So, I’ve written here, at great length, about the importance of negation, of the null hypothesis, as a fundamental hypothesis that can only be overturned by carrying the burden of proof. And the null hypothesis’ relationship to belief in deities. (or God, or G-d, or יהוה, or what-have-you). But tonight I was discussing Spinoza and Einstein with someone, and it helped me to crystallize a way that I might share my mind with you… and thereby give you insight into where I’m coming from.
I have, previously, discussed how absolute ontological certainly is precluded by the structure and nature of knowledge. I also recently engaged in a public debate that touched on the nature of the null hypothesis and reasonable beliefs. My opponent from that debate recently asked me to clarify my position on the issue of falsifiability. Specifically, the request was:
[W]hat is ‘falsifiability’? You seem to take it to mean that a proposition yields predictions which can then be compared to empirical evidence and shown to be false. Is that correct?
My response was that that statement was “Pretty much” accurate, but that I’d need to write up a blog post “since the answer is somewhat lengthy.” Dr. Chenvi’s followup question was:
[H]ow that definition is applied to beliefs like “There are no transcendental truths” or “We cannot have real knowledge of deep reality” or “We should only accept claims based on evidence”, or “the external universe actually exists”, etc… None of these claims are falsifiable, on the basis of your definition. So whatever statements you make about whether or not we should believe ‘unfalsifiable’ claims should wrestle with statements like these.
My first video-cast debate.
I’m sorry the sound for my AC was so thoroughly awful. (Did kinda like that my lips blurred on film, that was kinda cool.) Here’s the text for my AC, and I’ll see if I can’t find the time to write up a transcript one of these days.
debate case and counter cases
There’s a bit of semantic chicanery that always annoys me. Not, mind you, because it’s some sort of devastating logical counter, but because it’s the equivalent of the I’m-not-touching-you game. It’s the puerile belief that they’re somehow getting one over on you by the transcendent alchemy of rebranding.
So I’ve coined the Murder One fallacy. It’s an informal rhetorical fallacy that goes a bit like this: “Sure I thought about killing him for weeks, planned it out, and I not only hated that bastard, I was glad he was dead after I ambushed him….but it’s absurd and dishonest of you to claim I just admitted to first degree murder!”
Truly, your clever ruse has me beaten and bereft, worthy opponent.
Philosophical principles, much like scientific laws, are descriptive, not prescriptive. But where scientific laws are subject to testing, refinement, and falsification, philosophical principles have no objective and effective winnowing process. The law that heavier objects fell faster than lighter ones gave way to Vf= a t^2 ; Newton’s law of universal gravitation gave way to spacetime; a deterministic, mechanistic cosmos gave way to a probabilistic, intuition-shattering sea of information. What objective tests, then, beyond logical consistency, do we have for our philosophical presuppositions about the absolute, ultimate nature of reality?
And to then use those presupposed principles to prove new presuppostions, seems, well, preposterously presumptuous .
(Sorry, I couldn’t resist)
When criticized for their claims’ lack of falsifiability, apologists often justify their (ab)use of pure reason by claiming that one only needs to find a logical contradiction in order to show that their claim is false. The normal examples trotted out are married bachelors and square circles. Both are fundamentally deceptive, but for different reasons.
Or, TLDR: How intellectually honest is contradiction as a falsification criteria, coming from someone who believes that a person lived who was completely human and completely divine, simultaneously?
“Out of the stream of sensation, the mind carves objects in space and actions in time…” (Tversky, 2004)
“[The] truth is modeled as an object in the domain of a semantic model to which sentences are mapped by an interpretation function.” (Hinzen, 2003)
“A truth judgment as such has no correspondence to anything in ‘reality’.” (Hinzen, 2003)
Reality, with an R, is a sea of stimuli. The human mind is what gives us our ability to use tools, and it should come as no surprise that pattern recognition itself is one of the tools in our array. It should also come as no surprise that even when we see meaningless patterns the mind restlessly strives to make them meaningful as simply as possible.