future?
    To deal with the Aristotle postulated the first mover; to deal both with present and future, some believers postulate an authoritarian god and an extended afterlife in heaven, limbo, or hell; others eternal change...

    May 13, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    The "little existentialism" you Derek refer to, is in fact HUGE, it is our full subjectivitity facing the world: our world, the world as experienced exclusively by our intransferible selves. This heavy personal existential acknowlegment, Mark, --I think-- has "little" to do with the existence of a bright sunny morning in San Diego that pertains to the other side of the coin: the objectivity of the world from which we --flesh,and bones, experiencing colds-- are part of.

    May 13, 2012

  • Mark G.

    I find it interesting how, on the one hand, we say there's no certainty about anything, and yet on the other hand, most of us go through daily living, relating to objects, things, people, etc as if they are certain and real, with designated properties. While some of us fancy about the uncertainty of it all over a cup of coffee, we live in a world where we relate with things with certainty.

    1 · May 13, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    :) Long live, Philosophy!

    May 13, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    scientific rapture! I love it ... like in a transcendent and euphoric state of MIND?

    May 12, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Tom, you are very welcome! Knowing how you understand the distinction between "the discipline of science," "scientific knowledge," and how 'primatology' or 'anthropology'-- exemplify one or the other will help you in continuing building your philosophical system. Naturally, if you prefer to use some other examples such as psycho-sociology, biochemistry, astrophysics, geopolitical ss, statistics, economics, or medicine will work too. After all, the list is not complete, nor finite.

    May 12, 2012

  • Will

    A question for you Tom: You say you are defining self by attributes and their parameters, looking beyond the biological to the psychological, how in the world do you establish those parameters?

    May 12, 2012

  • Will

    Also, I read your response to Mark and find it interesting how you chose to narrow his usage of the word "evolve" to invalidate his comments much the way you chose a definition of "science" that validates your statement that I challenged. I read your six paragraph email explaining it. People evolve, the word applies beyond the Darwinian usage. I don't like arguing linguistic semantics, I find it petty. Sorry if this comes across as aggressive, I'm just being direct.

    May 12, 2012

  • Will

    Hey again Tom. I read your email, I understand your thought process, but your certainty about our knowledge in many cases is ... naive? I can't think of a better word. What we know today through our scientific findings is not necessarily what we will know tomorrow, regardless of your certainty. Your model for "building on knowledge" over the ages is a romantic and common accepted idea, but not true in all cases. Sometimes reason and evidence lead us to a conclusion that is just flat out wrong.

    May 12, 2012

  • Tom O.

    Elena, I don't define "discipline of science" in the way which you imputed to me. I take it to mean in the exact way you use it to entertain the ordering of primatology. Thanks for the question, even if mistaken. It gave me pause to refine for myself a really good definition of knowledge. I will gladly talk about it at some future meeting.

    May 12, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Tom, If by "disicipline of science" you mean "all and every particular science at the level of development we find them in May 2012," then please explain what you mean by "scientific knowledge."

    May 11, 2012

  • Tom O.

    Mark, things change; the attributes' specifics from which and into which a thing changes don't change.


    Will, the discipline of science is different from scientific knowledge. While I agree with your point about the discipline, I maintain my point about knowledge.


    I am sending to some readers a separate e-mail with more details.

    May 11, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Thank you for the recap. I see for Will's comment that you landed into the concept of "essence" as applied to a table. Question: should the concept of tableness, --loosely understood let's say as a "working surface" or a surface suitable to support some other objects-- be studied exclusively from an anthropological perspective? Should primatology shed some light on our questioning? After all, anthropology, isn't a branch of primatology, regardless of what science was born first?

    May 11, 2012

  • Mark G.

    While things, such as a bottle, table, rock or human may have their own respective natures, defined by particular traits and parameters, it is only humans and other living things that, over time, can evolve. Consequently, their traits and parameters can evolve as well.

    May 11, 2012

  • Will

    I especially enjoyed our hour long discussion about "tableness" last night, Derek :P

    May 11, 2012

  • Will

    Hey Tom. In response to your comment, that's just not true. Every age improves on the science of the last and laws and theories change as a result. Einstein's laws of relativity made Newton's laws of motion obsolete, the age of the earth has been proven and disproven multiple times, etc.

    May 11, 2012

  • Tom O.

    Mark and Will, if a scientist proves a generalization--finding it true by reason and evidence in accordance to scientific and logical standards--then he has really discovered something new about the nature of existence. And since nature is nature, nothing in the future will disprove the generalization. In fact, everything to be discovered thereafter will have to take it into account. Because knowledge grows and builds from prior knowledge, a later discovery can never overturn a prior one.

    May 10, 2012

  • Will

    Concerning moving faster than the speed of light, I don't understand why people think you can physically go back in time if you do it. Someone in that 2nd article said "if you go back in time you could be your own grandmother." heh. Theoretically it makes sense that you could see events that have already occurred if you're viewing it from a perspective that is far enough away, but going back in time because you break the light barrier doesn't make sense.

    May 9, 2012

  • Will

    Scientific laws are proven wrong all the time. They are based on the results of repeated observation.

    May 9, 2012

  • Mark G.

    How does a scientist balance a proven principle or law about the universe with the possibility that it might one day be disproven or replaced by a new principle or law?

    May 9, 2012

  • Tom O.

    Michael and Derek, one lesson from this saga is that one should have doubt ONLY IF there is evidence. Until there is a reason to doubt, there's no reason to doubt. Certainty of what one knows is the default disposition.

    May 9, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    The "discovery" that an experiment found that a particle traveled faster than the speed of light has been mentioned in this and some previous meetings. It appears that was a mistake. Read: http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2012/02/breaking-news-error-undoes-faster.html

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/04/faster-than-light-neutrino-scientist-steps-down.html

    Perhaps we can feel more comfortable in that certainty now.

    May 9, 2012

  • Will

    Tom, reading your comment I am thinking that perhaps I am philosophically conservative lol

    May 3, 2012

  • Will

    I supose some people do fill in the gaps with god or magic though.

    May 3, 2012

  • Will

    Thanks for the replies. I guess I'm foggy on why you see my position in that light, Derek. I didn't particularly think your statements strayed from what is commonly accepted already, aside from where you threw in the word "magic" here and there to dryly represent the unknown.

    May 3, 2012

  • Tom O.

    Will, philosophy figures in on this issue at the precise place where you posit "how our receptors interpret stimuli." Does it? Does perception involve free will? Is perception a matter of "interpretation"?

    May 3, 2012

  • Will

    I don't get how it took you almost 10 comments to arrive at that conclusion, Derek. My daughter is in 5th grade and understands how our receptors interpret stimuli, and knows that other creatures have different receptors that perceive the same stimuli differently. I don't even see how philosophy figures in.

    May 3, 2012

  • Will

    Unless 4Chan dishes out awards, I don't think one can win a Pulitzer just for egging on some guy who argues with himself online. I think I'll just reciprocate your penchant for ignoring questions directed towards you from now on.

    May 2, 2012

  • Will

    So are you fixated on illusions and altered perception then? Stimulating the brain with electricity isn't much different than being high on mind altering drugs and hearing everyone's voice sound like demons or being asleep and dreaming that you're at a symphony. The brain being manipulated into hearing the sensation of sound is not the same thing as interpreting sound waves. Are you all about the illusions and altered perception here?

    May 2, 2012

  • Will

    Should I just explain how all of our sense work right now or should we continue to do this one by one? I don't see the point.

    May 2, 2012

  • Mark G.

    Okay, can you please explain again what all this has to do with skepticism? :>)

    May 2, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Why do you choose "is completely unknown" instead of "is not completely known"?

    May 2, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    I really didn't say much more than was already said above. But the word choice is important for me to convey how I understand it to be.

    May 2, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    I stand in the same reality and am related to everything else. Through that relation, what the thing actually is produces the sensation in me, which I recognize as blue, and I experience as blue for me (my guess is that is the same way anyone has fully functional color sensation experiences, but I will never know that for sure).

    May 2, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    There is a thing out there that is blue. I have learned to recognize blue. What is the thing? The thing is a recognizable spatio-temporal part of the spatio-temporal arrangement of the elemental constituents of reality in process and in a context within the rest of reality, which includes me. I am also spatio-temporal arrangement that happens to have a unified experience that is conscious and aware.

    May 2, 2012

  • Will

    Of course they don't, but we still have a full understanding of why and how we hear it. I don't understand why you are trying to argue, nobody is disagreeing with you.

    May 2, 2012

  • Will

    Mark already explained it well.

    May 2, 2012

  • Mark G.

    Derek, I'm not sure what your issue is? If something in the eye or brain "decides" to change the frequency of a color so it looks different, that's a function of the person and not the light. The light still has predictable properties and behaviors.

    May 2, 2012

  • Mark G.

    I suppose the light waves could be reversed, so we see blue as orange and vice versa. However, the way our eyes and brain works to perceive color is a similar mechanism within humans as a whole, with some exceptions (some people see things in b&w or muted color, etc.) Also, scientific instruments can pick up color vibration and translate it into quantifiable, repeatable behavior and properties. (to be continued...)

    May 2, 2012

  • Mark G.

    While each of us may perceive colors slightly (or more) differently due to how we process light, colors themselves are not arbitrary or relative. Color is an attribute of the visual spectrum. Each color has its own frequency. There are primary colors: blue, red, yellow; secondary colors: green, purple, orange; and even tertiary colors. While secondary and tertiary colors are seen as blends of primary colors, they have their own frequencies.

    2 · May 2, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    What color do we see first in a rainbow? What do we call the blending zones in it? I perceive a beautiful continuum.

    May 2, 2012

  • Tom O.

    With respect to reality and your awareness of it, which pair comes first or is the more primitive in terms of knowledge: green and blue, or grue and bleen? That's the dilemma to a particular way of thinking.

    May 2, 2012

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