The Impossibility of Skepticism

I hope I will be forgiven for abusing the term “skepticism” here — for what I have in mind is not a perfectly innocuous “claims require evidence” epistemic prudence, but rather Cartesian skepticism.

According to the Cartesian skeptic, one can be perfectly certain about one’s own mental contents and yet also be in total doubt about what really corresponds to those mental contents. Hence she needs an argument that will justify her belief that there is any external reality at all, and that at least some of her mental contents can correspond to it.

There are many responses to Cartesian skepticism, and here I want to pick up on one strand in the pragmatist tradition that, on my view, cuts deepest into what is wrong with Cartesian skepticism.

I think that one cannot talk, in any intelligible sense, about justification in the first place without also committing oneself to a belief in other minds with whom one shares a world. (Not that I like that way of putting it — “a belief in other minds” is a much too intellectualistic interpretation of the myriad ways in which we experience the sentience of nonhuman animals and the sentience-and-sapience of other human animals.)

I say this because justification is itself a social practice — and one that we ourselves are taught how to participate in. (In the contemporary jargon, I’m a social externalist about justification.) For what is justification? It is a normative assessment of the evidence and reasons for one’s claims. But that normative assessment necessarily involves other rational beings like ourselves.

Think of it this way (taking an example from Wittgenstein): suppose I’m waiting for a train, and I want to know if it will be on time. I could look up the schedule. But suppose further that instead of doing so, I imagine the schedule: I look up the time in my imagination. Why isn’t that the same thing as looking up the actual schedule?

The answer is that there’s no constraint on how I imagine the schedule. It could be whatever I want — or subconsciously desire — it to be. But without constraints, there are no norms or rules at all.

Justification is much the same: it is a normative assessment of evidence and reasoning according to rules or norms, and there are no private norms. (Though Wittgenstein doesn’t put it this way, he might say that the very idea of a “private norm” is a category mistake — a category mistake on which Cartesian skepticism and several hundred years of subsequent philosophy have depended.)

So whereas the Cartesian skeptic thinks that we need to justify our belief in the world and in other minds, I think that this makes no sense at all. We cannot justify our belief in other minds and in the world because there is no such thing as justification at all in the first place without also accepting (what is indeed a manifest reality to everyone who is not a schizophrenic or on a bad acid trip) that there are other sentient-and-sapient beings other than oneself with whom one shares a world.

.A further point to make (and the subject of my current article-in-progress) is that justification and truth require both sentience and sapience.

The clue I’m following is Davidson’s triangulation argument: suppose there are two creatures who are each responding sensorily to some object in a shared environment. How is an onlooker supposed to know which object they are both responding to?  If both creatures can compare its own responses with the responses of the other creature, then each can determine whether or not they are cognizing the same object.

The point here is that two (or more) sentient creatures — intentional beings that can successfully navigate their environments — can each have a grasp of objectivity if and only if each creature can

(1) represent the similarities and differences between its own embodied perspective and an embodied perspective occupied by another creature and

(2) be motivated to minimize discrepancies and eliminate incompatibilities between its own action-guiding representations and its action-guiding representations of the other creature’s action-guiding representations, and in the process

(3) attain the metacognitive awareness whereby it can take its own embodied perspective as an embodied perspective, and thereby be aware that how it subjectively takes things to be is not (necessarily) how things really are.

This process is facilitated by a shared language that allows each creature to monitor how each is representing the other’s representations and revise its own representations when incompatibility between representations is discovered. The function of norms — of discourse and of conduct — is to motivate each creature to revise its representations when incompatibilities are discovered.

One important implication of this argument is that sentient creatures cannot distinguish between their own subjective orientation on things and how things really are. They lack an awareness of objectivity and an awareness of their own subjectivity. By contrast, sapient creatures are aware of both objectivity — how things really are, as distinct from how they are taken to be — and subjectivity — how things are taken to be, as distinct from how they really are.

This line of thought also explains why I have been adamant that objectivity does not require absoluteness: sapient creatures can be aware of the difference between how things are and how they are taken to be, and thus be aware that they might have false beliefs, even though no sapient creature can transcend the biological constraints of its form of sentience.

532 Replies to “The Impossibility of Skepticism”

  1. fifthmonarchyman
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    says:

    newton: And God said” Let there be metaphors so man can act as if I exist” and it was. Therefore revelation

    There is a fine fuzzy line between metaphor and analogy. In order to know the difference we need to have a grasp on objective reality. That is what this thread is all about. I’m not sure how one does that sans God but I’m open to suggestions

    When it comes to other minds all we have is analogy so the precise placement of the fine fuzzy line becomes very important.

    peace

  2. Neil Rickert
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    BruceS: I think your argument might work for Boltzmann brains, but I am not sure about BIVs. After all, there is an external reality for BIVs, namely the pattern of electronic impulses serving to drive the experiences of the envatted brains. (And PP operating in such brains would be modeling the causal structure of these patterns).

    I’m very skeptical about “the pattern of electronic impulses serving to drive the experiences”.

    I suppose that’s because I believe that perception is direct, so doesn’t work the way that the BIV thought experiment assumes.

    I do agree with your assessment of Putnam’s argument about BIV.

  3. Robin Robin
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    I’ve been thinking about the OP and a number of comments (and tangents) hereon lately in relation to an unrelated set of experiences.

    I have (by some accounts) unusually vivid and detailed (and also – by some accounts – unusually detailed recall of) dreams. A number of folks who study such things have provided explanations for my condition (which I can get into if anyone really cares). But the item of interest to me in this context is that in many of my dreams (though not all) I will dream of places and people – in some amazing detail – that I have never been to or met and are (at least by experience) completely fictional. What fascinates me, though, is that I can dream up – invent, for lack of a better term – such “real feeling” environments and people that apparently do not actually exist.

  4. BruceS
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    Neil Rickert: I’m very skeptical about “the pattern of electronic impulses serving to drive the experiences”.

    I suppose that’s because I believe that perception is direct, so doesn’t work the way that the BIV thought experiment assumes.

    Now we’ll see how much attention Keith is paying to this thread.

    I think that BIV is compatible with Gibson’s analysis. Of course, what the BIV would directly experience would not be what we would call (eg) tables and chairs using our English.

  5. petrushka
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    Robin: But the item of interest to me in this context is that in many of my dreams (though not all) I will dream of places and people – in some amazing detail – that I have never been to or met and are (at least by experience) completely fictional.

    I also have vivid dreams of places and events that are completely fictional. Many of them are physically impossible. I have a clear memory of them for several minutes after waking and can compare them to reality.

    It makes me think that consciousness and awareness are not proof of anything important about reality. I’m going to continue behaving as if reality is real, but I have no opinion as to the deep nature of existence. My vivid dreams seem real while I am having them.

  6. Neil Rickert
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    BruceS: I think that BIV is compatible with Gibson’s analysis.

    I can’t judge that. However, it does not seem to be compatible with my analysis.

  7. keiths keiths
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    KN,

    Both being aware of oneself as mistaken about objective reality and being corrected about that mistake require that we are in some degree of cognitive contact with objective reality.

    Drawing the objective/subjective distinction just means that you are aware of the possibility of error: that subjective impressions need not be objectively true. The existence of conflicting subjective impressions is sufficient for that. “Cognitive contact with objective reality” is unnecessary.

    We could, in fact, be brains in vats. It’s not logically impossible.

  8. keiths keiths
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    says:

    Bruce,

    Now we’ll see how much attention Keith is paying to this thread.

    There’s not much to respond to. Neil hasn’t given us his analysis of what’s wrong, in his opinion, with the brains-in-vats thought experiment.

  9. GlenDavidson
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    Kantian Naturalist: Both being aware of oneself as mistaken about objective reality and being corrected about that mistake require that we are in some degree of cognitive contact with objective reality.

    Unless, of course, your “objective reality” is actually subjective reality (or being input by others into your brain, or what-not) and being corrected about that mistake simply requires that you’re in some degree of cognitive contact with subjective reality (or inputs from the Controllers, etc.).

    You’re just kind of circling around the problem and assuming what you are claiming to justify.

    Glen Davidson

  10. GlenDavidson
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    says:

    walto:
    GlenDavidson,

    I’m about as far from being a Kant scholar as it’s possible to be (without reaching my depths of ignorance on Aristotle), which is why I’m interested in reading the Strawson book mentioned above. But I take it that on the Kantian line what coherence dreams, hallucinations, etc. have require a realm of non-dreams,etc. It’s a tough argument to make, obviously.

    Yes, I think so. I mean, in the scientific realm, no problem, we observe people dreaming, then we observe people observing what we’re observing while awake, and of course we then easily explain dreams as something that the brain is doing while not really observing anything (despite what it seems to us in our dreams), and waking reality involves observation of “other things and other beings,” among other things. And I think we’d have a hard time modeling waking reality in any meaningful way except as what we seem to be, organisms existing in our environments (don’t the people controlling brains in vats have to be almost god-like to provide a seemingly coherent reality? Can’t call it impossible (maybe real reality isn’t as complicated as our “illusional lives,” or whatever) , seems doubtful).

    I published one paper a long (long) time ago that concluded from a purely psychological premise (that I basically accepted on authority) that necessarily, there’s an external, physical world. (‘A New Proof for the Physical World’)–PPR 1985).I didn’t then and won’t now argue that the argument is sound, but it IS cool, IMO. And I don’t think it commits the errors you ascribeto Kant.

    Sounds interesting, anyway. Still, it’s never been much of a concern to me, it’s probably a lot more important to realize how we can deal with sensory data coherently regardless of skepticism’s merits, and Kant did well enough there. As for any really good chance that we’re living in a simulation or some such thing, it’s kind of like the moon landings, wouldn’t it be easier just to do it, to let a universe run its course? I confess that I don’t know for sure, but anyway, if we’re being fed illusions or the like so well that we can’t detect bugs, or power surges, or anything else that calls it into question (miracles?), we’re probably hopelessly stuck in it.

    I think it’s probably too boring to be fake, yet that’s a sort of aesthetic judgment that I hardly think can be known to be universal. But who’s to deny it to me?

    Glen Davidson

  11. fifthmonarchyman
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    says:

    GlenDavidson: Unless, of course, your “objective reality” is actually subjective reality (or being input by others into your brain, or what-not) and being corrected about that mistake simply requires that you’re in some degree of cognitive contact with subjective reality (or inputs from the Controllers, etc.).

    That is my take as well.

    It seems to me that there are only two alternatives God chooses to reveal objective reality to me or I have no reliable cognitive contact with objective reality.

    Communion with other minds only works if those minds belong to God.

    KN’s valiant effort fails only because there is nothing behind it that resembles the Christian God.

    peace

  12. walto walto
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    says:

    fifthmonarchyman,

    If those were really the only two choices, then I’d be sorry to have to report to you that you have no reliable contact with objective reality.

    Fortunately, it’s a false dichotomy though. You do know stuff, just not much of the stuff you think you do. That’s your delusion.

  13. fifthmonarchyman
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    walto: Fortunately, it’s a false dichotomy though.

    That is your claim.
    I haven’t seen any supporting argument to back it up.
    What have you got? Let’s see if it impresses Glen and the gang.

    peace

  14. Flint
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    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: That is your claim.
    I haven’t seen any supporting argument to back it up.
    What have you got?

    You must distinguish between LEVELS of reliable contact with reality. In life, only the willingly deluded are ever entirely confident of anything. But there are ways to increase our confidence – things like logical reasoning, increasing familiarity with the body of relevant observations, cross-examination by and with others sharing your interest. a willingness to admit ignorance of existing knowledge combined with an ability to admit error, things like that.

    If you examine your scripture, you will find that no god EVER told anyone anything they didn’t already know, or expressed an opinion they didn’t already have.

  15. fifthmonarchyman
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    says:

    Flint: But there are ways to increase our confidence – things like logical reasoning, increasing familiarity with the body of relevant observations, cross-examination by and with others sharing your interest. a willingness to admit ignorance of existing knowledge combined with an ability to admit error, things like that.

    Do any of those things significantly decrease the likelihood that you are a brain in a vat or a Boltzmann brain?

    Do any of them significantly decrease the likelihood that what you think is reality is just a lucid dream?

    IOW Do any of them insure you a reliable cognitive connection to objective knowledge?

    If so how so?

    peace

  16. fifthmonarchyman
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    says:

    Flint: If you examine your scripture, you will find that no god EVER told anyone anything they didn’t already know, or expressed an opinion they didn’t already have.

    Hold on a minute your argument is not with the theist here it’s with the other “skeptics” led apparently by Glen. It’s probably best you address tangential comments to those folks.

    peace

  17. walto walto
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    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: That is your claim.
    I haven’t seen any supporting argument to back it up.
    What have you got? Let’s see if it impresses Glen and the gang.

    peace

    What else have I got? Please see my last 400 or so posts to you.

  18. Flint
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    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: Do any of those things significantly decrease the likelihood that you are a brain in a vat or a Boltzmann brain?

    Nope.

    Do any of them significantly decrease the likelihood that what you think is reality is just a lucid dream?

    Nope.

    IOW Do any of them insure you a reliable cognitive connection toobjective knowledge?

    If so how so?

    There’s no such insurance in life. THINKING there is leads you down the primrose path.

  19. fifthmonarchyman
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    says:

    walto: What else have I got? Please see my last 400 or so posts to you.

    So I missed it then.
    and so did everyone else for that matter…….. Including Flint

    peace

  20. walto walto
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    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: So I missed it then.
    and so did everyone else for that matter…….. Including Flint

    peace

    Read ’em again. Slowly.

  21. BruceS
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    keiths:

    There’s not much to respond to.

    I was wondering if your old argument about direct perception would get revived, but apparently that was an not a veridical prediction.

  22. BruceS
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    walto: Please see my last 400 or so posts to you.

    !!

  23. BruceS
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    petrushka: It makes me think that consciousness and awareness are not proof of anything important about reality.

    Speaking about consciousness, Scott Aaronson’s latest blog post is worth reading.
    Can Computers Become Conscious? My Reply to Roger Penrose

  24. BruceS
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    says:

    Neil Rickert: I can’t judge that.However, it does not seem to be compatible with my analysis.

    I meant that the neural processing which we share with BIVs is compatible with any scientifically acceptable higher level description of perception as well as with the philosophical analyses of perception that I am aware of.

    (As long as these analyses are understood in the appropriate version of English)

  25. Neil Rickert
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    says:

    BruceS: I meant that the neural processing which we share with BIVs is compatible with any scientifically acceptable higher level description of perception as well as with the philosophical analyses of perception that I am aware of.

    I suppose that depends on the meaning of “scientifically acceptable”.

    The general view that I see from philosophy and from some scientists, are that perception is something that happens to us. Or, to put it differently, we are victims of our perception. Sure, they allow some processing (logic, computation) after it has happened to us. And sure, that’s compatible with BIV. But it is surely wrong — hopelessly wrong.

  26. petrushka
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    says:

    BruceS: Speaking about consciousness, Scott Aaronson’s latest blog post is worth reading.
    Can Computers Become Conscious?My Reply to Roger Penrose

    Now that’s what I call thinking.

  27. petrushka
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    I just this morning awoke with the memory of a dream in which I was arguing with someone about whether we could tell whether we were just dreaming.

  28. BruceS
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    Neil Rickert: I suppose that depends on the meaning of “scientifically acceptable”.

    The general view that I see from philosophy and from some scientists, are that perception is something that happens to us.

    But no matter how you understand perception, that cannot imply a denial of the low-level causal picture involving neurons, synapses, neuro-chemistry, etc. That’s is the low-level, scientifically accepted part I am referring to.

    For example, I am not including any of the representational approaches from psychology, some of which are what I take you to be decrying, in what I am calling the low-level scientific depiction. Instead, these psychological approaches are higher-level. So is Gibson’s when compared to the neural processing at the low level.

    (FWIW, what you see from philosophy is not what others see, eg what KN has been saying).

  29. keiths keiths
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    Bruce:

    (As long as these analyses are understood in the appropriate version of English)

    Thus raising the question of whether Neilspeak is a dialect of English or a language all its own.

    Neil:

    The general view that I see from philosophy and from some scientists, are that perception is something that happens to us. Or, to put it differently, we are victims of our perception. Sure, they allow some processing (logic, computation) after it has happened to us. And sure, that’s compatible with BIV. But it is surely wrong — hopelessly wrong.

    Perception is no less an active process in the brain-in-vat scenario than it is in the brain-in-skull scenario. The only difference is the locus (and nature) of the actions.

    Brain-in-skull has us navigating a real world. In brain-in-vat, our (virtual) actions take place in a virtual world.

    As Bruce points out, the neural processing is the same in either case.

  30. fifthmonarchyman
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    BruceS: I meant that the neural processing which we share with BIVs is compatible with any scientifically acceptable higher level description of perception as well as with the philosophical analyses of perception that I am aware of.

    That is my take as well.

    It doesn’t seem like we can claim a cognitive connection with objective reality when we begin with our own perception.

    But Walto says we can. and claims he has demonstrated this in the last 400 posts to me.

    If that was true why is everyone still acting as if he has not does this?

    peace

  31. walto walto
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    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: That is my take as well.

    It doesn’t seem like we can claim a cognitive connection with objective reality when we begin with our own perception.

    But Walto says we can. and claims he has demonstrated this in the last 400 posts to me.

    If that was true why is everyone still acting as if he has not does this?

    peace

    I have not claimed to have ‘demonstrated’ anything. Go back and read ’em again. And please stop misrepresenting me.

  32. Neil Rickert
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    says:

    BruceS: But no matter how you understand perception, that cannot imply a denial of the low-level causal picture involving neurons, synapses, neuro-chemistry, etc. That’s is the low-level, scientifically accepted part I am referring to.

    Fair enough. But, by itself, that says very little. People are reading far too much into that.

    (FWIW, what you see from philosophy is not what others see, eg what KN has been saying).

    They don’t put it as crudely.

    Here’s a quote from Nagel, “The View from Nowhere” (p. 14).

    The first step is to see that our perceptions are caused by the action of things on us, through their effects on our bodies, which are themselves parts of the physical world.

    Nagel says it more bluntly than most. He doesn’t use the same words, but he is clearly seeing perception as something that happens to us, and then whatever it is that we do with what happens to us.

    The trouble with philosophy, is that it sees the main question as how to explain lofty discussions between philosophers. By contrast, I see the problem as how to account for foraging organisms. I see lofty discussions between philosophers as arising out of that low level foraging ability.

    To put it differently, philosophy starts with solipsism then tries to add in the world. I start with the world, and try to get to abstraction from that world.

  33. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    keiths: Drawing the objective/subjective distinction just means that you are aware of the possibility of error: that subjective impressions need not be objectively true. The existence of conflicting subjective impressions is sufficient for that. “Cognitive contact with objective reality” is unnecessary.

    I disagree, because I think that “the existence of conflicting subjective impressions” requires awareness of objective reality (and conversely).

    The capacity to judge that merely different subjective impressions are conflicting is quite different from merely judging that that differ. One can observe, as in a certain kind of mindfulness, an alternation or change within the passing flux of consciousness. But in order to judge that the appearances conflict, one needs to be able to say that they cannot both be true of the world. I guess I can’t see how that can be the case without it also being the case that we have some degree of cognitive contact with objective reality.

    But I should add that when I talk about “degrees of cognitive contact with objective reality”, I am talking about what sapience adds to sentience. Consider this example: a lynx is stalking a quail. The lynx lacks the concept “quail”; it is not aware of the quail as what we would judge the quail to be (using our concept — how else?). But the lynx is nevertheless in cognitive contact with (here using Jay Rosenberg’s phrase) “aviform shape of mottled brown”. (This would be the lynx’s ‘quailia’.)

    The lynx’s conceptual and perceptual powers give it a direct awareness of this thing over there in that place at that time having that sort of shape, color, movement, direction, associated with those sorts of odors and sounds.

    What language adds to the mix is the capacity to compare-and-contrast between one’s own embodied perspective and that of another animal, so that one can filter out the differences in order to be able to judge how things are. One might be wrong about that judgment, and usually we are. But we can make those judgments at all, and that’s what really interests me.

    GlenDavidson: Unless, of course, your “objective reality” is actually subjective reality (or being input by others into your brain, or what-not) and being corrected about that mistake simply requires that you’re in some degree of cognitive contact with subjective reality (or inputs from the Controllers, etc.

    When I said that the position of the Cartesian skeptic is not even logically possible, here’s what I had in mind.

    1. Our understanding of our own cognitive capacities and incapacities necessarily commits us to recognizing that the world in itself must have some minimally empirically detectable degree of regularities and irregularities, because we could not identify our own mental contents as mental contents without the ability to contrast them with physical, extra-mental phenomena.

    2. Therefore, we cannot conceive of minds like ours that cannot understand the distinction between one’s own mental contents and genuine regularities (and irregularities).

    Note: a lot of the heavy lifting here is done by the word “conceive”. In one obvious sense this is false, since one might think that schizophrenics lack this distinction — or someone on a nice psychedelic trip. But I think that part of what is fascinating and compelling about these cases is how alien they are — that we cannot really understand what it is like to be a schizophrenic, and we really can’t integrate the psychedelic experience into a seamless narrative of the self.

    I’m reading Shaviro’s Discognition, and one of his persistent themes is how science-fiction can be used to expand our sense of what different kinds of perception, thought, and mindedness are conceivable. Roden makes a similar point in straightforward argumentation in his Posthuman Life. As Roden puts it, we cannot assert a priori what kinds of mindedness are possible, and in particular we cannot use our present conceptual powers to predict what kinds of conceptual powers will come into being with superior technology.

    However, at this stage in the argument — given (1) and (2) above — I suddenly realized that I made an elementary blunder. From the claim that “if X is conceivable, then X is logically possible” it does not follow that “if X is inconceivable, then X is not logically possible”. I don’t know why I didn’t see that before.

    So my corrected position is that Cartesian skepticism is not really conceivable, not that it is logically impossible.

  34. fifthmonarchyman
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    says:

    walto: I have not claimed to have ‘demonstrated’ anything.

    So when you say that it’s a false dichotomy what you really mean is that you hope despite the evidence it’s a false dichotomy.

    Or perhaps you mean in your subjective unsupported opinion it’s a false dichotomy.

    Is that approach similar to when you call my syllogism rubbish with out offering to explain why?

    peace

  35. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    Neil Rickert: The trouble with philosophy, is that it sees the main question as how to explain lofty discussions between philosophers. By contrast, I see the problem as how to account for foraging organisms. I see lofty discussions between philosophers as arising out of that low level foraging ability.

    To put it differently, philosophy starts with solipsism then tries to add in the world. I start with the world, and try to get to abstraction from that world.

    Nice way of disregarding all the philosophers who seriously the bottom-up, ecological/evolutionary approach to cognition — Evan Thompson, Alva Noe, Andy Clark, Michael Wheeler, Ruth Millikan, Johanna Seibt, Tyler Burge, Paul Churchland, Daniel Dennett, Bryce Hueber . . . that’s where the cutting-edge philosophy of mind is at.

  36. walto walto
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    fifthmonarchyman: So when you say that it’s a false dichotomy what you really mean is that you hope despite the evidence it’s a false dichotomy.

    No. That’s just another false dichotomy. (You really must take an intro to logic class or stop opining.)

    Or perhaps you mean in your subjective unsupported opinion it’s a false dichotomy.

    That’s another one. There are things that are neither demonstrations nor unsupported opinions.

    Is that approach similar to when you call my syllogism rubbish with out offering to explain why?

    Is something an explanation in your book only when it’s provided OVER 400 times? Why should anybody repeat stuff to you when you haven’t comprehended it any of the last zillion repetitions? What’s the point?

  37. Neil Rickert
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    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: Nice way of disregarding all the philosophers who seriously the bottom-up, ecological/evolutionary approach to cognition — Evan Thompson, Alva Noe, Andy Clark, Michael Wheeler, Ruth Millikan, Johanna Seibt, Tyler Burge, Paul Churchland, Daniel Dennett, Bryce Hueber . . . that’s where the cutting-edge philosophy of mind is at.

    Yet, quite obviously, this “cutting edge” philosophy of mind is not cutting it.

    Science describes things in terms of a few basic concepts such as mass, length, time.

    Somehow, people are failing to see that mass, length and time are all human artifacts. They are not something to be found in the world. They are to be invented. Except that perhaps a completely different conceptualization might be invented instead.

  38. walto walto
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    says:

    Neil R.: The trouble with philosophy, is that it sees the main question as how to explain lofty discussions between philosophers. By contrast, I see the problem as how to account for foraging organisms. I see lofty discussions between philosophers as arising out of that low level foraging ability.

    To put it differently, philosophy starts with solipsism then tries to add in the world. I start with the world, and try to get to abstraction from that world.

    Neil Rickert: Kantian Naturalist: Nice way of disregarding all the philosophers who seriously the bottom-up, ecological/evolutionary approach to cognition — Evan Thompson, Alva Noe, Andy Clark, Michael Wheeler, Ruth Millikan, Johanna Seibt, Tyler Burge, Paul Churchland, Daniel Dennett, Bryce Hueber . . . that’s where the cutting-edge philosophy of mind is at.

    Neil R.: Yet, quite obviously, this “cutting edge” philosophy of mind is not cutting it.

    Science describes things in terms of a few basic concepts such as mass, length, time.

    Somehow, people are failing to see that mass, length and time are all human artifacts

    How nice to be the founder and sole provisioner of something that is neither philosophy nor cognitive psychology nor neuro-physiology nor anything else anybody else has ever considered. No wonder it’s such a big deal that you hold this or that.

  39. fifthmonarchyman
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    walto: There are things that are neither demonstrations nor unsupported opinions.

    OK let’s see

    If it’s not a demonstration and it’s not an opinion.
    What is it?

    wait for it

    revelation 😉

    peace

  40. fifthmonarchyman
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    says:

    walto: Is something an explanation in your book only when it’s provided OVER 400 times?

    Nope, but in order for it to be an explanation does require you say it at least once.

    I know you have not done that because you claimed to not even know where to begin.

    peace

  41. walto walto
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    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: OK let’s see

    If it’s not a demonstration and it’s not an opinion.
    What is it?

    wait for it

    revelation 😉

    peace

    Wrong. Demonstrations are proofs, unsupported opinions are….uh….unsupported. Most of our opinions have various levels of evidence somewhere in between.–anywhere from a single perceptual experience to a highly confirmed scientific theorem.

    Revelation is not on the evidential continuum at all. It’s just word that makes you feel good.

  42. walto walto
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: Nope, but in order for it to be an explanation does require you say it at least once.

    I know you have not done that because you claimed to not even know where to begin.

    peace

    Hahaha. Admittedly, when you say something particularly ridiculous it is hard. But as I said, just put “I am Antman!” for “God exists” and make a couple other parallel changes and you get a pretty good reductio.

    Don’t be entirely helpless. God is supposed to help those who help themselves.

  43. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    walto: But as I said, just put “I am Antman!” for “God exists” and make a couple other parallel changes and you get a pretty good reductio.

    I don’t understand

    Let’s see if I can do it.

    1)Antman is logic
    2)Logic exists
    3) therefore I am Antman

    For starters it’s not even a valid syllogism. Are you claiming mine is invalid as well?

    On top of that the first premise is clearly false. because Paul Rudd is Antman and clearly Paul Rudd is not logic

    quote:
    It’s insane but it’s a great insane.
    end quote:

    Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/p/paul_rudd.html

    Perhaps you need to provide the parallel changes yourself to show what you mean

    peace

  44. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    walto: Most of our opinions have various levels of evidence somewhere in between.–anywhere from a single perceptual experience to a highly confirmed scientific theorem.

    How can your opinion possibly have evidentiary support when you don’t have a cognitive connection to objective reality?

    peace

  45. walto walto
    Ignored
    says:

    (1) I’ve already discussed the validity (or lack thereof) of your “syllogisms” (good thing you sometimes say you aren’t making arguments–though you often contradict yourself on point too–they ARE arguments, even though they’re bad.

    (2) I don’t agree with your unsupported claim that I have no cognitive connection to objective reality.

    I’ve asked you to reread the posts I’ve spent the time and trouble of making to you and you haven’t. I’ve also asked you to stop misrepresenting me, and you continue to do so. You have no wish to learn anything, obviously, you just seem to enjoy reading your repetitive posts over and over. If you want to continue to discuss anything with me you need to demonstrate (look that up) that you have some interest in learing something, that you’re not already sure of everything.

    Out.

  46. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    walto: I don’t agree with your unsupported claim that I have no cognitive connection to objective reality.

    it’s not my claim it’s Glens and everyone here except KN and you agrees with him.

    This is despite your 400 comments to me. I’m not sure how you can expect me to get your point when almost all the folks on your own side don’t follow you logic.

    walto: Out.

    There is no reason to get all defensive. Sometimes people will disagree with you despite your best efforts. You have to find a way to get over it or there will never be……..

    peace

  47. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    keiths:

    Drawing the objective/subjective distinction just means that you are aware of the possibility of error: that subjective impressions need not be objectively true. The existence of conflicting subjective impressions is sufficient for that. “Cognitive contact with objective reality” is unnecessary.

    KN:

    I disagree, because I think that “the existence of conflicting subjective impressions” requires awareness of objective reality (and conversely).

    The capacity to judge that merely different subjective impressions are conflicting is quite different from merely judging that [they] differ. One can observe, as in a certain kind of mindfulness, an alternation or change within the passing flux of consciousness. But in order to judge that the appearances conflict, one needs to be able to say that they cannot both be true of the world. I guess I can’t see how that can be the case without it also being the case that we have some degree of cognitive contact with objective reality.

    To decide that two subjective impressions conflict, you need to believe that they cannot both be true of the real world. But what you take to be “the real world” may not in fact be the real world. It could be an illusion carefully crafted for you.

    It is both logically possible and conceivable that you are a brain in a vat.

  48. walto walto
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: t’s not my claim it’s Glens and everyone here except KN and you agrees with him.

    I think you’re here misrepresenting Glen ‘and everyone else, as well as me. But maybe I’m wrong. here’s how I propose we tell: you indicate clearly what you believe Glen and everybody else agrees with you about and we can poll them. Otherwise this seems just another self-congratulatory revelation-type claim.

  49. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    walto: you indicate clearly what you believe Glen and everybody else agrees with you about and we can poll them.

    this statement

    quote:

    Unless, of course, your “objective reality” is actually subjective reality (or being input by others into your brain, or what-not) and being corrected about that mistake simply requires that you’re in some degree of cognitive contact with subjective reality (or inputs from the Controllers, etc.).

    End quote:

    and this one from Bruce

    quote:
    I meant that the neural processing which we share with BIVs is compatible with any scientifically acceptable higher level description of perception as well as with the philosophical analyses of perception that I am aware of.
    end quote:

    That pretty much is the consensus here AFAICT

    peace

    peace

  50. walto walto
    Ignored
    says:

    Well, the first statement begins with “unless” so I don’t know what he’s saying. Perhaps he could fill us in.

    The second, which is consistent with pretty much every view of perception I’ve ever heard of has been disagreed with by Neil, but not me–and I’m not sure where KN is on it. So not only is it not clear who are all these people you’ve got with you and against me and KN, but it’s also not clear what the hell you’re talking about in the first place, which I guess shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, but still.

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