Bruno Marchal wrote:

Le 27-déc.-06, à 02:46, Jef Allbright a écrit :

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:

But our main criterion for what to believe should
be what is true, right?

I'm very interested in whether the apparent tautology
is my misunderstanding, his transparent belief, a simple
lack of precision, or something more.

I don't see any tautology in Stathis writing so I guess I miss something.

Apparently something subtle is happening here.

It seems to me that when people say "believe", they mean "hold true" or "consider to 
be true".

Therefore, I parse the statement as equivalent to "...criterion for what to hold true should be what is true..."
I suppose I should have said that the statement is circular, rather than 
tautological since the verbs are different.

If he had said something like "our main criterion
for what to believe should be what works, what seems
to work, what passes the tests of time, etc." or had
made a direct reference to Occam's Razor, I would be
comfortable knowing that we're thinking alike on this

This would mean you disagree with Stathis's tautology, but then how could not believe in a tautology?

If someone states "A=A", then there is absolutely no information content, and 
thus nothing in the statement itself with which to agree or disagree. I can certainly 
agree with the validity of the form within symbolic logic, but that's a different 
(larger) context.

Similarly, I was not agreeing or disagreeing with the meaning of Stahis' 
statement, but rather the form which seems to me to contain a piece of circular 
reasoning, implying perhaps that the structure of the thought was incoherent 
within a larger context.

 From your "working" criteria I guess you favor a pragmatic
notion of belief, but personally I conceive science as a
search for knowledge and thus truth (independently of the
fact that we can never *know* it as truth,

Yes, I favor a pragmatic approach to "belief", but I distinguish my thinking from that of (capital P) 
Pragmatists in that I see knowledge (and the knower) as firmly grounded in a "reality" that can never be 
fully known but can be approached via an "evolutionary" process of growth tending toward an increasingly 
effective model of what works within an expanding scope of interaction within a reality that appears to be effectively 
open-ended in its potential complexity. Whereas many Pragmatists see "progress" as fundamentally illusory, I 
see progress, or growth, as essential to an effective world-view for any intentional agent.

except perhaps
in few basic things like "I am conscious" or "I am convinced
there is a prime number" etc.)
To talk like Stathis, this is why science is by itself always tentative. A scientist who says "Now we know ..." is only a
dishonest theologian (or a mathematician in hurry ...).

I agree with much of your thinking, but I take exception to exceptions (!) such as the ones you mentioned above.
All meaning is necessarily within context.

The existence of prime numbers is not an exception, but the context is so broad that we 
tend to think of prime numbers as (almost) fundamentally real, similarly to the existence 
of gravity, another very deep regularity of our interactions with "reality".

The statement "I am conscious", as usually intended to mean that one can be absolutely certain of one's subjective experience, is not an exception, because it's not even coherent. It has no objective context at all. It mistakenly assumes the existence of an observer somehow in the privileged position of being able to observe itself. Further, there's a great deal of empirical evidence showing that the subjective experience that people report is full of distortions, gaps, fabrications, and confabulations. If instead you mean that you know you are conscious in the same sense that you know other people are conscious, then that is not an exception, but just a reasonable inference, meaningful within quite a large context.
If Descartes had said, rather than "Je pense, donc je suis", something like "I 
think, therefore *something* exists", then I would agree with him. Cartesian dualism has left 
western philosophy with a large quagmire into which thinking on consciousness, personal identity, 
free-will and morality easily and repeatedly get stuck in paradox.

Paradox is always a case of insufficient context.  In the bigger picture all 
the pieces must fit.

- Jef

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