On Philosophy

July 4, 2007

Knowledge And Qualia

Filed under: Epistemology,Mind — Peter @ 12:00 am

Now if qualia have a one to one correspondence or a one to many correspondence with the internal states of a conscious system (such that a single qualia can be present with a number of different internal states) then it is obvious that we can have knowledge about our own qualia. Simply knowing that such a correspondence exists is enough to be able to observe our own actions and use them to justify the claim that we are in a particular qualitative state. For example, we could justify the claim that we are in pain by appealing to the fact that we verbally claim we are in pain. Because such a correspondence exists there is only one qualia that corresponds to the verbal behavior of asserting that we are in pain (ignoring for the moment the fact that particular verbal behaviors can correspond to a number of different internal states) we can conclude that we are actually in pain, and not mistakenly thinking that we are in pain when we are really experiencing some other qualia. Of course this all turns on there being a reliable correspondence between particular qualia and verbal behavior, but that is a correspondence that we have good reason to believe exists.*

But if there is a many to one correspondence between qualia and internal states then things become more complicated, and I maintain that in such a situation we cannot actually have knowledge about our own qualia. Let us suppose that there is a conscious system with internal state I1 followed by internal state I2. And let us suppose that two different qualia, q11 and q21, can be associated with I1. Now the simple case is when they converge, meaning that only a single qualia q2 can be associated with I2. Obviously then experiencing q2 tells you nothing about whether you previously experienced q11 or q21, and so in cases of such convergence qualia with a many to one correspondence with internal states are unknowable.**

Now lets turn to the harder case, where the qualia don’t converge, and q11 and q21 are followed by q12 or q22 respectively. Now things become trickier. Since the systems never differ in internal state obviously they won’t diverge in behavior, which means that we could never express the knowledge that we were in q11 instead of q21, but perhaps that is because qualia are inexpressible. Maybe we just don’t have the right language for talking about qualia, and never will as a matter of principle. However knowledge requires more than just the true belief that we experienced q11, it requires that such a belief be justified. How could we justify it? Even if we are currently experiencing q12 that doesn’t justify concluding that we experienced q11, unless we can justify the law that q12 only follows q11. But we could never justify such a law. To justify it we would have to know which particular qualia we experienced and then motivate the law as an inference from our observations. But this presupposes that we can know when we are experiencing various qualia, which was the very thing we set out to demonstrate that we could do, and so justifying such knowledge is impossible. Thus since we can’t have knowledge of our own qualia both when they do and don’t converge in the case of a many to one correspondence between qualia and internal states we can’t have knowledge of such qualia at all.

Of course there is a small exception to this, which is if all the qualia that can correspond to a particular internal state have something in common (assuming qualia are complex rather than simple). In that case we could know that we had experienced whatever it is that they all have in common. But this just illustrates the point, the thing that they all have in common has a one to one correspondence with internal states and thus is knowable, although which qualia it was part of (of if there was anything more to it) is unknowable. In any case this shows that if qualia are something that we are supposed to have privileged access to, in the sense that we have knowledge about them that other people don’t, then qualia must have a one to one correspondence with internal states.

* One reason to believe that such a correspondence exists is if you think that experiences only exist when feedback exists within a system. That is to say that the state of the system at one moment has an effect on the way the system processes information subsequently. A convenient way to conceptualize systems in which such feedback exists is like a tree, with the processing starting at the trunk and making its way to the branches, each of which represents a different subsystem / information processing ability. Feedback occurs when some of the branches send information back to the trunk. Now experiences, and hence qualia, only occur when such feedback occurs. Which means that all qualia go through the trunk and thus make their way to each subsystem. And one such subsystem is the language center. And so under such a model it is reasonable to suppose that different qualia will result in different linguistic behavior.

** Here some may question the premise that a second internal state is required in order to have knowledge about the qualia associated with the first. Why can’t we just know directly, while experiencing the first internal state, what qualia are associated with it? Well we can’t because knowledge is a propositional attitude, to the effect that something is the case. Thus a second internal state is required to embody the belief that we experienced a certain qualia when we were in the first state. Of course that state also has its own qualia, but to know we experienced the qualia associated with that state a third state is required, and so on. Now normally we don’t experience such states, which implies that we don’t “know” our own qualia most of the time (though we do experience them, this is not a higher-order claim), but that isn’t two surprising since in that same sense I don’t “know” what 185 – 57 is. Although I have the disposition to be able to acquire the relevant knowledge in both cases I must acquire the correct belief before I can be actually said to have this knowledge.


  1. This raises the issue of T sentences and truth conditions theory generally.

    I am completely unconvinced by the claims of the metalanguage proponents.

    Quine, whom I greatly admire on many points, was critical of
    Tarski. According to Kemp, Quine’s criticisms included:

    1. If there are no facts of the matter, then the theory cannot get started – the lack of points of reference.

    2. The disquotation schema, allowing Liar Sentences.

    3. Infinite regress of truth definitions, but inability to use the best metalanguage – which is mathematics.

    Quine believes (as I do in my own way) – according to Kemp – that “at bottom, the notion of truth is quite pedestrian and doe snot involve anything so exotic as a language-world relation. To call something “true” is not to involve a theory, in the way that it is to call something an organic molecule.”

    This is the way I would put it…

    Meta languages that are distinct from ordinary language usage are useful and coherent. Examples would be mathematics, musical notation, computer communication and the visual “language” of cinema. Metalanguages that are not distinct from ordinary language usage are dysfunctional and incoherent. This applies to the creation of meta languages for philsophical and literary discourse.

    T sentences do not tell about truth conditions. The conditions for truth telling live in the real world. “If and only if” statements do not relate to the real world. They are idealised statements.

    Consider the following scenario where two persons are arguing over whether one of them should get a particular job:

    Person A: “This man is not a suitable candidate for the job of bank manager. He has 23 convinctions for fraud.

    Person B: “What he says is not true. I am a suitable candidate for the job of bank manager.”

    It later transpires that at the time of this conversation Person B had 22 convictions for fraud (one less than Person A claimed). Who told the truth on this occasion – either? neither? or both? I think the ordinary person in the street will say that Person A essentially spoke the truth as person A was in all likelihood giving an honest assessment (which contained an honest mistake about the number of convictions). However there is no way that person A’s words meet T sentence truth conditions. According to the theory, Person A would be speaking the truth “if and only if” it was the case that Person B had 23 convictions for fraud. Whereas, again according to the theory, Person B would be telling the truth in denying that, because it was the case that he did not have 23 convictions for fraud.

    It seems to me blindingly obvious that there are any number of degrees of truth telling and any number of degrees of adequacy (depending on context) in terms of describing reality. Moreover, one does not necessarily connect
    to the other. One may tell a lie which is actually an adequate description of reality. For instance, a scientist could falsify the results of an experiment in order to appear to prove a hypothesis but coincidentally give a more adequate description of reality than if he had reported the ture results of the experiment because the hypothesis. Again T theory seems useless here (not tosay that the theory can’t be expanded ad infinitum to account for all these loopholes as no doubt jobsworth philosophers are busying themselves with that) . There would be no justification for holding the belief (since the experiment results were falsified) but nevertheless the belief does provide a more adequate description of reality that not holding the belief.

    We have degrees of truth telling (i.e. degrees of honesty or even competence in pattern matching) and we have a graded adequacy of reality description .

    What then does truth mean?

    It has two meanings:

    1. An honest assessment of conscious experience with consequent pattern matching and pattern differentiation. The sentence (i.e. collection of words) “there is a leaf on the twig” matches a group of concepts (represented by those words) which in turn match the visual pattern I have in my mind of a leaf on a twig which in turn I usually believe matches phenomena in reality.

    2. Reliable knowledge (the consensual sum of our honest assessments).

    Contrary to T theory it does not mean “that which is”. “That which is” is a mystical concept since it implies our ability to access or communicate with “that which is”. To say something “is the case” is to indulge in a form of mysticism, which is not to say it is wrong – only that it is has nothing to do with human understanding. Human beings cannot achieve absolute knowledge.

    Comment by field — July 24, 2007 @ 11:36 am

  2. Did you respond to the wrong post on accident? Also your defintions of truth are question begging since “honest” and “knowledge” are concepts that are built on the concept of truth, so to define truth in terms of them is circular.

    Comment by Peter — July 24, 2007 @ 12:11 pm

  3. Peter –

    Sorry, it was a case of any port in a storm. I found this site had open access and transferred my comments here from a political site “Harry’s Place” where a thread had been closed. I’d been having a run in with someone called Jeff Ketland who apparently is known in philosophical circles, not that I know him. Anyway, I offered to carry on the debate here – seemed like epistemology was a good place. Apologies for barging in, but I guess we must be going to the heart of the matter.

    Anyway, to answer your point, honest and knowledge are to a certain extent built on the concept of truth. But then one can say that about all concepts – that they are built on other concepts. The musical concepts of tempo and stress are built on the concept of rhythmic beats. Nothing circular in that.

    Truth, in this context, simply means conscious pattern matching (as opposed to adequate describing of reality – another way in which the word is used). Honesty is when one communicates that experienced pattern matching without intended inaccuracy. Knowledge (i.e. what we consider to be reliable knowledge, a good and adequate description of reality in general or some aspect of reality) is the collective sum of the honest assessments. Dishonest assessments are unlikely to be the source of reliable knowledge – although they can be (lucky hits).

    There are no contradictions and there is no circular reasoning in the above as far as I can see.

    Comment by field — July 25, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

  4. There is something very circular there. Again, the notion of innaccuracy and accuracy are based on the concept of truth (whether the statement diverges from or adheres to the truth). Thus truth cannot be defined or explained by appeal to them.

    Comment by Peter — July 25, 2007 @ 2:04 pm

  5. No, sorry, you are just asserting circularity, not showing that I am using circular reasoning.

    I think what you have to understand firstly is this dual use of truth. When someone says “That’s not true!” in response to a statement this is a thought and feeling statement (as are all statements) but it is one that in reality is highly emotional. There’s a strong emotional content – this is a claim/denial of claim situation not dissimilar to squaring up for a fight.

    The statement “that’s not true” implies (a) that the person whose statement is being challenged has not given an accurate account of their own pattern matching experience (e.g. Rousseau knows it was he who stole the comb but he blames the servant girl and claims that “servant girl as thief” version is an accurate account of his pattern matching experience) and (b) that if they had given an accurate account that would have been an adequate or better description of reality in comparison with the statement that they have given.

    This is really in nearly all cases what truth is about: a claim to an accurate account of the pattern matching process and an associated assertion that this accurate account gives an adequate description of reality (or sometimes the best).

    So I deny circularity. Truth, as generally used (it can be used in a dual or singular sense – I am talking dual here, coveirng both accuracy and adequacy), is a more complex pattern than accuracy and has a higher emotional content than the accuracy concept (just as the concept of “standing on my land” has a higher emotional content than “standing on a piece of land”).

    Moreover, truth involves the action of claiming or denying. (Incidentally I am strongly opposed to the deflationary doctrine that P = P is true).

    One could be accurate without claiming to be telling the truth. I could say for instance, “I just saw Marcus in the bar.” That could be accurate. I could have had a sensory-conceptual experience of seeing Marcus in the bar which matches those words and that might be accurate. I am not lying about the experience. But say because Marcus assured me by phone he was in Spain that same day I might think I am mistaken and I make no claim to truth.

    So it is quite clear that accuracy is not the same thing as truth, and does not depend on truth. It is the concept of truth that is built (in part, not in whole) on the concept of accuracy.

    To be truthful is to make an honest attempt to give an accurate account of one’s conscious pattern matching experiences which it is thus hoped will give an adequate description of reality. Truth is more aspirational than state-like. I would refer you back to my 22/23 convictions example. Truth condition theory I think gives the wrong answer there because it fails to understand the aspirational nature of truth – and so favours the crook over the honest man.

    Comment by field — July 25, 2007 @ 6:01 pm

  6. If your explanation of truth depends even in part on accuracy and accuracy depends on a matching up or adequate description, which in turn involve something like a true correspondance or reflecting actual states of affairs then your explanation of truth is circular, regardless of whether you throw in the idea that turth contains something in addition to accuracy.

    Comment by Peter — July 25, 2007 @ 6:08 pm

  7. Well Peter, I can’t really see why you don’t go ahead and just say ALL reasoning is circular, which in a sense of course is true, in the way that every brick in a wall supports every other brick.

    But I don’t see any invalid argument. I am talking sequentially about what happens to a human being when they have the experience of aspiring to tell the truth (dual meaning). Truth telling takes place over time. If I describe it adequately then it is not going to be a circular series – it is going to be an extended chain.

    I suspect part of the problem might lie here in this phrase you use:

    “actual states of affairs”

    This normally denotes somebody of a mystical persuasion like Mr. Ketland.

    What is an “actual state of affairs”? Have you ever seen one/felt one/thought one? If you can observe it, can I?
    Is this “actual state of affairs” akin to “something that is the case” as in “if and only if something is the case”?

    States of affairs, cases, objective reality etc are mystical concepts, which is not to say they aren’t true – they might possibly be more true than anything we as human beings can aspire to – but they don’t have a lot to do with ordinary concepts of truth and they certainly aren’t subject to the laws of logic or set theory . To claim special access to an “actual state of affairs” as opposed to just making honest assessments of your own conscious experiences is to make a rather extraordinary claim – a mystical claim.

    But if you don’t have claim to this putative “actual state of affairs” who does? Well read philosophers? Scientists? Seers and prophets? Gods?

    I’d like to know.

    Bye for now.

    Comment by field — July 25, 2007 @ 6:56 pm

  8. The idea of an explanation is to explain something like truth in terms of simpler concepts. And I claim that your defintitions of truth are not actually using simpler concepts, but simply smuggling in the concept of truth using other words. (Like saying: a true statement is one that is free from error. While correct this is not an explanation of what truth is.) Obviously I haven’t said anything about what I think truth is here (I have elsewhere), although you seem to think I have taken a stand on the issue, but I don’t think there is any point debating a defintion of truth unless it isn’t circular.

    Comment by Peter — July 25, 2007 @ 7:12 pm

  9. Circular reasoning means that through series of statements and implications you return to the original proposition. There is no way I am doing that!

    This is a more detailed explanation:

    We have conscious experiences of pattern matching.

    We know, from introspection and observing the behaviour of others, that we have the capacity to recall and report on conscious experiences.

    We know that we can choose not to report on such things to our fellow beings, but rather
    we can choose to keep such experiences secret. We can also invent experiences which we
    can talk about. We know we have these powers of dissimulation and invention through
    introspection and observation of the behaviour of others. Accurate reporting is when we
    choose to report on our conscious experiences rather than to keep them secret or distort
    them (i.e. not talk about them as we remember them).

    This implies we can either report accurately on our conscious experiences of pattern matching or we can do so inaccurately. (This could be tested. I could write down on a piece of paper “I have just had the experience of looking at a bird in the tree at 11.59am”. A few minutes I could deliberately say “I did not see any bird in any tree at 11.59am today”.)

    This implies that there is one type of behaviour which involves honest assessment of our experiences. We know that we sometimes have motives for avoiding accurate reporting of conscious experiences (“Sorry boss, the traffic was bad.” Whereas in reality we overslept.) Honest here means absence of motives which might lead us to give an inaccurate or otherwise distorted account of our experiences. This is what we commonly mean by “telling the truth”.

    This implies that that there are many honest assessments.

    This implies that honest assessments may be brought together, compared and contrasted and so on, and by such means fused into a coherent whole, which we call knowledge or sometimes “the truth”. Another way of looking at this would be to say that an honest collective assessment is made to produce a reliable synthesis of such assessments.

    In no way does this conclusion – “that there is collection of honest assessments of experiences which can thought of as a reliable synthesis of such assessments” – return us to the opening premise, that we have “conscious experiences of pattern matching”.

    There is absolutely no circular reasoning here at all and I cannot see why you would think there was.

    Some further points to underline this:-

    1. Accuracy is not the same thing as truth.

    I could accurately say I had the experience of seeing my neighbour in a pub, which pleased me because this meant he would be sacked from his job and I would get his well paid job. I could write down the experience soon after and show the piece of paper as supporting evidence of the accuracy of my later account. So this is not an inaccurate account. However, if I also am aware that subsequent to this experience I discovered my neighbour had a twin and that it was this twin who was in the pub, then I have not given a truthful (i.e. honest) assessment of my experiences, although I have given an accurate one. .

    2. Honesty is not the same thing as accuracy.

    I could give an honest account of my experiences (i.e with no motive causing me to leave out any relevant experiences or distort my recollection of them) but it might not be accurate. My memory of the event might have genuinely faded, so that my recollection is faulty.

    3. Honesty is not the same thing as truthfulness.

    Truth is aspirational and aims at achieving an adequate description of reality. Accordingly, while truthfulness normally involves honesty, dishonesty may nevertheless somehow result in an adequate description of reality. The example I have given is that of the scientist who is dismayed to find his experimental results don’t back up his hypothesis – possibly because of sabotage or incompetence on the part of junior staff. He cannot bear admitting the failure and so doctors the results, as if to confirm the hypothesis. He has therefore not given an honest assessment, but it may be the case that by sticking to his hypothesis and making it appear that the experiments were successful he has given an adequate description of reality (which we often identify as “established the truth”). Others may follow him and repeat the experiments successfully and the hypothesis may be gloriously confirmed, with Nobe

    Comment by field — July 26, 2007 @ 12:12 pm

  10. Not circular reasoning, but a circular explanation. And no matter how much you elaborate on it, it is still there. Specifically in your original invocation of knowledge. Also your current version falls short of truth in any case (counterexample: hallucinations, delusions).

    Comment by Peter — July 26, 2007 @ 12:33 pm

  11. Well I think you’ll have to explain what you mean by circular explanation. From my brief research, the only thing I think you could mean that comes under that heading is infinite regress, but perhaps you can elucidate. You haven’t been very precise in your criticism.

    It sounds to me like the objections you are raising are in fact a species of extreme scepticism – “how can one talk about knowing what knowledge is, since that requires you to know what knowledge is before you can know it… ” If that’s what you are getting at then, clearly that is as absurd as extreme scepticism in general. Of course you can know something before you know what knowledge is.

    I cannot see how I have been guilty of either circular reasoning or circular explanation (incidentally I don’t accept there is any real difference between reasoning and explanation). My account goes from one proposition to an entirely different one and does not in any way involve explanatory regress – it is real time sequential.

    Comment by field — July 26, 2007 @ 4:44 pm

  12. A circular explanation is one that explains terms A in terms of B, C, D, ect, at which are in turn explained by B-1, B-2, … C-1, C-2, … etc and so on, and somewhere in this chain is a term that must be explained in terms of A. Your explanation is circular because it invokes fairly high level concepts to explain truth, the accepted explanations for which involve truth itself (the best example being knowledge, which we explain, conventionally, as JTB). Such an explanation may be a true descirption, but it is not actually an explanation, and thus not a suitable philosophical theory.

    p.s. remember knowledge != truth (there are true facts we cannot know), although to know a fact may entail that it is true if you subscribe to strong knowledge, but it is well known that you can never be in a position to be absolutely certain that you in fact have strong knowledge.

    Comment by Peter — July 26, 2007 @ 5:25 pm

  13. No – you are not arguing in a fair manner here. If you want to criticise what I have written you have to quote what I have written and show how it fits in with your criticism. What you are actually doing is asserting that I have done things which I haven’t.

    For instance you refer to me using higher level concepts which involve the concept of truth. “…the accepted explanations for which involve truth itself
    the best example being knowledge, which we explain, conventionally, as JTB” I take it JTB is justified true belief.

    But that is simply text book speak. I never said knowledge was justified true belief. I said it was a synthesis of honest assessments of conscious experiences. I made clear that honesty and accuracy were indicative of truthfulness – so honesty is not a synonym for truthfulness. You aren’t engaging with what I have written.

    If you look at what I wrote you will see:

    (a) I am not using knowledge to define conscious experiences (my starting proposition) or truth (the intermediary step), as in meaning an honest and accurate assessment of our experiences.

    (b) “Beliefs” are no part of my approach so you can’t use the concept of belief to dismiss my argument. I am sceptical that beliefs (as in permanent mental phenomena) exist.

    (c) My starting premise is “we have conscious experiences of matching patterns”. That is my A and I am not defining knowledge or any of the other intermediary steps in terms of A. I move on from A by reference to phenomena – that we can recall and report on our conscious experiences.

    (d) The purpose of the PS is opaque as far as I am concerned. You seem to be engaging in the creation of unwarranted entities. What do you think a “fact” is? Where can I observe one? I think this is one of those reifications. Facts have no existence in reality. I don’t think you can have a true fact or an untrue fact. A fact is a concept about conceptualising about reality. Facts are a kind of fiction.
    In terms of knowledge (and in philosophy we are looking for best approaches, not slapdash, absurd or misdirected approaches), facts are best ignored. We need to concentrate on our conscious experiences and what we do with our memories of them, both individually and collectively.
    Yes, we might use our memories of conscious experiences to create concepts we call facts, but we should never confuse the fact with the experience or the fact with the implied reality.

    (e) In any case I am not saying the concept of truth (which has two quite separate aspects – whereas you seem to refer to it as one aspect) is the subject of my enquiry. I don’t emphasise truth over knowledge or consciousness. I am not analysing truth in isolation here. I am just explaining where truth fits in. You might as well say my concept of knowledge relies on the concept of consciousness. Of course it does! guilty as charged! What – and you are innocent? It seems you are using facts, knowledge, truth, belief and justification in an extremely loose fashion and inter-penetrative fashion. But I notice you are steering well clear of consciousness which as far as I am concerned is the starting point for this and all philosophical discussions.

    I’ve had a look around the site for something you’ve written on truth. Do you have a link? It might help if I could see where you were coming from on this.

    I will be very interested to see how your description of the concept of truth does not involve the use of other terms which relate, however remotely, to truth. Yep, that will be one to celebrate! I’ll put the champagne on ice now…

    Comment by field — July 26, 2007 @ 6:48 pm

  14. Well I was trying to be charitable. If that is all that you take knowledge to be then you account: doesn’t say that it itself is true, makes truth different for different people, can’t account for hallucinations/delusions. All of which are deal-breakers philosophically.

    Comment by Peter — July 26, 2007 @ 7:08 pm

  15. “True” is a word with two meanings. First it implies an honest assessments of conscious pattern experiences by an individual. Second, it implies the considered synthesis of all individual honest assessments which a community thinks of as (reliable) knowledge.

    Of course I think my account is true in both ways. It is honestly what I think is my experience and I think it is a considered synthesis of individual honest assessments.

    Of course truth is different for different people. Can you please give an example of a truth which is the same for every person.

    I’ve never heard anything so absurd as to say that my account does not leave room for hallucinations or delusions.
    People who have hallucinations aren’t (usually) lying about their conscious experiences. They really do see these visions. If they strongly experience them as being real, that is what they will honestly report if they are honest. If they have doubts about whether or not they are real, that is what they will report if they are honest. The same with delusions. If I really experience the stick in the water as being bent, that is what I will report if I am being honest.
    If I have doubts about its bentness, that is what I will report.

    I note with interest that you haven’t taken up my invitation to say what you mean by truth or to offer an explanation of it in terms which make no reference to the concept of truth in any way whatsoever.

    I would have thought you would be keen to take up this invitation as you seem so confident in dismissing my thoughts on the subject (without ever really quoting my words and showing how they relate to your very general criticisms).

    Go on -surprise me. Show me you have really thought this through.

    Comment by field — July 27, 2007 @ 4:28 pm

  16. So a hallucination is “true”? Game over then, you lose. (This is a reductio-ad-absurdum used sucessfully against many theories about truth; in other words: its a well established standard.) To read some of my thoughts on truth simply use the search function on this blog. Suggested reading: “The Nature of Truth” by Michael P. Lynch.

    Comment by Peter — July 27, 2007 @ 4:55 pm

  17. Well I am not sure you have been paying attention to what I wrote:

    There are two aspects to truth – an honest assessment of
    our conscious experiences and a synthesis of innumerable honest assessments of that type, to create what we think of as knowledge.

    A person experiencing an hallucination which they experiencing to be real, is “telling the truth” if they report honestly what they are experiencing. Are you saying they are not telling the truth?

    However, our knowledge enables us to say that the person is perhaps not seeing say a real devil with horns walking down the high street, but is simply experiencing what we term a hallucination – an experience of phenomena which do not exist in the four dimensional spatio-temporal cosmos.

    Confusion arises because we always (if we are good, honest people) expect others to be doing their bit by telling truth to fine-hone knowledge – we expect them to be making a positive contribution – so much so that we tend to forget or ignore those examples where honest assessments fail to do that despite the individual’s (often) best efforts.
    This is evident in the way that despite plenty of scientific evidence of this, the general public do not accept how unreliable is eyewitness evidence.

    So it is quite wrong to say that I said hallucinations are true or even “true”.

    I note that you seem to have invented a form of invalid argument:

    “Telling someone you disagree with to go away and read a book, which will involve him in considerable expenditure of time and money, and so divert him from the fact that you haven’t offered strong reasons for why his argument is wrong.”

    My Latin’s no good, but something like Directio Libro Unnecessarium would sound fine.

    I will try the search button again – didn’t have much luck before.


    Comment by field — July 28, 2007 @ 6:32 am

  18. In philosophy being honest is treated as a seperate problem from truth. To say a sentance is true is to say that it reflects the way things actually are (in some rough sense), with different theories explaining what exactly that means differently. Your theory, as you have explained it, says that hallucinations and dellusions can be true because statements about them are based on honest assesments of experiance and reliable knowledge. But hallucinations, by definition, are not true reflections of reality. ∴ your theory is wrong.

    I only suggested you read a book for your own benefit, since you seem to be ignorant about the large body of philosophical work concerning truth (not a sin).

    Comment by Peter — July 28, 2007 @ 9:35 am

  19. I don’t know how many ways I can say it.

    “True” has two aspects, not one. If it didn’t you could never accept that someone had told the truth (because any such statement would be subject to possible revision). You could only say “I hope you have told the truth” or “it’s possible you have told the truth”. Furthermore, no logical analysis of any statement could ever end up with the statement “this is true”.

    I have never said “hallucinations are true”. This is called dishonest argument. You need to show HOW what I have said means this if it is what you think. But you haven’t, you have just asserted. In particular you have conflated the two aspects of truth. There is no way that my approach implies “hallucinations is true” could ever be an adequate description of reality (the second aspect of truth) since synthesis of all the many honest assessments will soon show that there are such things as hallucinations and that they have nothing to do with four dimensional reality.

    I did use the search button about ten times, but couldn’t find anything very specific on what you think truth is or how people discover what is true.

    You seem to think that truth has only one aspect (identification with a seamless reality). However, that seems very naive to me. If I say “look there’s a star up there” what do I mean? I’ve very little knowledge about what a star is in reality. For me it is some twinkling point of light in the sky. It might for all I know be a planet or a satellite but I might be lucky and actually be pointing to a star as defined by astronomers. Of course an astronomer is going to be able to tell me its identifying number, its classification, whyat it’s made of, how fast it is moving, possibly its age and its likely future development. But the way you tell it, it is as though we have both uttered an equivalent truth: even though my description is limited to 5 words and the astronomer could write a book about his statement.

    The tell tale “in a rough sense” in your text is of course crucial here. Who decides when a sense is “rough enough”? There is no arbiter and even if you lay down ground rules, there will be all sorts of grey areas. For instance, as for the star, is there really a star “there” if it actually imploded several billion years ago and what I am seeing is a ghost from the past? An astronomer will have a good idea of whether the star is really still there. I on the other hand will have no idea. So the sentence “Look there’s a star” could be held to be false. I should say “Look there are photons which were emitted by a star which is no longer there” in that case – not “look there’s a star. But most people will say “look there’s a star” is a true statement and that it is the astronomer who says “there is a not a star there” who is not telling the truth. The naive approach leads to such apparent paradoxes.

    In reality, truth in the second sense is a scale from negative, through zero and on to infinity. A person might give an honest assessment of their experiences which is 99% inaccurate, but 1% accurate (let’s say the man who jumped in the lake did have brown hair – all other aspects of the description are false): that’s on the negative side of the scale. Or they might give a fully accurate account which is nevertheless not very adequate. Or they might give a fully accurate account that is fully adequate. Or they might give you accurate information – but far too much (they might start giving you a full description of the man’s DNA which goes on for thousands of pages): that will have passed the test for the optimal amount of information (you didn’t need to know that much about the person involved in the event).

    So “in a rough sense” is certainly not adequate to a philosophical discussion. In some situations information is so inadequate as not to pass for truth in common parlance, even though it is completely accurate and meets all the demands of formal logic.

    Comment by field — July 28, 2007 @ 12:12 pm

  20. But in philosophy we are only concerned with a single aspect of truth, that of reflecting the way things really are. The honestt use of the word turth we simply call honesty, and we deal with it seperatly to avoid confusion. As for how you have said that hallucinations are true, I have spelled it out for you. Quote: “Your theory, as you have explained it, says that hallucinations and dellusions can be true because statements about them are based on honest assesments of experiance and reliable knowledge.” which is what you said was required for a claim to be true. Thus the claim that there are purple rats in the room is true if I am hallucinating purple rats, regarless of whether they really are in the room or not.

    As for my blog:
    How to find truth is called “epistemology” and I have an entire section devoted to it: https://onphilosophy.wordpress.com/tag/epistemology/
    Truth itself I deal with: https://onphilosophy.wordpress.com/2006/11/29/what-is-truth-2/ and https://onphilosophy.wordpress.com/2006/08/14/what-is-truth/
    certain linguistic aspects I deal with here: https://onphilosophy.wordpress.com/2007/07/10/linguistic-underdetermination/
    Truth preservation is covered in this section: https://onphilosophy.wordpress.com/tag/logic/
    Truth in philosophy is covered in this section: https://onphilosophy.wordpress.com/tag/the-practice-of-philosophy/

    But worrying about what I think is a red herring; whatever the virtues or faults of my approach happen to be they won’t improve your approach.

    Comment by Peter — July 28, 2007 @ 12:30 pm

  21. Well it seems you won’t attend to what I actually write, since I have made it quite clear that in no way could my approach lead you to say that reliable knowledge has it that hallucinations are true. Reliable knowledge has it that hallucinations exist but are not part perceptions of real entities in the four dimensional world.

    I would be far more impressed by your objections if you actually engaged with any examples I give but you appear very careful not to.

    With the star example it is quite clear that the statement “There is a star” could be considered true or false despite an honest assessment being given by both the layman and the astronomer. If on the basis of “your rough enough sense” that the statement is true, then you are agreeing that there is something in existence which the astronomer with his superior knowledge says went out of existence billions of years ago. If you deny that it is true, then you are making a mockery of common sense and the common language.

    My point in introducing this example is to show that the formal logic or set theory position that it is a true statement “If and only if there is a star” is not tenable. It could be true if there is a star or if there isn’t a star. This is because truth is not an “absolute” (it is the case) but a variable – varying degrees of adequacy of description, with some better than others. Clearly in this example although apparently contradictory, the statements are actually on the same scale of adequacy.

    This comes back to the ambiguity of language. The “if and only if” statements have meaning only to the extent that we understand what they are referring to. If we don’t – for instance if they algebrised – then they mean nothing.

    You can have “safe” logic or you can have “unsafe” meaning. You can’t have “safe” meaning.

    The statement “Germany was the final victor of world war 2” can be considered true as a way of bringing out the reality of what happened post war, but it would be ridiculous to say the statement was true “if and only if Germany was the final victor of world war 2”. In this case it is true (possibly) because one is providing a more adequate description of reality than is provided by the simple assertion that Germany lost the war.

    There are countless examples of this type. All paradoxical truths which embody probably the height of human wisdom as in Shakespeare’s plays are of this nature – rendered ridiculous by formal logic.

    Thanks for the links. I will take a look at those.

    Comment by field — July 28, 2007 @ 4:35 pm

  22. According to you reliable knoweldge is “the consensual sum of our honest assessments” which means that if we all hallucinated that purple rats were in my room then there would in fact be purple rats there. But that is in fact false, there are no purple rats there, no matter how many people hallucinate that they are there.

    Oh I should also mention that you are severly misunderstanding the disquotational theory about truth (which, I should note, isn’t my favorite theory about truth), but I don’t even want to get into that.

    Comment by Peter — July 28, 2007 @ 5:11 pm

  23. For the most part I think field’s theory doesn’t work, but regarding, “if we all hallucinated that purple rats were in my room then there would in fact be purple rats there” — Wouldn’t you agree though that chairs as we think of them don’t really exist, rather chairs are just fuzzy collections of atoms that we can reliably use to make predictions like, “you can sit on it” and “other people will see it too”? Accordingly, if everyone saw a hallucination in a reliable, interpersonally consistent way, what would be the functional difference between it and ordinary objects?

    Comment by Carl — July 28, 2007 @ 5:27 pm

  24. Had a look at one of the links – and at last I have some statements to go on, rather than mere shadows.

    MY COMMENT: Seems to me you launch into this without saying what you mean by truth or discussing how the word is used ordinarily – and whether you are going to restrict its use artificially. This completely undermines the value of what follows.


    “What if truth was merely a linguistic property? Certainly it seems like this might be the case, after all, the only things it makes sense to predicate truth of are sentences in some language.

    MY COMMENT: “Makes sense” is intimately connected with the concept of truth. You have indicated that it is not permissible to use such terms in one’s description of truth.

    Not clear to me what you mean by language here. If you mean language as in ordinary language I wouldn’t say that was tenable. Chimpanzees and other animals, even crows, have been shown to dissemble through pointing and so on. Isn’t action dissembling a kind of lie which implies the existence of a concept of truth.


    “Of course this doesn’t explain what truth is, it simply puts us on the path to an answer; we still have to say why one sentence is true while another is false.
    The first idea that springs into everyone’s mind is to appeal to accuracy. That is we want to say that a sentence is true if it accurately portrays its objects (without error). But then we must define what accuracy consists of, and we might be tempted to think that it is some kind of correspondence, between the way things actually are and the propositions expressed by the sentence. This is essentially the correspondence theory of truth, and its problems are well known, specifically it is hard to say what certain true statements, like true mathematical statements, could correspond to.”


    MY COMMENTS: I am quite clear myself that they correspond to items in the real world. This would be even clearer if the mathematical notation were four marks on a piece of paper rather than a symbol “4”.


    “Another possibility is to define accuracy in terms of other people, specifically to claim that an accurate sentence is one that all people would agree with (or a majority of people). This certainly has some appeal; we no longer have to worry about how to define the connection between true statements and how the world really is, as we assume that if everyone agrees to the statement there must be something that causes this agreement. And such a definition is not inconsistent, but unfortunately it doesn’t capture what we mean by truth either. I think we can all agree that there are many true statements that are true independently of what people believe (for example: “the earth orbits the sun”). A definition that relies exclusively on people cannot capture this property of truth.”


    MY COMMENT: What does “independently of what we believe” mean. Does it mean that were humanity to be wiped out and there were no sentient beings in the cosmos that this was a known truth? Or do you mean you have a mystical belief in absolute reality which exist independently of humanity and is experienced by a deity or some other entity? I’ve nothing against you having that belief.

    Again, though why are you discussing truth in terms of “belief” which is intimately connected to the concept of truth when you said that was impermissible?


    “Let me propose a third possibility then, that what we mean when we say that a sentence is true is that, if the sentence is correctly understood, everything that the listener has experienced, and can in principle experience, will agree with it. This definition of course leans upon our ability to understand the meaning of sentences. Although defining what meaning is, and how we come to grasp it, may be problematic I do not see any reason to think that understanding this ability will rely on truth (and thus this definition isn’t circular). This definition certainly seems acceptable for the “normal” cases (although most theories of truth are). For example, if I claim that “‘some cats are white’ is true” then I am asserting that one could possibly encounter a white cat. If one couldn’t encounter a white cat then that would mean that there were no white cats, which would mean that I was incorrect in asserting “‘some cats are white’ is true”, meaning that the statement is false, which would really be the case. Now we might worry that this definition relies too heavily on our senses, and that “truth” might then differ for a blind man. This is really not the case, because the experiences we are referring to are experiences possible in principle, meaning that the blind man could use instruments, or even a reliable reporter of events, to experience the existence of a white cat; he doesn’t have to see it.”


    MY COMMENT: “In principle” is a lawyer’s phrase, not a philosophical one. I can agree in principle to give you a million pounds if you ever provide a persuasive argument about anything, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to get your million pounds I’m afraid. As for your example, I have never, ever seen a white cat and I never expect to see one. A cat with unblemished white fur, not pink or black nose, with white irises and white flesh all over seems to be a most improbable creature. You might object that this is not the normal definition. Well, until you give me what you consider to be the normal definition I’ve no idea what you mean by a white cat. No doubt there are plenty of places in the world – the Amazon say – where people have never seen a white cat. You are the one who is obliged to say what you mean before you go expecting Amazonians to agree with your statement. Of course once you get on to your definition, then you might well hit problems – how much white fur makes a white cat? I’ve laboured this point to show once again that truth is not about true and false it is about a scale of adequacy. Your “normal” definition is really the “optimal” adequacy level for discussions about broad categories of cats (but certainly not “best of breed” level adequacy).


    “So let me turn to the cases that are typically problematic, specifically the cases of mathematical truths and recursive truth claims (i.e. sentences of the form “‘X is true’ is true”). To determine how this definition of truth handles cases of mathematical truth we must explicate how one can experience a mathematical statement. I am not a mathematical realist; I don’t think that formula and numbers are the kinds of things that can be experienced. I do think, however, that we can experience the proof of a statement in mathematics (for example, by seeing that proof written down, or by thinking it up). Thus, if X is some mathematical assertion, I think that to say “X is true” is really to mean “‘X can be proven’ is true”. And this statement is not problematic, because it either is or is not the case that we can experience a valid proof of X from some axiom set, in some logical system (I assume that those constraints are determined by context). Finally then we come to the case of recursive truth claims. To see how the definition of truth presented here handles these we must unpack them. “‘X is true’ is true” thus becomes: “In principle we can experience that ‘X is true’”, which becomes “In principle we can experience that ‘In principle we can experience X’”. This means that the initial claim is true if we can experience experiencing X, which is only possible if we can experience X. And thus the statement means the same thing as “X is true”, as it should. So neither mathematical truth nor recursive truth claims give this definition of truth problems, which is surely to its credit.”


    MY COMMENT: You don’t seem to accept the possibility that mathematics could both be real and involve rules. Music is real (involves sound waves) and involves rules (rules of harmony and so on). Music has notation. Maths has notation. Music has real notes (vibrations) and abstract notes (the marks on a piece of paper). Maths has (though we don’t often put it this way) real objects (i.e. we can manipulate real objects in a mathematical way) and abstract objects (numbers). Musical notation can be used, applying the rules of music, to create music which could not possibly be played (e.g. a piece for which the tempo was impossibly fast – four million beats per minute say). Maths notation and application of rules can also create abstract entities which could not be replicated in the real world (e.g. infinity).
    In my view simple maths can be experienced directly in the same way as music can. If we see one apple put next to another we see there is a pattern which is not one apple. If we see two apples put next to two we see a different pattern. But then if we take away the two pattern we get back to another two pattern. This is how maths is taught to infants and one can see in a child they are experiencing the matching directly just as they experience different colours and other patterns of sensation. But clearly this early patterning is then overlaid with abstract symbolic reasoning. However – one definitely merges into the other. There is no fixed boundary.

    To say something is “mathematically true” is to say it accords with the rules of maths. One could say something was “musically true” in the same way if one wanted to (we tend not to because music is not applied for practical purposes) – and certainly a music theorist might say it is false that one can have an x harmony involving such and such notes.

    As for “‘X can be proven’ is true” – didn’t Russell spend about ten years of his life trying to show that was the case with logic only to discover that it wasn’t after all! All that could be shown was that certain things followed the rules of mathematics not that ultimately there was a logical basis for maths. I don’t know if anyone since Russell has claimed to perform the trick, but I’ve never heard that they have.
    In any case you have introduced the term “proven” into your discussion of truth. This is a concept which is intimately connected with truth and you tell me that is not an admissible argument.


    “To conclude I would like to make two observations about this definition of truth. ”


    MY COMMENT: It doesn’t seem to me you have defined truth. In particular you seem to offer no explanation of why statements fall neatly into true or false categories. No one experiences such neat categorisation in real life – so why do you assume it must apply in philosophy?

    “The first is that although this definition has some similarities to verificationism it is not a version of that school of thought because it deals with what can in principle be experienced versus what can actually be experienced, which makes a world of difference (for example, a verificationist would be unable to make claims about things that they did not have the instruments to detect). The second is that given this definition of truth there are, strictly speaking, some statements that are neither true nor false. Specifically, statements about objects that are, even in principle, unobservable have this property (for example “undetectable pink unicorns exist” is neither true nor false). However, because the objects these sentences are about are undetectable they must also be unable to have a causal effect on the world (see here), and thus our inability to speak about them is not entirely unexpected, since in many ways such objects are nonsense, and a sentence that can’t be understood isn’t true or false either.”


    MY COMMENT: I would agree there are some statements which are neither true nor false. But fictional entity statements are not the only ones. If I say “I am feeling a bit happier today than I was yesterday.” I am not sure it is true in the sense that “This object is hot” might be. I think there is a sense in which such statements about private feeling don’t carry over well into the pool of common knowledge, because there is nothing we can easily test the statements against. I would say that in some sense they are unrealisable as full truths – they have a kind of ghostly quality for the rest of us (although for ourselves, who can to some extent verify them introspectively, we may be fully persuaded that the statement is the truth).

    Comment by field — July 28, 2007 @ 5:39 pm

  25. Here of course we are into classical arguments regarding truth and coherence. The classic response to that is that we know what we mean by rats and purple in most circumastances (they are “natural kinds”), and it is clear then that given what we mean by “rats” and “purple” that if we are no actual rats in the room then it is false that there are purple rats in the room, despite the consitency of that hallucination. This contrasts to chairs, where what we mean by chair, it can and is argued, is really a particular kind of arrangement of atoms. In a sense then the “chairs” delusion has an essential kind of consistency that the purple rats delusion lacks.

    Comment by Peter — July 28, 2007 @ 5:43 pm

  26. field – even if I am wrong, which I am not even interested in debating, it doesn’t make you right.

    Comment by Peter — July 28, 2007 @ 5:44 pm

  27. Oh, and by the way, I should mention that I don’t think your criticsms hold much water.

    Comment by Peter — July 28, 2007 @ 5:47 pm

  28. Hmm, so in that case, “purple rats” becomes a variant on Earth II’s “water” being XYZ instead of H2O — we normally mean by “purple rats” things which are like other rats, only purple, but hallucinatory rats have a different underlying reality, even if they are functionally the same, which confuses the reference.

    Comment by Carl — July 28, 2007 @ 6:00 pm

  29. Something like that yes. I see you have grasped the key point (which I was about to post another comment about highlighting), namely that whether this kind of “coherence” exists depends on the objective facts that we don’t have direct access to. (So its not the kind of coherence that coherence theorists want.)

    Good question by the way.

    Comment by Peter — July 28, 2007 @ 6:05 pm

  30. Carl –

    I’d be interested to know where you feel my “theory” is defective – you don’t say. (Incidentally I don’t think it is so much a “theory” as a clarification of what we mean when we say something is true. My view is that, nor surprisingly, evolution has fitted us very well to tell true from false and reality from unreality – so common sense needs help rather than overhaul. As far as I can see everything I say about truth fits with common sense and doesn’t require us to abandon our general concepts about truth.)

    On purple rats, I just think that if there is a four dimensional reality (which may or may not be dependent on some more fundamental reality), obviously part of the job of synthesising individual honest assessments will be to say what sorts of things exist in that four dimensional reality (4DR) and what things don’t.

    Hallucinations of rats don’t occupy space within the 4DR. Or rather, that it is the conclusion one quickly reaches when one starts comparing all our assessments. Of course, we only have to think back to childhood to know how we can be gripped by terrors that seem more real than real objects. But reason helps us differentiate these matters e.g. “OK Paul saw the purple rats but no one else did…Isn’t that a bit strange?” There are plenty of examples of societies (to this day) where people believe others’ hallucinations to be indicative of entities which operate in the 4DR. However, any philosophical (i.e. careful, coherent thinking) soon points up the inconsistencies. I suppose you could say that confusion of hallucinations for reality is a symptom of “lazy thinking” cultures – whether that be primitive man or Western underclass culture (easy belief in astrology and psychics). However, this is partly a matter of context. I certainly believe with Hamlet that there is more than the 4DR – and I wouldn’t be quick to condemn cultures who believe in a spirit world say.

    In short I guess I am saying I accept that theoretically a community could develop a very consistent but completely inadequate description of reality based on say drug induced hallucinations, but in practice this is quite difficult since we have to deal with reality in order to survive. So the most we tend to see is a kind of parallel knowledge – Shamanism, spirit world beliefs – which have quite a high degree of consistency but are separated off from real world beliefs, or interact in structured ways (e.g. prayer and ritual).

    This is a tricky area. It may be (since all primitive cultures have Shamanism) that shamanism is a necessary response to primitive lifestyles. To that extent, one might say it is an adequate description of reality in the context of a primitive society. However, I wouldn’t want for a minute to suggest that we should therefore abandon our high standards of adequacy in a high tech, high culture society which has at its call science, philosophy, literature, psychology etc.

    Comment by field — July 28, 2007 @ 7:35 pm

  31. Uh ………… what am I supposed to say?

    Comment by Peter — July 28, 2007 @ 7:49 pm

  32. Thanks? (Joke.)

    Incidentally one advantage of my “theory” (I prefer approach) is that we can (as you seem to wish) dispense with an arid “right/wrong” philosophical slug fest. On my approach I wouldn’t say you were wrong. Your views sound to me more adequate than many I have read – e.g. Jeff Ketland. Of course I am going to root for my approach and say that it offers a more adequate description of reality. But I am not saying your approach is “wrong” as in completely inadequate or positively misleading. I am just saying I think mine covers more ground, is clearer etc.

    I do think though that some approaches – e.g. formal logic – in the wrong hands (e.g. the hands of people who want to supplant ordinary language discussions) can be completely misleading.

    Comment by field — July 29, 2007 @ 11:51 am

  33. uh … ok then … you realize that … um … there is no polite way to say this … your theory is severly off the deep end. t’s unjustified (why believe this strange reality you describe exists?), and, more importantly, confused in its description (the 4th dimension is time, 5-11 are really small, less than the plank length if they exist at all). And how can we know what is really in this “4D” reality? Certainly the possibility of shared hallucination means that we can’t depend on a consensus of honest assesments, but that is how you defined truth.

    Comment by Peter — July 29, 2007 @ 12:16 pm

  34. Well you ask “what is this 4DR?”. How should I know! No one knows – not the greatest living scientists, or the greatest living philosophers.

    I am aware of the other dimensions scientists refer to – but after a while you do get into the realms of competitive mathematical modelling where someone can come up with 21 and a half dimensions and get a pat on the back. 4DR remains the best conception of the sort of world our bodies inhabit.

    I am a complete dualist by the way (on my own terms – where substance may speak unto substance). Dualism doesn’t have the sort of nervous breakdown problems that result from trying to fit our experiences into a monist conception. So in broad terms I see the 4DR as separate from our consciousness which exists outside the 4DR. However, I fully accept that no one has a good claim on adequacy here – it’s not like discussing the atomic table, where really there is only one correct answer.

    I really don’t see why philosophy should get hung up on hallucinations any more than modern society does. Generally modern society sees hallucinations as indicative of medical problems. I don’t see them as a central problem to philosophy. Yes, the 4DR could in theory be a collective hallucination, but I think that it is difficult to see how that could be, or rather if it was the only way you could organise it would be to have something very like the cosmos to generate the hallucinations in a collective and coherent manner. Otherwise the hallucinations wouldn’t “fit” to put it crudely.

    I’m certainly not arguing that the 4DR is fundamental reality. I feel our consciousnesses are much closer to fundamental reality. But of course, what that fundamental reality consists in we don’t know. And there are probably very good reasons why we don’t know. Again, it is difficult to see how you could organise a 4DR world where people did have a full understanding of the fundamental reality underlying the 4DR world.

    But all of this is speculation. I don’t claim it to be firm reliable knowledge or an adequate description of reality.

    Comment by field — July 29, 2007 @ 5:21 pm

  35. You haven’t answered any of the fundamental problems with the proposal: lack of evidence, incompatability with your own theory of truth. An extrodinary claim must be backed up with extrodinary evidence and arguments, not just your gut feeling and a vague handwaving claim that it explains everything. I can invoke magic to explain everything too, but that doesn’t make it good philosophy or good science.

    Comment by Peter — July 29, 2007 @ 5:38 pm

  36. Not sure what you mean by “the proposal”. Do you mean my feelings about how 4DR relates to our consciousness – my dualism?

    My dualism is not dependent on my view of truth and knowledge. I’m not saying my approach explains everything. Quite the reverse: I am saying my approach explains why it doesn’t explain everything. Where’s the magic in that?

    Speculation about 4DR is just that: speculation. No one knows what 4DR is in any adequate way and anyone who claims to is a charlatan. I am at liberty to speculate as much as anyone else at present. My speculation does no violence to the scientific consensus, to our knowledge of psychology, or to our knowledge of brain chemistry.

    I draw a strong distinction between areas where philosophy needs to come to a settled view and areas where speculation is fully licensed.

    Comment by field — July 30, 2007 @ 8:19 am

  37. By proposal I mean that idea of 4dr as you describe it. It is true that I can’t stop you from speculating. But here is my own speculation: 4dr is a false description of reality. Since my speculation is simpler and you have no way to disntinguish between the two experimentally reasonably epistemic principles say that we are thus justified in treating 4dr as non-existant until proven otherwise. You can speculate all you like, but without some support it’s just a fairy tale. Also you still haven’t fixed the fact that it is incompatible with your own theory of truth, which I have described previously.

    Comment by Peter — July 30, 2007 @ 10:24 am

  38. I do find some of your references a bit oblique. What this “it” in the final sentence refer to?

    4DR a “false description of reality”. You see, this is where I think my approach is helpful.

    How could it be “false” when nearly all scientists and philosophers refer to the three dimensions of space and the dimension of time. It might not be the most adequate description of reality or only adequate for some contexts but to say that it is false seems to me entirely unhelpful.

    I have already indicated that I don’t think the 4DR is fundamental reality.

    What’s your take on 4DR? That the four dimensions do not exist? In what sense do they not exist? What is happening then when we appear to see objects in this 4DR?

    Incidentally on the subject of speculation do you ever read publications like Scientific American or New Scientist? They are stocked full of speculation. If scientists can speculate about such things as how human observation in the present is determining the laws of physics in the past (a recent article) or whether there is a God (another article), I don’t see why philosophers have to take a vow of self-abnegation and scourge themselves with logic.

    Comment by field — July 30, 2007 @ 10:42 am

  39. It, your proposal about 4dr, is false, because, like magic, it is unprovable speculation. But none of this really matters, because 4dr as you describe it is incompatible with your theory of truth, as I keep saying, and as you keep not adressing. Moreover nor are your theories even true by your own standards of “the consensual sum of our honest assessments”, because if anything the consensus is the disquotational theory of truth.

    The difference between your speculation and that some scientists do is that scientists don’t lean on their speculation to try to explain things. And more importantly such speculations are meant to be logical inferences to the best explanation or logical extensions of existing methods and principles, not just flights of fancy.

    Comment by Peter — July 30, 2007 @ 11:04 am

  40. Some points on that:

    1. The “consensual sum” is not necessarily the philosophers’ consensus. Furthermore there are various consensual strands within philosophy – Anglo Saxon v Continental; Western v. Eastern…

    I’m not arguing that anyone can necessarily say with authority what the consensus is at any one time. It depends what we are talking about. There is for instance a high degree of consensus about the structure of the atomic table and how the elements differ from each other. There is also a high degree of consensus about the nature of the solar system. There isn’t a high degree of consensus about what constitutes truth and knowledge. However, I think open debate will show that certain ideas can be ruled out e.g. that knowledge is something decreed by a deity that is transmitted through prophets or that it is something we are all born with. In other words we can make progress in this area.

    2. What exactly was a “flight of fancy” in what I said? Consciousness has never been observed in the four dimensional world. It’s reasonable to suppose that it might not exist within the four dimensional world. It is the most elusive and yet the most real thing we know. If you know where consciousness can be observed, perhaps you ought to let us in on the secret.

    3. As for scientists and speculation I would suggest that you don’t read the sorts of scientific journals I read. They lean on their speculations all the time – there’s lots of ifs and supposings, which are then drawn out into theories of one kind of another.

    4. You say “because 4dr as you describe it is incompatible with your theory of truth,” but you don’t say HOW it is incompatible. Nothing I have said about 4DR is as weird as the speculations of scientists about the quantum world, about backward creation of physical laws, about cosmoses being created out of nothing, about multiverses. All I’ve said about 4DR is compatible with the general consensus among human beings in modern societies – that there is this up down sideways time passing reality in which we walk and breathe.

    Comment by field — July 30, 2007 @ 1:07 pm

  41. 1. The consensual sum about truth is that what is and isn’t true is independant of the consensus, otherwise we would believe that the sun really did go arround the earth since that was once the consensus
    2. Read my thesis
    3. Yes, speculation to the logically best explanation with a foundation in existing theories, not wild speculation. And when they do wildly speculate they don’t expect people to take it seriously.
    4. “And how can we know what is really in this 4D reality? Certainly the possibility of shared hallucination means that we can’t depend on a consensus of honest assesments, but that is how you defined truth.” That is the central incompatability

    Comment by Peter — July 30, 2007 @ 1:38 pm

  42. 1. That’s a very naive view. I’ve already given you one example – “Look there is a star there.” Is that true or not? Is it the case that “there is a star” or is there not. You cannot deduce the truth from mere application of the words, since a star may be considered to exist as a point of light or as an object in the 4D cosmos.

    There are lots of other inconsistencies in your approach.

    If observation collapses a quantum state, does that not mean that there is a subjective element in truth? The world wasn’t a particular way – it was several ways. It was the act of human observation that changed things.

    What of the theory offered by reputable scientists that conscious observations help determine physical laws? Do you just dismiss that out of hand?

    2. OK – as soon as I can.

    3. Wild speculation? So you are saying no reputable scientists think there may be a dualistic aspect to reality?
    Or are you saying scientists are allowed to say there is but I’m not – for some unfathomable reason?

    4. I’ve already addressed that point. I made clear that the consensus was able quite easily to distinguish between “normal” hallucinations and everyday sensory experiences.
    As for the theoretical possibility of mass hallucination, well I have already indicated that on the basis of what we know – about space time, physical laws etc we can that such a well co-ordinated mass hallucination (i.e. agreeing in every particular) could never be organised. Or rather the only way one could organise it would be to make something very similar to a 4DR system, with consistent laws and impersonal forces etc.. It’s a bit like the old proverb about “treason never prospering because it if it does then none dare call it treason”. Same with mass hallucinations – if the mass hallucination was so consistent, so universal in scope and so rule bound, it would no longer be an hallucination, it would be a reality. Please don’t try to misrepresent this – which would be easy to do. Instead have a think about it.

    Comment by field — July 30, 2007 @ 4:28 pm

  43. 1. Collapse theories of quantum mechanics have been replaced by no-collapse theories, so that argument no longer works.

    3. No, no reputable scientist believes that there is a dualistic aspect to reality. Some might entertain the possibility in a non-scientific capacity, but in their scientific capacity they cannot.

    4. The believe that te sun revolves arround the earth is an example of such a mass “hallucination” from long ago. By your criteria it is true that the sun used to revolve arround the earth.

    Comment by Peter — July 30, 2007 @ 4:38 pm

  44. 1. (If you are being accurate if what you say – I am not so sure from my recent reading…) So you are saying you pick and choose on scientific consensuses. If the consensus fits with your philosophy you accept it, but if it doesn’t you don’t? I mean what was your view when the collapse theory was dominant in science?

    3. An interesting assertion. We shall see.

    4. It wasn’t an hallucination. It was a collective assessment. Are you saying the quantum scientists who believed in the (according to you) now discredited collapse theory were suffering a mass hallucination? Of course not. An hallucination is when your senses appear to be showing you something directly which in fact they are not. You are talking about interpretation of experiences.

    There have been mass hallucinations, but they tend to be of very simple phenomena e.g. a moving statue, the sun spinning in the sky. Anything more complicated is difficult to co-ordinate between people.

    Comment by field — July 31, 2007 @ 1:10 am

  45. 1. Even when the collapse view was dominant (which was a few years before my time) it never looked like human minds were doing something special, what it looked like was that somehow there was a phenomena that occured such that when enough particles were entangled (such that a measurement was going on) a collapse occured, or soemthing like that, but that was a little too vague for everyone’s taste. And everyone, including big names like Schrodinger thought that it was unsatisfactory as a scientific description of collapse (Schrodinger also proposed one of the earliest no-collapse interpreations of QM).

    4. Our senses appear to show the sun going arround the earth. But whether it is a hallucination or not doesn’t matter as far as your theory is concerned. Your theory says honest (sun seems to go around earth) + consensus (everyone agrees that is what it seems to do) = truth. ∴ your theory holds that it used to be true to claim that the sun revolved around the earth.

    Comment by Peter — July 31, 2007 @ 1:34 am

  46. 1. From a brief tour of the internet, I don’t think the difficulties have been resolved. I don’t think anyone necessarily thought the mind was creating the collapse. But that it was occasioning the collapse is significant enough. Because, after all what constitutes an observation? However, I will look into this more to see if your claims are justified.

    4. It is a caricature to say my approach delivers that result. My approach sets out how humanity goes about determining the truth of a matter and agrees that essentially that is the correct way, though there are always ways of improving the approach e.g. through improved experimental methodology, improved survey technique, improved consensus checking for example.

    Your approach believes in a mystical entity “the truth” which you seem to think is identical with “what is the case”.
    As far as I can see you accept (a) that no one has access to this entity, even though you believe it exists and (b) even though no one has access to it, we should use it as our benchmark for truth statements.

    But what is “the case”? Is it a single entity? In relation to quantum mechanics for instance you admit that without observation there is only probability, not “the case”.
    Scientists speculate freely about multiverses – not my cup of tea but you seem to accord scientists special reverence (they if not I am allowed to speculate).

    Also you have studiously avoided giving an answer as to who is making the truthful statement in the “look there is a star” example. They can’t both be telling the truth according to you because there is only one “case”. If there is a time lapse problem (as I suspect you will say) then there is a time lapse problem for all statements. It takes longer to utter a statement than a nanosecond and, even more problematically, a nanosecond is not an instant. Furthermore, even if it were possible to define an “instant”, then in real life how often can we do that? 0.0000001% of occasions, say? You would have a theory of truth that applied to that number of occasions – a great advance for truth theory!

    My approach applies to all claims to truth, not the 0.000000001% where we can define the relevant time.

    Comment by field — July 31, 2007 @ 2:25 pm

  47. Your star example is not really intersting outside of an investigation into how we establish what words mean, which is tangental to the issue at hand. Moreover it is easily resolved, we simply agree that reference is to be determined on the basis of a past directed light cone centered on the speaker, i.e. what the speaker is currently observing.

    Apparently you seem unwilling to deal with the internal contradictions. That is your perogative, but I can’t really take your propsal seriously unless you deal with them head on.

    Comment by Peter — July 31, 2007 @ 10:58 pm

  48. Well now you seem to have abandoned your position. Initially you were telling me that it was all about establishing what the case was, but now you are telling me it is all about establishing what we mean by the word. So, according to you if we all agree “the star” means a particular type of focal light, then it is true to say “look there’s a star”. But that must mean that if the astronomer comes along and says “no, there is no star there” he has uttered an untruth. That to my mind is ridiculous. How can the astronomer, who knows so much more about stars, be described as failing to tell the truth about this star object?

    You now seem to be reduced to generalisations about my argument. Specifically where have I failed to meet your argument head on as you allege? – I dealt very specifically with the allegation about hallucination as anyone who reads this exchange can see.

    The key points about your approach and mine are:

    (a) One person has to be wrong and one has to be right under your approach. This leads to absurdities all over the place.

    (b) Under my approach both can be right, but with one providing a more complete and more adequate description of reality.

    (c) You accuse my approach of sacrificing reality for consensus, but this is precisely what you have done. You allow for the consensus on the meaning of word to sweep away the accumulated knowledge of stellar science! My consensual approach does not do that, as there are multiple consensuses.

    Comment by field — August 1, 2007 @ 2:28 am

  49. No, I haven’t abandoned a position, I haven’t even tried to take up one. What I was pointing out is that you have dragged in issues that properly belong into the philosophy of language, and aer thus adding to the confusion without reason. If you want to talk about the philosophy of language and reference instead of truth we can do that, but if you want to stick with truth there is no point in pursuing the issue.

    If two people can be right and disagree then φ and ~φ can be true. If that is so then everything follows, including the statement that only one person can be right (∀ψ φ ∧ ~φ → ψ). Contradiction. ∴ only one person can be right, and your theory is wrong.

    You have failed, repeatedly, to meet the problem of error, specifically an error supported by the consensus head on, and described your error theory.

    Comment by Peter — August 1, 2007 @ 10:59 am

  50. Your position is that of the man who denies there is an elephant in the room. “There is no elephant in the room. Try next door – that is the Zoology Department.”

    It’s a neat way of avoiding responsibility for your statements.

    I could just as easily say language is intimately connected with truth – which is what I think (as do numerous other philosophers) – and that I refuse to discuss this further until you admit that. But of course I don’t because that is philosophy by fiat which is what you are trying to impose on me and philosophy by fiat has nothing to do with real philosophy.

    Your little Greek shoe shuffle doesn’t get an alpha.

    Firstly, it’s quite possible for only one person to be right under my approach – for instance if someone is the first person to think about some aspect of reality and they offer an adequate description of reality I would say they were right. For instance there was a time when only Einstein was thinking the sorts of things Einstein was thinking. Also one person could be said to be right if one person is offering an adequate description of reality whereas someone else is offering a completely inadequate description of reality (e.g. someone says “there is a man in a room” when he and nearly everyone else can see there is a man but a lunatic
    asserts “there is a car in the room”)

    This just shows how limited formal logic thinking is, if you really thought you had shown my approach is contradictory.

    But even more importantly, it does not follow from my approach that because I allow that two people can be right in making statements that differ in significant ways, that I believe that in all cases where there is an apparent contradiction both parties are right. It depends (as any one with any insight can see) on what they are talking about.
    So your logic does not follow at all.

    Furthermore your logic only appears to score a victory because of the poverty of its semantic content. The idea that one can say anything significant about the world with these little syllogisms is absurd.

    My position on error is completely straightforward. Every human being who makes a statement is in error of course, of necessity since there will be some part of it that is inadequate. How could it be otherwise? Only someone who had access to absolute knowledge could be in a position to offer a completely adequate description of reality. Indeed, in agreement with Bradley, I would say the attempt to even isolate one aspect and make reference to it is a kind of error in itself before you even get on to the statement itself. I simply don’t accept your rigid categories of right and wrong – and in everyday life only idiots look for that sort of absolute certainty. There are degrees of error
    (I would prefer inadequacy) just as there are degrees of adequacy.

    In any case it’s quite clear that modern analytical philosophy favours fallibilism, so I don’t see what your problem is. Both approaches allow for error.

    The difference is that you are asserting error by comparison to some unseen absolute – this is the mystical element in your thinking. Whereas I am sticking with human understanding.

    Comment by field — August 1, 2007 @ 2:59 pm

  51. Arguing with you is like talking to a brick wall. I give up trying to explain to you where you have gone wrong, it’s just an ongoing waste of my time. Sorry, but unless you are willing to deal with problems and not just stamp youir foot and claim you don’t have any then there is no point in having a discussion, because anyone can do that, even your imaginary opponents.

    Comment by Peter — August 1, 2007 @ 4:52 pm

  52. Well, then we shall have to leave it for others to read this exchange and decide who is stamping their foot and who is focussing on the issues.

    Comment by field — August 2, 2007 @ 10:35 am

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