>> On Wed, Nov 10, 2010 at 8:37 PM, Brent Meeker <meeke...@dslextreme.com>
>> wrote:
>>> If you are a determinist then all beliefs are causally
>>> connected to facts (facts about your brain, perception, the world...).  If
>>> the facts and the belief are congruent and they are causally connected then
>>> they are justified_true_beliefs.
>> If the facts and the beliefs are congruent, then the beliefs are true.  I
>> agree.
>> However, just because Belief X is causally connected to Fact Y doesn't
>> meant that Belief X is justified.
>> The question of justification is how do you *know* that Belief X is
>> causally connected to Fact Y?
>> It may be a fact (Fact Z) that Belief X is causally connected to Fact
>> Y, but how do you justify your belief in Fact Z?
>> And then, how do you justify your belief in your belief that Belief X
>> is causally connected to Fact Y?  And then, how do you justify your
>> belief in your belief in your belief that Belief X is causally
>> connected to Fact Y?  And so on.
>> The problem is that the only facts that we have direct access to are
>> facts about our current beliefs.  It is a fact that I believe this.
>> BUT, I can't say for sure that it's *true* that we only have direct
>> access to facts about our current beliefs.
>> It's just what I believe at this moment.  Though, I can't even say for
>> certain that I believed it an hour ago.  I believe I did, but I can't
>> justify that belief.
>> From our current beliefs we infer the existence of other facts, but
>> why should we believe that our current beliefs are true or that our
>> process of inference is correct?
>> Skepticism doesn't say that there are no true beliefs.  It just says
>> that we can never justify them.
> Depends on what you consider justification.  We use common sense and other
> theories of the world all the time.

But what is the ultimate significance of our use of common sense and
other theories?

Why do we care about usefulness?  Evolution?

Then why did we evolve this way instead of some other way?  Physical
laws and initial conditions?

Then why do we have the physical laws and initial conditions we have
instead of some others?  And so on.

Subjectively you feel that there’s some significance.  But ultimately
it’s just the way things are, and there is no reason why they are this
way instead of some other way.

> They are justified by the fact that
> they usually successful in making predictions.  Not always, but mostly.

This brings us full circle back to Meillassoux's essay.

Why do you believe that success in making predictions justifies your
theories?  Some form of probabilistic reasoning, right?  But how do
you know that your application of such reasoning is legitmate in this

Let me just quote Meillassoux’s essay here and try to present the core
of his argument, without requiring you to read the whole thing:

"The problem of induction as formulated by Hume consists fundamentally
in asking how we can justify that the future should resemble the past.

Goodman, following Hume, fully affirms that we simply cannot do so:
this justification is impossible by rational means.


The problem of induction, as soon as it is formulated as the problem
of the effective necessity of laws, issues in an avowal of the defeat
of reason, because nothing contradictory can be detected in the
contrary hypothesis of a changing of constants. For reason does not
seem to be capable of prohibiting a priori that which goes against the
purely logical necessity of noncontradiction.  But in that case, a
world governed by the imperatives of reason, would be governed only by
such logical imperatives. Now, this would mean that anything
non-contradictory could (but not must) come to pass implying precisely
the refusal of all causal necessity: for causality, on the contrary,
asserts that amongst different, equally conceivable events certain of
them must come to pass rather than others. This being so, we would
indeed have to agree that in a rational world everything would be
devoid of any reason to be as it is. A world which was entirely
governed by logic, would in fact be governed only by logic, and
consequently would be a world where nothing has a reason to be as it
is rather than otherwise, since nothing contradictory can be perceived
in the possibility of such a being-otherwise.


Hume's discovery, according to our account, is thus that an entirely
rational world would be by that very token entirely chaotic: such a
world is one from which the irrational belief in the necessity of laws
has been extirpated, since the latter is opposed in its very content
to what constitutes the essence of rationality.


I would affirm that, indeed, there is no reason for phenomenal
constants to be constant. I maintain, then, that these laws could
change. One thereby circumvents what, in induction, usually gives rise
to the problem: the proof, on the basis of past experience, of the
future constancy of laws. But one encounters another difficulty, which
appears at least as redoubtable: if laws have no reason to be
constant, why do they not change at each and every instant? If a law
is what it is purely contingently, it could change at any moment. The
persistence of the laws of the universe seems consequently to break
all laws of probability: for if the laws are effectively contingent,
it seems that they must frequently manifest such contingency If the
duration of laws does not rest upon any necessity, it must be a
function of successive 'dice rolls', falling each time in favour of
their continuation or their abolition. From this point of view, their
manifest perenniality becomes a probabilistic aberration - and it is
precisely because we never observe such modifications that such an
hypothesis has seemed, to those who tackled the problem of induction,
too absurd to be seriously envisaged.


Beginning to resolve the problem of induction comes down to
delegitimating the probabilistic reasoning at the origin of the
refusal of the contingency of laws. More precisely, it is a matter of
showing what is fallacious in the inference from the contingency of
laws to the frequency (and thus the observability) of their changing.
This amounts to refusing the application of probability to the
contingency of laws, thereby producing a valuable conceptual
distinction between contingency understood in this radical sense and
the usual concept of contingency conceived as chance subject to the
laws of probability. Given such a distinction, it is no longer
legitimate to maintain that the phenomenal stability of laws compels
us to suppose their necessity. This permits us to demonstrate that,
without serious consequence, real necessity can be left behind, and
with it the various supposedly insoluble enigmas it occasioned.

In short, Hume's problem becomes the problem of the difference between
chance and contingency.


Now, if this [probabilistic] reasoning cannot be justified, it is
because there does not truly exist any means to construct a set of
possible universes within which the notion of probability could still
be employed. The only two means for determining a universe of cases
are recourse to experience, or recourse to a mathematical construction
capable of justifying unaided the cardinality (the 'size') of the set
of possible worlds. Now, both of these paths are equally blocked here.
As for the empirical approach, obviously no-one — unless perhaps
Leibniz's God — has ever been at leisure to survey the entire set of
possible worlds. But the theoretical approach is equally impossible:
for what would be attempted here would be to affirm that there is an
infinity of possible worlds, that is Vernes'y of logically thinkable
worlds, which could only reinforce the conviction that the constancy
of just one of them is extraordinarily improbable. But it is precisely
on this point that the unacceptable postulate of our 'probabilist
sophism' hinges,for I ask then: of which infinity are we speaking


[T]here is no reason, whether empirical or theoretical, to choose one
infinity rather than another, and since we can no longer rely on
reason to constitute an absolute totality of all possible cases, and
since we cannot give any particular reason upon which to ground the
existence of such a universe of cases, we cannot legitimately
construct any set within which the foregoing probabilistic reasoning
could make sense. This then means that it is indeed incorrect to infer
from the contingency of laws the necessary frequency of their
changing. So it is not absurd to suppose that the current constants
might remain the same whilst being devoid of necessity, since the
notion of possible change - and even chaotic change, change devoid of
all reason - can be separated from that of frequent change: laws which
are contingent, but stable beyond all probability, thereby become


Now, we can see in what way the critique of the probabilist sophism
permits us to challenge such a topos in a new way. For such reasoning
is only legitimate if we suppose the existence of a determinate set
(whether finite or infinite) of possible universes, obtained through
the antecedent variation of the givens and constants of the observable
universe. Now, it appears that there are no legitimate means of
constituting the universe of possibles within which such reasoning
could make sense, since this means, once more, could be neither
experimental nor simply theoretical: as soon as one frees oneself from
the imperatives of experience, in the name of what principle can one
limit, as the Anthropic Principle implicitly does, the set of possible
worlds to those obtained solely by the linear variation of constants
and variables found in the currently observable universe, and in whose
name do we limit such a set of worlds to a determinate infinity? In
truth, once the possible is envisaged in its generality, every
totality becomes unthinkable, and with it the aleatory construction
within which our astonishment finds its source.  The rational attitude
is not, in actual fact, to seek an explanation capable of responding
to our astonishment, but to trace the inferential genealogy of the
latter so as to show it to be the consequence of an application of
probabilities outside the sole legitimate field of their application."

> If I left my watch on the dresser last night I can usually find it there in 
> the
> morning.  To imagine that it would be a better justification of this to have
> some complete, deterministic theory of everything is the fallacy of the
> misplaced concrete.

First, I’m not arguing that it would be a better justification.  So
I’m not sure how this connects to my post.

And second, what is it that would be incorrectly reified by such a
belief?  The deterministic laws?  Believing that such laws were in
some sense “real” just because of their completeness and predictive
success would be to succumb to the fallacy of the misplaced concrete?

It seems to me that Meillassoux is arguing against that exact fallacy.
 That there is no "concrete" necessity behind the orderliness of our

> On 11/11/2010 10:43 AM, Rex Allen wrote:
>> Bryan Caplin:
>> “Put succinctly, if we have knowledge we must accept beliefs only
>> because we understand them to be true; but if determinism is correct,
>> then we automatically accept whatever beliefs that our constituent
>> micro-particles impose on us.“
> If determinism is true...nothing whatsoever follows.  It's like saying "God
> did it."  Unless you can specify the initial conditions and the causal laws
> of evolution, it's nothing but a form of words.

If determinism is true, there are no specific predictions about the
physical world that can be made as a result.

But there are facts about our universe that can be logically inferred
from the definition of "determinism".  And Caplan’s point is one of
those facts.

So even without knowing the specific initial conditions and causal
laws, one can still draw general conclusions that would hold *if* the
universe is deterministic (and if your starting assumptions and
processes of inference are valid).

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