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Why must the arbitrary be dismissed?

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Ok, so I have read OPAR, including the section pertaining to Reason and the arbitrary. But I'm still unsatisfied with my understanding. Suppose someone states something really bizarre and unfounded (such as, "There are dragons in my room"). Is the lack of evidence really enough to warrant dismissal? If something has no evidence, couldn't it still be possible, no matter how bizarre?

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Ok, so I have read OPAR, including the section pertaining to Reason and the arbitrary. But I'm still unsatisfied with my understanding. Suppose someone states something really bizarre and unfounded (such as, "There are dragons in my room"). Is the lack of evidence really enough to warrant dismissal? If something has no evidence, couldn't it still be possible, no matter how bizarre?

That one's not bad. At least it's falsifiable. If you simply look in your room it can be demonstrated to be untrue(assuming it is untrue). On the other hand, if someone said that there were invisible dragons in your room that were impossible to sense in any other way than through their clairvoyant contact, then you would have more of an arbitrary problem.

I usually save immediate dismissal for something which is arbitrary and unknowable(normally arbitrary claims are). Something unusual which can be supported is almost by definition, not arbitrary. If your rational, trusted friend came screaming out of your bedroom because of a a dragon, your knowledge of him and his rationality would be some evidence for it. Looking in the room would be more evidence. Seeing that he mistook your pet alligator for a dragon would be priceless.

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Ok, so I have read OPAR, including the section pertaining to Reason and the arbitrary. But I'm still unsatisfied with my understanding. Suppose someone states something really bizarre and unfounded (such as, "There are dragons in my room"). Is the lack of evidence really enough to warrant dismissal? If something has no evidence, couldn't it still be possible, no matter how bizarre?

Dismissal is not drawing a conclusion that "that's impossible".

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Is the lack of evidence really enough to warrant dismissal?
You mean not just a lack of conclusive evidence, but the lack of even a ray of evidence, right? A counter-question: in the face of a lack of even a ray of evidence, does dwelling on the particular assertion warrant your time in any way? If so, how? If not, then what is dismissal other than not wasting one's time?
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You mean not just a lack of conclusive evidence, but the lack of even a ray of evidence, right? A counter-question: in the face of a lack of even a ray of evidence, does dwelling on the particular assertion warrant your time in any way? If so, how? If not, then what is dismissal other than not wasting one's time?

Well, I just feel uncomfortable. I'd like to know that something is disproven before I dismiss it.

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Well, I just feel uncomfortable. I'd like to know that something is disproven before I dismiss it.

The problem with this desire is that you can't disprove most arbitrary claims because the claimants go to ridiculous lengths to place them beyond the reach of any methodology you might exercise. But if it makes you uncomfortable, maybe stating it in a positive fashion would help? You're not saying "I dismiss that as impossible" so much as you're saying "come back when you actually have something to demonstrate". You're not making any claim of the possibility/impossibility of ANYTHING, you're just reserving your cognitive efforts for things you can actually, you know, make SOME sort of claim about.

Objectivist intellectuals don't state, say, that God is impossible *because* the religionists make arbitrary claims regarding god. Instead, they will take SPECIFIC claims made by religionists (that god is Omnipotent, for instance) and refute those as impossible. Dismissing the arbitrary as unworthy of consideration (not IMPOSSIBLE) merely means that you are not freakin' obligated to refute an endless series of such claims one at a time, you can throw the whole category out as not worth your time.

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I'd like to know that something is disproven before I dismiss it.
I doubt you really do this for any practical purpose. When trying to decide between alternatives for action, do you start to consider a million arbitrary possibilities: "shall I take the train, or drive... or should I go by broom, or flying dragon, or use the flue-network, or apparate-dissapparate, or should I ask my fairy-godmother for a pumpkin-chariot with MP3 player, etc." No, one cannot entertain all sorts of arbitrary "possibilities", even if one limits oneself to the small subset of things that one has read in fiction.

In reality, the arbitrary ideas that people usually entertain are those whose arbitrariness they do not yet recognize. In such a situation, it can be appropriate for that person not to ponder on the idea. In terms of how one should act, one has to take into account one's own knowledge: so, just because lots of people say something is arbitrary does not mean I should dismiss it (even if it really is). I would have to go with my own mind, and dismiss things that I consider arbitrary (or false, of course).

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If a proposition is beyond the bounds of either empirical corroberation or empirical refutation then the only basis on which it could be judged is whether it leads (by logic) to a logical contradiction. Failing this last step, what in the world could one do with such an ungrounded proposition? My answer is to dismiss it, ignore it and get on to more important things.

Bob Kolker

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So if someone were to say that there are hob-goblins dancing on the moon, that would still be logically possible? I must be mistaken.

Can you prove there aren't?

LOGIC would tell us that if we cannot disprove the existence of hobgoblins on the moon (and we haven't seen all of it clearly enough to do so) then it's logically POSSIBLE, albeit highly improbable. They could be non-breathers who exist on moon dust and shun sunlight, only moving to the side of the moon that faces us for the 14 days it's dark.

The concept is, however, completely arbitrary. We also can't prove concretely that the Domino's Noid isn't actually based on a real creature that lives in the core of the moon.

If we accept the arbitrary as having validity, we have to accept ALL things equally arbitrary as having equal validity. IF one does this, one finds quickly that the infinite possibilities of the arbitrary conflict with each other, and since we know there are no contradictions, we have to dismiss some of the arbitrary. Since we must treat all things arbitrary as having equal validity, if some arbitrary must be dismissed, all things arbitrary must be dismissed.

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Your problem seems to come from not understanding what it means to say that something is "possible". It refers to evidence of some kind, so if you say "it's possible that it will rain tomorrow", you're saying that everything that you know about reality is consistent with raining tomorrow being a fact. When you have even more evidence, so that your knowledge tends to contradict the idea of it not raining tomorrow, then you would even say that it is "probable".

Going the other direction, you could say that it is "improbable" that it will rain tomorrow based on having knowledge that is inconsistent with there being rain tomorrow, such as the fact that humidity is very low and there are no rain clouds for hundreds of miles. Your evidence could be even stronger -- if you were located in the middle of the Sahara desert in a location that has not had rain for a millenium, you could even say that it is "impossible" that it would rain.

The expression "logically possible" does not have anything to do with the concept of possibility, nor does it have any relationship to reality. All it means is that if you were to translate the sentence in to symbolic logic, the formula would not contain a contradiction. For example, if you say "It will rain tomorrow", you can express that symbolically as "P". If you say "Smith is dead", you can express that symbolically as "Q". The formula "P" and the proposition "It will rain tomorrow" is "logically possible", because it contains no formal contradiction. On the other hand the proposition "Smith is dead and Smith is not dead", which would formalize as "Q&^Q", contains a formal contradiction and therefore it is not "logically possible". All atomic predicts (P, Q, L(x,y) etc) are "logically possible" -- it's only when you get something more complex that involves a formal contradiction that you can say something is not "logically possible".

Questions of accepting or dismissing claims are not about the extremely narrow formal notion of "logical possibility", which is of interest only to mathematicians and their like. They are about "truth". Now you have to understand what truth is -- truth is the product of a consciousness grasping a fact. A fact is an aspect of reality. So where "logical possibility" scrupulously evades reality, the search for truth is by its nature about reality. Our only means of grasping reality is by evaluating evidence (that is, perceptible facts).

When a person demands that you accept some conclusion as being a fact, without presenting the very basis for evaluating the proposition, they are demanding that you reject your own nature, that you not use reason to accept or reject conclusions, but that you use faith. That is a serious affront to man's nature, and a rational man will not accept a claim without a proper basis for acceptance -- evidence.

To dismiss the claim that there are goblins on the moon is not the same as asserting that you know that there are no goblins on the moon. Dismissing a claim, one for which no evidence is given, is the proper response to an unsupported assertion, since it means that you refuse to act according to your nature (as a rational being, one that uses reason). Therefore, if I tell you that it will rain in Kautokeino today, you should dismiss the claim until I present evidence to support it. The moral obligation rests on me to provide the evidence that supports the claim, and until I have shouldered that responsibility, you should ignore the claim. Dismiss it. Reject it. Which is not the same as asserting the contrary.

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In logic class they teach you there are these things called "statements" (that come from God knows where) and knowledge consists of knowing for as many as possible, whether they are true or false.

But knowledge is not a list of statements but an integration of facts, concepts, inductions and deductions. Knowledge is the whole, and you expand it by integrating new information at the "edges." If someone makes a claim not too far from what is known, it is possible to test it against similar things, and say if it is true or false and how certain you are. But if it is too far "out there" - miles from anything known - miles from the edge (such as claims about goblins on other planets) - there is just no way to proceed. You just have to say "Sorry, there is nothing I can do with that (mentally)."

Edited by philosopher
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There is a balloon behind the dwarf planet Pluto, inside an unknown cave It consistently stays at the back, unrevealed to us but it is there. I haven't any proof of this, and you haven't any empirical or metaphysical/logical proof against it.

Unlike other statements which escape the realm of being falsified, this could be falsified but we do not have the means to do so at the moment. If someone concedes or does not provide any rational, substantiated evidence to his claim then you should straight away cast if off. It isn't true, and it isn't false. It's arbitrary. It has no truth value because it isn't a statement about fact, but about a personal fiction I have made up about a balloon on Pluto. It doesn't even have the same truth value as "Sherlock Holmes smokes a pipe" or "Pegasus was ridden by Poseidon", because it doesn't even exist at the same level of fiction. It's just something I pulled out of thin air.

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