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"How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

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I understand that you're taking a particular position, but this adamant denial of yours is non-productive. All you're doing is repeating a long-standing standard error in epistemology, that of not distinguishing the arbitrary from the possible. Your position boils down to saying that there is no difference at all between a claim that has some degree of support, and a random claim that lacks any support, which has no relationship to man's cognition, and need not even be a claim made by a sentient being.

That is not my position at all. My position is simply that:

1.) I don't understand how the objectivist definition of "arbitrary" captures anything meaningful since it requires the underlying claim to never be able to be proven. The only such claims I can think of are ones which include the element of unprovability in their definition. (IE "An invisible, unprovable monster on the far side of Saturn.) Claims with a possiblily of proof, no matter how slim, don't seem to be included in the definition yet those are the main type we will be dealing with as philosophers.

2.) In this thread numerous people have mis-defined the word "possible" as to require any statement of possibility to be backed up with positive evidence of the underlying assertion. This is in direct contradiction to the accepted definitions of the word, both in everyday English and in philosophy. Coupled with the uselessness and ambiguity of the term "arbitrary" this mis-definition only increases the complexity and confusion of the issue.

3.) I don't see how using the accepted definition of "possible" in any way contradicts the goals of objectivist philosophy or philosophy in general. There seems to be a general confusion in this thread in equating the acceptance of claims of possibility with the acceptance of the underlying assertion. Odden apparently has grasped this partially be recognizing that you can often make the opposite underlying assertion in a statement of possibilty without changing the truth value of the statement. This is because a statement of possibility is not a statement that the underlying assertion is true.

4.) In short, I see this thread as yet another example of objectivist philosophy gone awry. After spending four years in the philosophy department of a major university, the most common resistance I found to objectivist philosophy being taken seriously was its redefinition of already well-accepted terms with a known meaning to philosophers. The second most common was in glossing over potential philosophic quagmires in order to reach a conclusion consistant with the writings of Ayn Rand.

I would honestly like to see objectivism be a major school of thought at the academic level, but to do so it needs to be able to critically examine its own philosophic foundation as well as stick to accepted definitions in philosophy where possible.

Edited by Vladimir Berkov

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That is not my position at all. My position is simply that:

1.) I don't understand how the objectivist definition of "arbitrary" captures anything meaningful since it requires the underlying claim to never be able to be proven. The only such claims I can think of are ones which include the element of unprovability in their definition. (IE "An invisible, unprovable monster on the far side of Saturn.) Claims with a possiblily of proof, no matter how slim, don't seem to be included in the definition yet those are the main type we will be dealing with as philosophers.

Fine then, why don't you prove how you would know whether you were in a matrix or not? The element of unprovability is right there. You have the onus of proof on you to show that it's possible, and that it's somehow possible to prove or disprove it. If it's by definition not provable (as you conceded yourself, it's "outside" human reasoning), then it is by definition arbitrary, and not any less arbitrary than a pink elephant or the spaghetti monster.

4.) In short, I see this thread as yet another example of objectivist philosophy gone awry. After spending four years in the philosophy department of a major university, the most common resistance I found to objectivist philosophy being taken seriously was its redefinition of already well-accepted terms with a known meaning to philosophers.

And how much were these philosophers able to solve in the last 700 years? Almost nothing. In fact, it's getting worse and worse, and philosophy is now practically a mockery (I know personally). Perhaps you should reflect on the fact that maybe the philosophers are the ones at fault here, and that a redefinition is in order.

Edited by Free Capitalist

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That is not my position at all. My position is simply that:

1.) I don't understand how the objectivist definition of "arbitrary" captures anything meaningful since it requires the underlying claim to never be able to be proven.

As I understand, it is not that an arbitrary claim can never be proven, but rather that no evidence exists or has been provided to support it. Such is the case with the matrix. Nothing I am aware of would make that circumstance physically impossible, but because no evidence exists which suggests that we are in a computer, it is an arbitrary claim which doesn't warrant much consideration.

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That is not my position at all. My position is simply that:

1.) I don't understand how the objectivist definition of "arbitrary" captures anything meaningful since it requires the underlying claim to never be able to be proven.

The distinction has been made several times and it appears your resistance to the definition is more than a mere lack of understanding, it's disagreement.

As Ian pointed out, and Free Capitalist expounded upon, a statement that something is possible requires some evidence. I'll try my attempt at explaining why by using an example.

"It's possible we are actually in the matrix."

"How do you know it's possible?"

Think about what is necessary to answer that question. The claim is a claim of knowledge which has no foundation. How does one claim to know something for which there exists no evidence?

At best one can claim, "Well I can imagine that it's possible, but I don't actually know that it's possible." Imagination does not necessarily make possibility exist.

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Fine then, why don't you prove how you would know whether you were in a matrix or not? The element of unprovability is right there. You have the onus of proof on you to show that it's possible, and that it's somehow possible to prove or disprove it. If it's by definition not provable (as you conceded yourself, it's "outside" human reasoning), then it is by definition arbitrary, and not any less arbitrary than a pink elephant or the spaghetti monster.

I have no interest in trying to prove the existance of a Matrix. I certainly don't have evidence that one exists, nor do I have evidence that one does not exist. The main point about the Matrix scenario is that it really doesn't matter to us whether a Matrix exists or not. We have to live with how we experience reality in whatever form it presents itself to us. That is why the Matrix scenario is largely a thought experiment. We have to live our lives in the exact same way regardless of whether a Matrix exists or not.

And how much were these philosophers able to solve in the last 700 years? Almost nothing. In fact, it's getting worse and worse, and philosophy is now practically a mockery (I know personally). Perhaps you should reflect on the fact that maybe the philosophers are the ones at fault here, and that a redefinition is in order.
Again, saying that the methods a major academic branch work with are a mockery is not a good way to get them to accept your philosophy. Not all philosophers in academia are useless. The department at my university contained Tara Smith, perhaps the most well known objectivist academic philosopher, as well as a highly-respected classics and classical philosophy section. These are people who have respect for what philosophy is supposed to be, and if you work within the accepted definitions then you have a chance of influencing these people and having them respect objectivism as a valid philosophy rather than a "cult" or the personal diatribe of a novelist as many seem to think.

As I understand, it is not that an arbitrary claim can never be proven, but rather that no evidence exists or has been provided to support it. Such is the case with the matrix. Nothing I am aware of would make that circumstance physically impossible, but because no evidence exists which suggests that we are in a computer, it is an arbitrary claim which doesn't warrant much consideration.

Read Inspector's post earlier where he defines "arbitrary" as that which cannot be proven false. What you just decribed is actually just the "possible," specifically the "nomological possible," which are things which might exist within physical laws and known reality but for which no positive evidence is required. As you can see, this whole "arbitrary" terminology serves only to muddy the waters and adds little to the understanding of the problem.

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The distinction has been made several times and it appears your resistance to the definition is more than a mere lack of understanding, it's disagreement.

As Ian pointed out, and Free Capitalist expounded upon, a statement that something is possible requires some evidence. I'll try my attempt at explaining why by using an example.

"It's possible we are actually in the matrix."

"How do you know it's possible?"

Think about what is necessary to answer that question. The claim is a claim of knowledge which has no foundation. How does one claim to know something for which there exists no evidence?

Saying "It's possible we are actually in the matrix" isn't making a claim that we are in the matrix. The question of how I know it is possible is a good one however. The way you know whether something is possible is by checking whether if true, the underlying statement conflicts with physical reality or known facts. In this case, would it be logically inconsistent were the Matrix to actually exist? Is a Matrix incompatible with the laws of physics/reality? If the answers to these kinds of questions are "no" then it is possible that we are actually in the Matrix.

You seem to think the imaginatory aspect of possibility statements is somehow bad, yet that is exactly part of the purpose of such statements. Making a statement saying something is possible is essentially imagining a set of circumstances which might occur/exist in the world but which you do not yet have direct evidence of.

I am still struggling to figure out why this is such a hard concept for many here to grasp, as not only is this the accepted philosophic use of the term "possible" but it is also exactly the manner the term is used in the English language. I stated three such dictionary definitions above, in fact.

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Saying "It's possible we are actually in the matrix" isn't making a claim that we are in the matrix.

I didn't say that it was. I said it was a claim to know that it was possible. "The matrix" was only the example, but insert any unevidenced claim in there you want, flying spaghetti monsters, whatever. That's the distinction you are missing.

How do you know it's possible? A lack of evidence to indicate conflict with known physics or facts is not sufficient for the positive claim of knowledge of the possibility. That only leads to a proper claim of "I don't know why it is not possible, nor do I know that it is." That proper claim represents no knowledge at all, it represents the arbitrary.

I am still struggling to figure out why this is such a hard concept for many here to grasp,
Because it's not hard, it's wrong.

You seem to think the imaginatory aspect of possibility statements is somehow bad,

That is not evidenced by anything I said. What I said was, imagination (alone) is insufficient to support the knowledge of possibility.

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I think part of the problem here is that many seem to want the idea of possible/arbitrary to do all the work in evaluating claims. Possibility is just one element in determining the validity of any given proposition. Probability, or "likelyhood" is the logical second step and does the work many of you here seem to want possibility to do by inserting this new evidence requirement into it.

Possibility is like the first, low, hurdle on the track. A claim doesn't have to have much to it to get past the hurdle of possibility. It simply cannot contradict known facts, the laws of physical reality, or be internally logically inconsistent. Because of this, the fact that something is possible doesn't tell you the kinds of things about it we as humans like to know. Primarily, we want to know not just if it is possible but if is is and failing that, at least what are the odds that it is.

Probability is like the second, higher hurdle. When we want to determine if something is probable we of course need to know if it is possible, because if it is impossible it is not going to be probable. But once we know something is possible we want to know what is the likelyhood that it is or that it is not. This is where evidence comes into play and is important because evidence (facts) and also reasoning (inferences) are what is going to tell you how likely or probably the claim is of being true or false. This is where the vast majority of "possible" statements die because in the absence of evidence or logical inferences one way or the other, it is impossible to tell if they are probable.

For instance, the existance of a pink elephant is possible. Nothing in the nature of pinkness or elephantness, biology, physics, etc. seems to prohibit such a combination from existing. But such a creature is not probable. We have no evidence of ever finding a pink elephant, and we don't have any likely inferences or trail of reasoning as to how such a thing will come into being anytime soon. Thus because it is not probable we are going to discard any assertions about there being pink elephants as being entirely speculative and irrelevant to our daily lives.

Edited by Vladimir Berkov

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None of that helped. It's not a conceptual issue about where possiblity is in relation to probability, etc. It's an issue of a claim to knowledge without sufficient basis to make such a claim.

It's possible I'm going to extract myself from this thread as I see it's going nowhere. But to vary what you said before, I don't understand why you cannot understand the simple yet meaningful distinction between arbitrary and possible. What's "well accepted" is immaterial in this case.

Edited by RationalBiker

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I have no interest in trying to prove the existance of a Matrix. I certainly don't have evidence that one exists, nor do I have evidence that one does not exist.

I think you're missing the epistemological point here, a crucial one. You don't need evidence that it doesn't exist. This is a logical fallacy, the proof of a negative. It is impossible. Only positive statements need proof, and only positive statements can be proven. So I don't need to tear myself between whether I can or cannot prove this imaginary Matrix. I trust my eyes, by default. If someone has a positive statement for the existence of a Matrix or that my brain is in a vat, then let them come forth and present their arguments. That is the proper epistemological stance to take here. This thought experiment only works if you're willing to expect proofs of a negative.

Again, saying that the methods a major academic branch work with are a mockery is not a good way to get them to accept your philosophy. Not all philosophers in academia are useless. The department at my university contained Tara Smith, perhaps the most well known objectivist academic philosopher, as well as a highly-respected classics and classical philosophy section. These are people who have respect for what philosophy is supposed to be
Well then we disagree not only on our means but our goals. It is not my intention to convince these people; I have met enough of them to know that they are lost beyond all hope. And I don't believe they "have respect for what philosophy is supposed to be". They like their imaginary mind games and thought experiments, all the while they neglect to prove the most elementary facts that men require to live, and in fact frequently work to undermine them and to poison human existence. It is these people that you will find convincing everyone that free will doesn't exist, that Marxism (or some form of state control) is the moral ideal, that reason is "limited", and that who can know whether we exist anyway. No thank you. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

On the other hand, I would not rush to lump the classics into the same category; classics as a profession is also rotten, but not nearly as much, and it is still largely weighed down by having to be anchored in fixed texts which will never change, and that limits how much damage can be done to the field. Still, even with this anchorage the Classics now outputs articles such as "Gay Homer" and "Concordia Discors in Aristophanes' Clouds" -- in other words, mindless gibberish that not only teaches the current generation nothing about the classics, but actively serves to neglect and undermine that education (by not wanting to prioritize traditional Western values as anything important, or worth keeping up and teaching to the next generation).

As you can see from my (very early) posts here and also on The Forum, I have a very avid and long-standing passion both for classics and philosophy (I have a BA in Philosophy). But I hold out no hope for lunatics who would rather live in their cocoon and poison the lives of everyone around them. Bitter but true! I'd rather live my life in pursuit of my values :alien:

Possibility is like the first, low, hurdle on the track. A claim doesn't have to have much to it to get past the hurdle of possibility. It simply cannot contradict known facts, the laws of physical reality, or be internally logically inconsistent.

No, you're taking the metaphor of a ladder too far, so much so that the first rung is not even above the ground! That is all we are asking, that if you see this as a ladder, then even the first step must be above the ground, and be a positive argument. Even if it is a very low first step, no matter how little it is above the ground, it still is above ground, and it still needs some positive statement in favor of it, no matter how inconsequential. This is a foundation for logic, that you cannot disprove a negative, and this principle is approximately 2,300 years old. Surely they have taught this idea in all of the hallowed academic philosophy courses you've been telling me about?

Edited by Free Capitalist

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I am still struggling to figure out why this is such a hard concept for many here to grasp, as not only is this the accepted philosophic use of the term "possible" but it is also exactly the manner the term is used in the English language.

It's a very easy concept for nearly everyone here to grasp. It's a concept that most of us have grown up with and lived with for many years, until learning of Ayn Rand's trichotomy between the true, the false, and the arbitrary.

If you attempt to form knowledge objectively, specifically, based on reality, then that knowledge is either true or false according to whether your knowledge actually corresponds to reality. In other words, if you made mistakes in your observations of reality or in your application of logic to your observations, then the concepts you form are false. If you don't make mistakes, and your concepts correspond to facts, then your concepts are true.

If you tell me, "I have reality-based reasons to suspect, though no hard evidence proving, that in certain specific circumstances quite different from the ordinary, water will float to the ceiling. Here is the physical equation governing this form of motion, here are the unusual parameters to that equation, and here's a good way to test out this theory," you have told me a possibility. Why is "water floating to the ceiling" a possibility in this scenario? Because the method of arriving at the conclusion of "possible" is reality-based. You have found hints of evidence for it, and you are following these hints where they lead.

But if you attempt to form knowledge non-objectively, specifically, based on non-reality (or alternate-reality), then that knowledge is arbitrary. It is neither true nor false, and must simply be ignored.

If you tell me, "I can imagine water floating to the ceiling," you have not told me a possibility. What you suggest is not possible, but arbitrary. Why is "water floating to the ceiling" arbitrary, and not even a possibility, in this scenario? Because the method of arriving at the conclusion of "possible" is not reality based. You imagined something. Imagination does not make things real. It does not make things possible. It only makes hot air. Though you have convinced yourself that such a scenario does not violate a physical law of motion, you have not observed anything in reality, and moreover you have not applied logic to any observations you didn't make, suggesting the possibility of such a scenario.

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The suggestion that we may be in a matrix (or brain-in-a-vat) may indeed be arbitrary. But I don't think the idea that somebody could be put into a matrix is not. The evidence for this fact come mostly from the Science channel (SCI):

1) Ocular implants - bypass the defective ear and stimulate nerves to correspond to sounds recived by a microphone.

2) Restoring vision to the blind - again, byass the defective eye and stimulate the optical nerve with visual signals from a video camera

3) Computers with amazing 3d simulations and virtual worlds (mostly from the realm of movies and computer games)

So, given a century or two, this brain-in-a-vat capability may very well be an actuality. (Of course, ethically I highly doubt it will be actualized).

This alters the orginal posters query, from an arbitrary claim about our existence to something that at least has the cognitive status of the possible.

To me the interesting question is this: Could such person in a matrix, in principle, ever come to know that they are in the matrix and gain access to the "real" reality which we inhabit? And if not, how to reconcile this with the Objectivist belief that no aspect of reality is beyond mans capacity to discover.

As an aside, I can think of an trivial version of a "brain-in-a-vat" that is possible today. Just raise an infant in a sensory deprivation chamber (highly immoral, duh). It would be ridiculous to claim that such a person would be able to get outside of its vat and discover the rest of world.

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I understand that, but principles regarding evidence in law are irrelevant to epistemology and especially science, for the reason that I explained.

I didn't bring up the issue because the law is relevant to epistemology but rather the reverse. What the allowance of the arbitrary in a court room causes is a destruction of the concept of reasonable doubt.

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I am beginning to agree with Rationalbiker that this thread is going nowhere. I have stated my position, I am done.

Hey, you never did answer my question about how you knew Queen Mary was not in the box. Nor Free Cap's request then for you to prove that we aren't in the matrix.

The point of that was to try to understand what the hell the difference is between the possible and the impossible. If there is no distinction that matters in any way, then I would wonder why you continue to need it, when the arbritrary does just fine to describe both.

It seems the only thing you want to use it for is to demand the need for faith as you did to this thread. The BIJ thought experiment is unanswerable I think is where you were headed. What else is your distinction good for.

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1.) I don't understand how the objectivist definition of "arbitrary" captures anything meaningful since it requires the underlying claim to never be able to be proven.
This is plainly and shockingly false. An arbitrary claim may end up being proven true. In fact, this right here indicates to me that you simply do not understand the concept.
2.) In this thread numerous people have mis-defined the word "possible" as to require any statement of possibility to be backed up with positive evidence of the underlying assertion. This is in direct contradiction to the accepted definitions of the word, both in everyday English and in philosophy.
As far as how it's used in philosophy, we do reject what I think is the majority view of contemporary philsophers. And what of it? This is not an error, it is a virtue. The everyday English understanding does not definitively include the arbitrary; some people, especially undergraduates, tend to assimilate the philosopher's view, but then not all do. And in the general population, I see no evidence that "It is possible that cows created the universe" is held to be a true statement.
Coupled with the uselessness and ambiguity of the term "arbitrary" this mis-definition only increases the complexity and confusion of the issue.
You are the one purporting that "arbitrary" is ambiguous, because you simply refuse to read and grasp that one section of OPAR. That section points out how "arbitrary" is essential in the development of a rational epistmology, which I take it is why you consider it useless.
3.) I don't see how using the accepted definition of "possible" in any way contradicts the goals of objectivist philosophy or philosophy in general.
It doesn't; the "anything stateable" view is only accepted by a small minority.
After spending four years in the philosophy department of a major university, the most common resistance I found to objectivist philosophy being taken seriously was its redefinition of already well-accepted terms with a known meaning to philosophers.
Don't the philosophers feel embarasssed that they have so completely screwed up basic concepts? Only philosophers believe that it is possible that cows can fly, and only Brouwerians believe it to be possible that A&^A.

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As a funny aside, I just caught an episode of Futurama that made a joke about this:

Bender: "Uff. If that stuff wasn't real, how can I be sure anything is real? Is it not possible, nay, probable that my whole life is just a product of my or someone else's imagination?"

Clerk: "No, get out. Next!"

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As a funny aside, I just caught an episode of Futurama that made a joke about this:

I seem to remember Dr Peikoff recalling a similar story from Ayn Rand about the only rational way to answer the arbitrary. A student asking his teacher "How do know I am really here?". The teacher replied, "Well, I hope you are or I am talking to myself!"

Just to clarify- An arbitrary claim has no evidence. A possible claim has some evidence AND nothing known that contradicts it.

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I want to go back to the posted topic, and skip any of the extra talk (because I think its besides the point).

The basic point of this topic is to prove that our brains are NOT in a vat/ wired into a computer/ in a dream, etc. To prove this idea is impossible. one would have to prove a negative.

In the history of philosophy, no one has been able to prove a negative. For example, Ayn Rand never proved that God DIDN'T exist (a negative), she proved that reality existed (a positive). Physics didn't dis-prove that the earth was flat (a negative), but proved that the earth was round (a positive).

Therefore, can I prove that our brains are NOT in a vat? No. Can I prove that I do exist? Yes. What is your opinion on this?

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In the history of philosophy, no one has been able to prove a negative.
Per se, that is a meaningless claim, and I hope you don't seriously believe it. What to you think that means. For example -- do you think that you can prove that George W. Bush is living? If you say no, then you're simply taking the epistemological nihilists' line. But supposing you say that you can prove that George W. Bush is living, then according to the "can't a negative" slogan, you still can't prove that George W. Bush isn't dead. That does seem to be exactly what you're saying, given your examples. You would be willing to accept the conclusion that George W. Bush is the living dead (hmmm, that might actually be true...), because both are positive claims.

I find it interesting that the skeptic camp is divided into these two factions, where each side desparately tries to deny being nihilist. You have the "non-negativists" like the Brouwerians, and the "anti-positivists" like Popperians, one side saying that you can't prove a negative and the other saying that you can't prove a positive. Were I to be a Popperian, I'd insist that any positive proof is no proof at all, it's just a declaration that you don't yet know that the claim is false. According to them, nobody has ever proven a positive.

I think they are both nuts. They both fail to grasp that their philosophies reduce to the crudest of word games, plus happily embracing contradictions such as "the living dead".

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I want to go back to the posted topic, and skip any of the extra talk (because I think its besides the point).

The basic point of this topic is to prove that our brains are NOT in a vat/ wired into a computer/ in a dream, etc. To prove this idea is impossible. one would have to prove a negative.

In the history of philosophy, no one has been able to prove a negative. For example, Ayn Rand never proved that God DIDN'T exist (a negative), she proved that reality existed (a positive). Physics didn't dis-prove that the earth was flat (a negative), but proved that the earth was round (a positive).

Therefore, can I prove that our brains are NOT in a vat? No. Can I prove that I do exist? Yes. What is your opinion on this?

Proving a negative (i.e. proving that the arbitrary) is a non sequitir. It is not that it is a "feat" that no one has been able to do (like climbing everest, which is difficult). It is that it is gibberish. If I were to say "a;lsdf a;lakfa ;laksjdf ;lijaowiej" I would have communicated more meaning than saying that I can't prove that my brain is not in a vat. That is the point.

Accepting such a statement and then using it in as if it were just a difficult feat is completely invalid. Don't go there. Don't accept the premise. Treat the person as if they had just uttered gibberish, because that is what it is.

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The suggestion that we may be in a matrix (or brain-in-a-vat) may indeed be arbitrary. But I don't think the idea that somebody could be put into a matrix is not. The evidence for this fact come mostly from the Science channel (SCI):

1) Ocular implants - bypass the defective ear and stimulate nerves to correspond to sounds recived by a microphone.

2) Restoring vision to the blind - again, byass the defective eye and stimulate the optical nerve with visual signals from a video camera

3) Computers with amazing 3d simulations and virtual worlds (mostly from the realm of movies and computer games)

So, given a century or two, this brain-in-a-vat capability may very well be an actuality. (Of course, ethically I highly doubt it will be actualized).

This alters the orginal posters query, from an arbitrary claim about our existence to something that at least has the cognitive status of the possible.

To me the interesting question is this: Could such person in a matrix, in principle, ever come to know that they are in the matrix and gain access to the "real" reality which we inhabit? And if not, how to reconcile this with the Objectivist belief that no aspect of reality is beyond mans capacity to discover.

As an aside, I can think of an trivial version of a "brain-in-a-vat" that is possible today. Just raise an infant in a sensory deprivation chamber (highly immoral, duh). It would be ridiculous to claim that such a person would be able to get outside of its vat and discover the rest of world.

 

After reaching the lectures on Hume and Kant in the ARI Campus', I recently began to think about exactly this question of whether somebody could be put into a Matrix or not:

http://campus.aynrand.org/classroom/22/

(BTW, excellent series, thank you very much ARI!)

 

What I have come to discover in particular, is the distinction between the sensual and the perceptual level summarized somewhere at the end of the Hume lecture. There is also an entry on perception that deals with that distinction in the Ayn Rand lexicon:

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/perception.html

What I am still confused about is Objectivism's actual position on percepts:

A “perception” is a group of sensations automatically retained and integrated by the brain of a living organism, which gives it the ability to be aware, not of single stimuli, but of entities, of things. 

I am not sure what to make of this. I am confused about the fact that Objectivism makes such an assertion on this relationship between sensations and perceptions, as if the latter is just a composition of elements from the former. Doesn't this mean that percepts, e.g. a particular tree or a building, are really just pieces of sense data all over again? I mean, the idea that they are grouped, retained and integrated and thereby experienced as a "whole" - how would any of that in essence make percepts anything different than sense data? It seems then that perceptions are merely a form of experiencing sense data. So after the baby stage, all we have really developed is just new forms of experiencing sense data?
Maybe it would also help to explain the difference between "grouped" and "integrated" here. Does "grouped" refer to space (the leaves, branches etc. of the tree in a single snapshot) and "integrated" to time (multiple snapshots put together)? Otherwise I don't see why one of the two words shouldn't be enough.
 
( A )
 
Before the lecture, I kind of used to equate the sensual with the perceptual level, but still distinguished it from the conceptual one. According to Peikoff, this is Locke's position. I had considered the experience of entities to be a conscious, willful and conceptual achievement, i.e. that we learn to integrate our sensations into concepts to such a degree throughout our early years that at some point we automatically see certain entities. I also considered the sense organs to be just another form of sense data and, e.g., the experience of a smell (one sense data object) to be a learned necessary correlation to the presence of a nose (another sense data object). But still I didn't see a need for any subjectivity: If all is just sense data, then there can be no need to bother about some distinction between an external world vs an internal one in our minds, since all - sensations and sense organs - are just external sense data, i.e. external to our consciousness of them. Called "sense" data btw., only because of its discovered correlation to our senses: It simply is the case that any sense data only enters our consciousness if those particular sense data objects called sense organs are also available. Otherwise reality for some reason doesn't permit us to experience the data. Just like in an ego shooter computer game, the screen turns black once your character is shot down and disappears from the screen. Of course, I didn't think that the world exists only as long as we perceive it, since like in the computer game, the software program, i.e. the sense data itself, still continues to exist. We merely loose contact with it.
I would like to compare my view of the unexplained necessity of the sense organs to the Ayn Rand lexicon's entry on sensations:
where it talks about ostensive definitions:
Sensations are the primary material of consciousness and, therefore, cannot be communicated by means of the material which is derived from them. The existential causes of sensations can be described and defined in conceptual terms (e.g., the wavelengths of light and the structure of the human eye, which produce the sensations of color), but one cannot communicate what color is like, to a person who is born blind. To define the meaning of the concept “blue,” for instance, one must point to some blue objects to signify, in effect: “I mean this.” Such an identification of a concept is known as an “ostensive definition.”
What I am saying is, it is not clear why wavelengths produce sensations of color, or how any scientific discovery could ever explain why this is so. This is because you cannot construct the meaning of any particular blue without first knowing blue. For the same reasons, you cannot explain why the sense organs we know and our brain have to be there in order for us to have consciousness. It's just a learned correlation. It just is the case. Not that I'm saying it happens to be so - since everything has a nature and must act according to it so therefore it must be so - but I don't see how we could logically deduct why it must be so from any other given facts. Neither physics nor biology can deal with the essence of consciousness - its actual meaning - by themselves. Only philosophy can. So the whole apparatus of sensory perception and processing in the brain becomes a side issue to me and of lesser relevance to the philosophic debate regarding the question at hand.
So with pieces of sense data and our consciousness of them being the only two fundamental things there really are, and sense data as such being quite a simple thing to recreate, creating the Matrix seemed quite possible to me. Consciousness remains consciousness of something that exists, but the only kind of something necessary to create and exist is sense data. Anything else, such as entities, is then conceptualized from that. So there's no conflict here. Although it seemed questionable to me whether building the Matrix with all its energy requirements wouldn't actually just mean rebuilding the world that already exists, so the whole effort might turn out to be pointless.
 
( B )
 
Then, through the lecture, came the distinction between the sensual and the perceptual level and the idea that entities are the result of an automatic process, i.e. that we experience entities directly without prior conceptualization. I am still considering this idea but I do not believe the perception of an "entity" to really mean a composition of sensations experienced as a whole, but merely of some whole that could not be reduced to any composition of sense data, but simply to "that thing", i.e. "that tree" or "that building". Something that cannot be fully identified otherwise and for which no allegedly retained, grouped and integrated sensations can really fully describe or explain any such experience as of "that thing". So there's also an analogy here: Just as certain wavelengths don't define blue but merely correlate to it, so those pieces of retained, grouped and integrated sense data don't define an entity but merely correlate to it. So I'm puzzled how the Ayn Rand lexicon can define perceptions the way it does.
The kind of relationship of experiences to the sense organs I described earlier remains unchanged to me, it's merely just direct entities experienced now, not conceptual ones.
But all this makes building the Matrix a problem: Since consciousness is still consciousness of something that exists and entities are things irreducible to sense data, you need to have real entities in the real world to feed the Matrix, in other words, no Matrix at all, but a real world. So in this my second view, no one can be put into a Matrix.
 
( C )
 
But then, as I said at the beginning, looking at the Ayn Rand lexicon's definition of perceptions that apparently reduces entities to sense data essentially, the Matrix seems possible again if one believes what that lexicon entry seems to imply about entities: If perceptions are in essence reducible to sensations and if artificially creating sensations is not a problem, then retaining, grouping and integrating them artificially to create any percept of desire shouldn't be a problem either, or should it? But then, it would also completely raise questions of what it actually means to be a tree or a building or at least about how these things relate to the rest of the world. They could be both particular kinds of things that exist out there independent of us created by nature or architects through a lenghty process - or they could be particular kinds of things that exist out there independent of us created by the Matrix out of the blue at any moment.
 
But to me, the earlier version ( B ) of what I think about entities seems most sensible to me, so the Matrix is out. Or am I wrong here anywhere theoretically? What the heck should I make of the Ayn Rand lexicon's definition of perceptions?
Edited by DiscoveryJoy

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BTW, I'm not sure now, whether in ( A ) I used to equate the sensual with the perceptual level or the perceptual with the conceptual one, or any of that, but I hope you still get my approach.

Edited by DiscoveryJoy

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What evidence is there that suggests that you do live in the matrix?

This. This person gets it.

 

This is the exact response I had in mind. All arbitrary hypotheses must be thrown out.

 

How do you know "it could exist"? What evidence do you have that "it could exist"?

Bingo.

 

Is it correct to say that there could be a white porcelain teapot orbiting the sun between the Earth and Venus with a little pink heart on one side and the Chinese character for 'Happiness' on the other side of exactly 750g in mass and 50cm in diameter.

 

Is it correct to say that there could be an intelligent parasite species that lives in all our brains that alters our sense data such that we behave in ways that are beneficial to it and that we cannot percieve it.

 

The answer is actually no. Is it correct to say that there could be an infinite number of arbitrary facts? No. There is no evidence for their probability.

 

If you have no evidence to suggest it, then it is not a probability at all, cognitively speaking, it is arbitrary. A maybe or a 'could' requires some evidence.

 

I can think of several ways I can be misinterepreted here. Language is so frustarting.

 

It is possible that evidence exists that we do not have. But we cannot know of what we do not know, and speculating about it is invalid.

 

And now probability in terms of a dice role or the like is different. A probability of a certain outcome may exist metaphysically, but unless we have evidence to suggest it, we are invalid epistemologically in considering it a possibility. (We may get a result we had no idea was even possible. It was always possible metaphysically, but we had no reason to suggest it was possible.) So you have to remember what is metaphysical, actual, and what is epistemological, or cognitive, based on knowledge and the proper rules of thinking. I am talking here about the epistemological 'could'. But we are locked into that, so we cannot not then go and say, 'so it could be that it could be'. Ad absurdum. Once again we have no evidence. Distinguish between a metaphysical probability, a dice role/the actual reality, and an epistemological probability. (The proposition about reality: this could be/there is a probability for this.)

 

It's very easy to fall back into the old pattern and then think 'OK, so it could be that it could be...'. That's epistemological though, so you cannot do it. Our statements of reality and reality itself are different concerns. Since we cannot think or discuss reality without making statements about reality, we can get lost.

Edited by Peter Morris

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