Science and Philosophy

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Sep 12, 2014 1:40 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:What empirical evidence could refute 2+2=4? If you mix 2L of one liqud with 2L of another and end up with something other than 4L, would that refute the claim, or would that mean you'd picked liquids to which the alleged testable claim doesn't apply?
I concur that this is all based on accepting prior established parameters that make this tautological, but 2+2=4 is an observational truth about a generated system. And yes, you are both right to point out that it is not empirically falsifiable.

Basically, what BattleMoose said. It's a previously agreed upon set of definitions. It's an observation about a generated system that is true.

I concede that 2+2=4 is not empirically falsifiable, and is a fact. Perhaps we (I, rather) need to be more specific, and distinguish between 'scientific facts' and 'philosophical facts'. It is a fact that 'Wednesday comes after Tuesday', but certainly not an empirically falsifiable one.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Sep 12, 2014 2:14 pm UTC

BattleMoose wrote:I am totally cool with that. I get it. Apparently there is a point here somewhere? I find this completely uninteresting. The only reason I responded to it was because I was explicitly called out for ignoring it. I don't object to the claim nor am I arguing against it. I just find it uninteresting.
Who cares what you find interesting? The point is that it's a fact which isn't open to empirical testing. Your initial response suggested that you had completely misunderstood the structure of the claim, in a way that made you think it could be tested empirically, so I corrected your error.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri Sep 12, 2014 5:20 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Again, the conflict is you were providing four examples to Tyn of facts that were not testable. 2+2=4 is a testable fact.
Izawwlgood wrote:I concede that 2+2=4 is not empirically falsifiable, and is a fact.

?

Even if you just simply changed your mind, I don't see how your previously held view that "2 + 2 = 4 is a testable fact" shows a conflict between two things that I said, rather than a conflict between what I said and what you said.

Izawwlgood wrote:You have mostly ignored it, as you did again, so I'll repeat the query that may underline something; when you asserted that 'I am not a brain in a vat' as a fact, are you asserting that if we were take a photograph of TGB who is sitting in front of a computer, that you would not look like this, similarly to how if you took a photo of Izawwlgood right now, he is not in a wheelchair, OR, are you asserting that metaphysically, there's no way you you are being fed sensory information a la the Matrix?

I mean that I am not being fed sensory information via the Matrix. I don't know why everyone wants to take this to mean that there's "no way" that I'm being fed sensory information via the Matrix or that I'm "absolutely certain" that I'm not a brain in a vat. I'm not making claims about levels of certainty. I'm making claims about what is, in fact, the case.

Izawwlgood wrote:The former is a testable fact about your current physical condition. The latter is a philosophical viewpoint with such obvious and relevant discussion potential that I almost wonder if you chose the statement deliberately to trip people up.

I want to be clear. Is the bolded sentence meant to constitute an argument that "I am not a brain in a vat" (interpreted in the way that I describe above) is not a fact?

BattleMoose wrote:I do not demand an empirical basis. I require a basis. I require a demonstration of truth. Certainly a great deal more than an assertion. Go crazy, creative, what ever. But right now all I have is an assertion.

This much, at least, is not true: I explained why I think that I shouldn't hurt people for fun, so you don't just have an assertion.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Sep 12, 2014 5:52 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Even if you just simply changed your mind, I don't see how your previously held view that "2 + 2 = 4 is a testable fact" shows a conflict between two things that I said, rather than a conflict between what I said and what you said.
I did change my mind, as I outlined in the response to gmalivuk, but I think that rather clarifies why I felt there was inconsistency in what you were saying.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:I mean that I am not being fed sensory information via the Matrix. I don't know why everyone wants to take this to mean that there's "no way" that I'm being fed sensory information via the Matrix or that I'm "absolutely certain" that I'm not a brain in a vat. I'm not making claims about levels of certainty. I'm making claims about what is, in fact, the case.
This seems a contradiction to me; you were providing Tyn with untestable facts. I fail to see how 'you not being fed sensory information via the Matrix' is a fact; indeed, you claiming it as such to me seems to indicate that you hold 'fact' to actually mean 'things I believe to be true'. In such a case, me stating that there is Intelligent Life elsewhere in the Universe is a fact.
Izawwlgood wrote:The former is a testable fact about your current physical condition. The latter is a philosophical viewpoint with such obvious and relevant discussion potential that I almost wonder if you chose the statement deliberately to trip people up.
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:I want to be clear. Is the bolded sentence meant to constitute an argument that "I am not a brain in a vat" (interpreted in the way that I describe above) is not a fact?
Yes. Are you claiming to have an answer to question of 'Am I a simulation?'?
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:00 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:I mean that I am not being fed sensory information via the Matrix. I don't know why everyone wants to take this to mean that there's "no way" that I'm being fed sensory information via the Matrix or that I'm "absolutely certain" that I'm not a brain in a vat. I'm not making claims about levels of certainty. I'm making claims about what is, in fact, the case.
This seems a contradiction to me; you were providing Tyn with untestable facts. I fail to see how 'you not being fed sensory information via the Matrix' is a fact; indeed, you claiming it as such to me seems to indicate that you hold 'fact' to actually mean 'things I believe to be true'. In such a case, me stating that there is Intelligent Life elsewhere in the Universe is a fact.
Have you actually explained what you mean by "fact" yet? Are you defining it as necessarily testable or provable or...? Because if you're not just defining facts to be testable, I'm still not clear on why you keep insisting this one isn't a fact or a claim about a fact just because we're not 100% sure it's true. And if you are saying facts must be testable by definition, then I'm not clear on why you're discussing the question of whether facts are testable.
Last edited by gmalivuk on Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:04 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:02 pm UTC

I mean, aside from being written out in the portion you quoted, there's also this from the post I responded to you in;
Izawwlgood wrote:Perhaps we (I, rather) need to be more specific, and distinguish between 'scientific facts' and 'philosophical facts'. It is a fact that 'Wednesday comes after Tuesday', but certainly not an empirically falsifiable one.


Are you and TGB under the impression that the statement "I am not a simulation", supported with... I mean, nothing more than "I have hands" isn't really factual? Or is this an attempted gotcha moment where you teach us about the limitations of knowledge?

What do you guys think a 'fact' is? It seems to me like the definition as provided outside the context of science is ever increasingly amorphous and fuzzy.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:12 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I mean, aside from being written out in the portion you quoted
Which part of that portion do you see as your explanation for what you mean by "fact"? I see a suggestion of what you think TGB might mean, together with the implication that his is a silly definition, and I see yet another assertion that TGB's claim isn't a fact, but I'm failing to see where you explain what *is* a fact.

Izawwlgood wrote:Are you and TGB under the impression that the statement "I am not a simulation", supported with... I mean, nothing more than "I have hands" isn't really factual?
Are you sure you mean "isn't" there?

TGB is saying that the statement "I am not a simulation" *is* really factual. You're the one saying it isn't.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:15 pm UTC

Yeah.

By a fact, I mean something that is true. I don't mean something that I think is true. I also don't mean something that is established (e.g. it is either a fact that there are an odd number of "1" bits on my hard drive, or a fact that there are an even number of the same; but neither fact is established).

Izawwlgood wrote:Yes. Are you claiming to have an answer to question of 'Am I a simulation?'?

Right. My answer is that I am not.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby rat4000 » Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:21 pm UTC

TGB, certainly either you are a brain in a vat or you aren't -- that is, one of those propositions is true, and therefore a fact -- but I don't think you have the justification to assert either statement. Maybe that's part of the confusion here.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:25 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:By a fact, I mean something that is true. I don't mean something that I think is true. I also don't mean something that is established (e.g. it is either a fact that there are an odd number of "1" bits on my hard drive, or a fact that there are an even number of the same; but neither fact is established).
So, demonstrate that you aren't a simulation being fed data of having hands is true.

Drawing a distinction between that which has been established and that which is true doesn't seem to add anything to this case. Of the two statements "I am a simulation" and "I am not a simulation" one is true, but both cannot be.
gmalivuk wrote:but I'm failing to see where you explain what *is* a fact.
I conceded that things can be true without being empirically falsifiable, and suggested a distinction between 'scientific facts' and 'philosophical facts' (Or I suppose 'other facts'?). What do you hold 'fact' to mean?
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:29 pm UTC

rat4000:

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.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:41 pm UTC

I would agree that you perceive yourself to have hands, but using that as proof that you are not a brain in a vat seems to be rather self-fulfilling, in the same way hilariously perhaps that saying 2+2=4 is true because we know what 2 and + and = and 4 mean. Which I'm sure you're aware of.

Yes, a scientific fact would be one that is empirically falsifiable. I grant that there are non-scientific facts, a point you made and that after a bit of reflection I agree with. I don't hold that the statement "I am not a simulation" is a scientific fact, because you cannot feasibly refute it. I also hold that it isn't a non-scientific fact, because you cannot confirm either it or it's opposite ("I am a simulation").

You gave the definition of a fact as 'Something that is true'; is it a fact then that there is intelligent life somewhere other than Earth? Is it a fact that there is not intelligent life somewhere other than Earth? How can both be facts, when we've just as much evidence or reason to believe either to be true?
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby morriswalters » Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:46 pm UTC

Write the syllogism for I'm a brain in a vat.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:59 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Drawing a distinction between that which has been established and that which is true doesn't seem to add anything to this case.
Of course it adds something: it makes it clear that you don't need to establish something as true in order for it to count as a fact. One of, "there's an even number of 1s on this drive" and "there's an odd number of 1s on this drive" is a fact, although I couldn't tell you at the moment which one because I haven't established how many bits of each kind are on the drive.

Of the two statements "I am a simulation" and "I am not a simulation" one is true, but both cannot be.
That's actually pretty close to how I'd explain what a fact is. "This ice cream is delicious" is not a fact because two people can disagree about it without that implying that either one of them is wrong about anything. But one of "I am a simulation" and "I am not a simulation" is a fact, because if I say one and you say the other we cannot both be correct.

(I would differ from TGB in that I'd say that without a doubt "I am not a simulation" is a claim about a fact, but whether it turns out to be a fact itself depends on whether it turns out to be true, and because I'm not certain that it's true, I'm not certain that it's a fact.)

Izawwlgood wrote:I also hold that it isn't a non-scientific fact, because you cannot confirm either it or it's opposite
So this is your criterion for non-scientific fact? Thank you for finally sharing that with the rest of us.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby ahammel » Fri Sep 12, 2014 7:05 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:You gave the definition of a fact as 'Something that is true'; is it a fact then that there is intelligent life somewhere other than Earth? Is it a fact that there is not intelligent life somewhere other than Earth? How can both be facts, when we've just as much evidence or reason to believe either to be true?

Only one of those is a fact. It's not clear which one.

Similarly, one of these statements is a fact: <TGB is a tinned brain> or <TGB's grey matter is all where you would expect it to be>*. TGB says it's the latter, you say it's unclear, but they're both inaccessible to empiricism so the disagreement is a bit beside the point.


* I'm getting pretty sick of the phrase "brain in a vat".
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri Sep 12, 2014 7:12 pm UTC

rat4000 wrote:TGB, certainly either you are a brain in a vat or you aren't -- that is, one of those propositions is true, and therefore a fact -- but I don't think you have the justification to assert either statement. Maybe that's part of the confusion here.

Also, since I take it neither of these propositions is testable, if one of them is a fact then Tyndmyr's claim fails, regardless of which one is a fact or whether we know that it's a fact.

Izawwlgood wrote:Which I'm sure you're aware of.

I'm not going to argue with you about whether my comments are in good faith. If you think they are not, there is the report button.

Izawwlgood wrote:I would agree that you perceive yourself to have hands, but using that as proof that you are not a brain in a vat seems to be rather self-fulfilling, in the same way hilariously perhaps that saying 2+2=4 is true because we know what 2 and + and = and 4 mean.

I don't know what you mean by "self-fulfilling" here. My criticism of the "test" of "2+2=4" was that it simply picked out experiments that were known to "confirm" the claim, and thus wasn't a test at all. Since I don't purport to subject "I am not a brain in a vat" to empirical testing, the same criticism can't apply here.

Izawwlgood wrote:Yes, a scientific fact would be one that is empirically falsifiable.

OK, but I'm asking for a specific example.

gmalivuk wrote:(I would differ from TGB in that I'd say that without a doubt "I am not a simulation" is a claim about a fact, but whether it turns out to be a fact itself depends on whether it turns out to be true, and because I'm not certain that it's true, I'm not certain that it's a fact.)

I think we agree on all this. I'm not certain that it's a fact. But I think that we're far better off accepting it than "Every fact can be tested," when push comes to shove. When claim X says it can't be a fact that we're brains in vats, and claim X is accompanied by no argument whatsoever in its favor, the obvious thing to do is reject claim X.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Sep 12, 2014 7:48 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Of course it adds something: it makes it clear that you don't need to establish something as true in order for it to count as a fact. One of, "there's an even number of 1s on this drive" and "there's an odd number of 1s on this drive" is a fact, although I couldn't tell you at the moment which one because I haven't established how many bits of each kind are on the drive.
By this metric wouldn't anything feasibly be a fact until proven otherwise? "A thousand angels are also dancing on your harddrive" is a fact?

gmalivuk wrote:That's actually pretty close to how I'd explain what a fact is. "This ice cream is delicious" is not a fact because two people can disagree about it without that implying that either one of them is wrong about anything. But one of "I am a simulation" and "I am not a simulation" is a fact, because if I say one and you say the other we cannot both be correct.
If a fact is something that is true, and one of those statements is false, but you have no way of knowing which one it is, how can you assert either one is factual? This is my contention with TGB asserting that he is not a brain in a vat as factual; if the opposite is equally valid, his assertion is not valid.

gmalivuk wrote:(I would differ from TGB in that I'd say that without a doubt "I am not a simulation" is a claim about a fact, but whether it turns out to be a fact itself depends on whether it turns out to be true, and because I'm not certain that it's true, I'm not certain that it's a fact.)
Can you expand on that? I don't see a difference between a statement that is a claim about a fact and a statement that is a fact in a way that is interchangable. If TGB was making a statement about something that could be factual, I don't see how it can be presented as factual.

So, what's your metric for truth then? How do we test the veracity of either statement, to identify which statement is a fact?

gmalivuk wrote:So this is your criterion for non-scientific fact? Thank you for finally sharing that with the rest of us.
Considering distinguishing the two is a rather new bend in this conversational road, you're welcome and I appreciate the extraordinary effort you've just now let lapse in holding your derision and snark at bay. Do you have any comments on this distinction? Do you agree that a scientific fact is something that is empirically falsifiable? Do you agree that a non-scientific fact must have a refutable opposite? Or were you just pointing out that it took me a whole 2 posts to get to answering this?

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:I'm not going to argue with you about whether my comments are in good faith. If you think they are not, there is the report button.
I'm pointing out to you where I don't think you're arguing in good faith. If you wish to treat it as a challenge and be indignant about it, instead of trying to do so or ensuring that you are not perceived as having done so, that is your prerogative. I'm also not interested in arguing the point with you.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:I don't know what you mean by "self-fulfilling" here. My criticism of the "test" of "2+2=4" was that it simply picked out experiments that were known to "confirm" the claim, and thus wasn't a test at all. Since I don't purport to subject "I am not a brain in a vat" to empirical testing, the same criticism can't apply here.
If the claim "I am not a simulation" is being proven with what can be reduced to "Because the simulation convinces me I have hands and am thus not a simulation", I think that's rather the same confirmation bias that we identified in 2+2=4.

Am I misunderstanding the intent of your previous proof of 'I have hands' to mean something different?

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:OK, but I'm asking for a specific example.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Sep 12, 2014 7:59 pm UTC

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.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:rat4000:

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.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
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.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
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 axiomatic.


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.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri Sep 12, 2014 8:08 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:Of course it adds something: it makes it clear that you don't need to establish something as true in order for it to count as a fact. One of, "there's an even number of 1s on this drive" and "there's an odd number of 1s on this drive" is a fact, although I couldn't tell you at the moment which one because I haven't established how many bits of each kind are on the drive.
By this metric wouldn't anything feasibly be a fact until proven otherwise? "A thousand angels are also dancing on your harddrive" is a fact?

No, that's definitely not what gmal said. He said that one of "There are an even number of 1s" and "There are an odd number of 1s" is a fact, not that they both get to be facts until disproved.

Izawwlgood wrote:If the claim "I am not a simulation" is being proven with what can be reduced to "Because the simulation convinces me I have hands and am thus not a simulation", I think that's rather the same confirmation bias that we identified in 2+2=4.

Again, I didn't identify a "confirmation bias" in the tests of "2+2=4." I pointed out that they aren't tests. Since I am not purporting to test whether I am a brain in a vat, the same criticism cannot possibly apply. So you're going to have to explain what you mean, not just say "Oh, I mean the same thing that you meant when you talked about '2+2=4.'"

And, no, I do not accept that my argument can be "reduced to" "Because the simulation convinces me that I have hands."

Izawwlgood wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:OK, but I'm asking for a specific example.
Oh, sure; Water boils at 100C. Mammalian neuronal tissue is derived from the ectoderm. Proteins are translated from mRNA. Mitochondria use ATP synthase to generate ATP. Genetic cross over occurs during prophase.

OK. And taking the first example, you would agree that it's a fact that water boils at 100C, right? And we're entitled to assert it in an argument? Not "It looks like water boils at 100C but who knows if that's real or if we're just hallucinating," but "Water boils at 100C"?
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby morriswalters » Fri Sep 12, 2014 8:13 pm UTC

How do you do science if events aren't repeatable, or if the event can't be inferred from a repeatable event? No matter if anyone is a brain in a vat or isn't. Within the framework of science the idea isn't worth pursuing because it isn't reproducible, despite the merits, one way or the other, of the idea. It isn't that it may or may not be true, but that the truth doesn't inform you. The response that somebody has hands is sufficient proof for the proposition if that observation is repeatable. The reason being that we assume that the Universe is as we perceive and measure it to be. And we judge events based on that assumption. When we discover that it isn't, we rewrite the assumption.

@Tyndymr
The endgame for Nuclear Weapons hasn't played out yet. And in any case it was just an example. I can cite others up to an including the agony of the moment AGW.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Sep 12, 2014 9:04 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:Of course it adds something: it makes it clear that you don't need to establish something as true in order for it to count as a fact. One of, "there's an even number of 1s on this drive" and "there's an odd number of 1s on this drive" is a fact, although I couldn't tell you at the moment which one because I haven't established how many bits of each kind are on the drive.
By this metric wouldn't anything feasibly be a fact until proven otherwise? "A thousand angels are also dancing on your harddrive" is a fact?
If that turns out to be true, then yes it's a fact.

I personally doubt it will turn out to be true, though.

gmalivuk wrote:That's actually pretty close to how I'd explain what a fact is. "This ice cream is delicious" is not a fact because two people can disagree about it without that implying that either one of them is wrong about anything. But one of "I am a simulation" and "I am not a simulation" is a fact, because if I say one and you say the other we cannot both be correct.
If a fact is something that is true, and one of those statements is false, but you have no way of knowing which one it is, how can you assert either one is factual?
I can assert that one of them is a fact even if I don't know which one it is. Again with the hard drive example: there are either an even number of 1s or an odd number of 1s, and whichever one of those is true is a fact. Obviously the other one isn't a fact in that case.

So, what's your metric for truth then? How do we test the veracity of either statement, to identify which statement is a fact?
Doesn't matter to the originating discussion, because one of them is a fact, and neither of them can be empirically tested, ergo there are facts which cannot be empirically tested.

Tyndmyr wrote:This requires a slight definitional detour. Why is something described as a fact? Because you have decent evidence that it is true.
That may be the temporal reason for the language act of describing something as a fact, but TGB and I would both disagree that this is what makes it a fact in the first place.

Suppose I flipped a coin and am now hiding it under my hand. The coin flip has already happened, the room is way too warm and wet for quantum superpositions to be at play in anything as large as a coin, I checked before covering it with my hand that it wasn't balanced on its edge, et cetera. Then wouldn't you agree that exactly one of <The coin under my hand is heads up> or <The coin under my hand is tails up> is true, and whichever one is true is a fact?

It's even empirically testable and everything, which I'm led to understand is the only thing you demand of your facts! But we don't have decent evidence for either one of those propositions. We don't know which one is a fact, but we know that one of them is, nevertheless, a fact.

Sure, it may not be reasonable or rational to pick one of them and believe that one is the fact without any justification for preferring that one over its complement, but that doesn't stop it from being a fact if that is, in fact, the way the coin landed.

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.
If that is taken as an axiom, then your inability to draw what you think is a straight line between what you believe to be two points, then it means there is a logical inconsistency somewhere in your axiomatization, not that that particular axiom is false.

This is the same situation as any other set of axioms, whether mathematical or logical or ethical or aesthetic.

morriswalters wrote:How do you do science if events aren't repeatable, or if the event can't be inferred from a repeatable event? No matter if anyone is a brain in a vat or isn't. Within the framework of science the idea isn't worth pursuing because it isn't reproducible, despite the merits, one way or the other, of the idea. It isn't that it may or may not be true, but that the truth doesn't inform you.
This is a good point.

Purported "miracles" are, pretty much by definition, not reproducible. This is a good reason to avoid pursuing miraculous claims scientifically, it is a good reason to avoid believing such claims yourself, and it is even a good reason to say that people who do believe such claims are irrational. The fact that miracles can't be reproduced is not, however, proof that a particular miraculous claim is actually false.

I'm right there with you in believing that the claim is false, but I don't pretend that the reasons for my disbelief actually constitute any kind of proof. And if it somehow turned out that a miracle did happen, then surely the claim that a miracle happened is a fact.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Sep 12, 2014 9:20 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:If that turns out to be true, then yes it's a fact.
Yes, that's rather my point; there's an 'If' in front of that. You aren't taking the statement "Angels are dancing on my harddrive" to be a fact as is, you're adding the condition of 'If it turns out to be true'.
gmalivuk wrote:I can assert that one of them is a fact even if I don't know which one it is. Again with the hard drive example: there are either an even number of 1s or an odd number of 1s, and whichever one of those is true is a fact. Obviously the other one isn't a fact in that case.
But both are not facts. Until you can affirm which is a fact, I would maintain that neither are facts. They are possibilities.
gmalivuk wrote:Doesn't matter to the originating discussion, because one of them is a fact, and neither of them can be empirically tested, ergo there are facts which cannot be empirically tested.
Which I am no longer disagreeing with. However, 'not necessarily empirically testable' and 'could be true' could be anything. The statement "Wednesday is purple" fits this bill.
gmalivuk wrote:Then wouldn't you agree that exactly one of <The coin under my hand is heads up> or <The coin under my hand is tails up> is true, and whichever one is true is a fact?
Yes, but I wouldn't state, without having seen the coin, that one of those statements was a fact.

Sans looking at the coin, would YOU state that 'The coin under my hand is heads up' was factual? What happens to your basis of ascertaining facts when you lift your hand and see tails? What are you basing the truth of the coins heads-nessness upon without having observed the coin, and what does that mean for your basis for ascertaining all/any truths?

I'd say that having such a definition of what constitutes facts is useless.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:Of course it adds something: it makes it clear that you don't need to establish something as true in order for it to count as a fact. One of, "there's an even number of 1s on this drive" and "there's an odd number of 1s on this drive" is a fact, although I couldn't tell you at the moment which one because I haven't established how many bits of each kind are on the drive.

By this metric wouldn't anything feasibly be a fact until proven otherwise? "A thousand angels are also dancing on your harddrive" is a fact?

No, that's definitely not what gmal said. He said that one of "There are an even number of 1s" and "There are an odd number of 1s" is a fact, not that they both get to be facts until disproved.
And since you've no metric to judge the veracity of either, both are equally 'factual' according to your metric, as is something completely outlandish like "Angels are dancing on my harddrive".

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Again, I didn't identify a "confirmation bias" in the tests of "2+2=4." I pointed out that they aren't tests. Since I am not purporting to test whether I am a brain in a vat, the same criticism cannot possibly apply. So you're going to have to explain what you mean, not just say "Oh, I mean the same thing that you meant when you talked about '2+2=4.'"

And, no, I do not accept that my argument can be "reduced to" "Because the simulation convinces me that I have hands."
It seems we're disagreeing on semantics here; I feel that your proof of 'I have hands, therefor I am not a brain in a vat' is not a test either. I do not accept that proof as being anything other than confirmation of the system as previously established, just like 2+2=4 is not testable beyond anything that is a confirmation of the previously established system.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:OK. And taking the first example, you would agree that it's a fact that water boils at 100C, right? And we're entitled to assert it in an argument? Not "It looks like water boils at 100C but who knows if that's real or if we're just hallucinating," but "Water boils at 100C"?
Yes, but I'm not sure if there's a 'gotcha moment' building here. Yes, water boils at 100C is a fact, and can be 'asserted in an argument', for varying purposes of whatever is to follow. I'm uncertain what this fact has to do with reality or hallucinations, since the scope of this truth does not include comments about the metaphysical reality that it exists in.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Sep 12, 2014 9:47 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:But both are not facts. Until you can affirm which is a fact, I would maintain that neither are facts. They are possibilities.
So you're changing what you mean by "fact" yet again? Because a claim of heads or tails is definitely empirically falsifiable, which you previously said was your criterion for a scientific fact.

However, 'not necessarily empirically testable' and 'could be true' could be anything. The statement "Wednesday is purple" fits this bill.
I'd say that fails on the "could be true" criterion, because days of the week aren't the sorts of things that have colors.

gmalivuk wrote:Then wouldn't you agree that exactly one of <The coin under my hand is heads up> or <The coin under my hand is tails up> is true, and whichever one is true is a fact?
Yes, but I wouldn't state, without having seen the coin, that one of those statements was a fact.

Sans looking at the coin, would YOU state that 'The coin under my hand is heads up' was factual? What happens to your basis of ascertaining facts when you lift your hand and see tails? What are you basing the truth of the coins heads-nessness upon without having observed the coin, and what does that mean for your basis for ascertaining all/any truths?

I'd say that having such a definition of what constitutes facts is useless.
So something is only a fact if we know it to be true? I'd say that is the useless definition, because being true is already implied by "know" and so you've just said facts are things that are known.

Does that mean you don't believe it's possible to discover "the facts" about something?

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:Of course it adds something: it makes it clear that you don't need to establish something as true in order for it to count as a fact. One of, "there's an even number of 1s on this drive" and "there's an odd number of 1s on this drive" is a fact, although I couldn't tell you at the moment which one because I haven't established how many bits of each kind are on the drive.

By this metric wouldn't anything feasibly be a fact until proven otherwise? "A thousand angels are also dancing on your harddrive" is a fact?

No, that's definitely not what gmal said. He said that one of "There are an even number of 1s" and "There are an odd number of 1s" is a fact, not that they both get to be facts until disproved.
And since you've no metric to judge the veracity of either, both are equally 'factual' according to your metric, as is something completely outlandish like "Angels are dancing on my harddrive".
What are you talking about? Of course there's a metric to judge the veracity of those claims: just bloody count the 1s!

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:OK. And taking the first example, you would agree that it's a fact that water boils at 100C, right? And we're entitled to assert it in an argument? Not "It looks like water boils at 100C but who knows if that's real or if we're just hallucinating," but "Water boils at 100C"?
Yes, but I'm not sure if there's a 'gotcha moment' building here. Yes, water boils at 100C is a fact, and can be 'asserted in an argument', for varying purposes of whatever is to follow. I'm uncertain what this fact has to do with reality or hallucinations, since the scope of this truth does not include comments about the metaphysical reality that it exists in.
So "water boils at 100C" is a fact, but "I am not a simulation" isn't a fact?

Even though you have to assume "I am not a simulation" in order to have any justification for the claim "water boils at 100C"?
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri Sep 12, 2014 11:22 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:And since you've no metric to judge the veracity of either, both are equally 'factual' according to your metric, as is something completely outlandish like "Angels are dancing on my harddrive".

Apart from what gmal said, "my metric" does not say that these are equally factual, since my metric doesn't say that being factual has anything to do with being ascertainable. I don't think they are equally factual. I think that one is 100% a fact and the other is 0% a fact. I just don't know which one is which.

"They are equally factual" sounds like something somebody would say if they thought that something could only be a fact if it is known. But since I don't believe that, I don't see where you're getting the idea that I think they're equally factual.

Izawwlgood wrote:It seems we're disagreeing on semantics here; I feel that your proof of 'I have hands, therefor I am not a brain in a vat' is not a test either.
Then this is a point of agreement. I don't think my argument is a test, either.

Izawwlgood wrote:Yes, but I'm not sure if there's a 'gotcha moment' building here. Yes, water boils at 100C is a fact, and can be 'asserted in an argument', for varying purposes of whatever is to follow. I'm uncertain what this fact has to do with reality or hallucinations, since the scope of this truth does not include comments about the metaphysical reality that it exists in.

gmal already gets at the same point I'm trying to make. If "Water boils at 100C" is a fact, so is "Water exists." And so is "It's not the case that: we've just been hallucinating this whole time, and there's really no such thing as water." The same point can be made for all the other examples of scientific facts that you point out (which are, by your own lights, scientific knowledge). If we know any of these things, we know them by observing (directly or indirectly) the objects involved. We cannot do that if all of our experiences are hallucinations, rather than actual observations. We can't have these kinds of knowledge, in other words, unless we are not brains in vats!

Tyndmyr wrote:If we cannot know which is the case, then describing statements about this as facts is...sketchy.

Sure. However, I don't concede that we can't know which is the case, so this isn't much of a response.

Tyndmyr wrote: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.

No, this isn't the rationale. First, I can think of a lot of ways to hurt people without getting caught (even without breaking the law). Second, I just gave my rationale for thinking that I shouldn't hurt people for fun, and it didn't have anything to do with whether I'll get caught or not. I happen to think that whether I get caught is entirely irrelevant to whether I should hurt people for fun.

Besides, even if I accepted this rationale, I would merely be endorsing some other unempirical belief, like "I shouldn't do things that lead to me having less fun in total."

Tyndmyr wrote: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.

Unfortunately, my very short summary glided over some important distinctions. What's less important is what's "obvious," and what's more important is how things appear to us prior to reasoning. I don't think it appears to very many people, prior to reasoning, that God exists. Instead, people do things like: accepting that God exists because they accept the authority of people or traditions that say that God exists; infer that God exists from specific arguments that God exists; or become convinced of the value of faith, the idea being that it is virtuous to believe in God in spite of initial appearances.

At any rate, I don't think it's a problem for my view that people sometimes think that things are obvious and are wrong. Certainly if you can point to a particular kind of initial appearances that tend to be wrong, that's reason to discount that kind of initial appearance. But I don't think that our basic normative judgments have this tendency.

Tyndmyr wrote: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.

First, I don't think that obviousness is a sufficient means to finding truth.

Second, I can say the same thing about your position. You can hand different people the same set of empirical evidence, and they will come to different conclusions. For example, many people believe that JFK was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, but some believe in a more elaborate conspiracy theory. The latter group is clearly wrong, and clearly reasoning unsoundly, but both groups have access to the same empirical evidence. So there must be more "input" to our reasoning than just the empirical evidence.

Tyndmyr wrote: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.

Well, I told you what metaphysical necessity is, so this is a moot point.

Tyndmyr wrote: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?

The claim is "I have hands," not "I imagine that I have hands." Last night I dreamed that I was the president, but I wasn't really the president.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

If your next post doesn't contain some sort of argument for the claim that every fact is testable, I'm not going to bother responding. It isn't worth my time to put this much effort into arguing against your claim when you won't defend it at all.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby morriswalters » Sat Sep 13, 2014 4:07 am UTC

It might help if we ?account? for the assertion is that what we perceive as reality is, indeed, reality. Given that, then the observation of someone having two hands is a valid observation. No brain in a vat. About water boiling the same is true, with additional assumptions. Water boils a 100C under specified conditions. But the event relies on the assertion that the Universe is predictable in the fashion we expect. That given water at sea level in the atmospheric mix we call air water will boil at 100C. I don't have the tools to make the statements clearer. In addition there are at least two different type of events being discussed. Ephemeral events, one offs. And repeatable events. Science deals with the second. Science deals with repeatable events. Uncertainty lies in the interpretation. What we believe the events mean. You could seem to make the argument observations could be considered facts of the type Tyndmyr is discussing.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat Sep 13, 2014 3:23 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:But both are not facts. Until you can affirm which is a fact, I would maintain that neither are facts. They are possibilities.

So you're changing what you mean by "fact" yet again? Because a claim of heads or tails is definitely empirically falsifiable, which you previously said was your criterion for a scientific fact.
No, in the same way that "Water boils at 50C" is not a fact once it has been rejected as such, the equally likely scenarios of 'The coin is heads up' and 'The coin is tails up' are not facts until one is proven to be so. A 'scientific fact', which would be what this is, would only become factual once it has been empirically tested. I haven't changed anything about my criterion, I'm just not agreeing that everything that could be true until proven otherwise is factual

gmalivuk wrote:So something is only a fact if we know it to be true? I'd say that is the useless definition, because being true is already implied by "know" and so you've just said facts are things that are known.

Does that mean you don't believe it's possible to discover "the facts" about something?
Yes, I would say something is factual when it has been demonstrated to be true, and scientifically factual when it has been empirically tested to be true. Things that have not been discovered yet are not currently within the definition of factual, even if they are true. "Omnicron Persei V has a race of angry lizard people who watch Earth sitcoms" is not factual, even if it is true and will only be demonstrated ~1000 years from now. I admit that this is a fuzzy area of the definition of factual, since it posits that the abstract truthness of a thing is defined by human awareness/knowledge. I'd say that what we, humans, call scientifically and non-scientifically factual, cannot include the realm of what we do not know to be true. Scientific facts do not suffer from this, since until they are empirically falsifiable, they would not be considered a fact.

gmalivuk wrote:What are you talking about? Of course there's a metric to judge the veracity of those claims: just bloody count the 1s!
Then do so; when you have empirically falsified one possibility, the true condition becomes a scientific fact. Until then, you have no way of measuring the veracity of either claim. Notice, I'm not saying you have no way of measuring the number of 1's or 0's. I'm saying you have no way of measuring the veracity of either claim. That's a statement about the veracity of the facts.

gmalivuk wrote:So "water boils at 100C" is a fact, but "I am not a simulation" isn't a fact? Even though you have to assume "I am not a simulation" in order to have any justification for the claim "water boils at 100C"?
Yes? We can empirically test whether or not water boils at 100C. We cannot empirically test whether we are a simulation. Hence, remaining consistent with what I've been saying, 'water boils at 100C' is scientifically factual, while 'I am not a simulation' is neither scientifically factual, nor 'non-scientifically factual'. You cannot empirically falsify the latter statement, and you cannot be sure of the opposite's veracity either.

You don't have to make any assumptions about whether or not you are a simulation to test whether or not water boils at 100C. You can even append 'whether or not this is a simulation' after the 'water boils at 100C' statement without changing the empirical falsifiability and reproducibility of the fact.


EDIT: Now, to attempt to bring this all back, I'm curious how people hold this line of discussion, this disagreement of truthiness and testability and whatnot, apply to or are useful for science. I absolutely concur that this discussion firmly has at least one foot in philosophical territory, but aside from recognizing that not everything is empirically testable, I wonder how people think this all contributes to science. That is not a loaded or sarcastic question.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby morriswalters » Sat Sep 13, 2014 5:03 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:You don't have to make any assumptions about whether or not you are a simulation to test whether or not water boils at 100C. You can even append 'whether or not this is a simulation' after the 'water boils at 100C' statement without changing the empirical falsifiability and reproducibility of the fact.
The assumption that the world is a simulation and the assumption that the world is as we experience it, are the same. Neither is falsifiable. But the the second is useful, because if we act as if it is true than we can do useful things with the knowledge. Creating steam engines and so on. Change the question to the binary proposition for clarity, the world is real or the world is a simulation. If one is true the other is false. How would you falsify that proposition?

To go further on the question of water boiling at 100C. How do you falsify this for some location not in the observable Universe. Is it the same everywhere? If it is, what test could you use to falsify the question?

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun Sep 14, 2014 6:40 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I haven't changed anything about my criterion, I'm just not agreeing that everything that could be true until proven otherwise is factual

Nobody has said this.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Sep 15, 2014 9:05 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Yeah.

By a fact, I mean something that is true. I don't mean something that I think is true. I also don't mean something that is established (e.g. it is either a fact that there are an odd number of "1" bits on my hard drive, or a fact that there are an even number of the same; but neither fact is established).


One of those is indeed a fact, yes. Currently untested, but potentially testable.

Certainly one could increase the difficulty("is the number of atoms in the observable universe** odd or even") of this hypothetical question. Is that theoretically testable? Maybe. Some atoms decay, so you'd have to count fast. You'd also be dealing with huge issues of scale. I really don't know if it's theoretically testable or not, even with mega-future science.

A great many things are testable at least in principle, but the very far boundaries of defining this are subject to our lack of knowledge about the future. However, this question is also not answered by philosophy.

Same, same, brain in a vat. You might be one, you might not be, and neither science nor philosophy can substantiatively answer this presently. You have no way to know what the fact is regardless of which approach you take. Science *might* one day have an answer. Maybe. I agree that there may be facts that science cannot answer yet. And maybe, facts that can never be answered through science....but philosophy cannot answer those either. It can't determine which possibility is fact, and so offers nothing in addition to the scientific approach. If it DOES make claims about which is factual, it is indistinguishable from randomly guessing, or religion.

To put it another way, yes, it is a fact that the coin under your hand either has head or tails facing upward. You could even factually speak as to the probabilities of each, if the coin was known to be fair or not, etc. But it would be silly for you to declare that it was a fact that the coin was heads. Ditto, tails. Even if one has established a limited potential domain of solutions for the test, describing the untested outcome as a fact is not accurate. That would be a guess.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:If the claim "I am not a simulation" is being proven with what can be reduced to "Because the simulation convinces me I have hands and am thus not a simulation", I think that's rather the same confirmation bias that we identified in 2+2=4.

Again, I didn't identify a "confirmation bias" in the tests of "2+2=4." I pointed out that they aren't tests. Since I am not purporting to test whether I am a brain in a vat, the same criticism cannot possibly apply. So you're going to have to explain what you mean, not just say "Oh, I mean the same thing that you meant when you talked about '2+2=4.'"

And, no, I do not accept that my argument can be "reduced to" "Because the simulation convinces me that I have hands."


The...whole premise of the brain in a vat is that your "body" is simulated. Hands are not special. All input/output to your brain could be simulated for all you know. Hell, your brain could be a simulation, and there could be a near-arbitrary number of layers of reality above it. A character in counterstrike "has hands", but you appear to think of this as different from you "having hands". How do you know it is?

gmalivuk wrote:So "water boils at 100C" is a fact, but "I am not a simulation" isn't a fact?

Even though you have to assume "I am not a simulation" in order to have any justification for the claim "water boils at 100C"?


We have more evidence for the former than the latter. Speaking strictly, yes, if we're in a simulation, then the physical rules of the higher level of reality may not match the rules of the simulation we see. However, the claim about water is only a claim for our reality, not other realities above or below ours in terms of simulation.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote: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.

Unfortunately, my very short summary glided over some important distinctions. What's less important is what's "obvious," and what's more important is how things appear to us prior to reasoning. I don't think it appears to very many people, prior to reasoning, that God exists. Instead, people do things like: accepting that God exists because they accept the authority of people or traditions that say that God exists; infer that God exists from specific arguments that God exists; or become convinced of the value of faith, the idea being that it is virtuous to believe in God in spite of initial appearances.


Beliefs regarding God are fairly widespread. I think an element of obviousness is fair to attribute to that, if it is to anything. Tradition and authority explain how things remain popular and pervasive, but do not necessarily explain the rise of something. It would seem that humanity is very prone to attribute effects to a intellect of some kind. Our view of what is "obvious" may not exactly correspond to reality. In fact, there can be evolutionary pressures against that.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote: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.

No, this isn't the rationale. First, I can think of a lot of ways to hurt people without getting caught (even without breaking the law). Second, I just gave my rationale for thinking that I shouldn't hurt people for fun, and it didn't have anything to do with whether I'll get caught or not. I happen to think that whether I get caught is entirely irrelevant to whether I should hurt people for fun.

Besides, even if I accepted this rationale, I would merely be endorsing some other unempirical belief, like "I shouldn't do things that lead to me having less fun in total."


I don't particularly care if this is your rationale, it is merely a rationale. Certainly, others exist, and two people may arrive at the same conclusion via different arguments. The importance is that there ARE arguments, and that they eventually chain back to observable, testable facts from the world around us.

**Or other very large area, if you wish to avoid concern over getting information from the very edge of the observable universe in anything like a timely fashion, etc. Meh. Example.


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