On Fri, Nov 5, 2010 at 6:21 PM, Stephen Paul King <stephe...@charter.net> wrote:
> If an entity exists in a universe that is subject to unchanging causal
> laws, how can it have justified true beliefs (a.k.a. knowledge)
> I am not sure of what you mean by "unchanging causal laws" so I will
> offer a definition: A set of relations that given some sharp configuration
> of energy-momentum on a plane of simultaneity there will always be some
> other sharp configuration and none other. Is this a satisfactory definition
> of "unchanging causal laws" to you? Note that this definition is consistent
> with the classical "block universe" model of the universe.
Hmmm. Well, no. I didn't intend it to be limited to the apparent
laws of our universe.
By "causal law", I am just referring to whatever it is that is
intended to explain why events transpire one way instead of some other
"Unchanging" isn't intended to mean much except that the laws don't
change *unless* caused to do so by some other law. So I just mean
that the laws don't change for no reason.
Bottom line: I am referring to a universe where everything that
happens does so because it is *caused* to happen by some "law".
Nothing happens without a reason for it to happen. A universe where
the Principle of Sufficient Reason applies.
As opposed to a Meillassouxian universe, where there is no reason why
events transpire one way instead of some other way.
> If the entity's beliefs are the result of some more fundamental
> underlying process, then those beliefs aren't held for reasons of
> logic or rationality.
> What is "more fundamental"? If the block universe of classical physics
> is taken to be the totality of what can and does exist, there can be no
> "more fundamental" anything, not even a "process". I am amused to reread the
> occasionalist and epiphenomenalist theories of mind that have been offered
> to account for the notion of knowledge (a.k.a. justified true belief). I am
> sure that you agree that without a mind there can be no belief, justified or
> otherwise, not logic nor rationality. So if the universe does not allow for
> entities to have something that can be considered as mind then we can go no
> further down this line of reasoning as we have removed all possible means to
It's not the mind that I have doubts about. I know that my experience
of this moment exists. How could I be wrong about that?
It's the universe that is meant to explain *why* my experience of this
moment exists that I have doubts about.
So, we want to explain our conscious experiences. To do so, we
postulate the existence of some "underlying" system (e.g., the
physical world) that accounts for the order and predictability of what
But then the inevitable question is, "what accounts for the order and
predictability of the underlying system"? What explains the
explanation? And then what explains the explanation of the
explanation? And so on...infinite regress.
But further, why this particular infinite chain of explanations
instead of some other infinite chain? Why not nothingness? And if you
have an answer, what explains that answer? Why that answer instead of
some other answer? Another infinite regress!
If you keep going you end up with an infinite number of infinite regresses...
So. That doesn't seem right.
Perhaps the answer is that there is no reason for why things are the
way they are. Which Meillassoux calls this the "principle of
unreason", or the "principle of facticity", in contrast to Leibniz's
"principle of sufficient reason".
> Rather, the entity holds the beliefs that are necessitated by the
> initial conditions and causal laws of it's universe.
> Those initial conditions and causal laws *may* be such that the entity
> holds true beliefs, but there is no requirement that this be the case
> (for example, our own universe produces a fair number of delusional
> We have not established that an entity can have a mind in a universe
> that is subject to unchanging causal laws so until we do we can ask no
> further questions.
My proposal is that no such universe exists. There is nothing to
reality except our experiences.
> OTOH, in the spirit of the discussion I will overlook
> this fatal flaw, but we are presented with another problem: How do we
> distinguish the schizophrenics, deluded or otherwise, from the
> non-schizophrenics? Following your reasoning, the same causal laws would
> generate both, so the difference is a set of initial conditions. What
> determined those to be such rather than some other? I see a crack opening
> here that allows us to recover many worlds... The point is that if there is
> any choice at all in the state of the universe and anything therein, then it
> is necessary that a multiplicity of prior possibility exist.
OR, it could be that there is no reason for the current state of the
universe. It just is this way.
If you invoke the existence of a multiplicity of prior possibilities
to explain the state of the universe, then what explains the existence
of the multiplicity of prior possibilities?
> The mere fact that I have a mind or some delusion that leads to a
> similar condition leads me also to the conclusion that there is something
> that is like the subjective sense of having a choice of action and that
> sense of having a choice extends to what ever reasons, rationalizations or
> delusions that I might have about the nature and origin of justified true
Hmmm? You have to "conclude" from other evidence that there is
something that is like the subjective sense of having a choice of
I would think that this subjective experience of having a choice of
action would be known directly, not inferred from other evidence.
Rather, the fact that you do not *actually* have a choice of action is
inferred from other evidence. But that it feels like you have a
choice of action is known directly. Ya?
If there is a reason for every action, then there is no choice. The
reason determines the action.
> So if there is the possibility, encapsulated in the word *may*, as
> in "Those initial conditions and causal laws *may* be such that the entity
> holds true beliefs...", then it inescapably follows that there is a
> multiplicity of at least initial conditions that could have lead to this
> state of affairs. So we cannot coherently hold that unchanging causal laws
> disallow for justified true beliefs. You seem to agree with this conclusion
I'm saying that once you think through the implications of living in a
universe with unchanging causal laws, you should conclude that while
your beliefs *may* be true, you can't justify your belief that they
BECAUSE, in such a universe no one presents or believes arguments for
reasons of logic or rationality. Rather, they present and believe the
arguments that are entailed by the initial conditions and causal laws
of that universe.
So, if you believe that you are living in a universe with unchanging
causal laws, you should also believe that *all* of your beliefs could
very well be wrong...including the belief that all of your beliefs
could very well be long.
Wouldn't you say that this rules out the possibility of knowledge, in
that you can't really establish a justification for holding your
beliefs, even if you accept that the beliefs could be true?
> Even in a lawful universe how do you justify your beliefs? And then
> how do you justify your justifications of your beliefs? And then how
> do you justify the justifications of the justifications of your
> beliefs? And so on. Agrippa's Trilemma.
> So. Given the capricious randomness involved in the selection of the
> entity's universe's initial conditions and causal laws (of which the
> vast majority of conceivable combinations would result in false
> beliefs) the notion of knowing becomes null and void.
> Neither Meillassoux's scenario nor the "lawful universe" scenario
> allow for knowledge. In both cases, holding true beliefs is a matter
> of luck, and no belief can be justified (not even the belief that no
> belief can be justified).
> OK, so maybe there is something wrong with the premises and assumptions
> that we are using in our reasoning here. In my study of philosophy I have
> found that a lot of the problems, such as Agrippa's Trilemma, etc. rest on
> the assumption of well foundedness and much smarter people than me have
> found at least one solution to this mess. I respectfully request that you
> look into Non-wellfounded set theory and its logic and see for yourself have
> we can avoid this conundrum that you find yourself in. That Meillassoux was
> unable to grasp this solution was no fault of mine or yours, but a failure
> to allow for the possibility that an alternative exists does fall on our
> shoulders since it is our duty to perform the due diligence that research
> and study requires.
Let's keep in mind that unlike Bruno or Tegmark, Meillassoux isn't
proposing a "platonic" logico-mathematical foundation for reality.
Rather, Meillassoux uses Cantorian detotalization to counter proposed
resolutions of Hume's problem that rely upon a probabilistic logic
depending upon a totality of cases.
> So holding true beliefs, even in a universe with causal laws, is
> purely a matter of luck - i.e., is the entity in question lucky enough
> to live in a universe with initial conditions and causal laws that
> lead to it holding true beliefs.
> I agree, because there is no a priori restriction of the possible
> initial conditions that could, following those causal laws, generate the
> condition or state of having a mind that holds true beliefs. But your point
> about holding those beliefs is a "matter of luck" necessitates a prior
> spectrum of initial conditions from which a set of true beliefs can obtain
> and thus, at least in an a priori sense, a plurality of possible initial
> conditions. So if we have an a priori plurality of initial conditions, we
> left in a condition where we have at least have way recovered the notion of
> a plurality of possible worlds. Is this not countering your claim here, at
> least partly?
So there is the notion of a spectrum of possible worlds.
But are there any ontological implications that we can draw from this?
Does this notion tell us anything about what actually exists? Or why
things are this way instead of some other way?
I meant "matter of luck" in the sense of it being a contingent fact,
without explanation or reason.
I didn't mean luck in the sense of probability...which implies that
there is some mechanism that causes some possible worlds to be
instantiated, but not others.
As Meillassoux says:
"To demonstrate why laws, if they can change, have not done so
frequently, thus comes down to disqualifying the legitimacy of
probabilistic reasoning when the latter is applied to the laws of
nature themselves, rather than to events subject to those laws. Here
is how such a distinction can, in my opinion, be effectively made: to
apply a probabilistic chain of reasoning to a particular phenomenon
supposes as given the universe of possible cases in which the
numerical calculation can take place. Such a set of cases, for
example, is given to a supposedly symmetrical and homogeneous object,
a die or a coin. If the die or the coin to which such a calculative
procedure is applied always falls on the same face, one concludes by
affirming that it has become highly improbable that this phenomenon is
truly contingent: the coin or die is most likely loaded, that is to
say, it obeys a law — for example the law of gravitation applied to
the ball of lead hidden within.
And an analogous chain of reasoning is applied in favour of the
necessity of laws: identifying the laws with the different faces of a
universal Die — faces representing the set of possible worlds — it is
said, as in the precedent case, that if these laws are contingent, we
would have been present at the frequent changing of the 'face'; that
is to say, the physical world would have changed frequently. Since
the 'result' is, on the contrary, always the same, the result must be
'loaded' by the presence of some hidden necessity, at the origin of
the constancy of observable laws. In short, we begin by giving
ourselves a set of possible cases, each one representing a conceivable
world having as much chance as the others of being chosen in the end,
and conclude from this that it is infinitely improbable that our own
universe should constantly be drawn by chance from such a set, unless
a hidden necessity presided secretly over the result."
The man is a genius!
> We also have the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantor%27s_paradox which
> Meillassoux is using a crude version to make his argument. It would be
> helpful for use to understand the solution to this paradox.
> Since the cardinal numbers are well-ordered by indexing with the ordinal
> numbers (see Cardinal number, formal definition), this also establishes that
> there is no greatest ordinal number; conversely, the latter statement
> implies Cantor's paradox. By applying this indexing to the Burali-Forti
> paradox we also conclude that the cardinal numbers are a proper class rather
> than a set, and (at least in ZFC or in von Neumann–Bernays–Gödel set theory)
> it follows from this that there is a bijection between the class of
> cardinals and the class of all sets. Since every set is a subset of this
> latter class, and every cardinality is the cardinality of a set (by
> definition!) this intuitively means that the "cardinality" of the collection
> of cardinals is greater than the cardinality of any set: it is more infinite
> than any true infinity. This is the paradoxical nature of Cantor's
So how does one go about applying probabilistic reasoning to a
collection that is more infinite than any true infinity?
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