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

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

Postby Jeffrey Armbruster » Sun Mar 12, 2017 3:56 am

There's a line of Poetry by Pound: "wring lillies from the acorn". He's indicating what poets and novelists do. We understand what he's saying--the acorn is plain reality. But none of the words that he uses have anything to do with his meaning. In short he conveys an abstract idea succinctly through a metaphor--actually a double metaphor. And this abstract idea is conveyed through concrete sensual images.
Aquinas argued that all of our abstract concepts, where we find Truth, always revert to sensual images in order to be understood. Kant said the same thing: our abstract thoughts are built up from the ground,as it were; sensibly perceived things. We understand universal truths through concrete instances. We don't understand Beauty but we do find it in a canvass by Vermeer or a poem by Yeats.

all of this is relevant to Glassy's question, I think, because he's asking 'how do know that what we sense is true?'. and by that we must mean, True universally. But we may only know particular things. Which means we only know aspects of things. Other aspects escape us. But language helps--or deceives!--by bringing particular things into seemingly universal concepts. Language is detached from the particular instances that it names. It names all roses, not a particular rose.

So our language gathers roses that have no scent. It's the best we can do.
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FHC
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Re: How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

Postby FHC » Sun Mar 12, 2017 11:16 am

We need an objective standard outside ourselves.

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

Postby PeteJ » Sun Mar 12, 2017 2:03 pm

gitgeezer wrote: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."


Good for him. I wish all scientists took such a professional approach.

This experience has helped me categorize types of questions:


Your categories seem unnecessary to me. In the end there are scientific questions, metaphysical questions and meaningless questions,

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


Here I would strongly disagree. But Born was probably thinking only of empirical science, the observation and measurement of phenomena, in which case he would be right.

I see a lot of pessimism. In my belief system omniscience is possible. Certainly Schrodinger would not have agreed with Dr. Magnani, for he argues that we can know everything there is to know.

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

Postby PeteJ » Sun Mar 12, 2017 2:17 pm

Jeffrey Armbruster wrote:There's a line of Poetry by Pound: "wring lillies from the acorn". He's indicating what poets and novelists do. We understand what he's saying--the acorn is plain reality. But none of the words that he uses have anything to do with his meaning. In short he conveys an abstract idea succinctly through a metaphor--actually a double metaphor. And this abstract idea is conveyed through concrete sensual images.
Aquinas argued that all of our abstract concepts, where we find Truth, always revert to sensual images in order to be understood. Kant said the same thing: our abstract thoughts are built up from the ground,as it were; sensibly perceived things. We understand universal truths through concrete instances. We don't understand Beauty but we do find it in a canvass by Vermeer or a poem by Yeats.

all of this is relevant to Glassy's question, I think, because he's asking 'how do know that what we sense is true?'. and by that we must mean, True universally. But we may only know particular things. Which means we only know aspects of things. Other aspects escape us. But language helps--or deceives!--by bringing particular things into seemingly universal concepts. Language is detached from the particular instances that it names. It names all roses, not a particular rose.

So our language gathers roses that have no scent. It's the best we can do.


I fell you're coming at this from the wrong angle. Language and concepts are what limit us. If we rely entirely on them then our knowledge will be provisional. For certain knowledge we would have to go beyond language and concepts. This was Kant's message, that all mental and corporeal phenomena are creations of mind, and that for knowledge of absolutes we would have to transcend mind. He didn;t think it could be done, but three millennia's worth of meditative practitioners say it can be done.

Aristotle concluded from analysis that the only certain knowledge is 'knowledge-by-identity', by being what we know. This is the 'get-out' from all these arguments about how little we know. We can know ourselves, and if we do then we know about the Universe, time and space, origins, endings and the nature of phenomena. At first glance this may seem an implausible idea, but it is a view endorsed by some top-flight physicists. James Jeans and Schrodinger among them, and the Buddha has yet to be proved wrong.

You won't find any pessimism about knowledge in the Perennial philosophy, but it is so poorly known that pessimism usually prevails.

If we follow Kant then time and space and all it contains are conceptual imputations. If they are, then it must be possible to know this by examining our consciousness, and there must be a way seeing beyond these concepts. But we would have to get beyond language and concepts in just the way Kant suggests.

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

Postby PeteJ » Sun Mar 12, 2017 2:22 pm

FHC wrote:We need an objective standard outside ourselves.


We have one. You're assuming that you are limited, isolated being. I would argue that there is nothing outside ourselves. Not one thing. This would be the Perennial message, that only one phenomenon is real and we're all it. For forty years Schrodinger fought for this view but regrettably with little result. Still, it fits neatly with the universe as quantum fluctuation idea.

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

Postby PeteJ » Sun Mar 12, 2017 2:24 pm

PeteJ wrote:
gitgeezer wrote: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."


Good for him. I wish all scientists took such a professional approach.

This experience has helped me categorize types of questions:


Your categories seem unnecessary to me. In the end it seems true to say that the important questions are always scientific or metaphysical.

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


Here I would strongly disagree. But Born was probably thinking only of empirical science, the observation and measurement of phenomena, in which case he would be right.

I see a lot of pessimism. In my belief system omniscience is possible. Certainly Schrodinger would not have agreed with Dr. Magnani, for he argues that we can know everything there is to know.

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

Postby PeteJ » Sun Mar 12, 2017 2:24 pm

gitgeezer wrote: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."


Good for him. I wish all scientists took such a professional approach.

This experience has helped me categorize types of questions:


Your categories seem unnecessary to me. In the end it seems true to say that the important questions are always scientific or metaphysical.

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


Here I would strongly disagree. But Born was probably thinking only of empirical science, the observation and measurement of phenomena, in which case he would be right.

I see a lot of pessimism. In my belief system omniscience is possible. Certainly Schrodinger would not have agreed with Dr. Magnani, for he argues that we can know everything there is to know.

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

Postby glassynails » Sun Mar 12, 2017 5:14 pm

Something related and I posted about it in another thread. This morning while I was dosing off to sleep with the light on I awoke quickly to see a rat running across my bedroom ceiling and then disappear behind the top of the curtain. I could see the rat with my own eyes, but of course it was not really there or at least that's what I've been told. How could I possibly know that it wasn't there? To me it was real and if I hadn't read beforehand on the phenomena I would think the rat was real. The rat was most likely not reality, but to my mind and eyes within those couple od seconds it was real.
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Re: How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

Postby gitgeezer » Mon Mar 13, 2017 3:59 am

glassynails wrote:Something related and I posted about it in another thread. This morning while I was dosing off to sleep with the light on I awoke quickly to see a rat running across my bedroom ceiling and then disappear behind the top of the curtain. I could see the rat with my own eyes, but of course it was not really there or at least that's what I've been told. How could I possibly know that it wasn't there? To me it was real and if I hadn't read beforehand on the phenomena I would think the rat was real. The rat was most likely not reality, but to my mind and eyes within those couple od seconds it was real.

There are two possible explanations for your experience:

1. You were experiencing "hypnagogia," a "waking dream" in which you see things in a dream state while falling asleep or while waking up that aren't really there, then when you become fully awake you may believe for a moment that you really saw it.

2. You actually saw a rat.

If the thing you "saw" disappears altogether when you become fully alert, then it was almost certainly a case of hypnagogia.

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

Postby gitgeezer » Mon Mar 13, 2017 4:02 am

When informed of Berkeley's "immaterialism" denying the existence of matter, Samuel Johnson is said to have kicked a stone while declaring, "I refute it thus."

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

Postby Andrew Fryer » Mon Mar 13, 2017 11:19 am

Well, since you have rats on your ceiling, I guess we're on a hiding to nothing responding, lol!

But seriously, perceptions are determined by the perceiving tool, always have been. Your eyes see what your eyes see, they don't see what a microscope sees.

Part of your response to questions should be not to answer them but to decide to what degree you should care what the answer is. A teenager once whinged to me about life having no meaning, to which I well-meaningly (if bluntly) replied - you don't need to find meaning to life, you just need to stop caring that there isn't one (of course taking up guitar is known as "finding a meaning to your life" by some people, but not necessarily by philosophers).

I don't know how old you are, glassy, but I got most of that out of the way in my late teens, then in my early twenties I read R. D. Laing and realised that humans weren't philosophical entities, they and their brains are illness-prone flesh and blood (among the problems they can suffer is to be unable to stop caring that there's no meaning to life, e.g.). A lot of what philosophers have traditionally examined is far better placed in the realm of psychiatry. Do you turn the crank or does the crank turn you? This used to be considered philosophy. Nowadays, if you "know" the crank turns you, then you are probably schizophrenic.

You talk about doubting logic, but, no offence, first you have to know logic before you can doubt it. Do you?
Do you know that there only two types of statement, the existential and the universal, and that the negative of every existential statement is a universal statement, and the negative of every universal statement is an existential statement? That's lesson 1 of logic. Human language was never designed for this kind of discussion. This kind of discussion has been wrought from (the highly unqualified tool) language with much blood, sweat and tears (that's not hyperbole - think fascist propaganda) over the last 2,500 years. And rhetoric still holds sway over logic. If you don't believe me, ask yourself who POTUS is! That is part of the problem you are having with understanding how your language is describing your world.

We've suggested philosophical reading matter in the past. If you haven't read it, do so, asap, then get over it! I think you are going to face the problem that you aren't setting yourself a time-limit to your philosophicacl studies. You could go on for the rest of your life misunderstanding a problem that doesn't really exist (or you could spend the rest of your life asking us the same questions over and over again). Set yourself a 3-year timetable of reading and night-school or something. Get a formal qualification, perhaps, then see how you feel about it.

Perhaps you are under the misapprehension that philosophers understand everything, Glassy? That would be foolish. Philosophers don't study "truth", they study the human pastime known as philosophising. They study the history of philosophy. They study good and bad ways to discuss things. They study specific branches such as ethics or aesthetics. I have a friend with an MA in philosophy from Cambridge, and he, at the age of 60 now realises that all you learn when you study philosophy is how to have a good argument with someone.

I enjoyed getting that off my chest!
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Re: How do we really know that we can trust our own logic, what we perceive, etc?

Postby PeteJ » Mon Mar 13, 2017 1:03 pm

Woah. Hold on there Andrew.

Philosophers do study truth, and sometimes they find it, and it needn't take three years of study. If Glassy wanted to do so he could sort philosophy out in a matter of months - albeit that the details are endless.

The problem here as it so often is would be the way we classify these things. You speak of philosophy but you mean just Plato's tradition. This is a small part of philosophy and, as you say, it's not the part that discovers truths or solves problems.

So much pessimism. Your friend studied philosophy at Cambridge so it is not surprise he learned so little. University philosophers need to get out more. A professor of neurophysiology who understands philosophy recently opined to me that the phrase 'professional philosopher' is an oxymoron, and at this time it seems a fair criticism.

Few layman can have any idea of how absurd is the state of professional philosophy, but as more and more departments close it might start becoming obvious.

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

Postby gitgeezer » Mon Mar 13, 2017 8:57 pm

PeteJ wrote:Philosophers do study truth, and sometimes they find it

Yes, if you're talking about "natural philosophy," also called "science." But tell me one "truth" that any other form of philosophy has found.

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

Postby Mr Kite » Mon Mar 13, 2017 9:24 pm

I find that a curious statement given that scientific knowledge is generally understood to be provisional only, which is another way of saying that science does not make truth claims. Mathematics does seem to make truth claims, but I am not sure what they are true of - perhaps they are only true by definition, in which case they are not worth much. Some leap of faith seems to be required to make them (always) true of the world, but in making that leap you are no longer doing mathematics. I don't think philosophy has uncovered any truths either, unless you count the idea that there is no such thing as an objective truth, which is self-contradictory unless you are prepared to engage in special pleading.

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

Postby gitgeezer » Mon Mar 13, 2017 10:43 pm

In an earlier post I suggested that "there is no absolute answer" and quoted Max Born's statement that "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." But notice that Born is using the adjectives, "absolute" and "final." This leaves room for certitudes that are not "absolute" and truths that are not "final." Science needs certitude and truth that, though admittedly not absolute and final, is necessary to produce the foundation and confidence to move forward.

Think of the many truths that had to be accepted to make the Apollo missions possible: the true shapes and circumferences of the Earth and Moon; the truth in the method of calculating the distance to the Moon; the true gravity of the Moon; the truths in the theory of relativity that allowed the development of the interspatial navigation system that guided the missions; etc.


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