Le 27-déc.-06, à 20:11, Jef Allbright a écrit :

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
Jef Allbright writes:
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.
Thanks for the compliments about my writing. I meant that what we should believe does not necessarily have to be the same as what is true, but I think that unless there are special circumstances, it ought to be the case.

I agree within the context you intended. My point was that we can never
be certain of truth, so we should be careful in our speech and thinking
not to imply that such truth is even available to us for the kind of
comparisons being discussed here.  We can know that some patterns of
action work better than others, but the only "truth" we can assess is
always within a specific context.

I think we agree. Those "context" are always "theoretical", with a large sense for "theory". It could be an explicit theory, like quantum mechanics, ... or an implicit build in belief like our instinctive inference that our neighborhood exists or make sense. This last is a "theory", which according to a more explicit one (Darwin) is a many millenia relative (and thus contextual) construct.

Brent Meeker made a similar point: if someone is dying of a terminal illness, maybe it is better that he believe he has longer to live than the medical evidence suggests, but that would have to be an example of special circumstances.

There are plenty of examples of self-deception providing benefits within
the scope of the individual, and leading to increasingly effective
models of "reality for the group.  Here's a recent article on this
<http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/26/science/26lying.html? pagewanted=print

Thanks for this interesting reference. In the context of the theory I suggest, it is still an open problem if life itself is a "logical descendant" of a "lie". Actually, although there are evidences to the contrary, even "appearance of the physical universe" could be a self-deception. This is a stronger statement than the one I am used to say, which is that the "primitive" character of the physical laws are self-deception (but this is only a consequence of taking the computationalist hypothesis seriously enough and is strictly speaking out of the present topic.

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 point. But I've seen this stumbling block arise so many
times and so many places that I'm very curious to learn
something of its source.
The question of what is the truth is a separate one, but one criterion I would add to those you mention above is that it should come from someone able to put aside his own biases and wishes where these might influence his assessment of the evidence.

I agree, but would point out that by definition, one can not actually
set aside one's one biases because to do so would require an objective
view of oneself.

But two observers can agree on some common context, so that some objective view of oneself can be done (although probably not recognize as such ...). So a second observer can, in some situation helps a first one to be less biased.

Rather, one can be aware that such biases exist in
general, and implement increasingly effective principles (e.g.
scientific method) to minimize them.

I agree with this.

> > We might never be certain of the truth, so our beliefs should always > > be tentative, but that doesn't mean we should believe whatever we > > fancy. > > Here it's a smaller point, and I agree with the main thrust of the > statement, but it leaves a door open for the possibility that we might > actually be justifiably certain of the truth in *some* case, and I'm > wonder where that open door is intended to lead. I said "might" because there is one case where I am certain of the truth, which is that I am having the present experience.

Although we all share the illusion of a direct and immediate sense of
consciousness, on what basis can you claim that it actually is real?

Because we cannot doubt it. It is the real message, imo, of Descartes "diagonal argument": it is the fixed point of doubt. If we decide to doubt everything, we will find ourselves, at some stage, doubting we doubt of everything. The same for relativization: we cannot relativize everything without an absolute base on which that relativization is effective. If you want (like David and George) consciousness is our criteria of "absolute (but not 3-communicable) truth". I don't think we can genuinely doubt we are conscious, although we can doubt on any content of that consciousness, but that is different. We can doubt having been conscious in some past, but we cannot doubt being conscious here and now, whatever that means.

Further, how can you claim certainty of the "truth" of subjective
experience when there is so much experimental and clinical evidence that
self-reported experience consists largely of distortions, gaps, time
delays and time out of sequence, fabrications and confabulations?

The "truth" here bears on the existence of the experience, and has nothing to do with anything which could be reported by the experiencer. If I a complain about some pain, I would take a doctor has incompetent, mad or inhuman, if after having examine me, he tells me: "you have no pain". Situation like that did occur with the first know case of pain in phantom limb.

I realize that people can acknowledge all that I've just said, but still
claim the validity of their internal experience to be privileged on the
basis that only they can judge, but then how can they legitimately
contradict themselves a moment later about factual matters, e.g. when
the drugs wear off, the probe is removed from their brain, the brain
tumor is removed, the mob has dispersed, the hypnotist is finished, the
fight is over, the adrenaline rush has subsided, the pain has stopped,
the oxytocin flush has declined... What kind of "truth" could this be?

Of course the subjective self is the only one able to report on
subjective experience, but how can it *justifiably* claim to be

Ah but I agree with you. The subject cannot *justifiably* claim to be infallible. Please this has nothing to do with the fact that he is "infallible". He cannot claim it in a justifiable way of course. Any doll, zombie, could claim the same thing. To come back on the example above, the doctor may be right: I did not have pain (t'was just a trick for not going at school for example). So I cannot "justify" the infallibility of my report of experience, nor can the doctor justify the absence of such experiences, but this is different from saying that conscious experience are infallible as such. (And that is why I appreciate Theaetetus first approximate definition of knowledge---albeit debatable as Russell Standish said once---which consists in defining "to know p" as to "believe p, when p"). For example Machine X knows the earth is flat in case the machine X believes (asserts (say)) that the earth is flat, in case the earth is flat.

To be certain of the truth of something implies being able to see it
objectively, right? Or does it equally imply no questions asked?

Objectivity leads to doubt (and thus cartesian science). Certainty is either 100% private and subjective, or a symptom of unnavowable doubt, or of madness. Well, in some probabilistic context it can have the weaker meaning of "probability one", but even there it can be shown that probability one does not always entail "truth". This happens with lobian machine where the machine can believe that some proposition is true in all possible worlds, and that there is a least one possible world, and then that proposition can still be false (and the machine remains consistent, but get unsound).


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