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Thread: The last and final argument about reality.

  1. #13651
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    Quote Originally Posted by Selfsim View Post
    This one puts forward the idea that experientiality (consciousness, experience, or mental) is fundamental to reality.
    So far that's similar to MDR, though I would have put it that it is fundamental to our process of deciding what we want our word "reality" to mean, rather than taking it as a given that "reality" is already a thing that is experiential.
    Somehwere in this one, Strawson attempts to argue that matter in general is 'experiential' (which he proposes as being a fundamental of reality).
    I'd say it still depends on where he's going with it. Depending on what he takes those words to mean, I could be just fine with it, or I could raise a red flag and say "but that's not what matter means in science." I can't tell which yet.
    So then we get arguments like 'experience involves intentionality, i.e. it's about events, which implies information and information processing... we're not talking the passive semantics of experience, in the sense that a river bank 'experiences' erosion' ... Re: the undelined part: 'But why not?', I ask .. and how passive does 'passive' have to be, before we can completely ignore the thing using such semantics?
    It sounds like the conversation is getting into anthropomorphisms and the concept of a hypothetical observer. We often use anthropomorphic language in science to help us get a sense of understanding by in effect placing ourselves into the context of the physical system, almost like empathizing with the system under study. This is fine as long as we don't take the language too seriously, when we say things like an electron "exerts a force" on something, or some system is "trying to reach the lowest energy level", etc. We also put hypothetical observers into systems to describe what is happening, being careful not to affect the system in any way that is not already being affected that way. These are all helpful devices as we try to model and simplify in order to understand, we simply have to recognize we are not describing the system "as it is" (if such a thing even exists), but rather, we are attempting to use language to achieve understanding.

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    That does sound like David Hume, the philosopher, who recognised experience in the formation of the mind. If we compare and contrast the shorthand phrases, "mind dependent reality" and "experience dependent reality" I think we have a definition of mind implied, but with no requirement for MIR or "reality without experience."
    Yes, Hume had the idea that our minds must be a "tabula rasa" (blank slate) until experience writes on it. And he had a great argument about cause and effect-- he asked, what does it mean for something to cause something else, and then he waits. If you even pause to think, he says that a young child understands cause and effect in the sense that they use the concept the same way you do, so why must you pause and think to arrive at something that any young child knows so readily? It's a good point, whatever is the cause and effect relationship, our understanding of it is very simplistic-- arguably no better than the same notion in the mind of a five year old! So experience teaches our minds at a young age, and beyond that, we really aren't able to add much-- other than to forget that it ever happened.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    .. I'd say it still depends on where he's going with it. Depending on what he takes those words to mean, I could be just fine with it, or I could raise a red flag and say "but that's not what matter means in science." I can't tell which yet.
    I had the thought that his taking an attribute of our model of the mind ('experiential') and applying to 'inanimate' objects, (as you argue any scientist is free to do), actually ends up having the overall effect of highlighting the role the mind plays in making decisions about what to study. MIR thinkers don't like that much though ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G
    It sounds like the conversation is getting into anthropomorphisms and the concept of a hypothetical observer. We often use anthropomorphic language in science to help us get a sense of understanding by in effect placing ourselves into the context of the physical system, almost like empathizing with the system under study. This is fine as long as we don't take the language too seriously, when we say things like an electron "exerts a force" on something, or some system is "trying to reach the lowest energy level", etc. We also put hypothetical observers into systems to describe what is happening, being careful not to affect the system in any way that is not already being affected that way. These are all helpful devices as we try to model and simplify in order to understand, we simply have to recognize we are not describing the system "as it is" (if such a thing even exists), but rather, we are attempting to use language to achieve understanding.
    Yes .. I guess its playing around with swapping 'subject' for 'object', with the net result of language now becoming the object of understanding rather than its more commonly regarded role of description of 'something else'. Which is rather intriguing ..

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    I think a powerful test of what you just said occurs if you imagine someone describing an imaginary or hypothetical situation, something that could happen but never actually did happen (like, "imagine a red Mustang driving west on Main street, passing an old man on the corner..."). You might well say that you "understand what I'm talking about." So what, then, is the "object of your understanding"? Surely not the red Mustang or the old man-- they don't actually exist! Yet you do understand what I'm saying, because those words mean something similar to each of us. To the extent that we have similar experiences with those "things", we share an understanding, and to the extent that our experiences have been different, we do not share the same understanding. So there is experience involved, and there are words involved, and if we choose to imagine that "redness" exists, and that "Mustangs" and "old men" exist (and by our normal meaning of the term "exist", they do), then we can say there are also these "things" involved. But how all those involved elements combine to achieve what we call "understanding" of what I just said is a complex combination of all those experiences and attributes, and what we mean by actual things, but nowhere in any of that complexity do we find the absence of the mind. That's something that struck me early in the thread-- MIR believers would often describe some hypothetical situation (like kicking a rock) as evidence that these things must be mind independent. I had to say, isn't something hypothetical the most obvious possible example of mind dependence?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    I think a powerful test of what you just said occurs if you imagine someone describing an imaginary or hypothetical situation, something that could happen but never actually did happen (like, "imagine a red Mustang driving west on Main street, passing an old man on the corner..."). You might well say that you "understand what I'm talking about." So what, then, is the "object of your understanding"? Surely not the red Mustang or the old man-- they don't actually exist! Yet you do understand what I'm saying, because those words mean something similar to each of us. To the extent that we have similar experiences with those "things", we share an understanding, and to the extent that our experiences have been different, we do not share the same understanding. So there is experience involved, and there are words involved, and if we choose to imagine that "redness" exists, and that "Mustangs" and "old men" exist (and by our normal meaning of the term "exist", they do), then we can say there are also these "things" involved. But how all those involved elements combine to achieve what we call "understanding" of what I just said is a complex combination of all those experiences and attributes, and what we mean by actual things, but nowhere in any of that complexity do we find the absence of the mind. That's something that struck me early in the thread-- MIR believers would often describe some hypothetical situation (like kicking a rock) as evidence that these things must be mind independent. I had to say, isn't something hypothetical the most obvious possible example of mind dependence?
    So, summarising (just because it helps in remembering it):

    - Understanding requires experience, which requires a mind;
    - Differences in understanding, reflect differences in various backgrounds of experience.
    - Imagining 'things' existing however, is an individual's 'free choice' (my words here).

    IIRC, the hypothetical you mention above, was generally accepted as being a hypothetical, (I think), but it became more obvious that special pleading was needed to argue acceptance of a rock existing independently from the obvious mind dependence of the very meaning of the word: 'rock'.

  6. #13656
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    I find that raises an age old question and it's one that is fundamentally unanswerable. Does an imagined idea like the red Mustang arise from a creative ability to manipulate memory or from an independent archetype that prexists any Mustang. It's the question of agency and the belief in agency in others and self belief. So is imagination a free choice as selfsim lists, or an inspiration from an outside agent?
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    I find that raises an age old question and it's one that is fundamentally unanswerable. Does an imagined idea like the red Mustang arise from a creative ability to manipulate memory or from an independent archetype that prexists any Mustang. It's the question of agency and the belief in agency in others and self belief. So is imagination a free choice as Selfsim lists, or an inspiration from an outside agent?
    I think going wherever the evidence takes us is a free choice .. as is going by faith alone.

    Also, does your concept of 'agency' invoke determinism and intent?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Selfsim View Post
    So, summarising (just because it helps in remembering it):

    - Understanding requires experience, which requires a mind;
    - Differences in understanding, reflect differences in various backgrounds of experience.
    - Imagining 'things' existing however, is an individual's 'free choice' (my words here).
    I'd expand on that last bit:
    - Imagining 'things' existing, in the context of the models by which we give meaning to our own terms 'things' and 'existing,' is all part of the correct "algebra of models" by which we use these concepts effectively
    - But imagining they exist in some "mind independent" way involves a different meaning of 'things' and 'exist' that goes outside the models, how we use models, the effectiveness of models, and everything that we can actually demonstrate objective power or control over, but is a perfectly normal application of faith or belief, quite similar to how religions function but quite separate from how science functions.
    IIRC, the hypothetical you mention above, was generally accepted as being a hypothetical, (I think), but it became more obvious that special pleading was needed to argue acceptance of a rock existing independently from the obvious mind dependence of the very meaning of the word: 'rock'.
    Yes, and that's what made the logic circular. The claim was made that if you accept the appeal to regard the rock as mind independent, then you could understand why kicking a rock hurts. But I can understand that quite easily without the added premise, so the added premise in no way advances the argument-- it is merely joining a group of believers, and then saying, "we believe in this, so it's true, and therefore it's not a belief." I say, "no, I don't believe in it, yet I use the rock concept in precisely the same way you do, so obviously belief is playing no demonstrable role here at all."

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    I find that raises an age old question and it's one that is fundamentally unanswerable. Does an imagined idea like the red Mustang arise from a creative ability to manipulate memory or from an independent archetype that prexists any Mustang. It's the question of agency and the belief in agency in others and self belief. So is imagination a free choice as selfsim lists, or an inspiration from an outside agent?
    Why can't it be both, a free choice that is inspired by experiences that we model in our own way of understanding, which we call "outside agents"?

    Consider that we often simplify our understanding by equipping our model of "outside agents" with the attribute of "mind independence," but that's just like equipping our model of "electrons" with the attribute of "distinguishability" (when we talk about this electron or that electron, or some particular electron that is carrying a current down a wire, etc.). The latter is something we do all the time when we make models-- but we never need to claim the attribute of the model is an actual mind-independent attribute of some actual mind-independent thing we call an electron.

    The importance of being able to do this, of being able to equip models with attributes that we know are contextual and not to be taken literally as absolute truths, becomes especially clear when you note that more advanced models of electrons always include the attribute that they are not distinguishable, and some behaviors of electrons are impossible to understand if you imagine that electrons are distinguishable! What I can't understand is, why are so many people (including acting physicists) so adept at manipulating models that they know have simplified or idealized attributes, yet when it comes to the model we call "reality", this well-developed capability seems to go out the window and all the attributes are immediately taken as completely literal?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    .. What I can't understand is, why are so many people (including acting physicists) so adept at manipulating models that they know have simplified or idealized attributes, yet when it comes to the model we call "reality", this well-developed capability seems to go out the window and all the attributes are immediately taken as completely literal?
    I personally think it comes back to the influence on science by the foundations of Analytic Philosophy when it comes to analyzing reality:

    i) The law of identity: 'Whatever is, is.'
    ii) The law of non-contradiction (alternately the 'law of contradiction'): 'Nothing can both be and not be.'
    iii) The law of excluded middle: 'Everything must either be or not be.'

    How more literal can something get than that?
    Literal things are easy to understand and they sink in deeply. These did .. into mathematics - science's very own descriptive language, from which we'd expect to get our understanding of reality!(?)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Selfsim View Post
    I personally think it comes back to the influence on science by the foundations of Analytic Philosophy when it comes to analyzing reality:

    i) The law of identity: 'Whatever is, is.'
    ii) The law of non-contradiction (alternately the 'law of contradiction'): 'Nothing can both be and not be.'
    iii) The law of excluded middle: 'Everything must either be or not be.'

    How more literal can something get than that?
    Indeed, which is why I would relabel that list of "laws" a list of "fallacies." Each one is easy to find examples from science that contradict it, so what was someone thinking to imagine those are a good set of laws?
    Literal things are easy to understand and they sink in deeply. These did .. into mathematics - science's very own descriptive language, from which we'd expect to get our understanding of reality!(?)
    But that's just it, the scientist is supposed to look at reality and find ways to fit mathematics to what is seen, always testing the result. They are never, ever, supposed to look at mathematics and try to find some way to shove it down reality's throat, when it obviously doesn't work-- like those horrendous "laws."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    But that's just it, the scientist is supposed to look at reality and find ways to fit mathematics to what is seen, always testing the result. They are never, ever, supposed to look at mathematics and try to find some way to shove it down reality's throat, when it obviously doesn't work-- like those horrendous "laws."
    I was trying to think of an example to falsify what you said there .. and I recalled the history of Balmer's formula. This is widely used as a classic example of where mathematics led the development of a physical theory. (Balmer came up with a formula in 1885 which gave the wavelengths of the observed spectral lines produced by the hydrogen atom without giving any physical explanation .. the explanation then took almost another 30 years following Bohr's theoretical work). However Balmer came up with his original formula by studying the known-at-the-time hydrogen spectral lines, in order to produce his mathematical formula. Whilst the formula was known to reproduce (and even predict) lines with a very high degree of precision, the reasons why it worked weren't known .. until Bohr (1913).

    Might this an example of 'math being shoved down reality's throat'(?) .. I don't think so .. its an example of the process you mention above working correctly, (as you say), in order to probe the 'how' (the empirical formula) and then the 'why' (electron transitions between quantum levels).

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    Engineers do this all the time, well, there are examples, where an empirical formula is developed to make predictions with little or no science to back it up. I think this emphasises how maths is a model, a useful model thanks to its internal rules, and when science gets added to explain the model more fundamentally, it remains a model but can begin to seem like secret knowledge of reality, just because it's now a better model. The same can be said of beautiful equations as has been raised before. Indeed I think it is important to remain sceptical about beautiful maths models just as it is to leap to cause and effect explanations as a simplification of often complex observations.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by Selfsim View Post
    However Balmer came up with his original formula by studying the known-at-the-time hydrogen spectral lines, in order to produce his mathematical formula. Whilst the formula was known to reproduce (and even predict) lines with a very high degree of precision, the reasons why it worked weren't known .. until Bohr (1913).
    Right, there is no problem with noticing mathematical patterns, and deciding that some explanation is required. That's how Kepler's laws began as well. The problem is in thinking because it's mathematical, it "must" be true-- and again Kepler's laws provide us an excellent example, they are not actually true in any exact or absolute sense, they are instead useful. So I ask, show me the usefulness in those "laws" above-- nothing is science is judged on anything but usefulness, never some a priori logical necessity because nature does not exhibit a priori logical necessity (and examples abound of the mistake of thinking it does, even Einstein got bit there).
    Might this an example of 'math being shoved down reality's throat'(?) .. I don't think so .. its an example of the process you mention above working correctly, (as you say), in order to probe the 'how' (the empirical formula) and then the 'why' (electron transitions between quantum levels).
    Yes, exactly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    ... they are instead useful. So I ask, show me the usefulness in those "laws" above
    Umm .. because they're really easy to believe and hard to refute-- (thereby bolstering that everything is therefore a mind dependent logical reality ... an MDLR!)
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G
    .. nothing is science is judged on anything but usefulness, never some a priori logical necessity because nature does not exhibit a priori logical necessity (and examples abound of the mistake of thinking it does, even Einstein got bit there).
    Its sometimes hard not to believe that, especially when one isn't aware of the lack of evidence for that though .. ie: a priori logical necessities appear as intrinsic when the appearance, itself, is magical!

    More seriously than those more whimsically intended comments though .. somewhere in this thread, way back, you built 'a mind' from from scratch. Somewhere in that, IIRC, logic was the first part needed for making sense, so logic really might be 'a priori' for the mind's intent(?) .. but this also gets into determinism where 'intent' implies deliberate causality .. Our minds are not much more models of logic, determinism, free willingness and randomness generating 'thingys'! (Tiger chasing its tail here).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Selfsim View Post
    somewhere in this thread, way back, you built 'a mind' from from scratch. Somewhere in that, IIRC, logic was the first part needed for making sense, so logic really might be 'a priori' for the mind's intent(?)
    Logic is a central building block of scientific thinking, no question. It's part of the scientific method. So it's not that science doesn't define its own rules, it's that we have no idea what rules will work until we try some. Science had to discover its own method, even as it was using that method to discover useful models. My issue was not with using logic, it was with using a given set of axioms for that logic-- axioms that have failed mainy times and are not actually used in science as a result. This is easy to show, pick up any science book and scan the chapter headings, and ask one simple question: where have any of those "laws" had any impact on what's in this book? Then ask the real killer: to what extent do every one of those chapters need to deviate from those laws to achieve their desired results?
    .. but this also gets into determinism where 'intent' implies deliberate causality .. Our minds are not much more models of logic, determinism, free willingness and randomness generating 'thingys'! (Tiger chasing its tail here).
    Yes, we navigate all those concepts in order to generate usefulness. I see it as being like a carpenter using a bunch of tools and expertise in order to build a chair. There's no "a priori" chair anywhere, the judgement comes when someone sits in it and says "yeah, that'll do." And the same process happens when we sit back and try to describe what the carpenter was doing, we say "he/she used a hammer on a nail and then pulled out a saw", etc., when all those things are no more "a priori" than the chair itself.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2020-Feb-23 at 03:50 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G;2505385I
    see it as being like a carpenter using a bunch of tools and expertise in order to build a chair. There's no "a priori" chair anywhere, the judgement comes when someone sits in it and says "yeah, that'll do." And the same process happens when we sit back and try to describe what the carpenter was doing, we say "he/she used a hammer on a nail and then pulled out a saw", etc., when all those things are no more "a priori" than the chair itself.
    So what happened before the concept of a manufactured 'chair' existed in the MDR?

    Are you saying that manufactured chairs always existed but our MDR didn't notice them?

    Give them enough rope lol.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaurieAG View Post
    So what happened before the concept of a manufactured 'chair' existed in the MDR?

    Are you saying that manufactured chairs always existed but our MDR didn't notice them?
    I would say manufactured chairs did not exist before any were manufactured. But people may have sat on rocks, etc., so it depends on what meaning we give to our word "chair" as to whether or not chairs existed. I'm not advocating for a big change in the meanings we intend for our words, I'm advocating for a recognition of the process by which our words acquire the meanings we intend for them.

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    Chairs are 'a priori', (just as the tools for manufacturing them are) .. Ie: we know if we were to find a (manufactured) chair on the surface of some unexplored local moon, this then implies something else manufactured it. I think we'd then use our own mental tools of: purpose (a seat) intent (to sit) causality (make happen) determinism (will result), coupled with logic's processes (shown here by the arrows), in order to make the conclusion that it is most likely to be 'true' that the existence of an intelligent mind caused it to be there.

    But what did this have to do with the axioms given in the so-called 'laws of thought', which are supposedly axioms of the 'truth' of its existence, before we even run that above process? In this, I agree with Ken .. the answer is:
    'Nothing whatsoever! .. Its existence all starts with the observation ... and not because of these axioms!'

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    I would say manufactured chairs did not exist before any were manufactured. But people may have sat on rocks, etc., so it depends on what meaning we give to our word "chair" as to whether or not chairs existed. I'm not advocating for a big change in the meanings we intend for our words, I'm advocating for a recognition of the process by which our words acquire the meanings we intend for them.
    So if we go down to the level of a Stromatolite everything fits your model, brilliant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Selfsim View Post
    Chairs are 'a priori', (just as the tools for manufacturing them are) .. Ie: we know if we were to find a (manufactured) chair on the surface of some unexplored local moon, this then implies something else manufactured it.
    I think you are using the term "a priori" quite different from me! Your meaning just sounds the same as "manufactured" to me. When I say "a priori", I intend the meaning of something that is handed to us in a way that we don't have a lot of say about. Like logic itself, there are not a lot of different kinds of logic tables that we can choose from. For some mysterious reason, we find that this symbolic structure works well when translated into practical contexts, but to do that practical translation requires axioms, and there are a lot of different axioms to use logic on, and thereby test (and later pretend we knew all along). So I would regard the structure of logic itself as "a priori" but the axioms we choose are not, as they must pass tests. That's why I see a chair as not a priori, even though we can tell it has been manufactured. But those "laws" I objected to on the grounds that they did not work well, and were being put forward as a priori rules that our models must follow, but in fact they must not follow them (and don't follow them in science) expressly because they don't work, so can't be a priori.
    I think we'd then use our own mental tools of: purpose (a seat) intent (to sit) causality (make happen) determinism (will result), coupled with logic's processes (shown here by the arrows), in order to make the conclusion that it is most likely to be 'true' that the existence of an intelligent mind caused it to be there.
    Yes, that's a valid chain of inference, based on a series of concepts that we have found to work well, along with symbolic logic, which we have also found to work well.
    But what did this have to do with the axioms given in the so-called 'laws of thought', which are supposedly axioms of the 'truth' of its existence, before we even run that above process? In this, I agree with Ken .. the answer is:
    'Nothing whatsoever! .. Its existence all starts with the observation ... and not because of these axioms!'
    Yes, I can't see how anyone could imagine those are laws of thought, when they are so often refuted by the actual thoughts that we find useful in science. I could go through each one and demonstrate clear counterexamples, but it's a straw man anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaurieAG View Post
    So if we go down to the level of a Stromatolite everything fits your model, brilliant.
    People who think the purpose of a model is to have everything fit it have not understood what models are. When one does understand what models are and what they do, one should expect to need to go to the intelligence of a stromatolite to make a model seem to fit everything-- so it's no kind of problem.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    I think you are using the term "a priori" quite different from me! Your meaning just sounds the same as "manufactured" to me. When I say "a priori", I intend the meaning of something that is handed to us in a way that we don't have a lot of say about. Like logic itself, there are not a lot of different kinds of logic tables that we can choose from.
    Interesting .. I think we're in agreement and perhaps the chair sitting on a moon example, didn't serve as a very good distinction for a workable meaning of 'a priori'.
    I think truth tables are a good example.
    Wiki gives a good one too:
    A priori:
    Consider the proposition: "If George V reigned at least four days, then he reigned more than three days". This is something that one knows a priori, because it expresses a statement that one can derive by reason alone.
    Whilst I gave my reasoning of: purpose (a seat) intent (to sit) causality (make happen) determinism (will result), (which is also reversible I think), I can see there is a fundamental difference between this and: 4 days implies > 3 days.

    Having said this though, if one was to hold that: purpose, intent, causality and determinism were all 'true' phenomena in the universe, then there wouldn't be much difference between these respective propositions, I think ..
    And this is what I so often see in so many debates .. (Perhaps with the latter two items in that logic train.. and maybe not so much the first two items though).

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    but if a priori means from first principles, or using principles that are unarguable or self evident, then it includes a big assumption that MDR hypothesis challenges. If knowledge is a set that makes useful predictions and is based on observation or experience (and the implied memory function) then knowledge has no a priori statement to make. I think you could build a funny kind of logic on an a priori belief, like evolution for example, which Popper considered "a good working hypothesis" on the grounds we cannot rerun the experiment. As for finding a chair on a distant moon, there are several lines of reasoning including "someone has been here before me" and "soon I will awake" and "what was in that drink?" as well as "at last evidence of aliens" so what can you know, a priori?
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    but if a priori means from first principles, or using principles that are unarguable or self evident, then it includes a big assumption that MDR hypothesis challenges. If knowledge is a set that makes useful predictions and is based on observation or experience (and the implied memory function) then knowledge has no a priori statement to make. I think you could build a funny kind of logic on an a priori belief, like evolution for example, which Popper considered "a good working hypothesis" on the grounds we cannot rerun the experiment. As for finding a chair on a distant moon, there are several lines of reasoning including "someone has been here before me" and "soon I will awake" and "what was in that drink?" as well as "at last evidence of aliens" so what can you know, a priori?
    I don't think there's so much of a challenge (for me), as to whether or not axiomatically based logic is based on an MDR belief .. (it clearly is, by definition).

    The challenge is to distinguish between logic based on ;
    - past experience or knowledge, (inherited, derived from past testing) and;
    - axiomatic logic where the axioms themselves are being used to posit the existence of some universal 'truth' (a priori).

    Its not a straighforward matter to distinguish between the two, especially because logic's rules (and language) are already well intertwined with the scientific method and often confused with it.

    For example: see the Wiki on Causality (physics):
    Causality is the relationship between causes and effects. It is considered to be fundamental to all natural science – especially physics. Causality is also a topic studied from the perspectives of philosophy and statistics. From the perspective of physics, causality cannot occur between an effect and an event that is not in the back (past) light cone of said effect. Similarly, a cause cannot have an effect outside its front (future) light cone.
    Here, there is a difference between philosophy's meaning of causality, where physics' is that; physics uses Mikowski diagrams (SR) as the context for giving physics' its meaning of causality .. (which can be violated for speeds greater than c).

    The kind of causality referred to by many philosophers however, is mostly viewed as being a priori:
    The concept is like those of agency and efficacy. For this reason, a leap of intuition may be needed to grasp it. Accordingly, causality is implicit in the logic and structure of ordinary language​.
    Weeding out this 'implicitness', when logic is believed to be a fundamental to physics, when the same language is used in both physics and philosophy, is a real problem.

    PS: Causality is the basis of the implication that a chair on a moon was manufactured .. regardless of any knowledge about how to manufacture a chair.
    Last edited by Selfsim; 2020-Feb-26 at 10:32 PM.

  26. #13676
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    Causality has kind of a weird standing in physics. It basically just means that sometimes you can predict the conditions at some event in spacetime if you know the conditions at all other events in the past light cone of that one event in question. But it is quite difficult to formalize that statement into anything useful, because the past light cone of any event includes events so closely spaced in time and distance from the event you are interested in, that you are including other events that are essentially already the same as the event you want to know about. So that really wouldn't work, and instead, in practice we are forced to mix in a healthy dose of determinism in with causality before it is at all useful. The way determinism works is, you have some manifold in the past spacetime where you have knowledge, and that suffices to infer the conditions along some subset of the path through spacetime of that manifold, leading ultimately up to including the spacetime event you are trying to predict or understand. The problem with this is that a compact manifold has unknowns creeping in from its boundaries, due to all the information that was not included, and can also have uncertainty springing up in its interior, due to errors or imprecisions in the knowledge that one can have there. To combat these problems, there are generally many assumptions and idealizations invoked along the way, such as deciding what information will matter, and ignoring all the rest. But there is always the problem of missing something that was important that you didn't know about, and there can also be the bugbear of chaos, and together these can make this process impossible to carry out in practice because the information on the original manifold is impossible to know precisely enough to make it work in all situations. The situations where it does work are almost famous for having it work, but the situations where it does not work at all simply don't appear in the textbooks. For example, no one tries to use F=ma to predict human behavior.

    The details of what I just said are not nearly as important as the general point: the concepts of both causation and determinism are idealized, contextually judged, and lead only to approximately useful results-- sometimes very good, other times completely useless. So there's nothing at all "a priori" about causation in physics! I hear it said often that causality or determinism are "fundamental" to physics, or "assumed by" physics, or some such nonsense, but it just isn't true. Not only are they not required to be axioms of physics, they don't even work as axioms, because axioms have to always work, and they don't. This is why the scientific method does not have a step "consult the axioms", but it does have a step "test the axioms," understanding always that they are contextual, idealized, and subject to change. It's just that, unfortunately, that last bit is invariably left out, and this is the least well understood aspect of science.

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    This is at the heart of belief in underlying agency. Logic is invented as a language based on postulates, like arithmetic can have rules about integers. For most of history, humans have believed in an external non logical agency, a creator or complex sequence of creators where modern causality had a hard time to get established. Now science wants to put that all behind us with the only justification that these fundamentals are untestable except for the power of prediction. External agencies tend to be unpredictable! But successful prediction is not a proof of cause and effect, actually it's correlation between a mind model and observation.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    A priori seems to be defined as being independent of experience. Since science depends upon experience in terms of testing, I can't see any circumstances whereby a priori could be included in science. But perhaps it gets a bit murky when considering the mathematical theory in isolation - presumably the mathematics of the theory have a priori elements, but the real world testing of that theory depends on experience, so we have to discard those a priori elements of the mathematics as far as the physical workings of the theory are concerned but retain them within the mathematics. Yet if the model passes all it's tests it then appears to be the case that the maths has a direct connection with experience, so does that mean the a priori elements of the maths are a priori elements of experience?

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    If I remember, Aristotle thought about four causes, material, formal, efficient and final. In daily life we see these as far as the efficient cause, the dog knocked over the wine bottle. But the next stage, which we could call fundamental, is how to explain dogs and wine bottles as things, or concepts and that is to ask "why?"

    The "why?" question is at the root of the belief conundrum. Science cannot answer. Belief provides answers but these are completely untestable as well as contradictory and thus unacceptable to science.
    Aristotle saw, I think, that we can model cause and effect in those first three of the heirarchy, but we get stuck on why do we, or these things, exist.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by Len Moran View Post
    A priori seems to be defined as being independent of experience. Since science depends upon experience in terms of testing, I can't see any circumstances whereby a priori could be included in science. But perhaps it gets a bit murky when considering the mathematical theory in isolation - presumably the mathematics of the theory have a priori elements, but the real world testing of that theory depends on experience, so we have to discard those a priori elements of the mathematics as far as the physical workings of the theory are concerned but retain them within the mathematics. Yet if the model passes all it's tests it then appears to be the case that the maths has a direct connection with experience, so does that mean the a priori elements of the maths are a priori elements of experience?
    Hmm .. interesting ..

    I've just been involved in a discussion about Maxwell's equations leading into self propagating EM wave equations, resulting in the conclusion of c being a constant.

    Maxwell's original equations were reformulated by Oliver Heaviside and are the ones in mainstream use today. Maxwell's original equations had their structure based in empirical experiments done by Faraday and Ampere, (who actually defined the physical laws). Heaviside brought in the mathematical methods for solving the differential equations (akin to Laplace transforms) but he also contextualised them in terms of EM forces and energy flux model elements, and then introduced vector analysis (on the math side). Quite an extraordinary history of the delicate interplay between physical/empirical law and the necessary innovation of math techniques for anlaysis, this example is.

    Whilst Heaviside's techniques must have had their basis well and truly referenced to classical mathematical axioms and theorems, I don't think I would say in this case, the 'a priori' components were 'discarded as far as the the physical workings of the theory are concerned' .. More like: they were embraced in order to make Maxwell's equations workable for the electrical sciences, (theoretical), I think. (This 'reworking' of these equations then happened yet again, in order to take SR and GR into account, also).

    I think in this instance , it would be extremely difficult to simply extricate any priori parts from the physical law as it stands today (and discard them?) .. I'm not even sure anyone could do that nowadays .. (which I think would have to be done as a test, in order to demonstrate the point about a priori elements?)

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