Skepticism is a Problem for the Pragmatist
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08-02-2017, 09:42 AM
Skepticism is a Problem for the Pragmatist
Sources: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism/
http://www.iep.utm.edu/skepcont/

Pragmatism holds that whatever works is what is true. But the skeptic can show how this view reduces to subjectivism. The skeptic can ask questions like "how do you know what works". They can ask how you are able to falsify anything if you can't verify anything. If the pragmatists answer to these questions is simply that their system works, then they have begged the question. They have assumed they can use their senses to show that something is true about reality external to themselves. But that is the exact claim in question. How does the pragmatist know their senses are reliable? To say that their senses are reliable because we know they work is to appeal to information gained through the senses in order to verify their reliability. This question-begging attempt at a solution shows that the pragmatist is ultimately arguing that reality is subservient to their subjective view. Under pragmatism, a proposition is true if it appeals to the subjects senses. This opens the door for skepticism. If you cannot verify your own or anything's physical existence, then you can't even begin to argue about the physical.

"I think part of the appeal of mathematical logic is that the formulas look mysterious - you write backward Es!" - Hilary Putnam
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08-02-2017, 10:03 AM
RE: Skepticism is a Problem for the Pragmatist
(08-02-2017 09:42 AM)Naielis Wrote:  Sources: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism/
http://www.iep.utm.edu/skepcont/

Pragmatism holds that whatever works is what is true. But the skeptic can show how this view reduces to subjectivism. The skeptic can ask questions like "how do you know what works". They can ask how you are able to falsify anything if you can't verify anything. If the pragmatists answer to these questions is simply that their system works, then they have begged the question. They have assumed they can use their senses to show that something is true about reality external to themselves. But that is the exact claim in question. How does the pragmatist know their senses are reliable? To say that their senses are reliable because we know they work is to appeal to information gained through the senses in order to verify their reliability. This question-begging attempt at a solution shows that the pragmatist is ultimately arguing that reality is subservient to their subjective view. Under pragmatism, a proposition is true if it appeals to the subjects senses. This opens the door for skepticism. If you cannot verify your own or anything's physical existence, then you can't even begin to argue about the physical.

No it's not question begging unless one attempts to validate the reliability of the senses by means of a deductive proof, but any such proof would depend upon the reliability of the senses so it's unclear why anyone would require this to be proved in the first place. But validation is a concept wider than proof. We can also gain knowledge of reality by direct perception. This is where all knowledge begins, with perception. That's our starting point and in my philosophy, Objectivism, we begin by starting with the perceptually self evident facts that there is a reality, that we are aware of it and that to exist is to be something specific, A is A. Since these fundamental truths are available to us at the perceptual level, no proof is necessary and since these truths are so fundamental that means they are conceptually irreducible. They don't rest on any prior knowledge and so are not inferred but simply recognized. The validity of the senses is axiomatic since the concept of consciousness is axiomatic, i.e., it is implicit in all knowledge since all knowledge involves some consciousness which is aware of some objects external to itself.

To attempt to prove the reliability of the senses would commit the fallacy of the stolen concept. There can not be an infinite regress of validation. We must begin with the first self evident fact, that existence exists rather than to commit the conceptual error that results from asking for proof of this fact. That is how the infinite regress is stopped in its tracks.

Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. - Ayn Rand.

Don't sacrifice for me, live for yourself! - Me

The only alternative to Objectivism is some form of Subjectivism. - Dawson Bethrick
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08-02-2017, 10:12 AM
RE: Skepticism is a Problem for the Pragmatist
(08-02-2017 09:42 AM)Naielis Wrote:  Pragmatism holds that whatever works is what is true.

No, pragmatism holds that whatever works is useful.

(08-02-2017 09:42 AM)Naielis Wrote:  But the skeptic can show how this view reduces to subjectivism. The skeptic can ask questions like "how do you know what works". They can ask how you are able to falsify anything if you can't verify anything. If the pragmatists answer to these questions is simply that their system works, then they have begged the question.

But that isn't the answer.

(08-02-2017 09:42 AM)Naielis Wrote:  How does the pragmatist know their senses are reliable?

By having functional definitions.

We know that we exist. We know that we sense something, and that this something is external to us. This is the universe.

None of this is debatable. It is a matter of semantics, not argument; any functional definition of the terms above results in this conclusion.

From there, the only thing necessary in order for us to gather information about the universe through our senses is that our sensory input is not random. It does not have to be "accurate", or show us the "true nature of reality", or anything else - so long as Input A results in Sense A, we can use that to construct a functioning model of the thing being sensed.

Again, this is not actually an argument. It is merely a matter of semantics. And the most common objection to it, from the solipsist, is just playing games with those same semantics - "How do you know you're actually sensing the real Thing A?"

The answer is "By definition. We're sensing it. The thing being sensed is what is being sensed."

Yes, it really is that trivial.

(08-02-2017 09:42 AM)Naielis Wrote:  If you cannot verify your own or anything's physical existence, then you can't even begin to argue about the physical.

If you cannot argue your own or anything's physical existence, then you do not have functional definitions.

"Owl," said Rabbit shortly, "you and I have brains. The others have fluff. If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest - and when I say thinking I mean thinking - you and I must do it."
- A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
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08-02-2017, 10:43 AM
RE: Skepticism is a Problem for the Pragmatist
(08-02-2017 09:42 AM)Naielis Wrote:  Pragmatism holds that whatever works is what is true.

There are different schools of thought. William James was no fan of the Schiller or Dewey school.

"Schiller says the truth is that which 'works.' Thereupon he is treated as one who limits verification to the lowest material utilities. Dewey says truth is what gives 'satisfaction'! He is treated as one who believes in calling everything true which, if it were true, would be pleasant. " - James

#sigh
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08-02-2017, 10:55 AM
RE: Skepticism is a Problem for the Pragmatist
(08-02-2017 10:03 AM)true scotsman Wrote:  No it's not question begging unless one attempts to validate the reliability of the senses by means of a deductive proof, but any such proof would depend upon the reliability of the senses so it's unclear why anyone would require this to be proved in the first place. But validation is a concept wider than proof. We can also gain knowledge of reality by direct perception. This is where all knowledge begins, with perception. That's our starting point and in my philosophy, Objectivism, we begin by starting with the perceptually self evident facts that there is a reality, that we are aware of it and that to exist is to be something specific, A is A. Since these fundamental truths are available to us at the perceptual level, no proof is necessary and since these truths are so fundamental that means they are conceptually irreducible. They don't rest on any prior knowledge and so are not inferred but simply recognized. The validity of the senses is axiomatic since the concept of consciousness is axiomatic, i.e., it is implicit in all knowledge since all knowledge involves some consciousness which is aware of some objects external to itself.

To attempt to prove the reliability of the senses would commit the fallacy of the stolen concept. There can not be an infinite regress of validation. We must begin with the first self evident fact, that existence exists rather than to commit the conceptual error that results from asking for proof of this fact. That is how the infinite regress is stopped in its tracks.

Well I'm not exactly sure how you're using perception here. Are you saying we begin with observable truths? It seems you're saying we begin with self-evident truths. But I'm confused by your use of "perception" which is generally meant to refer to senses. If you're saying there are truths immediately apprehended by the intellect or functioning mind, then I'd agree. But I think the objectivity of reality is a secondary principle. I think epistemology has to start with the ontology of the mind rather than starting with the external world. We can work outwards from our mind. The first principles I would propose are 1) our own existence and 2) the reliability of our reasoning. The objectivity of an external reality follows immediately from these. Anything that you cannot introspect into is external. From these principles I can establish an infallibilist view of knowledge where epistemic certainty is maintained throughout my foundation. With the pragmatist first principles, infallibilism is inevitable. Even the pragmatist's foundation is uncertain.

"I think part of the appeal of mathematical logic is that the formulas look mysterious - you write backward Es!" - Hilary Putnam
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08-02-2017, 11:03 AM
RE: Skepticism is a Problem for the Pragmatist
Who's "arguing about the physical"? I friggin' adore the physical world. It's where I keep all my stuff. Big Grin

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going downstairs to make breakfast. Then I'm going to go out to buy some milk, some gourmet cheese and perhaps a nice bottle of red wine. After that, I'm going to start a pot of vegetarian chili for afternoon snackies for relatives who are flying into town this afternoon, and tootle melodiously on my clarinet. Then, after the relatives are here and settled into their lodgings and fed, we're going to hang out with my Wednesday night community band for a few hours.

The only thing I actually need to be skeptical about is whether or not I'll get a good parking spot at the airport this afternoon. The rest -- No problem. At all.

Skepticism need not be applied universally in the sense of that pathetic "...but how do you *know* you exist?" bullcrap. I reserve it for things that are already so ridiculous that they simply aren't worth taking seriously. Life is much too short to fart around with metaphysics and supernatural woo-woo.

I'm sorry, but your beliefs are much too silly to take seriously. Got anything else we can discuss?
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08-02-2017, 11:03 AM
RE: Skepticism is a Problem for the Pragmatist
(08-02-2017 10:12 AM)Unbeliever Wrote:  No, pragmatism holds that whatever works is useful.


Well I'm working from Rorty's pragmatism mostly.

Quote:By having functional definitions.

We know that we exist. We know that we sense something, and that this something is external to us. This is the universe.

None of this is debatable. It is a matter of semantics, not argument; any functional definition of the terms above results in this conclusion.

I don't see how definitions solve the problem skepticism poses. How do you know the universe is the thing that is external to you? That seems to just be assumed. Everything after this is irrelevant unless you can justify this leap.

"I think part of the appeal of mathematical logic is that the formulas look mysterious - you write backward Es!" - Hilary Putnam
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08-02-2017, 11:03 AM
RE: Skepticism is a Problem for the Pragmatist
(08-02-2017 10:12 AM)Unbeliever Wrote:  No, pragmatism holds that whatever works is useful.


Well I'm working from Rorty's pragmatism mostly.

Quote:By having functional definitions.

We know that we exist. We know that we sense something, and that this something is external to us. This is the universe.

None of this is debatable. It is a matter of semantics, not argument; any functional definition of the terms above results in this conclusion.

I don't see how definitions solve the problem skepticism poses. How do you know the universe is the thing that is external to you? That seems to just be assumed. Everything after this is irrelevant unless you can justify this leap.

"I think part of the appeal of mathematical logic is that the formulas look mysterious - you write backward Es!" - Hilary Putnam
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08-02-2017, 11:21 AM
RE: Skepticism is a Problem for the Pragmatist
(08-02-2017 11:03 AM)Astreja Wrote:  Who's "arguing about the physical"? I friggin' adore the physical world. It's where I keep all my stuff. Big Grin

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going downstairs to make breakfast. Then I'm going to go out to buy some milk, some gourmet cheese and perhaps a nice bottle of red wine. After that, I'm going to start a pot of vegetarian chili for afternoon snackies for relatives who are flying into town this afternoon, and tootle melodiously on my clarinet. Then, after the relatives are here and settled into their lodgings and fed, we're going to hang out with my Wednesday night community band for a few hours.

The only thing I actually need to be skeptical about is whether or not I'll get a good parking spot at the airport this afternoon. The rest -- No problem. At all.

Skepticism need not be applied universally in the sense of that pathetic "...but how do you *know* you exist?" bullcrap. I reserve it for things that are already so ridiculous that they simply aren't worth taking seriously. Life is much too short to fart around with metaphysics and supernatural woo-woo.

Skepticism fails if you have a coherent worldview from which you can form responses. But just listing things and actions you perceive doesn't avoid the skepticism. Calling skeptical analysis "bullcrap" without backing doesn't either. It seems your argument is essentially just saying we should ignore skepticism. Which is quite honest I guess. But if you care about reality, I think it's more useful to engage arguments instead of brushing them off. Life is much too short to waste time smearing philosophy.

"I think part of the appeal of mathematical logic is that the formulas look mysterious - you write backward Es!" - Hilary Putnam
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08-02-2017, 11:26 AM
RE: Skepticism is a Problem for the Pragmatist
(08-02-2017 10:55 AM)Naielis Wrote:  
(08-02-2017 10:03 AM)true scotsman Wrote:  No it's not question begging unless one attempts to validate the reliability of the senses by means of a deductive proof, but any such proof would depend upon the reliability of the senses so it's unclear why anyone would require this to be proved in the first place. But validation is a concept wider than proof. We can also gain knowledge of reality by direct perception. This is where all knowledge begins, with perception. That's our starting point and in my philosophy, Objectivism, we begin by starting with the perceptually self evident facts that there is a reality, that we are aware of it and that to exist is to be something specific, A is A. Since these fundamental truths are available to us at the perceptual level, no proof is necessary and since these truths are so fundamental that means they are conceptually irreducible. They don't rest on any prior knowledge and so are not inferred but simply recognized. The validity of the senses is axiomatic since the concept of consciousness is axiomatic, i.e., it is implicit in all knowledge since all knowledge involves some consciousness which is aware of some objects external to itself.

To attempt to prove the reliability of the senses would commit the fallacy of the stolen concept. There can not be an infinite regress of validation. We must begin with the first self evident fact, that existence exists rather than to commit the conceptual error that results from asking for proof of this fact. That is how the infinite regress is stopped in its tracks.

Well I'm not exactly sure how you're using perception here. Are you saying we begin with observable truths? It seems you're saying we begin with self-evident truths. But I'm confused by your use of "perception" which is generally meant to refer to senses. If you're saying there are truths immediately apprehended by the intellect or functioning mind, then I'd agree. But I think the objectivity of reality is a secondary principle. I think epistemology has to start with the ontology of the mind rather than starting with the external world. We can work outwards from our mind. The first principles I would propose are 1) our own existence and 2) the reliability of our reasoning. The objectivity of an external reality follows immediately from these. Anything that you cannot introspect into is external. From these principles I can establish an infallibilist view of knowledge where epistemic certainty is maintained throughout my foundation. With the pragmatist first principles, infallibilism is inevitable. Even the pragmatist's foundation is uncertain.

I'm saying we begin our knowledge with the senses yes. perception is how we are aware of objects. Reason identifies and integrates what our senses bring in. Epistemology must begin where knowledge begins, with sense perception. The "ontology of the mind" comes much later and the three axioms that I mentioned are implicit in the concepts "ontology" and "mind". Also "ontology of the mind" is not conceptually irreducible. It depends on prior knowledge, i.e., ultimately, the axioms existence, identity and consciousness. The objectivity of reality is a corollary to these axioms. It's root principle, the primacy of existence, is entailed by the three basic axioms. It is also an axiom, i.e. it is a fact that is implicit in all knowledge. Consider, in order to consider anything one must exist and one must have an object to consider. And, that object must be something specific (identity) and one must have consciousness in order to consider any objects. It follows from these three principles that the objects of consciousness exist and are what they are independent of the activity (consciousness) by which the subject is aware of them. In other words "wishing won't make it so". If we are to have knowledge of reality then the contents of consciousness must conform to reality. Reality does not conform to the activity of consciousness. Next time you cut yourself shaving try wishing that the cut would instantly heal itself. It won't because reality has primacy over consciousness.

It is the axioms which ground our knowledge in certainty. They are undeniably true. They would have to be true in order to deny them. But any denial would be self-refuting. I think you're right that pragmatists have a problem. That's why I'm not a pragmatist but I'm also not a skeptic. I do believe that knowledge is possible, certainty (within a context) is possible and the axioms and the primacy of existence are my starting point, not any theory of mind or other conceptually reducible proposition.

Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. - Ayn Rand.

Don't sacrifice for me, live for yourself! - Me

The only alternative to Objectivism is some form of Subjectivism. - Dawson Bethrick
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