allzermalmer

Truth suffers from too much analysis

Posts Tagged ‘Sense-Datum’

Atoms and the Physical World

Posted by allzermalmer on November 5, 2011

This blog is based on Walter Terrence Stace article called Sir Arthur Eddington and The Physical World, in the journal Philosophy, Vol. 9, No. 33 (Jan., 1934), pp. 39-50. The article follows that of Refutation of Realism (which I did a blog on).

He starts out by pointing out the two distinct worlds of the familiar world and the physical world. The first, familiar world contains sticks, stones, stars, colors, sounds, and smells.  The second, physical world, contains electrons, protons, and has no colors, smells, or taste.

The familiar world is suppose to be composed of “sense-data”, and that they only exist in the mind, or are subjective. The physical world is to be composed of something that interacts with us, and gives rise to the “sense-data” that we experience. We reach to the physical world by inference from the familiar world that we experience, to the world outside of it by inference. This means we never come into direct contact with the physical world, like we never see it, touch it, smell it, or taste it. Thus, we only infer from the sense-data, which are ‘in the mind’, to the physical world of electrons and protons. But the electrons and protons aren’t hypothetical entities or fictions (as Eddington might think).

To clear up some of these things, this will not deal with common-sense division of universe of mind and universe of matter. This is to be considered false, because there is a third option. There is the third realm of neither physical nor mental, but what will be called a “neutral” realm. Part of this neutral realm is our sensory qualities, and are neither physical or mental. This is one way to get ride of this division of mind and matter (known as Neutral Monism).

We come to recognize that “Sense-data are the first and the most direct things in our experience; all else is remote inference.” It does not matter if they sense-data are mental or neutral, “in” minds or “outside” of them. What matters is that we don’t attribute these “sense-data” to atoms, because we’re told that don’t have color or anything like that, which are sensory qualities. For we’ll be stuck in a contradictions: “Electrons have color but they don’t have color.”

Let’s take a statement like, “There exists a physical world of protons and electrons which do not possess the sensory qualities. And this world is not in any way hypothetical or fictitious.” And we’ll come to think of it like saying something like the cat is real, the moon is real, the table is real. Come to understand it simply as “existent”.

Now let’s take a look at what happens if we take protons and etc are merely fictitious. We can soften the language and just call them “mental constructions”. This view doesn’t say anything about the validity of science, or the invalidity, nor does it derogates the dignity of it’s claim to teach us “truth”. There existence is more of an ontological question, one of metaphysics. As mathematician and scientist Henri Poincare once said, “It matters little whether ether really exists; that is the affair of metaphysicians. The essential thing for us is that everything happens as if it existed, and that this hypothesis is convenient for the explanation of phenomena.” And physicist Edward Andrade once said, “Whether the man of science regards his atoms as having an ultimate reality or not does not affect the validity of theory; the theory is just as useful in introducing order and promoting discovery if they are merely polite fictions as if they are desperate realities.”

Because we only experience the sense-data, this rules out the suggestion that we can know that atoms exist by perceiving them. They are outside of the sense-data, as the scientist would admit. But we can admit that we perform an experiment and notice that we see a “wavy trail”, and we call that the electron. But we haven’t seen the electron itself, but we say a “wavy trail”. The “wavy trail” was part of the sense-data, but the electron wasn’t. Instead, we come to think that the electron caused the “wavy trail” that was our sense data. This means that the electron would have to be an inference from the sense-data.

Now we could come to wonder how we infer these things from the sense-data. We seem to have the option of causality. What we observe is the effect, and we come to infer the cause from the effects. We notice certain regularities in sense-data, which provide us with the laws of physics or provide the rules of inference. Like “electron caused the wavy trail.”

This can lead us to think that the physical world is the cause of the familiar world, which is the effect of the physical world. In other words, the familiar world we all experience is the effect of the physical world, which is the cause. What we experience is the effect of something else, which we call the physical world.

It shall be assumed that there is some kind of causality, either deterministic or indeterminate, which is how we make the inference from a supposed effect to cause, or from sense-datum to atoms.  The obvious reason we have for believing in the law of causation is based on that observe certain regularities or sequences. When conditions A are met, it is always happens that B happens. This means that when condition A is the case, then B shows up. A is called the cause, and B is called the effect. This leads to the causal law of AB.

But these regularities are found among sense-data. A is a sense-datum, and B is a sense-datum, and any of our other cause and effect relationships ever observed by any human being have been sense-datum. This leads us to the conclusion that the cause of sense-datum is always another sense-datums, and all known causal laws apply solely to the world of sense-data. This means we have no, and could not have, one single piece of evidence for believing that the law of causation can be applied outside of the realm of sense-data, or sense-data can have any causes (like the physical objects) which aren’t sense-data themselves.

A diagram of what is going on here could help out:

A,B, and C are all sense-datum found in the familiar world. The person sees all these things, and sees that B follows A, and C follows B. This leads them to believe that A is the cause of B, and B is the cause of C. It comes to this conclusion of causality by the regular repetition of that order, and through experience. Sense-datum of billiard ball A is found to come into contact with sense-datum billiard ball B. This leads us to conclude that A is the cause of B moving.

But what right do we have, or what reason, to assert that the causes of A,B, and C are a’,b’,c’ (which are physical causes), when they’re never observed behind the sense-data? We have no right to this claim. The law of causation they operate on has never been observed to operate outside of the sense-data, and can therefore have no evidence that it does operate outside of the sense-data. It is sufficent to stick with A being the cause of B. We don’t have to invoke that a’ is the cause of A, when these aren’t part of sense-data, but A is the cause of B is part of the sense-data. We’d have to give two causes for each phenomena, one in the one world and the other in another world. One cause in the physical world and one in the familiar world.

It is not denied that a star causes light-waves, those waves cause retinal changes, the retinal changes cause changes in the optic nerve, which causes movements in the brain cells, and so on.

“But the observed causes and effects are all sense-data, or at least possible sense-data. And no sequences of sense-data can possibly justify going outside of the series of sense-data altogether. If you admit that we never observe anything except sense-data and their relations, regularities, and sequences, then it is obvious that we are completely shut in by sense-data, and can never get outside of them. Not only causal relations, but all other observed relations, upon which any kind of inferences might be founded, will lead only to further sense-data and their relations. No inference, therefore, can pass from what is sense-datum to what is not sense-datum.”

This, in the end, leads to there the fact that atoms aren’t inferences from sense-data. It is not to be denied that there is a vast amount of valid inferential reasoning taking place in a physical theory that contains atoms in it. But from a strict logical sense, there’s no inference from sense-datum to atoms. What does this mean?

“An hypothesis is set up, and the inferential processes are concerned with the application of the hypothesis, i.e. with the prediction by its aid of further sense-data, and with its own internal consistency.”

This means that atoms aren’t inferences from sense-data (i.e. experience), or can validly infer them from sense-data. This means we can’t have any reason to believe that they exist. Or, we at least, no one could know if they did, and means we have absolutely no evidence of their existence.

We might wonder the status the atoms have, or the hypothesis that contains them. It doesn’t mean that they’re false and worthless, merely untrue. We don’t come to think that the nautical almanac “exist” except on the pages of the book or in the brains of the people that compiled it or read it. But the natural almanac is “true” as much as it enables us to predict certain “sense-data”, like disks of light at night (i.e. stars). The atomic theory carries a similar function as that of the natural almanac. It helps us make predictions of experiences that we’ll have, and orderly amongst itself.

This view includes making predictions of future things, but it also includes the view to include retrodictions as well, which is making predictions about what happened in the past. For example, we could wonder where Mars was on 8,000 B.C.E. We use our hypothesis, say Newton’s. With this hypothesis, the theory makes a retrodiction of where Mars was around 8,000 B.C.E.

Stace suggests that hypothesis, like the theory of the atoms, are shorthand formula ingeniously worked out by the human mind. And they enable us to predict experiences. He gives us the example of Newton’s “force”.

“Newton formulated a law of gravitation in terms of “forces.” It was supposed that this law-which was nothing but a mathematical formula-governed the operation of these existent forces. Nowadays it is no longer believed that these forces exist at all. And yet the law can be applied just as well without them to the prediction of astronomical phenomena. It is a matter of no importance to the scientific man whether the forces exist or not…But that would not make the law useless or untrue (if Newton’s “force” didn’t exist). If it could still be used to predict phenomena, it would be just as true as it was.”

Instead, we’ve found that Newton’s “forces” couldn’t account for the orbit of Mercury, and a new theory was developed. It was developed based on Einstein’s theory. Einstein’s theory talks about bumps and space bending and creating hills in the space-time fabric. And this helped get ride of Newton’s “forces” in science. But this doesn’t put Einstein’s theory off any better.

“Not only may it be said that forces do not exist. It may with equal truth be said that “gravitation” does not exist. Gravitation is not a “thing,” but a mathematical formula, which exists only in the heads of mathematicians. And as a mathematical formula cannot cause a body to fall, so gravitation cannot cause a body to fall. Ordinary language misleads us here. We speak of the law “of” gravitation, and suppose that this law “applies to” the heavenly bodies. We are thereby misled into supposing that there are two things, namely, the gravitation and the heavenly bodies, and that one of these things, the gravitation, causes changes in the other. In reality nothing exists except the moving bodies, or moving sense-data. And neither Newton’s law nor Einstein’s law is, strictly speaking, a law of gravitation. They are both laws of moving sensedata, that is to say, formulae which tell us how the sense-data will move.”

We tend to think that these things exist, and that is because the human mind hasn’t broken free of the idea that science “explains” things. People weren’t just content with laws that told them planets, as a matter of fact, move in such and such ways. People wanted to know “why” planets moves these ways. Newton replied because of “Forces”. And humanity thought that explained why the planets move in such and such way. That’s because we understand forces, we feel them every time someone pushes or pulls us. This is suppose to have explained by things that are familiar to us in our own experiences. And the same happened with Einstein’s “humps and hills” of space-time.

“But scientific laws, properly formulated, never “explain” anything. They simply state, in an abbreviated and generalized form, what happens. No scientist, and in my opinion no philosopher, knows why anything happens, or can “explain” anything. Scientific laws do nothing except state the brute fact that “when A happens, B always happens too.” And laws of this kind obviously enable us to predict.”

Atoms are said to be in the same position as “Forces” of Newton’s and “Humps and Hills” of Einstein. And so too with the theory of atoms are exactly like them. They’re, in reality, mathematical formulae, and this is the scientific way of stating the atomic theory. This formulae helps to eventually lead to predictions, and these predictions are of sense-data that will appear in given conditions. It will, for example, enable a scientist to predict a “wavy trail”. And the human minds weakness for seeking explanation leads us to think that atoms exist in correspondence with the mathematical formula.

In seeking explanations, we try to come up with causes for events of our experience. And we’ve come to think of causation as a principle of explanation. But we don’t experience atoms as the cause of our sense-data, and so we can’t really say that atoms explain anything. The relation of atoms to sense-data isn’t a relation of cause to effect, but relation of mathematical formula to facts and happenings that enables the mathematician to calculate.

We come to think of these things existing because they give us a “physical” cause for the effects in the “familiar” world. And some scientists cling to the existence of atoms because they cling to explanation. But so did those during Newton’s time that “Forces” existed because they explained things. But it is the imagination that has explained things. It explains things by making them more familiar to us, and more homely. Maybe an example could help with this.

“One of the foundations of physics is, or used to be, the law of the conservation of energy. I do not know how far, if at all, this has been affected by the theory that matter sometimes turns into energy. But that does not affect the lesson it has for us. The law states, or used to state, that the amount of energy in the universe is always constant, that energy is never either created or destroyed. This was highly convenient, but it seemed to have obvious exceptions. If you throw a stone up into the air, you are told that it exerts in its fall the same amount of energy which it took to throw it up. But suppose it does not fall. Suppose it lodges on the roof of your house and stays there. What has happened to the energy which you can nowhere perceive as being exerted? It seems to have disappeared out of the universe. No, says the scientist, it still exists as potential energy. Now what does this blessed word “potential”-which is thus brought in to save the situation-mean as applied to energy? It means, of course, that the energy does not exist in any of its regular “forms,” heat, light, electricity, etc. But this is merely negative. What positive meaning has the term? Strictly speaking, none whatever. Either the energy exists or it does not exist. There is no realm of the “potential” half-way between existence and non-existence. And the existence of energy can only consist in its being exerted. If the energy is not being exerted, then it is not energy and does not exist. Energy can no more exist without energizing than heat can exist without being hot. The “potential” existence of the energy is, then, a fiction. The actual empirically verifiable facts are that if a certain quantity of energy e exists in the universe and then disappears out of the universe (as happens when the stone lodges on the roof), the same amount of energy e will always reappear, begin to exist again, in certain known conditions. That is the fact which the law of the conservation of energy actually expresses. And the fiction of potential energy is introduced simply because it is convenient and makes the equations easier to work. They could be worked quite well without it, but would be slightly more complicated. In either case the function of the law is the same. Its object is to apprise us that if in certain conditions we have certain sense-data (throwing up the stone), then in certain other conditions we shall get certain other sense-data (heat, light, stone hitting skull, or other such). But there will always be a temptation to hypostatize the potential energy as an “existence,” and to believe that it is a “cause” which “explains” the phenomena.”

If the views which I have been expressing are followed out, they will lead to the conclusion that, strictly speaking, nothing exists except sense-data (and the minds which perceive them). The hypothesis truth and value consist in their capacity for helping us to organize our experience and predict our sense-data. But we eventually have to come to the conclusion that the “real” world is the “physical world”. It is the “physical world” that is the illusion, and the familiar world that is the reality. It’s the only world that exists, or ever known to exist.

Science and Hypothesis by Henri Poincare

The Mechanism of Nature by Edward Andrade

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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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