[FoRK] Philosophy, for whoever needs it

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net
Mon Jun 23 11:53:06 PDT 2008

+1, clearly put.  So, the first questions are: How, in concrete terms, 
would I be able to prove that you were wrong?  Why isn't a more mundane 
explanation good enough to believe instead?

Perhaps Objectivism has a good place as an introduction to certain ideas 
in their simplified, immature form.  Many seem to latch onto it in 
college and for a while after.  Perhaps it is the Santa Claus of philosophy.


Jeff Bone wrote:
> Dr. Ernie and I have been having an offline discussion and with some 
> pressure from him I made some clarifying statements about my 
> philosophical / epistemological / what have you assumptions.  He has 
> suggested that this might be useful (have no idea how or why) for the 
> list as a whole, so with a few clarifying edits and other corrections, 
> here goes.
> -- 
> Begin forwarded message:
> From: Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org>
> Date: June 23, 2008 10:50:27 AM CDT
> To: Dr. Ernie Prabhakar <drernie at radicalcentrism.org>
> Subject: Re: [FoRK] Sanity from... YOU?  Ha...
> On Jun 23, 2008, at 10:07 AM, Dr. Ernie Prabhakar wrote:
>> Hi Jeff,
>> On Jun 23, 2008, at 7:57 AM, Jeff Bone wrote:
>>> Oh, come on, give me a break Dr. Ernie.  What do *you* call the 
>>> system of approaching reality that proceeds *solely* from the 
>>> evidence of the senses and the application of --- well, I would say 
>>> "reason" but apparently you have a more expansive definition of 
>>> that, and it would be circular anyway, so --- logic, methodical 
>>> thinking, rigorous standards of evidence, non-proliferation of 
>>> unnecessary entities, rejection of conjecture that's not based on 
>>> concrete, reproducible, objective, universal evidence, etc?
>> Um, I think I would call that Objectivism, or Logical Positivism.  Is 
>> that what you are espousing?
>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objectivism_(Ayn_Rand)
> NO on "Objectivism."
> Have you even READ any of that stuff?  I would have considered myself 
> a member of that camp for many years, but extricated myself from it 
> several years ago.  What I'm talking about is pure epistemology.  
> Objectivism is a political religion disguised as bad philosophy.  (In 
> the strict sense, it is a religion.  It has two gods:  mind and 
> money.)  It proceeds ostensibly from rationalism and empiricism, but 
> makes strong statements which I disagree with about the means of 
> connecting reality and knowledge, not to mention its expansive and 
> often ill-supported forays into political philosophy, ethics, etc.  I 
> don't necessarily disagree with many of its conclusions, but it is 
> definitely NOT an epistemological framework and OFTEN does not 
> adequately get from premise to conclusion under any rigorous 
> epistemological method I can accept.
> Logical positivism is a better description of the epistemological 
> framework(s) which I can accept, unfortunately it introduces a number 
> of additional features that aren't necessary to what I'm talking 
> about;  it is IMHO overly concerned with various aspects of 
> metaphysics, language, and so on. (Not a big fan of Wittgenstein, 
> either.)
> If you want to use historical terms of philosophy, I'm espousing 
> rationalism and empiricism in their non-exclusive and strong senses, 
> and these motivate the adoption of the scientific method as the most 
> reliable way of obtaining common knowledge.  Beyond that, I'm not 
> taking any strong philosophical stand.  I'm also not insisting on 
> either reductionism nor physical implementation of the method;  others 
> means, including the purely rationalist, work just as well.  However 
> (I claim) no valid rationalist gedankenexperiment can proceed from 
> entities that have not been previously established by either 
> constructive or empirical means.
> I'm constructivist in my mathematics (which should give you some clue 
> as to how *not* to attempt to prove the existence of divinity) --- for 
> example, I am skeptical of the usual uses of the law of the excluded 
> middle --- though in informal argument I often blithely ignore that 
> fact.  I am loosely speaking an intuitionist;  in both mathematics and 
> general philosophy I reject Platonism out-of-hand.  Having said that, 
> I do believe in the possibility of impossibility theorems, but believe 
> that most forms of such things to date may be flawed.
> Popper's critical rationalism is closest to my own opinion with 
> respect to metaphysical claims.  Either such claims are empirically 
> falsifiable, and hence within the realm of rationalism and empirical 
> knowledge, or they are not, in which case I have no use for them and 
> grant them no epistemological standing whatever.  This is the grounds 
> on which I reject your --- or anyone's --- statements about the 
> existence or nature of a divinity.  You haven't presented me with 
> anything falsifiable.  Note that this Popperian stance is in contrast 
> to the usual logical positivism;  for example, critical rationalism 
> attaches no special importance to the predictive power of a theory;  
> such predictions say nothing about the truth or falsity of a 
> hypothesis in any strong (absolute) sense.
> This, I suspect, is where most people get confused and annoyed with 
> me.  I recognize two different classes of truth, and I'm often not 
> very careful in discussion about distinguishing between them or 
> between the methods used to arrive at them.  I distinguish between the 
> "absolutely true" --- not in a Platonic sense of absolute, but in the 
> sense of knowledge gained by the application of critical rationalism 
> --- and the merely probably-true, i.e., knowledge gained on the basis 
> of logical positivist reason and e.g. the predictive power of a 
> theory.  So when I discount divinity out of hand, that's my critical 
> rationalist speaking --- I'm rejecting the claims because they cannot 
> be falsified, therefore they have no epistemological standing 
> whatsoever.  Something that can be but has not been falsified, which 
> is further positively supported (e.g. through establishing a track 
> record of predictive capacity) has a kind of Bayesian epistemological 
> standing in proportion to the degree to which it has been supported.
> Most scientific knowledge --- or rather, most positive knowledge of 
> any kind, IMHO --- falls into the latter category.  Very few ideas, 
> and almost no positive ideas, fall into the former camp.  But the ones 
> that do, do with certainty.
> jb
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