Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Thinking About Solipsisms While Planting Onions

Dear E.
You flatter me with the charge of having constructed a philosophical position out of some pretty simple and clearly true assertions. But I haven’t. Every single thing which an individual knows is based in their experience, including those things which an individual learns which are based in other people’s experience. It is beyond doubt that things outside of an individual’s experience are things unknown to them. There are various facades of intellectual life which ignore this simple fact, enough to make a city of false fronts masking shaky foundations. That isn’t my fault, I didn’t build them, sell them or suggest you rent them. Don’t blame me for pointing out the termites or the rotten sills.

It is sometimes forgotten that math derives from human intelligence. So far as we know there are no other species that practice math. Math is founded in human’s experience of the physical universe. Even those simple matters Plato’s Socrates attributes to an inherent knowledge of the universe are impossible to observe in someone who has no clear experience of the physical universe. Math, which is based in the experience of the physical universe, is the absolute science.

As a comment on something I once put kind of awkwardly pointed out, math does have the methods to make solid proofs which, once solidly made and tested, can’t be refuted. This alert commenter noted that apparent contradictions between different proven points are assumed to be part of a larger unity as yet undiscovered. I think this is largely true because math limits its field of investigation to only the simplest of things and the most reliable extensions of those things. Even physics must deal with more complex matter and, perhaps for that reason, doesn’t achieve the finality of math.

Logic as well, through which the physical experiences are extended into more sophisticated math as well as science, is not observed outside of the experience of the physical universe. Though there is some evidence that it might not be species specific to humans, in at least its primitive forms. Logic can’t avoid dealing with even the most complex objects. While its methods are solid, it’s application is all over the charts.

Science uses math and logic to explain other experiences of the physical universe. Once it gave up the appeal to classical authority - largely based in story telling of a kind startlingly revived in some of the behavioral sciences today- and started dealing with the organized observation of nature, science came of age. Like all young adults, and way too many old ones, it forgot or denied the fact that its achievements are reliant on the most basic facts of its infancy. That denial often doesn’t impinge on the science or it’s place in the political world of human activity. But sometimes the facts of it’s intellectual basis do matter. When dealing with matters of human consciousness, behavior etc. the limits inherent in the acts of observation and logic force themselves into the scientific discourse. And I won’t go into the use of mathematics to cover up the deficiencies in observation and other sins of the behavioral sciences. There is no way they can be avoided since they are basic to the matters the “science” deals with. They are an inherent part of the debate.

Your charge of solipsism is only apparently close to the truth but it’s not much more than an appeal of the “Neville Chamberlain Atheist” kind made against some pretty reasonable and pleasant atheists. That is an attempt to change to an emotionally charged subject, the tactic most commonly seen in people who feel themselves in danger of losing an argument.

Olvlzl, sorry for the late reply. I read this post, as well as several others, and I can say that I don't disagree with a single thing you said. Perhaps it's due to the limitations of conversation through blog comments, but I got the distinct impression that you were claiming that since we can only know our own experiences that means nothing can be certain and thus all things are equally certain (including the typical "you could all just be figments of my imagination). I apologize if this is not what you were saying, I may have jumped to that conclusion without enough evidence due to prior bad experiences.

I like your blog and you make some dang good points here. :)
Thank you, wasn't really offended, just wanted to clear it up and I find out new things too.
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