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How exactly does objectivism disprove skepticism at all?

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I'm not trying to take a dig here it's just that I'm very confused about how objectivists claim to have an answer to skepticism. Since the response to the brain in a vat scenario is comparing it to 'being on the same probability as Russel's flying teapot' let's take the simulation theory. Most scientists agree that between 50 and 500 years we will be able to fully scan and upload brains in computers. If we don't destroy ourselves until then and you accept that there will be at least 1% chance 1 person of the 8 billion people on earth will decide to make one, the probability is not comparable to the flying teapot. I believe it's more like a 40% chance. How could you claim you are *certain* that you didn't spawn into this world 3 minutes ago and what you think is your past isn't just a piece of code created by some teenager in their room. Because the answer (seems to everyone except for objectivists) is that you can't. The probability is extremely low but at least higher than a flying teapot flying around the sun.

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What have you read so far about arbitrary claims, or claims that don't go with positive evidence for something? That will affect my answer.

It isn't about the probabilities of these claims. Probability is one thing, which is a state of knowledge. It's a different thing entirely to dismiss claims entirely, which would apply to the simulation argument as well. 

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I see how arbitrary claims aren't important but I'm saying this isn't an arbitrary claim and that objectivism has no different or better response to skepticism than every other philosophy in my eyes. If the eventual response is 'it won't or shouldn't change how we live our daily lives' that's the exact same thing Hume said.

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If they are not arbitrary, then you have some positive evidence for the claims. Then those claims can be discussed, and argued about. 

But in your examples, the only evidence for these claims is apparently your ability to imagine them. In that case, you are basically asking "how can I be sure that something I imagine is not true? I can imagine that the government is sending signals from cell phone towers in order to control our computers, how can I be sure that this is not true?" This wouldn't be evidence

 

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Posted (edited)

I'm not sure what you see as evidence but I see it impossible to not recognize the fact that there's a chance that you're in a simulation and you've only come into existence last thursday. I thought objectivism sold itsself as offering a reasoning why it *couldn't* be true we live in a simulation as I saw one say skeptics are wrong. It might be a good system for how to deal with uncertainty and probabilities but to declare it as a fact you know you were alive 3 years ago is wrong imo.

 

Edited by Marvin
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I'm confused about the OP asking about skepticism and then discussing arbitrary claims.

The disproving of skepticism is that it is self refuting. The idea that one cannot know anything is refuted by "then how do you know that you can't know anything since you can't know it". Unless I misunderstood the question.

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Posted (edited)

I'm really new to philosophy as you can probably tell and just delving into different things so please correct me when I'm wrong objectivism just doesn't make any sense to me. I didn't say you can't know anything I agree that you can know you're conscious and I 99% certainly agree with the primacy of existence but I don't see how that disproves me living in a simulation since if we were to simulate someone they couldn't tell the difference either so I don't see how anything is self refuting here.

Edited by Marvin
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13 minutes ago, Marvin said:

I'm really new to philosophy as you can probably tell and just delving into different things so please correct me when I'm wrong objectivism just doesn't make any sense to me. I didn't say you can't know anything I agree that you can know you're consciousness and I 99% certainly agree with the primacy of existence but I don't see how that disproves me living in a simulation since if we were to simulate someone they couldn't tell the difference either so I don't see how anything is self refuting here.

You're confusing some things here. "Skepticism" does not mean "we're living in a simulation"/BIV scenarios. Those are two different things. Skepticism comes from the Greek skepsis or skeptikos which can mean questioning or doubt, and is associated with the suspension of judgment. The historical skeptics cultivated a refusal to assent to anything. (See Popkin's History of Skepticism.)

There are two basic types of skepticism, universal and particular. The number one argument against universal skepticism is the self contradiction argument. This argument proceeds by pointing out that the act of professing universal skepticism requires one to process knowledge about something and thus would involve contradictory beliefs. Note this isn't an "objectivist argument" at all. It's like the first thing any philosopher would probably say in response to skepticism.

The simulation scenario is a variation of Rene Descartes evil demon argument, from the Meditations. The connection with skepticism is by way of the method Descartes uses called methodical doubt. It doesn't really matter all the details of this, but the reasons Descartes gives for doubting one or more part of our faculties, but the point is it doesn't really make sense. The one way we could know whether we were in error about a given faculty is by discovery of some truth which reveals us our error.

The point is more about differing starting points in epistemology. The introduction of the evil demon, or the simulation or the BIV, the exact mechanism involved is besides the point, the point is the method. It doesn't really make sense to believe any old thing until it's disproven, that's not how cognition works. Instead you need a reason for believing something, not a reason for disbelief in something. That was the point Russell was trying to make.

It's also just not true that "everybody but objectivists" thinks this. Very few people think skepticism is the way to go, or think methodical doubt is the way to go. To know this you could spend time talking to people who do philosophy professionally. Or like attend a basic undergraduate course in knowledge theory, where undergrads are usual given Descartes as a low-ball target.

Another way you could know this is by looking at the 2020 Phil Papers survey, which surveyed the philosophical views of 1785 English-speaking philosophers from around the world on 100 philosophical questions.

For instance, the exact question that Cartesian demons and BIVs was constructed for, external world skepticism, the results were:

External world: idealism, skepticism, or non-skeptical realism?

Accept or lean towards:

idealism

6.63% (5.44%)

Accept or lean towards:

skepticism

5.44% (4.76%)

Accept or lean towards:

non-skeptical realism

79.54% (78.17%)

Other

11.62%

 

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That makes sense. So it's more that objectivism is a clear non self contradicting method of explaining the world, and as long as the skeptic can't give evidence that he's wrong he shouldn't care cause since the burden of proof is on the skeptic. So it's not because it can be doubted that we're in a simulation the objectivist actually cares. I thought objectivism claimed to prove with absolute certainty that we can know certain laws and can't be a brain in a vat or something. This makes more sense. But what if you're an objectivist who encounters the simulation argument and decides there's more evidence that the world is a simulation than real, is he then still an objectivist or what'd happen exactly?

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In the progression of knowledge, familiarity with what is right precedes the discovery of the concept of wrong. 

One of the roots of the concept "simulation" is the "what" that is being simulated. Unless you are going to embark on an infinite regress, ultimately a simulation of reality would have its foundation based on existence.

Knowledge of reality is a prerequisite to ascertaining what you are dealing with is a facsimile.

The skeptic has weight of the onus of proof on his shoulders.

 

Edited by dream_weaver
Removed an errant 'n'. Changed a ? to a .
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16 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

One of the roots of the concept "simulation" is the "what" that is being simulated. Unless you are going to embark on an infinite regress, ultimately a simulation of reality would have its foundation based on existence. n

Knowledge of reality is a prerequisite to ascertaining what you are dealing with is a facsimile? 

Wow Greg, was waiting for this argument. This is the perfect argument against nothing is real. (I assume that also applies if you are in a dream, that one can conclude existence exists even there).

I think when people make the argument for simulation, they are claiming a "partial simulation". Like there is an existence but "you're perception of existence" is being simulated. And there, unless one has some evidence, it's simply arbitrary. In a sense, it's not a philosophical question anymore, it's more a scientific question.

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19 hours ago, 2046 said:

It doesn't really make sense to believe any old thing until it's disproven, that's not how cognition works.

That's the very straightforward Objectivist way of answering the question.

Another is dream_weaver's logical point...  i.e.  If we're in a simulation, then what is the "thing" running the simulation?  

@dream_weaver I remember Ayn Rand said this in some form (maybe in a Q&A), do you remember the source?  I think it was in the context of showing that even if we were in a simulation, it wouldn't disprove existence because a computer would have to be running the simulation.  

Edited by freestyle
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@freestyle I don't recollect an Ayn Rand reference to this one. My answer is derived more as a hybrid from The History of Philosophy Thales to Hume, and I think Harry Binswanger has touched on the brain-in-a-vat on Selected Topic in the Philosophy of Science.

I've also watched Matrix, The Thirteenth Floor, Existenz which are popular sources for positing such questions. 

 

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34 minutes ago, freestyle said:

That's the very straightforward Objectivist way of answering the question.

Another is dream_weaver's logical point...  i.e.  If we're in a simulation, then what is the "thing" running the simulation?  

@dream_weaver I remember Ayn Rand said this in some form (maybe in a Q&A), do you remember the source?  I think it was in the context of showing that even if we were in a simulation, it wouldn't disprove existence because a computer would have to be running the simulation.  

I mean, not really. While there is a great deal of exegesis of "the arbitrary as neither true nor false" in ch. 5 of OPAR, but the burden of proof principle is a logical commonplace.

On the second point, I had made the following remark already: "The one way we could know whether we were in error about a given faculty is by discovery of some truth which reveals us our error." This is the way to counter the method of Cartesian doubt with regards to individual faculties, that all of our faculties couldn't be in error all the time.

But the point of the simulation or BIV scenarios is not to deny existence, it's to deny your knowledge of it. Imagine someone saying you are really a brain in a vat, you are hooked up and experiencing a simulation. They're perfectly content to say yes, existence exists, you just don't genuinely experience it beyond what is fed to you. And since we can imagine this being the case, it is therefore possible, unless the realist prove it's not.

The way to counter this is the burden of proof principle, and a denial of the assumption that because something is imaginable it is possible.

 

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On 3/24/2022 at 8:19 PM, Marvin said:

But what if you're an objectivist who encounters the simulation argument and decides there's more evidence that the world is a simulation than real, is he then still an objectivist or what'd happen exactly?

An Objectivist would follow the evidence. Not in some anemic "still an Objectivist" technical sense, but according to the most primary, foundational, premises-checking, epistemological aspects of the philosophy.

With respect to that epistemology, Objectivism advocates reason, but specific conclusions ("I am in the USA"; "I am in Chile"; "I am in the Matrix") must be determined according to actual circumstance -- and should Morpheus give you the red pill, and should you awake in Zion upon taking it, well, you'd have to take that into consideration and perhaps readjust some of your other conclusions.

We should ask what would constitute evidence for the world being a "simulation" that would not rely upon a claim to some other, presumably non-simulated evidence, for the sake of comparison -- an appeal to some "real reality," as with respect to waking in Zion, acquiring game-breaking superpowers, observing green lines of binary code falling through the sky, or etc. Without any such evidence (apart from that which our imagination can conceive, which seems almost boundless), speculation about the potential reality of such things (let alone giving them any level of credence) seems arbitrary at best, and something much more sinister at worst. At least the people who propose the Flying Spaghetti Monster understand that they're making a joke... I think...

And honestly, even a proposed simulation is as "real" as anything else: the Matrix is solid evidence for that which produces it; this conversation we're having right now is real, is reality, and is reflective of the people producing it (and the technology allowing for it), even if it isn't the meat-space event that our predecessors would have considered (and sometimes still refer to as) "real life." And we are brains in a vat, in a sense -- it's just that the "vat" in question looks like what we see in the mirror, according to the evidence we currently have.

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On 3/24/2022 at 10:19 PM, Marvin said:

But what if you're an objectivist who encounters the simulation argument and decides there's more evidence that the world is a simulation than real, is he then still an objectivist or what'd happen exactly?

I have nothing to add to the earlier remarks here (nicely done, guys) except that the only "good arguments" I've heard for the simulation hypothesis follow the same chain of statistical reasoning which the Drake Equation does.

To wit: if there is thus-and-such a chance that we could potentially simulate a human brain, and thus-and-such a chance that we'd want to (&etc) then eventually it becomes statistically more likely that we're living in a simulation than in reality.  Well, that's a "good" argument since none of its points can be immediately disproven outright, and the Drake Equation is a "good" equation in precisely the same way.  If there is thus-and-such number of potentially habitable planets in our galaxy and thus-and-such number of them contain life and thus-and-such number of life forms become sentient in the way we are (&etc).

The Drake Equation can't be disproven; it can be useful, provided that you actually know which percentages to put into it (which we currently don't).  The statistical argument for simulation theory works in precisely the same way: it's not inherently false and could be just as useful as the numbers you plug into it.  Which we currently don't really know.  And just as we've yet to find any evidence of a single extraterrestrial intelligence I wouldn't worry too much about being part of The Matrix (at least until we know which numbers belong where, in those equations).

 

If that's not the good argument you've heard for the simulation hypothesis then I'd love to hear what it was!

 

In the words of Mark Twain: "There are lies, damned lies and statistics".

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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