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My senses fool me - How could the senses be self-evident?

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*****Topic Split from Do Objectivists see self evidence differently from academic philosophers?*****

On 7/25/2017 at 8:30 PM, dream_weaver said:

There are so many good quotes on the CD containing "self-evident." Here's one selected from The Art of Nonfiction, 3. Judging One's Audience (pg. 21):

The evidence of the senses, properly identified, is comprised of both existence and consciousness in every moment of awareness. The concepts of existence, consciousness, identity, are only derived from the self-evident much later.

 

It isn't at all clear to me why the senses are self-evident. My senses fool me all the time. They tell me that the sun goes around the Earth even though I know that to be false.

Edited by Eiuol

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On 7/25/2017 at 2:08 PM, StrictlyLogical said:

Is there even a concept of the "self-evident" in Objectivism?  I cannot think of a statement which would be truly "self" evident and yet also relevant or substantive or informative.

A statement like: "If we take the word 'Bachelor' to only mean an unmarried man, then all Bachelors are unmarried men." is vacuous.  It counts as a "truth" because it is not a self contradiction, but it is not a statement which requires any verification whatever.  A statement like "If we take the word 'unicorn' to mean a horse with a horn coming out of its forehead, then all unicorns have horns coming out of their foreheads" is equally "self-evident" and even more vacuous, as unicorns actually don't exist.  The statement says nothing about reality and in the realm of knowledge means nothing.

Most other statements "Dogs have four legs" are simply not "self" evident because they require verification and evidence i.e. require a test of truth with reality.

Since all knowledge is based on other knowledge, I wonder if any non-vacuous statement can be truly "self" evident.  I tend to think no... even the axioms, as pointed out by New Buddha are not self evident.

Self evidency is either useless or a myth... agree ?

This harkens back to Aristotle and Descartes. Aristotle said that since all knowledge is based on other knowledge, then it must ultimately rest on something which is self-evident (as opposed to being based on some other item of knowledge). And since nothing of substance can be deduced from a tautology, this item (or items) must not themselves be tautological.

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16 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

 

It isn't at all clear to me why the senses are self-evident. My senses fool me all the time. They tell me that the sun goes around the Earth even though I know that to be false.

I guess I don't know about you, but my senses don't talk to me.

The Inductive Way to Understand the Sky By David Harriman. (The sun puppet was a bit puzzling when first listening to the lecture.)

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1 hour ago, SpookyKitty said:

It isn't at all clear to me why the senses are self-evident. My senses fool me all the time. They tell me that the sun goes around the Earth even though I know that to be false.

The senses have identity - just as do your heart, kidney, appendix, cortex, cerebellum, lymph nodes, lungs, femur, small intestine, etc.  Your senses do not "fool" you that the sun goes around the earth.  They tell you that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west - which it does.

1 hour ago, SpookyKitty said:

then it must ultimately rest on something which is self-evident

Rand differentiates between first-level concepts (abstractions from concretes), higher-level concepts (abstractions from abstractions) and propositions.  In ITOE she says on p. 177:

Prof. F:  My question is about the relationship between concepts and propositions.  Concepts are logically prior, aren't they?

AR: Yes.

Prof. F:  If every concept is based upon a definition, isn't that definition itself a proposition?

AR: Oh yes.

Prof. F:  Well then, the concept is in this case based on a proposition.

AR: No, but the first concepts are not.  First-level concepts, concepts of perceptual concretes, are held without definitions.  And I even mentioned in the book that most people would find it very difficult to define the commonplace, easy, first-level concepts for that very reason.  They are held first without any definitions, mainly in visual form, or through other sensory images.  By the time you accumulate enough of them, you can progress to propositions, making use of your concepts, organizing them into sentences which communicate something.  And the concepts you form from then on, which are abstractions from abstractions, those you couldn't hold visually; they require formal definitions. but by the time you get to them, you are already capable of forming propositions.

Newton never sensed or perceived that the earth goes around the sun.  That it does is a very complex proposition - painstakingly induced from a rigorous attention applied to observations and well-defined definitions of concepts.

Edited by New Buddha

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11 minutes ago, New Buddha said:

The senses have identity - just as do your heart, kidney, appendix, cortex, cerebellum, lymph nodes, lungs, femur, small intestine, etc.  Your senses do not "fool" you that the sun goes around the earth.  They tell you that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west - which it does.

This is pure tautology. You are saying that the senses only give knowledge of appearances and not reality. But appearances are nothing more than what the senses provide.

Quote

Rand differentiates between first-level concepts (abstractions from concretes), higher-level concepts (abstractions from abstractions) and propositions.  In ITOE she says on p. 177:

Prof. F:  My question is about the relationship between concepts and propositions.  Concepts are logically prior, aren't they?

AR: Yes.

Prof. F:  If every concept is based upon a definition, isn't that definition itself a proposition?

AR: Oh yes.

Prof. F:  Well then, the concept is in this case based on a proposition.

AR: No, but the first concepts are not.  First-level concepts, concepts of perceptual concretes, are held without definitions.  And I even mentioned in the book that most people would find it very difficult to define the commonplace, easy, first-level concepts for that very reason.  They are held first without any definitions, mainly in visual form, or through other sensory images.  By the time you accumulate enough of them, you can progress to propositions, making use of your concepts, organizing them into sentences which communicate something.  And the concepts you form from then on, which are abstractions from abstractions, those you couldn't hold visually; they require formal definitions. but by the time you get to them, you are already capable of forming propositions.

Newton never sensed or perceived that the earth goes around the sun.  That it does is a very complex proposition - painstakingly induced from a rigorous attention applied to observations and well-defined definitions of concepts.

How is this relevant to the argument?

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2 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

You are saying that the senses only give knowledge of appearances and not reality.

Think about what you are saying.  I mean really think about it.

2 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

How is this relevant to the argument?

The post is about self-evident knowledge.

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1 minute ago, New Buddha said:

Think about what you are saying.  I mean really think about it.

I have really thought about it. And it seems I am even more right than I was previously.

Quote

The post is about self-evident knowledge.

Ok. Uh, I still don't understand what you're trying to say.

Edited by SpookyKitty

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5 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

I have really thought about it. And it seems I am even more right than I was previously.

If we don't begin with appearances, then what do we begin with?  a priori knowledge that made it into our minds "somehow"?

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Just now, New Buddha said:

If we don't begin with appearances, then what do we begin with?  a priori knowledge that made it into our minds "somehow"?

I never said that we don't begin with appearances, just that your argument that the senses are self-evident is fallacious.

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2 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

I never said that we don't begin with appearances, just that your argument that the senses are self-evident is fallacious.

The sun doesn't rise in the east and set in the west?  Last time I checked, it did.

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1 minute ago, New Buddha said:

The sun doesn't rise in the east and set in the west?  Last time I checked, it did.

It appears to. But it doesn't actually.

Do you understand the difference between appearance and reality?

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21 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

I never said that we don't begin with appearances, just that your argument that the senses are self-evident is fallacious.

If the senses fool you, then explain how we arrive and concepts and propositions that have any objective meaning.  You ruled out a priori knowledge.  Then how about Diving Revelation?

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17 minutes ago, New Buddha said:

If the senses fool you, then explain how we arrive and concepts and propositions that have any objective meaning. 

That is the question, innit?

But no answer is better than a wrong answer.

Quote

You ruled out a priori knowledge.  Then how about Diving Revelation?

Don't have much scuba experience, so I really couldn't say.

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7 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

That is the question, innit?

But no answer is better than a wrong answer.

That's what the entirety of ITOE is for - to explain how we begin with the evidence of the senses and arrive at objective concepts, definitions, and complex propositions.

 

8 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

Don't have much scuba experience, so I really couldn't say.

Lol.  I am "typing challenged".

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4 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

 

*****Topic Split from Do Objectivists see self evidence differently from academic philosophers?*****

 

It isn't at all clear to me why the senses are self-evident. My senses fool me all the time. They tell me that the sun goes around the Earth even though I know that to be false.

Senses do not fool you. Sensations involve the various colors you see, the brightness of these colors, etc as you are aware of them in the present.

There is no sensation in "Sun", "goes", "around", "the", "Earth". These are either percepts or concepts.

"Sun goes around the Earth" or vice versa is a proposition that is not present in sensation.

Secondarily, you are wrong about your concepts as well. The Sun does factually move relative to you. However, the Sun does not revolve around you. The difference is based on the gravitational force involved.

Acceleration of a body with respect to a non-inertial observer cannot be assigned actual forces. You need to introduce fictitious forces. Thus it is only in terms of forces alone that "Sun revolves around the Earth" is false while "Earth revolves around the Sun" is correct. In terms of motion alone ("goes around"), both are correct.

Non-inertial reference frames are not incorrect. They are not appearances. They are actual physical fact. No physicist would say that non-inertial frames are incorrect or exist outside reality. Just don't use them to derive forces.

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2 hours ago, New Buddha said:

The post is about self-evident knowledge.

Don't overlook the response:

2 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

Ok. Uh, I still don't understand what you're trying to say.

As such, SpookyKitty goes up directly against the following:

14 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Miss Rand stated "(Logic is actually not self-evident, but in order to communicate, you must assume a person knows how to make logical connections.)"

Establishing the relationship between the perceptual and the conceptual is the logical connection which facilitates us in being able to identify and thus communicate our identifications, and why the assumption another person knows how to do likewise is needed: for it is they that need to perform that step as well, you cannot perform it for them.

I think I'm done here otherwise. 

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2 hours ago, New Buddha said:

That's what the entirety of ITOE is for - to explain how we begin with the evidence of the senses and arrive at objective concepts, definitions, and complex propositions.

How you get from the evidence of the senses to the highest abstract propositions is one matter. But the question of why you can trust the senses and to what extent is a wholly separate matter, one not adequately addressed by Objectivism.

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45 minutes ago, human_murda said:

Senses do not fool you.

And merely stating the contradictory position doesn't make for a good argument.

Quote

Sensations involve the various colors you see, the brightness of these colors, etc as you are aware of them in the present.

There is no sensation in "Sun", "goes", "around", "the", "Earth". These are either percepts or concepts.

"Sun goes around the Earth" or vice versa is a proposition that is not present in sensation.

Nowhere did I claim that somehow the sentence "Sun goes around the Earth" is identical to the actual sensations that the sentence represents. Your argument is a strawman.

Quote

Secondarily, you are wrong about your concepts as well. The Sun does factually move relative to you. However, the Sun does not revolve around you. The difference is based on the gravitational force involved.

Acceleration of a body with respect to a non-inertial observer cannot be assigned actual forces. You need to introduce fictitious forces. Thus it is only in terms of forces alone that "Sun revolves around the Earth" is false while "Earth revolves around the Sun" is correct. In terms of motion alone ("goes around"), both are correct.

Non-inertial reference frames are not incorrect. They are not appearances. They are actual physical fact. No physicist would say that non-inertial frames are incorrect or exist outside reality. Just don't use them to derive forces.

Actually no, you are wrong, because this argument completely ignores causality. Motion that is observed in a non-inertial reference frame is, as a matter of fact, not real and therefore merely an appearance.

The difference with actual motion is that actual motion has a cause, and causal connections in Newtonian physics are mediated by (real) forces. The motion of the Earth around the sun is caused by gravity. The apparent motion of the sun around the Earth (due to the rotation of the Earth) has no actual cause.

When you say that "Non-inertial reference frames are not incorrect. They are not appearances. They are actual physical fact. No physicist would say that non-inertial frames are incorrect or exist outside reality. Just don't use them to derive forces." You have to be careful because non-inertial reference frames are, in fact, incorrect, precisely because one has to introduce fictitious forces in order to account for the observed motions in those frames. The only sense in which they are correct is the wholly vacuous one in which the apparent motion that is calculated in a non-inertial reference frame will indeed be the observed motion.

In other words, saying that non-inertial reference frames are correct (in any way other than the vacuous) is like saying that, in the optical illusion with the two lines where one appears to be shorter than the other, there is no illusion at all because one of the lines in fact appears to be shorter than the other.

To summarize this very briefly, you seem to be taking the "factuality" of an appearance and the undeniable certainty that what appears to be the case is what appears to be the case and ascribing this tautological certainty to the senses. But when talking about the validity of the senses, I am not at all concerned with their ability to present to us facts about mere appearances, but facts about the actual reality behind those appearances. Thus, the argument that what appears to be the case does indeed appear to be the case (even though it may not be strictly speaking true) has no bearing on the matter whatsoever.

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24 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

And merely stating the contradictory position doesn't make for a good argument.

That one sentence isn't the entirety of my argument. It is an opening statement.

 

26 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

Actually no, you are wrong, because this argument completely ignores causality. Motion that is observed in a non-inertial reference frame is, as a matter of fact, not real and therefore merely an appearance.

The difference with actual motion is that actual motion has a cause, and causal connections in Newtonian physics are mediated by (real) forces. The motion of the Earth around the sun is caused by gravity. The apparent motion of the sun around the Earth (due to the rotation of the Earth) has no actual cause.

There is no such distinction as an "actual motion" and an "appearance of motion". All motion is relative (from relativity, there's no such thing as an "absolute" motion). The distinction of causality/force is irrelevant. We're talking about motion.

 

31 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

The only sense in which they are correct is the wholly vacuous one in which the apparent motion that is calculated in a non-inertial reference frame will indeed be the observed motion.

And this "vacuous" notion of "I see the Sun moving" is the conceptual statement of what you perceive (this is perception by the way, not sensation). The question of what revolves around what is at an entirely different level.

 

35 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

In other words, saying that non-inertial reference frames are correct (in any way other than the vacuous) is like saying that, in the optical illusion with the two lines where one appears to be shorter than the other, there is no illusion at all because one of the lines in fact appears to be shorter than the other.

Exactly. The physical phenomena which produce perception is real too. There is no such thing as perception without the apparatus of perception. Some phenomena in the eye produced that illusion. To deny that would be to claim that you are blind because you have eyes. You need some means of perception before you can perceive something. You cannot perceive something "directly". That is not perception. The "illusion" is physically real (although fake). It exists.

 

38 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

To summarize this very briefly, you seem to be taking the "factuality" of an appearance and the undeniable certainty that what appears to be the case is what appears to be the case and ascribing this tautological certainty to the senses.

Yes

 

41 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

But when talking about the validity of the senses, I am not at all concerned with their ability to present to us facts about mere appearances, but facts about the actual reality behind those appearances.

You are here talking about the relation between what exists (what you call "appearances") and what you know (what you call "actual reality"). Sensations are of something which exists (whatever it is: hallucinations, simulations, etc) and you are conscious of it. Existence and consciousness are implicit in sensations. Hallucinations are real: as hallucinations. Simulations are real: as simulations. Simulations cannot be produced without the apparatus that produces it. You know that something exists. The light that hits the retina in a Virtual Reality or impulse that travels through the nervous system and finally enters the brain: some physical phenomena exists. Otherwise, you can't sense it. This is the self-evident validity of the senses.

As for the question of what something actually is, whether it is an illusion or if it is fake, etc: that is the issue of proof. It is fully at the conceptual level. This has nothing to do with the validity of the senses (something exists and you know it).

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On 4/7/2017 at 7:46 AM, New Buddha said:

Every rabbit that a wolf encounters is not a unique percept -- it is a generalized abstraction (i.e. a concept).

No. It is a new, unique sensation; but the same percept. Perceptions are retained. It doesn't need to be a concept.

You seem to have to blurred the distinction between percepts and concepts. It is possible to have a percept for a chair. It is also possible to have a concept for a chair. This doesn't mean that percepts are a form of concepts. Percepts aren't first level abstractions.

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I really want want you to clarify something: are you really saying that percepts for chair, human, cat, rabbit, etc don't exist?

Are you really saying that something is either a sensation or a concept, with nothing in-between? What would be your definitions for sensations, percepts and concepts? How do you distinguish between percepts and concepts (for example, what would you say is the difference between the percept of a chair and the concept of a chair)?

Edited by human_murda

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8 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

How you get from the evidence of the senses to the highest abstract propositions is one matter. But the question of why you can trust the senses and to what extent is a wholly separate matter, one not adequately addressed by Objectivism.

What are you doing here? You're either relying on the veracity of your senses to impugn the veracity of your senses, or you're doing something else.

Edited by dream_weaver

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@human_murda

I understand where you're coming from. You're saying that the fact that there is sensation at all implies that at least something exists which causes that sensation. Fine, but this has nothing to do with whether the senses can be trusted.

When I see a black kitty, I don't want to merely know that I see a black kitty, and I wouldn't be satisfied with merely knowing that something is causing me to see a black kitty (reality, dream, hallucination, the matrix, Descarte's Demon, or whatever) What I would really like to know is whether or not there really is indeed an actual black kitty causing the sensation of the black kitty.

When one says that the senses are "self-evident" I take that to mean that whenever it appears to me that x, it turns out that, in fact, x. This rarely happens, so I don't think that the senses are "self-evident".

If by "self-evident", you mean that the senses allow you to deduce the fact that "something exists", then that's just bullshit.

I mean, imagine if I'd built a computer and said "This computer can predict the future!", and when we tried it out, it simply said "Something exists". I would then proclaim, "Aha! It said something which is true, which makes the computer 'self-evident', and it can therefore infallibly predict the future!". Total nonsense.

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3 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

When one says that the senses are "self-evident" I take that to mean that whenever it appears to me that x, it turns out that, in fact, x. This rarely happens, so I don't think that the senses are "self-evident".

There is a certain looseness in terms in this thread, and to the extent that I might have contributed to it, let me try and clarify.  There are sensations, percepts and concepts (both abstractions-from-concretes and abstractions-from-abstractions) and propositions.

From the Lexicon

[Man’s] senses do not provide him with automatic knowledge in separate snatches independent of context, but only with the material of knowledge, which his mind must learn to integrate. . . . His senses cannot deceive him, . . . physical objects cannot act without causes, . . . his organs of perception are physical and have no volition, no power to invent or to distort . . . the evidence they give him is an absolute, but his mind must learn to understand it, his mind must discover the nature, the causes, the full context of his sensory material, his mind must identify the things that he perceives.

Wrt sensations, the below image is not "fooling" you.  The light is actually bent.

stickbend.jpg

Edited by New Buddha

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To reiterate @New_Buddha

I agree that the senses give us absolute evidence about appearances. But one cannot translate this into infallible evidence about reality.

It is reality I care about, not appearances.

Furthermore, the sense organs need not have volition in order to "fool" you. It is more that they lack the ability to fully convey reality.

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