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

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In order to understand what you incorrectly call "actual reality behind those appearances", it is necessary that we have an understanding of how "appearances" come to be.  All knowledge is processed knowledge (not a priori, not nominalistic, not Divine Revelation, not linguistic analysis).   To not understand the process by which the mind works can and has led to an infinite number of philosophical and scientific errors.

The issue is not about being "infallible" (there is no such thing) but rather that the evidence of the senses is a given from which we start acquiring knowledge via percepts, concept formation, measurement omission, etc., as outlined in the ITOE.

The fact that we see a bent pencil in water is reality.  For you to ignore or dismiss this fact of reality as unimportant is misguided.

You want to know how "reality" works without first understanding how your brain works.

 

Edited by New Buddha

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1 hour ago, New Buddha said:

In order to understand what you incorrectly call "actual reality behind those appearances", it is necessary that we have an understanding of how "appearances" come to be.  All knowledge is processed knowledge (not a priori, not nominalistic, not Divine Revelation, not linguistic analysis).   To not understand the process by which the mind works can and has led to an infinite number of philosophical and scientific errors.

The issue is not about being "infallible" (there is no such thing) but rather that the evidence of the senses is a given from which we start acquiring knowledge via percepts, concept formation, measurement omission, etc., as outlined in the ITOE.

The fact that we see a bent pencil in water is reality.  For you to ignore or dismiss this fact of reality as unimportant is misguided.

You want to know how "reality" works without first understanding how your brain works.

You are confusing the issue of where thought begins with the issue of on what basis or justification a given piece of knowledge is said to be true.

That we begin to understand the world by thinking about sensory data is an utterly vacuous and unimportant claim.

We know that the Earth goes around the Sun. But if I were to ask you on what grounds do you believe that this claim is true, you would point to a vast array of experimental results and observations (all of them sensory), wouldn't you? And aren't the senses in this way the evidential basis of all knowledge?

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I've pretty must lost track of the point that you are trying to make.  As near as I can tell you think there is a fundamental and unbridgeable flaw in Rand's Epistemology as presented in ITOE.  Is that correct?

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My senses talk to me. Do yours?

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

No, because senses don't have mouths, throats, vocal cords, or lungs. Is that about it for this thread, or do I need to list more sh#t involved in talking?

Edited by Nicky

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9 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

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".

Concepts do not invalidate the senses.

The notion that the sight of bent pencil in a glass of water is an "appearance" while the concept of a straight pencil is "actual" reality is completely false. The fact is that the latter is an abstraction (identification of the essential ["straight pencil"] plus identification of another essential, refraction). Reality does not "actually" exist in parts. The separation into "straight pencil" plus "refraction" is a mental isolation, an abstraction. It is man-made.

The number 5 does not invalidate the vision of 5 apples. You cannot say that the number 5 is "actually" real while the vision of 5 apples is just an "appearance".

In the same way, the concept of a straight pencil does not invalidate the vision of a bent one. The vision is the concrete, the actual. The isolation of the pencil as a straight object is done for epistemological purposes. It is an essential (but does not exist as such in reality).

To quote Ayn Rand:

"Abstractions as such do not exist: they are merely man’s epistemological method of perceiving that which exists—and that which exists is concrete".

By saying that your perception is just an appearance while your concepts are "actually" real and rises above and invalidates your senses, you'd be veering into Platonism. The "actual" reality that you speak of are abstractions. They do not exist, as such.

You got the entire concept of an actual vs. fake by coming across one concrete instance where you thought something was a specific way but later found it out to be different (this is an abstraction from abstraction. This is different from what was discussed above: abstraction from perception). Your concept of "actual vs. fake" comes from that concrete. It does not invalidate that concrete. You already know how to distinguish between actual vs. fake. It doesn't need to be "proved". If you assume it needs to be proved, you're invalidating the concrete from which you arrived at the concept "actual". You'd be committing the fallacy of the stolen concept.

The "actual" kitty that you speak of, is an abstraction. You do not first have a concept of an "actual" kitty and then go searching for its existence. Reality doesn't need to conform to your abstractions. An actual kitty (as in, what you might call the "appearance of a kitty") is the root of your abstraction. It is then that you form the abstraction of kitty. You cannot form the concept of a kitty and then ask: "where does this actually exist in reality?".

From AR:

"The Platonist school begins by accepting the primacy of consciousness, by reversing the relationship of consciousness to existence, by assuming that reality must conform to the content of consciousness, not the other way around—on the premise that the presence of any notion in man’s mind proves the existence of a corresponding referent in reality."

Concepts do not invalidate the senses. They depend on it.

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The entire problem with your argument is considering the actual, the concrete to be an "appearance" while considering your abstractions to be "actual" reality (and somehow invalidates the former or relegates them into an "appearance"). This is easily resolved since abstraction, as such, do not exist.

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5 minutes ago, human_murda said:

"Abstractions as such do not exist: they are merely man’s epistemological method of perceiving that which exists—and that which exists is concrete".

I'll add to this another quote from ITOE, p. 155.

"The basic overall point would be always to keep in mind that this is a cognitive process, not an arbitrary process; it's a process of perceiving reality and is governed by the rules of reality [my add: including the reality of your brain's processes].  Nevertheless, it's our way of grasping reality; it isn't reality itself; it's only a method of acquiring knowledge, a method of cognition."

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To sum up: concepts are abstractions which refer to "appearances". Concepts are not the actual reality. They refer to the actual reality (which you know must exist from the evidence of the senses), which you call "appearances".

Also from AR:

"The arguments of those who attack the senses are merely variants of the fallacy of the “stolen concept.” "

Edited by human_murda

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On 7/29/2017 at 8:44 PM, dream_weaver said:

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

Have you not heard people say "my senses tell me that" before? :P It's just metaphorical speaking - SK clearly means "my senses show me that". And if that's a reductio argument, that's some kind of linguistic analysis.

5 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

That we begin to understand the world by thinking about sensory data is an utterly vacuous and unimportant claim.

It's tautological, in the same way as "A is A". No, it's not important as far finding out what is true or not true. That claim alone tell you anything new. No one would sensibly say "A is A" tells you what a tree is, that it has leaves or needs water to grow. No one would sensibly say "the senses are self-evident" tells you that the sun does or doesn't orbit the Earth. Strictly speaking, your senses only say that something has happened. What that something is requires reasoning and all sorts of methods. This makes sense with Rand, it's the whole reason she talks about concept formation and reason. 

To say the senses are self-evident is to say they are givens. You couldn't deny what you -perceive-, even if what you conclude is counter to intuition.

Perception is not the same as (sometimes erroneous) intuitions about what you perceive.

You could say your senses fooled you only in the sense that the methods you normally use on that percept didn't lead to a true conclusion.

Just to add, NB has a strong Empiricism bent. Not to say that alone makes his arguments wrong, or bad, but that is the angle he's coming from.

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6 hours ago, New Buddha said:

I've pretty must lost track of the point that you are trying to make.  As near as I can tell you think there is a fundamental and unbridgeable flaw in Rand's Epistemology as presented in ITOE.  Is that correct?

I think that there is a flaw in the argument that bases the justification of all knowledge in the senses.

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2 hours ago, human_murda said:

Concepts do not invalidate the senses.

The notion that the sight of bent pencil in a glass of water is an "appearance" while the concept of a straight pencil is "actual" reality is completely false. The fact is that the latter is an abstraction (identification of the essential ["straight pencil"] plus identification of another essential, refraction). Reality does not "actually" exist in parts. The separation into "straight pencil" plus "refraction" is a mental isolation, an abstraction. It is man-made.

I never said that the concept of a straight pencil is what the reality is. The concept reflects the reality, and the reality is that the pencil is straight.

Quote

The number 5 does not invalidate the vision of 5 apples. You cannot say that the number 5 is "actually" real while the vision of 5 apples is just an "appearance".

In the same way, the concept of a straight pencil does not invalidate the vision of a bent one. The vision is the concrete, the actual. The isolation of the pencil as a straight object is done for epistemological purposes. It is an essential (but does not exist as such in reality).

No the concrete and the actual are not identical. Hallucinations are concrete. But they are not even remotely actual.

Quote

To quote Ayn Rand:

"Abstractions as such do not exist: they are merely man’s epistemological method of perceiving that which exists—and that which exists is concrete".

By saying that your perception is just an appearance while your concepts are "actually" real and rises above and invalidates your senses, you'd be veering into Platonism. The "actual" reality that you speak of are abstractions. They do not exist, as such.

As I've said, the abstractions merely represent the actual reality, but they are not themselves the reality. Sorry to say it but your whole argument is once again a strawman.

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1 hour ago, human_murda said:

To sum up: concepts are abstractions which refer to "appearances".

No concepts definitely do not refer to "appearances", they refer to things that actually are. Both the concept and the appearance of an apple refer to actual apples. Neither the appearance nor the concept are themselves the actual apple.

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37 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Have you not heard people say "my senses tell me that" before? :P It's just metaphorical speaking - SK clearly means "my senses show me that". And if that's a reductio argument, that's some kind of linguistic analysis.

It's tautological, in the same way as "A is A". No, it's not important as far finding out what is true or not true. That claim alone tell you anything new. No one would sensibly say "A is A" tells you what a tree is, that it has leaves or needs water to grow. No one would sensibly say "the senses are self-evident" tells you that the sun does or doesn't orbit the Earth. Strictly speaking, your senses only say that something has happened. What that something is requires reasoning and all sorts of methods. This makes sense with Rand, it's the whole reason she talks about concept formation and reason. 

To say the senses are self-evident is to say they are givens. You couldn't deny what you -perceive-, even if what you conclude is counter to intuition.

Perception is not the same as (sometimes erroneous) intuitions about what you perceive.

You could say your senses fooled you only in the sense that the methods you normally use on that percept didn't lead to a true conclusion.

Just to add, NB has a strong Empiricism bent. Not to say that alone makes his arguments wrong, or bad, but that is the angle he's coming from.

As I've said before, when someone says that the senses are "self-evident", what I understand by that is that they are saying that "always, if it appears (from sensory perception) to be the case that x, then it is (in reality) the case that x". People itt have been arguing for this proposition by instead trying to defend the much weaker claim "always, if it appears that x, then it appears that x" and then insisting that the two are identical.

I don't think Rand ever addresses the question of how the evidence of the senses can justify higher level knowledge. The only thing that concept formation might explain is how one goes from true sensory claims to true claims at a higher level, but that the senses themselves can be trusted in the first place is never satisfactorily established. And if sense perception is the basis of all knowledge, and if that basis itself is questionable, then all knowledge is dubious.

Edited by SpookyKitty

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9 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

I think that there is a flaw in the argument that bases the justification of all knowledge in the senses.

Then develop this line of argument.  I have a pretty good understanding of the history of philosophy, and your position has been one the central positions taken by some Western philosophers down thru the ages.  Maybe you have a unique approach to the problem, or maybe you follow some other philosopher.

In my opinion, Rand is on the right track with ITOE.  And while I do have some specific, technical disagreements with parts of ITOE, in the main I do accept her position.

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On 7/29/2017 at 8:20 PM, 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.

Self-evidence is not something which can be assessed third-personally so with this question you are not asking how it is that the senses are self-evident but how it is that the senses can be self-evident. The senses are not actually in question here only your understanding of that fact.

In his Metaphysics, Aristotle speaks to the things first and best known as being, in part, that about which it is impossible to be mistaken. To be potentially mistaken is to be fallible, but the concept of "fallible" is inapplicable to the physiological process of perception for this process is in no part volitional. Thus, the evidence of the senses can not be leveraged in genuine favor of any thesis claiming such evidence to ever be "fooling" or "misleading", for the relata necessary to distinguish between what one has or has not been fooled about is too an aspect of the evidence of the senses. The senses can not fool for they are silent. There can be no such thing as a non-veridical percept.

Edit: spelling.

Edited by KALADIN

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1 minute ago, KALADIN said:

Self-evidence is not something which can be assessed third-personally so with this question you are not asking how it is that the senses are self-evident how it is that the senses can be self-evident. The senses are not actually in question here only your understanding of that fact.

In his Metaphysics, Aristotle speaks to the things first and best known as being, in part, that about which it is impossible to be mistaken. To be potentially mistaken is to be fallible, but the concept of "fallible" is inapplicable to the physiological process of perception for this process is in no part volitional. Thus, the evidence of the senses can not be leveraged in genuine favor of any thesis claiming such evidence to ever be "fooling" or "misleading", for the relata necessary to distinguish between what one has or has not been fooled about is too an aspect of the evidence of the senses. The senses can not fool for they are silent. There can be no such thing as a non-veridical percept.

This argument has already been addressed. The senses do not need to have volition in order to be mistaken. If they are not perfect, then that just means that they are poorly built. In the same sense, a computer does not need volition in order to malfunction.

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2 minutes ago, New Buddha said:

Then develop this line of argument.  I have a pretty good understanding of the history of philosophy, and your position has been one the central positions taken by some Western philosophers down thru the ages.  Maybe you have a unique approach to the problem, or maybe you follow some other philosopher.

In my opinion, Rand is on the right track with ITOE.  And while I do have some specific, technical disagreements with parts of ITOE, in the main I do accept her position.

I've already explained it like 20 times in this thread.

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1 minute ago, SpookyKitty said:

I've already explained it like 20 times in this thread.

You've identified what you believe to be a problem, but you haven't proposed a solution - unless your solution is that all knowledge is subjective (which I don't think you believe).

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Just now, New Buddha said:

You've identified what you believe to be a problem, but you haven't proposed a solution - unless your solution is that all knowledge is subjective (which I don't think you believe).

I don't really have a solution (yet), tbh fam.

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3 minutes ago, human_murda said:

Concepts refer to actual reality, but concepts do not refer to "appearances". Right. Somebody probably possess supernatural senses to know this "actual reality".

That would be the Pope.

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3 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

The senses do not need to have volition in order to be mistaken.

Yes they do. One can not be mistaken, can not err, if there exists no choice concerning the adherence to what is correct. The "error" messages of computers symbolize only incomplete processes, not any divergence from the correct ones, i.e. not mistakes or errors. Your continual failure to observe the genetic roots and applicable contexts of the concepts you are using is frustrating and the root of your mistaken positions.

3 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

If they are not perfect, then that just means that they are poorly built.

Your "perfect" qualifier is invalid for there is no natural actualization of any sense modality that is not mediated by some sense organ, i.e. some incomplete, "imperfect" means of perception. Nature flies from the infinite, and I accuse of attempting to do epistemology without a knowing subject.

3 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

In the same sense, a computer does not need volition in order to malfunction.

See my remarks above and further, consider your invalid, implicit conflation of information and knowledge.

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