Objective Direct and Indirect Evidence, and Subjective Inferences

I’ve read the article. It seems to me that I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m not a positivist, but you don’t seem to think that’s the case. Again, I’m not saying that science is the only way to epistemic discovery. So I’m not confusing science with epistemology as far as I can tell. Science is one way of “knowing”, but it’s not the only way.

I don’t know how else to say it so that you will realize that I’m not promoting positivism. Or maybe there’s something your getting at which I’m totally unaware of. If that’s the case you’ll need to elaborate more on what it is because so far it’s not been expressed in a way that I am able to grasp it.

I know you are not a positivist. The objective subjective distinction is a hold over from positivism. So why do you care about it?

How so?

A proper basic belief. Objective or subjective?

If you mean something like do minds exist, then it would be objective in that it exists independent of whether or not someone thinks or feels it is so.

But the belief that minds exist, exists only in the mind of the person contemplating it, regardless of whether that belief is true or false.

1 Like

True. Nonetheless there’s no denying that minds are an objective feature of human experience independent of what someone thinks. In fact someone would have to think they don’t have a mind in order to deny that there is at least one mind that exists, which would seem like a logical contradiction to me. At the least it would seem to be incoherent.

I think Joshua was referring to the problem of other minds, not one’s own mind.

But what would you say to someone who only believes that their mind is the only one that exists?

1 Like

Would apply both ways. If someone acknowledges his own mind, then it follows logically that he would have to acknowledge other minds, unless he’s a solipsist which I address below.

I’d say you’re crazy. :slight_smile: Or, I’d say, if you die we’re all in trouble. LOL! But seriously I’d ask him to give me a good reason why I should believe what he’s saying is true. Same for the idealist.

He would simply say that all of his beliefs are consistent with his observations, and even if he cannot prove his position is right, neither can you prove your position (that other minds exist) is right without begging the question.

1 Like

Fine with me. If he wants to believe that he’s more than welcome. Ain’t going to get me to believe in such nonsense though. :slight_smile:

Oh, and I think it’s important to point out that just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s reasonable. There’s really no good reason that I know of to hold to a position that goes against everything our experience is telling us is real. And the rarity of those who hold to it I think speaks for itself.

Actually no. We have direct experience of our own minds. We do not have comparable experience of other minds. We have no evidence to disprove the theory that some or all others are philosophical zombies.

How did you type that post then?

1 Like

Ya right. And we have no evidence to disprove that everything including all of our memories was created 5 minutes ago. So let’s just believe that it’s all an illusion. If someone wants to go down that route, by all means.

But as I already pointed out in my previous post, we have no good reason that I’m aware of to doubt what our experience tells us about the past, or about the existence of other minds, so why should we believe something which is possible but based on our experience is totally unreasonable? I think I’ll stick with what’s reasonable according to my experience and let those who wish go down the unreasonable path of illusion.

But think about it, if I have an experience of my own mind, and I’m confronted with humans who I perceive are real just like me and who behave as I do, what’s the most obvious inference? To me it’s just being reasonable to infer the existence of other minds, and being unreasonable to deny their existence.

I think I would agree with this in part. Where I think the places it becomes problematic for me are the part about “what people accept as true,” and “unavoidable conclusions.” The first is a bit too loose of a criteria for me. Especially with theories I’m of the opinion that there should be some way to rate the objectivity to avoid misrepresenting a theory in a way that isn’t intellectually honest.

To make statements in a way that suggests that a particular position is beyond dispute when in fact it involves a theory with a significant degree of subjective elements to it that seem heavily biased toward a particular paradigm, as I see it, is a current problem in science. And I think the only way to address it is to have a way that gives a general assessment of the degree of subjectivity involved in any particular theory in order for informed decisions to be made about scientific claims, and for helping to facilitate and move forward discussions centered around such claims.

And if by the second part you mean deduction, as far as I can tell, that’s not always possible. I think the most difficulty occurs with things like events in the far distant past, areas that are generally empirically inaccessible, measurements of vast amounts of distance in deep space, etc. There’s generally just too much that has to be assumed to get to a point where deduction becomes possible. In most cases it seems at best the degree of probability can be determined, and even that I would think would be problematic.

Thanks for those suggestions. Unfortunately I don’t have the time to get too deep into the subject, but I will look into it as much as I can. However, I am generally looking for a framework more or less for my own use that sufficiently holds up to scrutiny from which to make judgments on degrees of both process and product objectivity in scientific claims.

I’m not interested in precision, just general indications when having discussions about any particular claim of the degree of objectivity of the claim. Somehow I get the impression that this is typically not considered in discussions and tends to create problems with things like participants talking past each other.

I am describing more of an operational definition. When a theory is so well supported that it doesn’t seem worth challenging, it is tentatively accepted as true, and then we move forward from there. This is how science operates in the real world, but it could have the epistemological drawbacks that you mention elsewhere.

Part of the problem is that theories don’t become facts. They will always be theories and will always be tentative. If we were not allowed to build on theories until they were absolutely proven then we wouldn’t get anywhere in science. This is why scientists build on top of well supported theories instead of absolutely proven theories. Additionally, if scientists use a theory as a foundation for further work and that work is fruitful then this is considered to be evidence that the underlying theories are still good.

This isn’t to say that the most widely accepted theories are immune from challenge. All theories are open to falsification and testing in science. However, people who reject these theories for no apparent reason other than their personal preference are not looked upon kindly in scientific circles.

I often hear people inject the word “assumptions” in discussions like these. In my experience, they don’t end up being assumptions, at least in the way they mean them. Events in the past produce evidence that we can empirically measure in the present, so testing the past is as scientific as anything else. In fact, it could be argued that all scientific measurements are measuring the past since light travels at a set speed. That light leaving your sample has to travel a short distance to a measuring device, so by the time it is measured you are measuring the past.

Operational, that’s a good distinction. I think that could at times be a reason for talking past someone when one person is talking in the operational sense, and the other is talking in an epistemological sense. And regarding criteria for objectivity, I think the operational sense is possibly a good indication of the degree of objectivity, but not necessarily the only indication that may need to be considered.

Yes, I understand that. However, what makes it tentative is a little hazy to me. I guess a theory is usually multidimensional, so even though there may be some aspects of it that are pretty much the only option and therefore deductively established, there are also possibly aspects that are not. I suppose even the deductive aspects could be tentative since they are based on current knowledge, and therefore new knowledge could in principle overturn premises that today based on current knowledge are considered to be true.

I can see how that would make sense.

That’s understandable.

Yes, but there is quite a difference in that events that are reoccurring in the present give us direct access for empirical study, and provide a much richer and less limited basis for gathering knowledge about them. Whereas past events that happened only once, or that are no longer happening in whole in the present leave a lot of room for assumptions about many aspects of what actually happened concerning the circumstances surrounding those events and the events themselves.

It seems to me there can be quite a significant amount of incomplete information that can result with these types of inaccessible past events as compared to reoccurring events. Not that there cannot be enough pieces of evidence from these kind of events to grasp the picture that’s unfolding. But as with a puzzle, the greater amount of pieces that are missing, the more difficult it becomes to recognize what the unfolding picture really is. And in such a case, arriving at a conclusion inevitably requires more assumptions to be made due to the lack of surrounding details.

The major point is that theories are based on inference, not deduction. We are working with a very small fraction observations compared to all possible observations, so it could be that a theory can be falsified as more observations are made. For example, Newton’s theory of gravity worked quite well for the observations made during that time, but new observations over time showed that Newton’s theory wasn’t entirely accurate.

I would agree that modern events provide richer observations, but there is no divide between past and present events with respect to the scientific method.

Most events are one-offs, even those that happen in the present. What we look for is the commonalities.

You seem to be talking about conclusions instead of assumptions. I would fully agree that some conclusions are weaker due to the paucity of evidence, but conclusions are not the same thing as assumptions.