On Falsifiability

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.
The response will, by necessity, be a bit lengthy. I also don’t think that all of the above statements are necessarily accurate quotes or paraphrases, so I’ll do my best to address specifics. If anybody disagrees on the accuracy of a quote, please let me know in the comments.  In a nutshell, my argument is not a metaphysical statement on the nature of being, but a razor designed to winnow epistemic systems with the metric of objective reality.
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The Presupposition of Sufficient Reason

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)

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Immortality? Well sure, now that you mention it…

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” – Neil Gaiman


I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a heaven, or a hell. I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a spirit or soul. I don’t believe that my mind is anything other than what my brain does. But I do admire the quest for immortality. In fact, I think it may very well be an inevitable part of our species’ evolution, should we ever make it off this rock. 

So yeah.
Nice goal.
I’ll take it.
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