allzermalmer

Truth suffers from too much analysis

Posts Tagged ‘Mental Construction’

Facts, Constructions, and Hypothesis

Posted by allzermalmer on November 10, 2011

This blog will be about a chapter in Walter Terrance Stace’s book calledTheory of Existence and Knowledge. This blog will be based on chapter 7, which is called Facts, Constructions, and Hypothesis.  This chapter is also related to posts on the Construction of the External World, and you can read the first one here.

There were six constructions in constructing the external world. And of these six, they can be broken down into two.  These two are Unificatory Constructions and Existential Constructions.

Unificatory Constructions:  Of the six mental constructions we employed to create the external world, three of them fall under the term of Unificatory Constructions. The second, third, and sixth mental construction were of the Unificatory sort. Here’s all three of them.

2.) That the corresponding presentations of different minds are identical, and that there are not many universes, but only one.

3.) That the presentations of a mind may continue in existence unperceived by that mind, provided that some other mind perceived them.

6.) That the different senses we may perceive the ‘same’ objects, and that the worlds of the different senses are, in general, identical with one another.

The characteristic of these three, and Unificatory Constructions in general, are that they don’t postulate new existence, but reduce the number of existences. For example, we find that we have many different things, but we reduce them to a few things to connect all these things together.

The second construction will identify your purple with my purple. my world with your world, and the private worlds of all minds with one another. This helps reduce the multitude of worlds to one world. Instead of having as many worlds as minds, there’s only one world. From many to one, which is a reduction.

The third construction identifies my purple now with your purple in a later moment. When I look at something, I know it exists through experience. But when I don’t look at something, I don’t know that it exists. With the third construction, following the second, we know that there’s only one world and what I see is similar to what you see. When I don’t see something, but you see it, it still exists and is similar to what I would see when I turn to look at it. It reduces the many successive world to one.

The sixth construction reduces all the different senses to combine into one thing, which would be what we call objects. The bird gives me a visual sense, but this visual sense isn’t the same audible sense of the bird. Neither does the taste or smell. But we combine these different senses to the “same” thing. This reduces the many to one.

Unificatory Constructions rest on two principles.
(1.) Principle of Superfluous Existences: Existences that make no difference to either knowledge or practical activities, and may be treated as if they were non-existent; they’re irrelevant to the mind’s purposes, either theoretical or practical, they can be cut out of the universe.
(2.) They Can’t be Proved: They’re not facts, but serviceable fictions, and they’re not inferences from facts. One unificatory construction can serve as an inference from another construction, like the third construction is an inference from the second construction. One construction can serve as a premise to lead to another construction.

Existential Constructions: Of the six mental constructions we used before, three of them were Existential Constructions. They are as follows..

1.) The presentations of one mind bear to the corresponding presentations of other minds the relation of resemblance.

4.) That presentations may exist when no mind is aware of them.

5.) That there exists ‘things’ or ‘objects’, which are not identical with presentations; and that the presentations are ‘qualities’ of the ‘things’; and that the ‘qualities’ may change while the ‘things’ remain the same.

What is common to these three, and one of the characteristics of some of our mental constructions, is that the imagination will invent the existence of some fictions that aren’t given in experience or infered from experience. We try to model these existence off of our experiences, and they’re made out of the materials of experiences we’ve had. But this asserted existence is never actually experienced, and are presented in a hypothetical type of proposition (If…then).

When we make a hypothetical type of proposition when expressing the existence of something never experienced or inferred from experience, the antecedent is something that we can never perceive it’s existence. This antecedent existence is something that we can never experience, and wasn’t experienced in the first place or inferred from what was experienced in the first place. And these things are mental constructions, or fictions.

Unificatory Constructions and Existential Constructions were employed to help build the external world, and they had two things going for them at their basis. There were six mental constructions used, which broke into unificatory and existential, and it all served for simplicity and consistency.

The first, second, fourth, and sixth constructions were all done for simplicity. With the first, we decide to take other people having perceptions to our own. It’s simpler to think that they’re similar than dissimilar. Both are equally ‘true’ and workable for intellectual and practical action.

With the second, we decide to think that our perceptions are approximately identical and believe in one universe instead of many. This goes from many different worlds for different people, but they’re all part of the one world. The one over many carries some sign of simplicity.

With the fourth, we decided to think we think that things go on existencing when we’re not experiencing it. Instead of having one universe going out of existence when people aren’t experiencing it is, and then having a new universe when experincing it, the same one universe continues on when not experincing it.

With the sixth, we decide to say that all our different senses give us information on “thing”. The world of the different senses become unified. The world of the apple feel, apple sight, apple taste, apple smell, hear it.

The third and fifth construction served for another use besides simplicity. They were used for consistency. The mind created this theory of the common world, which went against the facts that contradicted the theory. Because there’s a difference between our various minds and experiences. The third and fifth construction reconcile the differences with the theory of the common world and get rid of the inconsistency with mental constructions.

“We find again and again in the history of knowledge repetitions of this procedure. The mind, having invented a construction for the purposes of simplification and convenience, meets with new facts which do not square with the constructed belief. It is forced either to retrace its steps,  abandon the ground which it has gained, and give up the construction or even the system of constructions (which may well constitute a large bloch of its scheme of knowledge), or, in order to avoid this, it is compelled to manufacture new constructions or systems of constructions which will reintroduce harmony and avoid contradictions. In this way human knowledge grows as well as by the accumulation of new facts and inferences.”

From the epistemological analysis already set up, there’s two different kinds of existence that should be recognized. It’s (1) factual existence and, (2) constructive existence.

Factual existence is the existence of whatever is, has, or will be actually perceived by any mind, at any time or place. An example is that the existence of the computer while it’s being perceived by you or anyone else is a factual existence. But more explicitly, the existence of a visual presentation called the “computer”, the touch of the thing called the “computer”, and etc, are factual existence. When we say that no one is perceiving the computer, we supposed by the mind to think that it’s still there, it is a constructive existence.

What is actualy being experienced is the factual, which means that having the visual experience of the computer, that has factual existence. But when not touching the computer, it is given a constructive existence. When not tasting it, it has a constructive existence. But we go to think that at all times, whether the computer is experienced or not, there is a ‘thing’ behind the experiences and different from them, and this  is a constructive existence.

The sun rising tomorrow has a factual existence, because it will be actually perceived. The existence of Thomas Jefferson is also factual, because he was perceived. And for epistemology, this is an important distinction between factual and constructive existence. “But for the purposes of all other knowledge it is essential to obliterate and forget it.”

Constructive existence consists of supposing that unperceived things go on existing like they did as when actually perceived. Thus, we have experience of the computer existing when being perceived, and project that type of factual experience into a realm of where we have no experience. Projecting perceived factual existents, into the unperceived constructive existents.

The distinction between constructive and factual existence has only importance for the theory of epistemology, and not with theory or pratice. We can easily go on thinking that the computer exists when we don’t perceive it. But what they are during times when not perceived or if they are, they have no difference to us as practical people. What matters is when it’s there when we turn to it, what else would matter as practical people?

This situations makes no difference to the knowledge of the computers. We know the method of the manufacture of the computers, chemistry, electronics, and physics of operation. Any conceivable knowledge have of the computer remains the same during unperceived existences.

“It is, as we have seen, a logical rule of the mind that it ignores and treats as non-existent superfluous existences, existences which make no difference of any kind either to theory or practice.”

From this, the mind ignores the distinction between factual and constructive existence. We come to lump together all existence together as factual, and this may be regarded as a Unificatory Construction. And the attitude of which the mind takes up in this matter must be regarded as ‘true’.

For the most part, our knowledge has been built on mental constructions. And if we admit this knowledge as knolwedge, and not as false, then we admit constructed beliefs as being composed of truths. So we must take it as true that there’s an independent external world, things exist when no one perceives them, your penny is the same penny as mine, the table you touch is the same as the one that I see. And this forms part of our admitted knowledge of the world.

“These propositions form a part of our admitted knowledge of the world. They are universally accepted as true. Unless we are to do extreme violence to all accepted standards of truth and to all acknowledge conceptions of knolwedge, we must also admit them to be true, and must frame our definition of truth so as to include them.

And these things apply to our common world knowledge. Now let’s consider scientific knowledge to be distinguished from common world knowledge, and we find a similar conclusion as we did common world knowledge (i.e. factual existents and constructive existents).

Scientific knowledge is also composed of mental constructions, like the common world. We should be reminded of the ‘hypothetical’ nature of science. But as has been pointed out earlier, the ‘hypothetical’ aspect is composed of constructions, e.g. atomic theory and electronic theory. If we regard scientific knowledge as true, then we admit that such truth includes constructions.  This admission does not mean that the theories are false.

“We have to take a broad view of knowledge, to regard it in something the same way as we regard the world of art. The world of art is a product of the immense labors of the human spirit. So is the world of knowledge. It has been constructed by countless minds working through countless centuries.”

Truth, therefore, is held to include those constructions which have been built into human knowledge and form permanent parts of it. But this seems to raise a problem: Constructions are fictions, and if all constructions are true, then this destroys the distinction between truth and falsehood altogether. What ever we imagine could claim to be truth, would seem to be allowable. But some constructions are true and some false. (Future blog)

Hypotheses can assert either factual or constructive existences. For example, I now hear a noise behind me, and I conjecture that it’s my cat. I turn around and see the cat doing something with bubble wrap. I conjectured that the cat was behind me doing something to make noises. It’s a hypothesis, and the verification of it was based on me seeing the cat behind me doing something that’s making the noises that I heard. This hypothesis asserts the factual existence of my cat. The cat isn’t a construction but a fact.

Now it’s true that the existence of my visual cat when not being seen is a construction. It could be further said to be true when I say “I believe that the noise is caused by my cat” is not a hypothesis but a construction. But my statement of belief was based on two parts. (1.) My general belief in independent external world existing whether I experience it or not, and  (2.) my belief that among objects of this independent world is my cat which is causing the noise. And once grant an external world, my guess at my cat making the noise is a hypothesis.

At one point there was an invention known as the ether of space, which at the time required to be carrier of the light waves. The ether of space was not only hypothetical, but it was also a construction. It was posited not only the existence of the external world, but it also posited the existence of a new unperceived object.

Hypothesis are as much concerned with factual existence as with constructive existences, and what is usually called the hypothetical nature of science should be called its constructive character.

The character of science is said to be hypothetical, but this can’t mean that all scientific knowledge consists in unverified hypotheses. Hypothesis cease to be hypothesis when it has been verified. It will become known as a theory or a fact. For example, we once found that orbit of Uranus was the way that Newton’s theory was, and we came up with the hypothesis that there was another planet which helped cause the Uranus to be the way that it is, and different from what we thought with Newton’s theory. We eventually came to find this new planet, and this new planet became a fact. So this doesn’t quite to be what is meant by science being hypothetical.

Does this mean science is only concerned with hypothetical propositions? But this seems erroneous. It’s true that science makes very wide use of hypothetical propositions, but they’re intended to advance towards categorical ones.

“Hypothesis is a method of seeking scientific truth. But the truth when found is in no wise hypothetical. Hypothesis is not the end at which science aims-as would seem to be almost implied by such a phrase as ‘the hypothetical character of science’-but merely a means towards its end. And its real ends are the attainment of categorical propositions.”

Let’s use an example, and one dealing with Einstein’s theory and the displacement of Mercury. Einstein frames a hypothetical proposition like this, “If the geometry of space-time is such and such, then the displacement of the orbit of Mercury will be so and so, and rays of starlight passing the limb of the sun will be bent in such and such angle.” We come to know the displacement of the orbit of Mercury, and the bending of the light rays is measured. These facts are found to agree with deductions of the geometry of space-time that was set forth in the hypothetical proposition. And the hypothesis to some extent has been verified. And the hope is to be able to give the categorical proposition ‘The structure of space time is such and such.”

Supposes the scientist has a hypothesis that says that the atom may be described with the characters of mathematical formula like X,Y,Z. It is taken that X,Y,Z is true, and then attempts to deduce known properties of matter as observed in our ordinary life and in experiments. If correct, it shows that hypothesis explains all relevant facts that have been discovered, and if no further tests then it’s probably true. But what is actually hoped is that it is proved true, as far as such proof is possible in science. It is hopped to give the categorical proposition of the nature of the atom actually given is by the formula X,Y,Z. If the hypothesis is proved wrong, then it is hoped to hit the right one and prove the nature of the atom is expressed by the formula of P,Q,R.

So it’s not strictly true to say that scientific knowledge is hypothetical. It aims at being categorical. But it seems that there’s an important truth that science is hypothetical, and that could be that it’s expressing the constructional character of science.

“The essential distinction, then, between hypothesis and construction is that the construction is always a pure creation of the mind, and the existence posited by it, if any, is always a constructive existence; whereas in hypothesis need not possess this character. The existence posited by it may be factual, as is the case with the rat and the planet Neptune. It is true that any hyothesis may sometimes also be itself a construction…So that some hypotheses are also constructions and posit constructive existences. But this is not essential to the character of hypothesis as hypothesis. The existence posited by a construction is always constructive. The existence posited by an hypothesis may be either factual or constructive.”

The results can be summed up as follows:

(1.) A fact is something actually perceived, with qualification that the mind which perceives or knows is itself also a fact.

(2.) Mental constructions are pure creations of the mind and to which no facts correspond.

(3.) Existences posited by hypothesis are either factual or constructive.

(4.) The method of science may be mostly the method of hypothesis, the nature of science truth is not hypothetical. But it’s nature is constructional. And this is probably what is meant to refer to the ‘hypothetical character’ of science.

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Refutation of Realism

Posted by allzermalmer on June 28, 2011

This blog is going to be based off an article done by W.T. Stace. The name of the paper is The Refutation of Realism, and it appears in the philosophical journal Mind, Vol. 43, No. 170 (Apr., 1934), pp. 145-155. This article is a play off of G.E. Moore’s article The Refutation of Idealism.

Now, the obvious question would be “What is meant by realist?”. Stace goes on to say, by realist, he means someone who agrees to the assertion that “some entities sometimes exist without being experienced by any finite mind.” Now, this might not be what all realist would agree to, but it is close enough to the very basic idea.

So let us take a look at what a realist might believe. Before me is a book, and I know this because I am seeing it, I am touching it, and I hear it when I slam my hand against it, I am smelling it, and taste it. Now, a realist would believe that the book continues to exist when I put it in a drawer, and I no longer have those experiences of it, and there is no other finite mind experiencing it. Thus, a realist will at least believe that it continues to exist when no one is experiencing it.

Now, there would also seem to be no point in asserting that entities might exist unexperienced, unless they do, as a matter of fact, sometimes exist unexperienced. Now, imagine that the universe has a property, which we call X, as a matter of fact, the universe has no such property, would be useless, and has no contribution to truth. Now, some realist might think that such a belief of the relation between knowledge and object as such, helps them in someway of helping with the belief in things that exist unexperienced by some mind.

Now, it should be stated as clearly as possible, and which is very important. That statement is,  One cannot prove that no entities exist without being experienced by minds. For, it is always possible that they do exist unperceived. However, it is also possible that they do not exist unperceived. Thus, we find that both are equal in their possibility. But, the main point is this: We have not the slightest reason for believing that they do exist unexperienced. And it is from this that the realistic position is groundless, and one that ought not to be believed. And the realistic position is like that of “there is a unicorn on the planet Mars”. We cannot prove that there is not a unicorn on Mars. However, since there is not the slightest reason to suppose that there is one, it is a proposition which we ought not to believe.

Now it will not be held that objects of experience, like a color patch that is green, are “mental”. And so when it comes to the question of if what we experience is only mental, it will be held that this question is meaningless, and this is a form of neutral monism. Now, the position will be as follows: “There is absolutely no reason for assertion that these non-mental, or physical, entities ever exist except when they are being experienced, and the proposition that they do so exist is utterly groundless and gratuitous, and one which ought not to be believed.”

It will be attempted to show that we do not know that any single entity exists unexperienced. It will be inquired how we could possibly know that unexperienced entities exist, even if they do exist unexperienced.

Let us get back to a previous example. Now, at this moment, I am experiencing this book in front of me. But how can I know that it existed last nigh in my drawer, when, as far as I know, no other finite mind was experiencing it? How can I know that it will continue to exist tonight when there is no one in the room? A realist knows, or at least believes, that they continue to exist. Now a question comes up: How could such knowledge, or belief, be obtained and justified?

There are two ways in which it could be asserted that the existence of any sense-objects can be established. They are by sense-perception, and the other is inference from sense-perception. I know of the existence of the book now because I see it. It is part of my sense experience. Now, I am supposed to know of the other side of the moon, which has never been seen, by inference from all the various actual astronomical observations, and so I make an inference from things actually experienced. And, it is also a possible experience. I could fly out to the moon, and go around to the dark side to have a sense experience.

1. It should be obvious that we cannot have sense-perception of things that are not sense-perceptions. For, to have a sense-perception of something that is not a sense-perception would be a contradiction. Both sense-perception and not sense-perception. And, if we were to have a sense-perception, it would be experienced by some finite mind, and so it would not be existing without some finite mind experiencing it.

2. Now inference seems like the most likely candidate for coming to the belief of things existing unexperienced by some finite mind. So how can I pass, by inference, from a particular fact of experiencing the book now, when it is being experienced, to the different particular fact of the existence of the book yesterday or tomorrow, when no finite mind is experiencing it? Now the onus of proof is on those that say things somethings exist when some finite mind is not experiencing. It would be up to them to show how they passed from what is sense-perception to something that is not a sense-perception. So one may sit back and wait for them to show how they came to such a proposition, which means to support their proposition.And Bertrand Russell had something to say about this, “Belief in the existence of things outside of my own biography must, from the standpoint of theoretical logic, be regarded as a prejudice, not as a well-grounded theory.”

Now, such an inference to things existing when some finite mind is not experiencing it cannot be done by an inductive inference. Induction works from what has been observed, what we have experienced, to what will be experienced, but which is currently unexperienced. For example, every morning I have found that the sun rises in the east. This I have experienced. From this, based on an inductive inference, I come to the conclusion that tomorrow morning, which is unexperienced, that I will experience the sun rising in the east.

Now inductive reasoning cannot help me here, since I have never experienced something existing unexperienced, since that is just a contradiction, and not possible. In other words, there is no case where it has been observed to be true that an experienced object continues to exist when is not being experienced. It is, by hypothesis, its existence when not being experienced, cannot be observed. And induction is also about generalization from observed facts, but there is not one single case of an unexperineced existence, since that is a contradiction, which can be the basis of the generalization that entities continue to exist when one is experiencing them.

Now, since induction is ruled out, we are left with deductive inferences. Deduction depends on consistency. Thus, when given P→Q, we can only prove Q if P is admitted. From P→Q , all that can be admitted is that P and not Q are inconsistent with each other, and we cannot hold both propositions, P and not Q, together, though we can hold to P and not Q as separate propositions. Thus, to assert that the book exists now when I am experiencing it, to the existence of the book when no one is experiencing it, together is an internally inconsistent proposition. But, there is no inconsistency when these two propositions are asserted separately. In other words, deductive inferences do not allow us to reach that because things exist when some finite mind is experiencing them, to things existing when no finite mind is experiencing them, is deductively invalid.

Thus we find that we have no sense-perception to support the realist position, and that we cannot use inferences to the realist position, since deduction and induction do not help us.

Now it is not proved that because we cannot make an inference to the existence of things existing unexperienced by some finite mind, that they do not exist unexperienced. For such a way of reasoning would be fallacious. However, because it has not been proved there does not exist things unexperienced, that it shows that they do exist unperceived. For to argue either way would be an argument from ignorance. An argument from ignorance carries these two forms, which is both, respectively, positive and negative.

Positive:If a proposition has not been disproven, then it cannot be considered false and must therefore be considered true.
Negative:If a proposition has not been proven, then it cannot be considered true and must therefore be considered false.

Now that we have no sense-perception that can allow us to assert such a proposition, and we cannot make an inference to such a proposition, we ought not to believe it. For we ought not to believe that there is a unicorn on Mars because we have no sense-perception of it, and we have no inference to reach such a conclusion. It does not mean that it does exist or does not exist, but that we ought not to believe it. Thus, the unicorn are like the existence of things existing unperceived by some mind. And from a logical point of view, the onus of proof is on the realist that asserts that things exist unperceived by some finite mind, and until they keep to their burden, we ought not to believe what they say.

Now some might come to use the causal processes to make an inference to things existing when not experienced. The whole argument of causal sequences continuing on when not perceived is  begging the question. For you are still assuming that things that happen when perceived continue on when not perceived, and that is the thing in question.  If  someone, say, John stays in the room as he builds a fire and keeps it going till it is done, which takes about an hour, he observes a certain sequences of the phenomena. The sequence follows like this, m, n, o, p, q, r,  s, t, u. Now if John leaves the room after it starts, and returns half an hour, he will see it at sequence q. If John leaves the room after that sequences and returns to it in a quarter-hour, he will get the sense experience of s. And on this goes. John will thus ‘infer’ that m,n,o, & p have occurred in his absence and that of any other mind. However, the only way this inference can be made is with the belief that things go on in his absence, or as if he were there. John cannot infer the conclusion of things going on unperceived as they do when perceived, because of his belief in uniform causal sequences rests on belief in the general belief in continuity of nature, i.e. continued occurrence of events when he is not perceiving them. He has to first come to the belief in continued existence when no one is perceiving things before he can believe in uniform causal sequence when not being perceived. Thus, he cannot logically make the inference that he does.

So, like we cannot perceived unexperienced things, so too we cannot perceive unexperienced processes and laws. Also, like we cannot infer from anything which we experience to the existence of unexperienced things, so we cannot infer from any processes and laws we experience the existence of unexperienced processes and laws. And our belief in the processes of causality that happens when we experience it, to it going on when we do not experience it, is based on the belief in the continued existence of things when we are not experiencing it, and so begs the question.

Now some have made some distinction between sense-data and our awareness of sense-data. It is said that Green is not the same as awareness of Green. This is said because of us comparing different sense-data. Say that I experience a green sense-datum and a blue sense-datum. We find that there is some common element between them, and this is awareness. Thus, awareness must be different from green, since awareness also exists in the case of blue, and that awareness is not green. Thus, it is thought that Green exists when we are not aware of Green. But this is not the case.

Whenever we come across green, we find that we have awareness of green, but we also find that green and awareness of green are not the same thing. Thus, there is a difference between X and Y. Yet when we find X, we also find Y. Thus, to say that X goes on existing when Y is not there, is not supported by sense-perception, and now we are stuck with inference, and we come to the same problems. We do not find sense-perception to show that green exists when there is no awareness of green, and we cannot make an inference to it either. Thus, such a distinction between green and awareness of green does not allow us to believe that things exist when unexperienced by some finite mind.

Now, since experience and inferences cannot lead us to the realist position, and all the arguments to such a conclusion are fallacious, we ought not to believe it. However, some would say that it is probably true, and thus we ought to believe it. However, all such reasoning would have to be based on the same types of arguments, and they all come to rely on fallacious reasoning. Also, since both options are possible, we find that they have an equal probability, and one does not have a greater probability than another. Heads and tails both have the same probability. Also, we cannot present an argument to support the realist position, and if we could then we could just as well use the critique presented her to show that it could be even more probable that they do not exist when not experienced by some finite mind.

Now some mind resort to it being an animal faith a primitive belief, or an instinctive belief. To invoke such things to support the realist proposition is to throw up ones hands in defeat, and to admit that one has no rational reasons to support their beliefs. It becomes an unreasoned belief, and has nothing to rely on by fiat. It is to be one who files for bankruptcy, and gets ride of rational grounds for their belief.

So, throughout, we find that the logically correct position is this. We cannot have any reason whatsoever to believe that unexperienced entities exist. We cannot prove that they do not exist. The onus of proof is on those who assert that they do exist unexperienced. We have found that experience does not attest to the existence of unexperienced things, and we have no way of inference to reach it (without fallacious reasoning), and thus we find that it is impossible to reach such a conclusion. Thus, we ought not to believe it, if we are to be rational, like we do not believe in a unicorn on Mars.

But, the way around this is to be explained as it being a mental construction, or a fiction. It is a pure assumption which we invent to simplify our view of the world.

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