PHILOSOPHY THREAD (for rex and anyone else who cares to join)

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29 Jan 2020 00:08 #348996 by CaesarEJW

TheDude wrote: I don't think knowledge can be gained, had, or attained.

I define knowledge as "having access to truth". To say "I know x" or "I have knowledge about x" is to say, functionally, "I have access to information regarding the truth of the actual state of affairs involved with x".
I define truth as "that which corresponds with that which exists in the actual state of affairs in reality".
I define correspond as "having an accurate 1:1 relation with x".


But how can we verify "reality"? What is "reality"? Do you mean the material world? How can we prove the existence of something that we can only perceive through our senses? We only indirectly experience the material world through our senses, hence Kant's concept of the separation of the Phenomenal world (what we directly experience through our senses), and the "Noumenal" world (the reality that lies beyond our perception).

The "state of affairs" could also be interpreted differently across different cultures, what is true for one is different from another. This is known as "cultural relativism" (not something I believe in, but it makes a good point).

Something like mathematics or the simple concept "bachelors are all unmarried", that is something we know to be true without direct correspondence of reality. You don't have to personally know a bachelor to make the analytic a priori judgment that all bachelors are unmarried.

I'm not disagreeing with you, I think you actually have a good point (a very Empiricist point I might add), but would you please elaborate?

“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.” - Alan Watts

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29 Jan 2020 02:55 #348999 by Rex
So phenomenology is a thing but noumenology isn't for the simple reason that a priori knowledge is muuuuuuuuch harder to prove than one would think at first. I mean Russell's latter part of his career was just figuring out errors he'd previously made in his semi-positivist works.

"Snow is white because schnee ist weiss" where German describes the state of affairs I.e. the facts in the world assuming we can have some knowledge of qualities like color, etc. However, there is no such thing as a perfect, objective metalanguage, so we're a bit limited.

While cultural norms etc. can effect our perceptions, they don't change the external state of affairs. However, cognition/consciousness always involves an object and subject.

Ask your philosophy prof if you're going to hit pragmatism, because empiricism is a kinda antiquated paradigm. While that doesn't mean it's wrong per se, I'm also not anywhere near a philosophy expert, so your professor is more likely to be able to better explain the issues with it. In short, sensory perception theories have mostly turned into phenomenology which brackets a lot of those epistemological questions. And I doubt you'll want to dive into analytical philosophy because it's dense and honestly unrewarding.

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29 Jan 2020 12:52 #349005 by Gisteron
It should be noted here, too, that the truth and our access even to things like "All bachelors are unmarried" are not only dependent on the definitions of the labels, but on the rules of inference themselves. Sure, we can define what we mean by the terms and the relations. But try and derive "If something is both a man and unmarried, that thing is also unmarried" from first principles. Well, we could write down the truth table of the implication and of the conjunction and see that indeed, "q turns out TRUE when ever "p" is TRUE and "if p then q" is TRUE, but that's a mere statement about the properties of a function that we call truth assignment. It might as well return 1's and 0's, or greens and blues as an output. Heck, there can be logic systems where all statements are mapped to the same truth value, or to a tuple of them, or systems with more than two or a finite or a countably infinite amount of truth values...

Point being, if we don't care about practical usefulness - by what ever metric - there is pretty much no unique and consistent way to produce any kind of rational thought. The distinction between a priori and a posteriori statements really only comes about well after we have assumed a whole bunch of premises, justified at most as being "for the sake of the discussion", or some other form of practical necessity. Pragmatism is a rather easy position to defend against many a sufficiently strong pedantry, because it dismisses the fiddly and elsewise unending discussion in favour of getting on with the interesting stuff anyone has practical reasons (as opposed to intuitive, gut-level dissatisfaction) to care about, and only justifies doing so by appealing to itself, insisting that at the end of the day, everyone can't help but agree with it anyway and we might as well start with that common foundation rather than go back to forever try to re-establish it.

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29 Jan 2020 15:29 #349007 by Ganner Rhysode
I'm actually not a big fan of Western Philosophy and prefer a more Eastern approach.

To react to the first cartoon you posted, I would disagree with it. I believe that EVERYTHING has meaning, that there are no accidents or coincidences. In that sense, when you look out a window, all that you see is a beautifully balanced microcosm and macrocosm. To see it all as a blessing is the best way to look at life, no matter how terrible things might get. I know this from personal experience, incredible suffering and the thankfulness one feels when there is finally relief.

Zen has had a profound effect one me, whereas one might think it negates reality, it actually allows one to see reality as it truly is: a miracle.

The dance is all there is: from the whirls of quarks to the wheel of galaxies, all is motion.
There are only the dancers, and the dance.
All is dance.
All is.
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29 Jan 2020 16:06 #349009 by Rex
How do you know what you believe? Just because you believe in a different set of answers and suppositions doesn't mean the questions change.

Also those are from existential comics which are mostly jokes about (you guessed it) existentialism. However, since you brought up meaning, what gives existence meaning?
Is there some external measure of it: either a sort of god or objective knowable standard? Or is it subjective and a matter of us finding/imposing it? Or some third option that's just a convoluted way of restating one of those two?
Is choosing to believe something based on it's therapeutic effect a good way of judging its truthiness? I mean it would probably make me feel better if I believed that I was the most beloved person in the world, but that seems like a dangerous path to take

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29 Jan 2020 19:40 #349017 by CaesarEJW

Ganner Rhysode wrote: I'm actually not a big fan of Western Philosophy and prefer a more Eastern approach.

To react to the first cartoon you posted, I would disagree with it. I believe that EVERYTHING has meaning, that there are no accidents or coincidences. In that sense, when you look out a window, all that you see is a beautifully balanced microcosm and macrocosm. To see it all as a blessing is the best way to look at life, no matter how terrible things might get. I know this from personal experience, incredible suffering and the thankfulness one feels when there is finally relief.

Zen has had a profound effect one me, whereas one might think it negates reality, it actually allows one to see reality as it truly is: a miracle.


Yes, I love Eastern Philosophy, although, I find it much harder to understand than Western Philosophy. As far as Zen goes, that is why I love Alan Watts. He explains it in a way that Westerners can understand.

I have found that I tend to overthink quite a bit, and I tend to become unhappy, stressed, and pessimistic as a result. When I practice Zazen and mindfulness, I find quite the opposite. Everything becomes more beautiful, more profound, and life doesn't seem so small and pointless, it seems vast and beautiful, and even a speck of dirt becomes profound and gorgeous, as you think back on all the millions of year it took for that substance to develop, where it's been, how complex its molecular structure is, and then by chance, it ends up on your shoe.

Rex is absolutely correct, however. Just because something makes us feel good, does not belie any truth to the thing in of itself, other than it makes us feel good. It has a utilitarian truth, but no existential/epistemological/metaphysical truth. Or maybe it does, and we just don't understand it well enough.

“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.” - Alan Watts
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29 Jan 2020 19:55 #349019 by CaesarEJW

Rex wrote: How do you know what you believe? Just because you believe in a different set of answers and suppositions doesn't mean the questions change.


Well, you can know you believe something, but as to the truth of any belief, no matter how rigidly logical and pragmatic/utilitarian, or the opposite, something purely subjective and emotional, how could anyone ever truly prove these to another?
I find that even if something seems truthful and makes perfect sense in your own mind, trying to prove it to others is like trying to chop down a tree with a butter knife.
At a certain point, most have their own theories, their own personal philosophies, and people's opinions on any matter are as diverse as their musical taste.
I'm not saying there isn't a definite truth out there, but you are going to have a hell of a time proving it, let alone actually convincing others.
Which brings up another question. How can one determine whether another actually understands something's nature, and is not just agreeing with you?

Rex wrote: Also those are from existential comics which are mostly jokes about (you guessed it) existentialism. However, since you brought up meaning, what gives existence meaning?
Is there some external measure of it: either a sort of god or objective knowable standard? Or is it subjective and a matter of us finding/imposing it? Or some third option that's just a convoluted way of restating one of those two?


The real question is, what is meaning? Is there a rational objective measurable meaning, a universal truth, or is it soemthing subjective and relative to each individual, like emotions and opinions?

Rex wrote: Is choosing to believe something based on it's therapeutic effect a good way of judging its truthiness?


No, but if there is an obvious and direct benefit from something, it has value in of itself, regardless of its truthfulness or lack thereof.
In fact, the truth of the thing seems a bit much to apply here.
You don't question the truth of food when it satisfies your hunger, so why question someone else's answer to their existential hunger?
Emotional matters and logical matters are separate things in my view. The emotional ones cannot be effectively argued for or against because they are relative.

However, maybe there are clear and logical ethical truths? I do not know.

Rex wrote: I mean it would probably make me feel better if I believed that I was the most beloved person in the world, but that seems like a dangerous path to take


If you are refuting the Zen practice with this statement, you are making a blatant strawman fallacy, as no one said this.

“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.” - Alan Watts

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29 Jan 2020 20:06 #349022 by CaesarEJW

Gisteron wrote: It should be noted here, too, that the truth and our access even to things like "All bachelors are unmarried" are not only dependent on the definitions of the labels, but on the rules of inference themselves. Sure, we can define what we mean by the terms and the relations. But try and derive "If something is both a man and unmarried, that thing is also unmarried" from first principles. Well, we could write down the truth table of the implication and of the conjunction and see that indeed, "q turns out TRUE when ever "p" is TRUE and "if p then q" is TRUE, but that's a mere statement about the properties of a function that we call truth assignment. It might as well return 1's and 0's, or greens and blues as an output. Heck, there can be logic systems where all statements are mapped to the same truth value, or to a tuple of them, or systems with more than two or a finite or a countably infinite amount of truth values...

Point being, if we don't care about practical usefulness - by what ever metric - there is pretty much no unique and consistent way to produce any kind of rational thought. The distinction between a priori and a posteriori statements really only comes about well after we have assumed a whole bunch of premises, justified at most as being "for the sake of the discussion", or some other form of practical necessity. Pragmatism is a rather easy position to defend against many a sufficiently strong pedantry, because it dismisses the fiddly and elsewise unending discussion in favour of getting on with the interesting stuff anyone has practical reasons (as opposed to intuitive, gut-level dissatisfaction) to care about, and only justifies doing so by appealing to itself, insisting that at the end of the day, everyone can't help but agree with it anyway and we might as well start with that common foundation rather than go back to forever try to re-establish it.


Would you care to elaborate on Pragmatism? What is it?
And if it is justified by appealing to itself, that would be a Cartesian Circle, would it not?
That's not strong grounds at all.
You can't just say "A is true because A is true"
Or have I misunderstood you?

“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.” - Alan Watts

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29 Jan 2020 20:31 #349025 by Rex
First off, hooray for everything in this thread being so productive and mature

Let me rephrase my question: why do you have your beliefs and how can you verify them/what are you assuming?

I'm not bagging on Zen, I actually like a lot of the concepts therein. I just think bringing that to this conversation is in your analogy eating a hammer to fix your physical hunger. My analogue was trying to point out the flawed reasoning that was used.

And Caesar, your vocab really sounds a bit dated for lack of a better term. Don't get me wrong, Descartes was brilliant; but it's like if we still discussed biology by asking if a cell had animalicules. Bracket out all the dead end circular reasoning ideas like the cogito, and then you can move on to the whole "what even is this and what's it like?" discussion.

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29 Jan 2020 20:42 #349027 by Adder
Is that a question about dualism, epiphenomenalism and parallelism? :S I think I like enactivism because it's fun to work with :silly:

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