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Mephistopheles

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  1. 1. Is a newborn male infant a bachelor? 2. Suppose a man is married for 50 years, and dies in the hospital five minutes after his wife. Is he a bachelor during those five minutes? 3. Is a man in a permanent coma a bachelor? 4. How about a priest? 5. How about a man from a culture without the institution of marriage, who has a long-term mate to whom he is faithful. Do we call him a bachelor? 6. Suppose a rational species of aliens was discovered, and that these aliens possess an equivalent institution to marriage. Do we call unmarried instances of this species bachelors? Here is a case of ambiguity in the other direction. All of these would be bachelors if it were defined solely as an "unmarried man", although the connotations would be wildly inappropriate. I think that's where the problem lies with this reasoning, that words often carry shades of meaning not made explicit in their definitions. That doesn't mean that the concept can't be represented by a definition, only that dictionaries are not always perfect and comprehensive. Give me any reasonable definition of man, and I will be able to find an example of a man who lacks the defining characteristic you named. I think this could be done by requiring substantial similarity to the human genetic code and possibly viability outside the womb depending on what status you afford fetuses. It is also true that the negation of a "synthetic" truth is a contradiction. Let's consider your assertion that "the entropic arrow of time could reverse". This would mean, among other things, that objects could "fall up", or be repelled by massive bodies. Our concept of gravity, being purely inductive, is descriptive. I don't think a description contradicts itself simply because the phenomenon it's describing changes. Skepticism presumes the axiomatic validity of formal deduction, while not accepting the validity of the axiomatic foundation of deduction. But isn't there a substantive epistemic difference between the two? A thing failing to be itself is incoherent and self-contradictory, but the force of gravity ceasing to function is merely unprecedented. Continued discussion at this level would not be appropriate, given the purpose of the forum. Okay. I don't mean to intrude, feel free to lock this topic. One has the weight of all the gathered knowledge of the world as its proof. The other has not one shred of evidence to back it up. But isn't all of this knowledge predicated on the assumption that the external world is real? How can understanding the world prove that the world exists? As further evidence please note that whenever, in history, one of these premises has been the guiding ideology behind a culture -- it has resulted in death and misery and destruction. While whenever the other premise has been implemented -- life, production and advancement has been the result. This seems like an appeal to consequences to me. Anyhow, what culture has been solipsist in orientation?
  2. Technically, the axioms of consciousness and existence prove that there is consciousness, there is a reality separate from it, and that there is a link between the two (Perception). What is so implausible about a disembodied brain? Perhaps a section of the solipsist's mind has created the world and denies him conscious access to its true workings. How can we be logical if our premises can not be trusted? I don't think you really can. We have to take the existence of the external world as an article of faith, or pragmatism, or suspended judgment, not as fact or rational belief. One of the fundamental ideas in Objectivism is that everyone has a choice to believe what they want. What choice is implied here? If an external reality, independent of the self, cannot be proven to any degree of certainty, isn't suspended judgment the only tenable belief? Were you floating in the sensory deprivation tank your entire life, and suddenly at some point, you conceived from nothingness the idea of numbers? It's difficult to even conceive of what existence as a disembodied brain would be like, much less to speculate on what it could and could not ascertain for itself. But if it had a sensation of being, and thought, already it has learned to count to two. To refer to an essay by Rand on this - imagine Hellen Keller - blind and deaf from age 0.25, (3 months), without having yet developed the rudimentary concepts all of us functional humans take for granted such as the idea that words have meaning. It took months of her patient teacher tracing letters into Hellen's palm while putting her other hand on something for Helen to get it: Words have Meaning. W-A-T-E-R means this wet feeling thing. (Only she didn't even have a concept for wet at the time.) But Keller must first have had a wordless conceptualization of the wet liquid thirst-quencher to even understand that it was a permanent and discreet phenomenon. Presumably that would be how the first proto-humans invented language, as well, by assigning categories to perceptions and sensations. By definition (a different definition), the inductive inferential rule cannot be wrong. But it can be. Tomorrow, the entropic arrow of time could reverse, the earth could cease spinning on its axis, and electrons could begin hopping out of their orbits like Mexican jumping beans. This does not contradict itself. But one measly square circle rends all fabric of meaning and existence. And for that matter, by definition, any deduction with a universal quantifier which takes as a premise any proposition that is not previously proven by induction or any proposition which is not axiomatically given is wrong. Or it becomes an existential quantification instead. Is the point that deductive logic ultimately requires axioms which are by nature self-justifying...? The only way to defeat the evidence of the senses is to beg the question by asserting that the senses are necessarily invalid and indecisive. Skepticism begs no question. Belief in the veridicality of the senses is affirmative, and establishes a burden of proof.
  3. I don't understand...what do you mean by "29"? Can you please explain it to me without taking reality at face value? And in the process of explaining it to me, don't utilize any senses you haven't yet justified using. I can conceive of 29 as an abstraction independently of any sensory data or experience. I don't really see the necessity of imparting this to others who, according to solipsist doctrine, would merely be figments. The premises of a formal deduction cannot be fully proven in that sense and the rules of inference cannot be proven. But by definition, neither can the rules of inference be wrong. This is something of an epistematic paradox, but it does not hold true for empiricism and the senses, the negation of which elicits no contradiction. So then, if all data is perceptive data, and perceptive data is fallible, then it follows that all data is fallible. I don't view solipsism as something that can be proven, per se, but rather as an alternative hypothesis about reality that requires explanation. Why should we prefer the reality of the external world to a disembodied mind being acted upon by unknown forces? I have not seen a satisfactory answer to that question that does not play upon semantics or rely on foundationalist "self-evidencies". So then, either the reality we perceive is close enough too exact to be correct, or the demon's illusion is so absolute that we will never be able to the difference. In essence, that's the position I espouse, but I was wondering whether Objectivism could decisively establish the objective reality of the external world and not just demonstrate its practical utility (which is presumably beyond question).
  4. You use the idea of "proof", which means "demonstrate adherence to reality" to deny that there is any reality to adhere to. Proof, in the sense I am using it, refers to rigorous logical proofs, the sort by which I might demonstrate that 29 is a prime number, or that existence is a necessary precondition for thought. So by "prove" I mean I am asking you to show incontrovertibly that reality as we perceive it is genuine. There is no logical contradiction inherent in the notion that our reality is in fact the creation of, say, a Cartesian demon or a technologically advanced alien race. Certainly the possibility begs some explanation. It may well be that all of our non-trivial knowledge is predicated on accepting reality at face value, but I don't see how that gives us a justification for doing so. No, because I know things have specific natures, that I exist in a causal universe. How do you claim toknow these things, except through induction? What are you using to justify the stock you put in induction, here, besides induction?
  5. "Proven", as a concept, depends on sensory data and a persisting external world. But surely those things cannot prove themselves, correct? So are we to believe that things within the sensory realm can be proven, while the mere fact of the sensory realm itself cannot? This fallacy is known as "stolen concept". Sorry, I'm new to this, it would be helpful if you could refer to concepts outside of objectivist literature. I know that water boils when heated. I know why water boils when heated. This seems like circular reasoning to me. You consider yourself sure that heat will change the state of liquid water to vapor because, to your knowledge, it has always done so in the past. But isn't that precisely what you are seeking to prove, that the future will consistently reflect the past? I don't see how you can use inductive examples to justify induction as a whole. Since things (including man) have specific natures, there are things that help you and things that destroy you. Is this a truism? Why should we not be indifferent to life, or to attach some value to the lives of others so long as it does not interfere substantially with our own? Why should I choose at the outset to live 100% (or take the dummy option of 0%) rather than 50% or 70%? I think, though, that your questions are way to broad for a single thread, especially if you're not happy with my answers. Objectivists tend to be more focused in their thinking. Well, as a new user, I mostly intended for this to be a summary of my questions for objectivism. If I were to pursue any at great length I would replace each to a separate topic.
  6. How would an Objectivist respond to the following Humian doubts? -Solipsism (the notion that sensory data and a persisting external world can never be indepedently proven) -The problem of induction (that empirical evidence can never form justified conclusions about the future) -The is-ought problem (that ought morality statements can never be justified by referring to the state of things, effectively rendering morals subjective)
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