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Everything posted by agrippa1

  1. I get a little uncomfortable when people talk in terms of absolutes - not philosophical absolutes, but absolutes about very complex subjects, such as the human mind. If we don't have "automatic knowledge" (I know you could parse that down to meet your needs, but you use it in contrast to animals, who, you imply, do), how do we know to suckle, to eat, to hunt, to have sex, etc. Man is a subset of animal, and has certain similarities with other animals. To believe otherwise is, in my opinion, to fall into a somewhat mystical view of man (that's not the same as saying that man isn't the "ideal"; from our point of view, the only one that matters, he is.) The statement "man has to learn how to think, because he has no automatic knowledge" is interesting. (Sum ergo cogito?) How do you learn to do something whose faculties you need in order to learn? The ability to automatically integrate concretes into abstracts does not imply the pre-existence of those concretes and abstracts, i.e., knowledge; it merely implies the existence of an ability, i.e., to think. As a (very) crude analogy, you can't build a steel mill without steel girders, but you can't make steel girders without a steel mill. How to start? Trusting the analogy, there is implied a rudimentary ability to think that is inborn, else how to integrate the sensory knowledge you need to refine your thinking process? I believe the science and philosophy form a cycle of discovery: observation of nature provides the means (knowledge) to be rational, that is, it provides the given premises upon which rational thought is built. In turn, rational thought, philosophy, provides the means to extend our observations beyond our natural abilities, that is, to encode natural observations into scientific language and manipulate them with math, and to construct ways in which to gather more detailed, accurate, focused information about our world. But to claim that that is the end of the process, that only natural observations may form the premises for rational thought, and that they lead to science, and there you have it, is, in my opinion, incomplete. The special sciences provide us more detailed and specialized knowledge. This, in turn, becomes the the premises for even more finely tuned rationality. To restate your final assertion as my own, "The special sciences are the result of being rational, and the means of being ever more rational." To give some examples of this, would we agree that the existence of a creator is a philosophic question? In the absence of fossil evidence and its interpretations, the case for a creator is very strong. The theory of evolution provides a set of natural observations that must be integrated logically into any philosophic argument for or against the existence of a creator. Cosmology, likewise, provides clues about the organization and origins of the universe. Wouldn't you agree that knowledge of a beginning point (or not) of the universe would feed any logical reasoning about the nature of our existence? Scientific studies of economic prosperity in the past few years show a strong correlation between general prosperity in societies and the level of protection of individual rights. Would it be wise to discuss political philosophy without taking into account these studies? Could Ayn Rand have even conceived of the true moral nature of capitalism without having done in-depth studies of the economic sciences?
  2. I know this is a digression, but I'm starting to get some focus on this issue. The argument is that science and philosophy are complementary. As one who believes in the theory of evolution, I find that using man's current state of development is a bit arbitrary (although I understand the desire, from a philosophic homo-centric point of view). Is it reasonable to assert that philosophy uses the inputs of our senses and extends that knowledge through reason? If we agree on a definition of science in, say, terms of observation, hypothesis and testing, and say that philosophy lies beyond these concrete, measurables of reality, is there something inherently different between the knowledge we gain from PET scans or particle accelerators and the knowledge that we gain from our direct perception of EM radiation or atmospheric kinetics? In simpler terms, asking whether the Christmas tree lights are on is not a philosophical question, even though we gain that knowledge from our ordinary human senses. Should the question on whether something if philosophical or scientific depend on whether we need specific sensory inputs to explore it, regardless of whether those are direct inputs or extensions based on man-made sensory equipment? Sorry to belabor the point, but this seems a very important one to me, and I appreciate the views given here.
  3. By disconnect, I meant the difference between what you meant and what I interpreted, or between what you implied and what I inferred. (as opposed to a disagreement). It sounds as if you're saying we understand and agree on the exponential relations question, only now you're saying that it's not good enough to show the capability, but I must also show how man could come to recognize that capability with only his reason and "ordinary observation." Problem is, I don't know what "ordinary observation" means. If you mean unaided human sensory perception, then I guess you have me. Still, I believe the distinction between unaided, and man-developed sensory adjuncts is arbitrary. (Why the defensiveness? I'm not trying to dispute your point of view, only to understand it.) "You know we hate unreasonable hypotheticals: being blind is not man's nature." No, I didn't know that. I don't know what you mean by "unreasonable" in this context. Being blind is not man's nature, because man has evolved a sense of sight. So at this particular juncture in man's evolution, we have sight. Are we to contend that philosophy depends on man's particular evolutionary sensory state? Or that man was pre-ordained to have the senses he has, for instance , to have the ability to sense octaval periodicity, but not to be able to count the frequency of sound to show that octaves represent powers of two? I'm not sure I'd put much stake into a philosophy that relies on a certain, arbitrary state of sensory capability for its basis. In other words, is philosophy by its very nature, man-centric? The continued mention of "man" as the absolute seems to put a sort of mystical value on man's present physical state. Does philosophy take a stance on evolution? Does it believe that the current point in man's sensory/mental capabilities is the ideal? I would prefer a philosophy with a more generalized view of sense and rationality. But maybe that's just me?
  4. This is interesting. I'm having trouble understanding how we perceive an entity without sensing its attributes. When I see a can of coke, I immediately see a can of coke, and it seems effortless. Sometimes, however, I'll see a can of something else colored red with white letters. I still perceive a can of coke, until I take a closer look, and see that it's say, Joe's brand cola. What I've done is not perceive the entity (can of coke) prior to determining its attributes. I believe what I've done is use my previous experience with cans of coke, and when faced with a new source of sensation (which I distinguish visually as an entity by its connectedness with itself, disconnectedness with its surroundings) I integrate a number of attributes such as size, shape, color, until my mind chooses an abstract that matches that entity, that is, a can of coke. Later, as I continue to gather sensory information, I notice a contradiction between the new entity and the concept "can of coke" and my mind is forced to gather more attributes (exact color, shape of printed symbols) until I find a higher level abstract (can of soda) with which to classify it. I then store the particular attributes in memory and the next time I see a can of Joe's Cola, I'll immediately classify it as such, and not confuse it with a can of coke. I believe, but of course can't prove, that every time a new entity enters my perceptual reach, I process each attribute instantaneously, looking for specific clues which will most quickly provide an identifying category. I believe that the integration is usually done very quickly, and that there is a mental tension which exists if the integration is not done quickly. This tension is may be best illustrated by the "What the h**l is that?" paralysis we often undergo as we try to integrate a new, unfamiliar entity. Once I make the integration and classify it to a level needed to integrate the new entity into my immediate model of reality (uh, oh), I can continue on with whatever I was doing. By "model of reality" I acknowledge that our perception of reality is not a perfect match for reality. You've probably had many instances in which something catches you by surprise, that is an entity you thought was one thing turns out to be something else. Our model of reality is one that is consistent with itself and with all sensory inputs. As such, it is consistent with reality, and is therefore a correct representation of reality. It's important to understand that our sensation and perception of reality is based on electrical signals into our brain. We process these electrical signals until our minds create a model that is consistent with all the signals. Whether that model is "reality" or just a model of reality is a matter of eternal debate. In my opinion, to say that the perception of an entity reflects a true state of reality is erroneous, and I believe dreams are proof of that opinion. I believe they include internally generated sensory stimuli which our brains integrate into a dream version of reality. Most of the time you are unable to distinguish that your dream is not actual reality.
  5. It's clear I misunderstand what you mean by the exponential relationship. I was thinking of the easily and accurately recognizable perception of frequencies related by powers of two. The mind easily equates frequencies of 220Hz, 440Hz, 880Hz, etc., in fact we have a conceptual term that encompasses all of these exponentially related freqs: 'A' Where's our disconnect? BTW, thanks for the philosophy scope quote. I'll have to mull that one over. At first blush it seems there's a contradiction (with objectivism) there: "... ask yourself whether you need a specialized knowledge, beyond the knowledge available to you as a normal adult, unaided by any special knowledge or special instruments." These are subjective: "specialized knowledge," "normal adult," "special instruments." They somewhat muddle the meaning of the statement. If humanity was blind, and I was born with sight, my eyes would be "special instruments," and thus any observations I made based on my visual perception of reality would be off limits from blind-mankind's philosophy? The statement about "normal adult" has some serious implications for the primacy of the individual. It seems to put a scope on philosophy based on the arbitrary, average of humanity. By logical extension, it also implies that the scope of philosophy is different for every human being. This can't be what she meant? I don't see a rational distinction between sensory instruments granted us by nature, and those developed by man to extend and improve his perception of reality. Is there a metaphysical difference? Also, if science answers (or studies) a question pondered by philosophy, does that question automatically become exempt from philosophical exploration?
  6. We'll have to parry on this one a little more. But before we get into what may be a semantic stand off, can you give me a short statement of the scope of philosophy? I am a self-confessed dilettante in this area. However, your example of acoustical frequency groupings vs. amplitude groupings is faulty. The argument that Nj doesn't hold true for frequencies ignores a basic truism about frequencies: that powers of two are recognizable, and therefore classifiable as related frequencies. You must understand that any frequency you can identify is based on an arbitrary time unit. If you choose a time unit which is an integral multiple of the period of the waveform, then the equation stated holds true as a recognizable class of frequencies. That amplitude perception is based on exponential ratios, is simply a transform from the exponential to the linear in terms of our perceptions. I would dispute that amplitude could be classified by human subjects, as you seem to imply. No, apparently we can't agree on this basic. Surely I don't need to identify instances where you perceive attributes of an entity without knowing the exact nature of the entity. I would, in fact, argue that entities cannot be perceived directly, but must be inferred from the sum of their attributes.
  7. I disagree that the discovery of entities is outside the scope of philosophy, since it speaks directly to the tabula rasa / innateness debate. I believe it lies at the heart of philosophy, at least as long as the answers are not certain. I think when we start with entities as the basics of epistemology, we have not traveled all the way down the awareness "stack" which has reality at its "layer 0" (forgive the engineering analogy). I believe the first thing we perceive is not entities, but attributes. In sensing attributes, a child first perceives only random sensory inputs. Immediately the mind begins organizing these inputs in terms of similarities and differences - that is our innate mechanism. When a similarity is found, for instance, in our visual perception, when location of several colored or shaded areas stay within the same proximity, disconnected to other areas, we form the concept of a separateness of those areas. That concept is an entity.
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