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Posts Tagged ‘David Hume’

Fallacy of Evidentialism

Posted by allzermalmer on August 18, 2013

There are two philosophers, who are taken to be generally representative of Evidentialism. These two philosophers are David Hume and C.K. Clifford. These two philosophers have two quotes that are examplars of their Evidentialism thesis. They are, respectively, as follows.

“A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence…when at last [a wise man] fixes his judgement, the evidence exceeds not what we properly call probability.” – David Hume in “Of Miracles” (Italics are Hume’s)

“We may believe what goes beyond our experience, only when it is inferred from that experience by the assumption that what we do not know is like what we know…It is wrong in all cases to believe on insufficient evidence” – W.K. Clifford in “The Ethics of Belief

Thomas Huxley,

Huxluy Evidence

Those quotes from these three writers are taken as representative of Evidentialism, and thus the Evidentialist Principle. The statements they make might appear to carry some validity & they might even seem to be sound.

However, Karl Popper holds that they are not valid. He also doesn’t hold that they are sound. They even contradict all empirical systems or all empirical propositions. They forbid us from ever believing or holding to any empirical system or empirical proposition, they forbid us from ever believing or holding to any scientific hypothesis or scientific proposition. But the problem of Induction applies to both the truth of this matter of fact assertion and the probability of the truth of this matter of fact assertion.

Both of the propositions contain signs of being based on Induction. Hume points out that a wise man will fix their judgements on a proposition when the evidence indicates that it is probable. Clifford points out that we may infer from experience what goes beyond our experience, but this is based on hypothesis that unknown is similar to the known.

Both of the propositions show that Evidentialism is founded on Induction, or inductive inferences.

Hume, supposedly, showed that it is logically impossible to infer the unknown from the known. It is logically impossible to derive the unknown from the known. Thus, Evidentialism is founded on a logical impossibility.

“The problem of the source of our knowledge has recently been restated as follows. If we make an assertion, we must justify it; but this means that we must be able to answer the following questions.

How do you know? What are the sources of your assertion?’ This, the empiricist holds, amounts in its turn to the question,

‘What observations (or memories of observations) underlie your assertion?’ I find this string of questions quite unsatisfactory.” – Karl Popper in “The Sources of Knowledge and Ignorance

Popper presents the Evidentialist Principle, in that quote, as saying that “If we make an assertion, we must justify it“. If you make an assertion, then you must justify it, or making an assertion implies must justify the assertion. You would have to answer one question, ‘How do you know? What are the sources of your assertion?’, and have to answer another question, ‘What observations (or memories of observations) underlie your assertion?’. 

As Popper points out, the Evidentialist Principle is an answer to The Problem of Source of Knowledge. So we may suppose that Evidentialism and Induction are to be based on the Source of a proposition or an empirical proposition. It seeks that the source of a proposition to be justified.

Criticizing or discrediting a proposition because of the source has some similarity to the Genetic Fallacy: “if the critic attempts to discredit or support a claim or an argument because of its origin (genesis) when such an appeal to origins is irrelevant.”

With the Genetic Fallacy, a proposition is being discredited, or supported, because it is “paying too much attention to the genesis of the idea rather than to the reasons offered for it”. The origin, or source, of the proposition is used to discredit, or support, the proposition.

Evidentialism would discredit a proposition because the source of the proposition is without justification.

We also find that David Hume presents an example of the questions that Popper finds to be unsatisfactory.

“All reasonings concerning matter of fact seem to be founded on the relation of cause and effect. By means of that relation alone we can go beyond the evidence of our memory and senses. If you were to ask a man, why he believes any matter of fact, which is absent; for instance, that his friend is in the country, or in France; he would give you a reason; and this reason would be some other fact; as a letter received from him, or the knowledge of his former resolutions and promises…All our reasonings concerning fact are of the same nature. And here it is constantly supposed that there is a connexion between the present fact and that which is inferred from it. Were there nothing to bind them together, the inference would be entirely precarious.

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.” – David Hume in “Sceptical doubts concerning the operations of the understanding” (Italics are Hume’s)

David Hume himself goes down the line of questioning that Popper brings up. For example, suppose that some assertion is made like “all ravens are black”. This assertion is what Hume calls a Matter of Fact, i.e. Synthetic proposition or Contingent proposition. It is Possible that it is true that “all ravens are black” and it is possible that it isn’t true that “all ravens are black”. This starts a line of questioning once this assertion is presented.

Question: What is the nature of reasoning concerning that matter of fact?
Evidence: The assertion is founded on the relation of cause and effect.
Question: What is the foundation of reasoning and conclusion concerning that relation of cause and effect?
Evidence: The relation of cause and effect of that assertion is founded on Experience.

These two questions follow a basic form that Popper is bringing up, and the type of basic form that Popper finds unsuitable, or the type of basic form of Evidentialism that is unsuitable. The basic reason for this is because another question follows from the answer to the previous two questions.

Question: What is the foundation of that conclusion drawn from experience?

This new question is where the Problem of Induction arises, or what Popper calls The Logical Problem of Induction.

If all Ravens are Black then justified in the relation of cause and effect. If justified in the relation of cause and effect then justified by experience. If justified by experience then experience is justified by Induction. So if all ravens are black then justified by Induction. But, Induction isn’t justified. So assertion all ravens are black isn’t justified. Therefore, Evidentialism would make it so that the assertion all Ravens are Black isn’t justified. This applies to all matters of fact, and thus all empirical and scientific assertions.

“It is usual to call an inference ‘inductive’ if it passes from singular statements (sometimes called ‘particular’ statements), such as accounts of the results of observations or experiments, to universal statements, such as hypotheses or theories. Now it is far from obvious, from a logical point of view, that we are justified in inferring universal statements from singular ones, no matter how numerous; for any conclusions drawn in this way may always turn out to be false: no matter how many instances of white swans we may have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that all swans are white. The question whether inductive inferences are justified, or under what conditions, is known as the problem of induction.” – Karl Popper in “The Logic of Scientific Discovery” (Italics are Popper’s)

The Problem of Induction comes about because Induction relies on statement that is a matter of fact assertion, but this matter of fact assertion cannot, in principle, be inductively justified. So either all reasonings concerning matter of fact seem to be founded on experience or not all reasonings concerning matter of fact seem to be founded on experience.

This is a logical problem because either Induction relies on a statement that is either a contingent proposition or necessary proposition. We can call this the “Principle of Induction”. But the Principle of Induction can’t be a necessary proposition because the negation of the Principle of Induction is possible to be false. A necessary proposition can’t be possible to be false. So it is possible that Principle of Induction is true and it is possible that isn’t true that Principle of Induction is true. Therefore, the Principle of Induction is a contingent proposition.

Hume points out that matter of facts about dispositions and universal propositions are matters of facts. Thus dispositional propositions and universal propositions are contingent propositions. Dispositional propositions describe law-like behavior and universal propositions describe lawful behavior or law-like behavior. These would both be contingent propositions, and so we wouldn’t be justified, based on Induction, in asserting those dispositional propositions or universal propositions.

We wouldn’t be justified, based on Evidentialism, when it came to assertions about dispositional propositions or universal propositions. Science wouldn’t be justified, based on Evidentialism, when it came to assertions about dispositional propositions or universal propositions. But science is full of assertions about dispositional propositions and universal propositions. Therefore, science wouldn’t be justified in asserting dispositional propositions and universal propositions.

“[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 even 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.” Karl Popper in “Realism and the Aim of Science” (Italics are Popper’s)

The assertion “all ravens are black” isn’t justified as true under Evidentialism and “all ravens are black” isn’t jusified as probably true under Evidentialism. Hume himself points out that the wise man doesn’t fixate his judgement on an assertion in which the evidence exceeds what we properly call probability. In other words, the Evidentialist doesn’t hold to assertions in which the evidence exceeds what we properly call probability. So Evidentialist only hold to assertion in which evidence shows it is true or probably true. So “all ravens are black” is only held by an Evidentialist if evidence shows it is true or at least probably true.

Popper presents a solution to the Problem of Induction, and thus treats assertions differently from Evidentialism. Popper rejects Induction, and thus rejects Evidentialism. The source of an assertion has nothing to do with either discrediting the truth of a proposition or supporting the truth of a proposition.

Matter of fact propositions, or scientific propositions, don’t discredit or support the source of an assertion. Science doesn’t support the truth of a proposition or support the probability of a proposition. It, basically, seeks to discredit the truth of a proposition. Science seeks to show that the proposition is false, not that the proposition is true or probably true. Science always seeks to discredit it’s proposition and not to support it’s propositions. So scientific propositions are, in principle, possible to show they are false and never show they are true or probably true. This includes both dispositional propositions and universal propositions.

In other words, Evidentialism seeks both positive justifications for assertion and negative justifications for assertion. Evidentialism would be based on “full decidability”. Falsifiability, or Falsification, seeks only negative justifications for assertions. Falsifiability would be based on “partial decidability” . These negative justifications, for Falsifiability, basically state that scientific assertion hasn’t been demonstrated false as of yet. This never indicates a positive justification for the assertion being true or probably true.

“The problem of induction arises from an apparent contradiction between the basic empiricist requirement (only experience can decide the truth or falsity of a scientific statement) and Hume’s insight into the logical impermissibility of inductive decision (there is no empirical justification of universal statements). This contradiction exists only if we assume that empirical statements must be empirically “fully decidable”, that is, that experience must be able to decide not only their falsity, but also their truth. The contradiction is resolved once “partially decidable” empirical statements are admitted: Universal empirical statements are empirically falsifiable, they can be defeated by experience.” – Karl Popper in “The Two Problems of The Theory of Knowledge” (Italics are Popper’s)

For Falsifiability, the source of an assertion is irrelevant when judging whether the assertion is either true or false, and the source of an assertion is irrelevant when judging whether justified in believing that assertion is true or probably true. The source of an assertion is irrelevant for the justification of the assertion. Would have to rely on Induction, and Induction isn’t justified itself. The only justification of an assertion, specifically an empirical assertion, is that it is possible to show that assertion is false. An empirical assertion has the possibility to be shown false, but it doesn’t have the possibility to be shown true (or probably true).

Science, thus, doesn’t care of the source of an assertion. Science is justified in believing, or holding to, an empirical proposition because that empirical proposition allows for the possibility that can be shown that it is false, but hasn’t been shown that it is false yet. For example, science would be justified in believing the empirical proposition that “all ravens are orange” if wasn’t for “some ravens are black”. It would be a negative justification, since don’t have another empirical proposition that contradicts it, or shows that it is false.

One of the basic mechanisms of Falsifiability is that works by deductive inference. Modus Tollens forms an example of deductive inference that Falsifiability uses. Given the conditional claim that the consequent is true if the antecedent is true, and given that the consequent is false, we can infer that the antecedent is also false.

If an empirical assertion is true implies another empirical assertion is true & the other empirical assertion is false, then original empirical assertion is false.

Principle of Modus Tollens:If all ravens are orange implies no ravens are not orange & some ravens are black, then not all ravens are orange. This is how the negative justification of empirical assertions works, which is deductive inference of modus tollens. It wouldn’t be possible for “not all ravens are orange” to be false. So it must be true.

The Principle of Modus Tollens is a necessary truth, which is different from the Principle of Induction. The Principle of Induction isn’t a necessary truth. It is possible that the Principle of Induction is false. So it might be true.

An assertion that is the conclusion of the Principle of Induction, or the assertion of a wise man that reviewed the Evidence, might be true. An assertion that is the conclusion of the Principle of Modus Tollens, or the assertion of a foolish man that never reviewed the Evidence, must be true.

The truth that the Principle of Modus Tollens always produces truth. It is similar to negative theology. It isn’t true that “all ravens are orange” & it isn’t true that “no ravens are not orange”. Each time saying what is true because true isn’t those false statements, since it is true that “not all ravens are black”.

The contradiction between “all ravens are orange” and “not all ravens are orange” are exclusive, they both can’t be true and no intermediary empirical propositions between them. If know that “all ravens are orange” is false then know that “not all ravens are orange” is true. All ravens are orange implied no ravens are not orange & some ravens are black. Therefore, it is necessarily true that not all ravens are orange. If Know that “not all ravens are orange” is true then “not all ravens are orange” is true. “Not all ravens are orange” is true.

Both the Principle of Modus Tollens are dealing with scientific propositions. The scientific propositions are possibly true or possibly false. If combine scientific propositions with the Principle of Induction, then scientific proposition infered might be true. If combine scientific propositions with Principle of Modus Tollens, then scientific proposition infered must be true. The negative justification allows for things that aren’t possibly not true & hold to statements that are only true, while positive justification allows for things that are only possibly true & hold to some statements that aren’t only true.

So Evidentialist like David Hume, or C.K. Clifford, would be justified in holding some scientific propositions that aren’t only true. Evidentialist would hold to both true statements and false statements. While the Non-Evidentialist, which follows Falsifiability or negative justification, would hold only to true statements. The Non-evidentialist wouldn’t be justified in asserting a scientific statement, even though conclusions drawn from it must be true.

Thus, Evidentialism is fallacious because the assertions that it concludes to be justified in holding, based on the evidence, aren’t truth-preserving. It’s conclusions of justified scientific propositions aren’t based on the evidence or derived by positive support it receives from the evidence. However, it is completely opposite with Non-Evidentialism of Falsification, or it isn’t fallacious.

The Evidentialist would be acting irrationally by seeking their justification, while the Falsifiabilist, which is necessarily a Non-Evidentialist, would be acting rationally by not seeking the Evidentialist justification.

Huxley’s assertion, in his examplar of Evidentialism, mentions that “merciless to fallacy in logic.” But we later find out that Evidentialism isn’t “merciless to fallacy in logic”, but is founded on a fallacy in logic itself. David Hume recognized this, even though exemplar of Evidentialism. Instead, he went about acting irrationally by seeking a (positive) justification of proposition by evidence & the rest of Evidentialism followed, like C.K. Clifford and Thomas Huxley. They would all go about by searching for evidence that proposition is true and end right back in the same place.

Finding Evidence

So we finally come full circle with the fallacy of Evidentialism, and find the source of the Evidentialist fallacy.

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Hume and The Impossibility of Falsification

Posted by allzermalmer on May 5, 2013

Hume’s logical problem of induction as Hume presents it and Popper presents it, deals with contingent statements. The affirmation or the negation of the same contingent statement is possible. Take the contingent statement that “All Swans are White”: It is both possible that “All Swans are White” and it is also possible that  not “All Swans are White”. Logic alone cannot decide if “All Swans are White” is either true or false. So it would be decided by some other way as to wither its affirmation or negation to be true. Hume, and Popper, say that experience cannot show the truth of the contingent statement “All Swans are White”.

“Hume’s argument does not establish that we may not draw any inference from observation to theory: it merely establishes that we may not draw verifying inferences from observations to theories, leaving open the possibility that we may draw falsifying inferences: an inference from the truth of an observation statement (‘This is a black swan’) to the falsity of a theory (‘All swans are white’) can be deductively perfectly valid.” Realism and The Aim of Science

(H) Hypothesis: All Swans are White
(E) Evidence: This is a Black Swan

Hume, as Popper takes him in his problem of induction, showed that we cannot show that (H) is true, no matter how many individual swans that are white we have observed. To show that (H) is true, we must verify every case of (H). (H) is a Universal statement, its scope is that of all times and all places. The universal statement is both omnipresent and omnitemporal in its scope. It makes no restriction on temporal location and spatial location. (E) makes a Singular statement, its scope is of a particular time and a particular place. It makes a restriction on temporal location and spatial location. Popper held that we can know (E) is true, ‘This is a Black Swan’. Thus, we cannot know (H) All Swans are White but we can know (E) This is a Black Swan.

Hume’s logical problem of induction, as Popper takes it, goes something like this:

(i) Science proposes and uses laws everywhere and all the time; (ii) Only observation and experiment may decide upon the truth or falsity of scientific statements; (iii) It is impossible to justify the truth of a law by observation or experiment.

Or

(i*) Science proposes and uses the universal statement “all swans are white”; (ii*) Only singular observational statements may decide upon the truth or falsity of ‘all swans are white’; (iii*) It is impossible to justify the truth of the universal statement ‘all swans are white’ by singular observational statements.

It is taken as a fact that (i) or (i*) is true. So there is no question about either (i) or (i*). So the conflict of Hume’s logical contradiction arises between (ii) and (iii) or (ii*) and (iii*). Popper accepts (iii) or (iii*). So the only way out of Hume’s logical problem of induction is to modify or reject (ii) or (ii*) to solve the contradiction.

Popper thus solves Hume’s logical problem of induction by rejecting (ii) or (ii*) and replacing it with a new premise. This new premise is (~ii).

(~ii) Only observation and experiment may decide upon the falsity of scientific statements
Or
(~ii*) Only singular observation statements may decide upon the falsity of ‘all swans are white’.

Popper rejects (ii) or (ii*), which basically said that only singular observation statements can show that either universal statements are true or false. Popper rejects this because of (iii), and says that Singular observation statements can only show that universal statements are false. Popper believes, as the quote at the beginning of the blog says, that Hume’s logical problem of induction doesn’t show that we can’t show that a universal statement is false by a singular observational statements. But is this what Hume showed to be true?

It does not appear that Hume’s logical problem of induction even allows Popper to escape with the modification of (ii) to (~ii). It appears that Hume’s logical problem of induction does not allow Popper to escape from “fully decidable” to “partially decidable”, i.e.  decide both truth or falsity to cannot decide truth but only falsity.

Take the singular observational statement that Popper gives in the quote, i.e. ‘This is a black swan’. It is a singular statement, but the statement contains a universal within it, it contains “swan”. “Swan” are defined by their law-like behavior, which are their dispositional characteristics, and is a universal concept. These dispositions are law-like, and thus universal in scope as well. And by (iii) we cannot determine if something is a “swan” because of that. The concept “swan” is in the same position as “all swans are white”. They are both universal, and because of (iii) cannot be shown to be true.

“Alcohol” has the law-like behavior, or disposition, or being flammable. So if we were to say that ‘This is alcohol’. We would have to check all the alcohol that existed in the past, present, future, and all places in the universe in which it was located. We would have to light them to see if they catch fire, and thus flammable. Only than could we say that “This is alcohol”, and know that it is alcohol. But to do so would be to verify a universal through singulars, which is impossible by (iii).

In fact, Hume even talks about dispositions and law-like behavior in his talks about the problem of induction. For example, Hume says that “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.” Hume is specifically attacking dispositions as well, which means he is attacking universal concepts and universal statements.

“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…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?” Enquiry’s Concerning Human Knowledge

From Popper’s point of view, science can only show the falsity of a universal statement through the truth of a singular statement. The singular statement would have to contradict the universal statement and the singular statement would have to be true.

(h) If it rained then wet ground.
(e) Not a wet ground
(c)Thus, it didn’t rain.

If we assume that both (h) and (e) are true, then we accept a contradiction. Contradictions can’t possibly be true. So we know that at least one of these two must be false. But which one is false and which one is true, (h) or (e).

But how can we show the truth of a singular observational statement when it relies on a universal concept, and universal concepts fall for (iii) just as much as universal statements? Hume’s position of the logical invalidity of of induction, i.e. (iii), also holds not only with universal statements but also universal concepts, i.e. law-like behavior/ dispositional characteristics. How does Popper respond to this?

Popper accepts the invalidity of reaching universal statements through experience, but takes it that we accept singular observational statements based on conventions. We conventionally accept the singular observation statement as true.

Hume’s logical problem of induction shows this:

(H) All Swans are White
(E) This swan is black

Now we may either accept (H) as a convention or accept (E) as a convention, or both as conventions. Popper rejects accept (H) as a convention, because you cannot show that a convention is false. Showing something false is what (~ii) was used to solve the original problem of induction. He wants to show that (H) is false, which is consistent with (~ii), but the only way to do that is if (E) can be shown true. But (E) contains a universal concept and (iii) prevents us from experiencing dispositions or law-like behaviors, i.e. Swan or Alcohol. (iii) applies just as much to universal statements as it does to universal concepts. (E) is based on universal concepts and so has to be accepted as a convention, to escape (iii), in order to show that (H) is false and be consistent with (i) and (~ii). (H) has to have the ability to be shown false to be falsifiable, and not being a convention means it has the ability to be shown false.

Contrary to what Popper thinks, Hume’s logical problem of induction doesn’t even allow you to show a falsifying instance. Thus, following full implications of Hume’s logical problem of induction, we can neither show the truth of a universal statement or show the falsify of a universal statement.

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Did Popper Solve The Problem of Induction?

Posted by allzermalmer on October 3, 2012

Karl Popper said that he believed he had solved the “Problem of Induction”, or what he called “Hume’s Problem”. But did Karl Popper really solve the Problem of Induction or Hume’s Problem? Maybe we should (1) take a look at what Popper considered to be Hume’s problem, and (2) see what Popper says his solution to the problem is. (Whether or not Popper did correctly identify Hume’s problem, is of no concern here).

Before we do this, I think we should start out with something basic, or part of basic, logic.

(A) Universal Quantifier Affirmative (All S are P): For each x, if x is S, then x is P
(E) Universal Quantifier Negation (No S are P) : For each x, if x is S, then x is not P
(I) Existential Quantifier Affirmative (Some S are P): There exists at least one x, such that x is S and x is P
(O) Existential Quantifier Negation (Some S are not P): There exists at least one x, such that x is S and x is not P

“All of the categorical propositions illustrated above can be expressed by using either the universal quantifier alone or the existential quantifier alone. Actually, what this amounts to is the definition of the universal quantification of propositions in terms of existential quantification and the definition of existential propositions in terms of universal quantification.” p. 349 Formal Logic: An Introductory Textbook by John Arthur Mourant

Now this means that the Universal Quantifier (UQ) can be expressed in a logically equivalent form to an Existential Quantifier (EQ), and the Existential Quantifier can be expressed in a logically equivalent form to Universal Quantifier. For something to be logically equivalent means they mean the same thing in a logical sense. Logically equivalent statements have the exact same truth. One can’t be true and the other false, for this would mean they are both necessarily false.

Universal Quantifiers to Existential Quantifiers

A: For each x, if x is S, then x is P    There does not exist at least one x, such that x is S and x is not P
E: For each x, if x is S, then x is not P    There does not exist at least one x, such that x is S and x is P
I: Not for each x, if x is S, then x is not P    There exists at least one x, such that x is S and x is P
O: Not for each x, if x is S, then x is P   There exists at least one x, such that x is S and x is not P

A: For each x, if x is Crow, then x is Black  ↔  There does not exist at least one x, such that x is Crow and x is not Black
E: For each x, if x is Crow, then x is not Black  ↔  There does not exist at least one x, such that x is Crow and x is Black
I: Not for each x, if x is Crow, then x is not Black  ↔  There exists at least on x, such that x is Crow and x is Black
O: Not for each x, if x is Crow, then x is Black  ↔  There exists at least on x, such that x is Crow and x is not Black

Existential Quantifiers to Universal Quantifiers

A: There does not exist at least one x, such that x is S and x is not P    For each x, if x is S, then x is P
E: There does not exist at least one x, such that x is S and x is P     For each x, if x is S, then x is not P
I: There exists at least one x, such that x is S and x is P   Not for each x, if x is S, then x is not P
O: There exists at least one x, such that x is S and x is not P    Not for each x, if x is S, then x is P

A: There does not exist at least one x, such that x is Crow and x is not Black  ↔  For each x, if x is Crow, then x is Black
E:
There does not exist at least one x, such that x is S and x is P  ↔  For each x, if x is Crow, then x is not Black 
I:
There exists at least one x, such that x is Crow and x is Black  ↔  Not for each x, if x is Crow, then x is not Black
O:
There exists at least one x, such that x is Crow and x is not Black  ↔  Not for each x, if x is Crow, then x is Black

It needs to be pointed out first that there are two types of statements.
(1)Necessary Truth: Statement whose denial is self-contradictory.
(2) Contingent Truth: One that logically (that is, without self-contradiction) could have been either true or false.

(1a) “All bachelors are unmarried males”
(2a) “Justin Bieber is an unmarried male”

A necessary truth is said to have no empirical content. A contingent truth is said to have empirical content.

Hume’s problem was that he found that he cannot justify induction by demonstrative argument, since he can always imagine a different conclusion.

What Popper takes to be “Hume’s Problem”

“It is usual to call an inference ‘inductive’ if it passes from singular statements (sometimes called ‘particular’ statements), such as accounts of the results of observations or experiments, to universal statements, such as hypotheses or theories. Now it is far from obvious, from a logical point of view, that we are justified in inferring universal statements from singular ones, no matter how numerous; for any conclusions drawn in this way may always turn out to be false: no matter how many instances of white swans we may have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that all swans are white. The question whether inductive inferences are justified, or under what conditions, is known as the problem of induction.” pg. 3-4 Logic of Scientific Discovery

“The root of this problem [of induction] is the apparent contradiction between what may be called ‘the fundamental thesis of empiricism’- the thesis that experience alone can decide upon the truth or falsity of scientific statements- and Hume’s realization of the inadmissibility of inductive arguments.” pg. 20 Logic of Scientific Discovery

Here’s an Inductive argument

Singular: (P1) There exists at least one x, such that x is Crow and x is Black
Singular: (P2) There exists at least one x, such that x is Crow and x is Black

Universal: (C) For each x, if x is Crow, then x is Black

Popper’s Solution to “Hume’s Problem”

“Consequently it is possible by means of purely deductive inferences (with the help of the modus tollens of classical logic) to argue from the truth of singular statements to the falsity of universal statements. Such an argument to the falsity of universal statements is the only strictly deductive kind of inference that proceeds, as it were, in the ‘inductive direction’ that is, from singular to universal statements.”pg. 21 Logic of Scientific Discovery

Here’s Popper’s solution

Universal: (P1) For each x, if x is Crow, then x is not Black
Singular: (P2) There exists at least one x, such that x is Crow and x is Black
Universal: (C) Not for each x, if x is Crow, then x is not Black

Singular statement leads to a universal statement. From there exists at least one x, such that x is Crow and x is Black, the conclusion is reached that not for each x, if x is Crow, then x is not Black.

Here’s Poppers understanding of Induction: “It…passes from singular statements…to universal statements…”

Here’s Poppers solution to the ‘Problem of Induction: “Such an argument to the falsity of universal statements is… from singular to universal statements.”

So going from singular statement to universal statement can be justified by  going from singular statements to universal statements. This falls for the problem of induction again, because this is a circular argument that is used to defend induction.

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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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Whatever Is Conceivable Is Possible

Posted by allzermalmer on September 27, 2012

I am going to quote one little section in a book called Hume’s First Principles by Robert Fendel Anderson. This first part of the book is on Perceptions, and the first principle gone over on Perceptions is “Whatever is Conceivable is Possible”.

“The principle of the possible existence of whatever is conceivable is one which Hume finds both an evident principle and already an established maxim in metaphysics[1]. The application of the principle is frequently restricted to that which is clearly and distinctly conceivable: “…nothing of which we can form a clear and distinct idea is absurd and impossible.”[2] Again: “To form a clear idea of anything, is an undeniable argument for its possibility…”[3]. The possibility of existence, therefore, is of the essence of whatever is clearly and distinctly conceived; that is, its possibility is included or implied within it: “ ‘Tis an establish’d maxim in metaphysics, That whatever the mind clearly conceives includes the idea of possible existence…”[4] and: “Whatever can be conceiv’d by a clear and distinct idea necessarily implies the possibility of existence….”[5]

A clear and distinct idea, according to Hume’s doctrine, is one which neither contains nor implies a contradiction: “Now whatever is intelligible, and can be distinctly conceived, implies no contradiction…”[6] Again: “How any clear, and distinct idea can contain circumstances, contradictory to itself, or to any other clear, distinct idea, is absolutely incomprehensible….”[7] In saying that whatever is clearly and distinctly conceived is possible, therefore, it appears to be Hume’s intention also that whatever is self-consistent and noncontradictory is possible:

“Whatever can be conceiv’d by a clear and distinct idea necessarily implies the possibility of existence; and he who pretends to prove the impossibility of its existence by any argument deriv’d from the clear idea, in reality asserts, that we have no clear idea of it, because we have a clear idea. ‘Tis in vain to search for a contradiction in any thing that is distinctly conceiv’d by the mind.”[8]

The expression employed in the remarks thus far examined may lead the reader to suppose that there are some things clearly and distinctly conceived and some not- that some of our ideas are clear and distinct and some of them unclear and indistinct. Were this true, then it would follow that we have ideas of things the existence of which we must regard as impossible. There is evidence, however, that Hume considers all our ideas to be clear and distinct. He offers an argument to this conclusion, based on his doctrine that ideas are derived from impressions:

“…we need but reflect on that principle so oft insisted on, that all our ideas are copy’d from our impressions. For from thence we may immediately conclude, that since all impressions are clear and precise, the ideas, which are copy’d from them, must be of the same nature…”[9]

Since all perceptions are either impressions or ideas[10], we must conclude that there are no perceptions of any kind that are not clear and precise.

From the clarity and preciseness of all ideas, we may infer, moreover, that we possess no ideas of those things whose existence we must regard as impossible, but that any idea we may have is the idea of something the existence of which is possible. We find, indeed, that Hume does not always restrict the possibility of existence to that which is clearly and distinctly conceived, but extends it as well to everything that is conceived or imagined at all: “…whatever we conceive is possible.”[11] And: “…whatever we can imagine, is possible.”[12]Hume appears, indeed, to make no firm distinction between what is clearly and distinctly conceived and what is conceived or imagined merely, as is evidenced in his full statement of the metaphysical maxim: “ ‘Tis an establish’d maxim in metaphysics, That whatever the mind clearly conceives includes the idea of possible existence, or in other words, that nothing we imagine is absolutely impossible.”[13] We are thus again justified, apparently, in supposing that all our ideas are equally clear and distinct, and that all things conceived are possible. Things which are contradictory and therefore impossible, on the other hand, cannot be conceived or imagined at all: “We can form the idea of a golden mountain, and from thence conclude that such a mountain may actually exist. We can form no idea of a mountain without a valley, and therefore regard it as impossible.”[14] Again: “ ‘Tis in vain to search for a contradiction in any thing that is distinctly conceiv’d by the mind. Did it imply any contradiction, ‘tis impossible it cou’d ever be coneiv’d.”[15]

Knowing then that self-contradictory things are neither conceivable nor possible, and knowing that whatever is conceived or imagined is possible, we may next inquire what things are in fact conceived or imagined and hence possible. From certain of Hume’s remarks one might infer that we conceive only perceptions; for it is only perceptions that are “present to” the mind: “…nothing is ever really present with the mind but its perceptions or impressions and ideas…”[16] If this be true, then it is reasonable to suppose that we have clear and distinct ideas only of perceptions, as Hume sometimes appears to agree: “We have no perfect idea of any thing but of a perception.”[17] Now if we can conceive only of perceptions, then according to Hume’s principle it is only perceptions whose existence we may regard as possible. We may observe, moreover, that the remarks we have thus far examined do not imply that perceptions, as such, exist, but only that their existence is possible. Were there no further texts available to us from among Hume’s writings, we might justifiably conclude that what he calls “perceptions” are to be understood as a realm of mere essences which, taken together, comprehend all possibility, but which are not, of themselves, existence.”


[1] David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. by L.A. Selby-Bigge (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888), pp. 32, 250, Hereafter cited as Treatise.

[2] Treatise, pp.19-20. Cf> David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, ed. and with an introduction by Henry D. Aiken(New York: Hafner Library of Classic, Hafner Publishing Company, 1948), p. 19, Philo speaking. Hereafter cited as Dialogues.

[3] Treatise, p. 89

[4] Treatise, p.32

[5] Treatise, p. 43

[6] David Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning the Human Understanding,” in An Enquiry Concerning the Human Understanding and an Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, ed. and with an introduction by L.A. Selby-Bigge (2d ed.; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1902), p. 35. Hereafter cited as “Understanding.” Cf. Dialogues, p. 58, Cleanthes speaking.

[7] “Understanding.” P. 157

[8] Treatise p. 43.

[9] Treatise, p. 72; cf. p. 366.

[10] Treatise, pp. 1, 96.

[11] Treatise, p. 236.

[12] Treatise, p. 250

[13] Treatise, p. 32.

[14] Treatise, p. 32.

[15] Treatise, p.43. Cf. “Understanding,” p. 164.

[16] Treatise, p. 67; cf. pp.197,212.

[17] Treatise, p. 234.

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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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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.”

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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.

Bibliography

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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Positivism

Posted by allzermalmer on January 18, 2012

This blog will be based on a paper done by W.T. Stace. It was published in the philosophical journal Mind, New Series, Vol. 53, No. 211 (Jul., 1944), pp. 215-237. It was called Positivism.

During the time of writing this paper, there was a big movement in parts of Europe and eventually came to America, and it was Logical Positivism or Logical Empiricism. This group was known for the principle for which they became infamous and later collapsed. Stace says what he takes the principle to be, and calls it the Positivism Principle.

“A set of words purporting to express a factual proposition P is significant only if it is impossible to deduce or infer from it, in combination if necessary with other premises, some proposition or propositions (at least one) Q^1, Q^2, Q^3…etc., the truth or falsity of which it would be logically possible to verify by direct observation. If no such directly verifiable deductions from P are possible, then the set of words purporting to express P is non-significant, and P is not really a proposition at all, but a pseudo-proposition.”

Now there are some terms in that principle that would need to be clarified. These terms are “significant” and “meaning”. We, in our common speaking, talk of meaning of a sentence and meaning of a word. This will also deal with the difference between significant and meaning. The meaning of a sentence is called significance, because only a sentence can be true or false. The meaning of a word is called meaning, but words can’t be either true or false. This is because meaning of sentences is where the predicate of true or false apply, but those predicates don’t apply to single words like “red”. Sentences have significance, and words have meaning. This forms a big distinction from which the rest of the paper follows.

The difference between significance and meaning are based on a distinction within the genus of semantical meanings. So Stace shall be dealing with the semantical significance of sentences and the semantical meaning of words. And Stace will deal with “deduce or infer” as being a deduction or being a causal inference. So when we make the statement of “P”, it can hold the form of “P→Q”. This will help spell out some of the deduction and causal inference that is going on.

But Stace also quotes the Logical Positivist A.J. Ayer, as he states what is meant by the Positivist Principle.

“Let us call a proposition which records an actual or possible observation and experiential proposition. Then we may say that it is the mark of a genuine factual proposition…that some experiential proposition can be deduced from it in conjunction with certain other premises without being deducible from those other premises alone.”

There seems to be no clear distinction between A.J. Ayer and what W.T. Stace has said as well. And so what Stace would say would also seem to hold for the Positivism Principle.

The Positivism Principle seems to be of the same of the Verification principle, but there is some slight difference from when the original Verification principle was proposed. Schlick was one of the first to propose the Verification principle. Verification was meant to be direct and complete verification, which was the significance of a statement was the method of its verification. It had to be direct and complete verification. But such a principle makes universal statements to be insignificant. For to directly and completely verify a universal statement, you wold have to observe an infinite number of facts, which would have been of the past, present, and future, and all locations. And even singular statements about material objects would be insignificant sine the complete verification would also involve an infinite number of observations. Also, talk of the past wouldn’t be allowed for to be significant.

In order to escape some of these downfalls of what Schlick presented as the Verification principle, it was mean to soften it some, but keep some of the same points. Now, instead of complete and direct verification, the new principle allowed for indirect and partial verification. So we can verify the past occurrence of something by checking the present effect. And this is part of Carnap seems to mean with “testing” the proposition. Stace points out how we come to indirectly and partially verify something.

“What is now required in order to make a statement about the past significant is, not that the facts asserted in the statement should be themselves now observable, but that some of their effects should be observable (indirect verification). And what is required to make a universal proposition significant is not that all the facts which it asserts (an infinite number) should be observable, but that some of them should be observable (partial verification). These are the requirements which are embodied in the positivist principle as formulated in the first paragraph of this article.”

Now with the Positivist principle, and what was originally in the Verification principle which was later modified, seemed to be another principle. In other words, the Positivist Principle seems to be based on another principle. And now see what this other principle is would seem to help cast light on the Positivist Principle. This principle would be called The Principle of Observable Kinds:

“A sentence, in order to be significant, must assert or deny facts which are of a kind or class such that it is logically possible directly to observe some facts which are instances of that class or kind. And to observe some facts which are instances of that class or kind. And if a sentence purports to assert or deny facts which are a class or kind such that it would be logically impossible directly to observe any instance of that class or kinds, then the sentence is non-significant.”

Now let us use an example to see what this principle is trying to get across. Take “Napoleon crossed the Alps”. It is logically impossible for us to now directly observe this particular fact asserted in the sentence. This fact no longer exists, and so we can’t directly observe it. But this particular fact of Napoleon crossing the Alps is also part of the class of “men crossing mountains”, which we can experience. So the point becomes that we might not be able to logically observe all particular members of the class, but it is logically possible for us to observe some of the particular members of that class. Thus, the fact itself might not be observable but it is of the observable kind. This means that if the kind of thing said is unobservable, then we definitely can’t observe the particulars.

So the point becomes, “A sentence is significant if what it asserts or denies is the sort of thing which it is logically possible to observe, even if the particular instance in the sentence is such that it would not be logically possible to observe it.”

Now Stace will maintain that the Positivist Principle implies the Principle of Observable Kinds. But the Positivist Principle might not directly say it. But the Principle of Observable Kinds doesn’t seem to be what the Positivist Principle is saying, or what the Logical Positivist themselves maintain. There seem to be two differences between the two principles: 1. The principle of observable kinds introduces the notion of classes, while, on the other hand, the positivist principle says nothing about classes. 2. The Positivist principle makes use of the concept of indirect verification while the principle of observable kinds contains only concepts of direct verification or observation.

Now the Principle of Observable Kind is based on direct verification, and would seem to go back to that of the Verification principle that was given by Shclick. But this wouldn’t be correct to think that it goes back to the Verification principle. But the Principle of Observable Kinds does make a distinction from that of the Verifiability principle, which is based on that of classes.

“Suppose the proposition to be examined for its significance is P. Then according to the original principle of verifiability the facts asserted or denied in P must themselves be capable of being observed. What the new positivist principle says is that the facts asserted or denied in Q (the proposition or propositions deduced from P), must themselves be capable of being observed. It does not say anything at all about the observability or non-observability of the facts asserted or denied in P. It entirely ignores that question.

Now as was pointed out earlier, P can be replaced with P→Q. So P of the P→Q might not be directly verifiable by experience, or direct experience. But the consequence of it, which is Q, would be of the observable kinds. But now there is a divide between both principles, the original formulation and the later formulation that deals with indirect verification. And this divide is filled with the Principle of Observable Kinds. This is because the original formulation doesn’t state whether the facts stated in P must be observable. Nothing is said on this.

So what is the Positivist to say with this divide? “He ought to say, not that the particular facts asserted in P must be observable (this is what he wished quite rightly to avoid), nor yet that they may be of a wholly unobservable kind; but rather that the particular facts asserted in P, although they cannot be themselves be observed, must yet be of a kind of facts which other instances can be observed. And this is what the principle of observable kinds does say.” Thus, the Principle of Observable Kinds is implied by the new Positivist Principle.

The Principle of Observable Kinds seems to carry some of the same meaning of the Positivist Principle, but would seem to give more gain than that of the Positivist Principle. One of the reasons is that the Positivist Principle is based on the way of the propositions logical consequences, while the Principle of Observable kinds don’t seem to be worried too much about that.

Now A.J. Ayer makes a point in his book The Foundation of Empirical Knowledge, that we can have two different philosophers disagree over a certain point. So take that Philosopher A said that “We do not perceive the table or the chair, we only perceive sense-data which we believe to belong to a  table and a chair.” But Philosopher B says, “No, what we perceive is the actual table and the actual chair”. What Ayer says is that both philosophers disagree with the language, but they agree with the observations. They agree about the color, shape, weight, and about every fat which could possibly be observed. They agree about all possible observable facts, and there is no disagreement between these two philosophers on the facts. Thus, they both disagree over the language and not the facts.

But what do we say, in this position, when they disagree over unobservable facts? This seems to be something that Ayer might have overlooked, and is overlooked by the Positivist Principle.

“For instance, Philosopher A may hold the view that there is a “physical object”, X, which possesses intrinsic qualities which correspond to the perceived qualities of shape, size, color, smell, etc, but which are forever hidden fro us, so that we can never know anything about these intrinsic qualities except the fact of their correspondence to perceived qualities; and that this physical object X stands in a causal relation to our sense-data…Philosopher B may deny that any such object as X exists. He may say that the table or the chair simply is the collection of all the sense-data which (according to A) are caused by it. Thus both of them may admit the existence of the sense-data, and may entirely agree about all their characteristics, which means that they will agree about all the observable facts. But they will assert that they are in disagreement whether x exists or not. X, if it is a fat, is a fact forever unobservable These philosophers will therefore say that they are in disagreement about whether or not there exists an alleged unobservable fact. Mr. Ayer appears to have overlooked this in his argument.”

This seems to be one reason why the Positivist Principle would have many things listed as insignificant. It is more of a difference over language than it is over some actual fact. And thus, for the Positivist, it is only about a way of speaking than some actual facts. For they both contain the same observable kinds.

But now maybe the Positivist principle doesn’t rely on the principle of observable kinds. What might be the case if this isn’t so? Than although the facts stated in Q of P→Q are logically capable of being directly verified, then P itself might states facts which would be logically impossible to observe. And the Positivist principle seems to tell us that this might be the case. For Q tells us that it is observable, but it doesn’t say anything about the observability of P. And there seem to be two cases: (1.) Where P→Q is a deductive argument, and (2.) where P→Q is a cause and effect inference.

Case 1: If P→Q is a deductive argument, then either (A.) Q states some facts as P, either in whole or in part or (B.) Q states some facts or elements of fact which are not asserted in P. (A.) is the view that logical rules are rules of linguistic transformations. (B.) is the view that in the conclusion of a deductive argument there may be some element of fact that may be “new”, i.e. not “contained” in the premises.

If we accept (A.), then it is clear that if Q is of the observable kind then P will be of the observable kind as well. This is because Q states the same thing as P, but in different words. Thus, if Q is observable, then P would also be observable since P is just another way of saying Q. This means P is another way of saying observable kind, which is what Q did as well. Thus, the Positivist principle implies the Principle of Observable Kind.

If we accept (B.) then it doesn’t seem that we can rigorously prove that if Q states observables P must state observables. For p might conceivably be of a different kind from the facts stated in Q. But, what seems to be enough, is that the Logical Positivist themselves held to the linguistic transformations.

Case 2: If P→Q is a cause and effect inference, then it’s certain that facts stated in P cannot be unobservable if the facts stated in Q are observables. This is because inference must rest on a causal law. “The cause C will be the fact stated in P, while the effect E will be the fact stated in Q. For instance, P any state the fact that it rained five minutes ago, while Q states in effect of this rain, namely, that the ground will be wet now. But it is impossible that the causal connection between C and E can have been established except on the basis that E has been observed to follow C. Therefore C, the fact stated in P, must be an observable.”

Thus, from these considerations, it appears obvious that the Positivist Principle does rely on the Principle of Observable Kinds. And the Positivist Principle, if adopted because that is the definition for significance that they choose, it carries no real force. This is because they just freely choose this criterion while someone else can pick whatever else criterion they wish to use for significance. But if they wish for it to carry some meaning about it based on experience, it would have to be shown through some sort of experience. This would be be based on inductive generalizations.

Now we might wonder how did we arrive at this Positivist Principle. Stace has an answer on how he thinks that the Positivist derived their principle.

“I think it is almost certain that positivists believe that their principles are a development of the general principle of empiricism. They call themselves “empiricists”. And thus by implications they claim that, whatever evidence there is to support the general principle of empiricism is also evidence which supports them. They think that,although their position is in some way different from that of the other empiricists (such as Hume)- more “advanced” no doubt- yet it grows out of the same root as does the tree of empiricism., and that therefore the sap which nourishes that tree will also nourish them. This is a very interesting and also a very important claim. And I propose to examine it. the question is: Is positivism a legitimate development of empiricism, and are the grounds which support empiricism also grounds which support positivism?”

Now the Logical Positivist claim that they’re “empiricists”, but we might wonder what type of empiricist they are. They’re seems, in history, to be different types of empiricist, but they haven’t, as Stace says, made it clear what type of empiricists they are. But there does seem to be two different types of Empiricism. (1.) the doctrine that all knowledge is “based upon ” or “derived from” experience, and (2.) the doctrine that all “ideas” are “based upon” or “derived from” experience.

With the first kind, the meaning of the phrase “based upon” or “derived from” seem to be different in (1.) and (2.). With (1.) is that if any proposition is known to be true, it can only be so known because there is empirical evidence for it, or must be empirical grounds for it. John Stuart Mill brought this up and tried to use it to support that 2+2=4 is an empirical generalization and illustrates this kind of empiricism. The (2.) kind is based upon ideas, like that of a “centaur”. The idea is neither true or false. What happens is that we can break down our ides into some basic parts, or that our experiences are built up off of some basic parts like “blue”, “horse”, “human head”, and etc. This is like Hume saying that “complex ideas” are based on “simple ideas”.

It appears that the Principle of Observable Kinds isn’t based on the first type of empiricism. As Stace says, “For the principle of observable kinds professes to be a criterion, not of the truth of propositions, nor of ways of knowing them to be true, but of whether they have significance. But the first kind of empiricism has nothing to do with significance at all, and cannot so far as I can see have any bearing on that subject.”

For whatever the relaations between “being known to be true” and “being significant” may be, they are certainly not the same thing, since a proposition may be significant and yet not known to be true. A significant proposition may in fact be known to be false. The long and short of it is that the first kind of empiricism is a theory about the truth of propositions (more correctly about how their truth can be known) while the principle of observable kinds is a theory about the significance of propositions. And since the two theories are “about” different subjects, one cannot possibly follow from, or be legitimately developed out of, the other.”

Of the first kind of empiricism, which is about the truth of propositions, the Logical Positivist would have seemed to hold this position as well. And the position that they state is that a priori statements are analytic statements, which means they’re not “derived from” experience. This stance follows from the first kind of empiricism, but we’ve also noticed that the significance of a proposition isn’t based on the first kind of empiricism. And all a priori propositions being analytic would follow from the first principle.

Now take the second kind of empiricism. We might wonder if the Principle of Observable Kinds comes from the second kind of empiricism. David Hume, after all, does bring up something that would be similar to that of the second kind of empiricism, “from what impression is that supposed idea derived.” But the Principle of Observable Kinds doesn’t follow from the second kind of empiricism.

The second kind of empiricism dealt with “ideas” being derived from experience. But as was pointed out earlier, the Principle of Observable Kinds is based on sentence significance, and not word significance. The second kind of empiricism is worried about the ideas, like that of “red”. But it is only the sentences that make significance and not the words itself. The second kind of empiricism is strictly concerned from what those experiences come from, like “red”, “sweater”, “blue-jeans”, “tennis shoes”, and etc, but isn’t concerned with whole sentences. The Principle of Observable Kinds is concerned with only whole sentences, like “James wore a red sweater while also having some blue-jeans to match their tennis shoes.” That sentence carries significance.

So it doesn’t look like the Principle of Observable Kinds follows from empiricism as well, in either kind. Thus, since the Positivist Principle seems to be implied by the Principle of Observable Kinds, the Positivist Principle seems to carry no weight when it comes to empiricism. Thus, those who call themselves empiricists and support the Positivist Principle don’t seem to have such a right.

The reason is that the principle of empiricism was stated by David Hume. The idea can be listed as the mind cannot spontaneously generate “simple ideas”, nor create them out of nothing, but has to derive them from “impressions”. These simple ideas would be those things that you can’t break down any further from your experience. For example, you have “red, “hot”, “cold”, “round”, “soft”, “sweet”, “loud”. From these unanalyzable, simple, building blocks, we can create different things from them by combining them in different ways. Giving some basic material, you can combine it in many different ways. But the basic idea is that you can’t create these simple ideas out of nothing, which means that you needed some impression of them.

The principle of empiricism implies nothing on how we form these simple ideas are to be combined into complex ideas. It provides no rules for combination. This means that we are free to combine the simple ideas in any way we would like, at least we have no rules on how to combine them, or at least according to the principle of empiricism. But there could be some laws, like the law of non-contradiction, or incompatible characters cannot be combined in the mode of spatio-temporal coincidence, though they can in the mode of spatial juxtaposition. This second idea is the Principle of Incompatibles. It basically states that the surface of a ball may be red and blue simultaneously if juxtaposed over one another. Also, we might have the laws of syntax to deal with how to combine our ideas. But the point is that none of these ideas follow from the principle of empiricism.

“The principle of empiricism concerns only the origination of simple ideas, nothing else. It tells us: no impressions,then no simple ideas. We may add as part of the principle, if we wish, the fact that certain of our ideas are not simple but are compounded out of simple ideas.”

But sentences are based on some ideas being placed in relation to one another in a certain way, or whatever way since the principle of empiricism does not care. Sentences, it seems, deals with complex ideas. So take a word to be symbolized like “F”. This word is composed of different simple ideas, like a certain color, shape, smell, taste, or sound, to go along with it. So all these different, simple ideas, can be symbolized as m,n,o,p,q. Thus, F=m,n,o,p,q. And sentences are composed of complex ideas which talk about the relations between something like A being B or A being related to B.

Thus, when empiricism isn’t concerned on how we form complex sentences, which is how we form our simple ideas together, it doesn’t imply the Principle of Observable Kinds because that principle relies on sentences or how complex ideas are to be put together. And this would also mean that the Positivist Principle isn’t implied by the principle of empiricism.

“What [the principle of empiricism] tells us is that if a sentence asserts or denies a fact F, which is a complex of a,b,c,d…, then each of these simples, a,b,c,d,…, must be an observable. But what the principle of observable kinds does is to assert that the total complex fact F, or abcd, must as a whole, be an observable. But for this there is not the slightest warrant in the principle of empiricism.”

The main point is that the Positivist have no right to claim to their principle of significance follows from empiricism. And that they’re constriction on propositions is arbitrary on it’s own, and has no standing in the principle of empiricism.

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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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