Oh dear, there are a great many replies on a great many sub-topics. I shall try to respond to at least a few of them, but time constraints mean I may not get to them all right off.
OK, but I also provided an argument for my position:
I have hands.
Brains in vats don't have hands.
So, I'm not a brain in a vat.
Anyone who sees this argument and is uncertain about the conclusion must be uncertain about whether I have hands, uncertain about whether brains in vats have hands, or uncertain about classical logic.
Iz, would you agree that it is a fact that I have hands? If not, could you give me an example of something that is a scientific fact? I don't see what possible standard you could have in mind for a "demonstration" that would not accept a claim like "I have hands" as a starting point.
The simulation argument would propose that your body is a part of the simulation. In effect, everything we see or experience as part of reality is actually simulated.
The key to the simulation argument is that there is another level of reality beyond ours, which we cannot access, and we cannot differentiate our simulation from reality.
If we cannot know which is the case, then describing statements about this as facts is...sketchy. There's no information either way. Now, if it IS differentiable, we should be able to test that, and can make claims regarding factual nature based on the tests, but that's outside the traditional exercise, and, in any case, would not make a good example of untestable facts.
BattleMoose wrote:On 2+2=4. Isn't 4 just essentially an abbreviation for 1+1+1+1? We defined 4 to be that. Sometime we by convention agreed what 4 represents. There isn't a proof for 2+2=4, we defined 4 to be equivalent to 2+2. And now we are talking about proving a definition? Its like asking someone to prove there are 1000ml in a litre? No, there are a 1000ml in a liter because that is how we have defined what a milliliter and a liter is. There isn't a proof for how long a second is, we have defined what a second is. Et cetera. You cannot argue against or prove or disprove a definition, it is that because we have defined 4 to be that. Anyway, carry on.
They're equivalent, of course. One can trivially add a pile or two objects to another pile of two objects, count the resulting pile, and determine that there are four objects. This is adequate to give you the equivalency you seek.
Various proofs have been done, so once you establish that addition works, proofs of commutivity, etc are of no trouble.
The number of entities described by the symbol 4 is a definitional matter. However, the math behind 2 + 2 = 4 is true regardless of what symbol we use to represent 4.
It is, perhaps, possible to imagine a universe in which basic mathmatical operations have differing properties than ours...but this seems difficult, and not all potential properties of mathmatical properties are internally consistent. Perhaps one could imagine a world in which math does not operate consistently...in fiction, perhaps. However, we can test such a theory here, and demonstrate that this does not appear to be the case. Math appears to be internally consistent and reliable, and we can be extraordinarily confident of this fact due to the degree we have used and tested it. We are, in fact, so certain of commonly used math that it can sometimes be difficult to imagine a world working any other way, but there are many elements of folk history that are not overly concerned with math, physics, etc, and sought other explanations for the world around us.
If you placed two piles of two objects each together, counted the resulting pile, and got an answer of 67, you would be very concerned. If this happened often, it would make the whole concept of math as we know it irrelevant. It's a test. Yes, the answer is obvious to us....but it's still a test.
Since it is SO obvious now, one would tend to expect error on the part of the person conducting the test instead of a general disproof if an incorrect total was arrived at once, but if addition actually just suddenly stopped working....we'd know.
BattleMoose wrote:I would agree with you here. But where we are now isn't where you started. We started with head removal. And I am thinking, yeah, I think its possible to remove a brain and keep it alive and functioning.
I would note that this claim of possibility
is likewise a problem for Tyndmyr. How could one test
whether it's possible to remove a brain and keep it alive? Remove every brain in the world? Remove every brain in every possible world?
Well, monkey head transplants have been done, and some recording and replaying of thoughts has happened...this is all very experimental, but I certainly would not wish to claim that a brain in a vat is utterly impossible. That'd be a very strong claim, and one that is hard to prove indeed. We can certainly observe that we don't quite have the knack for it yet, but research indicates it may be quite possible in the future.
But...it's possibility or not is not particularly important to the thought experiment, which revolves around how you could detect such a thing. Either the answer is "we can't, and will never be able to", or "we can't yet, but we might learn how to do so in the future". We do not have sufficient data yet to confidently state which of those is true. Neither answer presents a problem for how I have described science, though. If we cannot determine such a thing with science, it seems unlikely that philosophy would provide us with an answer.
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Two things. First, I don't accept your distinction between "facts on how the world is" and "facts on how the world people should behave." The world is such that there is a cup on my desk, <Socrates is a man> and <All men are mortal> jointly entail <Socrates is mortal>, and I should not hurt people for fun. All of these are facts about the world, even though one of those facts is also about how I should behave.
This requires a slight definitional detour. Why is something described as a fact? Because you have decent evidence that it is true.
In that case, the rationale for "I should not hurt people for fun" will look something like "because then I'd get caught and locked up, and have less fun in total*", and it's factual nature would depend on other things...ie, what you believe the chances of getting caught are based on what evidence is available.. A "should" is not a fact in a vaccum...it must be derived from what is.
In any case, one certainly can test any particular claims along the way to discover the results of hurting people for fun.
*It is not important that use this particular chain of logic, merely that there is SOME rationale that derives from an evidentiary basis.
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:To give a very very brief summary, I think (following Huemer) that if something seems true, we should accept that it is true unless we come across some good reason not to.
Apologies for the trim for length, but I fear this rationale suffers from the belief of universal obviousness. In short, what I think is obviously true, you may not. "Common knowledge" often incorporates old wive's tales, misinformation, partial information, and so forth. Perhaps flies obviously spring from rotting meat...but perhaps we lack full information.
All knowledge is subject to a degree of uncertainty. The difference in degree, however, is important. I am far, far more certain of the laws of math being consistant than I am of something that has been tested much less. Things that I have not tested at all, I must rely on the tests other people have claimed to conduct, which is obviously somewhat less certain for me....though still quite good if many people all claim the same thing. If it is something that nobody has tested at all, well...certainly the degree of certainty must be small. Some expectations may be derived from related experiments, but on topics far from current testability, I cannot reasonably claim much insight at all.
This directly ties into the present argumentative context. Tyndmyr has asserted, but not defended, the view that every fact is testable. I have claimed in response that it is a fact that I should not hurt people for fun, and that this fact is not testable (and likewise for a number of other facts). All of the claims I have proffered are ones that strike me as obvious, and I suspect they strike most other people as obvious as well (even many people reject them may think that they are among the obvious things that are, against appearances, false). And so I contend that these apparently factual claims ought to be maintained in the face of Tyndmyr's utterly unargued and abstruse claim that untestable things cannot be factual.
I can show you people who say "this is obvious" about things that are utterly wrong. Why, in religion alone, the examples are endless. I dare say the majority of humanity currently thinks it obvious that there is a god.
And yet, in doing so, they arrive at many different conclusions based on this fact, and on other "obvious" beliefs. Clearly, something is amiss somewhere. They cannot all be correct. Obviousness must not be a sufficient means to finding truth, and what is obvious to one person cannot be obvious to all, or we would have no disagreements over such matters, and yet, disagreements exist.
morriswalters wrote:@ Tyndmyr
I think you underestimate the contributions to Science of people who thought past what is testable. And I think you don't give enough attention to those who have to manage the mess that Science can make of things. It becomes tiresome listening to Scientists go "oops". Science is amoral. Yet Science has repercussions in the real world. On his basis alone Ethicists are essential if for no other reason to drive the dialog when Physicists come along and donate us things like the atom bomb. By insisting that only the facts are important, we are lead often to a place we should think twice about going. I offer the ongoing dispute about why we should make already deadly viruses even worse. The facts won't lead you to the solution to that problem.
I dare say that sufficient facts would be illuminating in this dispute, and in a great many scientific debates. Debates over what we should do tend to stem from different predictions of the future based on those actions. Predictions of the future are inherently based on present knowledge.
This happened with the atomic bomb...there was much worry, some people predicted humanity would destroy itself, some believed this to not be the case, but the truth was, we simply did not have a great deal of data for either prediction. Of course, one's attitude towards atomic weapons often coincided with what their predictions for the future would be...one who feared atomic weapons would inexoriably lead to the end of humanity would of course wish for them to be abandoned.
However, it is not the fear that is valuable, but the data. Predictions without data are uncertain, and bound to be wildly varied.
Tyndmyr wrote:1. Why is anything metaphysically necessary? How is a "metaphysical necessity" a fact?
2. It is possible to gather evidence on the outcomes of hurting people just for fun. In fact, quite a lot of such data has been collected. I do not see how it is impossible to test.
3. If you can't test it, how do you know it's a fact?
4. When working with objects, it should be trivial to determine if addition works as mathmatics predicts.
[list=1][*]I don't know what you're asking for here. I'm not sure "how" or "why" things are metaphysically necessary any more than I'm sure "how" or "why" ordinary claims about physical objects are true (e.g. I'm not sure I can say "how" or "why" it's true that there's a stack of quarters on my desk). But if you like, you can replace "it is metaphysically necessary that" with "even if the laws of physics had been different, it would still be the case that."
1 included metaphysical necessity as a part of a "fact". If you cannot tell me what metaphysical necessity is, I do not know how it can be a fact, or even what that fact would be.
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:[*]As gmal says, I didn't assert anything about the empirical outcome of hurting people for fun. I said that I shouldn't do it.
Answered above(reverse order). All should statements are derived from data that is. You can test all of the data that is. One can easily support this statement by reviewing outcomes of people who have acted in such a manner vs people who have not to determine expected outcomes.
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:[*]There are a lot of different philosophical arguments regarding this, but the one I prefer is simple: I have hands. And if I were a brain in a vat, I would not have hands. By reductio, I am not a brain in a vat.
Why cannot a brain in a vat not have hands? The brain in the vat scenario presupposes that all of reality is simulated for the brain. Do hands have some special property that causes a problem for this scenario?
gmalivuk wrote: Tyndmyr wrote:
Statistics isn't a field which is particularly founded on axioms, at least...not in any sense that's different from the rest of mathmatics.
Which is to say, its foundations are completely
Well, the clarification was necessary, because math does use the term Axiom for it's foundations. However, Statistics is not a special subset of math in this regard.
However, axioms in math are somewhat different from the term in philosophy, and do not imply untestability. For instance, the axiom "It is possible to draw a straight line from any point to any other point.
" can overtly be falsified if one could show two points that you could somehow not draw a line between. The fact that it has not been found false does not mean that it could not be.
Similar falsification potential exists for all the mathmatical axioms. Thus, there is no conflict between testifiability and math.
It's shorthand, of course. Science is a means to discovering truth. Or...getting closer to truth is more accurate. Our knowledge improves due to it, and that improves our lot. We become more fit, we survive, we reproduce.
The philosophical position you take when doing science is the position that what you discover through science is truth and that the science itself justifies your belief in this truth (i.e. give you knowledge).
This view is PRECISELY what I am talking about when discussing people treating science as a subset of philosophy.
You are using the philosophic view to describe science, where as I am using a scientific view to describe philosophy. Philosophy attempts to appropriate all else by describing them as merely views that are a subset of itself. This is ridiculously broad, and could apply to literally anyone doing anything, anywhere.
On the flip side, there are things that can clearly be said to not be scientific. Practices, beliefs, and so forth that are obviously not scientific in nature.
If you use a definition of philosophy that is on par with the definition of science, you will find a description like mine, in which religion and philosophy essentially share the domain of the untestable, and science is fairly exclusive with regards to both.
Hopefully this spread of replies covers at least a good proportion of the topics discussed(there have been 5 or so replies while typing alone...), I'll hit the thread up again later.