How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

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glassynails
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How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

Post by glassynails » Thu Mar 09, 2017 6:25 am

I was driving in my car the other day thinking about physics and things and I was wondering about reality and what we see, hear, sense, perceive and then use our mind to form logical answers, etc. I was wondering about things like the standard "Why can't we understand that something can not have a beginning and have always existed"?, "Where does the universe end and what's after that?" - things I've always wondered since I was a kid and of course have never found an answer to.

Then I began to wonder about our minds and maybe the reason that we can't fathom ideas like these is because our minds are not capable of understanding these issues. I realize that this is also a standard answer given by many people before me. But how can we even really know that our minds either can or can't understand these concepts? How could we test that our minds could know? What benchmark could we even use to test that what we perceive and/or figure out logically with our minds is even correct?

For example, all of our senses tell us that we are alive and we exist on planet Earth, that if I touch a hot burner my hand will burn and I'll feel pain. As far a I know I'll really "feel" pain if I touch a hot burner, but how do I really KNOW that what I feel is real and that it's REALLY happening and not just a dream? Even if my hand eventually burned off and I went into shock and died I really could not "know" what really happened or that anything ever happened at all.

When I talk to someone in the grocery store I can see and hear them and touch them. All of my senses tell me that they are there and that I am talking to them, but how do I even know that the statement I just made is true? How do I know that "all of my senses tell me that they're really there" How do I know that I really exist that even I am really there? I can never really know these things I suppose.

Even all of the laws of physics and such can never really be trusted and maybe that's why quantum physics is so "weird". Not that I claim to really know anything about quantum physics lol.

I realize I've posted things like this before, but I think this is a real issue that people really never take into account. The average person just assumes that we exist, that the sky is blue, that they are alive. They really cannot KNOW that they are these things, they can only assume or say "as far as I know I think or perceive these things".

It's like the age old question of "other minds" I believe. It's the same thing. How do really know that other people exist and that we are not just dreaming? I think the answer is that we cannot really know these things and never really will be able to.

Even if we did figure out how it was possible that the Universe could have always existed and "never had a beginning" we still really don't KNOW that, we really can never KNOW that there's a real thing even called a Universe or even things called "beginnings" or "ends".

I think it's why we can't and never will figure things out like "Why is there gravity" and "Why is there something rather than nothing". How do we really know that there's even really something at all? We can never really know, we can only assume and say that "as far as I know".

As cliche as maybe ridiculous to the average person that goes about their daily lives, just like I also do of course, as these things seem, I think they are real issues. We can never really know if things are real and we can never really trust our minds. We can never assume that we really know anything at all. I was reading somewhere that not only does time not exist, but also space itself does not exist either. The average person would say that both of those statements are incorrect and that both time and space exist, but there's no hard way to test if they really exist because we are relying on our minds to make these judgments and we can't even know that our minds exist or what they tell us is really logical at all. We can't even really rely on our senses either.

Who was it that said - "When you know that you know that you know"
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Re: How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

Post by JohannesO » Thu Mar 09, 2017 11:26 am

Hi glassynails,
This is indeed very philosophical thinking, and I would say, as far as I know, your questions are fundamental and not easy to answer.
Descartes, long ago, found in the end one possible answer: when I doubt, I know that I think, so I know that I do exist. ("Dubito, cogito, ergo sum.")
For the laws of physics: there is a lot of a priori thinking, assuming the existence and reality of time, and space, and causality (as Kant found out), but many philosophers since Plato considered that we only can see a part of reality. As a studied physicist, I do not object to that.
And already Socrates said "I know that I know nothing".
One day in Paris, I saw a man in the Metro who believed he was a cat. Really. First I thought that he was an actor, or that he made a joke, but he just had turned completely mad, coming home from work, in a business suit. He crawled on the floor and behaved like a cat. It was frightening. For him, it was clear that he was a cat. He seemed surprised that we were all shocked.
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Re: How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

Post by rojarosguitar » Thu Mar 09, 2017 11:36 am

You can't know it. Either you trust or not. And while trusting you can be right or wrong.
Music is a big continent with different landscapes and corners. Some of them I do visit frequently, some from time to time and some I know from hearsay only ...

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Re: How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

Post by Smudger5150 » Thu Mar 09, 2017 11:51 am

Very interesting topic but no definitive answer to any of this - just a lot of food for thought.
Did make me think about the theories of self and individualism and how we perceive the world. Wandered off to wikipedia to have a introductory read of these topics.
Also makes me think of the idea of faith when we talk about trust.
But of course, the whole universe is a simulation isn't it? :-
http://www.space.com/32543-universe-a-s ... ebate.html
So maybe if I ask the simulators nicely then I can instantly download virtuoso level guitar abilities!!
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Re: How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

Post by PeteJ » Thu Mar 09, 2017 12:31 pm

Great post Glassy.

I greatly respect your admission of doubt and wish more folk would consider how little they actually know. But you are being too pessimistic. These things can be known and are known. It is just that our education system is completely hopeless.

Consider just this. The Perennial philosophy has made the same claims about time, space, existence, ontology, epistemology and ethics for three millennia at least. In all this time it has not had to alter one word of these claims. and they are more consistent with physics now than when Newton ruled the roost. They are not secret or unknown but these days are being made all over youtube.

This cannot be luck. To claim that time and space are unreal a thousand years before the birth of Christ is a significant hostage to fortune. It is a claim based on knowledge and there never was a chance it could be refuted. These things CAN be known. And if we do not actually know them ourselves we can work them out in logic.

The problem is that university philosophy is a shambles and people see this as a philosophical problem. It's not. It's an institutional problem. Philosophy works just fine, and you yourself could do better than most professors if you abandon their endless sophistry and lack of honesty and courage.

I can't yet refer you to my book, that's five years away, but would be happy to discuss the Perennial explanation for existence, space-time, the limits of knowledge etc. I just don't want to come across as evangelicising on a guitar forum since some folk will see this view as religious, which in a sense it is.

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Re: How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

Post by gitgeezer » Thu Mar 09, 2017 5:21 pm

There are five rules for revealing the truth of all this. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

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Re: How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

Post by twang » Fri Mar 10, 2017 12:03 am

You don't. You should always treat what you know with suspicion. Every time you find something that doesn't fit you need to be prepared to expand or modify your understanding.

That said, you are in danger of taking the question too far and considering it out of context or in a vacuum. Your perceptions and knowledge have an inherent nature and a purpose. Maybe life is all illusion, or maybe reality is distorted by the senses, or maybe what you see is only a the pale shadow of reality cast on a cave wall, or a hundred other possibilities philosophers have proposed over the centuries. Recognize all that for the sophistry it is.

There's a simple test. Assume the proposal is true or false, then ask yourself, "so what?"; what you would do differently or how you would live your life differently? A classic example is the question of free will-- are you going to believe in it or not? It doesn't matter if you have it or not, are you going to believe you do? Try acting as if there isn't any; what would that even mean? If you touch a hot burner, don't stand there asking if your mind is playing tricks on you, or if you're dreaming; none of that matters, take your hand away!

Your mind is a tool to help you live your life and to find your purpose here on earth. Understand its nature, it capabilities and it limits but don't ask what it could do if it was something else.
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Re: How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

Post by PeteJ » Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:26 am

Perhaps it would be revealing to consider why the question needs asking. Perceptions are obviously dodgy but I wonder, Glassynails, what in particular leads you to question logic.

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Re: How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

Post by Andrew Pohlman » Fri Mar 10, 2017 6:53 pm

You can't know some things as a human. We are limited by our senses, and how they get faked out. We are limited by comprehension. We can model what we can't perceive. But KNOW things? Maybe or maybe not.

In this regard, I am very pragmatic. I like being human. I accept my limitations. I wonder about what I cannot perceive. I explore what I don't yet know. Are some things unknowable by humans? I think so. We have too many limitations being 3 dimensional critters in a multidimensional universe. But I place a high value on kissing my hunny bunny and snuggling up at night - a very animalistic endeavor, in which space-time plays no immediate role.
Last edited by Andrew Pohlman on Fri Mar 10, 2017 8:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

Post by Andrew Pohlman » Fri Mar 10, 2017 8:33 pm

Hey Glassy - sorry for the double post, but I reread the first post and have some more thoughts.

First off, realize that "reality" goes far beyond our ability to sense it. But our mechanical and electronic machines can certainly test and measure what our biological machinery cannot. These are the areas that we may never truly "know".

As far as what human senses allow us to experience, and the extent to which our bodies allow us to interact with our environment, I'm totally okay accepting that "human reality" is a distorted subset of "true reality". But, we can corroborate what we experience as being real via machinery and consensus. For example, we test our retina cones for sensitivity to blue. We have a machine produce light that stimulates the "blue cones". Then see if other humans agree they see blue. This kind of reality is our day to day human existence.

Now - we cannot tell the difference between external stimuli from the natural world and stimuli from electrodes carefully placed inside the brain. It can easily be proved that our reality happens in the brain. If the sensory input if faked, it still looks and feels like reality. Schizophrenic hallucinations are internally produced stimulation of the brain, and manifest as unseen persons, or monsters, that appear to be perfectly real.

So normally functioning humans sense a consensus of reality, barring fake external stimuli and disease. Otherwise, just assume we are all cyber entities involved in a grand social experiment inside an alien computer - we don't exist at all. And being an alien cyber entity, I'll execute my programming. Either way, I'm having dinner with family and friends tomorrow, with a nice bottle of Zinfandel. Mmmm ... Zinfandel...

But wait - are the aliens real ?
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Re: How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

Post by Erik Zurcher » Fri Mar 10, 2017 9:57 pm

Suppose we sit opposite each other, between us a rose in vase. We both agree that we observe a rose, because that is the name we gave to it. You see one side, I see the other. We both observe the same rose but only from our own perspective. When the rose is gone, we can still talk about the rose, but now about an abstract rose, the idea of it we both had. Any wiser?
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Re: How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

Post by glassynails » Sat Mar 11, 2017 2:20 am

Erik Zurcher wrote:Suppose we sit opposite each other, between us a rose in vase. We both agree that we observe a rose, because that is the name we gave to it. You see one side, I see the other. We both observe the same rose but only from our own perspective. When the rose is gone, we can still talk about the rose, but now about an abstract rose, the idea of it we both had. Any wiser?
Yes Eric, but how do I know that what I see in front of me is "real" and not an illusion? How would I know that you are real and are not just part of a dream? Yes, I see the rose and as far as my senses tell me, you see it also, but I have no way of knowing that what you tell me you see is true or not and I also cannot really know for sure that you are real and sitting there in front of me telling me you see the rose.

There is no way for me to really trust anything that I experience in this life. I'm only conscious "as far as I can tell" and I experience life, but I have no way to ever know that what I "experience" every day is real and not just a dream. That's my point.

I can theoretically see a brick wall in front of me. I can touch it, see it, and walk into it, but the only way I know anything about the wall is via my senses and my mind (if they even really exist also) interpreting what my senses tell me about the wall. Just because I walk up to the wall and can no longer walk through the wall and my body stops there I can never really determine that what my senses and mind tell me is happening is really happening. I could somehow be being tricked into thinking there's a wall there and there really isn't. I could also be being tricked into thinking that I exist by something external to myself. I could be being tricked into thinking that there is and "I" at all and that I am here typing this from inside a body. We can never really know what reality is.
"GLASSYNAILS" on Youtoob for my "no edit" - "no fakery" audio recordings. Just me, my Alhambra 7p spruce, and an Olympus ls-10 portable recorder.

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Re: How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

Post by gitgeezer » Sat Mar 11, 2017 3:45 am

I recently took a course in Cosmology from Dr. Loris Magnani, Professor of Astronomy at the University of Georgia. He steadfastly refused to be drawn into discussions of such topics as what existed before the big bang and whether there's only one universe or multiple universes. His reasoning was that as a scientist, he could only deal with evidence and there is no evidence related to these questions. When a member of the class would bring up a recent idea in such subjects, his answer was always, "it's just speculation."

This experience has helped me categorize types of questions:

1. Questions for which there is good evidence and, through rigorous testing involving observation and/or experimentation, have developed reasonable answers for which there is a broad consensus in the scientific community.

2. Questions for which there is sufficient evidence to develop hypotheses but not sufficient evidence to determine which, if any, hypothesis is the correct one.

3. Questions for which relevant evidence is lacking now, but there is reasonable expectations of finding or developing such evidence in the future.

4. Questions for which we must accept that evidence may forever be hidden to us (here's where the pre-big-bang and the multiverse come in).

Next there is the issue of what we are capable of understanding. If we can't understand (or comprehend) something, it may be because:

1. there isn't enough reliable information to allow understanding.

2. it's "just speculation" and no one truly understands it.

3. the way we have classically defined reality no longer suffices and we need to come to terms with a new reality.

4. we're asking the wrong question. "What do extra dimensions look like?" Some would say that's the wrong question.

5. there is no absolute answer. As Max Born said, 'ideas such as absolute certitude, absolute exactness, final truth, etc. are figments of the imagination which should not be admissible in any field of science."

6. our feeble human brains are not capable of grasping it. This point of view was fostered by the old Star Trek series, where Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock meet aliens with huge heads and super intelligence who can outthink humans and even Mr. Spock.

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Re: How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

Post by Marshall Dixon » Sat Mar 11, 2017 6:57 am

An expression I heard as a child: don't believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see.

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Re: How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

Post by PeteJ » Sat Mar 11, 2017 11:33 am

Andrew Pohlman wrote:Hey Glassy - sorry for the double post, but I reread the first post and have some more thoughts.

First off, realize that "reality" goes far beyond our ability to sense it.
Yes, but fortunately we are not entirely reliant on our senses.

If we think that sensory information is all we have to work with then we will have little hope for knowledge.

It is easy to spot the correlation between having the idea that sensory information is all that counts and having the idea that we cannot know much.

I believe we can know everything worth knowing and everything that can be known.

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