How much evidence does it take to believe or to know?

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
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Keith Russell
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Post by Keith Russell » January 20th, 2010, 9:13 pm

Meleagar wrote:
Keith Russell wrote:I disagree, though I think the disagreement is semantic in nature.
No, I don't think it is semantic. I think that one of the fundamental flaws in attempted rational thought is confusing "evidence" with "facts". Believing that one's evidence is fact constructs a tautologial belief system that utilizes virtually impenetrable confirmation bias.
All true statements are tautological, ultimately. If it's tautologies you wish to avoid, best wishes.

As your commentary shows:
What are these facts evidence of? A gun exists. What is it evidence of in a murder trial?
Are you, here, claiming that only objects can be facts? I don't agree, but even if, fingerprints on the gun are also facts, as are the registration papers showing who owned the gun at the time of the crime, etc.
Brute facts are not evidence of anything unless they are interpreted in context of a perspective or theory.
The context can also be evidence.

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Post by Meleagar » January 20th, 2010, 10:08 pm

Keith Russell wrote:
Are you, here, claiming that only objects can be facts?



Of course not. I love my wife. That is a fact. Once can have empirical experience of more than just objects.
Santini wrote: But do you agree with my definition of "fact" as I've given it here?
No.
Do you not believe that Guam exists? Do you not believe that Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the US?
I have no reason to adopt such beliefs. I try to keep my beliefs pared down to only those which actually serve a practical function in my life.
Last edited by Meleagar on January 20th, 2010, 10:19 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Keith Russell
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Post by Keith Russell » January 20th, 2010, 10:10 pm

Meleagar wrote:
Keith Russell wrote:
Are you, here, claiming that only objects can be facts?


Of course not. I love my wife. That is a fact. Once can have empirical experience of more than just objects.
Glad we have that settled!

Santini
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Post by Santini » January 21st, 2010, 5:00 am

Meleagar wrote:
Santini wrote: But do you agree with my definition of "fact" as I've given it here?
No.
Interesting. So if the following . . .

"A fact is not a claim about the world that is absolutely true. A fact is a claim about the world that can be false but is virtually universally recognized to be true by all those in possession of the currently available data and arguments related to the fact. It is something that, in Stephen J. Gould's words, is so highly probable it would be silly to doubt it."

. . . is not the definition of "fact" that you use in these kinds of discussions what is?
Meleagar wrote:
Santini wrote:Do you not believe that Guam exists? Do you not believe that Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the US?
I have no reason to adopt such beliefs. I try to keep my beliefs pared down to only those which actually serve a practical function in my life.
You don't need a reason to "adopt" a belief because no one consciously "adopts" beliefs in the first place. Beliefs are merely propositions that one considers to be accurate descriptions of the world. No one decides consciously to adopt the belief that the world is flat, for example. One either believes that the proposition "The earth is flat" accurately describes the world or not.

It's just a plain fact that you either have the belief that, for example, Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the US or you don't. I'll bet that you do have that belief even though you might deny it for obvious reasons.

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Post by Meleagar » January 21st, 2010, 8:30 am

Santini wrote: . . . is not the definition of "fact" that you use in these kinds of discussions what is?
I'm not sure what you mean by "these kinds of discussions". This particular discussion is specifically about the nature of knowledge, belief, evidence and fact. In most other discussions a broad range of things are accepted as facts so that the discussion doesn't get bogged down in endless qualification. I will also refer to a lot of things I have no personal knowledge of as "facts" in the spirit by which others use the term "fact" so as to not compound the difficulty of such arguments.

IOW, I agree to postulate many commonly-accepted facts without argument for the convenience of the topic being debated - unless, of course, such "facts" are simply asserted as a means to win the argument by an appeal to common belief.

However, when one is specifically arguing about the nature of knowledge, evidence, belief and facts, a more critical examination of those terms is required. In this discussion, which is about how people come to beliefs and knowledge, I hold a more critical definition of the term "fact", which one can find at dictionary.com:
dictionary.com wrote:3: a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true
Santini wrote:You don't need a reason to "adopt" a belief because no one consciously "adopts" beliefs in the first place.
You're wrong. I do.
Beliefs are merely propositions that one considers to be accurate descriptions of the world. No one decides consciously to adopt the belief that the world is flat, for example. One either believes that the proposition "The earth is flat" accurately describes the world or not.
That may be how you come to your beliefs, but since I don't base my beliefs on evidence, I'm free to believe whatever I wish. Here's an example of a belief I invented: whenever I spend money in good faith and it appears to be wasted, it will return to me in some fashion six fold.

However, I agree that most people do not choose what they believe because most people don't have free will; they are programmed automatons that believe whatever their program dictates.
It's just a plain fact that you either have the belief that, for example, Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the US or you don't. I'll bet that you do have that belief even though you might deny it for obvious reasons.
When information which sufficiently contradicts your view is simply waved away as either a lie or mistaken, one is exhibiting confirmation bias.

While in normal conversation or debate I don't bring such things up because it would probably derail the conversation, I have a fairly strict personal formula when it comes to truth, knowledge, facts, and beliefs.

1. Knowledge, truth, and facts only refer to things I directly experience.

2. Belief is adopting a particular functioning, practical perspective about the unexperienced qualities, nature or conditions of those things I directly experience.

3. Evidence is a logical interpretation of and inference from facts used to support one's beliefs. Some of my beliefs can be supported via evidence and some cannot, but none of my beliefs (that I'm aware of) are held because evidence convinced me.

Please note that for most people, belief is something they consider to be "true", but in my philosophy, truth is a commodity that can only apply to directly experienced phenomena, so when I "believe" something, it isn't because I hold it as true, but rather because it serves some practical function in my life to interpret experienced phenomena that way.

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Post by NameRemoved » January 21st, 2010, 10:03 am

Meleagar wrote:
I have a fairly strict personal formula when it comes to truth, knowledge, facts, and beliefs.

1. Knowledge, truth, and facts only refer to things I directly experience.

2. Belief is adopting a particular functioning, practical perspective about the unexperienced qualities, nature or conditions of those things I directly experience.

3. Evidence is a logical interpretation of and inference from facts used to support one's beliefs. Some of my beliefs can be supported via evidence and some cannot, but none of my beliefs (that I'm aware of) are held because evidence convinced me.

Please note that for most people, belief is something they consider to be "true", but in my philosophy, truth is a commodity that can only apply to directly experienced phenomena, so when I "believe" something, it isn't because I hold it as true, but rather because it serves some practical function in my life to interpret experienced phenomena that way.
_________________
Mel, that is a pretty neat formula. I think all one can ever really know is what they directly experience.
I agree,some beliefs can be supported fact others don`t need to be. Intention in thoughts actions [to really believe in] and feelings has everything to do with possible outcomes.
I choose to believe that what I focus upon, act upon and wish for will happen. Regardless how it comes about. I have had results from thinking and approaching things this way and it works for me :)

I choose and in fact know that I live in a conscious intelligent universe. It does not have to be true for others it is for me. I don`t think seeking the truth has a whole lot to do with finding wisdom or living ones life how one chooses.

There is one qualifier however that needs addressing here, if Freewill means choosing to believe something in order to further ones enjoyment as you assert is your philosophy, even whether its true or not, or right or not, as long as one get`s out of it what they intend. Couldn`t that be seen as ordaining serial killers who activly enjoy killing and mutliating others as long as they choose their freewill over others and as long as their intentions are to enjoy it?

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Post by Santini » January 22nd, 2010, 3:24 am

Izzy wrote:Mel, that is a pretty neat formula. I think all one can ever really know is what they directly experience.
What do you (Meleagar, Izzy) mean by experience? Do you mean that which is experienced through the five common senses or do you mean something else?

Even that which is experienced through the five common senses (or other senses, for that matter) is not infallibly, indubitably known. For example, just because someone "sees" a space ship hovering in the evening gloam doesn't mean there is an actual space ship out there hovering in the evening gloam.

Just because someone "sees" something as unremarkable as a bookcase in an office doesn't mean there is an actual bookcase in that office. It could be a paper mache likeness of a bookcase. It could be a hologram. It could be a neuronal malfunction in your brain. It could be a dream.

That which is experienced directly is only evidence for something else but is not irrefutable proof of anything else beyond your own state of mind, i.e., your own belief.

For example, when you believe that you see the color red in the external world it is pretty much indisputable that you BELIEVE you see the color red. What is entirely disputable, however, is that the color red that you believe you see in the external world actually exists in the external world.

The point is, is that even if you rely only on what you directly experience to know things about the world, you are still relying on evidence . . . and on fallible, dubitable evidence at that.
Izzy wrote:I choose to believe that what I focus upon, act upon and wish for will happen. Regardless how it comes about. I have had results from thinking and approaching things this way and it works for me.
But has it worked for you in a reliable way, Izzy?

What do you think will happen if you decide to adopt the belief that you are a billionaire? Will your belief that you are a billionaire make you a billionaire?

What do you think will happen if you decide to adopt the belief that you can fly unaided like a bird in the sky? Will your belief that you can fly like a bird give you the ability to do that?

What do you think will happen if you decide to adopt the belief that you will win the gold medal in the 100 meter sprint at the next summer Olympics or win the next Nobel Peace Prize or win the next mega-bucks lottery?

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Post by Belinda » January 22nd, 2010, 3:53 am

Keith Russell #46 writes
All true statements are tautological, ultimately.
In that case, with which I agree,are all true statements analytic? But synthetic, i.e. creative ,statements do they turn out to be true also if they accord with what is the case?I'm feeling confused, can you comment?

http://atheism.about.com/library/glossary/general/ bldef_analytic.htm
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Post by Meleagar » January 22nd, 2010, 8:26 am

Santini wrote:
What do you (Meleagar, Izzy) mean by experience? Do you mean that which is experienced through the five common senses or do you mean something else?
Well, not really. I experience in dreams and in imagination as well, I experience emotions and other things that aren't garnered through any of the common five senses.
Even that which is experienced through the five common senses (or other senses, for that matter) is not infallibly, indubitably known. For example, just because someone "sees" a space ship hovering in the evening gloam doesn't mean there is an actual space ship out there hovering in the evening gloam.
The fact and the truth refers to the experience, not to the quality of the thing as if it was something independent of the experience. The idea that the space ship actually exists objectively and independently as what they observed is an interpretation based on the perspective that a real, objective world exists that is in direct correlation to their observations.

Correctly worded descriptions of experience are always absolutely true in the only way anything can be known to be absolutely true (in my experience). "The sky is blue" is technically an insupportable statement when it comes to generating truthful, factual statements. "I see the sky as blue" is an example of a correctly worded truth & fact. "The sky is blue" is an interpretation of "I see the sky as blue" based on the ideology that an independent, objective reality exists in correlation to one's experience that is the same (basically) for all observers.

However, for an experientialist like myself, saying "the sky is blue" is the same thing as saying "I see the sky as blue" because the fundamental assumption is that one is only making statements about their experience, not about an objective world outside of their experience. Which is why I have to be careful about how I word statements in conversations about these kinds of things.
Just because someone "sees" something as unremarkable as a bookcase in an office doesn't mean there is an actual bookcase in that office. It could be a paper mache likeness of a bookcase. It could be a hologram. It could be a neuronal malfunction in your brain. It could be a dream.
"I see a bookcase in the office" would still be an absolutely truthful statement, even if they saw it with their mind's eye in a delusion or a dream. They are still seeing the bookcase whether others can see it or not.
That which is experienced directly is only evidence for something else but is not irrefutable proof of anything else beyond your own state of mind, i.e., your own belief.
I not only didn't claim it was proof of anything, I specifically stated several times that what is directly experienced isn't evidence, in and of itself, of anything. It is simply a brute fact of one's experience. It is only when one is interpreting these experiences they become evidence or proof of anything, such as: that one is dreaming, having a delusion, or is experiencing an objectively verifiable phenomena that actually exists in a real world.
For example, when you believe that you see the color red in the external world it is pretty much indisputable that you BELIEVE you see the color red. What is entirely disputable, however, is that the color red that you believe you see in the external world actually exists in the external world.
I made no claims that anything I experience exists in any objective, external world. I've already indicated in prior posts that the belief that one's experience evidences such a world is an interpretation based on an ideology.
The point is, is that even if you rely only on what you directly experience to know things about the world, you are still relying on evidence . . . and on fallible, dubitable evidence at that.
I never claimed to have knowledge about "the world"; I have knowledge about my experience.

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Post by NameRemoved » January 22nd, 2010, 8:59 am

What do you (Meleagar, Izzy) mean by experience? Do you mean that which is experienced through the five common senses or do you mean something else?

Even that which is experienced through the five common senses (or other senses, for that matter) is not infallibly, indubitably known. For example, just because someone "sees" a space ship hovering in the evening gloam doesn't mean there is an actual space ship out there hovering in the evening gloam.
The fives senses are in the mix, I have had very reliable outcomes not just for myself but for others.

Its not like there isn`t proof! Santini when a person gets for example a spiritual message ahead of time, ie a year ahead and it happens just like the spiritualist said it would and names and places etc..that is evidence
Last edited by NameRemoved on January 22nd, 2010, 9:17 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Post by Santini » January 22nd, 2010, 9:10 am

Thanks, Meleagar. You've obviously given quite a bit of thought to your epistemic system. I'd like to understand it but am not quite there yet. I've got a few more questions that might clear up some things for me. I'll try to get them posted this morning if possible.

Iz -- you seem to be having a few problems figuring out how to post to this board. Good luck.

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Post by NameRemoved » January 22nd, 2010, 9:19 am

Santini if you were genuine about finding evidence like I said to Scott you can find ample evidence on the net and from your own active research. thats a big IF when you both rate James Randi [a magician] who activly sets out to prove there is no afterlife and offers money to those who can prove to him, what he omits is that even if they did prove it to him he would deny the truth of it..ie he doesn`t want to pay up. Whilst its good to be sceptical of all claims ..I am aswell btw..this does not mean many are fraud like Randi suggests

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Post by Santini » January 22nd, 2010, 9:44 am

Meleagar wrote:I never claimed to have knowledge about "the world"; I have knowledge about my experience.
When I talk about the external world, I'm only referring to the experiences that we assume we have in common. For instance, both of us assume that other people read and sometimes reply to the messages that we post on this forum.

I think one's own personal experience is all anyone ever really claims to have knowledge of. It's all anyone CAN have knowledge of.

The external world is something that is assumed not proved. However, it is an assumption that we all make. Again, this assumption (i.e., that an external world exists) is the reason that you type out responses to me on your keyboard. If you did not make such an assumption, there would be no need for you to type out a response, correct? There would be no reason to eat or to do anything else.

That we experience the external world (if it exists) subjectively means nothing in terms of whether or not such a world actually exists. It means nothing because how else should we expect to experience anything including an external world but subjectively?

Whether or not an external world actually exists the concept is useful nonetheless in order to distinguish among different kinds of experiences. This is the reason that we assume it.

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Post by NameRemoved » January 22nd, 2010, 10:39 am

Santini wrote:
What do you think will happen if you decide to adopt the belief that you are a billionaire? Will your belief that you are a billionaire make you a billionaire?
I adopt the belief that money is coming to me and is good energy and when needed it always arrives and it does.
What do you think will happen if you decide to adopt the belief that you can fly unaided like a bird in the sky? Will your belief that you can fly like a bird give you the ability to do that?
Depends that could be deemed a silly question in light of Laws which govern our gravity. Its not such a silly question however when talking about flight as in astral travel.
What do you think will happen if you decide to adopt the belief that you will win the gold medal in the 100 meter sprint at the next summer Olympics or win the next Nobel Peace Prize or win the next mega-bucks lottery?
Well I don`t adopt a belief I don`t want to realise either. IF I decided I wanted to win an olympic medal I would practice and train for it with the total commitment and vision that I can win it. Nobel Peace Prize or winning the lottery is possible by consistent visionary thoughts of having it, and to act as if it can be acheived is more likly to make possible outcomes happen than to act as if its impossible in the first place.

Tell me if you decided that the afterlife cannot be proven, what would you do if it was proven to you?

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Post by Meleagar » January 22nd, 2010, 11:02 am

Santini wrote:When I talk about the external world, I'm only referring to the experiences that we assume we have in common. For instance, both of us assume that other people read and sometimes reply to the messages that we post on this forum.
I don't share that assumption.
The external world is something that is assumed not proved. However, it is an assumption that we all make.
I don't.
If you did not make such an assumption, there would be no need for you to type out a response, correct? There would be no reason to eat or to do anything else.
I don't see how your conclusion follows from the premise. If I assume that this is all an elaborate delusion or mental projection of some sort, how does that change the factual experience that requires me to type out statements in order to get responses in that delusion or dream?

When one is in a delusion or a dream, don't they experience hunger, or a desire to "do" something, based on reason or need?

Changing one's assumption that one is experiencing a delusion and not a shared objective universe doesn't remove the experience of desire to "do", or hunger or other sensations that provide motivation for action, as far as I can tell.
Whether or not an external world actually exists the concept is useful nonetheless in order to distinguish among different kinds of experiences. This is the reason that we assume it.
I don't. Is there a reason you keep using the term "we"? Are you attempting to objectify your personal worldview and perspective, whether I agree to it or not?

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