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 thoughts on “The Impossibility of Skepticism

  1. I think Glen’s proposal is more up FMM’s alley.

    1. If I know anything God exists.
    2. I know stuff.
    3. Therefore God exists.

    It’s valid–all you have to do is have an argument for 1. And FMM does:

    REVELATION

    et voila!

  2. Oh, yay me!!

    Oh, and yay my cat too. He also wants to know before committing. Last time your offerings were, er, not that great, if we recall correctly.

    No offense.

  3. petrushka: I would expect, if philosophy makes progress, that something approaching consensus would be reached, at least on some key issues. Some kind of agreement that transcends upbringing, nationality, religion, and such.

    Perhaps I have the wrong standard for progress.

    I’d have the read the book in detail to say if and why MP thinks your view is wrong.

    I plan to do so real soon now.

    My last exchange with Walt on “philosophical bucket lists” is relevant to the issue as well, or, more accurately, to the meta-issue

  4. BruceS: I’d have the read the book in detail to say if and why MP thinks your view is wrong.

    I would think that arguing philosophy has made progress would involve defining progress in a way that is different from the way we think about scientific progress.

    If the posters here were asked to support the claim that science has made progress, I suspect everyone could quickly produce a list. The lists would have different contents, but I would expect significant overlap and significant. agreement.

    On the other hand, the word progress has some quirks. I think medicine has progressed, but most of the extension of life expectancy is the result of sanitation and prenatal care.

    Something similar could be said for politics and economics.

    So I could be persuaded that philosophy makes progress without necessarily answering any big questions.

  5. I think the similarity you mention with, e.g., econ is important. Philosophy seems to me to progress (and fail to progress) in analogous ways. They boot bad arguments occasionally, develop methodological advances (e.g. econometrics and modal logic) –that’s not a lot, admittedly, but it’s something. Are they getting closer to TRVTH? Dunno.

  6. petrushka: I would think that arguing philosophy has made progress would involve defining progress in a way that is different from the way we think about scientific progress.

    Most likely. Math too, and ethics.

    By the way, if you want to measure scientific progress using consensus, you have to deal with the fact that the consensus seems to keep changing. It was once the consensus that space and time were absolute and independent, that momentum and position could be simultaneously measured to any degree of accuracy in principle, that the continents did not move, that natural selection was the only important mechanism of evolution.

    I’m not saying that science does not make progress, only that if you want to make more than a surface argument for how and why it does so, then you cannot avoid doing philosophy.

    ETA: velocity -> position

  7. BruceS: I’m not saying that science does not make progress, only that if you want to make more than a surface argument for how and why it does so, then you cannot avoid doing philosophy.

    Ordinary people see progress in science as progress in technology.

    Perhaps the lack of association with some sort of technology is the reason ordinary people see no progress.

    I’m not sure ethics has progressed. Lots of new things to worry about, but it still boils down to be nice and be honest.

    Economics as a science suffers from the fact that making money is red queen game.

  8. Patrick: Do you see an observable, operational difference between knowledge and justified knowledge?

    I’ve been thinking about the terminology I want to employ here, and had a lively series of arguments with my friends about it the other day.

    I think that the relevant distinction I want to make here is between problem-solving animals that have reliable habits and those that genuinely inquire — those that ask if a situation could be made less problematic, or work better, or offer fewer impediments. I still need to read Dewey’s monumental tome Logic: The Theory of Inquiry, which I plan to do this summer.

    My guess is that I will drop the JTB/non-JTB distinction I’ve been playing with here and instead want to distinguish between habitual knowledge and knowledge that is a result of inquiry (“inquisitive knowledge”?, and then follow Dewey (plus Lewis, Sellars, Williams) in reconstructing JTB in pragmatist terms.

  9. I have no problem with the idea that science progresses. Michael Friedman and Jay Rosenberg have good accounts of how that happens. I don’t think philosophy makes progress, but I also don’t think that’s a problem with philosophy. It’s just a fact about one of the many differences between science and philosophy.

  10. Patrick: Please show your calculations supporting that claim of likelihood.

    It’s not a claim it’s a summary statement of our current understanding of thermodynamics

    High levels of entropy are more likely than lower ones all things being equal

    Precise calculations are not necessary it is self evident .

    quote:
    If our current level of organization, having many self-aware entities, is a result of a random fluctuation, it is much less likely than a level of organization which only creates stand-alone self-aware entities.
    end quote:

    from here
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boltzmann_brain

    check it out

    http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0208013

    and

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4C9bn7ZqS4

    peace

  11. GlenDavidson: If we just imagine all of this, then that is “reality” for us, and we have to deal with it regardless of whether or not it’s a simulation or if we’re brains in vats (or if just I am, in fact).

    Exactly, If there is no God there is no shared reality. There can be none by definition we are alone in our thoughts and doomed eternally to remain so.

    That is the inescapable implication of your anti-christian worldview.

    KN in has made a valiant attempt in this thread to escape that trap it’s a pity that you all are unwilling to go down that road with him

    peace

  12. walto: I think Glen’s proposal is more up FMM’s alley.

    1. If I know anything God exists.
    2. I know stuff.
    3. Therefore God exists.

    It’s more like this

    1. AFAIK I could know nothing if God did not exist.
    2. I know this (tentatively) .
    3. Therefore God exists.

    Number 1 is not so much a premise but a working hypothesis.

    It will be falsified when a consistent epistemological system is identified that does not include the Christian God.

    I’m not holding my breath

    peace

  13. I think that what is seen as scientific progress is mostly due to sharing of knowledge that is possible today that was not in the distant past.

    It is much more likely that insight and achievement will not be lost but will be shared and improved upon.

    I have a theory as to why this is the case now as apposed to ancient times but I will spare you all the digression.

    peace

  14. fifthmonarchyman: It’s more like this

    1. AFAIK I could know nothing if God did not exist.
    2. I know this (tentatively) .
    3. Therefore God exists.

    Number 1 is not so much a premise but a working hypothesis.

    Unfortunately, that one doesn’t share the virtue of being valid. Even if the premises were true, the conclusion could be false.

    Better to stick with Glen’s, which at least is valid, even if it isn’t sound.

  15. walto: Unfortunately, that one doesn’t share the virtue of being valid. Even if the premises were true, the conclusion could be false.

    1) Is certainty necessary for knowledge?
    2) Can you know something for certain even if you don’t know how or why you know it?

    I know that God exists because God has reveled himself to me as he has done to everyone. Not because my syllogism is technically valid

    It’s possible that the “premises” of my silly syllogism could be true and God could still not exist. I suppose a better conclusion would be

    3) AFAIK God exists

    But in the end God’s existence does not depend on logic

    Logic itself depends on God’s existence.
    God is logic after all

    If logic exists then necessarily God exists

    1) God is Logic
    2) Logic exists
    3) Therefore God exists

    valid yes but also a truism

    peace

  16. fifthmonarchyman: 1) Is certainty necessary for knowledge?

    No.

    fifthmonarchyman: 2) Can you know something for certain even if you don’t know how or why you know it?

    No (because, IMO, we can’t know anything “for certain”)

    fifthmonarchyman: I know that God exists because God has reveled himself to me as he has done to everyone. Not because my syllogism is technically valid

    That’s obviously false, because to know something one has to (at least) believe it and “everyone” does not believe that God exists.

    fifthmonarchyman: It’s possible that the “premises” of my silly syllogism could be true and God could still not exist. I suppose a better conclusion would be

    3) AFAIK God exists

    That’s hard to assess without understanding more precisely what you mean by “AFAIK”. If it means “it’s consistent with everything I know” it’s probably false that as far as you know, God exists, because as you understand “God” the existence of such an entity may actually be inconsistent with stuff you do know. If so, (3) is false.

    But I’ll take a pass on this one and concede that AFAIK, your (3) might be true. Of course, nothing of any interest follows from that even if it is true that as far as you know God exists.

    fifthmonarchyman: But in the end God’s existence does not depend on logic

    Logic itself depends on God’s existence.
    God is logic after all

    If logic exists then necessarily God exists

    1) God is Logic
    2) Logic exists
    3) Therefore God exists

    valid yes but also a truism

    Sadly, that’s all just so much bullshit. Not even worth the pixels it took to type the words.

    ETA: Look, I don’t care if you believe in God or not. You’re absolutely welcome as far as I’m concerned, but you really must stop suggesting there’s any actual “logic” to your thinking. It’s all rubbish.

  17. fifthmonarchyman: If there is no God there is no shared reality. There can be none by definition we are alone in our thoughts and doomed eternally to remain so.

    Except that of course there hasn’t been anything slightly resembling an argument for this astonishing assertion. What we have here is nothing more than your personal presupposition. It has nothing to do with what anyone else here (and certainly not myself) has asserted, is entitled to assert, or has denied but is nevertheless committed to asserting. By all means, say if you wish that it is “self-evident” — but what is “self-evident” to you is by no means “self-evident” to me.

  18. walto: That’s obviously false, because to know something one has to (at least) believe it and “everyone” does not believe that God exists.

    Of course they do. This fact is easily demonstrated by observing how people act.

    walto: ETA: Look, I don’t care if you believe in God or not. You’re absolutely welcome as far as I’m concerned, but you really must stop suggesting there’s any actual “logic” to your thinking. It’s all rubbish.

    There you go again making claims using colorful language but offering no evidence. Just because you don’t like what I say does not mean it’s rubbish.

    That is unless you are the ultimate decider I’m afraid you will have to fight Patrick for that office

    peace

  19. Kantian Naturalist: Except that of course there hasn’t been anything slightly resembling an argument for this astonishing assertion.

    It’s not my assertion it’s Glens I just agreed with him

    quote:
    If we just imagine all of this, then that is “reality” for us, and we have to deal with it regardless of whether or not it’s a simulation or if we’re brains in vats (or if just I am, in fact).
    end quote:

    You might want to take it up with him.

    peace

  20. fifthmonarchyman: If we just imagine all of this, then that is “reality” for us, and we have to deal with it regardless of whether or not it’s a simulation or if we’re brains in vats (or if just I am, in fact).

    Yeah, I think that was a pretty serious mistake on his part.

    On that version of pragmatism, one can keep alive the assumption that we can make sense of the position of the Cartesian skeptic, but still shrug one’s shoulders. Maybe the underlying reality is material, maybe it’s mental, who knows? and who cares?

    Carnap (in the Aufbau) perhaps exemplifies this kind of pragmatism (though that might be unfair to Carnap).

    Whereas my version of pragmatism involves seeing that Cartesian skepticism is incoherent — it’s not a position that anyone can really make sense of. And we don’t need divine revelation to know that. All we need is to fully absorb the lessons of Kant: the minimal conditions of self-consciousness eliminate the possibility of Cartesian skepticism.

    Any self-conscious being, in order to be aware of its own mental contents as mental contents, has to be able to reliably distinguish, within its conscious experience, between ‘subjective’ phenomena (pains, aches, tickles, itches, thoughts, moods, beliefs, desires, fantasies, wishes, etc.) and ‘objective’ phenomena (objects, causes, relations, properties, spaces, space, time, times). This is because it is only in terms of the contrast with the latter that we can reliably discriminate, classify, cognize, and re-cognize anything in the former.

    But on that Kantian line of thought, it simply does not make sense that self-conscious cognitive agent could know with any reliability the subjective phenomena, while still being in doubt about the objective phenomena. It is not even logically possible that we are brains in vats.

  21. Mung:
    All skepticism is incoherent.

    ETA: The title of the OP is correct.

    I wouldn’t go that far myself. The humanistic skepticism of Montaigne and Hume that basically says, “hey, try not to be a condescending jerk, ok?” is pretty good advice. It would be nice if more folks at TSZ took it.

  22. Kantian Naturalist: Yeah, I think that was a pretty serious mistake on his part.

    Oh really. What was the mistake, not swallowing your unsupported implication that somehow because we deal socially with apparent beings, that these beings are thereby real?

    Try to make that case, rather that merely acting like you did. You didn’t.

    Is the fact that I deal with “people” in dreams an indication that there are people actually in my head, or in some spirit realm to which I go when dreaming? I don’t think so.

    On that version of pragmatism, one can keep alive the assumption that we can make sense of the position of the Cartesian skeptic, but still shrug one’s shoulders. Maybe the underlying reality is material, maybe it’s mental, who knows? and who cares?

    Oh, was that what I was saying? The point I really was making is that we have to deal with our sensory world regardless of the merits of skepticism. But instead of correcting FMM’s doltish BS, you just go with his misrepresentation as if it were the point I was making.

    Carnap (in the Aufbau) perhaps exemplifies this kind of pragmatism (though that might be unfair to Carnap).

    Whereas my version of pragmatism involves seeing that Cartesian skepticism is incoherent — it’s not a position that anyone can really make sense of.

    Yeah, you didn’t back that up at all, because the mere fact that we deal with apparent people in our lives doesn’t indicate their reality. Otherwise, dreams and hallucinations access a sort of reality in which persons exist, one not our normal waking reality.

    And we don’t need divine revelation to know that.

    Well, I don’t know how divine revelation could make us know that. We’d need more than your sloppy argumentation to get beyond the possibility of Cartesian skepticism, though.

    All we need is to fully absorb the lessons of Kant: the minimal conditions of self-consciousness eliminate the possibility of Cartesian skepticism.

    Why? His sloppy nonsense about Ding an Sich? His failure to question whether or not subjective experience is veridical? I tend to think well of Kant on the whole, but Nietzsche rips into a number of Kant’s idiotic ideas that Kant never thought to question, usually effectively. Ding an Sich is an abomination, and Kant seemed unable to think that other beings might just be conjured up from one’s mind, which is one of the big points of older forms of skepticism.

    Any self-conscious being, in order to be aware of its own mental contents as mental contents, has to be able to reliably distinguish, within its conscious experience, between ‘subjective’ phenomena (pains, aches, tickles, itches, thoughts, moods, beliefs, desires, fantasies, wishes, etc.) and ‘objective’ phenomena (objects, causes, relations, properties, spaces, space, time, times).

    That’s just your faith in a “reality” that has solidified in the moden Western world that had rather blended together with dreams and hallucinations in the ancient world There is no objective line between the subjective and the objective. It’s all “subjective” in a sense, in that while we do indeed distinguish between the “real object” and the noumenal experience, we don’t have any objective criteria upon which to base this. It’s all phenomena (or noumena, if one thinks that’s more than a pragmatic distinction, which I don’t), but we call some the “outside” and some the “inside.” It took a long time to learn how to do this in a fairly consistent manner (apparently reflecting reality–I take it to be so pragmatically), too, while many people continued to believe in the dream country as being every bit as real as waking reality, since experience of other beings and things is every bit as realistic in dreams as in “reality.”

    This is because it is only in terms of the contrast with the latter that we can reliably discriminate, classify, cognize, and re-cognize anything in the former.

    So, um, only by contrast with your fictive “objective” can I categorize my feelings as love for a woman? Where did you get anything so absurd?

    Anyway, it’s for you to show some objective difference between dreams and hallucinations on the one hand, and “objective reality” on the other, as a human knows these things without any direct knowledge of anything on the “outside” at all. You’re taking a host of things that humans abstracted and synthesized as if they are indubitably “real” in some manner that cannot be reasonably doubted, when the fact is that you have nothing to tell the schizophrenic to use to differentiate between “reality” and hallucination. Same damned thing if that is how your sensory capacity is wired.

    But on that Kantian line of thought, it simply does not make sense that self-conscious cognitive agent could know with any reliability the subjective phenomena, while still being in doubt about the objective phenomena. It is not even logically possible that we are brains in vats.

    It’s not even logically possible that I’m just “hallucinating” at night, instead of interacting objectively with the beings and objects I see in dreams.

    Makes as much sense.

    Glen Davidson

  23. Kantian Naturalist: The humanistic skepticism of Montaigne and Hume that basically says, “hey, try not to be a condescending jerk, ok?” is pretty good advice. It would be nice if more folks at TSZ took it.

    Indeed. So don’t be a condescending jerk when it comes to Edward Feser.

  24. I thought Patrick wanted TSZ to be a “skeptical” site. But apart from the fact that the site is called “The Skeptical Zone,” what does his appeal have going for it?

  25. KN:

    Whereas my version of pragmatism involves seeing that Cartesian skepticism is incoherent — it’s not a position that anyone can really make sense of. And we don’t need divine revelation to know that. All we need is to fully absorb the lessons of Kant: the minimal conditions of self-consciousness eliminate the possibility of Cartesian skepticism.

    Any self-conscious being, in order to be aware of its own mental contents as mental contents, has to be able to reliably distinguish, within its conscious experience, between ‘subjective’ phenomena (pains, aches, tickles, itches, thoughts, moods, beliefs, desires, fantasies, wishes, etc.) and ‘objective’ phenomena (objects, causes, relations, properties, spaces, space, time, times). This is because it is only in terms of the contrast with the latter that we can reliably discriminate, classify, cognize, and re-cognize anything in the former.

    But on that Kantian line of thought, it simply does not make sense that self-conscious cognitive agent could know with any reliability the subjective phenomena, while still being in doubt about the objective phenomena. It is not even logically possible that we are brains in vats.

    That doesn’t make sense, KN.

    To acknowledge the objective/subjective distinction is not to guarantee that our grasp on the objective is infallible.

  26. keiths: To acknowledge the objective/subjective distinction is not to guarantee that our grasp on the objective is infallible.

    Did I say anything that implied otherwise?

  27. Mung: Indeed. So don’t be a condescending jerk when it comes to Edward Feser.

    His particular mode of smug arrogance brings out the worst in me. I’m weak-willed.

  28. keiths:

    To acknowledge the objective/subjective distinction is not to guarantee that our grasp on the objective is infallible.

    KN:

    Did I say anything that implied otherwise?

    Yes, this:

    But on that Kantian line of thought, it simply does not make sense that self-conscious cognitive agent could know with any reliability the subjective phenomena, while still being in doubt about the objective phenomena. It is not even logically possible that we are brains in vats.

  29. Kantian Naturalist: His particular mode of smug arrogance brings out the worst in me. I’m weak-willed.

    Some people – and Feser is one of those – deserve nothing but scorn from every decent person. That doesn’t make you “condescending” or “jerk”, no matter what Mung says. Nor “weak-willed”, either.

  30. fifthmonarchyman: There you go again making claims using colorful language but offering no evidence. Just because you don’t like what I say does not mean it’s rubbish.

    That is unless you are the ultimate decider I’m afraid you will have to fight Patrick for that office

    What sort of evidence woul you like me to produce for the claim that your post was rubbish? Would you like me to link an introductory ligic book? The wikipedia page on fallacies? Just take a logic class or stop making ridiculous assertions.

  31. keiths,

    Oh! I see what happened — I mistyped, that’s all.

    The Cartesian skeptic should be described as someone who doubts the very existence of all objective phenomena.

    That’s distinct from the fallibilist who doubts whether her knowledge of any particular objective phenomenon is immune to correction in light of some future experience.

    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.

    The claim that it is logically impossible that we are brains in vats just means that it is impossible for us to be massively, utterly, and completely mistaken about everything we take ourselves to know. That’s quite consistent with our being prone to many errors, some of which are detectable and correctable.

  32. Kantian Naturalist: Yeah, I think that was a pretty serious mistake on his part.

    On that version of pragmatism, one can keep alive the assumption that we can make sense of the position of the Cartesian skeptic, but still shrug one’s shoulders. Maybe the underlying reality is material, maybe it’s mental, who knows? and who cares?

    Carnap (in the Aufbau) perhaps exemplifies this kind of pragmatism (though that might be unfair to Carnap).

    Whereas my version of pragmatism involves seeing that Cartesian skepticism is incoherent — it’s not a position that anyone can really make sense of. And we don’t need divine revelation to know that. All we need is to fully absorb the lessons of Kant: the minimal conditions of self-consciousness eliminate the possibility of Cartesian skepticism.

    Any self-conscious being, in order to be aware of its own mental contents as mental contents, has to be able to reliably distinguish, within its conscious experience, between ‘subjective’ phenomena (pains, aches, tickles, itches, thoughts, moods, beliefs, desires, fantasies, wishes, etc.) and ‘objective’ phenomena (objects, causes, relations, properties, spaces, space, time, times). This is because it is only in terms of the contrast with the latter that we can reliably discriminate, classify, cognize, and re-cognize anything in the former.

    But on that Kantian line of thought, it simply does not make sense that self-conscious cognitive agent could know with any reliability the subjective phenomena, while still being in doubt about the objective phenomena. It is not even logically possible that we are brains in vats.

    Very interesting post, KN–but I admit to a weakness for transcendental arguments myself. FWIW, my yahoo group may be discussing Strawson pere’s book on Kant, The Bounds of Sense, sometime this Summer or Fall if you’re interested in participating (or even just lurking).

  33. 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. 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 ascribe to Kant.

  34. fifthmonarchyman: But in the end God’s existence does not depend on logic

    Logic itself depends on God’s existence.
    God is logic after all

    1. God is logic
    2 logic Is dependent on God for existence
    3 God is dependent on God for existence

  35. walto: What sort of evidence woul you like me to produce for the claim that your post was rubbish?

    You might demonstrate how the syllogism is invalid. That would be a start

    peace

  36. newton: 1. God is logic
    2 logic Is dependent on God for existence
    3 God is dependent on God for existence

    exactly.

    God is a Trinity three mutually dependent persons One God.

    Logic is how God thinks about himself it’s also the second person of the Trinity (The Logos). This is all standard Christian teaching.

    quote:

    “In the beginning was the Logic, and the Logic was with God, and the Logic was God.”

    end quote:
    Gordon Clark translation of John 1:1

    peace

  37. newton: 1. God is logic
    2 logic Is dependent on God for existence
    3 God is dependent on God for existence

    Not a syllogism at all. It’s jut three assertions.

  38. walto: Not a syllogism at all. It’s jut three assertions.

    not every 3 item list is meant to be a syllogism

    peace

  39. fifthmonarchyman: You might demonstrate how the syllogism is invalid. That would be a start

    peace

    There’s not even the slightest whiff of validity about it. Your request is a little like a request for a demonstration that you’re not Ant Man. One hardly knows where to begin.

    I’m sorry if these pronouncements seem harsh, FMM. You know I like you. But your claims come off to me as insulting to the integrity of logic. If your arguments were sound, anybody would be able to prove any ridiculous thing they wanted. It’s abusive to critical tthinking.

  40. newton: Dependent for existence?

    yep

    quote:

    The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal.

    end quote:

    Athanasian Creed

    peace

  41. walto: Your request is a little like a request for a demonstration that you’re not Ant Man. One hardly knows where to begin.

    why not begin at the beginning you have two premises and a conclusion.

    Start with the first premise. Or you could simply declare yourself to be the decider and leave it at that.

    walto: You know I like you. But your claims come off to me as insulting to the integrity of logic.

    You see, even you have a vague understanding that Logic somehow possesses personal attributes and can be insulted. This is what I mean by acting as if you know God exists

    peace

  42. fifthmonarchyman: You see, even you have a vague understanding that Logic somehow possesses personal attributes and can be insulted. This is what I mean by acting as if you know God exists

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

  43. Kantian Naturalist:

    But on that Kantian line of thought, it simply does not make sense that self-conscious cognitive agent could know with any reliability the subjective phenomena, while still being in doubt about the objective phenomena. It is not even logically possible that we are brains in vats.

    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 understand Putnam’s BIV thought experiment to be about a different kind of incoherence. Assuming semantic externalism, words like “vat” and “brain” do not mean for BIVs what they mean for us (assuming we are not BIVs). So we cannot coherently say that we could be BIVs and at the same time maintain our meaning for “brains” or “vats”.

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