The Codex Quaerendae

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Pfhorrest
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The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:09 am UTC

This is a bit premature to post about, but I'm feeling excited about the future so here's kind of a teaser thing.

Ever since I was a young child I wanted to write kind of a "book about everything", which at some time in my early teens I was nicknaming my "Big TOE" (for Theory of Everything, of course, and pun value). Back when I was studying philosophy at university, I realized that most of the topics I actually wanted to write about were at their base philosophical ones, and of course I learned a lot more about those topics, and further topics I wanted to write about, and how those all related to each other.

I slowly started to organize my various notes to myself into what I once hoped would become my dissertation if I had gone on to get a PhD, which never happened. But I still thought maybe I would write a book on philosophy for general consumption even as I discontinued my formal studies to focus on survival. I eventually gave that book-in-progress the title The Codex Quaerendae (which is probably-bad Latin for "the Book of Questions").

The plan was for that to be an old-fashioned dialogue in the tradition of ancient philosophy, laying out a complete philosophical system in the tradition of modern-era philosophy, but incorporating the insights of the latest contemporary philosophy. However I've come to realize that I find dialogue writing really, really hard to do well, and that that (plus the general stresses of surviving) is what has stopped me from making any progress on this book in many years, leaving it in a generally awful, unreadable state. (But there's the link above if anyone wants to try to read what's there anyway).

So I am thinking that next year (2019, as I'm devoting 2018 to another project), I'm going to start over from scratch, and try to make some actual, readable progress on a lesser version of this project. Instead of a single grand dialogue with many interlocutors each with their own voices weaving everything together with perfectly structured rigorous precision, I'm going to write a series of essays, in my own natural voice which comes to me much more easily, simply laying out what I think and why, one topic at a time. These essays will make reference to each other frequently (e.g. the thesis of one will be taken as a premise of another), and the choice of what essays to write about in what order will still reflect the unified structure of the earlier goal of the project, but I think this will be a version of that vision that I will actually be able to do with the time and energy I have left over after just getting through each day one at a time.

So I guess, stay tuned here next year for progress updates on that. Or give what's up now a read and talk about it here, if you want to. Might give me more thoughts on things to address when I get to rewriting it properly in a year.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Ginger » Sat Jan 20, 2018 1:42 am UTC

I read some of the first part I could see. It's pretty good. I identify with it a lot. Even the goody-goody schoolgirls and professors. And: Facing the government and police is always brave. Always. Got to speak up against injustices, march against them, and. I loved Tina. My favorite character in the entire story.
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Jan 20, 2018 3:25 am UTC

Thank you, and I have to say I'm very surprised you love Tina so much, given what I know of you from these forums. Can I ask what it is about her that you like so much?

FWIW, though it's not mentioned in what's there so far because it's not really relevant to the purpose of a philosophy book, one of the characters is trans, Frank; and Jackie is pangender. Tina is cis, and John is agender. (John is also gay, Tina is straight, Frank is asexual and Jackie is pansexual. Also Tina is black, John is Japanese, Jackie is Hispanic/Native American, and Frank is white).
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
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The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Ginger » Sat Jan 20, 2018 1:48 pm UTC

Ooh. You're pretty good at diversity I must say. Well, I like the strong religious fem Tina 'cause technically I am a Catholic. And the shepherds and wolves talks she had with the others were relevant to my beliefs about the world in general. I liked Jackie for being a social butterfly too. And even more for you writing an actual character w/Native American heritage. And a trans* person in the story? Totally awesome. Thank you so, so much for writing it and I'm gonna finish the entire thing when my sleepy feelings from my meds wear off completely. A-and if anyone thinks that I... exotic up their work, I am sorry. I am not trying to appropriate the feelings of all transgendered women or men, all Native Americans, all social butterflies or whatever. I just... like other skin tones and hair types and eye colors. I like transgender people. And social butterflies. So. Apologies in advance for being totally inappropriately young adult lady again.
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Azula to Long Feng wrote:Don't flatter yourself, you were never even a player.

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Jan 23, 2018 11:39 pm UTC

Thanks Ginger, and no worries at all. I'm glad you like it. I'm always pleasantly surprised when people find the different interlocutors of that old version relatable, since I disagree with them all and worry that I'd made them out as straw men. Gives me encouragement that some day, after I write this just-essays version I'm going to do next year, I really should go back and try to make it a real dialogue, as that approach seems to really draw some people in.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Jan 04, 2019 6:32 am UTC

The first essay of this new Codex is up, kind of. The new Introduction page, with an overview of the project and an outline/table of contents, at least.

The Codex Quaerendae.

First proper essay, Against Fideism, to come in two weeks.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
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The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Jan 16, 2019 5:48 am UTC

The first draft of the first real essay is now up:

Against Fideism.

Also shortly after that last post I made some various touch-ups to that introduction, and I'm likely to make some touch-ups to this first real essay over the rest of this week too.

I know all of this is really basic, not exciting or new or interesting stuff that I'm going over right now, but I'm really just laying the boring groundwork for the much more interesting stuff to come later.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
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The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Feb 01, 2019 7:47 am UTC

The first draft of the next essay is up now:

Against Transcendentalism

I feel like this one is kind of a mess because I've been weirdly sick and not sleeping right all week. I will hopefully revisit and revise it in my spare time (if I have any) between working on unrelated things next week.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Feb 15, 2019 7:10 am UTC

The next essay is up now:

Against Nihilism.

I've been kind of a wreck the past week or two for health reasons so I'm really not feeling confident in the quality of any of these, and would love to revise them based off of feedback from anyone who cares to read them. I really need a sounding board.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Feb 28, 2019 8:02 am UTC

The last of the four "against" essays is up now:

Against Cynicism.

With that, I'm done laying out what my philosophy is not, and in two weeks when I get back to this project, I'll be writing the broad overview of what my philosophy is: Commensurablism.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Mar 14, 2019 7:09 am UTC

The first draft of my first essay about what my philosophy actually is, tying together all four of the previous essays about that it's not, is up now:

Commensurablism.

I might make some revisions and possibly add some illustrations to it tomorrow.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Mar 28, 2019 6:17 am UTC

My essay about the philosophy of philosophy itself is up now:

Metaphilosophy.

I will probably add some illustrations to it tomorrow.

Fun little easter egg that might become more obvious after the other essays are all up: the structure of this sort of prefigures everything else that is to come. The six questions about philosophy that I pose parallel the six kinds of philosophical questions that the later essays will address: the "definition of philosophy" topic that is the bulk of this essay parallels the essays on language, art, and math; the "progress in philosophy" topic parallels the essays on ontology and teleology, the objects of reality and morality respectively, and the criteria by which we judge things as real or moral; the "philosophical methods" topic parallels the essays on epistemology and deontology, the methods of knowledge and justice respectively; the "philosophical faculties" topic parallels the essays on mind and will, the faculties with which we make judgements about reality or morality respectively, and even presages my functionalist views on those topics; the "philosophical institutes" topic parallels the essays on academics and politics, the institutes of knowledge and justice respectively, and even presages my anarchist views on those topics; and the "what use is philosophy" topic parallels the final essay about the meaning of life and what is the point of anything at all ever.
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Apr 11, 2019 5:21 am UTC

I finally start getting kind of technical in this week's essay that's up now:

On Meaning and Language.

And I actually don't feel terrible about the quality of this one too, though I do feel like it got kinda weaker toward the end.
Last edited by Pfhorrest on Thu Apr 11, 2019 7:01 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
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The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby ucim » Thu Apr 11, 2019 6:01 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:I finally start getting kind of technical in this week's essay that's up now:
On Meaning and Language.
And I actually don't feel terrible about the quality of this one too, though I do feel like it got kinda weaker toward the end.


There's a spelling error in the link. It should be
On Meaning and Language.
The link inside is:
http://geekofalltrades.org/codex/meaning.php

Interesting. How do you deal with the difference between:
"I wonder if the tree is healthy." (a literal statement of fact - just what it says on the tin)
"I wonder if the tree is healthy." (a hint for you to give me your thoughts on the subject)
"I wonder if the tree is healthy." (meaning "please call an arborist to take care of it)
"I wonder if the tree is healthy." (meaning "This is a bad place to pitch a tent", which is a statement of fact)
"I wonder if the tree is healthy." (meaning "This is a bad place to pitch a tent", which is a hint that you shouldn't pitch a tent there)
... and all the other implications of a simple declarative statement like the above, including those derived from other interpretations of the word "tree", whether they merit scrumptious donuts or a visit from the FBI.

Context is extremely important in the correct assignment of meaning to an utterance. And beyond that, there are things that are not utterances, but convey meaning of some sort. Art and music come to mind. Are the "happy sound" and "sad sound" effects of a video game not also "words" in that context? Is a symphony an elaboration of this concept?

Am I... er... barking up the wrong tree?

Jose
Order of the Sillies, Honoris Causam - bestowed by charlie_grumbles on NP 859 * OTTscar winner: Wordsmith - bestowed by yappobiscuts and the OTT on NP 1832 * Ecclesiastical Calendar of the Order of the Holy Contradiction * Heartfelt thanks from addams and from me - you really made a difference.

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Apr 11, 2019 7:11 pm UTC

Thanks for catching that typo, I've fixed it now.

And you're right that context can make a big difference in meaning, and that the same literal sentence can mean a variety of things, as in your examples. I didn't mean to say that "expressive questioning" speech-acts give the one definite meaning to all sentences that start with "I wonder...", but rather, to give "wondering" sentences like that as an example of that kind of speech-act, the kind of utterance you might issue in order to perform such an act. But yeah, depending on context, you might issue the same or similar utterances to perform other acts too.

As far as "happy sound" and "sad sound" go, I'd agree that those are effectively "words". When we talk about "speech" in this context we're not just talking about literal human mouth-noises, but any kind of communicative symbols; writing counts, signing counts, and sure, synthetically generated beeps and blings can count too.

And even if they didn't count as "words", per se, yeah, nonverbal forms of media (like pictures and music) can convey a kind of meaning too, and that's actually what most of the next essay is about.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
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The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby ucim » Thu Apr 11, 2019 7:25 pm UTC

The codex at http://geekofalltrades.org/codex/meaning.php wrote:"Bob, you ought not kill him" is equivalent, on my account, to "Bob, don't kill him!"; but "children ought to be protected" does not translate directly to some imperative like "children, be protected!", because the command is not issued at the children.
There's a simpler grammatical reason here though: The first case is a desire for a state of affairs, the second is a desire for an action. Actions are performed by (specific) actors. In the first case Bob is explicitly the one doing (or not doing) the killing... of a specific other person (the direct object of "kill", which is "him"). In the second case, there is no such. As you say, it's unspecified who is presumed to be protecting the children. So the two are not grammatically parallel; I would therefore not expect {insert fancy word} parallelism here.

Jose
Order of the Sillies, Honoris Causam - bestowed by charlie_grumbles on NP 859 * OTTscar winner: Wordsmith - bestowed by yappobiscuts and the OTT on NP 1832 * Ecclesiastical Calendar of the Order of the Holy Contradiction * Heartfelt thanks from addams and from me - you really made a difference.

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Apr 11, 2019 10:19 pm UTC

I'm not sure if that's meant to be a criticism of my position? I agree that moral statements in general are not directly translatable to imperatives per se; but because a narrower subset of moral statements do seem translatable to imperatives, my position is that moral statements are something like a superset of imperatives, "imperative-like" but broader.

Much like, in the terms you mention, someone performing an action is a state of affairs; but not ever state of affairs is one of someone performing an action. You can intend for some state of affairs to be the case, and one kind of thing you can intend to be the case is a state of affairs wherein someone is performing an action. Moral statements in general, on my account, impress intentions, generally; some of those intentions are for some specific someone to perform some action, and those directly translate to imperatives, while others are not of that specific form and so do not directly translate to imperatives, but their meaning can be analyzed by comparison to the ones that do. Take an imperative of the form "subject, verb object!", abstract whatever it is that differs between that and the sentence "subject verbs object", and then apply that thing you abstracted to any other descriptive sentence to get the meaning of the prescriptive sentence prescribing the same thing that descriptive sentence described.
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby ucim » Fri Apr 12, 2019 2:48 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:I'm not sure if that's meant to be a criticism of my position?
No, not a criticism. Rather, just looking at things in different ways. I wonder if there may be more levels of abstraction here than are warranted. This is why I went back to the difference between "Subject, verb object!" compared to "object ought to be verbed". The difference in meaning is clear from the grammar; the latter has no subject.
Spoiler:
Yes, grammatically "object" is the subject, "be" is the verb, and "be verbed" is a kind of object in that second version, but I think you see what I mean through the parallelism.
"The moon ought to be made of green cheese" doesn't imply that there is anybody whose moral imperative it would be to curdle it. It's merely a statement of preference for a world in which the moon was high in caesin. (And by the looks of the moon, governed by Switzerland).

It's the active voice vs the passive voice.

Jose
Order of the Sillies, Honoris Causam - bestowed by charlie_grumbles on NP 859 * OTTscar winner: Wordsmith - bestowed by yappobiscuts and the OTT on NP 1832 * Ecclesiastical Calendar of the Order of the Holy Contradiction * Heartfelt thanks from addams and from me - you really made a difference.

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Apr 12, 2019 3:30 am UTC

Yeah, and I guess my whole position there is that the only reason moral statements aren't exactly equivalent to imperatives is that there's no way in natural English of saying an imperative in the passive voice. But if were to imagine (or construct) something that serves the same function as an imperative when in active voice, but also has a passive voice mode, that is the kind of thing I say moral statements are. That prescriptivity wrapped around an active-voice clause is equivalent to an imperative, but because our usual way of using imperatives doesn't allow passive voice, the exact same prescriptivity wrapped around a passive-voice clause doesn't translate to a natural-sounding imperative.

I'm going to write more about this in the upcoming essay On Logic and Mathematics, but you could imagine two logical functions, is() and be(), just our copulae in their indicative and imperative moods respectively, which take as argument a gerund clause like "subject verbing object". "is(subject verbing object)" means the indicative "subject is verbing object", while "be(subject verbing object)" means the imperative "subject, be verbing (i.e. verb) object". If that gerund clause is in the passive voice, "is(object verbed)", we have no trouble translating it to a natural English indicative, "object is verbed", but stick that same passive gerund into the other function, "be(object verbed)", and there isn't a natural English imperative sentence to convey the same thing. I think that that's just a limitation English happens to have, and doesn't really reflect anything profoundly philosophical, it's just what requires us to use circumlocutions with auxilliary verbs like "ought" and "should" to communicate that kind of opinion, and confuses philosophers about what moral sentences mean, since it puts them into a form that looks like they're indicative, descriptive statements.
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby ucim » Fri Apr 12, 2019 4:08 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:but stick that same passive gerund into the other function, "be(object verbed)", and there isn't a natural English imperative sentence to convey the same thing. I think that that's just a limitation English happens to have
Well, grammar is a response to the set of things people want to say. If there isn't a grammatical way to say something, it's probably something that people don't have much of a need to say. And that might be because the thing being not-said "isn't a thing".

(It's an issue I have with OOP also; in procedural programming we do things to data. In OOP we ask data to do things to itself.)

Perhaps prayer is the grammatical answer to be(object verbed). It's kind of what happens with OOP too. :)

Jose
Order of the Sillies, Honoris Causam - bestowed by charlie_grumbles on NP 859 * OTTscar winner: Wordsmith - bestowed by yappobiscuts and the OTT on NP 1832 * Ecclesiastical Calendar of the Order of the Holy Contradiction * Heartfelt thanks from addams and from me - you really made a difference.

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Apr 18, 2019 7:50 pm UTC

There are lots of useful things to say that natural languages are bad at saying clearly. Take for example distinguishing between "every mouse is afraid of some cat" as meaning "for each mouse, there exists some cat or another that that mouse is afraid of" and as it meaning "there exists some particular cat, such that every single mouse is afraid of that one cat in particular". That's what we invented quantitative logic to clarify. (And before it was clarified, that ambiguity caused serious philosophical fallacies, e.g. "nothing comes from nothing, everything comes from something [or another]; therefore there exists some [one, particular] thing from which everything else came, and we call that God"). Basically all of symbolic logic is invented because natural languages can be really unclear on what exactly they're trying to say. (And when I get to my essay on logic and mathematics, I will describe my variant on symbolic logic that makes clarifying direction-of-fit and so on easier). That doesn't mean that those things aren't "a thing".
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby ucim » Fri Apr 19, 2019 12:04 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:There are lots of useful things to say that natural languages are bad at saying clearly.
Well, how useful are they? The mouse/cat question is interesting, but as language developed, was there a call to distinguish between those two statements? I suspect (though I'm no linguist) that "stay away from big cats" was far more useful to say. It probably wasn't until the development of leisure philosophical thought that people became interested in how to precisely elucidate the correct set of fears a mouse ought to have. By that time, grammar was pretty much set.

Consider the attempts to alter grammar to eliminate gender in personal pronouns. While it's not an issue, grammar happily assumes (YLMV) genders are associated with things and people, and that it's therefore important. (How did that even get started??) But now that it's an issue for some, there are efforts to change it. It will change, but only because it's now necessary to be able to say "{some other person, previously specified, whose sex is irrelevant} picked up the book". So far, however, it has not been necessary to say "Alan picked up the {female} book". In Spanish, that would be silly, as books are masculine, no matter what their content. If you however wanted to ride a bus in the Dominican Republic, you could ride a (masculine) "autobus" or a (feminine) "guagua", but not the other way around. There's no need to make a point of it.

So, yes, there are useful things to say that grammar makes difficult. When there is sufficient need to say them, grammar will respond with a solution, which may sound odd at first, but we'll get used to it.

Pfhorrest wrote:And before it was clarified, that ambiguity caused serious philosophical fallacies, e.g. "nothing comes from nothing, everything comes from something [or another]; therefore there exists some [one, particular] thing from which everything else came, and we call that God"
Ask me why a ham sandwich is better than complete happiness. Humor aside, grammar isn't the reason for belief in God. There's nothing wrong with the sentence, or the logic behind it. What is wrong is the premise, and perhaps our concept of "nothingness". And sure, the sentence "nothing comes from nothing" is literally ambiguous, but that ambiguity is not a philosophical thing.

Language is a means of communication, not a means of thought. Yes, language can pre-load thoughts and attitudes, but anybody interested can work their way around it.

So, at what point do you think that be(object, verbed) was an important thing to communicate, and to whom?

Jose
Order of the Sillies, Honoris Causam - bestowed by charlie_grumbles on NP 859 * OTTscar winner: Wordsmith - bestowed by yappobiscuts and the OTT on NP 1832 * Ecclesiastical Calendar of the Order of the Holy Contradiction * Heartfelt thanks from addams and from me - you really made a difference.

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Apr 19, 2019 12:45 am UTC

you could say that the invention of symbolic logics just is the adaptation of grammar to suit a need, just a need that only a subset of the population seems to care about.

the logic behind that God sentence is just as bad as the logic in the ham sandwich joke, and the point isn’t that grammar made people believe in God, but that grammar hides why that’s a bad argument for God. it doesn’t hinge on “nothing comes from nothing”, BTW , but on “something”. the premise “everything comes from something” means “for each thing, there exists some thing or another from which that thing came”. (“nothing comes from nothing” means the equivalent “there exists no thing such that there exists no thing that that thing came from”). the conclusion “there exists some particular thing from which all other things come” is treated as equivalent, since that could also be phrased “everything comes from something”, but it’s not equivalent; “everything comes from something” can mean two different things, and the first doesn’t imply the second.

anyway, i’d say that “be object verbed” became a useful thing to say at least as far back as written laws addressed to whole communities instead of commands from parent to children.
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Apr 19, 2019 1:19 am UTC

ETA: grammar does already allow for saying things like these, it just sounds archaic to modern ears.

even latin had “fiat” which functions just like my be() function. “fiat lux” doesn’t describe there being light, it doesn’t tell any in particular to make like, it just commands the existence of light, which we render in english as “let there be” light, though i would say that “be there x” has nicer parallelism with “there is x”, even if it sounds archaic to modern ears. there are subject verbing object; be there subjects verbing ovjects.
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby ucim » Sun Apr 21, 2019 3:58 pm UTC

Yes, you have a point there. But
Pfhorrest wrote:even latin had “fiat” which functions just like my be() function. “fiat lux” [...] commands the existence of light...
I don't know enough latin grammar to say (but this is the internet, right?), however a command is a statement =to= some entity. In this case, I suppose, to the universe itself? Probably not to the (as yet nonexistent) light. When one says "let there be light", there is an expectation of light in the offing. So, yes, a command of some sort, and in this case an unstated assumption that the universe is capable of hearing, interpreting, and responding to such utterances.

Another interpretation is "it would be really nice for there to be light, if you know what I'm getting at", stated in a manner to be overheard by minions who, while not getting a direct command, know what's best for them. It might be useful grammatically to separate these (perhaps more than) two kinds of commands. It certainly is useful in a legal sense to do so.

Pfhorrest wrote:...the conclusion “there exists some particular thing from which all other things come” is [erroniously] treated as equivalent...
Agreed. One god or many gods? But what does follow is "at least one Creator". It's the gliding over of how th{is|ese} Creator(s) came to be where the actual error lies. It's not in the grammar (though I agree that human language grammar is ambiguous, with the one possible exception of a conlang whose name escapes me).
Pfhorrest wrote:anyway, i’d say that “be object verbed” became a useful thing to say at least as far back as written laws addressed to whole communities instead of commands from parent to children.
Less useful, because more ambiguous, than "{you} are responsible for verbing object." Written laws establish responsibility and consequence. "Be object verbed" does not.

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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Apr 26, 2019 7:53 am UTC

This one kind of rambles all over the place:

On Rhetoric and the Arts.

Much of this was not originally part of the structure of the Codex as I once had it planned, so this is possibly the newest, least gone-over subject in the whole series, save perhaps for the very last essay which likewise was kind of a late addition to the plan.
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri May 10, 2019 8:26 am UTC

Hoo boy, this one turned out longer and more intricate than I expected, and now it's past the 13th hour by the time I finished it:

On Logic and Mathematics.

I felt like I really got in over my head on this topic, and maybe went too far out of philosophy and into mathematics where I am not really anything close to an expert, when I'm just trying to talk about the philosophy of mathematics, including logic.
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed May 22, 2019 9:39 pm UTC

Shit just got real as I prematurely finished this week's essay:

On Ontology, Being, and the Objects of Reality.

Once again I've been drowning in stress and anxiety from real life and have felt really uncertain in the quality of my writing for this essay but right now I'm kinda feeling like maybe it's a little okay. I'd like to know if it makes any sense to anyone else, though.
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Jun 07, 2019 6:58 am UTC

If you don't mind, maybe you should, after you read this week's essay:

On Mind and the Subjects of Reality.

I'm still drowning in anxiety and existential dread this week (spoiler alert: the last essay of this series is kind of about that, entirely coincidentally) so this has been written through a thick mental fog and I have no idea how much shit it may or may not be.

Honestly, the further I get in writing these essay, the more this entire project feels like it's merely the skeleton of what a proper take on this subject would be, and that all of my positions are just things that other people have already argued for at much greater length and in much better quality, and my only real contribution if any is the structure of how these all fit together and support each other, and that if this is ever actually going to be anything worth reading, I'm going to need to some day get some younger, smarter or at least less addled-by-life, more educated philosophy grad student or something to help fill in all of the work of prior philosophers that I'm just kinda skimming over and name dropping in my rush to get to the point in the few hours I have each week to work on this.
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Jun 21, 2019 6:20 am UTC

I don't know how good this week's essay is, but after writing it I should:

On Epistemology and the Methods of Knowledge.

Insert standard disclaimer about how I'm still in a fog of anxiety even half a year later now and I feel like my output on the project is shit and not worth doing but I'm still doing it anyway.

On top of that, I expect a lot of descriptivists on this forum especially are going to particularly hate the ending of this one.
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby ucim » Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:26 am UTC

re: On Epistemology and the Methods of Knowledge (http://geekofalltrades.org/codex/epistemology.php)

Pfhorrest wrote:On top of that, I expect a lot of descriptivists on this forum especially are going to particularly hate the ending of this one.
Well, you did warn me. :)

While labels are important for communication, I think one must be cautious that labels do not become a thing in themselves. In this case, specifically word definitions. For example:

in the Codex, Pfhorrest wrote:The traditional philosophical definition of knowledge, dating back at least to Plato, is that knowledge is justified true belief.
"Knowledge" means whatever the speaker intends when xe utters those phonemes. The meaning is successfully conveyed if the meaning is shared. However, "what I mean by the word 'knowledge'" and "what 'knowledge' is" are two different things. In this case, I would venture that the thing we call "knowledge" isn't a thing.

There is no such thing as "knowledge", in the sense of it being an objective thing. Like "free will", the concept involves its own contradiction.

in the Codex, Pfhorrest wrote:...similar to that of Robert Nozick: I say that knowledge is believing something because it is true, such that not only does one believe it, and it is true, but if it weren't true one wouldn't believe it. This last condition can, I think, be considered a different sense of "justification" from the usual one, and so salvage the traditional definition of knowledge, albeit only by turning the concept of justification on its head, which I argue needs to be done anyway to have a workably rational method of deciding what to believe.
This literally begs the question, and is thus itself ironically irrational.

If we accept the notion that a thing can be objectively TRUE, and we accept for argument that a particular thing is objectively TRUE, then we are left with our perception of the thing, which is the only thing we have. We do not have access to the objective reality of the thing, only of our indirect observations of it. This is also the case of this other thing, which objectively is FALSE. We do not have access to its objective reality either. We are left to come to a conclusion based only on our indirect observations.

The objective truth or falsity of the thing (or the other thing) therefore cannot be a rational reason for believing (or disbelieving). It's simply not available to our cognition. Belief thus based is therefore unjustified and unjustifiable. Belief thus based, that coincides with the objective reality, is merely lucky.

We are left with two alternatives: the possibility that knowledge could be false (one could justifiably believe something that is objectively false), or knowledge does not exist at all (no amount of justification guarantees conformance with objective reality. Or ("that's three, sir!"), there's no such thing as objective reality - an unpalatable but in view of QM not unjustifiable position.

in the Codex, Pfhorrest wrote:...all beliefs should be considered justified enough by default to be tentatively held until reasons can be found to reject them. ...it is not epistemically wrong to believe something that is unlikely but not actually shown false yet
This hinges on justification, and whether or not justification is objective. We all have different experiences; a different body of facts <koff> that we bring to bear on a question, when justifying our answer or approach. We also have different experiences on the reliability of the things we are using as justifications. So it's quite natural for different people to justify different interpretations of the data.

No, not all (unfalsified) ideas are equal. But there are two levels of this: First, some are closer to objective reality (if it exists) than others, and some have better justification (within the experience base of the justifier) than others. These two are orthogonal.

Trying to come up with an absolute definition of "knowledge" or "justification" or other words, even in a philosophical context, is IMO a chimera, and an irrelevance.

in the Codex, Pfhorrest wrote:But when people disagree about what words rightly mean, we must have some method of deciding who is correct, if we are to salvage the possibility of any analytic knowledge at all; for if, for example, one person in a discourse insists that to be a bachelor only means to live a carefree life of alcohol, sex, and music (ala the Greek god Bacchus from whose name the term is derived), with no implications on marital status, while another person insists that to be a bachelor only means to be a human male of marriageable age who is nevertheless not married, with no implications on lifestyle besides that, then they will find no agreement on whether or not it is analytically, a priori, necessarily true that all bachelors are unmarried.
This has nothing to do with knowledge or philosophy at all. It has to do with communication, which is the purpose of words. "What we have here is a failure to communicate". "Bachelor" does not have a "true meaning" - just a fuzzy set of associations that arise, in different ways, with different people, under different circumstances, when that word comes up.

Overall, my impression of the Codex as a whole (albeit based on reading bits and pieces) is that a lot of it is focused on words and labels. This makes it much thicker than I think it needs to be. As an exercise, try taking one of the essays (or even a part of it) and rewriting it at fifth grade level. It probably won't be easy; you'll reach for "big words" that (for this exercise) you shouldn't be using. But I suspect that the very act of doing this helps you clarify the salient points, and ferret out the places where focus on labels and vocabulary actually inhibits understanding. For the opposite perspective, go to Wikipedia and try to read an article on some unfamiliar advanced math topic. Then do the same for a familiar math topic, where you do understand all the technical jargon, and imagine how it should be rewritten for somebody for whom this topic is unfamiliar. Many of the same techniques should apply to clarifying your own Codex.

at the bottom of the Codex, Pfhorrest wrote:Snaaaaake!
Hi Corinne!

Jose
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Jun 28, 2019 10:36 pm UTC

ucim wrote:There is no such thing as "knowledge", in the sense of it being an objective thing. Like "free will", the concept involves its own contradiction.

I'm wondering if you (re)read the previous essay Against Cynicism linked near the start of this one, because it does a lot of the heavy lifting and kind of makes a point similar to the one I think you're trying to make here, although I technically disagree with what you're literally saying, both about knowledge and (to be elaborated in a later essay) about free will. Justificationist conceptions of knowledge are self-defeating, which is why I reject them and propose an alternative, which is most of the point of my entire epistemology. (Likewise, incompatibilist conceptions of free will are self-defeating, which is why I reject them and propose an alternative).

(That argumentation is in Against Cynicism rather than in this essay because it will do double duty in On Deontology later, so I just refer back to it from both of those).

We do not have access to its objective reality either. We are left to come to a conclusion based only on our indirect observations.

The objective truth or falsity of the thing (or the other thing) therefore cannot be a rational reason for believing (or disbelieving). It's simply not available to our cognition. Belief thus based is therefore unjustified and unjustifiable. Belief thus based, that coincides with the objective reality, is merely lucky.

We don't have direct access to the entirety of all of objective reality, but our observations are themselves partial access to that objective reality, since there is nothing to objective reality but the limit of what unlimited further observation would tell us. (See On Ontology, and its references back to Against Nihilism and Against Transcendentalism). If you followed along with the argument in Against Cynicism, the conclusions of which I summarize again right after this part you're responding to, you'll note that I am very much not saying that knowledge is about something being true, and that truth providing you with positive reason to believe it, but rather about your beliefs being responsive to any potential reasons not to believe them. You can never be certain that something is true, but you can be sure it's false.

We are left with two alternatives: the possibility that knowledge could be false (one could justifiably believe something that is objectively false)

This is basically the conclusion that I come to. All positive knowledge is tentative and imperfect: having "more knowledge" is about narrowing down the field of possibilities (by ruling out things known to be false), but there are always still multiple possibilities remaining and uncertainty about which of them is the correct one.

This has nothing to do with knowledge or philosophy at all. It has to do with communication, which is the purpose of words. "What we have here is a failure to communicate". "Bachelor" does not have a "true meaning" - just a fuzzy set of associations that arise, in different ways, with different people, under different circumstances, when that word comes up.

Communication is a topic that philosophy addresses. And you apparently missed that I straight up say before I go into any of this that words don't intrinsically mean anything. The point of that section is about how conflicts should be resolved between people who insist on meaning different things by the same words, in contexts where inferences are being made from the meanings of those words. Consider if someone published a math paper and among the axioms and definitions they started with, they defined a well-known term like "rational number" as something incompatible with what every other mathematician means by "rational number", and then from that definition derived conclusions about "rational numbers" that went against all of the other conclusions derived from the usual definition. Sure, maybe that paper validly proved something interesting about the objects it decided for some reason to call "rational numbers", but it didn't actually prove anything about rational numbers, because it's just misapplying that label to a different kind of object and proving things about that instead. But then how do we decide whether it has been misapplied? What if the author of that paper claims that all the other mathematicians are misapplying the term to the objects they're talking about, and his use is the correct one? How is that dispute to be settled? That's the question at hand in the section you're replying to.

Foreshadowing: this section is also setting up an analogy to be made later in On Deontology, where systems of rights based on the concept of property, as necessary and a priori as they might seem, turn out to be contingent on a posteriori facts about who owns what. Given a certain distribution of ownership certain people may have certain rights or not, but that distribution of ownership is itself open to question. Likewise, given certain meanings of words certain things are just logically necessary, but the meaning of those words are themselves open to question. I'm not putting forth any original ideas about logical necessity or about propertarian rights in either case, but pointing out that both of them take for granted things that are themselves open to question, and proposing a means of approaching those questions.

Overall, my impression of the Codex as a whole (albeit based on reading bits and pieces) is that a lot of it is focused on words and labels.

It seems to me like you've only really chimed in when I talk about language directly, so I'm not sure if you've read any of the bits and pieces besides the two places where language has come up and you're responded so far. Most of philosophy, and so most of my Codex, is not aiming to talk about words themselves but about concepts, and ironing out which of several possible more rigorously defined concepts best fits words that more commonly seem to evoke ill-defined concepts. Or conversely, and I think the more productive way to think about it in the end although the way just mentioned is usually what generates the debates that would give rise to this question: what are the most useful concepts to employ, independent of whatever words are used to label them; but then also, how best to label those concepts so that we can talk about them in the language we already have, without inventing all new words for things that we might already have reasonable words for.

(To go back to free will as an example, since you brought it up earlier: I'll argue later that the concept that words equivalent to "free will" originally evoked was not anything about the absence of determination, but rather a question came up about whether determination would be a threat to free will as it was already, more casually, conceived; and now after thousands of years of arguing about that, too many people take "free will" to definitionally mean something that demands the absence of determinism, but isn't actually a useful concept that we have reason to care about any more. Meanwhile, there is a different, useful concept that we have reason to care about, which fits pretty well with the older and more casual use of terms like "free will", so we should apply that label to that thing, instead of to the useless concept it's come to be too often applied to).
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Jul 03, 2019 7:01 am UTC

The reality and knowledge track is finally complete with:

On Academics, Education, and the Institutes of Knowledge.

On top of the usual anxiety attacks I still haven't shaken off, this one was kind of a rush because of the holidays later this week displacing the time I had planned to use on this, which is a shame because this one is probably one of the trickier ones that needed the most careful explanation. I might try to give it some revisions next week if I have more time and a clearer head, but in the mean time I would like to know if any of this makes any sense to anyone.
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby ucim » Fri Jul 05, 2019 1:24 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:I'm wondering if you (re)read the previous essay Against Cynicism linked near the start of this one
Quick answer: no, I had not. I haven't been studying the Codex; I've been reading it bit by bit as parts come out (and I have Time). I did however (subsequent to your post) (re)-read that essay. My overall impression is unchanged. Specifically with regard to Against Cynicism , it seems to make a point of exploring extremes that I don't consider significant (except in theory). Personally I side with the "start from axioms", where the (tentatively accepted) axioms are informed by (but not proven by) experience. Just where to break the chain of "why do you believe that ?" is to some extent arbitrary and subject to re-evaluation as the consequences become apparent. It's the basic science method.

But that's not the thing.

The thing is the emphasis on probing, with great gravitas, the "meaning" of the word "knowledge", a word that when push comes to shove doesn't really have "meaning".

I think you run into the same issue - you say:
Pfhorrest wrote:Justificationist conceptions of knowledge are self-defeating, which is why I reject them and propose an alternative, which is most of the point of my entire epistemology.
Any concept of knowledge will be self-defeating (or vacuous) if pushed to the limit. For example:
Pfhorrest wrote:You can never be certain that something is true, but you can be sure it's false.
Well, yes and no.

No, because you can simply negate the statement in question turning it into a true statement, that (by hypothesis) you can't be sure of. Can you really be sure that the world is not banana shaped?

But yes, because there are many ways for a statement to be false, and only one way for it to be true. But even that's an oversimplification, becauase things can be nearly true in many ways. Is it raining in Paris? (Well, what if there's a light misty drizzle somewhere on the outskirts? What if it's just very foggy and some of it is settling on likely surfaces? How far up does condensation have to happen before we call it rain?)

Pfhorrest wrote:And you apparently missed that I straight up say before I go into any of this that words don't intrinsically mean anything.
You mean "...The classic example is the knowledge that all bachelors are unmarried..."? You speak of this as if it were "knowledge" (about X having Y property), but this is merely a definition of a word. For people who know about bachelors and marriage, it's intrinsic. But for people who don't, it's explicit. It's more of a premise than it is "knowledge".
Spoiler:
This gets into the Chinese Room - an algorithm can take Chinese input and make appropriate Chinese output, but is it fair to say that this algorithm "understands" Chinese? Has the algorithm tasted Hunan cuisine? Has it walked outside on Chinese New Year? I won't say that all of these experiences are necessary for understanding, but certainly some personal experience is necessary for the word "understanding" to have meaning in this context.
Pfhorrest wrote:It seems to me like you've only really chimed in when I talk about language directly, so I'm not sure if you've read any of the bits and pieces besides the two places where language has come up and you're responded so far. Most of philosophy, and so most of my Codex, is not aiming to talk about words themselves but about concepts, and ironing out which of several possible more rigorously defined concepts best fits words that more commonly seem to evoke ill-defined concepts
As you can probably tell, philosophy isn't my thing. I am not well versed in it, but I am literate and like to think of myself as a thinking being. It may well be that the concepts you are discussing are above my pay grade and I'd need to study from the beginning as if it were math. If that's the case, fair point. However, it seems that philosophy deals in large part with "what do we really mean by {word or concept}? Sometimes to apply it to the question "Is {thing} (morally) justifiable?"

Unlike science (with which I am more familar), philosophy doesn't seem to have an experimental side with which to verify its theories and ideas. This leaves me less inclined to give philosophy the gravitas it claims.

The reason I post is that you have asked for feedback, sometimes saying that you wonder if you're wasting your time, or if things are coming out clearly, or if the whole thing is a mess. If it helps you figure out your own thoughts, it's certainly not a waste of your time. But I do think that it tends to bog down. This could easily be my own ignorance of the field, but it could also be a property of philosophy (and philosophizing) itself. Without call to experiment, it's forced to rely on its own words for its own justification.

My own answer to the question "Can we ever really know anything?" is "No, but that doesn't matter. We can become more likely to approach the truth (assuming it exists) by looking for justification in experiment and in our own observations. And in cases where "truth" doesn't exist (such as moral values), we can at least become more likely to reject the worst values."

Is it working? Well, I'm discouraged every time I see Fox news. But it's not over yet.

Jose
ps - no, I haven't yet read the latest (...Academics...) chapter. Wait for it. :)
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Jul 05, 2019 9:37 pm UTC

ucim wrote:Quick answer: no, I had not. I haven't been studying the Codex; I've been reading it bit by bit as parts come out (and I have Time).

I don't expect you to be studying it, per se, but later parts depend on all the parts that have come before, especially when they directly link to the parts that come before. The whole thing hangs together as one big picture; the way the positions on different topics relate to each other is perhaps the most novel part of it (as I mentioned in the intro), since most of the positions on the various topics are themselves not wholly original views of my own.

I did however (subsequent to your post) (re)-read that essay. My overall impression is unchanged. Specifically with regard to Against Cynicism , it seems to make a point of exploring extremes that I don't consider significant (except in theory). Personally I side with the "start from axioms", where the (tentatively accepted) axioms are informed by (but not proven by) experience. Just where to break the chain of "why do you believe that ?" is to some extent arbitrary and subject to re-evaluation as the consequences become apparent. It's the basic science method.

That is basically the conclusion of Against Cynicism and my core view on epistemology. (It seems) you're not saying to reject every belief that can't be justified from the ground up; you're saying it's okay to hold some beliefs just because they seem true to you (from experience), but only tentatively, always open to rejecting them if they should clash with further experience. And if you hold some beliefs, then of course you're going to also hold whatever follows from those beliefs, treating them as "axioms" as you say; but you're not (it seems) saying that those particular beliefs you tentatively hold as "axioms" are just "properly basic" and beyond question, the true foundation from which to build all other knowledge.

Exploring the extremes is the point of much of philosophy, showing the absurdities that arise if you actually take some innocuous-seeming ideas to heart. "Don't believe anything without solid reason to do so" sounds like innocuous common sense, but if you actually take it to heart you have to conclude "don't believe anything at all ever" because every reason itself needs a reason ad infinitum. "Well okay, some beliefs don't need reasons to justify them" sounds like an innocuous common sense response to that, but if you take it to heart it opens a huge can of worms about which beliefs don't need justification; some people say belief in God is properly basic and doesn't need justification. Rejecting both of those yields more or less the view you just seemed to espouse above, which is the same one I espouse in the Codex.

Pfhorrest wrote:And you apparently missed that I straight up say before I go into any of this that words don't intrinsically mean anything.
You mean "...The classic example is the knowledge that all bachelors are unmarried..."?

No, I mean "Words themselves do not inherently mean anything, but rather, linguistic communities arbitrarily assign meaning to words, and could assign them differently. Words mean what people mean them to mean, and so long as everyone involved agrees on the meaning of words, that is all that is necessary to know the truth of their meaning, the analytic a posteriori facts of what the words mean.

But when people disagree about what words rightly mean..."

You speak of this as if it were "knowledge" (about X having Y property), but this is merely a definition of a word.

Knowledge about the definitions of words is still a kind of knowledge. You can know that some random person P "is a bachelor", whatever that means, without knowing what that means; just that that person is included in some category of people, some word applies to him. Separately, you can know that bachelors are defined as unmarried men of marriageable age, without knowing anything about who in particular is or isn't a bachelor. And if you know both of those things, you can conclude that that particular person is not married.

This gets into the Chinese Room - an algorithm can take Chinese input and make appropriate Chinese output, but is it fair to say that this algorithm "understands" Chinese? Has the algorithm tasted Hunan cuisine? Has it walked outside on Chinese New Year? I won't say that all of these experiences are necessary for understanding, but certainly some personal experience is necessary for the word "understanding" to have meaning in this context.

The Chinese Room cannot perform the same functions that a native Chinese speaker can. You can show a native Chinese speaker a picture of a duck on a lake and ask it (in Chinese) "what kind of bird is on the water?" and they will be able to answer the question. You can't pass that picture with that question into the Chinese room and get an answer, because the person in the room operating the algorithm can only connect words to other words, not words to experiences. If the person in the room, rather than just having a list of how Hanzi relate to each other, had picture books and the-cow-goes-moo kind of books and scratch-n-sniff books and so on that related the abstract symbols to concrete experiences, then yes, the Room as a whole would actually understand Chinese, inasmuch as if the man in the room memorized all of those books, he would have just learned Chinese from them. That is the very distinction between analytic and synthetic knowledge: the traditional Chinese Room only furnishes its operator with analytic knowledge, understanding words only in terms of other words which are all as empty of synthetic meaning as each other. That's still a kind of knowledge, it's just not comprehensive.

Pfhorrest wrote:Unlike science (with which I am more familar), philosophy doesn't seem to have an experimental side with which to verify its theories and ideas. This leaves me less inclined to give philosophy the gravitas it claims.

Philosophy isn't trying to answer the same kinds of question as science. If you think it is and it's just doing it the wrong way, you're going to be disappointed. Have you read the essay on Metaphilosophy? It goes into this in more detail that I don't want to repeat here if you can just read it there.

The reason I post is that you have asked for feedback, sometimes saying that you wonder if you're wasting your time, or if things are coming out clearly, or if the whole thing is a mess.

I do appreciate that you're paying it even a little bit of attention, but like I said above, each piece hangs on everything else that's come before, so if you haven't been following along with what came before then it's not really useful to hear how this bit here or there in isolation doesn't make sense on its own.

My own answer to the question "Can we ever really know anything?" is "No, but that doesn't matter. We can become more likely to approach the truth (assuming it exists) by looking for justification in experiment and in our own observations. And in cases where "truth" doesn't exist (such as moral values), we can at least become more likely to reject the worst values."

This is more or less the same position I espouse in the Codex, with the exception that for some reason you're willing to give descriptive claims the benefit of the doubt that some of them might turn out correct even though all we can ever really know is whether (or how badly) the ones we've tried are incorrect, but you're not willing to extend that exact same benefit of the doubt to prescriptive claims, presumptively concluding that there definitely is no such thing as correct possible there, even while you still speak as though some of them are less incorrect than others. How is that any different than with descriptive claims? We can't ever know if any of them are definitely the single unique correct picture of what's real, but we can tell when some things are definitely (or at least probably) not real, and so narrow down the range of possibilities of what still might be real, if anything is at all. s/real/moral and it's the same story.
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby ucim » Sat Jul 06, 2019 4:15 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:...but later parts depend on all the parts that have come before...
Yes. If they do to the same degree as math, then I'd pretty much have to study it from the beginning to get anything. But I'm not convinced this is the case, except for the vocabulary. The concepts, it seems, should be able to be expressed in a self-contained manner. Perhaps try re-writing one of them for somebody who jumped in right at that point; you'd need to somehow avoid a lot of the terms of art in doing so. Could you do it effectively? I suspect so; but from what you say you suspect not.

Pfhorrest wrote:(It seems) you're not saying to reject every belief that can't be justified from the ground up; you're saying it's okay to hold some beliefs just because they seem true...
Yes, I think we agree on this philosophical point. But...
Pfhorrest wrote:...but you're not (it seems) saying that those particular beliefs you tentatively hold as "axioms" are just "properly basic" and beyond question, the true foundation from which to build all other knowledge.
I don't think there is a "true foundation" upon which to build all other knowledge. Certainly not if "knowledge" is defined as rigourously as was proposed above. But this is more an issue I have with the usefulness of such a rigourous definition of "knowledge". That's not philosophy, that's semantics breaking down. The philosophy in this amounts to whether objective reality exists at all, and whether we can experience it. (To the latter issue, I say "no"; what we experience is subjective - it's pretty much the definition of "subjective" in this sense.)

Pfhorrest wrote:Exploring the extremes is the point of much of philosophy, showing the absurdities...
One must be careful that one is exploring the extremes of a concept, not a definition. Perhaps this is why I "only" post when there's a language thing. Maybe it's that I don't see the point being made as one of philosophy at all, but of semantics dressed up as philosophy. When I disagree there, it's a different kind of disagreement.

Pfhorrest wrote:No, I mean "Words themselves do not inherently mean anything...
Oh. I got that. It's the "rightly" of "But when people disagree about what words rightly mean" that I disagree with. Words, even newly coined words, mean differnt things to different people always. Sometimes slightly, sometimes more so. They are tools to trigger experience, and by proxy communicate a thought. As the triggered experience in the listener differs from the internal experience that triggers the word in the speaker, communication is always imperfect. We need to allow for and compensate for that. But again, this isn't philosophy.

Pfhorrest wrote:[...]And if you know both of those [propositional] things [even without knowing what the words mean], you can conclude that that particular person is not married.
But if you don't know what "married" means, you still don't know anything about that person.

Pfhorrest wrote:You can't pass that picture with that question into the Chinese room and get an answer, because the person in the room operating the algorithm can only connect words to other words, not words to experiences.
No, the reason it doesn't work is that the Chinese room has no eyeball - no way to input visual info. But Google images, Tin eye, and other programs like it are in essence a Chinese room that does have an eyeball. Those can tell you, in Chinese, what kind of duck it is. But it doesn't "know" what a duck is in a very deep sense; it's never had a "duck experience". It's like working the "bachelor - unmarried" proposition without knowing what a bachelor is and what unmarried is. So yes, it has analytic knowledge but not synthetic knowledge. Analytic knowledge is enough to "get the job done", but synthetic knowledge is what gives the experience of knowing.

Pfhorrest wrote:Philosophy isn't trying to answer the same kinds of question as science...
Agreed. I'm not expecting that. But it is attempting to answer questions - questions that have responses, but not answers. I will read the Metaphilosophy article.

Pfhorrest wrote:...for some reason you're willing to give descriptive claims the benefit of the doubt [...] but you're not willing to extend that exact same benefit of the doubt to prescriptive claims [...] How is that any different than with descriptive claims?

s/real/moral and it's the same story.
You are right in that that is where we differ. In descriptive claims ("is"), there is (by hypothesis) an objective reality it is intended to correspond with. The degree to which it does is the degree to which it is "true". In prescriptive claims ("ought"), you hypothesize an objective morality with the corresponding role. I will admit that my tentative acceptance of objective reality doesn't fare well against quantum mechanics, but if I let go of that axiom, I find no handle on existance at all. But I certainly exist. Existence exists. So I find myself more or less forced to accept this somewhat untenable position. With regards to objective morality, I do not have a similarly compelling wall to be backed into. It is not (symmetrcially) the case that I certainly am moral. It seems to me that morality has its basis in the fact that humans are social animals, and cooperation is baked into our genes. Morality governs social relations because it's about caring.

Inanimate objects have existence, but they don't have morality.

So, to me the parallel is not compelling. This is why I am not convinced that objective morality must exist (or even makes sense).

Jose
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Jul 06, 2019 6:09 pm UTC

ucim wrote:The concepts, it seems, should be able to be expressed in a self-contained manner.

They can, but then the arguments for why those positions should be taken can be questioned by invoking other topics, which are already addressed elsewhere (or earmarked as to be addressed later). For example, in philosophy of religion there's a Problem of Evil which argues that the occurrence of bad things in the world proves that there cannot be an all knowing, all powerful, all good God, because if there were such a being he would stop all bad things from happening, so since they happen, he mustn't exist. A common theist retort is that such a being does exist, and stops as much bad from happening as is compatible with preserving free will, because abolishing free will would be even worse than the things he has to let happen to preserve it. But that response makes absolutely no sense given a compatibilist conception of free will, so to address what started out as an issue in philosophy of religion, now we have to open up the whole completely different topic of what free will means.

I don't think there is a "true foundation" upon which to build all other knowledge.

Yes, and I agree. I'm pointing out that we seem to agree that there aren't any "properly basic" beliefs upon which all knowledge can be rigorously founded; all beliefs are tentative.

No, the reason it doesn't work is that the Chinese room has no eyeball - no way to input visual info.

It does though; the original Chinese Room is a guy in a room being passed slips of paper that he reads with his eyes. You could pass him a photo, he just couldn't answer any questions about it in Chinese unless you've also given him instruction books that connect images to hanzi instead of just hanzi to other hanzi. And if you did that... you just gave him books on how to speak Chinese. And he if memorized those, he would understand Chinese.

....suddenly have to run, will write more later.
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby ucim » Sat Jul 06, 2019 9:11 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:And he if memorized those [books connecting images to hanji], he would understand Chinese.
I think you overstate the connection between [image] and "hot dog". You don't understand a hot dog until you've tasted one, held one at a baseball game while your team lost, cooked a bunch of them at a July 4 BBQ, argued over the differences between beef, pork, and chicken... Well, not all those things, but enough of them to form a visceral impression of what [image] means. If you did that, then you've taught Chinese. (Metaphorically)

Pfhorrest wrote:[Concepts can be expressed self-contained] but then the arguments for why those positions should be taken can be questioned by invoking other topics...
They still can. Just that the argument would appear in a different "thread". I suspect you overstate the strength of philosophical arguments.

Pfhorrest wrote:we seem to agree that there aren't any "properly basic" beliefs upon which all knowledge can be rigorously founded; all beliefs are tentative.
That point can be argued without going rigorously into the "true meaning of knowledge" though. It would make the point clearer. Kind of like bringing up CP and CLOP in that other thread, when the end goal seems to be "cooperation would be a good thing".

Jose
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Re: The Codex Quaerendae

Postby Pfhorrest » Sun Jul 07, 2019 12:40 am UTC

ucim wrote:One must be careful that one is exploring the extremes of a concept, not a definition.

What distinction are you making here? When talking about words that name philosophical concepts, the definition of the word is some concept or another; the concept is what the word means. There's room for argument over exactly which concept someone means by which word, but for some definition of a some word in terms of some concept, exploring the extremes "of the definition" is exploring the extremes of that concept.

It really seems like you're the one getting more hung up on words than I am, here.

It's the "rightly" of "But when people disagree about what words rightly mean" that I disagree with.

The "rightly" in question is in reference to the mutual agreement that gives a word its meaning, not some abstract profound metaphysical universal thing like you seem to think I mean. If the disputing parties are willing to just come to some different new mutual agreement on what they're going to use the words to mean, there is no problem. But if they both insist that the other is using the word wrong, as in counter to the generally agreed-upon meaning in the language they share, then I invoke the described process for determining what really is the generally agreed-upon meaning in the language they share, which is simply looking back in time to see what the last generally agreed-upon meaning was, and saying whichever of them is still according with that is correct that their usage is the generally agreed-upon meaning in the language that they share, and the other one is the one who has deviated from that. It's practically tautological.

You are right in that that is where we differ. In descriptive claims ("is"), there is (by hypothesis) an objective reality it is intended to correspond with. The degree to which it does is the degree to which it is "true". In prescriptive claims ("ought"), you hypothesize an objective morality with the corresponding role.

I don't hypothesize anything. I'm not saying "I think this is definitely the complete objectively moral way to live". You, again, seem to think that I (and people generally) mean something much bigger and more profound than I (we) do when talking about moral objectivism. It's simply the claim that it is possible for some things to be morally better or worse, just like positing objective reality is just the claim that it is possible for beliefs, models, theories, whatever, to be more or less accurate or true. In either case, you don't figuratively have the whole complete objective [whatever] in one hand, and hold up the claims, actions, whatever, against it to compare if they match. You just have some method of evaluating the claims, actions, whatever, one by one, piece by piece, and wherever that process of evaluation leads, that's is towards the whole complete objective [whatever]. You're not starting with a big picture and seeing if the little pieces fit into it; you're starting with little pieces, and seeing how they fit together, and the only notion of any big picture you have, of either reality or morality, is just the abstract limit of "whatever it is that all these little pieces add up to".

You don't seem to completely deny any ability to evaluate individual actions, intentions, etc, as morally or ethically better or worse than others in some way or another. You certainly seem like you would agree that the holocaust was in some way or another a bad thing, and it would have been better somehow or another if it hadn't happen, and it's better if in the future things like that don't happen again than if they do, and that people who disagree about that are wrong, unless you yourself are somehow completely mistaken about everything. No? That little ability to apply some kind of evaluation to little particulars is all it takes to have a notion of objective morality; just keep doing that to all the little particulars, and whatever those all add up to, that is the "big picture" capital letters Objective Morality you seem to think I'm starting from as some kind of hypothesis.

Did you read Against Nihilism? I'm repeating a lot of what's in there. That's why those big broad-topic essays came first. Everything else comes back to them.

With regards to objective morality, I do not have a similarly compelling wall to be backed into. It is not (symmetrcially) the case that I certainly am moral.

But you can't help but find some things seeming to be better than others, any more than you can help but find that some things seem to exist. (See On Ontology for elaboration on that latter point and how it related to your Cartesian appeal I snipped from the quote). That's a normative judgement.

It seems to me that morality has its basis in the fact that humans are social animals, and cooperation is baked into our genes. Morality governs social relations because it's about caring.

"Morality" doesn't have to mean happy altruistic cooperation. There are philosophical views that say the moral thing to do is to be a selfish bastard. "Moral" in the broad scope just means related to value judgements.

ucim wrote:I think you overstate the connection between [image] and "hot dog". You don't understand a hot dog until you've tasted one, held one at a baseball game while your team lost, cooked a bunch of them at a July 4 BBQ, argued over the differences between beef, pork, and chicken... Well, not all those things, but enough of them to form a visceral impression of what [image] means. If you did that, then you've taught Chinese. (Metaphorically)

In an earlier reply I also said in addition to picture books, cow-goes-moo type books, scratch-n-sniff books, etc; some set of correlations between experiential phenomena and the abstract symbols. I only mentioned the picture books in the second reply to that for brevity, assuming you read the previous reply where I elaborated in more detail.

That point can be argued without going rigorously into the "true meaning of knowledge" though. It would make the point clearer. Kind of like bringing up CP and CLOP in that other thread, when the end goal seems to be "cooperation would be a good thing".

The "true meaning of knowledge" thing isn't meant to be groundwork for the "all knowledge is tentative" stuff. Each essay starts by laying out briefly what the thing it's about to talk about is. Epistemology is about knowledge. But there is active debate in the field of epistemology about what knowledge even is, so I address that debate in that introductory paragraph, and then say that that matter can be dissolved by "turning the concept of justification on its head, which I argue needs to be done anyway to have a workably rational method of deciding what to believe", which leads into the actual substantive stuff that I have to say about knowledge, which I immediately say "should be expected from the positions already laid out in my previous essays against fideism and against cynicism, and summarized again in my previous essay about commensurablism...". Basically: I've already laid down in earlier essays the big important points on what I have to say about knowledge, and those things I've already said make (IMO) this debate about "what even is knowledge anyway" go away completely. I'm just acknowledging that there is such a debate, before dismissing it and moving on to the more substantive things I have to say about how best to go about deciding what to believe.

Pfhorrest wrote:[Concepts can be expressed self-contained] but then the arguments for why those positions should be taken can be questioned by invoking other topics...
They still can. Just that the argument would appear in a different "thread". I suspect you overstate the strength of philosophical arguments.

The point is about the interdependence of the different parts of philosophy. In the Codex, I'm going to cover the topic of free will long before I get to the Problem of Evil. So when I get to the Problem of Evil, if someone says "but but but God has to allow evil things in order for there to be free will"-- nope, already addressed that earlier, should have taken it up back then. The first four essays against fideism, transcendentalism, nihilism, and cynicism, summarized in Commensurablism do most of the heavy lifting for the whole rest of the Codex, and I refer back to them over and over again from a bunch of later essays. The philosophy of mind stuff depends entirely on the ontological stuff; if you're not on board with the ontology, you might just say "but but Cartesian Dualism" in response to the whole philosophy of mind, but nope, already addressed dualism back in Ontology, or rather mostly back in Against Transcendentalism, that in turn hinging on Against Fideism. It really is all interdependent. I can explain what my concept of mind is independently of any of that, but arguing why to use that concept and not another appeals back to arguments about ontology, which appeal back to more abstract principle laid out in those first four Against essays.


The general chain of dependence, intentionally not explaining all the terms here so as not to repeat the entire Codex, is:

If you agree that all opinions are commensurable, you must be against fideism and against nihilism.

If you're against fideism, you must be against transcendentalism.

If you're against nihilism, you must be against cynicism.

If you're against transcendentalism and nihilism, your options in ontology and teleology are the ones I've settled on.

If you're against fideism and cynicism, your options in epistemology and deontology are the ones I've settled on.

Given my ontology, your options in philosophy of mind either lead to nihilism, lead to transcendentalism, or are the one I've settled on.

Given my teleology, your options in philosophy of will either lead to nihilism, lead to transcendentalism, or are the one I've settled on.

Given my epistemology, your options in academics either lead to cynicism, lead to fideism, or are the one I've settled on.

Given my deontology, your options in politics either lead to cynicism, lead to fideism, or are the one I've settled on.

Given all of that... my philosophy of life, avoiding either fideism or nihilism.

If at any stage I've already lost you (e.g. if I can't convince you to be against fideism), you may as well stop reading because the rest of it is going to depend on that previous step.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
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The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)


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