Truth suffers from too much analysis

Posts Tagged ‘Cause and Effect’

The Aim is the Search for Universal Laws

Posted by allzermalmer on October 22, 2013

I would rather discover one true cause than gain the kingdom of Persia.
Read more at“I would rather discover one true cause than gain the kingdom of Persia1. There exists at least one (empirical) principle that is true at describing an invariable relationship of the empirical world. (expressed) 2. There exists at least one possible (empirical) principle that is true at describing an invariable relationship  of the empirical world.  (expressed or not express3. There exists at least one invariable relationship of the empirical world.

“I would rather discover one true cause than gain the kingdom of Persia.” Democritus

Question: “Does there exist one true cause?”

The answer to this question, is answered in the affirmative by some and answered in the negative by some.

Affirmative: There does exist at least one causal relationship between events.
Negative: There doesn’t exist at least one causal relationship between events.

Both answers to the question are logically possible. There is no self-contradiction in either proposition. So it is possible that there does exist at least one causal relationship between events & it is possible that there doesn’t exist at least one causal relationship between events.

Suppose that we have someone similar to Democritus, they would be searching for at least one true causal relationship. It is possible that they don’t find what they are searching for since it is possible that there doesn’t exist at least one causal relationship between events.

So we can have the Aim of Searching for Universal Laws, but that doesn’t mean that what we search for is true or that we will find what we search for. In both cases we would neither be able to find what we search for (since it doesn’t exist) nor search for what is true (since it isn’t true).

We can have a methodological principle that there does exist at least one causal relationship between events. All our actions would be consistent with this methodological principle, but none of this is asserting that there actually does exist at least one causal relationship between events because it is possible that there doesn’t actually exist at least one causal relationship. This implies that our assertion was false, which implies that we didn’t find at least one true causal relationship.

The whole endeavor would be predicated on a fiction, and everything produced within the endeavor would be fictional as well. Even the single processes, or plural processes, used in this endeavor would only have input of fictions and output of fictions. It would be similar to comic books, having fictional characters as input in their process and fictions as the output in their process.

Suppose that there actually does exist a causal relationship between events. It is logically possible that both there exists at least one causal relationship between events & we don’t know this one causal relationship between events. However, it is logically impossible that we know both there exists at least one causal relationship between events & we don’t know this one causal relationship between events.

Suppose we know that both there exists at least one causal relationship between events & we don’t know this one causal relationship between events. It follows that, we know there exists at least one causal relationship between events and we know we don’t know this one causal relationship between events. We know there exists at least one causal relationship between events & we don’t know this one causal relationship between events. This is a contradiction, so it is necessary we don’t know both there exists at least one causal relationship between events & we don’t know this one causal relationship between events. From all this it follows we don’t know there exists at least one causal relationship. Since we don’t know there exists at least one causal relationship, it means that we can’t know that there exists at least one causal relationship.

The very Aim of the Search for Universal Laws would be of something that you can’t possibly know, even if you did obtain what you were searching for.




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Why Science Doesn’t Invoke Metaphysics

Posted by allzermalmer on November 1, 2012

All those things in italics come from Popper, and those that are in bold & italics  are my own personal emphasis and not Popper’s.

But before I get to that, I want to start out by making one big distinction. There is the distinction between statements that are logically necessary and those that are logically contingent.

Logically Necessary: For each x, if x is logically necessary, then x’s affirmation is logically possible and x’s negation is not logically possible.
Logically Contingent: For each x, if x is logically contingent, then x’s affirmation is logically possible and x’s negation is logically possible.

Popper thinks that things that are Logically Necessary are not in the domain of empirical science. Logically Necessary statements make no claim about reality or what exists, while those things that are Logically Contingent do make claims about reality or what exists. Logically Contingent statements are what empirical science deals with. But from within this domain of Logically Contingent statements, Popper is going to make a distinction.

His distinction is basically this: Not for every statement, if statement is logically contingent, then logically possible for humans to verify that statement is actually true instead of possibly true.

This is because it relies logical distinction between singular statements and universal statements.  “The raven is black in color” or “There exists at least one x, such that x is raven and x is black in color”, are examples of “Singular statements”. They are a proposition that asserts that a particular individual has (or has not) some specified attribute. “All ravens are black in color” or “For every x, if x is raven, then x is black in color”, are examples of “Universal statements”. They are a proposition that refers to all the members of a class. The members of class could have all sorts of particular individual things contained in them, like all ravens that have existed, are existing, or will exist. This can be logically infinite domain in time and space. Singular statements are at specific times and specific places, not all times and all places. So these are logically distinct from one another.

One of the basic points is that sense experience, or observation, is of particular things or individuals. We do not have sense experience, or observation, of all times and places, or all things that have existed, are existing, or will exist. In other words, observation only gives singular statements but science, or empirical science, seeks universal statements that apply to all particular things, for all times and all places. Empirical science is seeking universal statements that apply to singular statements, like universal statements that apply to all particular ravens.

“The fact that theories are not verifiable has often been overlooked. People often say of a theory that it is verified when some of the predictions derived from it have been verified. They may perhaps admit that the verification is not completely impeccable from a logical point of view, or that a statement can never be finally established by establishing some of its consequences. But they are apt to look upon such objections as due to somewhat unnecessary scruples. It is quite true, they say, and even trivial, that we cannot know for certain whether the sun will rise tomorrow; but this uncertainty may be neglected: the fact that theories may not only be improved but that they can also be falsified by new experiments presents to the scientist a serious possibility which may at any moment become actual; but never yet has a theory had to be regarded as falsified owing to the sudden breakdown of a well confirmed law. It never happens that old experiments one day yield new results. What happens is only that new experiments decide against an old theory. The old theory, even when it is superseded, often retains its validity as a kind of limiting case of the new theory; it still applies, at least with a high degree of approximation, in those cases in which it was successful before. In short, regularities which are directly testable by experiment do not change. Admittedly it is conceivable, or logically possible, that they might change; but this possibility is disregarded by empirical science and does not affect its methods. On the contrary, scientific method presupposes the immutability of natural processes, or the ‘principle of the uniformity of nature’.

There is something to be said for the above argument, but it does not affect my thesis. It expresses the metaphysical faith in the existence of regularities in our world (a faith which I share, and without which practical action is hardly conceivable).*1 Yet the question before us— the question which makes the non-verifiability of theories significant in the present context—is on an altogether different plane. Consistently with my attitude towards other metaphysical questions, I abstain from arguing for or against faith in the existence of regularities in our world. But I shall try to show that the non-verifiability of theories is methodologically important. It is on this plane that I oppose the argument just advanced.

I shall therefore take up as relevant only one of the points of this argument—the reference to the so-called ‘principle of the uniformity of nature’. This principle, it seems to me, expresses in a very superficial way an important methodological rule, and one which might be derived, with advantage, precisely from a consideration of the non-verifiability of theories.*2 (I mean the rule that any new system of hypotheses should yield, or explain, the old, corroborated, regularities. See also section *3 (third paragraph) of my Postscript.

Let us suppose that the sun will not rise tomorrow (and that we shall nevertheless continue to live, and also to pursue our scientific interests). Should such a thing occur, science would have to try to explain it, i.e. to derive it from laws. Existing theories would presumably require to be drastically revised. But the revised theories would not merely have to account for the new state of affairs: our older experiences would also have to be derivable from them. From the methodological point of view one sees that the principle of the uniformity of nature is here replaced by the postulate of the invariance of natural laws, with respect to both space and time.  I think, therefore, that it would be a mistake to assert that natural regularities do not change. (This would be a kind of statement that can neither be argued against nor argued for.) What we should say is, rather, that it is part of our definition of natural laws if we postulate that they are to be invariant with respect to space and time; and also if we postulate that they are to have no exceptions. Thus from a methodological point of view, the possibility of falsifying a corroborated law is by no means without significance. It helps us to find out what we demand and expect from natural laws. And the ‘principle of the uniformity of nature’ can again be regarded as a metaphysical interpretation of a methodological rule—like its near relative, the ‘law of causality’.

One attempt to replace metaphysical statements of this kind by principles of method leads to the ‘principle of induction’, supposed to govern the method of induction, and hence that of the verification of theories. But this attempt fails, for the principle of induction is itself metaphysical in character. As I have pointed out in section 1, the assumption that the principle of induction is empirical leads to an infinite regress. It could therefore only be introduced as a primitive proposition (or a postulate, or an axiom). This would perhaps not matter so much, were it not that the principle of induction would have in any case to be treated as a non-falsifiable statement. For if this principle— which is supposed to validate the inference of theories—were itself falsifiable, then it would be falsified with the first falsified theory, because this theory would then be a conclusion, derived with the help of the principle of induction; and this principle, as a premise, will of course be falsified by the modus tollens whenever a theory is falsified which was derived from it. *3 (The premises of the derivation of the theory would (according to the inductivist view here discussed) consist of the principle of induction and of observation statements. But the latter are here tacitly assumed to be unshaken and reproducible, so that they cannot be made responsible for the failure of the theory.) But this means that a falsifiable principle of induction would be falsified anew with every advance made by science. It would be necessary, therefore, to introduce a principle of induction assumed not to be falsifiable. But this would amount to the misconceived notion of a synthetic statement which is a priori valid, i.e. an irrefutable statement about reality. Thus if we try to turn our metaphysical faith in the uniformity of nature and in the verifiability of theories into a theory of knowledge based on inductive logic, we are left only with the choice between an infinite regress and apriorism.” The Logic of Scientific Discovery pg. 249-252

Popper is trying to make the distinction between a metaphysical principle and a methodological principle. He is trying to point out that science is a methodology without metaphysical principles. The line of demarcation between science and metaphysics is falsifiability or refutability.  He holds that “we must choose a criterion which allows us to admit to the domain of empirical science even statements which cannot be verified.” (pg. 18) Popper’s line of demarcation for statements that are allowed into science, or more specifically universal statements allowed into empirical science. “But I shall certainly admit a system as empirical or scientific only if it is capable of being tested by experience. These considerations suggest that not the verifiability but the falsifiability of a system is to be taken as a criterion of demarcation.*3 In other words: I shall not require of a scientific system that it shall be capable of being singled out, once and for all, in a positive sense; but I shall require that its logical form shall be such that it can be singled out, by means of empirical tests, in a negative sense: it must be possible for an empirical scientific system to be refuted by experience.” (pg. 18)

We can verify singular statements, it is logically possible for us to find out if that statement is true. If we have not verified that it is actually true, we cannot infer that it is actually false. It is still logically possible that it is true. So we find out that we can, at least in principle, verify the truth of a singular statement. However, it is not logically possible for us to affirm a universal statement, like empirical claims of science. However, we can show that they are false. We cannot verify them but we can falsify them. We falsify these universal statements with one singular statement, or one observation, which the universal statement does not logically allow for, i.e. says is not logically possible to be true if the universal statement is true. This can be shown by simple modus tollens.

Universal Statement: All ravens are black.
Singular Statement: This raven is white.
Conclusion: Some ravens are not white.


Universal Statement: No ravens are not black.
Singular Statement: This raven is not black.
Conclusion: Some ravens are not black.


Universal Statement: For each x, if x is a raven, then x is black.
Singular Statement: There exists at least one x, such that x is a raven and x is not black.
Conclusion: Not each x, if x is raven, then x is black.

What needs to be kept in mind that the Universal statement has a logical equivalent as “No ravens are not black.” So it logically excludes a raven that is white, since white is the logical opposite of black, so it is not black.

Popper shows that if we do accept a metaphysical principle (i.e. a universal statement) which is logically contingent, then it means it is possibly true or possibly false. And if we choose to invoke a metaphysical principle in our science, and we derive another universal statement from it, then when that derived universal statement is refuted by observation, then the universal statement and the one it was derived from are shown to be false. For example, assume that “All ravens on Earthare black” is a metaphysical principle. We may derive that “All ravens on Earth in  in the United States are black”. When we observe that one particular raven on Earth in the United States is not black, which means that “All ravens on Earth in the United States are black” and “All ravens on Earth are black” are false.

Metaphysical Statement: All ravens on Earth are black.
Scientific Statement: All ravens on Earth in the United States are black.
Observation: This raven on Earth in the United States is not black.
Conclusion: Not all ravens on Earth in the United States are black & Not all ravens on Earth are black.

This means that if someone believes that science holds to the metaphysical principle of induction, then it was shown to be false by scientific theories that are false. Now as a methodology there is nothing wrong with holding to it, because methodology makes no truth claim itself. Also, the example of causality is an example, if we take it as a metaphysical principle that science is based on. So this would mean that science would hold to this metaphysical principle and derive other statements from this principle and test them with experience or observation. From this we find that one of our theories made a false prediction, which means that the metaphysical principle of causality has been shown to be false by experience as well, and all other theories that were derived from the metaphysical principle, but have not been shown false yet, would also by logical implication be false. The same thing would hold with naturalism, physicalism, materialism, dualism, or the world is parsimonious or simple, or determinism, or indeterminism, or presentism and eternalism, and etc.

Now science, or experience, would have never been able to verify these metaphysical principles in the first place. There would be no support for them to be derived from experience. It would still be logically possible for them to be true, but we cannot find out if they are actually true. Experience cannot help us to figure out if they are actually true or possibly true, no matter the amount of observations we make that are consistent with them. But science may use methodological principles in its activities, but holding to those methodological principles does not mean that one is logically obliged to hold to the metaphysical principles.

What is even more interesting is that if we do try to make some sort of inductive argument, we could argue that since science has used metaphysical principle x, and science continually comes up with false theories, or refuted theories, it will continue to derive false theories from that metaphysical principle. But of course, once something was refuted we have shown that it is logically impossible to be true. However, we can still use it and we may derive “true” theories, or theories that have not been shown to be false by observation, yet. This is because anything follows from a logical contradiction. This means you can derive both true statements and false statements. So it would not be surprising if the metaphysical principle also helped you to derive theories that have not been shown false by observation as of yet (even though still logically possible to be shown false with next observation).

Here is an example from basic logic which will rely on two basic rules of logical inference. These two rules are Disjunctive Addition and Disjunctive Syllogism.

Rule 1 – Disjunctive Addition: Given that a statement is true, we can infer that a disjunction comprising it and any other statement is true, because only one disjunct needs to be true for the disjunctive compound to be true.

Premise: It is snowing
Conclusion: Either it is snowing or it is raining

Rule 2 – Disjunctive Syllogism: Because at least one disjunct must be true, by knowing one is false we can infer that the other is true.

Premise: Either the New York Yankees will win the pennant or the Baltimore Orioles will.
Premise: The Yankees will not win the pennant.
Conclusion: Therefore, the Orioles will win the pennant.

For it can easily be shown that these rules permit us to deduce from a pair of contradictory sentences, for instance, from the two sentences,  ”  The sun is shining ” and “The sun is not shining “, any sentence whatsoever.  Let us take these two premisses (a) “The sun is shining”  (b) “The sun is not shining “.  We can deduce with the help of rule (1) from the first of these premisses, the following sentence:”The sun is shining or Caesar was a traitor “. But from this sentence, together with the second premiss (b), we can deduce, following rule (2), that,Caesar was a traitor. And by the same method we can deduce any other sentence. This is extremely important, for if we can deduce any sentence whatsoever, then, clearly, we can always deduce any negation of any sentence whatsoever: It is clear that instead of the sentence “Caesar was a traitor ” we can, if we wish, deduce “Caesar was not a traitor “. In other words, from two contradictory premisses, we can logically deduce anything, and its negation as well. We therefore convey with such a contradictory theory-nothing. A theory which involves a contradiction is entirely useless, because it does not convey any sort of information.”

Logically possible Affirmation: The sun is shining.
Logically possible Negation: The sun is not shining.

The sun is shining. Therefore, by rule 1, The sun is shining or Ceasar was a traitor. But now the sun is not shining. Therefore, by rule 2, Ceasar was a traitor; The sun is not shinning. Therefore, by rule 1, The sun is not shinning or Ceasar was not a traitor. But now the sun is shinning. Therefore, by rule 2, Ceasar was not a traitor. Rule 1 allows you to pull up any premise you want, and be able to affirms this premise and also negate this premise by using Rule 2. So if you affirm a logical impossibility, anything and everything you want follows. They contain no “content” or “information” for empirical science. This is because empirical science wants to eliminate theories because they said something cannot happen and it was found that it did happen. Since there is a contradiction, we know it is logically impossible for the theory to be true.

This process of elimination, though, does not tell you which theories are true. It just says what is not true. There are still many other logically possible universal statements that have not been eliminated by singular statements, or observations, as of yet.

(This will be updated at least 24 hours after posting or publication). Edits need to be done.

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Popper, Hume, Induction, Falsifiability, and Science

Posted by allzermalmer on September 30, 2012

Here are some interesting things from Karl Popper on Falsification and Induction, or Hume on Induction.

“we merely have to realize that our ‘adoption’ of scientific theories can only be tentative; that they always are and will remain guesses or conjectures or hypotheses. They are put forward, of course, in the hope of hitting upon the truth, even though they miss it more often than not. They may be true or false. They may be tested by observation (it is the main task of science to make these tests more and more severe), and rejected if they do not pass…Indeed, we can do no more with a proposed law than test it: it is no use pretending that we have established universal theories, or justified them, or made them probably, by observation. We just have not done so, and cannot do so. We cannot give any positive reasons for them. They remain guesses or conjectures- though well tested ones.” Realism and the Aim of Science

Now someone might wonder how we cannot give any positive reasons for establishing the universal theories, or justified them, or made them probable, by all the observations that confirm its predictions on tests. This comes from what Popper takes to be Hume’s problem of induction.

“[Hume] tried to show that any inductive inference- any reasoning from singular and observable cases (and their repeated occurrence) to anything like regularities or laws- must be invalid. Any such inference, he tried to show, could not een be approximately or partially valid. It could not even be a probable inference: it must, rather, be completely baseless, and must always remain so, however great the number of the observed instances might be. Thus he tried to show that we cannot validly reason from the known to the unknown, or from what has been experienced to what has not been experienced (and thus, for example, from the past to the future): no matter how often the sun has been observed regularly to rise and set, even the greatest number of observed instances does not constitute what I have called a positive reason for the regularity, or the law, of the sun’s rising and setting. Thus it can neither establish this law nor make it probable.” Realism and the Aim of Science

I think it should be pointed out, Hume did bring up that the basic idea of induction was that “we suppose, but are never able to prove, that there must be a resemblance betwixt those objects, of which we have had experience, and those which lie beyond the reach of our discovery.” Induction is also done in other ways besides going from particular statements to universal statements.

[I.] Move form particular statement to particular statement.
In 1997 the Chicago Bulls beat the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals. In 1998 the Chicago Bulls beat the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals. Thus, the Chicago Bulls will win against the Utah Jazz the next time they play in the NBA Finals.

[II.] Move from general statement to general statement.
All NFL teams made tons of money this year. Thus, all NFL teams will make tons of money next year.

[III.] Move from general statement to particular statement.
All NFL teams made tons of money this year. Thus, the Ravens will make tons of money next year.

[IV.] Move from particular statement to general statement.
This crow is black. Thus, all crows are black.

Each of these, though, follow what Hume points out for Induction. They are going from the known to the unknown, which does not have to include the future or past.Hume also says that the only thing that can take us from the known to the unknown is causality, or a necessary connection between two events to form a necessary causal relation. But Hume already pointed out that this relation is not found by experience. So Hume comes to the conclusion that since the necessary relation between cause and effect or continuation of that relationship, is not shown by experience nor demonstrative,  or that the principle of induction is not known by experience or demonstrative, but that they are creations of the human imagination that cannot be shown to be true based on experience or reason, and any justification of them will either rely on an infinite regress or circular reasoning. So they cannot be proven to be true.

This would mean that when science proposes either a causal connection, or what will happen in the future, or what happens beneath sensible qualities, cannot be proved by experience to be true , or by reason to be true, or even held to be probably true. IOW, we are not justified in proposing things beyond what is known, since they cannot be shown to be true or probably true. So scientific hypotheses are unjustified and cannot be shown to be true or probably true, or natural laws cannot be shown to be true or probably true or justified.

Popper comes along and tries to save science, in some way. But you notice where his position eventually leads as well. He admits with Hume that we cannot demonstrate the truth of a scientific hypothesis or explanation; we cannot show by experiment the truth of a scientific hypothesis or explanation; we cannot show that a scientific hypothesis or explanation is probably true. All we can do is show if they are false. We can give negative reasons to a scientific hypothesis or explanation by it failing its severe experimental/observational tests. This is because it follows the demonstrative inference of modus tollens and disjunctive syllogism, so we can demonstrate that a scientific hypothesis or explanation is false.

So falsifiability, or refutabilty, can show you only that a scientific hypothesis or explanation is false. Refutability cannot demonstrate that the hypothesis or explanation is true, or has been shown by experience to be true, or is probably true.  It can only tell you that it may be true, and it has not failed any of its tests so far. It doesn’t even appears to care if something is true, only that it can be shown to be false.

And here are Hume on what Induction is, or relies on.

“that which we have had no experience, must resemble those which we have had experience, and nature continues uniformly the same.” Treatise of Human Nature:  Book I (Of the Understanding), Part III (Of Knowledge & Probability), Sect.VI.Of the Inference from the Impression to the Idea

“probability is founded on the presumpition of a resemblances betweixt those objects, of which we have had experience, and those, of which we have had none…” Treatise of Human Nature:  Book I (Of the Understanding), Part III (Of Knowledge & Probability), Sect.VI.Of the Inference from the Impression to the Idea

“Thus not only our reason fails us in the discovery of the ultimate connexion of causes and effects, but even after experience has informed us of their constant conjunction, it is impossible for us to satisfy ourselves by our reason, why we should extend that experience beyond those particular instances, which have fallen under our observation. We suppose, but are never able to prove, that there must be a resemblance betwixt those objects, of which we have had experience, and those which lie beyond the reach of our discovery.” Treatise of Human Nature:  Book I (Of the Understanding), Part III (Of Knowledge & Probability), Sect.VI.Of the Inference from the Impression to the Idea

“we always presume, when we see like sensible qualities, that they have like secret powers, and expect that effects, similar to those which we have experienced, will follow from them.” An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: Section IV. Sceptical Doubts Concerning the Operations of the Understanding, Part II

“all arguments from experience are founded on the similarity which we discover among natural objects, and by which we are induced to expect effects similar to those which we have found to follow from such objects.” An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: Section IV. Sceptical Doubts Concerning the Operations of the Understanding, Part II

“From causes which appear similar we expect similar effects. This is the sum of all our experimental conclusions.” An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: Section IV. Sceptical Doubts Concerning the Operations of the Understanding, Part II




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This Is Your Brain On George Berkeley

Posted by allzermalmer on September 24, 2012

“Philonous: I would first know whether I rightly understand your hypothesis. You make certain traces in the brain to be the causes or occasions of our [sensual experiences]. Pray tell me, whether by the ‘brain’ you mean any sensible thing?

Hylas: What else think you I could mean?

Philonous: Sensible things are all immediately perceivable; and those things which are immediately perceivable are ideas; and these exist only in the mind. Thus much you have, if I mistake not, long since agreed to.

Hylas: I do not deny it.

Philonous: The brain therefore you speak of, being a sensible thing, exists only in the mind. Now, I would fain know whether you think it reasonable to suppose, that one idea or thing existing in the mind, occasions all other ideas. And if you think so, pray how do you account for the origin of that primary idea or brain itself?

Hylas: I do not explain the origin of our ideas by that brain which is perceivable by sense, this being itself only a combination of sensible ideas, but by another which I imagine.

Philonous: But are not things imagined as truly ‘in the mind’ as things perceived ?

Hylas: I must confess they are.

Philonous: It comes therefore to the same thing; and you have been all this while accounting for ideas, by certain motions or impressions in the brain, that is, by some alterations in an idea, whether sensible or imaginable it matters not.”

This is your brain…

This is your brain on MRI…

Notice those two pictures? Good, because if you did not have any senses then you could not have noticed those two pictures. Those pictures are sensible experiences. Those sensible experiences are of the brain, and we notice the brain through sensible experiences, i.e. sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound.

So, as Hylas says, the brain is the cause of our sensual experiences. But Berkeley wants to know if the brain is itself a sensible thing, which Hylas says is correct. So something that is a sensible thing is the cause of our sensual experiences, as Hylas would have us believe. In fact, the sensible thing that is the brain would be the cause of itself being a sensible experience. Sounds an awful like it is self-caused, but does that even make sense that the brain caused itself? In other words, the brain (which is sensible) causes not only itself but all other sensible experiences that someone has.

Some people hold that the mind cannot exist without a brain, while Berkeley holds that the brain cannot exist without a mind. This comes about because Berkeley holds that sensible things cannot be empirically known to exist independent of a mind, or that it is logically impossible for sensible things to exist independent of a mind, i.e. self-contradictory. Have you ever found any sensible things to exist independent of your senses? If you have not found any sensible things to exist independent of your senses, then how do you know that sensible things exist independent of your senses, let alone these sensible things that exist independent of your senses causes your sensations?

But Berkeley, basically says that if sensible thing then immediately perceivable, and if immediately perceivable then ideas. It necessarily follows by hypothetical syllogism that if sensible thing then idea. If idea then only exist in the mind. It necessarily follows by hypothetical syllogism that if sensible thing then only exist in the mind. So sensible things only exist in the mind. But holding the brain is the cause of sensible experiences usually means that the brain does not exist in the mind. So it would necessarily follow by modus tollens that the brain is not a sensible thing. But this contradicted by actual experience, (see those brains?), so it is empirically shown that the brain is a sensible thing.

For Berkeley, an Idea can have two meanings, which was common during the time of Berkeley writing. One of them was being a sensible thing, i.e. a collection of different sensory qualities found to be conjoined with one another. The other meaning for Idea was something like a thought or imagining something. Berkeley, for the most part, takes the Brain as an Idea of the sensible sort.

It comes therefore to the same thing; and you have been all this while accounting for ideas, by certain motions or impressions in the brain, that is, by some alterations in an idea, whether sensible or imaginable it matters not. In other words, Hylas has been all this while accounting for sensible things, by certain motions or impressions in the brain, that is, by some alterations in a sensible thing. Hylas is accounting for sensible things by some alterations in sensible things. But, as Berkeley pointed out and Hume followed, we do not notice any sensible thing bringing about another sensible thing. We just notice one sensible thing to follow another sensible thing. But there is one thing that we do find by experience. When our minds will to move our arm, i.e. a sensible thing, that the sensible thing moves. So we find in one case that a non-sensible thing causes the movement of a sensible thing, and do not find any cases of sensible things causing the movement of another sensible thing. Key point is based on causality here, unless one wants to accept Hume’s skepticism where causality does not exist (or at least not shown by experience).

If we do accept Hume’s skepticism in that causality does not exist (or at least not known by experience), then we cannot accept Berkeley’s position or accept the position of Hylas that the brain is the cause of our sensible experiences.

If a non-sensible mind causes the movement of a sensible thing, then a non-sensible mind causes movement of the brain. We notice that our non-sensible mind causes the movement of our sensible body, take the example of moving arm. But we also notice that sensible things that are not our body move and they are not at our will. But Berkeley has rejected matter because it is not shown to exist by experience or is itself logically impossible for matter to exist. Thus, by processes of elimination, those sensible things that move that are not part of our body are caused to move by another non-sensible mind. So the movements in the brain are either caused by our minds or caused by another mind.

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Sherlock-Holmesian Reasoning

Posted by allzermalmer on September 22, 2012

Sherlock Holmes is the “[t]he only unofficial consulting detective”, and he had a certain method of reasoning in his “detecting”. This is laid out in the “The Sign of Four” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. One chapter is called “The Science of Deduction“, which goes over Holmes basic outline of reasoning. I have altered the format of The Science of Deduction reproduced here by trying to put it more into a Dialectical format.

Those portions that are italicized are not done so in the story itself. I have italicized them myself in order to show important features of Sherlock Holmes method of detection, or method of reasoning. These help to form the basic outlines, or characteristics, of his method propounded here. These are what I shall call Holmesian Reasoning, or Holmesian Thinking.

“Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantel piece, and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case. With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle and rolled back his left shirtcuff. For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist, all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture marks. Finally, he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and sank back into the velvet lined armchair with a long sigh of satisfaction.

Three times a day for many months Watson had witnessed this performance, but custom had not reconciled his mind to it. On the contrary, from day to day he had become more irritable at the sight, and his conscience swelled nightly within him at the thought that he had lacked the courage to protest. Again and again he had registered a vow that he should deliver his soul upon the subject; but there was that in the cool, nonchalant air of his companion which made him the last man with whom one would care to take anything approaching to a liberty. Sherlock Holmes great powers, his masterly manner, and the experience which Watson had had of his many extraordinary qualities, all made Watson diffident and backward in crossing him.

Yet upon that afternoon, whether it was the Beaune which Watson had taken with his lunch or the additional exasperation produced by the extreme deliberation of his manner, he suddenly felt that he could hold out no longer.

Watson: “Which is it today? Morphine or cocaine?”

Holes raised his eyes languidly from the old black letter volume which he had opened.

Holmes: “It is cocaine, a seven-per-cent solution. Would you care to try it?”

Watson : “No, indeed. My constitution has not got over the Afghan campaign yet. I cannot afford to throw any extra strain upon it.”

Holes smiled at Watson’s vehemence.

Holmes: “Perhaps you are right, Watson, I suppose that its influence is physically a bad one. I find it, however, so transcendently stimulating and clarifying to the mind that its secondary action is a matter of small moment.”

Watson: “But consider! Count the cost! Your brain may, as you say, be roused and excited, but it is a pathological and morbid process which involves increased tissue change and may at least leave a permanent weakness. You know, too, what a black reaction comes upon you. Surely the game is hardly worth the candle. Why should you, for a mere passing pleasure, risk the loss of those great powers with which you have been endowed? Remember that I speak not only as one comrade to another but as a medical man to one for whose constitution he is to some extent answerable.”

Holmes’s did not seem offended. On the contrary, he put his fingertips together, and leaned his elbows on the arms of his chair, like one who has a relish for conversation.

Holmes: “My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.”

Watson: “The only unofficial detective?”  said while raising his eyebrows.

Holmes: “The only unofficial consulting detective, I am the last and highest court of appeal in detection. When Gregson, or Lestrade, or Athelney Jones are out of their depths–which, by the way, is their normal state–the matter is laid before me. I examine the data, as an expert, and pronounce a specialist’s opinion. I claim no credit in such cases. My name figures in no newspaper. The work itself, the pleasure of finding a field for my peculiar powers, is my highest reward. But you have yourself had some experience of my methods of work in the Jefferson Hope case.”

Watson: “Yes, indeed, I was never so struck by anything in my life. I even embodied it in a small brochure, with the somewhat fantastic title of ‘A Study in Scarlet.’ ”

Holmes shook his head sadly.

Holmes: “I glanced over it. Honestly, I cannot congratulate you upon it. Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner. You have attempted to tinge it with romanticism, which produces much the same effect as if you worked a love story or an elopement into the fifth proposition of Euclid.”

Watson: “But the romance was there. I could not tamper with the facts.”

Holmes: “Some facts should be suppressed, or, at least, a just sense of proportion should be observed in treating them. The only point in the case which deserved mention was the curious analytical reasoning from effects to causes, by which I succeeded in unravelling it.

Watson  was annoyed at Holmes criticism of a work which had been specially designed to please him. Watson confess, too, that he was irritated by the egotism which seemed to demand that every line of his pamphlet should be devoted to Holmes own special doings. More than once during the years that Watson had lived with Holmes in Baker Street Watson had observed that a small vanity underlay his companion’s quiet and didactic manner. He made no remark however, but sat nursing his wounded leg. Watson had had a Jezaii bullet through it some time before, and though it did not prevent him from walking it ached wearily at every change of the weather.

Holmes: “My practice has extended recently to the Continent,” said Holmes after a while, filling up his old brier-root pipe. “I was consulted last week by Francois le Villard, who, as you probably know, has come rather to the front lately in the French detective service. He has all the Celtic power of quick intuition but he is deficient in the wide range of exact knowledge which is essential to the higher developments of his art. The case was concerned with a will and possessed some features of interest. I was able to refer him to two parallel cases, the one at Riga in 1857, and the other at St. Louis in 1871, which have suggested to him the true solution. Here is the letter which I had this morning acknowledging my assistance.”

Holmes tossed over, as he spoke, a crumpled sheet of foreign notepaper. Watson glanced his eyes down it, catching a profusion of notes of admiration, with stray magnifiques, coup-de-maitres and tours-de-force, all testifying to the ardent admiration of the Frenchman.

Watson: “He speaks as a pupil to his master.”

Holmes: “Oh, he rates my assistance too highly. He has considerable gifts himself. He possesses two out of the three qualities necessary for the ideal detective. He has the power of observation and that of deduction. He is only wanting in knowledge, and that may come in time. He is now translating my small works into French.”

Watson: “Your works?”

Holmes: “Oh, didn’t you know?” he cried, laughing. “Yes, I have been guilty of several monographs. They are all upon technical subjects. Here, for example, is one ‘Upon the Distinction between the Ashes of the Various Tobaccos.’ In it I enumerate a hundred and forty forms of cigar, cigarette, and pipe tobacco, with coloured plates illustrating the difference in the ash. It is a point which is continually turning up in criminal trials, and which is sometimes of supreme importance as a clue. If you can say definitely, for example, that some murder had been done by a man who was smoking an Indian lunkah, it obviously narrows your field of search. To the trained eye there is as much difference between the black ash of a Trichinopoly and the white fluff of bird’s-eye as there is between a cabbage and a potato.

Watson: “You have an extraordinary genius for minutiae.”

Holmes: “I appreciate their importance. Here is my monograph upon the tracing of footsteps, with some remarks upon the uses of plaster of Paris as a preserver of impresses. Here, too, is a curious little work upon the influence of a trade upon the form of the hand, with lithotypes of the hands of slaters, sailors, cork cutters, compositors, weavers, and diamond-polishers. That is a matter of great practical

interest to the scientific detective–especially in cases of unclaimed bodies, or in discovering the antecedents of criminals. But I weary you with my hobby.”

Watson: “Not at all. It is of the greatest interest to me, especially since I have had the opportunity of observing your practical application of it. But you spoke just now of observation and deduction. Surely the one to some extent implies the other.”

Holmes: “Why, hardly,” he answered, leaning back luxuriously in his armchair and sending up thick blue wreaths from his pipe. “For example, observation shows me that you have been to the Wigmore Street Post Office this morning, but deduction lets me know that when there you dispatched a telegram.”

Watson: “Right! Right on both points! But I confess that I don’t see how you arrived at it. It was a sudden impulse upon my part, and I have mentioned it to no one.”

Holmes: “It is simplicity itself,” he remarked, chuckling at my surprise–“so absurdly simple that an explanation is superfluous; and yet it may serve to define the limits of observation and of deduction. Observation tells me that you have a little reddish mould adhering to your instep. Just opposite the Wigmore Street Office they have taken up the pavement and thrown up some earth, which lies in such a way that it is difficult to avoid treading in it in entering. The earth is of this peculiar reddish tint which is found, as far as I know, nowhere else in the neighbourhood. So much is observation. The rest is deduction.”

Watson: “How, then, did you deduce the telegram?”

Holmes: “Why, of course I knew that you had not written a letter, since I sat opposite to you all morning. I see also in your open desk there that you have a sheet of stamps and a thick bundle of postcards. What could you go into the post office for, then, but to send a wire? Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.

Watson: “In this case it certainly is so,” he replied after a little thought. “The thing, however, is, as you say, of the simplest. Would you think me impertinent if I were to put your theories to a more severe test?”

Holmes: “On the contrary,” he answered, “it would prevent me from taking a second dose of cocaine. I should be delighted to look into any problem which you might submit to me.”

Watson: “I have heard you say it is difficult for a man to have any object in daily use without leaving the impress of his individuality upon it in such a way that a trained observer might read it. Now, I have here a watch which has recently come into my possession. Would you have the kindness to let me have an opinion upon the character or habits of the late owner?”

Watson handed Holmes over the watch with some slight feeling of amusement in his heart, for the test was, as he thought, an impossible one, and he intended it as a lesson against the somewhat dogmatic tone which Holmes occasionally assumed. Holmes balanced the watch in his hand, gazed hard at the dial, opened the back, and examined the works, first with his naked eyes and then with a powerful convex lens. Watson could hardly keep from smiling at Holmes crestfallen face when he finally snapped the case to and handed it back.

Holmes: “There are hardly any data,” he remarked. “The watch has been recently cleaned, which robs me of my most suggestive facts.”

Watson: “You are right,” he answered. “It was cleaned before being sent to me.”

In Holmes heart he accused his companion of putting forward a most lame and impotent excuse to cover Watson’ s failure. What data could he expect from an uncleaned watch?

Holmes: “Though unsatisfactory, my research has not been entirely barren,” he observed, staring up at the ceiling with dreamy, lacklustre eyes. “Subject to your correction, I should judge that the watch belonged to your elder brother, who inherited it from your father.”

Watson: “That you gather, no doubt, from the H. W. upon the back?”

Holmes: “Quite so. The W. suggests your own name. The date of the watch is nearly fifty years back, and the initials are as old as the watch: so it was made for the last generation. Jewellery usually descends to the eldest son, and he is most likely to have the same name as the father. Your father has, if I remember right, been dead many years. It has, therefore, been in the hands of your eldest brother.”

Watson: “Right, so far,” said I. “Anything else?”

Holmes: “He was a man of untidy habits–very untidy and careless. He was left with good prospects, but he threw away his chances, lived for some time in poverty with occasional short intervals of prosperity, and finally, taking to drink, he died. That is all I can gather.”

Watson sprang from his chair and limped impatiently about the room with considerable bitterness in his heart.

Watson:  “This is unworthy of you, Holmes,” he said. “I could not have believed that you would have descended to this. You have made inquiries into the history of my unhappy brother, and you now pretend to deduce this knowledge in some fanciful way. You cannot expect me to believe that you have read all this from his old watch! It is unkind and, to speak plainly, has a touch of charlatanism in it.

Holmes: “My dear doctor,” said he kindly, “pray accept my apologies. Viewing the matter as an abstract problem, I had forgotten how personal and painful a thing it might be to you. I assure you, however, that I never even knew that you had a brother until you handed me the watch.”

Watson: “Then how in the name of all that is wonderful did you get these facts? They are absolutely correct in every particular.”

Holmes: “Ah, that is good luck. I could only say what was the balance of probability. I did not at all expect to be so accurate.”

Watsons: “But it was not mere guesswork?”

Holmes: “No, no: I never guess. It is a shocking habit–destructive to the logical faculty. What seems strange to you is only so because you do not follow my train of thought or observe the small facts upon which large inferences may depend. For example, I began by stating that your brother was careless. When you observe the lower part of that watch case you notice that it is not only dinted in two places but it is cut and marked all over from the habit of keeping other hard objects, such as coins or keys, in the same pocket. Surely it is no great feat to assume that a man who treats a fifty-guinea watch so cavalierly must be a careless man. Neither is it a very far fetched inference that a man who inherits one article of such value is pretty well provided for in other respects.

Watson nodded to show that he followed his reasoning.

Holmes: “It is very customary for pawnbrokers in England, when they take a watch, to scratch the numbers of the ticket with a pinpoint upon the inside of the case. It is more handy than a label as there is no risk of the number being lost or transposed. There are no less than four such numbers visible to my lens on the inside of this case. Inference–that your brother was often at low water. Secondary inference–that he had occasional bursts of prosperity, or he could not have redeemed the pledge. Finally, I ask you to look at the inner plate, which contains the keyhole. Look at the thousands of scratches all round the hole–marks where the key has slipped. What sober man’s key could have scored those grooves? But you will never see a drunkard’s watch without them. He winds it at night, and he leaves these traces of his unsteady hand. Where is the mystery in all this?”

Watson: “It is as clear as daylight,” he answered. “I regret the injustice which I did you. I should have had more faith in your marvellous faculty. May I ask whether you have any professional inquiry on foot at present?”

Holmes: “None. Hence the cocaine. I cannot live without brainwork. What else is there to live for? Stand at the window here. Was ever such a dreary, dismal, unprofitable world? See how the yellow fog swirls down the street and drifts across the dun coloured houses. What could be more hopelessly prosaic and material? What is the use of having powers, Doctor, when one has no field upon which to exert them? Crime is commonplacc, existence is commonplace, and no qualities save those which are commonplace have any function upon earth.

Watson had opened his mouth to reply to this tirade when, with a crisp knock, our landlady entered, bearing a card upon the brass salver.

Landlady Mrs. Hudson: “A young lady for you, sir,” she said, addressing Watson’s companion.

Holmes: “Miss Mary Morstan,” he read. “Hum! I have no recollection of the name. Ask the young lady to step up, Mrs. Hudson. Don’t go, Doctor Watson. I should prefer that you remain.”

1. Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner.

Sherlock Holmes does not allow for emotions to come into his method of detection, or his method of reasoning. He tries to keep feelings and emotions outside of he considers to be how detection is actually done or how detection actually ought to be done. Now Holmes is either guided by what detection actually is or what detection ought to be, or both what detection is and what detection ought to be. This appears to be open to being derived from  Is v. Ought and Descriptive v. Normative, or Is and Ought are one and the same and Descriptive and Normative are one and the same. As Joe Friday use to say, “Just the facts, ma’am.”. The Facts, for Holmes, are, or ought to be, treated in a cold and unemotional manner.

2.  Analytical reasoning from effects to causes, by which succeeded in unravelling a fact.

Sherlock will argue from an observation to a cause of that observation. From a single fact, Holmes argues to another, which is what produced the fact before him, what is the facts cause. From the fact that there is smoke, by analytical reasoning, Holmes concludes that there is fire. From the fact that there is red mud on Dr. Watson’s pants, he argues to a cause of the red mud on Dr. Watson’s pants. This fact was noticed by observation. From the facts of scratches and writing, and a certain functional characteristic on the watch that he observed, Holmes reaches a certain cause of those scratches and writing, and certain functional characteristics of the watch.

In the examples that are given in the dialogue, inductive reasoning is being used. Holmes moves from what is known to what is unknown. Holmes moves from the known to the unknown. Holmes moves from the effect, from the known, to the unknown cause. Holmes knows there is red mud on Watson’s pants, but Holmes did does not know where Watson went when Holmes was not with Watson. Holmes, also, did not see Watson walk into any red mud in the time that they were together.

3. The power of observation,  deduction, and a wide range of exact knowledge, (and intuition(?)).

You must be able to use your senses. You must be able to observe in order to notice things. You must have a wide base of exact knowledge. The example of Watson’s clock is one. Holmes notices some scratches on it, and he notices some writing on it, and he also knows the type of watch. The type of watch is based on Holmes wide range of exact knowledge. This wide range of exact knowledge also includes Holmes notices some scratches on it, and he notices some writing on it,  feels the watch in his hand, he focuses his attention to the dials of the clock, he opens the back of the watch and looks at the internal functionings of the watch with his naked eye and than with a magnifying instrument in front of his naked eye. These are the facts of observation that is shown to Holmes by observation.

Holmes have a wide range of exact knowledge, which either comes from his personal experience or from those that he has read in books or other people have said. He knows that jewelry is passed down to the eldest son, the eldest son usually has the same first name as the father, and he knows what  50 years old watches look like. From this exact knowledge he could deduce that the watch is Watson’s brothers. From that wide range of exact knowledge is previous knowledge brought to the situation when make the observations, which is how certain things can stand out to garner ones attention.

Holmes has a wide range of knowledge that is known to be true, and he has these particular observation, data, before him, and these together allow him to deduce something that is not known by the observations, or  data, itself or the wide range of knowledge itself. He does not know that the watch was owned by Watson’s brother and that Watson cleaned the watch before showing it to Holmes. But he knows a certain general principle that was established by enumeration of particular observations by himself or others, and the observations before Holmes now are consistent with those general principles themselves, and so it is another enumeration of that general principle.

All men are mortal (part of Holmes wide range of knowledge). Socrates is a man (observation made by Holmes). So Holems concludes that Socrates is mortal, even though Holmes has not made the observation itself that Socrates is mortal. Holmes concludes this through logical deduction from these known things. But the conclusion that Holmes draws is one that is not known itself by observation. He has not observed that Socrates has died, and so does not know that Socrates is mortal.

4. Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.

Holmes will eliminate other factors that can lead to different conclusions of the observations before him. Take the example of the ash that comes from different cigars. Holmes had enumerated many experiments with a hundred and forty forms of cigar, cigarette, and pipe tobacco. He noticed that each type of cigar, cigarette, and pipe tobacco, left their own distinct ash. This became a wide range of exact knowledge he obtained.If Holmes did not know all these different possible cigars, cigarettes, and pipe tobacco, and the ash they leave behind, then he would not know what else would be consistent with the ash that Holmes observes. But knowing these things, he can eliminate certain possible types of cigars, cigarettes, and pipe tobacco, because the observation eliminates those causes of the ash. The observation is not consistent with those possible causes, or source, of the ash that is left behind.

Knowing all the possible factors involved in the situation, would allow Holmes to eliminate certain possible causes for what is being observed. Holmes would eliminate what is impossible, because the observation contradicts a cause that is possible in and of itself. Like eliminating that the ash belongs to cigar type x because cigar type x ash is not similar to the ash observed. So whatever else is left would be the truth if it is the only factor left, like cigar y is the only source consistent with the observed ash, and if it is not the only factor left then at least know what is not the possible source of the ash. Cigar types a,b, and c have been eliminated. It narrows the search down further to the cigar, cigarette, and pipe tobacco to be the source, the cause, of the ash observed.

Holmes eliminates possible causes of the effect that is observed, and only one possible cause is correct. The murder smoked a particular type of tobacco product, and that particular tobacco product left behind a certain kind of ash. He eliminated particular tobacco products as the cause of the ash because those causes product different effects than the one observed. So the murder did not smoke those tobacco products. But Holmes himself did not observe what particular tobacco product itself that the murder smoked. He is eliminating a possible unknown cause by a known effect, and how the possible unknown cause is not consistent with the known effect.

5. Some facts ought be suppressed, or not given much attention.

Some observations ought not to be taken attention or pay much attention to. This appears to follow from Holmes saying that emotions that are found to go along with observations ought to be ignored. This is because emotions are not cold and unemotional. There are also other factors that do not play into a possible cause for the observation, which appears to come from ones wide range of exact knowledge, or intuition. The shoes that Watson has on appear to have no causal relation with the watch the Watson presented for Holmes to observe. So Holmes ought to suppress the observation of what shoes Watson has on, or Holmes emotional state in making the observation of the watch.

(This blog post will go through alteration and addition at a later date.)

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David Hume on Induction

Posted by allzermalmer on May 20, 2012

This is David Hume on the Problem of Induction, and this comes from Treatise of Human Nature: Book I (Of the Understandin), Part III (Of Knowledge & Probability), Sect. VI. Of the Inference from the Impression to the Idea

“It is easy to observe, that in tracing this relation, the inference we draw from cause to effect, is not derived merely from a survey of these particular objects, and from such a penetration into their essences as may discover the dependence of the one upon the other. There is no object, which implies the existence of any other if we consider these objects in themselves, and never look beyond the ideas which we form of them. Such an inference would amount to knowledge, and would imply the absolute contradiction and impossibility of conceiving any thing different. But as all distinct ideas are separable, it is evident there can be no impossibility of that kind. When we pass from a present impression to the idea of any object, we might possibly have separated the idea from the impression, and have substituted any other idea in its room.

It is therefore by EXPERIENCE only, that we can infer the existence of one object from that of another. The nature of experience is this. We remember to have had frequent instances of the existence of one species of objects; and also remember, that the individuals of another species of objects have always attended them, and have existed in a regular order of contiguity and succession with regard to them. Thus we remember, to have seen that species of object we call flame, and to have felt that species of sensation we call heat. We likewise call to mind their constant conjunction in all past instances. Without any farther ceremony, we call the one cause and the other effect, and infer the existence of the one from that of the other. In all those instances, from which we learn the conjunction of particular causes and effects, both the causes and effects have been perceived by the senses, and are remembered But in all cases, wherein we reason concerning them, there is only one perceived or remembered, and the other is supplyed in conformity to our past experience.

Thus in advancing we have insensibly discovered a new relation betwixt cause and effect, when we least expected it, and were entirely employed upon another subject. This relation is their CONSTANT CONJUNCTION. Contiguity and succession are not sufficient to make us pronounce any two objects to be cause and effect, unless we perceive, that these two relations are preserved in several instances. We may now see the advantage of quitting the direct survey of this relation, in order to discover the nature of that necessary connexion, which makes so essential a part of it. There are hopes, that by this means we may at last arrive at our proposed end; though to tell the truth, this new-discovered relation of a constant conjunction seems to advance us but very little in our way. For it implies no more than this, that like objects have always been placed in like relations of contiguity and succession; and it seems evident, at least at first sight, that by this means we can never discover any new idea, and can only multiply, but not enlarge the objects of our mind. It may be thought, that what we learn not from one object, we can never learn from a hundred, which are all of the same kind, and are perfectly resembling in every circumstance. As our senses shew us in one instance two bodies, or motions, or qualities in certain relations of success and contiguity; so our memory presents us only with a multitude of instances, wherein we always find like bodies, motions, or qualities in like relations. From the mere repetition of any past impression, even to infinity, there never will arise any new original idea, such as that of a necessary connexion; and the number of impressions has in this case no more effect than if we confined ourselves to one only. But though this reasoning seems just and obvious; yet as it would be folly to despair too soon, we shall continue the thread of our discourse; and having found, that after the discovery of the constant conjunction of any objects, we always draw an inference from one object to another, we shall now examine the nature of that inference, and of the transition from the impression to the idea. Perhaps it will appear in the end, that the necessary connexion depends on the inference, instead of the inference’s depending on the necessary connexion.

Since it appears, that the transition from an impression present to the memory or senses to the idea of an object, which we call cause or effect, is founded on past experience, and on our remembrance of their constant conjunction, the next question is, Whether experience produces the idea by means of the understanding or imagination; whether we are determined by reason to make the transition, or by a certain association and relation of perceptions. If reason determined us, it would proceed upon that principle, that instances, of which we have had no experience, must resemble those, of which we have had experience, and that the course of nature continues always uniformly the same. In order therefore to clear up this matter, let us consider all the arguments, upon which such a proposition may be supposed to be founded; and as these must be derived either from knowledge or probability, let us cast our eye on each of these degrees of evidence, and see whether they afford any just conclusion of this nature.

Our foregoing method of reasoning will easily convince us, that there can be no demonstrative arguments to prove, that those instances, of which we have, had no experience, resemble those, of which we have had experience. We can at least conceive a change in the course of nature; which sufficiently proves, that such a change is not absolutely impossible. To form a clear idea of any thing, is an undeniable argument for its possibility, and is alone a refutation of any pretended demonstration against it.

Probability, as it discovers not the relations of ideas, considered as such, but only those of objects, must in some respects be founded on the impressions of our memory and senses, and in some respects on our ideas. Were there no mixture of any impression in our probable reasonings, the conclusion would be entirely chimerical: And were there no mixture of ideas, the action of the mind, in observing the relation, would, properly speaking, be sensation, not reasoning. It is therefore necessary, that in all probable reasonings there be something present to the mind, either seen or remembered; and that from this we infer something connected with it, which is not seen nor remembered.

The only connexion or relation of objects, which can lead us beyond the immediate impressions of our memory and senses, is that of cause and effect; and that because it is the only one, on which we can found a just inference from one object to another. The idea of cause and effect is derived from experience, which informs us, that such particular objects, in all past instances, have been constantly conjoined with each other: And as an object similar to one of these is supposed to be immediately present in its impression, we thence presume on the existence of one similar to its usual attendant. According to this account of things, which is, I think, in every point unquestionable, probability is founded on the presumption of a resemblance betwixt those objects, of which we have had experience, and those, of which we have had none; and therefore it is impossible this presumption can arise from probability. The same principle cannot be both the cause and effect of another; and this is, perhaps, the only proposition concerning that relation, which is either intuitively or demonstratively certain.

Should any one think to elude this argument; and without determining whether our reasoning on this subject be derived from demonstration or probability, pretend that all conclusions from causes and effects are built on solid reasoning: I can only desire, that this reasoning may be produced, in order to be exposed to our examination. It may, perhaps, be said, that after experience of the constant conjunction of certain objects, we reason in the following manner. Such an object is always found to produce another. It is impossible it coued have this effect, if it was not endowed with a power of production. The power necessarily implies the effect; and therefore there is a just foundation for drawing a conclusion from the existence of one object to that of its usual attendant. The past production implies a power: The power implies a new production: And the new production is what we infer from the power and the past production.

It were easy for me to shew the weakness of this reasoning, were I willing to make use of those observations, I have already made, that the idea of production is the same with that of causation, and that no existence certainly and demonstratively implies a power in any other object; or were it proper to anticipate what I shall have occasion to remark afterwards concerning the idea we form of power and efficacy. But as such a method of proceeding may seem either to weaken my system, by resting one part of it on another, or to breed a confusion in my reasoning, I shall endeavour to maintain my present assertion without any such assistance.

It shall therefore be allowed for a moment, that the production of one object by another in any one instance implies a power; and that this power is connected with its effect. But it having been already proved, that the power lies not in the sensible qualities of the cause; and there being nothing but the sensible qualities present to us; I ask, why in other instances you presume that the same power still exists, merely upon the appearance of these qualities? Your appeal to past experience decides nothing in the present case; and at the utmost can only prove, that that very object, which produced any other, was at that very instant endowed with such a power; but can never prove, that the same power must continue in the same object or collection of sensible qualities; much less, that a like power is always conjoined with like sensible qualities, should it be said, that we have experience, that the same power continues united with the same object, and that like objects are endowed with like powers, I would renew my question, why from this experience we form any conclusion beyond those past instances, of which we have had experience. If you answer this question in, the same manner as the preceding, your answer gives still occasion to a new question of the same kind, even in infinitum; which clearly proves, that the foregoing reasoning had no just foundation.

Thus not only our reason fails us in the discovery of the ultimate connexion of causes and effects, but even after experience has informed us of their constant conjunction, it is impossible for us to satisfy ourselves by our reason, why we should extend that experience beyond those particular instances, which have fallen under our observation. We suppose, but are never able to prove, that there must be a resemblance betwixt those objects, of which we have had experience, and those which lie beyond the reach of our discovery.

We have already taken notice of certain relations, which make us pass from one object to another, even though there be no reason to determine us to that transition; and this we may establish for a general rule, that wherever the mind constantly and uniformly makes a transition without any reason, it is influenced by these relations. Now this is exactly the present case. Reason can never shew us the connexion of one object with another, though aided by experience, and the observation of their constant conjunction in all past instances. When the mind, therefore, passes from the idea or impression of one object to the idea or belief of another, it is not determined by reason, but by certain principles, which associate together the ideas of these objects, and unite them in the imagination. Had ideas no more union in the fancy than objects seem to have to the understanding, we could never draw any inference from causes to effects, nor repose belief in any matter of fact. The inference, therefore, depends solely on the union of ideas.

The principles of union among ideas, I have reduced to three general ones, and have asserted, that the idea or impression of any object naturally introduces the idea of any other object, that is resembling, contiguous to, or connected with it. These principles I allow to be neither the infallible nor the sole causes of an union among ideas. They are not the infallible causes. For one may fix his attention during Sometime on any one object without looking farther. They are not the sole causes. For the thought has evidently a very irregular motion in running along its objects, and may leap from the heavens to the earth, from one end of the creation to the other, without any certain method or order. But though I allow this weakness in these three relations, and this irregularity in the imagination; yet I assert that the only general principles, which associate ideas, are resemblance, contiguity and causation.

There is indeed a principle of union among ideas, which at first sight may be esteemed different from any of these, but will be found at the bottom to depend on the same origin. When every individual of any species of objects is found by experience to be constantly united with an individual of another species, the appearance of any new individual of either species naturally conveys the thought to its usual attendant. Thus because such a particular idea is commonly annexed to such a particular word, nothing is required but the hearing of that word to produce the correspondent idea; and it will scarce be possible for the mind, by its utmost efforts, to prevent that transition. In this case it is not absolutely necessary, that upon hearing such a particular sound we should reflect on any past experience, and consider what idea has been usually connected with the sound. The imagination of itself supplies the place of this reflection, and is so accustomed to pass from the word to the idea, that it interposes not a moment’s delay betwixt the hearing of the one, and the conception of the other.

But though I acknowledge this to be a true principle of association among ideas, I assert it to be the very same with that betwixt the ideas of cause and effects and to be an essential part in all our reasonings from that relation. We have no other notion of cause and effect, but that of certain objects, which have been always conjoined together, and which in all past instances have been found inseparable. We cannot penetrate into the reason of the conjunction. We only observe the thing itself, and always find that from the constant conjunction the objects acquire an union in the imagination. When the impression of one becomes present to us, we immediately form an idea of its usual attendant; and consequently we may establish this as one part of the definition of an opinion or belief, that it is an idea related to or associated with a present impression.

Thus though causation be a philosophical relation, as implying contiguity, succession, and constant conjunction, yet it is only so far as it is a natural relation, and produces an union among our ideas, that we are able to reason upon it, or draw any inference from it.”


This is David Hume on the Problem of Induction from the Enquires Concerning Human Understanding: Section IV. Sceptical Doubts Concerning the Operations of the Understanding, Part II

“But we have not yet attained any tolerable satisfaction with regard to the question first proposed. Each solution still gives rise to a new question as difficult as the foregoing, and leads us on to farther enquiries. When it is asked, What is the nature of all our reasonings concerning matter of fact? the proper answer seems to be, that they are founded on the relation of cause and effect. When again it is asked, What is the foundation of all our reasonings and conclusions concerning that relation? it may be replied in one word, Experience. But if we still carry on our sifting humour, and ask, What is the foundation of all conclusions from experience? this implies a new question, which may be of more difficult solution and explication. Philosophers, that give themselves airs of superior wisdom and sufficiency, have a hard task when they encounter persons of inquisitive dispositions, who push them from every corner to which they retreat, and who are sure at last to bring them to some dangerous dilemma. The best expedient to prevent this confusion, is to be modest in our pretensions; and even to discover the difficulty ourselves before it is objected to us. By this means, we may make a kind of merit of our very ignorance.

I shall content myself, in this section, with an easy task, and shall pretend only to give a negative answer to the question here proposed. I say then, that, even after we have experience of the operations of cause and effect, our conclusions from that experience are not founded on reasoning, or any process of the understanding. This answer we must endeavour both to explain and to defend.

It must certainly be allowed, that nature has kept us at a great distance from all her secrets, and has afforded us only the knowledge of a few superficial qualities of objects; while she conceals from us those powers and principles on which the influence of those objects entirely depends. Our senses inform us of the colour, weight, and consistence of bread; but neither sense nor reason can ever inform us of those qualities which fit it for the nourishment and support of a human body. Sight or feeling conveys an idea of the actual motion of bodies; but as to that wonderful force or power, which would carry on a moving body for ever in a continued change of place, and which bodies never lose but by communicating it to others; of this we cannot form the most distant conception. But notwithstanding this ignorance of natural powers and principles, we always presume, when we see like sensible qualities, that they have like secret powers, and expect that effects, similar to those which we have experienced, will follow from them. If a body of like colour and consistence with that bread, which we have formerly eat, be presented to us, we make no scruple of repeating the experiment, and foresee, with certainty, like nourishment and support. Now this is a process of the mind or thought, of which I would willingly know the foundation. It is allowed on all hands that there is no known connexion between the sensible qualities and the secret powers; and consequently, that the mind is not led to form such a conclusion concerning their constant and regular conjunction, by anything which it knows of their nature. As to past Experience, it can be allowed to give direct and certain information of those precise objects only, and that precise period of time, which fell under its cognizance: but why this experience should be extended to future times, and to other objects, which for aught we know, may be only in appearance similar; this is the main question on which I would insist. The bread, which I formerly eat, nourished me; that is, a body of such sensible qualities was, at that time, endued with such secret powers: but does it follow, that other bread must also nourish me at another time, and that like sensible qualities must always be attended with like secret powers? The consequence seems nowise necessary. At least, it must be acknowledged that there is here a consequence drawn by the mind; that there is a certain step taken; a process of thought, and an inference, which wants to be explained. These two propositions are far from being the same, I have found that such an object has always been attended with such an effect, and I foresee, that other objects, which are, in appearance, similar, will be attended with similar effects. I shall allow, if you please, that the one proposition may justly be inferred from the other: I know, in fact, that it always is inferred. But if you insist that the inference is made by a chain of reasoning, I desire you to produce that reasoning. The connexion between these propositions is not intuitive. There is required a medium, which may enable the mind to draw such an inference, if indeed it be drawn by reasoning and argument. What that medium is, I must confess, passes my comprehension; and it is incumbent on those to produce it, who assert that it really exists, and is the origin of all our conclusions concerning matter of fact.

This negative argument must certainly, in process of time, become altogether convincing, if many penetrating and able philosophers shall turn their enquiries this way and no one be ever able to discover any connecting proposition or intermediate step, which supports the understanding in this conclusion. But as the question is yet new, every reader may not trust so far to his own penetration, as to conclude, because an argument escapes his enquiry, that therefore it does not really exist. For this reason it may be requisite to venture upon a more difficult task; and enumerating all the branches of human knowledge, endeavour to show that none of them can afford such an argument.

All reasonings may be divided into two kinds, namely, demonstrative reasoning, or that concerning relations of ideas, and moral reasoning, or that concerning matter of fact and existence. That there are no demonstrative arguments in the case seems evident; since it implies no contradiction that the course of nature may change, and that an object, seemingly like those which we have experienced, may be attended with different or contrary effects. May I not clearly and distinctly conceive that a body, falling from the clouds, and which, in all other respects, resembles snow, has yet the taste of salt or feeling of fire? Is there any more intelligible proposition than to affirm, that all the trees will flourish in December and January, and decay in May and June? Now whatever is intelligible, and can be distinctly conceived, implies no contradiction, and can never be proved false by any demonstrative argument or abstract reasoning priori.

If we be, therefore, engaged by arguments to put trust in past experience, and make it the standard of our future judgement, these arguments must be probable only, or such as regard matter of fact and real existence, according to the division above mentioned. But that there is no argument of this kind, must appear, if our explication of that species of reasoning be admitted as solid and satisfactory. We have said that all arguments concerning existence are founded on the relation of cause and effect; that our knowledge of that relation is derived entirely from experience; and that all our experimental conclusions proceed upon the supposition that the future will be conformable to the past. To endeavour, therefore, the proof of this last supposition by probable arguments, or arguments regarding existence, must be evidently going in a circle, and taking that for granted, which is the very point in question.

In reality, all arguments from experience are founded on the similarity which we discover among natural objects, and by which we are induced to expect effects similar to those which we have found to follow from such objects. And though none but a fool or madman will ever pretend to dispute the authority of experience, or to reject that great guide of human life, it may surely be allowed a philosopher to have so much curiosity at least as to examine the principle of human nature, which gives this mighty authority to experience, and makes us draw advantage from that similarity which nature has placed among different objects. From causes which appear similar we expect similar effects. This is the sum of all our experimental conclusions. Now it seems evident that, if this conclusion were formed by reason, it would be as perfect at first, and upon one instance, as after ever so long a course of experience. But the case is far otherwise. Nothing so like as eggs; yet no one, on account of this appearing similarity, expects the same taste and relish in all of them. It is only after a long course of uniform experiments in any kind, that we attain a firm reliance and security with regard to a particular event. Now where is that process of reasoning which, from one instance, draws a conclusion, so different from that which it infers from a hundred instances that are nowise different from that single one? This question I propose as much for the sake of information, as with an intention of raising difficulties. I cannot find, I cannot imagine any such reasoning. But I keep my mind still open to instruction, if any one will vouchsafe to bestow it on me.

Should it be said that, from a number of uniform experiments, we infer a connexion between the sensible qualities and the secret powers; this, I must confess, seems the same difficulty, couched in different terms. The question still recurs, on what process of argument this inference is founded? Where is the medium, the interposing ideas, which join propositions so very wide of each other? It is confessed that the colour, consistence, and other sensible qualities of bread appear not, of themselves, to have any connexion with the secret powers of nourishment and support. For otherwise we could infer these secret powers from the first appearance of these sensible qualities, without the aid of experience; contrary to the sentiment of all philosophers, and contrary to plain matter of fact. Here, then, is our natural state of ignorance with regard to the powers and influence of all objects. How is this remedied by experience? It only shows us a number of uniform effects, resulting from certain objects, and teaches us that those particular objects, at that particular time, were endowed with such powers and forces. When a new object, endowed with similar sensible qualities, is produced, we expect similar powers and forces, and look for a like effect. From a body of like colour and consistence with bread we expect like nourishment and support. But this surely is a step or progress of the mind, which wants to be explained. When a man says, I have found, in all past instances, such sensible qualities conjoined with such secret powers: And when he says, Similar sensible qualities will always be conjoined with similar secret powers, he is not guilty of a tautology, nor are these propositions in any respect the same. You say that the one proposition is an inference from the other. But you must confess that the inference is not intuitive; neither is it demonstrative: Of what nature is it, then? To say it is experimental, is begging the question. For all inferences from experience suppose, as their foundation, that the future will resemble the past, and that similar powers will be conjoined with similar sensible qualities. If there be any suspicion that the course of nature may change, and that the past may be no rule for the future, all experience becomes useless, and can give rise to no inference or conclusion. It is impossible, therefore, that any arguments from experience can prove this resemblance of the past to the future; since all these arguments are founded on the supposition of that resemblance. Let the course of things be allowed hitherto ever so regular; that alone, without some new argument or inference, proves not that, for the future, it will continue so. In vain do you pretend to have learned the nature of bodies from your past experience. Their secret nature, and consequently all their effects and influence, may change, without any change in their sensible qualities. This happens sometimes, and with regard to some objects: Why may it not happen always, and with regard to all objects? What logic, what process of argument secures you against this supposition? My practice, you say, refutes my doubts. But you mistake the purport of my question. As an agent, I am quite satisfied in the point; but as a philosopher, who has some share of curiosity, I will not say scepticism, I want to learn the foundation of this inference. No reading, no enquiry has yet been able to remove my difficulty, or give me satisfaction in a matter of such importance. Can I do better than propose the difficulty to the public, even though, perhaps, I have small hopes of obtaining a solution? We shall at least, by this means, be sensible of our ignorance, if we do not augment our knowledge.

I must confess that a man is guilty of unpardonable arrogance who concludes, because an argument has escaped his own investigation, that therefore it does not really exist. I must also confess that, though all the learned, for several ages, should have employed themselves in fruitless search upon any subject, it may still, perhaps, be rash to conclude positively that the subject must, therefore, pass all human comprehension. Even though we examine all the sources of our knowledge, and conclude them unfit for such a subject, there may still remain a suspicion, that the enumeration is not complete, or the examination not accurate. But with regard to the present subject, there are some considerations which seem to remove all this accusation of arrogance or suspicion of mistake.

It is certain that the most ignorant and stupid peasants—nay infants, nay even brute beasts—improve by experience, and learn the qualities of natural objects, by observing the effects which result from them. When a child has felt the sensation of pain from touching the flame of a candle, he will be careful not to put his hand near any candle; but will expect a similar effect from a cause which is similar in its sensible qualities and appearance. If you assert, therefore, that the understanding of the child is led into this conclusion by any process of argument or ratiocination, I may justly require you to produce that argument; nor have you any pretence to refuse so equitable a demand. You cannot say that the argument is abstruse, and may possibly escape your enquiry; since you confess that it is obvious to the capacity of a mere infant. If you hesitate, therefore, a moment, or if, after reflection, you produce any intricate or profound argument, you, in a manner, give up the question, and confess that it is not reasoning which engages us to suppose the past resembling the future, and to expect similar effects from causes which are, to appearance, similar. This is the proposition which I intended to enforce in the present section. If I be right, I pretend not to have made any mighty discovery. And if I be wrong, I must acknowledge myself to be indeed a very backward scholar; since I cannot now discover an argument which, it seems, was perfectly familiar to me long before I was out of my cradle.”

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Cartesian Mind-Body

Posted by allzermalmer on April 5, 2012

This a paper I once had to do for a class, and the subject of the paper is to  be about the Mind-Body issue with Descartes presentation of it in his works. We were suppose to try to defend Descartes about the Mind-Body issue, or how it might work out in Descartes works. I have not altered anything int his paper, unless other wise stated. I received an A on the paper, but that doesn’t mean much.

Renee Descartes is considered the first “Modern Philosopher”, and he is famous for his skeptical method and his conclusions that he drew from his skeptical methods. One of the things that he drew from his skeptical methods was based on what is called Dualism. This stance held that there are two substances in the universe. They are Mind and Body (or matter), and they are both distinct from one another. He also said that these two things would interact with one another. There is considered to be a problem with this reasoning in how two different substances can interact with one another, which is how the mind can make the body move. This is called the mind-body problem.

When Descartes wrote his Meditations on First Philosophy, he came to the conclusion that there are two substances. Descartes comes to state how he knows that mind-body are different things, or different substances. He says that “the fact that I can clearly and distinctly understand one thing apart from another is enough to make me certain that the two things are distinct, since they are capable of being separated, at least by God.”[1] A substance is something that we can, or God, can clearly and distinctly understand apart from one another. This would mean that one thing does not depend on the other in order to understand them. For example, I do not need to understand the Earth in order to understand the Sun. This means that they can exist separately from one another, and one does not imply the other.

For Descartes, the Mind and Body were two things that we could come to understand without needing to know the other. This helps to form the basis of the Mind-Body separation, or the Mind and Body being two different substances. In order to be a Mind, one must need to be thinking or willing thing, and the mind is not an extended thing. Now Body, or matter, is based on being an extended thing and an extended thing takes up space. A Mind wills things, thinks about things, and judges things, while not taking up space. Matter has shape, size, and takes up space. Mind is Active and Body is Passive. These help to form some of the essential points of what differentiates Mind and Body.

The most common problem that we have with the problem of Mind-Body interaction, especially of that of Descartes dualism of substances, is brought up by Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia. She was the first to states: “So I ask you please to tell me how the soul of a human being (it being only a thinking substance) can determine the bodily spirits, in order to bring about voluntary actions. For it seems that all determination of movement happens through the impulsion of the thing moved, by the manner in which it is pushed by that which moves it, or else by the particular qualities an shape of the surface of the latter. Physical contact is required for the first two conditions, extension for the third. You entirely exclude the one [extension] from the notion you have of the soul, and the other [physical contact] appears to me incompatible with an immaterial thing.”[2]

Elisabeth brought up how she comes to judge of causality between matter, and this seems to be different of that of body. Now we have to wonder about what is cause and effect, or at least how this idea has arisen in our minds. If we check history, we might notice that many “primitive” peoples have held that everything has a mind. We look at everything like it is alive. We come to think of them like us, or we anthropomorphize them. We first come to notice that when we will to move our arm, we find that our arm moves. We come to project this out onto non-human things. We come to think that a cat, a tree, a rock, or the planets move, which Kepler thought, because they have a mind of their own in order to move in a certain fashion.

With this idea in mind, we come to think of cause and effect like that of human beings. We will our body to move and our body moves. So, too, do we come to think that cats act a certain way because they will to act in that way, or that the planets move in a certain way because they will themselves to move that way. However, Descartes came to hold to a mechanical philosophy, which was that objects like planets do not have minds. What we do is take away the attribute of mind from these objects. But once we take away the action of mind, we have to wonder how is it that objects move as they do if they do not move by their will. In fact, Descartes held that matter is passive, and mind is active. Now that matter, in this mechanical philosophy, is no longer active by having a mind and now passive while having matter, it turns causality on its head. How can two passive things do something active like move or cause one another to move?

For Descartes, things that are passive, which is matter, move because of the Will of God. Only something that is active can move or have something moved. And God, being all powerful, has the power to move anything, like the whole of the universe. “The universal and general cause, God,  not only sets the world in motion, but preserves motion in the world…Descartes’ God is not merely the prime mover; He is the general cause of motion insofar as it is His continual activity.”[3] What we notice is that the motion of bodies is not because those motions themselves make contact with one another and cause the movement of one another, but it is God. It is impossible for passive things to interact with one another to cause motion. Only active things can cause passive things to move. And God preserves things, and is the general cause of bodies. Because God is the general cause of these bodies, he makes these passive things move about. This keeps in line with our primitive notion of how minds cause things like bodies to move.

We notice that Elisabeth brought up that “For it seems that all determination of movement happens through the impulsion of the thing moved, by the manner in which it is pushed by that which moves it, or else by the particular qualities a shape of the surface of the latter.” Descartes holds that it is God who makes these things move from one place to another, at least when these objects have no mind. Only mind can move matter, or those passive things. God keeps things in a constant motion of preservation, keeps them in being. Now we have to come and wonder about God and motion, or God being the cause of motion in bodies. We might come to judge that it is body coming into contact with body that causes them to move, but this is false. We have only judged wrongly, as Descartes would say.

Descartes said that the substance of body is that of being passive, and this is distinctly understood. But once we come to understand that these bodies are passive, and understand this distinctly, we can only come to the conclusion that bodies cannot move one another. This would be impossible. Body does not have the power to move another body. In fact, Descartes has stated that “the distinction between preservation and creation is only a conceptual one…we easily understand that there is no power in us enabling us to keep ourselves in existence.”[4] What goes for us also goes for matter. What this tells us is that God keeps not only us in existence, but also keeps matter in existence. This idea of causality is similar to that of David Hume.

David Hume held to this idea of causality in which one moment was distinct from another moment. This idea of causality that he presented had a long reach. He even applied it to that of the mind-body problem. He talks about how some have said that we feel energy or power in our own mind, and we find that this is transferred to body. Now Hume finds this type of argument to be fallacious, and comes up with an objection. “So far from perceiving the connection betwixt an act of volition, and a motion of the body; ‘tis allowed that no effect is more inexplicable from the powers and essence of thought and matter. Nor is the empire of the will over our mind more intelligible. The effect is there distinguishable and separable from the cause, and could not be foreseen without the experience of their constant conjunction.”[5]

What Hume is pointing out is that first, that it is inexplicable how the mind and body can have power go from one to the other. This is also the objection that is raised by Elisabeth to Descartes. Second, the effects of one thing are distinguishable from one and the other. This means that at one moment we will to move our arm, and another moment we find that our arm moves. And from experience we find that there is a constant conjunction between them. One follows the other. However, from experience, we never find one bringing about the other, just that it follows. Imagine that we have two clocks. One is like the Mind and the other is like the Body. They both have the same time, and when one ticks the other ticks at the same time. This would be how our Mind Body connection would be. They just happen to move at the same time and we just judge that the mind causes the body to move. This, in some sense, is consistent with what Descartes would have to hold if God was not the one who kept things connected, or it is God that keeps us into existence and keeps things connected by its divine will.

Now Hume’s position, if we were to just add God into it, brings up something interesting and seems to be consistent with what Descartes might be forced to hold. The position that comes up is Occasionalism. Occasionalism is that view that “there is no creature, spiritual or corporeal, that can change [the position of a body] or that of any of its parts in the second instant of its creation if the creator does not do it himself, since it is he who had produced this part of matter in place.”[6] The point of this is that we cannot do anything we will, because only God can cause anything or make anything happen. This would be consistent with a form of determinism, if not fatalism. For it would be determinism because God determines what actions our body does, or the determinate cause, and it would be fatalism because God could have a purpose for things in which he determines what our bodies and actions will lead to. We cannot escape any of these things.

With Occasionalism, there is no mind body problem for us. We only find that our bodies move in a certain way because God wills our bodies to move that way. It is still the case that a mind moves matter, but it is not our minds that move the bodies. We think that our minds move our bodies when we will it, but we do not have the ability to move our bodies. It is only God who does it. But we might want to know, is this what Descartes is committed to? It appears that Descartes is not committed to this position. He appears to have a way around this position.

Descartes appears to break efficient causation down in two ways. There are two different ideas of efficient causation. There is cause of being and cause of becoming. The cause of being is that of God, and God is also a partial cause of becoming. The Cause of Being is that of God, for he keeps things in being, he keeps them in existence. But the Cause of Becoming can be other minds as well, like Human beings. God can sustain things in their being, Cause of Being, or God can sustain things in their motion. Now it should be these two things are distinct from one another. One does not imply the other, because something can exist and never move, but God would sustain it as being. Now if it moves, God can either be the cause of it or a human, for example, could be the cause of it.

Now this allows Descartes to escape the charge of Occasionalism, and would also allow people to be the cause of the motion of their body. For God only keeps us in existence, but God doesn’t cause our bodies to move when we do not will our bodies to move. We found out that matter is passive, while minds are active. God causes things to stay in existence, and he causes things to move, in general. However, we can cause things to move in particular, like our body. We can state this simply as Minds are the cause of the movements of matter, whether our own bodies or that of the planets. It would seem that the movements of the planets are outside of our power, but they are not outside of the power of God to move.

Take for example that we throw a football to another person. The football, on its own, is following the laws of God, which we typically call the laws of motion or the laws of nature. These are just the laws of how God dictates matter to move, and keeps them in being and keeps them acting in those ways until another mind acts upon them. These other minds, like ours, can alter a normal course they would take in our absence. “Just as two human beings can exert their contrary impulses on the same bit of matter, so can we impose an impulse contrary to the one God imposes. Indeed, we do so every time we lift a stone, on which God is imposing an impulse to move toward the center of the earth.”[7]

What we find here is that mind is the cause of the matter, because the active is the cause of the passive moving. The passive cannot resist the active. For the passive to resist the active would for the passive to be active, and this would just be a contradiction and therefore make it impossible. Now let us go back to something that David Hume said. He happen to mention, previously, that “from perceiving the connection betwixt an act of volition, and a motion of the body; ‘tis allowed that no effect is more inexplicable from the powers and essence of thought and matter.” The point is that he is making it is inexplicable how this could happen, and what that means is that we cannot explain how this happens. It is like me trying to explicate what Blue is. It is just such a brute fact, or something that is so primitive that we know what it is but cannot explain it to others. So when Elisabeth asks for an explanation of how the mind-body interacts, she wants us to explicate it. But do I have to explicate to her what the color blue is, or how pain feels? No. This is something that is just there for us, and we know it by experience. It is so basic that we need not an explanation and must just reflect on our experience to find that it is obvious.

We find that it is so obvious to us that we have, secretly, projected it out onto other things like trees and planets, but have robbed these objects of a mind while trying to keep them as efficient causes. However, we have come to know of efficient causation through our primitive notion of mind-body interaction. If we were to get rid of this primitive notion of mind-body interaction, then efficient causation is gone from the world. In fact, this is exactly what David Hume did. He got rid of efficient causation from the world because he does not find it through sense experience. However, we also find some slight evidence that Hume’s position also stated that the “Self” does not exist. And the self would be the thing that causes the motion of the body. However, he later on had to give up this position because he could not render it consistent. For he restates his original position on the “self” with, “When I turn my reflection on myself, I never can perceive this self without some one or more perceptions; nor can I ever perceive anything but the perceptions. ‘Tis the compositions of these, therefore, which forms the self.”[8] Yet he has a surprise in store for us when he says, “In short there are two principles, which I cannot render consistent; nor is it in my power to renounce either of them, viz. that all our distinct perceptions are distinct existences and that the mind never perceives any real connection among distinct existence. Did our perceptions either inhere in something simple and individual, or did the mind perceive some real connection among them, there would be no difficulty in the case.”[9]

What we can recognize is that there is something simple and individual, which would call Descartes Cogito, the Mind or Self. Thus, if we accept this move, we find that there is mind-body interaction, because the interaction is of such a simple kind that it requires no real explication on it, because it is as obvious as the color blue or the feeling of pain. In conclusion, the mind-body interaction is of a simple, “primitive”, kind. Mind is active and body is passive. Efficient causation only makes sense with something active, and that resides in the mind. The active works on the passive which means that the mind acts on the body and God keeps matter in motion when humans do not act on matter.


Descartes, René. Descartes: selected philosophical writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Lisa Shapiro, ed. Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia and Rene Descartes: The Correspondence between Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia and Rene Descartes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Garber, Daniel. Descartes Embodied: Reading Cartesian Philosophy through Cartesian Science. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001

Pierre Clair, ed. Lousi de La Forge: Oeuvres Philosophiques. Paris: Presses Universitaires de Frances, 1974

Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble, 2005.

Baker, Gordon P., and Katherine J. Morris. Descartes’ Dualism. London: Routledge, 1996

Machamer, Peter K., and J. E. McGuire. Descartes’s Changing Mind. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2009


[1] Descartes, René. Descartes: selected philosophical writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. P. 114

[2] Lisa Shapiro, ed. Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia and Rene Descartes: The Correspondence between Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia and Rene Descartes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. Pg. 62

[3] Garber, Daniel. Descartes Embodied: Reading Cartesian Philosophy through Cartesian Science. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001. Pg. 186

[4] Descartes, Renee. Descartes: selected philosophical writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988 pg. 96/167

[5] Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble, 2005. Pg. 478

[6] Pierre Clair, ed. Lousi de La Forge: Oeuvres Philosophiques (Paris: Presses Universitaires de Frances, 1974) pg. 240

[7] Garber, Daniel. Descartes Embodied: Reading Cartesian Philosophy through Cartesian Science. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001. pg. 201

[8] Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble, 2005. Pg. 479

[9] Ibid pg. 480-481

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Descartes’ Third Meditation

Posted by allzermalmer on April 2, 2012

This is the third blog in a series of blogs on Descartes Meditation on First Philosophy, this is based on his third meditation. You can read the second meditation by clicking here. This meditation is called “Of God, that he exists”.

Descartes picks up from where he finished in the second meditation. It is still partially under the demon-hypothesis, or the dreaming hypothesis. He has already found one thing that was certain, which is the “I think, I exist”. He re-states what he has previously come to from his previous two meditations.

“I am a thinking thing, that is, one that doubts, affirms, denies, understands a few things, is ignorant of many others, wills this and not that, and also imagines and perceives by the senses; for as I have already remarked, although the things I perceive or imagine outside myself do not perhaps exist, yet I am certain that the modes of thinking that I call sensations and imaginations, considered purely and simply as modes of thinking, do exist inside me.”

He comes to realize that the is a thinking thing. Being a thinking thing means that he thinks, doubts, affirms, denies, understands a few things, ignorant of many other things, wills x and doesn’t will x, and imagines and perceives by the senses. This is the “I”. All though the things he perceives or imagines might not exist outside of himself, which is based on the dreaming and evil-demon hypothesis, it is still certain that these things happen, and these are ways of thinking which do, at least, exist inside of Descartes.

Those things that Descartes listed as part of his “I” are things that up till now in the meditation, are what he is certain of. It is a short list of things that he is certain of, but he is going to try to come up with some more things that he is certain of. His first act of knowledge was to affirm those things that he knows clearly and distinctly. It would be insufficient for him to affirm those things that he thought he clearly and distinctly perceived if it came that they were actually false. So he lays down a general rule that whatever he clearly and distinctly perceives is true. From this he was able to find those things related to the “I”, and there were other things that he held that he found out were not clear and distinct, even though his previous opinions made it seem like they were.

“For in this first act of knowledge there is nothing other than a clear and distinct perception of what I affirm to be the case; and this certainly would be insufficient to make me certain of the truth of the matter, if it could ever come to pass that something I perceived so clearly and distinctly was false. And therefore I seem already to be able to lay down, as a general rule, that everything I very clearly and distinctly perceive is true.”

There were some things, based on his previous general principles, that he thought were obvious and true. But through is method of doubt he has found sufficient grounds in which to cast some doubt on them. Some of these things that seemed obvious and true was that there was an earth, sky, stars, and everything else he became aware of through the senses. With all these things that he use to think were obvious and true, he comes to question if he really clearly perceived them. The thoughts of such things were present to his mind, and even now in his method of doubt he doesn’t deny that those ideas exist in him. There was something else he affirmed, in conjunction with those other things, which was that he used to believe that he clearly perceived them when he didn’t. He, in short, thought he was perceiving clearly that there were certain things existing outside of him which were resembled by what he experienced in his mind.This was found to not be known clearly and distinctly.

He originally found that he intuited the truth of something simple and universal like arithmetic and geometry.  These things could only be called into question when it comes to the evil-demon, and, in fact, he came to find that these things could be called into doubt because of this evil demon. He found that he could be deceived by these things that he took to be completely obvious, like 2+3=5. These things couldn’t stand up, even though clearly and distinctly conceived, when he is faced with this evil-demon. This type of demon, in regards to these type of things, he found that he would be easily mistaken. But he comes to say: “whenever I turn my attention to the things themselves that I think I perceive very clearly, I am so thoroughly convinced by them, that I cannot help exclaiming: ‘Let whoever can, deceive me as much as he likes: still he can never bring it about that I am nothing, as long as I think I am something; or that one day it will be true that I have never existed, when it is true now that I exist; or that perhaps two plus three added together are more or less than five; or that other such things should be true in which I recognize an obvious contradiction.’”

From these things Descartes comes to exclaim: “And certainly, since I have no grounds for thinking that any deceitful God exists—in fact, I do not yet sufficiently know whether there is any God at all—then a reason for doubting that depends wholly on the belief in a deceitful God is very slight, and, so to speak, metaphysical.” He brings up that from the previous position he was in, he finds that, metaphysically, he has no idea to know if there is a God, let alone one that is a deceiver. (As a side note, it should be pointed out that Descartes is more concerned with metaphysics, because First Philosophy is a title for Metaphysics, even though most people think that Descartes is strictly concerned with Epistemology, i.e. theory of knowledge). One of the reasons he can hold this opinion is based on his “I think, I exist”. He found that everything can be accounted, in a certain sense, based on this “I”. It was the only thing that could withstand the evil-demon or dreaming, and so there would be no need for a God or an evil-demon when we have the “I am”. In other words, solipsism is his escape from the evil-demon.

“to proceed in an orderly fashion, I should first divide up all my thoughts into definite categories, and examine to which of these truth and falsity can properly be said to pertain. Some of these thoughts are apparently images of things and to these alone the name ‘idea’ is properly applied: for instance, when I think of a human being, or a chimera, or the heavens, or an angel, or God. But others have certain other forms as well; thus, when I will, or fear, or affirm, or deny, I am always in fact apprehending something as the subject of this thought, but I am including something further within the thought than the mere likeness of the thing; and of thoughts of this kind some are called volitions, or affects, whereas others are called judgments.”

He comes up with two categories that he is going to work within to divide up all of his ideas. The first is that of apparent images of things, which he calls “Ideas”. When you have something that you apprehend with your senses or imagination, this could be anything like human, cat, or etc, this forms the basis of an idea. Now this idea doesn’t need to be a representation of something in the external world itself. The other category is what he wills, fears, affirms, or denies, that he is apprehending something, an idea, but that he includes something further into these ideas that they are in fact the likeness of the thing he has the idea of. He goes from having an idea of something, and goes on to judge if it does represent something else outside of the idea itself and he judges or wills if it does or not.

When he considers these “Ideas” in and of themselves, which are sensations or idea, he finds that they don’t represent anything external to themselves. This means that he can’t be deceived in this regard. Remember, part of this deals with the evil-demon and dreaming argument. There is also nothing in the will itself, or its affects, that makes something false. This is because he can will something wicked or something that doesn’t exist, it doesn’t mean it is true because he wills it. This now leaves only the judgement that comes into question and not “Ideas”. He has to take caution based on his judgements, because judgements are the only thing that can deceive him because he holds to a false judgement and is deceived by this judgement that he holds to. “The most glaring and widespread error that can be found in them consists in my judging that the ideas that are in me are similar to or in accordance with some things existing outside me. For certainly, if I conceived the ideas themselves purely and simply as modifications of my thinking, and did not connect them with anything else, they could scarcely give me any occasion to err.” So the problem with judgement comes not from the senses or imagination or will, but comes from judgement. The basis of being deceived with judgement is based on judging that what appears in the senses or imagination represents something external to himself, and this is because the senses and imagination (as is the case with the “I am”) cannot be connected with anything else that is external to him, or represents something external to him, in and of itself.

“Of these ideas, some seem to me to be innate, others adventitious, others produced by myself. For understanding what a thing is, what truth is, what thought is, is something I seem to possess purely in virtue of my nature itself. But if I am now hearing a noise, seeing the sun, feeling the heat of a fire, up to now I have judged that such sensations derive from things existing outside myself. Finally, sirens, hippogriffs, and suchlike creatures are inventions of my own imagination. But perhaps I can think that all my ideas are adventitious, or all innate, or all produced by me: for I have not yet clearly discovered their true source.”

Those things that show up in thought or his senses, they seem to be either innate, adventitious, or produced by himself. Now he gives the example of understanding something, what truth is, what thought is, or something possessed by the the virtue of his own nature, are innate. Those things that comes from the senses, like feeling heat from a fire, he judged that they came from things external to himself. Those things he produced himself are those things that he imagines. He finds that he has these three opportunities for avenues to go, and he is going to try to figure out where his “Ideas” come from. Do they come from an innate source, an adventitious one, or produced by himself?

He first questions the adventitious source of his ideas. Take the example of heat from a fire, which he comes to know from his senses. What reason does he have for thinking that these ideas come from things outside of him? Nature itself seems to teach him this. It is, also, something he comes to accept through long regularity of thinking so. He also finds that it does not come from his will, because he does not will to have these experiences and yet they happen to him. He finds that he opens his eyes and he sees something which he didn’t wish to have the experience of.

“When I say here that ‘I am taught by nature’ to think so, I mean only that I am prompted to believe this by some spontaneous inclination, not that it is shown to me to be true by some natural light. The two things are very different: for whatever is shown to me by the natural light (for instance, that, from the fact that I am doubting, it follows that I exist, and suchlike) can in no way be doubtful, because there can be no other faculty that I could trust as much as this light, and that could teach me that such things are not, after all, true. But when it comes to natural inclinations, I have before now often judged in the past that I have been led by these in the wrong direction, when it was a matter of choosing the good, nor do I see why I should trust them more in any other domain.”

The idea of him coming to the idea of something bringing about his sensation of heat being an external source, has, as he says in one sense, come from natural inclination. But he divides things even further into “Natural Inclination” and “Natural Light”. These two things are distinct from one another. His idea that what he experiences comes from an external source is based on a spontaneous inclination, which is “Natural Inclination”. Those things that come from natural inclination can be doubted because he has found that natural inclination has lead him to certain beliefs that were found to be false. This is another natural inclination, and so it becomes doubtful as well. This seems to follow from the argument of illusion as well. What comes from “Natural Light” are not capable of being doubted, and this showed up with the “I am, I exist” already. Natural Light lead him to that belief. So Natural Inclination can be doubted and Natural Light cannot be doubted.

Now when it comes to having these experiences that happen when he doesn’t will it, he has also found that he has had experiences that did not depend on his will when he was dreaming. This shows that he is still capable, in one sense or another, of producing those things that he experiences against his will without anything external to him to bring it about. There could also be another capability that he has which he is not yet aware of, and this source is what produces those things that he experiences against his will. These doubts are sufficient to break from this idea of things external bringing about his sensations or idea.

Another thing he points out is that even if we do grant that something external brought about these sensations, it doesn’t follow that they are in any way similar to the way they are presented. Take for example that you experience a human being by his sensations. It very well could be produced by something that is like a microbe, and not anything at all like that human being that he is seeing. This is beyond his senses and so he can’t really think that what he experiences resembles that which produced his sensations against his will. He brings up the example of two suns: “For instance, I find within me two different ideas of the sun. One appears to be derived from the senses, and it would absolutely have to be placed in the category of ideas I class as ‘adventitious’. This idea represents the sun as very small. The other, however, derives from astronomical reasoning—that is to say, it is derived from some notions innate within me, or has been produced by me in some other way. This idea represents the sun as several times larger than the earth. But certainly, both cannot be like one and the same sun existing outside me; and reason persuades me that the one that seems to have flowed directly from the sun itself is in fact the one that is most unlike it.” He finds that he is lead to a contradiction between how he thinks the external thing is and the way it is presented to his senses. All of this eliminates that he gets these ideas from the adventitious avenue.

“But there is yet another way that occurs to me by which I could investigate whether any of those things of which the ideas are in me exist outside me. Certainly, in so far as these ideas are only various modifications of my thinking, I acknowledge that they are all on the same footing, and they all seem to derive from me in the same way. But, in so far as one represents one thing, another, it is plain that they differ widely among themselves. For beyond doubt those ideas that represent substances to me are something greater, and contain, if I may use the term, more ‘objective reality’ in themselves, than those that represent merely modes or accidents. And by the same token, the idea by which I conceive a supreme God, eternal, infinite, omniscient, all-powerful, and the creator of all things that exist beside himself, certainly has more objective reality in itself than those by which finite substances are represented.”

He comes up with a new division, which is based on formal reality and objective reality. Those things that are formal reality are all on the same footing, and are derived from Descartes in the same way. But insofar as they represents one thing and another, they differ widely among themselves. Formal reality is the what sort of thing the object is. Objective reality is what sort of content it contains. He looks through and finds that he has the idea of God, which is supreme, eternal, infinite, omniscient, all powerful, and creator of all things besides itself. This idea contains more objective reality than those things that are finite substances that are represented to himself. And we should keep in mind that from meditation two that Descartes found that he exists so long as he is thinking. This means that Descartes, in some sense, isn’t infinite or eternal.He is hinting at a differing degree of those things that contain objective reality, like one thing is greater than another, while all formal reality things are on the same footing in and of themselves.

“But now it is manifest by the natural light that there must be at least as much reality in the total and efficient cause as in its effect…it follows, both that nothing can come from nothing, and that what is more perfect (that is, what contains more reality within itself ) cannot derive from what is less perfect…For instance, a stone that did not previously exist, cannot now begin to be, unless it is produced by some thing in which everything exists, either formally or eminently, that enters into the composition of the stone. Nor can heat be brought about in a subject that was not hot before, unless by a thing that belongs to at least the same order of perfection as heat; and the same is true elsewhere…there is at least as much formal reality as the idea contains objective reality… if we suppose that something is found in the idea that is not in its cause, it would have this something from nothing; and however imperfect the kind of being by which a thing exists objectively in the understanding in the form of an idea, it is certainly not nothing, and therefore cannot come from nothing…And although perhaps one idea can be born from another, we cannot here have an infinite regress, but in the end we have to arrive at some first idea, the cause of which takes the form of an archetype, which formally contains all the reality that is only objectively in the idea. So that it is clear to me by the natural light that the ideas in me are of the nature of images, which can easily fall short of the perfection of the things from which they derive, but cannot, however, contain anything greater or more perfect.”

He finds that “Natural Light” has shown him that “there must be at least as much reality in the total and efficient cause as in its effect”. From this it follows that “nothing can come from nothing”. So when Descartes has an idea, this idea can only contain as much reality as it’s cause, but the cause can be greater than the effect, because the cause contains more reality than the effect. He finds that an idea can come from another idea, but we can’t have an infinite regress, and so we arrive at a first idea. The cause of this first idea becomes like an archetype which contains. By natural light, he also comes to ideas in him are the nature of images that fall short of perfection of the things that they are derived from, but cannot contain anything greater or more perfect. This means that the ideas that he has are not as perfect, and their cause would be greater than those that he has. He finds that he clearly and distinctly comes to this understanding, which is mostly through natural light. One way to understand his idea of the effect is contained within the cause is by understanding that the consequent is contained within the antecedent. Or that all the theorems of mathematics are contained within the axioms and definitions.

Descartes is now going to try to find out where his ideas come from. “[I]f the objective reality of some one of my ideas is so great that I am certain that that reality does not exist in me either formally or eminently, and therefore that I myself cannot be the cause of this idea, it necessarily follows that I am not alone in the world, but that some other thing also exists that is the cause of this idea. But if in fact no such idea is found in me, I shall certainly have no argument that can convince me with certainty of the existence of anything distinct from myself; for I have examined all these things very closely, and up to now I have found no other such argument.” He is no going to see if the ideas in his mind, which are the consequent, either come from something other than him or not. If it does come from something other than himself, then he has discovered another thing that exists. If he doesn’t find anything else that brought about this idea, then he is all alone. This is where he tries to escape his solipsism.

He is going to try to check his inventory of ideas, like that of God,other bodies and inanimate things, angels, other animals, and other human beings like himself. He is going to try to see if these ideas come either from him or from something else other than him. With bodies he finds that they come from him, which was shown in meditation two when he dealt with the piece of wax and from the dream argument as well. He can even come up with the idea of substance, duration, and number, based on his own experience. This shows that these ideas come from himself as well and doesn’t show anything else. This would mean that other humans, animals, and inanimate things can all be accounted from coming from himself. This means that they are the affects of him, which means that they are contained within him. Now he is going to check out the idea of God and see if that idea comes from him or from something else, i.e. God.

“By the name ‘God’ I understand an infinite, independent, supremely intelligent, supremely powerful substance, by which I myself and whatever else exists (if anything else does exist) was created. But certainly, all these properties are such that, the more carefully I consider them, the less it seems possible that they can be derived from me alone. And so I must conclude that it necessarily follows from all that has been said up to now that God exists.”

Descartes now comes to the idea of God and finds that he understands it to be infinite, independent, supremely intelligent, supremely powerful substance, and other things which exists was created by. When he check through is own mind, he finds that this idea does not come from himself. Descartes has the idea of a substance, thing capable of existing by itself, which is what he is suppose to be. But he finds that he is a finite substance and so the idea of an infinite substance cannot be derived from himself. He also finds that by the idea of infinite he means what is complete while he finds that he is finite and lacks something. He already has this idea of something perfect, and finds that he is imperfect, so this idea of something perfect cannot come from him. This idea of perfect is an effect, but the cause contains this and more, and he doesn’t contain as much as  the idea of perfect he has. This idea can’t come from nothing, so it came from something that is perfect, which he understands to be God.

Descartes tries to find out if he might actually have some powers that he is not aware of, and these powers could account for the ideas he has so that he is the cause of them and not something else. He has found that through this meditation he has slowly increased knowledge more and more. With this increase he can imagine that he would keep on until he reached infinity, which is to reach complete knowledge and not lack any knowledge any more. It would be like a closed circle and nothing is missing from it. He holds that the idea of gradual growth up to this infinite shows a lack of perfection, and God lacks no perfection and so this can’t be how he derived the idea. He finds that he has the potential to keep increasing, as well as actually increasing his knowledge, but the idea of God is that which has no potential and is all actual. Thus the Idea of God doesn’t come from him, he is not the cause of the idea. He also finds that Natural Light leads him to these conclusions that he is not the cause of his idea of God.

He comes up with another argument from God besides the one based on what Natural Light presents as cause and effect. This one is slightly different.

“I cannot elude the force of these reasons by supposing that perhaps I have always been as I now am, as if it followed from that that there is no need to seek an author of my existence. For since all the time of a life can be divided into innumerable parts, of which each particular one in no way depends on the rest, it does not follow from the fact that I existed not long ago that I have to exist now, unless some cause, so to speak, creates me again at this moment, or in other words, conserves me in being. For it is clear, if one considers the nature of time, that the same power and action is required to conserve anything, whatever it may be, in being during the individual moments in which it continues to exist, as would be needed to create the same thing from the start if it did not yet exist. So clear is this in fact that we may add to the list of things manifest by the natural light that the distinction between conservation and creation exists purely in our thought.”

He finds that he exists now, but it does not follow that he existed in the past or will exist in the future. In fact, he did say in meditation two that he exists so long as he thinks, and he listed all the things that went into that. He finds that he can imagine his life as a line and he can divide up this line into different parts, and this way no one part depends on the other part. So it follows that just because he existed a little while ago, it doesn’t follow that he has to exist now unless there was a cause for his existence. This cause would create him again at the moment, which is just another way to say that it conserves him from moment to moment. So there has to be the same power that conserves him from moment to moment in order for him to continue to exist, which is similar to having to create it from start as if it did not exist before. So natural light shows that the distinction between conservation and creation exists only in thought. This means that creation and conservation are not different in actuality, but only in thought. Things existing from one moment to another has a cause for each of these moments, even though we think that they are not created anew at each moment.

Descartes tries to find out if his “I” is what brings about his continued existence or creation. He finds that he exists now, but he is trying to see if he is the cause of himself existing a moment from now. He finds he has no idea of him being able to continue his existence, which shows that he is not the one that allows for him to exist form moment to moment. He did not bring about his creation or his conservation, which are one and the same thing. He doesn’t have this power in himself when he inspects his mind. But now he wonders if it is something like his parents that brought this about. But Natural Light has already said that there must be as much in the effect as there is in the cause, and he finds that his parents and others don’t have as much cause in their effect, and so it doesn’t come from his parents. And since he is a thinking thing, it would have to be another thinking thing that brought him about. The affect is a thinking thing, and there would have to be a greater cause that brought it about, which itself would be a greater thinking thing.

“And then of this thing too we can ask whether it exists of itself or by virtue of some other thing. For if it exists of itself, it is clear from the above that it must itself be God, because since it has from itself the power to exist, it undoubtedly has the power to possess in reality all the perfections of which it has the idea in itself, that is, all the perfections I conceive to be in God. But if, on the other hand, it exists in virtue of some other thing, then we shall ask whether this thing too exists of itself, or in virtue of some other thing, until finally we come to an ultimate cause: and this will be God.”

Now he is going to try to figure out if the thing created himself, and see if it exists either in virtue of itself or of something else. If it exists of itself, then it is what he considers to be God because it has from itself the power to exist. It would contain reality in all of its perfections. If what created him exists in virtue of something itself, then we ask if it exists of itself or because of something else. If it exists because of itself then it is also what is known by God. Now this can’t go on ad infinitum as Descartes pointed out earlier, so we are eventually going to end at something that exists in and of itself, which is to be what he understands to be of God, and it can’t come from nothing as he already pointed out as well.

“we must necessarily conclude that, from the bare fact that I exist, and that in me there is an idea of a supremely perfect being, that is, God, it is proved beyond question that God also exists.”

This basically comes down to two slogans that were used by Descartes, or at least attributed to Descartes in their Latin form. “Cogito ergo sum”; “Sum, ergo Deus est”. This can be stated in English as follows: I think, therefore I am; I am, therefore God exists.

He originally set out to see if the idea of God were innate, came from the senses, or was something he imagined. He found that it neither was from the senses (and neither was body), and neither did it come from his imagination. He finds, eventually, that the idea of God is an innate idea that he has. It is something that comes from Natural Light, which is similar to that of “I am”.


Descartes “I” is a thinking thing, which doubts, affirms, wills, judges, has imagination and has perception of appearances. He comes to divide things up into “Ideas” and Judgements. Ideas of themselves cannot deceive him. Judgements are the things that can deceive him. He judges his ideas to be either true or false while the Ideas themselves don’t show if they are true or false. So he must be careful of when he makes judgements. Ideas are not said to represent things external to him, which means that when one sees a cat they are not seeing something external to themselves that this cat represents. He goes into error when he makes that judgement that they do. He finds that either his ideas are innate, adventitious, or produced by himself. He goes through and finds that they are not adventitious, and they are not produced by himself. He finds that Natural Light has lead him to the idea that the effect contains as much as the cause, and from this it follows that nothing comes from nothing. They must be as much reality in the effect as there is of cause. He finds that he has the idea of God, and he finds that this idea is not derived from himself, which means that it has to come from something. This something is God. He also finds that through natural light that conservation and creation are one and the same thing, and he exists from moment to moment. There would have to be a cause of this, and he finds that God is the only one that has the power to do this. He also found that Natural Light is what leads him to the belief in God, and Natural Light is beyond deception while Natural Inclination leads to deception.

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Descartes Wax

Posted by allzermalmer on March 19, 2012

This blog is based on Meditation Two of Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy. This will deal specifically with Descartes analogy, or problem, with this pesky piece of wax of his.

“Let us consider the things which people commonly think they understand most distinctly of all; that is, the bodies which we touch and see. I do not mean bodies in general- for general perceptions are apt to be somewhat more confused- but one particular body. Let us take, for example, this piece of wax. It has just been taken from the honeycomb; it has not yet quite lost the taste of honey; it retains some of the scent of the flowers from which it as gathered; its colour, shape and size are plain to see; it is hard, cold and can be handled without difficulty; if you rap it with your knuckle it makes a sound. In short, it has everything which appears necessary to enable a body to be known as distinctly as possible. But even as I speak, I put the wax by the fire, and look: the residual taste is eliminated, the smell goes away, the colour changes, the shape is lost, the size increases; it becomes liquid and hot; you can hardly touch it, and if yous trike it, it no longer makes a sound. But does the same wax remain? It must be admitted that it does; no one denies it, no one thinks otherwise. So what was it in the wax that I understood with such distinctness? Evidently none of the features which I arrived at by means of the senses; for whatever came under states, smell, sight, touch or hearing has now altered- yet the wax remains.”

[As a side note, there was, supposedly, an auction of some of Descartes personal belonging. Some philosophers wanted to buy Descartes’ wax that is mentioned in this passage. And what was said was that it was a foot in height, and had been molded into a hat.]

So what is going on here in this passage? Descarte is going over what his senses presented to him, which happens to be this piece of wax. Now what is this wax that he knows by his senses? This is a particular body, as Descartes says. It has the property of  “tast[ing] of honey…the scent of the flowers…colour, shape and size…hard, cold and…handled without difficulty…it makes a sound.” All these things that were just listed “appears necessary to enable a body to be known as distinctly as possible.”Not only are these properties necessary to know them as distinctly as possible, it’s how we come to know of this body he calls wax. Remember, Descartes says “Let us consider the things which people commonly think they understand most distinctly of all; that is, the bodies which we touch and see. I do not mean bodies in general… but one particular body.”

He thinks that people typically think they understand, distinctly, bodies that they touch and see. He lists some of these properties that we think we understand, distinctly. We have one thing with all of these properties. Now he does something interesting, which is to put the piece of wax in a fire and pull it out. What do we notice about this thing that we thought we understood distinctly? Now the “taste is eliminated, the smell goes away, the colour changes, the shape is lost, the size increases; it becomes liquid and hot; you can hardly touch it, and if you strike it, it no longer makes a sound.” In other words, the piece of wax that we originally had is all of a sudden different. It no longer holds the properties that it just had, it changed. One and the same thing can be different at times.

Descartes comes to ask “[b]ut does the same wax remain?”. We notice the qualities change through time, but is there something that contains these qualities that remains through these changes in properties present to our senses?He says, ” It must be admitted that it does; no one denies it, no one thinks otherwise.” Now we seem to be in a predicament. We hold that something changes through time, yet remains the same in some sense, and that we don’t come to know of this thing from what our senses present to us. Either we have to give up the idea of things beneath what the senses present or there is something beneath what the senses present. He obviously decides to go with things beneath what the senses present. He is basically saying that experience doesn’t show us what lies beneath the appearances of the senses. He comes to ask and say,  “So what was it in the wax that I understood with such distinctness? Evidently none of the features which I arrived at by means of the senses.” This means we come up with the idea of “bodies” not through the senses, because the senses change when the bodies don’t really change, but through some other source than the senses.

“Perhaps the answer lies in the thought which now comes to my mind; namely, the wax was not after all the sweetness of the honey, or the fragrance of the flowers, or the whiteness, or shape, or the sound, but was rather a body which presented itself to me in these varies forms a little while ago, but which now exhibits different ones. But what exactly is it that I am now imagining? Let us concentrate, take away everything which does not belong to the wax, and see what is left: merely something extended, flexible and changeable. But what is meant here by ‘flexible’ and ‘changeable’? Is it what I picture in my imagination: that this piece of wax is capable of changing from a round shape to a square shape, or from a square shape to a triangular shape? Not at all; for I can grasp that the wax is capable of countless changes of this kind, yet I am unable to run through this immeasurable number of changes in my imagination, form which it follows that it is not the faculty of imagination that gives me my grasp of the wax as flexible and changeable. And what is meant by ‘extended’? Is the extension of the wax also unknown? For it increases if the wax melts, increases again if it boils, and is greater still of the heat is increased. I would not be making a correct judgement about the nature of wax unless I believed it capable of being extended in many more different ways than I will ever encompass in my imagination, I must therefore admit that the nature of this piece of wax is in no way revealed by my imagination, but is perceived by the mind alone. (I am speaking of this particular piece of wax; the point is even clearer with regard to wax in general.) But what is this wax which is perceived by the mind alone? It is of course the same wax which I see, which I touch, which I picture in my imagination, in short the same wax which I thought it to be from the start. And yet, and here is the point, the perception I have of it is a case not of vision or touch or imagination- nor has it ever been, despite previous appearances- but of purely mental scrutiny; and this can be imperfect and confused, as it was before, or clear and distinct as it is now, depending on how carefully I concentrate on what the wax consists in.”

He breaks down the piece of wax even further. He used his senses and found that the idea of the wax, this thing that is the wax, wasn’t derived from the senses. He now decides to change what else, besides these other qualities he listed before, made up this wax. He comes to find that it is based on being changeable, flexible, and extended. Now he wants to see if he derived these three main characteristics of the wax, since he discarded the senses because they don’t indicate anything to support the idea of the particular body of wax. Maybe it being changeable, flexible, and extended, can indicate anything to support the particular body of wax.

He comes to question what is meant by ‘changeable’ and ‘flexible’, because these are now the three things helps us come to the idea of this particular body known as wax. He doesn’t come to this idea based on his imagination, because he finds that there are many ways he can change or it flex it so that it takes different shapes. Yet his imagination is limited and could be changed even further than he can imagine. Thus, it doesn’t come through is imagination that he comes to the idea of this wax as changeable and flexible, nor through his senses since he just got rid of them previously.As he says, ” I am unable to run through this immeasurable number of changes in my imagination, form which it follows that it is not the faculty of imagination that gives me my grasp of the wax as flexible and changeable.”

He comes to question what is meant by ‘extension’, since this is the third idea of this particular body known as wax. He comes to think that ‘extension’ does not even help him come to the idea of this body known as wax, the particular one he has before him. He has seen the extension of the object change as well. For example, he has seen it melt and decrease, he has seen it boiled and it increases, and the extension goes even further when heated. He comes on to say, “I would not be making a correct judgement about the nature of wax unless I believed it capable of being extended in many more different ways than I will ever encompass in my imagination…” he eventually comes to say that his imagination does not give him the idea of this extension which he said was part of the three things that make up this particular body he knows as the wax. It was also not given to him by his senses.

His final conclusion comes down to, “I must therefore admit that the nature of this piece of wax is in no way revealed by my imagination, but is perceived by the mind alone. (I am speaking of this particular piece of wax; the point is even clearer with regard to wax in general.)” The conclusion is that the body of wax is something that we don’t derive from our senses or imagination. His conclusion is that ” the bodies which we touch and see…[have] none of the features  arrived at by means of the senses…[or] is in no way revealed by my imagination.” The imagination and senses don’t allow us to comprehend this thing that lies beneath what is present to our senses or imagination, but that we come to know of them through “mental scrutiny”, as Descartes says.

“But as I reach this conclusion I am amazed at how to error my mind is. For although I am thinking about these matters within myself, silently and without speaking, nonetheless the actual words bring me up short, and I am almost tricked by ordinary ways of talking. We say that we see the wax itself, if it is there before us, not that we judge it to be there from its colour or shape; and this might lead me to conclude without more ado that knowledge of the wax comes from what the eye sees, and not from the scrutiny of the mind alone. But then if I look out of the window and see men crossing the square, as I just happen to have done, I normally say that I see the men themselves, just as I say that I see the wax. Yet do I see any more than hats and coats which could conceal automatons? I judge that they are men. And so something which I thought I was seeing with my eyes is in fact grasped solely by the faculty of judgement which is in my mind.”

Descartes comes to point out that we are often lead to error by trusting what the senses and imagination present to us. This is because we believe that there is something that holds to all these qualities that we experienced with the senses. We also think that it also holds these other qualities of changeable, flexible, and extension. However, through mental scrutiny of this particular object of wax, he finds that he comes to no idea of a body beneath all of these qualities. But we have this idea of it, and he finds that we come to this conclusion based on “mental scrutiny”, which he also calls “Innate Ideas”.

He thought, as was previously pointed out, that there are some perplexing, if not out right contradictions, in holding to this idea of body based on the imagination and senses. Thus, to have this idea, it is not derived from the senses or imagination. But when we talk about these things, in our ordinary language, we come to think that there is something beneath what we experience, and that we come to know of it through the senses and imagination. We are “tricked” into ordinary ways of talking to hold this view. As he says, “We say that we see the wax itself, if it is there before us, not that we judge it to be there from its colour or shape; and this might lead me to conclude without more ado that knowledge of the wax comes from what the eye sees, and not from the scrutiny of the mind alone.”

Descartes comes to conclude that we judge there to that particular piece of wax with those properties because of the senses and imagination. He concludes that these people are wrong, if we hold to belief of some particular body known through senses and imagination. They ignore that we come to know of it through mental scrutiny, because neither the senses or imagination give us this idea. He also brings this up nicely through the example of the people he sees walking in the street. This is a clear example of the problem of other minds. The senses and imagination don’t give him the idea that there are people there, he judges them to be people and not automatons. He knows this through “Innate Ideas”, like he does about something being the body of particular wax, even though not know through senses or imaginations.


We believe there is a particular body, which is expressed by this wax Descartes has in his hand. The wax is expressed with taste, scent, color, shape, size, hard, cold, and makes sounds, by the human senses. He finds that these things change, they exist at one time and cease to exist at another. So don’t come to the idea of particular body, as expressed by this wax, through the human senses. The wax is expressed with ‘extension’, ‘changeable’, and ‘flexible’, by the imagination. He finds that these things change, and come and go as well. So don’t come to the idea of a particular body, as expressed by this wax, through the human imagination. But we believe that there is some particular body, and it doesn’t come from the senses or imagination. Thus, Descartes comes to say that we come to know of a particular body because of “mental scrutiny”.

There is someone who holds a different position than Descartes, drastically different, and that is George Berkeley. Descartes has his piece of wax and Berkeley has his apple.

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Are All Empirical Statements Merely Hypotheses?

Posted by allzermalmer on December 19, 2011

This blog will be based on an article done by W.T. Stace. It is called, Are All Empirical Statements Merely Hypotheses? It appeared in the philosophical journal known as The Journal of Philosophy Vol. 44, No. 2 (Jan. 16, 1947), pp. 29-38.

It is sometimes stated that all empirical statements are only probable. This was stated by those like, and especially by, Rudolph Carnap. One philosopher who disagreed, and said that some empirical statements are certain, was G.E. Moore. Stace shall agree with Moore, but with some qualifications. The statement that will be the exemplar of what is being talked about will be the statement of “This key is made of iron”. Now this statement is a singular statement like x is Y.

“To say that this proposition can never be more than probable means, I assume, that there must always be some doubt as to its truth. The question we have to get clear about is: what is the doubt, or what are the doubts, which those philosophers who say that such a statement can never be more than probable, have in mind?”

Some of the doubts could be as follows for what makes this empirical statement probable: the laws of nature are statistical, we could be deceived by some sort of demons or might be dreaming, or statements that we make rely on memory and our memory could be wrong. None of these things seems to be what has lead some to think that all empirical statements are probable. That is because these doubts are arising from practical doubt because of the frailty of human faculties.

The philosophers, like Carnap, seem to be relying on theoretical/logical doubt. This seems to be based on the logic at which we arrive at empirical truths, regardless of the frailties of particular human beings. They seem to be saying that we arrive at these empirical statements, like “this key is made of iron”, are arrived at by means of induction. And, through the means of induction, we never arrive at certainty by by means of probability.

Stace quotes Carnap on the basic idea of which is to lead to all empirical statements are merely probable. Take the statement that “This key is made of iron”. This proposition will be known as P1. We can test P1 by seeing if it is attracted by a magnet, if it is then we have partial verification of P1. So here is what Rudolph Carnap says, which leads him to state that all empirical statements are merely probable in his book Philosophy and Logical Syntax:

“After that, or instead of that, we may make an examination by electrical tests, or by mechanical, chemical, or optical tests, etc. If in these further investigations all instances turn out to be positive, the certainty of the proposition P1 gradually grows…but absolute certainty we can never attain. the number of instances deducible from P1 is infinite. Therefore there is always the possibility of finding in the future a negative instance.”

Now this is the logical problem that we face. Anytime we perform a new test, and the test is passed, it only adds a degree of probability to the statement that “this key is made of iron”. And the problem, further, is that we can’t completely verify the statement, or be certain of it, because we would have to complete an infinite number of observations. But this is not only practically impossible, it is also logically impossible.

But there is some ambiguity of what Carnap means, because there are two ways that this can be taken. The first thing could be about the different kinds of tests. For we noticed that he brought up the tests that could be done, like magnetic, electrical, chemical, and etc. So the it could be meant that the number of different kinds of test is infinite, which means we would have to make an infinite number of kinds of tests in order to achieve complete verification of the statements truth. But Stace has an objection to this position.

“If an infinite number of kinds of tests of the key were possible, this would imply that the key must have an infinite number of different characteristics or properties to be tested for. But even if an object can have an infinite number of characteristics, it would not be necessary to test for them all in order to identify the object as iron. All we need is to verify the defining characteristics of iron, which are certainly finite in number. and there is, of course, no logical difficulty about doing that.”

Now there is a second possible meaning for which Carnap has in mind. We could do a single test of a defining characteristic like “being attracted by a magnet”, or what other defining characteristics there might be. These tests only make the statement probable because we may find that the key is attracted one time and perform many of the same tests a thousand times in succession and find the same results as the first test. But we can never be sure that an instance will not turn up in the future in which the object will not be attracted by a magnet (problem of induction). “If the same thing happens in the same circumstances in a vast number of times, each time it happens makes it a little more probable that it will happen again, but it can never be quite certain.”

It is true that scientists perform the same experiments, this is the repeatably of the scientific tests. What one scientist is able to do in a test, it has to be reproducible by other scientists around the world. The same experiment can be repeated by the same experimenter over and over, or can be done by other experimenters around the world. But why are experiments repeated? Is it because each fresh instance of a positive result of the same test adds to the probability of the conclusion? It seems not.

Let us assume that we have an object that is to be tested. We want to test whether it is composed of a certain substance, which we can call X. Now let us suppose that there is only one defining characteristic of X which we call A. The scientist is testing for Y. If Y is found it is a sign that the substance is X. Now, is it true that A may be repeated many times. But why?

“It is not because he supposes that a barren repetition of instances of A makes it more probable that the substance is X. It is always, on the contrary, because he has doubts whether he has satisfactorily established by his observations of the presence of A. It is not the validity of the inductive inference from A to X that he is doubting, but whether A is really present…the doubt which the experimenter is trying to exclude is not any logical doubt about induction, but practical doubts arising from difficulties of observation, possible deficiencies in apparatus, difficulty in ensuring that the experiment is made in the exact conditions required, and so on. He is not doubting that the inductive premises will lead to an absolutely certain conclusion. He is doubting whether he has satisfactorily established the inductive premises.”

What is going on is that the scientist procedure is that a single observation is sufficient to establish an inductive conclusion with certainty. But this is only the case provided that the premises have been established. So it is not the inductive conclusion that is being questioned, but it is the premises that are being questioned. As Stace says, “What is implied by the scientist’s procedure is that a single observation or experiment is sufficient to establish an inductive conclusion with certainty, provided the premises have been established. I hold that the scientist is right.”

Stace locates the problem at three points. And this is the problem of how some philosophers have reached the conclusion that all empirical statements are merely probable.

(1.) One of the problems was how philosophers thought that scientists were repeating experiments to try to dispel logical doubts about the validity of induction. What the scientists were doing, in fact, was trying to dispel practical errors in observing or establishing the premises on which an induction rests. The question of probability doesn’t fall within the inductive argument, but outside of the inductive argument.

“That is to say, what is only probable is not that, if A is once associated with B, it will always be associated with B, but that A has actually been found associated with B; not that if a substance has a certain specific gravity it is gold, but that the substance now before me actually has that specific gravity…a natural mistake located the question of probability within the inductive argument instead of outside of it; have extrapolated it from the practical sphere of observation, measurement, and so on, where it actually belongs, to the logical sphere of the inductive inference in which in reality it has no place.”

So the problem is not in the inductive argument itself, but outside of the argument. What is outside of the argument is making sure that you have made an observation that meets with the premises of the argument. This is what constant testing is about, to make sure that the observations are in line with the premises. It is not the argument being questioned, but something outside of the argument that is being questioned.

(2.) Another reason that it seems that it is brought up that empirical statements are probable deals with the view of induction where an application of the inductive principle to a type of cases different from that of the Iron key. This other application is based on generalizing from observations. For example, we generalize from observations of a number from a certain class to the whole class. This means, from observing some white swans, we go on to generalize to the class of swans. From seeing a certain number of swans being white, and not observing any black swans, we go on to say that All swans are white. This will be dealt with a little later on.

(3.) This view seems to follow, as some philosophers think, from what David Hume had to say on the problem of Induction. Hume showed that we can’t “prove” a conclusion in an inductive argument. Because of this, some seem to have imagine that because we can’t prove it, we can at least make it probable. But it doesn’t seem that this follows from what Hume said on the problem of Induction. But Stace does think that something follows from what Hume said on this problem.

Imagine that we have a single instance of A being associated with B, and we’ve ruled out all practical doubts from possible errors of observation or experiment. We now have, logically, two positions that we can take up.

The first is that we can assume the validity of the principle of Induction. So, in this single instance, we can conclude that A is always associated with B, and our conclusion follows with absolute certainer from our two premises of single observed association of A with B and the principle of induction. With these two premises, the conclusion is certain to start with, and so there is no increasing probability or probability at all.

The second is that you may not assume that validity of the inductive principle. Now this means that we follow Hume, which means that there’s no logical connection between the premises and the conclusion of induction. This means, nothing follows from induction, neither certainty nor probability. No matter how many single instances that support our inductive conclusion, the probability never arises above zero. (Karl Popper would agree with this point). There is no connection to say that because the conclusion obtained, that we can say that the probability of the premises rises some more. They are disconnected. It is like having three dots on a sheet of paper. They are disconnected from each other. So when we affirm one, we can’t affirm any of the others because they’re not connected with one another.

“I have affirmed that, given the inductive principle, a single case will prove the inductive conclusion with certainty, I ought to give a formulation to the inductive principle which embodies this…”If in even a single instance, we have observed that a thing of the sort A is associated with a thing of the sort B, then on any other appearance of A, provided the other factors present along with A are the same on both occasions, it is certain that A will be associated with B.””

There is the clause of “provided the other factors present along with A are the same on both occasions.” This forms part of the principle, which comes down to “Same cause, same effect”. There is an example to help make this point clear. If the bell is struck in air then it produces sound. But it doesn’t follow that a bell struck in a vacuum will produce sound. This is because of the clause that was inserted into the principle. The factors aren’t the same, and so they’re not the same type of thing. But it does introduce a new inductive discovery.

There is one obvious objection that one could make to this principle. It could be said that this new interpretation is merely an assumption that is incapable of proof. So if this is a matter of being arbitrary choice of how to formulate it in terms of certainty and probability, then we ought not to assume more than is necessary to justify our sciences and our practice. So someone could say, “it will be quite sufficient for these purposes to assume that, if A is associated with B now, it will probably be associated with B at other times and places. On this ground the probability formulation should be preferred.”

But putting the term certainty in there is not meant to be arbitrary, but it is mean to represent a formulation of the assumption which has been the basis of science and practice. But maybe Stace should be more clear, which is what he tries to do like as follows:

“If you have one case of a set of circumstances A associated with B, and you are quite sure you have correctly established this one association, then, assuming the uniformity of nature, or the reign of law, or the principle of induction-call it what you will- a repetition of identically the same set of circumstances A is bound to be associated with B. For if not, you would have a capricious world, a world in which A sometimes produces B, and sometimes it does not, a world in which the kettle put on the fire may boil today, but freeze tomorrow. And this would clearly be a violation of the principle of induction which you have assumed.”

Now, if you assume the principle of induction, then a single case validates an induction. But now Stace will try to prove his second contention that if you don’t assume the principle of induction, your inductive conclusion aren’t probable at all and there’s no repetition of instances, so no matter how great the number, then the probability is never raised above zero.

To establish this position, Stace will assume that Hume is right. This means, between the premises and the conclusion of an inductive argument there is absolutely no logical connection at all. This means that there is nothing to establish the slightest probability because they’re is no connection between them. So if we affirm one part, it has no connection to another to raise the probability of this part that is connected to what we affirmed. They are so completely disconnected that there’s no logical connection to even bring up probability.

For example, here is what Al-Ghazali said about causality, which is the same position that David Hume took up, and this is based in some ways on the principle of induction. “The affirmation of one does not imply the affirmation of the other; nor does its denial imply the denial of the other. The existence of one is not necessitated by the existence of the other; nor its non-existence by the non-existence of the other.” So when we affirm one thing with induction, like a correct experiment, this in no way can increase any probability when the affirmation of one doesn’t imply the affirmation of the other. How can you raise the probability when what you affirm has no connection to anything else to raise the probability of this other thing? You can’t.

Stace goes on to try to examine the types of cases in which generalize a whole class from a number of instances that are smaller than the whole class. Try to generalize about a whole class of swans from observing a few of the swans that are suppose to make up the whole class. If we observe one swan and it is white,nto conclude that all swans are white, we might be accused of generalizing from one instance. But if we make 10,000 observations, we might think we have a degree of probability to support the generalization. We go on to make observe 1 billion swans and they were white. This might lead us to go on to admit that the hypothesis has become even more probable. So, someone might say to defend the probability view, that how can we deny that we probability and use the probability view of induction?

“But the inductive principle only holds with the proviso, “if the factors present along with A are the same” in subsequent repitition of A. And this case of the swans is simply a case in which it is extremely difficult to be sure that this is so. A in this case means the defining characteristics of the class swan, and B means whiteness. Now different swans will have, along with the defining characteristics A, a number of other characteristics. and these will differ with different individual swans, not to mention circumambient differences of environment. Thus the first case of A you observed was really ACDE, and this was associated with B. The second case was APQR, the third AXYZ. Now, of course, it does not follow from the principle of induction that because ACDE was associated with B, therefore APQR and AXYZ must be associated with B. For we do not have there that exact repetition of the same sets of circumstances which the inductive principle requires.”

To try to remedy the situation that we are in, we constantly repeat observations of this class of swans. Now if we keep making these observations of A, and they’re found to have B, then we think it becomes more and more likely that we have eliminated other certain possibilities, and raise the probability. We want to eliminate some of the accidental characteristics of certain swans. This would be something like they’re size. food they eat, and the climates that they live in. When we rule out sets of circumstances as irrelevant, they become more probable.

The fundamental reason why there is constant repetition of observation on new members of class is that although in theory the association of A with B, once it is observed must always hold, is because in practice we never get our cases of pure A. “We can not isolate the system. It is always mixed up with extraneous circumstances. Thus the doubt which we are trying to dispel by repeated observations has nothing at all to do with Hume’s doubt about the validity of induction…” That doubt can’t be dispelled, no matter now many numerous observations we make. But the doubt that we are trying to get rid of isn’t the logical doubt. The doubt we are trying to get rid of is the practical doubt from the enormous complexity of nature, our frailty of our intellects which are unequal with the task to disentangle the complexities, or the inadequacy of the instruments that we have at our disposal to isolate the system present.

Some, like Carnap, have divided knowledge into empirical knowledge and necessary propositions. Necessary propositions would be those like mathematics and logic. Now the empirical propositions could be considered doubtful because the practical doubts that arise from our human infirmities. But this means that we ought to have the same doubts in concern with mathematics. This is why we have people that check our work in mathematics, to make sure that we made no practical doubts in the process that we followed.

“There is one sense in which mathematical, or, in general, deductive conclusions are certain this may be called the logical or theoretical sense. And there is another sense, which may be called the practical sense, in which they are only probable, since the mathematician or the syllogizer may err in his reasoning. The mathematician may miscalculate, and the syllogizer may make any one of a hundred mistakes. And if practical doubts are not a ground for denying that, in an appropriate sense, mathematics is certain, then practical doubts can not be a ground for denying that, in an appropriate sense, empirical conclusions are uncertain.”

“As it is with mathematical truths, so precisely it is with empirical truths. There is one sense in which an inductive conclusion is certain, namely, the theoretical sense that it follows with certainity from a single observation plus the inductive principle. And there is another sense, the practical one, in which it is probable only, because there may be errors in observation, experimentation, and the like.”

“The statement that empiricial knowledge may be theoretically certain is, of course, subject to the proviso that we accept the inductive principle. If we don’t accept it, then, of course, empirical knowledge is not even probable. It has no validity at all. In no case does any question of probability enter into the matter.”

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