Author Topic: Is there no escaping the uncertainty?  (Read 825 times)

Offline Daniel

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Is there no escaping the uncertainty?
« on: December 24, 2018, 09:08:20 PM »
Quote from: McInerny, The Philosophy of Nature, p. 56
The domain of universal doubt which [Descartes] invites us to enter, as containing the only sure road to truth, proves to be a pathless jungle from which not even he was able to extricate himself. Methodological doubt does not free us from scepticism, but entraps us in it inescapably.

This very well might be the case. But it raises the question... how do we escape from uncertainty?

Thomists claim that the answer is Thomism. They assert that there actually is a material world, and that our senses are reliable, and that we have innate knowledge of first principles, etc.. But what exactly is their defense? It all just sounds like question-begging to me. Am I completely misunderstanding their position, or is it really just question-begging?

Other philosophers claim their own philosophies to be correct. But they don't seem to have a defense for theirs either.

I can't help but wonder... maybe there is no road to truth? Or maybe there is one, but maybe it's so well-hidden that no man will ever be able to find it...
 

Offline Philip G.

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Re: Is there no escaping the uncertainty?
« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2018, 01:09:27 AM »
You will get the wrong answer, when you ask the wrong question.  It is not, how do we escape uncertainty.  It is more like how does one arrive at certitude. 

Thomist's do not have a defense.  Thomist's have an offense.  Learn what that offense is, and then you will have your answer.  The papacy has desired that rival schools be the Thomist's defense - Denzinger 2192 "We desire that there exist that honorable rivalry with just freedom from which studies make progress...".  However, for me there is a problem.  Thomist's don't speak my tongue.  Talk about a relief.

Prayers like "defend me O God" come to mind as you speak about philosophy and the use of the word defense, or their lack thereof.  God comes to the defense of his faithful.  But, the devil does not come to the defense of his minions.  The devil is on the offense.  And, the devil is on the offense because his time is short.  Our defense however is not short.  It is eternal.  World without end, amen.  If you do not find philosophy to have a defense.  You might be saying something.



For the stone shall cry out of the wall; and the timber that is between the joints of the building, shall answer.  Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and prepareth a city by iniquity. - Habacuc 2,11-12
 

Offline Michael Wilson

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Re: Is there no escaping the uncertainty?
« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2018, 08:43:45 PM »
Daniel stated:
Quote
Thomists claim that the answer is Thomism. They assert that there actually is a material world, and that our senses are reliable, and that we have innate knowledge of first principles, etc.. But what exactly is their defense? It all just sounds like question-begging to me. Am I completely misunderstanding their position, or is it really just question-begging?
The Thomists claim that human beings are born with the capacity to know the material world; this they do through their senses. The senses are infallible in their own domain; for example: The role of the eye is to see color; the eye that functions normally will infallibly perceive the true color under normal conditions; the same for all of the senses. That the material world truly exists and is knowable and therefore objective truth is attainable by the mind through the senses.
As far as 'question begging': It makes an awful lot of sense to me. To say that truth is unknowable, is to deny our daily experience where we indeed function and the world functions on the basis of a real possibility of objective truth that men can know and live by.
"The World Must Conform to Our Lord and not He to it." Rev. Dennis Fahey CSSP

"My brothers, all of you, if you are condemned to see the triumph of evil, never applaud it. Never say to evil: you are good; to decadence: you are progess; to death: you are life. Sanctify yourselves in the times wherein God has placed you; bewail the evils and the disorders which God tolerates; oppose them with the energy of your works and your efforts, your life uncontaminated by error, free from being led astray, in such a way that having lived here below, united with the Spirit of the Lord, you will be admitted to be made but one with Him forever and ever: But he who is joined to the Lord is one in spirit." Cardinal Pie of Potiers
 
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Offline Kreuzritter

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Re: Is there no escaping the uncertainty?
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2018, 06:11:23 AM »
Uncertainty about what? And what is uncertainty and what reasons do you have for being uncertain? You can't even meaningfully use the word without asumptions of truth, no, language itself falls apart if it cannot point to anything.

Quote
I can't help but wonder... maybe there is no road to truth? Or maybe there is one, but maybe it's so well-hidden that no man will ever be able to find it...

Case in point. What can you even mean by "truth" if you haven't posited certain things in a certain way about which statements could be "true"?

Why don't you work through this systematically as an exercise?
« Last Edit: December 27, 2018, 06:15:16 AM by Kreuzritter »
 
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Offline John Lamb

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Re: Is there no escaping the uncertainty?
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2018, 06:42:54 AM »
Daniel, your starting point is wrong. You've "grabbed the wrong end of the stick" to begin with. You assume that the search for truth begins with the private ratiocination in your mind, but your assumption is wrong. You can go looking around your mind in circles all day long and you'll never find anything certain or solid; this is because the human mind is created and finite, and has no intellectual light in itself, but relies on an external source [i.e. being] for illumination. Only God can grasp the truth by a pure act of reflection upon His own infinite Mind. But the first act of the human mind is not discursive reasoning or reflexive thought, but the simple intuition or awareness of being, and in particular the being of sensible substances (that which can be perceived by the senses, as against the ontologists who believe that the being which we immediately grasp with our minds is the divine being itself). The first thing that our intellect grasps is that the being which our senses perceive exists, i.e. it is real being. Then it begins to grasp the various forms or essences present in sensible being. And only then does the mind begin to reflect on itself and reason according to the forms or essences which exist in it. But you are skipping the first two steps and going straight to the third, which leaves you without any real foundation, hence: your tendency to radical agnosticism / skepticism. (In other words, stop looking for the truth inside your mind: truth is something which primarily transcends the human mind, something which exists beyond it and which it must go in search for; the human mind only gets to participate in truth, it does not get to create it ex nihilo through an act of its own reasoning.) The fact that there is no rational proof or demonstration of the validity of our simple intuition of being does not mean that this intuition is false or irrational, but merely that it is suprarational, i.e. above reason; it is a first principle which is beyond reasoning, since reasoning itself presupposes its existence. If, following the false and misleading method of Descartes, you deny this intuition or awareness we have of being through our senses, you will arrive at the same kind of agnosticism that he & his disciples eventually found themselves in. You must start with the same common sense grasp of reality that all men have: the world which you can see, hear, smell, taste, & touch is real. Once you've accepted the reality of this world perceived by the senses, you can then (by reasoning) arrive at the very existence of God. But you can't ignore the world and start with pure discursive reasoning. It's this false approach which gets philosophers to be rightly labelled as "navel-gazers", because at that point they really are only staring at themselves and arrive at nothing beyond themselves.

The starting point of real philosophy is wonder, as Aristotle says; but what produces this wonder is the simple & human intuition of the being which we perceive with our senses. Once we accept that this world exists and its existence transcends our minds, and that our minds merely reflect this existence (rather than creating it): the mind is flooded with intelligible light which produces this philosophical wonder. Most modern philosophers, on the other hand, presume that the external world is unknowable, and can only be perceived indirectly through mathematical formulae and scientific theorems; the only thing we know is what exists in our minds, and the "world" which we perceive is in fact merely conceptual, as the external world (if it exists) is a formless sea of subatomic particles, and the "forms" (e.g. tree, cloud, dog) which we perceive have no existence beyond our minds. This is pure sophistry, pure pseudophilosophical navel-gazing. We do not perceive our own thoughts or senses (except in the special case of reflexive cognition, which is what you're solely relying upon), rather, our thoughts and senses are that by which we perceive the external object, i.e. the world. That is to say, we perceive the world, our minds have direct access to being, to reality. We are not trapped in our own minds as the modern philosophers would have it.

Daniel, please watch this video. In particular, the section on René Descartes at 16m 41s. It talks about the inspiration for Descartes' philosophy – and therefore, in a sense, for the whole of modern philosophy – coming to him in a dream in which he was approached by the so-called "angel of truth". This is where the inspiration for his "methodological doubt" came from. It doesn't take a St. Anthony the Great to realise that this was a demon disguising himself as an angel of light.




Quote
Why Descartes was not a Philosopher

Peter A. Redpath

René Descartes is commonly called the Father of Modern Philosophy. Strictly speaking, Descartes was not a philosopher. What, for centuries, we have mistakenly identified as philosophy in his thinking is actually a new type of rhetoric which he had synthesized from the humanism and scholasticism of his time and from his Christian faith in God as a creator. The ancient historical roots of Cartesian thought lie in classical sophistry and poetry and in an apocryphal notion of philosophy as a hidden system of thought which can be apprehended only through a revelatory, practical exegesis of the sort claimed by an ancient poet, sophist, or magician. This apocryphal notion of philosophy originated before the advent of Christianity and was transmitted through Medieval masters of the trivium to Renaissance nominalists and humanists through whom it eventually became adopted by Descartes.

Some readers might be tempted to dismiss what I have just said. None, however, can summarily dismiss the firm and clear pronouncement made by Jacques Maritain about the nature of modern subjective idealism. In The Peasant of the Garonne, Maritain stated he had never "spoken more seriously" than when he challenged "with might and main" the right of subjective idealists to call themselves philosophers.

According to Maritain, the purported philosophy of modern subjective idealists is actually secularized theology, which he considered to be a Grand  Protagorean Sophistry. He was absolutely adamant in his claim that adherents to the method of reasoning practiced by subjective idealism are not philosophers: "All these men begin with thought alone, and there they remain .... What does this mean? They impugn ... the absolutely basic foundation of philosophic research. They are not philosophers." [Daniel, this is your situation]


Read more: https://maritain.nd.edu/ama/Sweetman/Sweetman01.pdf
« Last Edit: December 27, 2018, 06:47:42 AM by John Lamb »
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Offline Kreuzritter

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Re: Is there no escaping the uncertainty?
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2018, 07:45:51 AM »
Quote
But the first act of the human mind is not discursive reasoning or reflexive thought, but the simple intuition or awareness of being, and in particular the being of sensible substances (that which can be perceived by the senses, as against the ontologists who believe that the being which we immediately grasp with our minds is the divine being itself). The first thing that our intellect grasps is that the being which our senses perceive exists, i.e. it is real being.

Except that is disuptable. Which brings Daniel back to his original point.

In any case, it is more or less this point which Descartes questions with his systematic doubt by consideration of the immediate object of consciousness in waking and sleeping, and just stating the contention as an "axiom" or considering its pragmatic expediency is systematising a philosophy doesn't prove it. Regardless of the former's soundness of argumentation, "being of sensible substances" is not directly perceived by the senses but is conceptualised a posteriori, and that it is the result of an "intuition of being" is questionable, there being plenty of examples casting doubt upon the nature of these supposed "intuitions", or more to the point, the very existence of disputes as to what images of conscious awareness are sensations of "real objects" and which mere "phantasms" - disputes which people  inevtiably attempt to settle by inovcation of reason - undermines that contention that this is directly intuited.

So what if you call Descartes a "philosopher" or not?

 
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Offline awkwardcustomer

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Re: Is there no escaping the uncertainty?
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2018, 12:36:36 PM »
Daniel, please watch this video. In particular, the section on René Descartes at 16m 41s. It talks about the inspiration for Descartes' philosophy – and therefore, in a sense, for the whole of modern philosophy – coming to him in a dream in which he was approached by the so-called "angel of truth". This is where the inspiration for his "methodological doubt" came from. It doesn't take a St. Anthony the Great to realise that this was a demon disguising himself as an angel of light.

Oh dear, why isn't this common knowledge?

If Descartes' philosophy really was inspired by an 'Angel of Light', then Descartes' philosophy belongs to that category of ideas which should be studied as examples of how the Enemy of Mankind wants men to think.
And formerly the heretics were manifest; but now the Church is filled with heretics in disguise.  
St Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 15, para 9.

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Offline Quaremerepulisti

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Re: Is there no escaping the uncertainty?
« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2018, 02:39:46 PM »
It is a cartoon-character straw-man refutation of Descartes to claim that he said truth only exists in our minds, whereas Thomism says truth transcends the human mind.  This confuses ontology with epistemology, and this continual confusion of epistemology with ontology haunts Thomism to this day in issues such as epistemology of faith.

 

Offline awkwardcustomer

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Re: Is there no escaping the uncertainty?
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2018, 03:03:47 PM »
Quote from: McInerny, The Philosophy of Nature, p. 56
The domain of universal doubt which [Descartes] invites us to enter, as containing the only sure road to truth, proves to be a pathless jungle from which not even he was able to extricate himself. Methodological doubt does not free us from scepticism, but entraps us in it inescapably.

This very well might be the case. But it raises the question... how do we escape from uncertainty?

If Descartes invites you to enter the 'domain of universal doubt', and this invitation is inspired by a demon, then ask yourself what the devil wants you to doubt, and why.

Then do the opposite of what is being suggested.
And formerly the heretics were manifest; but now the Church is filled with heretics in disguise.  
St Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 15, para 9.

And what rough beast, it's hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
WB Yeats, 'The Second Coming'.
 
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Offline John Lamb

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Re: Is there no escaping the uncertainty?
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2018, 06:52:37 AM »
It is a cartoon-character straw-man refutation of Descartes to claim that he said truth only exists in our minds, whereas Thomism says truth transcends the human mind.  This confuses ontology with epistemology, and this continual confusion of epistemology with ontology haunts Thomism to this day in issues such as epistemology of faith.

Nevertheless, it's a fact of history that Cartesian philosophy lead to immanentism (i.e. we can only perceive what is immanent to us, the reality transcending our mind remaining unknowable) through the likes of Hume & Kant. And this immanentism began with Descartes doubting the authority of the senses, which Aristotelian philosophy affirms axiomatically and for very convincing reasons. Descartes' doubt lead to both idealism & rationalism on the one hand, and to materialism & sensism (empiricism/phenomenalism) on the other, depending on whether the Cartesian disciple thought the intelligible species or the sensible species was the less illusory. The Germans tended to be more intellectualist, and the English more sensist, but they both agree in their immanentism, saying we can only know the impression that the world makes on our minds, and not the world "in itself".
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Offline awkwardcustomer

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Re: Is there no escaping the uncertainty?
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2018, 07:20:14 AM »
Quote

from Descartes' Dream, by Phillip J. Davis and Reuben Hirsh

THE MODERN WORLD, our world of triumphant rationality, began on November 10, 1619, with a revelation and a nightmare. On that day, in a room in the small Bavarian village of Ulm, Rene Descartes, a Frenchman, twenty-three years old, crawled into a wall stove and, when he was well warmed, had a vision. It was not a vision of God, or of the Mother of God, or of celestial chariots, or of the New Jerusalem. It was a vision of the unification of all science.

The vision was preceded by a state of intense concentration and agitation. Descartes overheated mind caught fire and provided answers to tremendous problems that had been taxing him for weeks. He was possessed by a Genius, and the answers were revealed in a dazzling, unendurable light. Later, in a state of exhaustion, he went to bed and dreamed three dreams that had been predicted by this Genius.

In the first dream he was revolved by a whirlwind and terrified by phantoms. He experienced a constant feeling of falling. He imagined he would be presented with a melon that came from a far-off land. The wind abated and he woke up. His second dream was one of thunderclaps and sparks flying around his room. In the third dream, all was quiet and contemplative. An anthology of poetry lay on the table. He opened it at random and read the verse of Ausonius, "Quod vitae sectabor iter" (What path shall I take in life?). A stranger appeared and quoted him the verse "Est et non" (Yes and no). Descartes wanted to show him where in the anthology it could be found, but the book disappeared and reappeared. He told the man he would show him a better verse beginning "Quod vitae sectabor iter." At this point the man, the book, and the whole dream dissolved.

Descartes was so bewildered by all this that he began to pray. He assumed his dreams had a supernatural origin. He vowed he would put his life under the protection of the Blessed Virgin and go on a pilgrimage from Venice to Notre Dame de Lorette, traveling by foot and wearing the humblest-looking clothes he could find.

What was the idea that Descartes saw in a burning flash? He tells us that his third dream pointed to no less than the unification and the illumination of the whole of science, even the whole of knowledge, by one and the same method: the method of reason.

Eighteen years would pass before the world would have the details of the grandiose vision and of the "mirabilis sientiae fundamenta"-- the foundations of a marvelous science. Such as he was able to give them, they are contained in the celebrated "Discourse on the Method of Properly Guiding the Reason in the Search of Truth in the Sciences." According to Descartes, his "method" should be applied when knowledge is sought in any scientific field. It consists of (a) accepting only what is so clear in one's own mind as to exclude any doubt, (b) splitting large difficulties into smaller one, (c) arguing from the simple to the complex, and (d) checking, when one is done.
https://physics.weber.edu/carroll/honors/descarte.htm

'Triumphant rationality' comes in dreams and visions.
And formerly the heretics were manifest; but now the Church is filled with heretics in disguise.  
St Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 15, para 9.

And what rough beast, it's hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
WB Yeats, 'The Second Coming'.
 

Offline Daniel

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Re: Is there no escaping the uncertainty?
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2019, 05:49:33 AM »
Quote
But the first act of the human mind is not discursive reasoning or reflexive thought, but the simple intuition or awareness of being, and in particular the being of sensible substances (that which can be perceived by the senses, as against the ontologists who believe that the being which we immediately grasp with our minds is the divine being itself). The first thing that our intellect grasps is that the being which our senses perceive exists, i.e. it is real being.

Except that is disuptable. Which brings Daniel back to his original point.

In any case, it is more or less this point which Descartes questions with his systematic doubt by consideration of the immediate object of consciousness in waking and sleeping, and just stating the contention as an "axiom" or considering its pragmatic expediency is systematising a philosophy doesn't prove it. Regardless of the former's soundness of argumentation, "being of sensible substances" is not directly perceived by the senses but is conceptualised a posteriori, and that it is the result of an "intuition of being" is questionable, there being plenty of examples casting doubt upon the nature of these supposed "intuitions", or more to the point, the very existence of disputes as to what images of conscious awareness are sensations of "real objects" and which mere "phantasms" - disputes which people  inevtiably attempt to settle by inovcation of reason - undermines that contention that this is directly intuited.

Yes, this.

I can see that if our senses are reliable, and if the other first principles are true, then Thomism works pretty well. Maybe even better than Augustinian Platonism. But that's the very problem: I'm still not seeing how we know that our senses are reliable or that the first principles are true. And Thomists don't seem to have an answer. They always just brush it off, saying, "Isn't it obvious?" or "No sane person holds otherwise." Obviously I can't expect to see a logical or scientific proof, since Thomists themselves claim that no such proof exists. But there must be at least some way of knowing... otherwise the whole Thomistic system is guesswork and there's no knowing whether or not its conclusions be true.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2019, 05:53:50 AM by Daniel »
 

Offline Quaremerepulisti

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Re: Is there no escaping the uncertainty?
« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2019, 08:33:35 AM »
Quote from: McInerny, The Philosophy of Nature, p. 56
The domain of universal doubt which [Descartes] invites us to enter, as containing the only sure road to truth, proves to be a pathless jungle from which not even he was able to extricate himself. Methodological doubt does not free us from scepticism, but entraps us in it inescapably.

This very well might be the case. But it raises the question... how do we escape from uncertainty?


Thomists claim that the answer is Thomism. They assert that there actually is a material world, and that our senses are reliable, and that we have innate knowledge of first principles, etc.. But what exactly is their defense? It all just sounds like question-begging to me. Am I completely misunderstanding their position, or is it really just question-begging?

Thomists always create a cartoon character straw man version of Descartes, claim to have answered his questions via mere question-begging, and then lay the entire blame for the collapse of classical philosophy at his door (e.g. argument to consequences), as though the previous nominalism, occasionalism, etc. in their own ranks had nothing whatsoever to do with it.

Calling Descartes' philosophy "the domain of universal doubt" is an intellectually dishonest straw man.  What he is asking is what is it possible to doubt, and if it is possible to doubt, because we cannot exclude the possibility of the contrary, then we do not have certain knowledge of it.  He didn't conclude by saying it was possible to doubt everything.  It is not possible for one to doubt that he exists, for the very fact of doubting proves he does.  From there, he can be aware that what his senses experience is changing, whether or not that accurately reflects the external world.  Therefore, he is moving from potency to act, and a cosmological argument for the existence of God follows.  From there, the argument is that God, Who is truth, would not create a completely deceptive arrangement like the Matrix, where we believe ourselves to be sensing and seem to be sensing an external world that is not there.

"We know we perceive the material world through the senses because the senses are infallible in their own domain" has just as much explanatory value as "Poppies induce sleep because they have the sleep-inducing property" - that is to say, none at all - the statement after the "because" is in essence simply a restatement of the statement before it.  It's just question begging.  Is it logically impossible that we are brains in vats?  If so, then demonstrate it.  If not, is it possible that an omnipotent God created brains in vats?  If not, then show why not.  Thomists angrily side-step these questions, because they must.

So yes, it is our intuition that other humans, animals, stars, water, etc., really exist.  But it is ALSO our intuition that hearts, lungs, eyes, airplanes, automobiles, etc., really exist, not just "virtually" or as mere "artifacts" but really.  If this isn't in fact true (and Thomism says it is not), then it is self-contradictory to point to our "intuition" as the guide.

 

Offline Daniel

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Re: Is there no escaping the uncertainty?
« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2019, 09:30:55 AM »
Calling Descartes' philosophy "the domain of universal doubt" is an intellectually dishonest straw man.  What he is asking is what is it possible to doubt, and if it is possible to doubt, because we cannot exclude the possibility of the contrary, then we do not have certain knowledge of it.  He didn't conclude by saying it was possible to doubt everything.  It is not possible for one to doubt that he exists, for the very fact of doubting proves he does.  From there, he can be aware that what his senses experience is changing, whether or not that accurately reflects the external world.  Therefore, he is moving from potency to act, and a cosmological argument for the existence of God follows.  From there, the argument is that God, Who is truth, would not create a completely deceptive arrangement like the Matrix, where we believe ourselves to be sensing and seem to be sensing an external world that is not there.

Well I agree that it isn't logically possible to doubt one's own existence, (for I cannot conceive of my non-existent self conceiving of anything,) but I wouldn't say that it's absolutely impossible to doubt it. Because how do we know that the law of non-contradiction is true? Maybe there are some truths which violate our understanding of the laws of logic but are nevertheless true. This is my objection to Descartes's method: he assumes in advance that 1.) the laws of logic are true and universal, and 2.) that we are rational -- that we have a sufficient understanding of the laws of logic in order to distinguish true from false. Could it not be the case that our failure to conceive of ourselves simultaneously conceiving and not-existing could be due not to an absolute impossibility but merely to some defect on our part? Perhaps we lack some faculty or art which is necessary in order to conceive that some contradictions could possibly be true?

Regardless, it's probably best not to doubt the law of non-contradiction or the art of logic. Still, I don't think Descartes's line of reasoning leads us to conclude that the external world exists. Because 1.) maybe the "change" we experience through our senses is in fact an illusion. Maybe everything's eternal and we are eternally experiencing the illusion of change, as the atheistic monists and solipsists would say. And 2.) even if we admit that a God exists who is distinct from my mind, and even if we admit that Truth and God are the same thing, how do we know that God/Truth doesn't put us in a Matrix? I'm not seeing the contradiction. It's a true Matrix, after all. And all propositions concerning that Matrix are true at least with regard to the Matrix, even if not true with regard to reality.
edit - Also, to say that God cannot choose to put people in a Matrix seems to be limiting to God's sovereignty. Further, how do we know that God is even involved? Maybe God created lesser gods and one of the lesser gods created both us and the Matrix, and put us in it, like the Gnostics say. Which I suppose would prove that an external world exists, but not that a material world exists.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2019, 09:48:34 AM by Daniel »
 
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Offline Quaremerepulisti

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Re: Is there no escaping the uncertainty?
« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2019, 10:59:35 AM »
Well I agree that it isn't logically possible to doubt one's own existence, (for I cannot conceive of my non-existent self conceiving of anything,) but I wouldn't say that it's absolutely impossible to doubt it. Because how do we know that the law of non-contradiction is true? Maybe there are some truths which violate our understanding of the laws of logic but are nevertheless true.

You yourself are making a argument based in logic (denying law of non-contradiction entails possibility of doubting one's existence), and thus you must presuppose the use of it.

So, you see, you have to assume the law of non-contradiction even in order to deny or doubt it, assuming that these "truths" are not also false at the same time.  Also, it wouldn't be absolutely impossible to doubt my existence at the same time as it would be absolutely impossible; and thus, it is absolutely impossible.

Thus it is impossible to doubt basic logic like the law of non-contradiction - you have to assume it before even getting off the ground - you're assuming that either the law of non-contradiction is true or it is false but not both at the same time, which assumes it is true. 




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This is my objection to Descartes's method: he assumes in advance that 1.) the laws of logic are true and universal, and 2.) that we are rational -- that we have a sufficient understanding of the laws of logic in order to distinguish true from false. Could it not be the case that our failure to conceive of ourselves simultaneously conceiving and not-existing could be due not to an absolute impossibility but merely to some defect on our part? Perhaps we lack some faculty or art which is necessary in order to conceive that some contradictions could possibly be true?

No.

Every time you claim "couldn't it be the case that..." the response will be that it is and is not the case at the same time and, thus, it is not the case.

Thus, your claim that logic isn't covered by Descartes' epistemology is false.  It does in fact meet the criterion of impossible to doubt.

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Regardless, it's probably best not to doubt the law of non-contradiction or the art of logic. Still, I don't think Descartes's line of reasoning leads us to conclude that the external world exists. Because 1.) maybe the "change" we experience through our senses is in fact an illusion. Maybe everything's eternal and we are eternally experiencing the illusion of change, as the atheistic monists and solipsists would say.

Yes, but our experiences our still changing, even if they are only illusion.  Thus we move from potency to act as far as our experience our concerned, regardless of whether they correspond to an external reality or not.

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And 2.) even if we admit that a God exists who is distinct from my mind, and even if we admit that Truth and God are the same thing, how do we know that God/Truth doesn't put us in a Matrix? I'm not seeing the contradiction. It's a true Matrix, after all. And all propositions concerning that Matrix are true at least with regard to the Matrix, even if not true with regard to reality.

Because God is a rational being.  That is what we mean when we say He is Truth.