2,657 thoughts on “Elon Musk Thinks Evolution is Bullshit.

  1. walto: I’m not using English semantics.What I want to know is whether you think that BIVs must be able to contemplate (in vattish) that (vat) ‘they’ are in (vat) ‘vats.’I take it from your last post that you think that they CAN do so.I want to know if you think that they HAVE to be able to do so or there’s something weird going on with this puzzle.

    Yes, I think it is possible they could contemplate such a scenario, all suitably transferred to vattish. (But it might take a Putnam-in-the-image for that possibility to be realized!).*

    I’m not sure where you are going with that last sentence, ie the “HAVE” and the “weird”, so I will await your next post.

    —————-
    * And BIV-BruceS would then claim that such a BIV-in-the-image could (veridically-perceive-in-the-image)-in-the-image.

  2. walto: The Cartesian skeptic doesn’t have ‘an argument’: he has a stance based on a possibility. Look up ‘solipsism’: you’ll see there’s literally thousands of books and papers on it, nearly all indicating that it is neither refutable nor plausible. It’s the human condition.

    When I take stock I’m forced to realize that you and Fmm are unwilling to accept that condition. You want more. It’s not available.

    Your position, contrary to common sense as it is, would at least be consistent if you recognized that, on it, nobody can know anything. But you dream of knowing necessary truths and infinite disjunctions (as if the demon couldn’t confuse you about those), just as fmm dreams of Jesus.

    Nothing can save either of you from the ravages of solipsism given your knowledge requirements. The way out is to recognize that ‘knowing’ doesn’t mean what you had thought.

    Yes, exactly.

    As I see it, keiths is almost right when he attacks “the myth of absolute certainty”. The right move is to think of certainty and knowledge as contraries. We know in contexts only where doubt is intelligible; but to be certain is to find doubt to be unintelligible.*

    Whereas keiths points out that there is no argument that confers either deductive necessity or inductive probability on the reliability of the senses, I am more inclined to say that while that’s true, it simply does not matter. We don’t have any other source of knowledge about the actual world than the senses. If all knowledge based on the senses is illegitimate, then all of science goes into the dustbin. (Also, it wouldn’t matter if one looks both ways before crossing the street or not — why bother looking for oncoming cars if I could be a brain in a vat?)

    Also, just as there is no argument that confers either deductive necessity or inductive probability on the reliability of the senses, there is also no argument that confers either deductive necessity or inductive probability on the reliability of the intellect (again, see Hume’s criticism of Descartes on this crucial point). This means that all a priori knowledge — logic and mathematics, all knowledge about possible worlds — is also illegitimate.

    And this also undermines the main argument for the unreliability of the senses. If the intellect is unreliable, then we cannot know whether what is conceivable to us is reliably tracking what is possible or necessary across sets of possible worlds. The upshot here is that skepticism is a universal acid. There is no legitimate knowledge at all. No one knows anything and cannot know anything.

    Skepticism is either idle, useless, and uninteresting — or it is existentially devastating and utterly nihilistic with regard to all thought, meaning, and value.

    * This point, associated with Wittgenstein in On Certainty, derives from Peirce and was probably transmitted to Wittgenstein from Ramsey. An almost identical point can be found in C. I. Lewis’s An Analysis of Knowledge and Valuation.

  3. BruceS,

    OK, I have a couple of comments on the paper you sent now.

    1. I like the paragraph starting with “However” on p. 200 (even though it seems to be suffering from some sort of scrivener’s error):

    Why should we believe that a solipsistic symbol-manipulator has contentful thoughts in the first place? Absent a genuine external linguistic community with a genuine external history of use for the symbols the BIV finds itself crunching and genuine [sic] extracerebral causal connections to at least some genuine extracerebral entities, any claims about semantic content can only look brittle from the externalist point of view.

    That seems right to me, but the author (whose name I forget) goes on anyhow. He says “we shall simply assume that there is something it is like to be a brain in a vat and that such creatures do have the power to represent their world in thought and language.” I don’t have a problem with that, but the language couldn’t really be stuffed with externalistic meanings, I don’t think. Everyone receiving all their information through the vat strikes me as inconsistent with a Putnamian view of language. If we ARE brains in vats, the “twater” theory is all so much delivered hocus-pocus,

    2. The author disagrees with Leeds as follows:

    I think [his disquotational] analysis is flawed and appears plausible only because we have studiously avoided discussing a crucial issue: In what language is the argument itself supposed to be cast? We have used the terms “true” and “refers” with gay abandon without ever specifying the metalanguage in which they are formulated. The answer to our question, we suppose, is (isn’t it?) English.

    I think what coherence the world can have requires that whatever the vatters use for our “truth” and “refers” be perfectly translatable into our English words. If they aren’t nobody can have any idea what anybody else is talking about.

    He writes,

    The upshot is that our two disquotational principles governing reference and truth are erroneous when applied to Vattish since, as stated, they apply only to reference-in-English and truth-in-English and have no application to Vattish in the absence of any translation manual.”

    In my view that sentence is utterly wrong. Truth has to transcend these cultural barriers, or it doesn’t actually mean anything in OUR language. (FWIW, I think THAT is something I DO agree with FMM about.) For me, that’s the (almost mystical) moral of Tarski’s definition.

  4. walto: Truth has to transcend these cultural barriers, or it doesn’t actually mean anything in OUR language. (FWIW, I think THAT is something I DO agree with FMM about.) For me, that’s the (almost mystical) moral of Tarski’s definition.

    So you agree with Davidson about the scheme/content distinction?

  5. Bruce,

    Two words: “externalist semantics”. Two more words “rigid designators”

    Reciting those words doesn’t answer my questions, which are about the physical states of the Earth and Twin Earth systems.

    Here they are again, for convenience:

    Assume the existence of a physically identical Twin Earth, where everything, even water, is physically identical to its earthly counterpart. Let’s also assume that your best friend is a guy named Anaximander Rodriguez.

    In your scheme, when Twin Bruce says or thinks ‘Anaximander Rodriguez’, he means Twin Anaximander. For you, Earthly Bruce, it’s Earthly Anaximander. The “metaphysical tether” links to the local Anaximander, in other words.

    Questions:

    1. You and Twin Bruce are in the same physical state, and so are Earth and Twin Earth. If the states are identical, and if meaning supervenes on the physical, then what it is it about the Twin Earth physical state that links Twin Bruce’s ‘Anaximander’ to Twin Anaximander, while your ‘Anaximander’ is linked to Earthly Anaximander?

    2. Now suppose that you and Twin Bruce are swapped in your sleep. In your scheme, the metaphysical tethers still attach to the original referents, so you still mean Earthly Anaximander when you say ‘Anaximander’, and Twin Bruce still means Twin. Why is that so, when swapping you and Twin Bruce left the physical states identical on both planets (assuming the swap was done in a symmetric fashion)?

    There’s also a #3 waiting in the wings, as you might have guessed.

  6. walto,

    The theory makes identy of meaning depend on identity of causes for certain types of words. Causal connections are either to one guy or to the other. AR is not his twin. He doesn’t even know about the existence of any such twin.

    My question is about physical states, not causal history. If meaning supervenes on the physical, then there must be something about the physical state that detemines what’s on the other end of the metaphysical tether.

  7. keiths,

    I think Kripkeans and Putnamians have to hold that meaning is a function of causal history–that that has to trump qualitative identity of physical states either of referring heads or referred to Rodriguezes.

  8. Kantian Naturalist: So you agree with Davidson about the scheme/content distinction?

    To be honest, I really don’t remember that paper. He said that distinction was the third dogma of empiricism?

  9. walto,

    I think Kripkeans and Putnamians have to hold that meaning is a function of causal history–that that has to trump qualitative identity of physical states either of referring heads or referred to Rodriguezes.

    That puts Bruce in a bind, though, because he wants meaning to supervene on the physical state:

    I am not saying that meaning does not supervene on the physical (whatever that is). For Burge scenarios, it supervenes on the brain states of the linguistic community; for Putnam and twin earth scenarios, it supervenes on those brain states and on their physical context.

    Distinct causal histories leading to identical states leave no distinguishing physical residue — otherwise the end states wouldn’t be identical. Given that the states are identical, any differences in meaning have no available physical differences to supervene upon.

  10. walto:
    BruceS,

    OK, I have a couple of comments on the paper you sent now.

    1. I like the paragraph starting with “However” on p. 200 (even though it seems to be suffering from some sort of scrivener’s error):

    That comment in the paper which you quote on linguistic communities surprised me because Putnam does include such a community of intercommunicating BIVs with a shared world (instantiated in the machine) and I have always tried to be careful to copy that assumption.

    I’m not sure how the other two points you make affect what I am saying.

    ETA: I have already said that a translation manual is needed for T-Conventions written in English (which is of course a steal from the paper) when we assess the Right Hand Side of the iff.

  11. keiths:

    Reciting those words doesn’t answer my questions,

    Which physical state do the causal histories supervene upon.

    ETA:
    Or if you want me to be less Delphic, we have two separate physical planets and inhabitants with their own linguistic communities. They are stipulated to be physically identical. But rigid designators are relative to the actual linguistic community. That is where the associated causal history supervenes.

    A and A’s twin are not the same person.
    (Note: I am afraid I have not taken the time to read your posts in meticulous detail so if I have missed some subtlety, I apologize)

  12. keiths:
    walto,

    That puts Bruce in a bind, though, because he wants meaning to supervene on the physical state:

    Distinct causal histories leading to identical states leave no distinguishing physical residue — otherwise the end states wouldn’t be identical.Given that the states are identical, any differences in meaning have no available physical differences to supervene upon.

    Yes, if I thought the physical status of a brain/person alone was enough to determine what the language it is predicted to emit means, then that might apply to my position. Hence the “externalist semantics” and my insistence on causal history (which itself does supervene of course).

    The person has a causal history to a given planet, so its meanings respect that causal history. That will change if it stays a sufficient time. in a new linguistic community.

    Godfather III was a run of the mill movie compared to the masterpieces that were its predecessors, but it does have this (short YT video).

  13. walto:

    I don’t think.Everyone receiving all their information through the vat strikes me as inconsistent with a Putnamian view of language.If we ARE brains in vats, the “twater” theory is all so much delivered hocus-pocus,

    .

    I’m not sure if you were considering intercommunicating BIVs with a shared world to which their language refers and to which their actions and perceptions are directed (translate to vattish as needed).

    Now on twater: The differences between vattish and English are far beyond those differences involving a single natural kind. The two are completely different languages I’d say.

    Suppose a BIV and a ordinary brain are in the same state by some fluke of causal history in their worlds. The BIV understands only vattish, the ordinary brain understands only English. I say “only” because the languages are so different.

    Now what language does a brain that is created by blind luck but shares the common structure of the above two understand at the moment of its creation?

  14. BruceS,

    I don’t think the sort of “communication” Putnam postulates between the brains is sufficient for an externalist interpretation of language to be correct (or, maybe better, to be distinguishable from a non-externalist one).

    My “twater” reference was meant only to suggest that externalism doesn’t seem to make sense in the BIV “community”: I wasn’t suggesting that twin earth was like vat world in any way.

    As indicated in earlier posts, I don’t think any sort of “translation manual” must be required for the translation of the vattish word “truth” into English. “Truth” has to mean the same thing in both languages.

    I think the answer to your last question, will be “Neither” for an externalist and “Both” (since they’d be considered identical) for a non-externalist.

    Anyhow, I don’t think we’re making much progress communicating on this topic, so maybe we should stop here.

  15. keiths: Our senses might not be veridical in this world, and we can’t assign a likelihood to that. Therefore we cannot know that they are veridical.

    A basic error in logic.

  16. keiths: Any knowledge claim based on the veridicality of our senses is illegitimate, because we can’t know that our senses are veridical.

    The certainty expressed here is remarkable.

  17. keiths: Therefore, the senses aren’t perfectly veridical.

    So?

    The senses do not have to be “perfectly veridical.”

    Bridges collapse, yet you still continue to drive over bridges.

  18. keiths: I am not arguing that the senses are not veridical.

    Let’s take you at your word. Though I think people could be forgiven for thinking you are in fact arguing that the senses are not veridical. As you write:

    Therefore, the senses aren’t perfectly veridical.

    So you are not arguing that the senses are not veridical. You are only arguing that that the senses are not perfectly veridical? Why didn’t you say so sooner?

    So is your argument then that the senses are probably not veridical?

  19. keiths: That’s enough. Our senses might not be veridical in this world, and we can’t assign a likelihood to that. Therefore we cannot know that they are veridical.

    To say that our senses might not be (it is possible that our senses might not be) veridical in this world seems to be based on an assumption that we cannot assign a probability to the possibility. Else we are assuming the premise and arguing in a circle.

    As has been pointed out, if it is possible that our senses might not be veridical in this world then it is possible that our senses might are not veridical in this world.

    Who ever thought otherwise?

    The remainder of the argument is that if we cannot assign a probability, then we cannot know. If it is not knowledge with 100% certainty, then it is not knowledge.

    No doubt keiths denies both certain knowledge and knowledge based on probabilities. Whence then the attitude that keiths knows best? That one always leaves me scratching my head.

  20. keiths: Any knowledge claim based on the veridicality of our senses is illegitimate, because we can’t know that our senses are veridical.

    keiths: We cannot know that our senses are veridical.

    But what if this premise is not true?

    keiths: Fer cryin’ out loud, KN! I am not arguing that the senses are not veridical.

    You are arguing that we cannot know that our senses are veridical. Even if our senses are veridical, we cannot know that they are veridical.

    Do you hold we can know that our senses are not verdical? Even if our senses are not veridical, we cannot know that they are not veridical. Is that your position?

  21. keiths: Any knowledge claim based on the veridicality of our senses is illegitimate, because we can’t know that our senses are veridical.

    Premise: We cannot know that our senses are veridical.

    Conclusion: Any knowledge claim based on the veridicality of our senses is illegitimate.

    That’s the argument offered. Obviously, the conclusion does not follow from the premise. What is the missing premise?

    P2: Any knowledge claim based on the veridicality of our senses must be legitimate?

    That can’t be right. How do we judge which claims based on our senses are legitimate or not legitimate?

  22. Mung: Premise: We cannot know that our senses are veridical.

    Conclusion: Any knowledge claim based on the veridicality of our senses is illegitimate.

    That’s the argument offered. Obviously, the conclusion does not follow from the premise. What is the missing premise?

    I think it’s this:

    We cannot base any claim on our senses unless we know our senses are veridical. That is, it’s not enough for them to just BE veridical. The thing is that’s like saying that if knowledge is a function of belief, warrant, and truth we can’t know that it’s raining unless we know that we believe it’s raining. But we can know it’s raining without even knowing what belief is.

    I’m sick of repeating this stuff though.

    Claims based on the veridicality of our senses are no good unless we know that our senses are veridical.

  23. I apologize for any confusion.

    Premise 1: We cannot know that our senses are veridical.

    Premise 2: Fer cryin’ out loud, KN! I am not arguing that the senses are not veridical.

    Conclusion: Any knowledge claim based on the veridicality of our senses is illegitimate.

    Thank God keiths is here to show us all the truth (or not).

  24. walto: Claims based on the veridicality of our senses are no good unless we know that our senses are veridical.

    This has been pointed out to keiths. Did he have a response?

  25. walto:

    I think it’s this:

    We cannot base any claim on our senses unless we know our senses are veridical. That is, it’s not enough for them to just BE veridical. The thing is that’s like saying that if knowledge is a function of belief, warrant, and truth we can’t know that it’s raining unless we know that we believe it’s raining. But we can know it’s raining without even knowing what belief is.

    I’m sick of repeating this stuff though.

    Claims based on the veridicality of our senses are no good unless we know that our senses are veridical.

    walto,

    It amazes me that after all this time, and all this back-and-forth, you still don’t get what Cartesian skepticism is.

    My summary:

    Any knowledge claim based on the veridicality of our senses is illegitimate, because we can’t know that our senses are veridical.

    A knowledge claim is a claim of knowledge. Thus, this is a knowledge claim…

    I know that Cartesian skepticism is distinct from Cartesian materialism.

    …while this is not a knowledge claim…

    Cartesian skepticism is distinct from Cartesian materialism.

    …because knowledge is not being claimed, though a normal human making the latter statement would also be willing to make the former.

    Now, please keep rereading that paragraph until you understand what “knowledge claim” means.

    Then, please reread my statement of Cartesian skepticism:

    Any knowledge claim based on the veridicality of our senses is illegitimate, because we can’t know that our senses are veridical.

    Again, repeat as many times as necessary until the concept is clear to you.

    Thanks.

  26. walto:

    I think Kripkeans and Putnamians have to hold that meaning is a function of causal history–that that has to trump qualitative identity of physical states either of referring heads or referred to Rodriguezes.

    keiths:

    That puts Bruce in a bind, though, because he wants meaning to supervene on the physical state:

    I am not saying that meaning does not supervene on the physical (whatever that is). For Burge scenarios, it supervenes on the brain states of the linguistic community; for Putnam and twin earth scenarios, it supervenes on those brain states and on their physical context.

    Distinct causal histories leading to identical states leave no distinguishing physical residue — otherwise the end states wouldn’t be identical. Given that the states are identical, any differences in meaning have no available physical differences to supervene upon.

    Bruce:

    …we have two separate physical planets and inhabitants with their own linguistic communities. They are stipulated to be physically identical. But rigid designators are relative to the actual linguistic community. That is where the associated causal history supervenes.

    That doesn’t work. There is nothing about the physical state of the linguistic community that fixes the referent. After all, the states of Earth and Twin Earth are physically identical, yet you claim that ‘Anaximander Rodriguez’ means something different on either planet.

    The causal histories are different, it’s true, but a causal history is not itself a physical thing with a physical state upon which meaning can supervene. A causal history is a sequence of physical states. Sequences are abstractions, not physical objects. Only the current state obtains physically; past states are gone.

    Since the current states are identical, there is no physical difference upon which to hang a difference in meaning. To salvage your theory, you would need to posit a non-physical “metaphysical tether”, subject to its own rules, that is dependent on the precise causal history but exists in the present.

    So not only does your theory lead to absurdities such as the ones I pointed out earlier in the thread, it also requires you to abandon physicalism!

  27. Bruce,

    Yes, if I thought the physical status of a brain/person alone was enough to determine what the language it is predicted to emit means, then that might apply to my position.

    We aren’t just talking about the physical states of the “meaners”. We’re talking about the physical states of the planets on which they live, including all of the inhabitants.

    The person has a causal history to a given planet, so its meanings respect that causal history. That will change if it stays a sufficient time. in a new linguistic community.

    I’ll address that in my upcoming Question #3. The idea of a tether that dissolves and reattaches creates even more problems for your theory.

  28. KN,

    Whereas keiths points out that there is no argument that confers either deductive necessity or inductive probability on the reliability of the senses, I am more inclined to say that while that’s true, it simply does not matter. We don’t have any other source of knowledge about the actual world than the senses.

    That’s exactly why the reliability of the senses does matter!

    If all knowledge based on the senses is illegitimate, then all of science goes into the dustbin.

    By no means. The rational response is not to toss science in the trash, but simply to acknowledge that scientific conclusions depend on the veridicality of the senses, which cannot be demonstrated or even shown to be likely. That doesn’t mean that science is useless; far from it!

    (Also, it wouldn’t matter if one looks both ways before crossing the street or not — why bother looking for oncoming cars if I could be a brain in a vat?)

    Come on, KN. Think it through.

    First of all, you might not be envatted (or Carteased in some other way). It’s obviously worth looking both ways in that case.

    Second, even if you are envatted (or Carteased), getting hit by a virtual car could still have catastrophic consequences for you. Your vat maintainers might pull the plug on you and allow your envatted brain to die. If you survived the accident in the virtual world, they might have to damage your envatted brain to mimic the injuries you received. And so on.

    The rational course of action is to continue looking for traffic before crossing the street.

    Also, just as there is no argument that confers either deductive necessity or inductive probability on the reliability of the senses, there is also no argument that confers either deductive necessity or inductive probability on the reliability of the intellect (again, see Hume’s criticism of Descartes on this crucial point). This means that all a priori knowledge — logic and mathematics, all knowledge about possible worlds — is also illegitimate.

    That might well be true. I already rule out absolute certainty, even of “self-evident” truths, on those grounds. The only reason I don’t rule out knowledge of them, as well, is that the apparent consistency of our reasoning makes it likely to be largely correct, in my estimation. (Consistency has different implications for reasoning than it does for the senses. I can elaborate on that if needed.)

    I could be wrong about that, though, and maybe even knowledge of something as basic as “a thing is identical to itself” is impossible. If so, no crisis. I already attach an implicit “if my senses are veridical” to the word “know” in cases that require it, so I can easily do the same with “if my reasoning is correct”.

    Skepticism is either idle, useless, and uninteresting — or it is existentially devastating and utterly nihilistic with regard to all thought, meaning, and value.

    It is neither.

    I’ve already addressed the idea that Cartesian skepticism is uninteresting:

    As for it being uninteresting, are you kidding? What could be more interesting philosophically than the possibility that the world is nothing like what we take it to be?

    That’s why so much ink has been spilled on the topic, and it’s why entire popular movies (like The Matrix and Inception) are predicated on the possible disconnects between perception and reality.

    It’s extremely interesting!

    As for the second part:

    …or it is existentially devastating and utterly nihilistic with regard to all thought, meaning, and value

    Why should it be all of those things when it doesn’t even assert that the senses are non-veridical?

    Your Cartesian skeptophobia is unjustified. The dire consequences you’ve laid out do not follow from the skeptical position.

    I posed this question to walto, but it applies to you as well:

    The Cartesian skeptic has an argument against your position that you cannot refute, by your own admission. Meanwhile, the only argument you have in support of your position is circular.

    Still you cling to your position. Why?

  29. keiths:

    Since the current states are identical, there is no physical difference upon which to hang a difference in meaning.To salvage your theory, you would need to posit a non-physical “metaphysical tether”, subject to its own rules, that is dependent on the precise causal history but exists in the present.

    What is the different between an original and a physically identical forgery?

    What is the difference between a memory and an identical neural pattern induced by a mad scientist?

    What do you think the finitude of the speeds of light and sound might entail?

  30. walto:
    BruceS,
    I don’t think the sort of “communication” Putnam postulates between the brains is sufficient for an externalist interpretation of language to be correct (or, maybe better, to be distinguishable from a non-externalist one).

    My “twater” reference was meant only to suggest that externalism doesn’t seem to make sense in the BIV “community”:

    There would be different patterns of information in the machine to correspond to natural kinds XYZ versus H2O.

    As indicated in earlier posts, I don’t think any sort of “translation manual” must be required for the translation of the vattish word “truth” into English. “Truth” has to mean the same thing in both languages.

    If correspondence works for ordinary world, it will work for BIV world.

    Anyhow, I don’t think we’re making much progress communicating on this topic, so maybe we should stop here.

    Agreed.

  31. Bruce,

    Your questions don’t answer mine.

    Here are mine, again. If you can’t answer them, it’s okay to say so.

    Questions:

    1. You and Twin Bruce are in the same physical state, and so are Earth and Twin Earth. If the states are identical, and if meaning supervenes on the physical, then what it is it about the Twin Earth physical state that links Twin Bruce’s ‘Anaximander’ to Twin Anaximander, while your ‘Anaximander’ is linked to Earthly Anaximander?

    2. Now suppose that you and Twin Bruce are swapped in your sleep. In your scheme, the metaphysical tethers still attach to the original referents, so you still mean Earthly Anaximander when you say ‘Anaximander’, and Twin Bruce still means Twin. Why is that so, when swapping you and Twin Bruce left the physical states identical on both planets (assuming the swap was done in a symmetric fashion)?

    When answering, keep in mind that the causal history is not a physical thing, as I explained here.

  32. walto:

    I think the answer to your last question, will be “Neither” for an externalist and “Both” (since they’d be considered identical) for a non-externalist.

    ETA: I agree with those answers. As an externalist, I go with 1 (neither) for BIV swampman and the original swampman.

    I hope you got at least a wry smile out of that post on Swampman BIV. I certainly had a chuckle writing it.

    Apparently Swampman gets around in the philosophical universe. Block and Tye have traded views on what happens if it goes to Inverted Earth. One section of Block’s paper even brings its descendants into the picture:

    The Swampman’s Grandchild Goes to Inverted Earth
    — From Is Experiencing Just Representing?

  33. keiths:
    walto:

    walto,

    It amazes me that after all this time, and all this back-and-forth, you still don’t get what Cartesian skepticism is.

    My summary:

    A knowledge claim is a claim of knowledge.Thus, this is a knowledge claim…

    …while this is not a knowledge claim…

    …because knowledge is not being claimed, though a normal human making the latter statement would also be willing to make the former.

    Now, please keep rereading that paragraph until you understand what “knowledge claim” means.

    Then, please reread my statement of Cartesian skepticism:

    Again, repeat as many times as necessary until the concept is clear to you.

    Thanks.

    {sproink…whirr…click}
    Unsurprisingly, your summary is just as confused as your prior posts on this topic. I’m through trying to lead you out of yor dark place. You can wait where you are for revelation.

  34. keiths:
    Bruce,

    When answering, keep in mind that the causal history is not a physical thing, as I explained here.

    You don’t understand how physicalism is defined.

  35. keiths:

    The rational response is not to toss science in the trash, but simply to acknowledge that scientific conclusions depend on the veridicality of the senses, which cannot be demonstrated or even shown to be likely. That doesn’t mean that science is useless; far from it!

    This makes no sense to me. You’ve been adamant that all knowledge based on the senses is “illegitimate”. How the hell can such knowledge be both “useful” and also “illegitimate”?

    Come on, KN.Think it through.

    I am thinking it through, but I’m not convinced that you are.

    I could be wrong about that, though, and maybe even knowledge of something as basic as “a thing is identical to itself” is impossible.If so, no crisis. I already attach an implicit “if my senses are veridical” to the word “know” in cases that require it, so I can easily do the same with “if my reasoning is correct”.

    But that just means, “I’m right, unless I’m wrong.” That’s trivially true.

    I’ve already addressed the idea that Cartesian skepticism is uninteresting

    You have suggested that it has inspired some entertaining works of fiction. You have not show that it has any consequences for our conduct or has any bearing at all on how we live our lives. If you want philosophy to be useless and devoid of impact on how we live, by all means, continue as you have been. I prefer philosophy that matters. (And that’s how I teach Descartes, too.)

  36. Kantian Naturalist: You have suggested that it has inspired some entertaining works of fiction. You have not show that it has any consequences for our conduct or has any bearing at all on how we live our lives.

    This ^^^^^^

  37. KN: You [KeithS] have suggested that it has inspired some entertaining works of fiction. You have not show that it has any consequences for our conduct or has any bearing at all on how we live our lives.
    Alan Fox: This ^^^^^^

    I understand KN’s point, but one could misinterpret it as saying unkind things about how some philosophers live their professional lives.

    Perhaps some contributors to the thread may not have an issue with casting such aspersions, however.

    ETA: On further reflection, I withdraw the word “misinterpret”, as it makes a judgement on KN’s intention which I should not do and could certainly be wrong.

  38. BruceS: I understand KN’s point, but one could misinterpret it as saying unkind things about how some philosophers live their professional lives.

    Actually, I take an extremely dim view towards the professionalization of philosophy and towards analytic philosophy in particular. My philosophical preferences are decisively towards American pragmatism and German critical theory. I just appreciate the tools and methods of analytic philosophy in clarifying and developing those claims and positions more clearly. The philosophical work that makes a difference these days is in social and political philosophy, applied ethics, and philosophy of science. The more abstract and a priori it is, and the more insulated the conversation is from science, art, and politics, the less it matters to me. If it’s just a question of the intellectual pleasure of following a self-contained system of rules as far it can go, I’d rather be playing D&D.

  39. Kantian Naturalist: Actually, I take an extremely dim view towards the professionalization of philosophy and towards analytic philosophy in particular.

    Understood. My ETA was based me realizing that sort of possibility might obtain.

  40. keiths:
    . . .
    The causal histories are different, it’s true, but a causal history is not itself a physical thing with a physical state upon which meaning can supervene.A causal history is a sequence of physical states. Sequences are abstractions, not physical objects. Only the current state obtains physically; past states are gone.

    Since the current states are identical, there is no physical difference upon which to hang a difference in meaning.To salvage your theory, you would need to posit a non-physical “metaphysical tether”, subject to its own rules, that is dependent on the precise causal history but exists in the present.
    . . . .

    I’ve been following this thread with more or less attention depending on other demands on my time. This is the most succinct, compelling summary I’ve seen you make thus far. It seems to me to clearly demonstrate the core problem with some of your interlocutors’ positions. I look forward to their responses.

    As an aside, my intuition, which could definitely turn out to be wrong, is that exactly identical physical states are not necessary. If consciousness can arise on non-biological substrates like silicon chips, it is the patterns, relationships, flows, etc. that are essential. Perhaps I read too much speculative fiction, though.

  41. Patrick:

    As an aside, my intuition, which could definitely turn out to be wrong, is that exactly identical physical states are not necessary.If consciousness can arise on non-biological substrates like silicon chips, it is the patterns, relationships, flows, etc. that are essential.Perhaps I read too much speculative fiction, though.

    I agree with that paragraph and have said so explicitly in the thread (see the post where I clarified my position on functionalism. )

    But that agreement has no influence on the other things I’ve said. I don’t plan to repeat them, but my post on what it involves to understand aesthetic quality using the thought experiment involving the random machine might help to motivate what I have claimed.

    Relevant though not the same as this issue is the exchange between Neil, I, and Walt on historical facts versus interpretation of current evidence.

    ETA: Actually, I will add one more consideration: Physics requires that information on the past is always recoverable from the current physical state of the universe. (Hence the Black Hole Wars between Hawking and Susskind). So in principle the causal history is reflected in the current state of the universe. Perhaps that might help the most austere physicalists out there.

    ETA 2: I understand that one concern would be that if we cannot recover the information in practice, then it does not answer the issue. That is why I mentioned the relevance of the exchange with Neil.

  42. Patrick,

    As Bruce said, it’s precisely the same distinction we would make between a painting and a perfect forgery. If one defines “physicalism” in such a way that one can’t make that distinction, and then accepts physicalism because of religious preferences, one will lose a lot of money in the art market.

    ETA: I’ll just add that what we count as a “physical property” makes the difference here. If “emerging from a swamp five minutes ago” is deemed a “relational physical property” the two items can’t be “physically identical.” So whether the difference “supervenes on the physical” is a matter of how we define our terms.

    Furthermore, as I’ve mentioned before, there are about 20 competing definitions of “supervene” currently in contention in the philosophy world.

  43. Patrick: Since the current states are identical, there is no physical difference upon which to hang a difference in meaning.To salvage your theory, you would need to posit a non-physical “metaphysical tether”, subject to its own rules, that is dependent on the precise causal history but exists in the present.

    There really is no logical argument against Last Thursdayism.

  44. walto: . If “emerging from a swamp five minutes ago” is deemed a “relational physical property” the two items can’t be “physically identical.”

    Then that definition of physical is no better than the radio brain theory of mind. There is no wasness of the was; only the isness of the was.

  45. walto:

    Unsurprisingly, your summary is just as confused as your prior posts on this topic. I’m through trying to lead you out of yor dark place. You can wait where you are for revelation.

    walto,

    You made another error. I pointed it out and explained where you went wrong.

    Can you offer a rebuttal? If not, do you acknowledge your mistake?

  46. Bruce,

    You don’t understand how physicalism is defined.

    If so, then what is the correct definition and how does it support your position?

  47. Patrick: It seems to me to clearly demonstrate the core problem with some of your interlocutors’ positions.

    I think the core problem for me and I think several others is what are the consequences of Keith’s point (for me there is also the additional “what is the point”). Keiths has said it is “interesting” and “important” but I’ve not seen him explain that. He seems to think it goes without saying.

    The question is:

    What are the consequences?

  48. KN:

    You’ve been adamant that all knowledge based on the senses is “illegitimate”.

    No, here’s what I wrote:

    Any knowledge claim based on the veridicality of our senses is illegitimate, because we can’t know that our senses are veridical.

    I’m not picking nits here. Walto’s failure to grok the distinction is what led to his confusion in our recent exchange.

    Regarding your question about the usefulness of science in the face of Cartesian skepticism, isn’t it obvious? I am extremely grateful for my air conditioner during this hot California summer, and I would still be grateful even if I knew that California, the heat, and the air conditioner were all virtual. My discomfort in the absence of air conditioning is real, even if the heat and the air conditioner are not. Science may help us navigate the real world, or it may help us navigate the virtual world, but either way it’s useful.

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