Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Various ways of knowing

Rate this topic


samr
 Share

Recommended Posts

If there are epistemologies that claim that there are different ways of knowing (for example, the rational one versus the emotional one), how can you evaluate if they are true or not?

If you would evaluate them with reason, they would say that you are doing precisely that which they are telling you not to do. They would tell that since they tell you that there can be other ways of knowing than using your mind, you cannot use your mind to judge them.

They would say that by judging them rationally you are just acting according to your biases - a camel is criticizing all animals for not having a hump, and they all criticize him for having one.

Edited by samr
Link to comment
Share on other sites

One cannot engage in a rational argument with someone who will not agree to go by reason (and asserting non-rational methods of knowledge is certainly not going by reason). All one can do is state the three inescapable axioms of reality (existence, consciousness, and identity), point out that reasoning from the basis of sense perception is the only actual way that man can gain knowledge, demonstrate that all supposed non-sensory methods of consciousness are by nature impossible (for they imply perception by no specific means), show that all supposed "sixth sense" claims are arbitrary assertions unsupported by evidence, and hope that the man will see that reason really is the way to operate.

If, at that point, the man says, "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!" (or any secular equivalent, such as "I have a right to my opinion,") you're done. You cannot attempt to persuade him rationally. The only thing left is for him to observe the harmful effects of his irrationality, at which point you may point these out and possibly get him to reconsider.

Also, on a related point, Leonard Peikoff gives a good analogy about so-called "sixth sense" claims in his Founders of Western Philosophy course, which I will paraphrase. The proponents of such claims always defend their viewpoint by stating that you can't judge them because you only have five senses. However, observe that there is no controversy among the blind that men with a "fifth sense" exist. Why? The reason there is no controversy is because the claims of sighted men support the sensory evidence that the blind receive through their four senses; there is never a contradiction between what the blind man perceives and what the sighted man perceives. Furthermore, the sighted man can make predictions which the blind man cannot, proving that he has special knowledge. For example, he can warn the blind man of a car approaching at 100 yards away, and the blind man will be able to feel and hear this car passing by at a certain time afterwards. Such predictions work every time.

Contrast this with the claims of "sixth sense" advocates who claim to have received mystic revelations from God. Their claims do not support the evidence we receive from our five senses: they radically contradict them by saying that this world is only an illusion or shadow and that true reality is something else. Furthermore, these people cannot make any predictions that a normal person cannot. Therefore, we conclude that they are mentally disturbed or lying.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If there are epistemologies that claim that there are different ways of knowing (for example, the rational one versus the emotional one), how can you evaluate if they are true or not?

If you would evaluate them with reason, they would say that you are doing precisely that which they are telling you not to do.

The word evaluate implies the use of reason. It's not that they want you to evaluate with something other than reason, they want you to accept without an evaluation. As someone who likes to evaluate things, you should just say no.

They would say that by judging them rationally you are just acting according to your biases.

The term "bias" means ignoring some relevant data in favor of other data, due to some flaw in one's process of collecting and considering evidence when conducting a study.

If you are studying reality, you cannot be called biased for ignoring data not related to reality (opinions), you can only be called biased for ignoring facts of reality. If you're making an opinion poll, then you would be biased for not collecting and considering opinions.

But here, we are discussing reality, not opinion polls. So we need to consider all the facts and nothing but the facts to reach any conclusion. As per the definition of "biased", the biased ones are the people asking you to consider unrelated data (their opinions).

People love to use terms that belong in science or logic for their arguments against science or logic, without understanding them. Specifying the exact definition of such terms invalidates their arguments every time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 months later...

But how can one be sure that one has refuted "all" relevant religious arguments?

They always can make up an argument, and say "see, you haven't refuted this! ".

With evidence, it is easy to judge what is the evidence for a god, not relying upon other people. But with abstract reasoning it is harder. How can one be sure that he has "all" relevant abstract reasonings against a god?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

With evidence, it is easy to judge what is the evidence for a god, not relying upon other people. But with abstract reasoning it is harder. How can one be sure that he has "all" relevant abstract reasonings against a god?

Leonard Peikoff stated: “Proof,” in the full sense, is the process of deriving a conclusion step by step from the evidence of the senses, each step being taken in accordance with the laws of logic.

When you recognise there can be no evidence for that which, in fact, has never existed, you can realise that you cannot acquire evidence for something which has never existed, hence you cannot prove that something has never existed.

In addition to proof, a method for validating one's concepts is necessary to ensure the validity of the concepts involved in the proof.

Sure, with abstract reasoning, it is harder, but it is necessary: to ensure one's concepts are valid - and that ones knowledge is, therefore, true.

An invalid concept used in a proposition renders the proposition invalid.

Objectively, then, we can validate our concepts, establish proofs for our knowledge, and not waste precious valuable time refuting all the arbitrary assertions that grow like weeds in untended gardens.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

According to objectivism, IMHO, god is an invalid concept. Which is different from being an arbitrary assertion.

It just annoys me when objectivists say "God exists is an arbitrary assertion", as if it is on the same line as "The flying spaghetti monster exists". It isn't, even though Ayn Rand seemed to think it was ("there is no evidence"). The line of reasoning "It is an invalid concept" is much stronger. And mutually exclusive. You can't have evidence for an invalid concept, so it's wrong to assert there could have been.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From the Lexicon, “Arbitrary” means a claim put forth in the absence of evidence of any sort, perceptual or conceptual; its basis is neither direct observation nor any kind of theoretical argument. [An arbitrary idea is] a sheer assertion with no attempt to validate it or connect it to reality. What is arbitrary, and the feature that makes an idea arbitrary, is the irreducibility of the idea to the perceptual level.

An invalid concept is a ... er.. (The Lexicon entry for "invalid concepts" is itself invalid (today), as it actually pertains to introspective concepts.) according to the primary source:

There are such things as invalid concepts, i.e., words that represent attempts to integrate errors, contradictions or false propositions, such as concepts originating in mysticism—or words without specific definitions, without referents, which can mean anything to anyone, such as modern "anti-concepts." Invalid concepts appear occasionally in men's languages, but are usually—though not necessarily—short-lived, since they lead to cognitive dead-ends. An invalid concept invalidates every proposition or process of thought in which it is used as a cognitive assertion.)

The idea that an invalid concept is a concept without a referent is fully equivalent stating that it is not reducible and that it is arbitrary. The relation between "invalid concept" and "arbitrary" can be analogized to the relation between "logical fallacy" and a named fallacy such as the fallacy of the undistributed middle.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An invalid concept is a ... er.. (The Lexicon entry for "invalid concepts" is itself invalid (today), as it actually pertains to introspective concepts.) according to the primary source:

I never noticed that before.

I did notice in Harriman's recent book, that it is concepts, in general, that are deemed to be valid or invalid. The relationship of knowledge to reality is what is judged as true or false.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When you recognise there can be no evidence for that which, in fact, has never existed, you can realise that you cannot acquire evidence for something which has never existed, hence you cannot prove that something has never existed.

I would say that the only way to make an informed decision is to consider the scientific alternative to questions like, 'how did the universe begin?' and 'where did the laws of nature/forces that caused the universe to begin come from?' Without this knowledge, I don't see how anyone could be content with (seemingly) knocking down one argument, only to be left with a gaping question mark in it's stead.

I understand that evidence is a prerequisite for certainty, but doesn't it seem irrational to make assumptions about the universe when we don't have solid answers to many of these questions? In fact, the theories we have can't be seen, tested in a lab, and might not ever be confirmed.. that's m-theory, for you. I hope that more and more discoveries are made, and that we can one day say, "I have seen all there is to see in the universe, and all of it's multiple dimensions (if they actually exist). I know what's out there, and what is not." But until that day, I don't think anyone can say (with 100% certainty) that he knows about everything that exists in the universe, and everything that exists in all of its dimensions. That would be a huge mistake.

Please note, I'm not claiming that God or any other intelligent being exists beyond earth.. It just seems that the person who claims he knows everything that is is.. well, not being true to himself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would say that the only way to make an informed decision is to consider the scientific alternative to questions like, 'how did the universe begin?' and 'where did the laws of nature/forces that caused the universe to begin come from?' Without this knowledge, I don't see how anyone could be content with (seemingly) knocking down one argument, only to be left with a gaping question mark in it's stead.

It is the attemp at projecting percieved temporalness onto that which is eternal gives rise to the question "how did existence begin". When you grasp that causality flows from identity, the confusion generated by trying to understand how identity was imagined to be caused, goes away.

I understand that evidence is a prerequisite for certainty, but doesn't it seem irrational to make assumptions about the universe when we don't have solid answers to many of these questions? In fact, the theories we have can't be seen, tested in a lab, and might not ever be confirmed.. that's m-theory, for you. I hope that more and more discoveries are made, and that we can one day say, "I have seen all there is to see in the universe, and all of it's multiple dimensions (if they actually exist). I know what's out there, and what is not." But until that day, I don't think anyone can say (with 100% certainty) that he knows about everything that exists in the universe, and everything that exists in all of its dimensions. That would be a huge mistake.

Please note, I'm not claiming that God or any other intelligent being exists beyond earth.. It just seems that the person who claims he knows everything that is is.. well, not being true to himself.

Omniscience is not a prerequisite to certainty. One can become certain about what one knows, by becoming intimately familiar with the process by which one comes to know it.

Experiment and observation is the scientific method. Explainations fueled only by the fertile imaginations of a mind are simply attempts to shortcut or bypass the process required.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is the attemp at projecting percieved temporalness onto that which is eternal gives rise to the question "how did existence begin". When you grasp that causality flows from identity, the confusion generated by trying to understand how identity was imagined to be caused, goes away.

I think that's true in a lot of cases, but it's also just one possible motivational factor out of many. There can also be a degree of honest curosity to know how things started. I would actually equate it to infant curiosity, where an infant wants to see, touch, and understand everything.. all the things he's found that he never knew existed.

Omniscience is not a prerequisite to certainty. One can become certain about what one knows, by becoming intimately familiar with the process by which one comes to know it.

Experiment and observation is the scientific method. Explainations fueled only by the fertile imaginations of a mind are simply attempts to shortcut or bypass the process required.

I agree, you can be certain about many things without being omnicscient. But you can't be certain of everything. That's not to say that if there was a way to test, say, string theory, the physicists involved would be 'omniscient.' Just because they've found a way to prove that the universe came to be through means of X, Y, and Z, doesn't mean that they know everything there is to know (about the study of life, for instance, or philosophy, or geology). But if this were to happen, a big question mark about the beginning of the universe would be replaced with an absolute.

So inversely, one can't be certain of what one doesn't know. But there must be room for the pursuit to understand the uknown (and although that's vague, it's been proven time and again that there were plenty of unknowns which became known). A scientific example would be finding that other planets have moons. This is something that no one imagined or thought existed, but that is now an absolute. Notice that this is very different from imagining something and then trying to find it. It's the realization that there's plenty of things we don't understand, which makes it even more important chip away at these things one at a time until they are understood.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

stuff

These things are all true, but it is important to recognize what it means for something to be arbitrary. I might not be sure where life exists in the universe, but I am certain that it exists on earth. Speculating or hypothesizing about life on other planets isn't arbitrary, since the fact that there is life on earth indicates at least some plausibility of life on other planets. On top of that, you can verify and test that life exists on other planets, so there is a connection to reality. This is in comparison to the idea of god, which is by definition not able to be verified. In this sense, you can't even say you know that god doesn't exist. It is literally impossible to evaluate claims about something that can be neither observed nor tested. I can't observe life on other planets at this moment, but by its very nature, life can be detected by some kind of instrument. See post #2 for anything else I have to add to this post.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But an infants curiosity about say, what kind of shoe polish Santa Clause uses, is likened unto the question of where existence came from. One who has discovered the epistemic method required by our form of consciousness leaves certain questions to those who haven't.

I think that's true in a lot of cases, but it's also just one possible motivational factor out of many. There can also be a degree of honest curosity to know how things started. I would actually equate it to infant curiosity, where an infant wants to see, touch, and understand everything.. all the things he's found that he never knew existed.

To recognize that cause exists, is simultaneously to recognize that cause is an existent. As an existent, cause is part of existence. The fact that cause exists, recognizes that the identity of cause is subject to identification. A proper identification of cause leads to clarity of its nature. An improper identification of cause, leads to ambiguity and confusion about its nature. Without existence and identity, there is simply no cause. Existence and identity are antecedent to cause.

I agree, you can be certain about many things without being omnicscient. But you can't be certain of everything. That's not to say that if there was a way to test, say, string theory, the physicists involved would be 'omniscient.' Just because they've found a way to prove that the universe came to be through means of X, Y, and Z, doesn't mean that they know everything there is to know (about the study of life, for instance, or philosophy, or geology). But if this were to happen, a big question mark about the beginning of the universe would be replaced with an absolute.

Note, I am not stating I am certain of everything. I am only stating that there are things about which I am certain. The method which leads me to be cognizant of my certainty allows me to disregard information that does not satisfy that criteria, as even being certain, probable, or ultimately, even possible.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...