Facts vs truths - dogmatic belief in uniformitarianism?

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Facts vs truths - dogmatic belief in uniformitarianism?

Post by arjand » January 11th, 2021, 11:07 am

Following a discussion with @Terrapin Station in several topics, I hereby start a topic dedicated to the question whether it is valid to consider facts to be intrinsically different from truths.
Terrapin Station wrote:
March 25th, 2020, 11:59 am
Facts obtain whether people exist or not. Propositions do NOT obtain whether people exist or not.
Questions:
  1. What is the basis for the idea that facts can be obtained that differ from truths?
  2. Is autonomous application of science justified without a dogmatic belief in uniformatarianism?
  3. Can empirical science be a guiding principle for life (human progress), i.e. would it be valid to blindly follow the scientific method?
Consideration:

What could make a fact otherwise than truth if it is not a belief? My consideration is that merely a belief in uniformitarianism - the idea that the core of reality, e.g. the Laws of Physics (Nature), remains the same in time - is at the basis of the idea that facts are outside of the scope of other propositions.

Truth conditions of a perspective on reality are questionable just like the truth conditions of a proposition. In the case of facts, a truth condition is that facts are synthetic propositions predicated by existence in the real world (i.e. @Terrapin Station's argument: facts obtain whether people exist or not). Before one could consider this condition one will need to accept a certain truth about "reality" which is questionable.

Why would one be able to argue that the states of affairs i.e. "reality" is real or definitive? One could only use empirical evidence for such a claim and that implies that it is not known what causes reality to exist, by which it is to be implied that one cannot know if reality is real or definitive and thus it is not possible to claim that facts obtain when people (as an observer) exist or not.

Origin of the problem

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil (Chapter 6 - We Scholars) shared the following perspective on the evolution of science in relation to philosophy.
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote:The declaration of independence of the scientific man, his emancipation from philosophy, is one of the subtler after-effects of democratic organization and disorganization: the self- glorification and self-conceitedness of the learned man is now everywhere in full bloom, and in its best springtime - which does not mean to imply that in this case self-praise smells sweet. Here also the instinct of the populace cries, "Freedom from all masters!" and after science has, with the happiest results, resisted theology, whose "hand-maid" it had been too long, it now proposes in its wantonness and indiscretion to lay down laws for philosophy, and in its turn to play the "master" - what am I saying! to play the PHILOSOPHER on its own account.

...

in the end, however, one must learn caution even with regard to one's gratitude, and put a stop to the exaggeration with which the unselfing and depersonalizing of the spirit has recently been celebrated, as if it were the goal in itself, as if it were salvation and glorification - as is especially accustomed to happen in the pessimist school, which has also in its turn good reasons for paying the highest honours to "disinterested knowledge" The objective man, who no longer curses and scolds like the pessimist, the IDEAL man of learning in whom the scientific instinct blossoms forth fully after a thousand complete and partial failures, is assuredly one of the most costly instruments that exist, but his place is in the hand of one who is more powerful He is only an instrument, we may say, he is a MIRROR - he is no "purpose in himself"
According to Friedrich Nietzsche, when practicing science independently, scientists are essentially fulfilling the role of a philosopher. Logically, that would be based on a belief or dogma (uniformitarianism) that legitimizes autonomous application of science (i.e. without further thinking about whether it is actually 'good' what is being done).

A belief in uniformitarianism may not be justified. At question therefor is: can facts differ from truths?
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Re: Facts vs truths - dogmatic belief in uniformitarianism?

Post by arjand » January 22nd, 2021, 5:23 am

For a complete perspective on the reason why the questions may be relevant:

It appears that there is a general and established resistance to philosophy in science in which philosophy is placed on a level comparable with that of religions.

As an example, it is a generic complaint that cosmology operates more like a philosophy than a science.

Some perspectives on philosophy by scientists on a forum from a University in Britain (Cambridge):
Philosophy is bunk.

...

You may describe philosophy as a search for knowledge and truth. That is indeed vanity. Science is about the acquisition of knowledge, and most scientists avoid the use of "truth", preferring "repeatability" as more in line with our requisite humility in the face of observation.

...

Philosophers always pretend that their work is important and fundamental. It isn't even consistent. You can't build science on a rickety, shifting, arbitrary foundation. It is arguable that Judaeo-Christianity catalysed the development of science by insisting that there is a rational plan to the universe, but we left that idea behind a long time ago because there is no evidence for it.

...

Philosophy never provided a solution. But it has obstructed the march of science and the growth of understanding.

...

Philosophy a retrospective discipline, trying to extract something that philosophers consider important from what scientists have done (not what scientists think - scientific writing is usually intellectually dishonest!). Science is a process, not a philosophy. Even the simplest linguistics confirms this: we "do" science, nobody "does" philosophy.

...

Science is no more or less than the application of the process of observe, hypothesise, test, repeat. There's no suggestion of belief, philosophy or validity, any more than there is in the rules of cricket or the instructions on a bottle of shampoo: it's what distinguishes cricket from football, and how we wash hair. The value of science is in its utility. Philosophy is something else.

...

Philosophers have indeed determined the best path forward for humanity. Every religion, communism, free market capitalism, Nazism, indeed every ism under the sun, all had their roots in philosophy, and have led to everlasting conflict and suffering. A philosopher can only make a living by disagreeing with everyone else, so what do you expect?
A part of the problem may be that with science, when practiced independently, scientists are essentially fulfilling the role of a philosopher. As mentioned in the OP, that would be based on a belief or dogma (e.g. uniformitarianism) that legitimizes autonomous application of science (i.e. without further thinking about whether it is actually 'good' what is being done).

When it concerns morality (e.g. the question "what is 'good'?"), the scientific method may not be capable of guiding humanity in an optimal way.

My argument for philosophy:

Philosophy can test whether scientific beliefs / ideas or methodologies are plausible, and/or if they remain so upon new developments / discoveries. Philosophy can investigate questions that span multiple fields and connect the dots to find valuable insights that could be essential for determining what is "good" for the future of humans.

In the same time philosophy can be responsible. It will listen to scientists and anything that they pose can be challenged with no sort of dogmatic resistance. The rickety nature of philosophy could be a quality for flexibility and the prevention of dogma's. Instead of holding on to ideas, ideas can be changed if you can convince that it should.

My personal perspective/idea is that philosophy could be vital for humanity in the (near) future. To facilitate and structurize a return to the human wisdom "think before you act". With modern day risks such as exponential growth, putting intelligence before practice may become increasingly essential.

--

In summary: is it justified for science to operate autonomously? Can facts intrinsically differ from truths?
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Re: Facts vs truths - dogmatic belief in uniformitarianism?

Post by Gertie » January 23rd, 2021, 11:13 am

There's a lot in there! Thinking about your final two questions -


Can facts intrinsically differ from truths?
I think this is primarily a matter of agreeing/clarifying terminology. If your terminology makes a distinction between propositional truth claims and ontological facts, then you need to clarify your definitions to show what distinction you're claiming.

If the claim is that the difference rests on the existence of a real world beyond one's ability to know everything about it (or even that it exists beyond one's own experience of it), then sure, there's a difference between truth propositions and facts, because there can be unknown facts about the world.

Of course you're still left with the prob of how do you know the world independently exists and unknown facts exist?

So it looks like a bit of a pointless exercise to me. A more useful approach I think is to establish some structure of knowledge, so we can jointly agree what 'level' we are discussing. I don't know if this has been done, but I'd propose something like this -

Certainty - 'My' experiential states exist.

Inference - The contents of 'my' experiential states refer to a real world which exists, either independently of my experience, or in some relational state with my experiencing.

Once 'I' acknowledge that the existence of a real world independent of my experience is uncertain, I can go with the inference and ask if my experience tells me things about this world (a world of time, dimensions, stuff and processes, including my own body and other subjects too) - and ask how reliable is that knowledge?

At this point we can refer to inter-subjective consensus - I see a green apple and you agree you see it too. You suggest the green apple falls because of gravity, and I agree. We now have a shared model of the world we both inhabit. And we now have the basis for the scientific method.

This is a useful working model, but science itself tells us we are limited and fallible creatures which evolved for evolutionary utility, not perfect observation, cognition or knowledge (which may also cast doubt on our notions of reason and logic).


If you want to be stringent about facts using such a model, I'd say the only fact which can't be doubted is the first one - 'my' experiential states exist. But usually we don't discuss truth and knowledge and facts at that fundamentally sceptical level.
is it justified for science to operate autonomously?
Sure. As long as you bear the above in mind.

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Re: Facts vs truths - dogmatic belief in uniformitarianism?

Post by arjand » January 23rd, 2021, 9:05 pm

Gertie wrote:
January 23rd, 2021, 11:13 am
I think this is primarily a matter of agreeing/clarifying terminology. If your terminology makes a distinction between propositional truth claims and ontological facts, then you need to clarify your definitions to show what distinction you're claiming.

If the claim is that the difference rests on the existence of a real world beyond one's ability to know everything about it (or even that it exists beyond one's own experience of it), then sure, there's a difference between truth propositions and facts, because there can be unknown facts about the world.

Of course you're still left with the prob of how do you know the world independently exists and unknown facts exist?
A perspective derived from a certain philosophical inquiry (i.e. to distinguish facts from truths) is qualitatively different only by the value that one places on that philosophical method in relation to itself. In the end, it is merely a belief in a philosophical method that would provide a qualitative differentiator.

One can argue that "a particular rock is on the mountain" is a fact, but in order to formulate the perspective on the basis of which such a state of affairs can be defined, it requires truth conditions. This is not different than for example stating "Atheism is a religion".

The underlying problem may be a belief in uniformitarianism, a dogma. The following quote provides an example:
Comedian Ricky Gervais wrote:“If we took every science book, and every fact, and destroyed them all, in a thousand years they’d all be back, because all the same tests would [produce] the same results.”
The cited argument can only be considered correct when one would assume that the laws of physics (Nature) remains the same in time. There is a belief involved.
Gertie wrote:
January 23rd, 2021, 11:13 am
Once 'I' acknowledge that the existence of a real world independent of my experience is uncertain, I can go with the inference and ask if my experience tells me things about this world (a world of time, dimensions, stuff and processes, including my own body and other subjects too) - and ask how reliable is that knowledge?

At this point we can refer to inter-subjective consensus - I see a green apple and you agree you see it too. You suggest the green apple falls because of gravity, and I agree. We now have a shared model of the world we both inhabit. And we now have the basis for the scientific method.
A philosophical method by itself (e.g. the scientific method or inter-subjective consensus) is a perspective based on truth conditions. Truth conditions of a perspective on reality are questionable just like the truth conditions of a proposition.

The value of inter-subjective consensus does not suffice as a ground for the claim that facts are intrinsically different from truths or that they exist outside of the scope of a perspective. One would merely be able to hold a strong belief or faith in a philosophical method but that would be similar to holding faith in the existence of God with the evidence being intelligent design.

In a time span of 1000 years it may be that 99% of the facts remain the same but there is no theoretical ground for the idea that facts are intrinsically different from truths in time. It follows that one cannot pose that facts are intrinsically different from truths. Facts differ only on the basis of assumed qualitative value in relation to the human.

My personal logic shows that a conviction that facts are intrinsically different from truths could potentially result in disastrous flaws in human progress/evolution, which is my motivation to address the question.
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Re: Facts vs truths - dogmatic belief in uniformitarianism?

Post by Papus79 » January 24th, 2021, 1:32 am

I'd say that when people talk about truths vs. facts they're trying to draw orders of relevance and relevance tends to be a pragmatic thing.
This might be one of the areas where philosophy gets itself in trouble, in addition to the challenge of probing overlapping and complex definitions or words that have multiple somewhat orthogonal definitions, is the attempt to hold the world still and assess it in a steady frame rather than considering what it is in motion. In a perfectly still world most things are equal and more innocuous than usual. In a moving frame the variations in relevance expand and can radically change based on context. I get the sense that people tend to pay less attention to time, motion, and context by themselves perhaps because it seems trickier to run a deep analysis on verbs by themselves without subjects and objects.
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Re: Facts vs truths - dogmatic belief in uniformitarianism?

Post by Scott » January 24th, 2021, 1:39 am

Great topic, @arjand! :D

I love the Nietzsche quote! I read Beyond Good & Evil a long time ago, maybe about 10-15 years ago. I very much liked the book, but I don't remember the specifics, and I certainly don't remember that particular quote. So thank you for sharing. If I remember correctly, I remember the book jumping around quite a bit, which wasn't a bad thing for me because in some ways it made the ideas in the book easier to digest, each piece a bite-sized piece of his philosophy.
Gertie wrote:
January 23rd, 2021, 11:13 am
arjand wrote:
January 11th, 2021, 11:07 am
Can facts intrinsically differ from truths?
I think this is primarily a matter of agreeing/clarifying terminology. If your terminology makes a distinction between propositional truth claims and ontological facts, then you need to clarify your definitions to show what distinction you're claiming.
I agree with @Gertie on this particular point. I think the answer to the question, "Can facts intrinsically differ from truths" depends on how you define the word fact and how you define the word truth.

Do you mind providing a definition of what you mean in this topic by each of those words ('fact' and 'truth')?

I think that would help avoid any misunderstandings and unintentional fallacies of equivocation.
arjand wrote:
January 11th, 2021, 11:07 am
What is the basis for the idea that facts can be obtained that differ from truths?
I will wait to attempt to answer this question until I have a definition of what you mean by the term fact and the term truth, to make sure I understand the question.
arjand wrote:
January 11th, 2021, 11:07 am
Is autonomous application of science justified without a dogmatic belief in uniformatarianism?
I am not sure what it means for a application of something to be justified. What do you mean by justified?

(On the topic of justification or justice, I wrote a short fiction novella titled, Justice, which I feel through fiction essentially makes the case that justice/justification is generally a nonsense idea that often leads to dangerous and destructive behavior, such as murder. Whether that applies here would depend on what you mean by the word justification.)
arjand wrote:
January 11th, 2021, 11:07 am
[*]Can empirical science be a guiding principle for life (human progress) [...]
My first thought is that presumably anything could be a guiding principal for a specific life-form, specific person, specific creature. What guides one person might not guide another, and what tends to guide one animal or creature will likely not be the same thing that guides another.
arjand wrote:
January 11th, 2021, 11:07 am
would it be valid to blindly follow the scientific method?
What do you mean by the word valid?

In any case, I could probably come up with countless complaints or worries about blindly following anything, but I assume whether any of those worries are relevant here depends on what is meant by the word valid.
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Re: Facts vs truths - dogmatic belief in uniformitarianism?

Post by Gertie » January 24th, 2021, 7:19 am

Arjand
The value of inter-subjective consensus does not suffice as a ground for the claim that facts are intrinsically different from truths or that they exist outside of the scope of a perspective.

I agree, as I said, the only certain fact is that 'my' experiential states exist. But that radical scepticism is not useful when we are discussing facts about the inferred real world you and I share. I laid things out in a way which hopefully demonstrates that.

Our inter-subjective model of the world relies on us accepting each other's actual existence, accepting we share a real world, and sharing notes about what our own experiential states (perspectives) tell us about that world, and eventually coming up with the scientific method. The experiential states being all anyone has direct (factual) knowledge of.

Presumably you're saying something different - that there is a definition of ''fact'' and of ''truth'' which applies in our (inferred) shared world model which works once we've accepted all that, which distinguishes fact and truth?

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Re: Facts vs truths - dogmatic belief in uniformitarianism?

Post by arjand » January 24th, 2021, 10:37 am

Gertie wrote:
January 24th, 2021, 7:19 am
Arjand
The value of inter-subjective consensus does not suffice as a ground for the claim that facts are intrinsically different from truths or that they exist outside of the scope of a perspective.
I agree, as I said, the only certain fact is that 'my' experiential states exist.
What would be the argumentative foundation for that idea? The claim is retro-perspective at most, not much different than any other empirical evidence for 'reality'.

Can the origin of consciousness be defined (valued)? If not, then the term 'exist' cannot apply and one cannot argue that the existence of ones own experiental states is a fact of which it can be said that it intrinsically differs from truths (when considered on a fundamental level).
Gertie wrote:
January 24th, 2021, 7:19 am
But that radical scepticism is not useful when we are discussing facts about the inferred real world you and I share. I laid things out in a way which hopefully demonstrates that.
Facts clearly have a distinctive qualitative nature that is of utilitarian value with the success of science being evidence. However, can it be said that utilitarian value can be a guiding principle for life and human progress?

The belief that facts are intrinsically different from truths, in specific that they remain the same in time, has far-reaching implications. It results in a sort of religion with as primary idea that the value of life is limited to what an individual (e.g. a company) can 'see' in it and that idea in turn is used as a guiding principle for human progress.

My concern is that the belief that facts remain the same in time, and the use of that idea as a guiding principle for human progress, logically results in a figurative stone that sinks in the ocean of time.

If the qualitative nature of facts depends on a belief and when that belief is not justified in time, when taken to the extreme, it can result in potentially fatal flaws in human evolution, especially when considering modern day risks such as exponential growth.

An example is synthetic biology and the genetic engineering of animals and plants for short term interests of a human perspective. Would the practice be justified without the belief that facts remain the same in time?

Is the value of a plant or animal limited to what a human perspective can 'see' in it?

The belief that facts are intrinsically different from truths has profound implications.
Gertie wrote:
January 24th, 2021, 7:19 am
Presumably you're saying something different - that there is a definition of ''fact'' and of ''truth'' which applies in our (inferred) shared world model which works once we've accepted all that, which distinguishes fact and truth?
At question is not the distinguishability of facts compared with truths. At question is whether facts can intrinsically differ from truths when viewed on a fundamental level, i.e., if facts can be outside the scope of a perspective and not be dependent on truth conditions (a belief).
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Re: Facts vs truths - dogmatic belief in uniformitarianism?

Post by arjand » January 24th, 2021, 11:24 am

Papus79 wrote:
January 24th, 2021, 1:32 am
I'd say that when people talk about truths vs. facts they're trying to draw orders of relevance and relevance tends to be a pragmatic thing.
This might be one of the areas where philosophy gets itself in trouble, in addition to the challenge of probing overlapping and complex definitions or words that have multiple somewhat orthogonal definitions, is the attempt to hold the world still and assess it in a steady frame rather than considering what it is in motion. In a perfectly still world most things are equal and more innocuous than usual. In a moving frame the variations in relevance expand and can radically change based on context. I get the sense that people tend to pay less attention to time, motion, and context by themselves perhaps because it seems trickier to run a deep analysis on verbs by themselves without subjects and objects.
Yes, this is what I intended to indicate, and what I intended to question on a fundamental level.

The nature of a perspective in general can explain the origin of the problem. The begin that is introduced by the observing mind is ignored as a factor. The resulting perspective is that of a totality. One starts from the observing mind into infinity and thereby introduces finitude because the perspective is a search for foundation — a search that can never stop until it reaches the one and absolute Principle or Ground of all ground.

When it concerns morality, a totality perspective can undermine what is essential for morality to be possible. Therefor, a belief that facts remain the same in time can have profound implications despite that the utilitarian value of science can be made evident.

When considering the importance of the issue, in light of the utilitarian value of science, one could ask: can the belief that facts remain the same in time serve as a guiding principle for life?

Humans figuratively speaking started out of a cave and when weighing the potential for natural disaster against not making progress sufficiently fast could be in favor of the latter by definition. Turning a blind eye was in favor of human progress. At present times however, one could argue that humans should evolve and put intelligence before practice, and thus, that humans should re-consider whether a blind belief that facts remain the same in time is plausible as guiding principle for the future.
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Re: Facts vs truths - dogmatic belief in uniformitarianism?

Post by Papus79 » January 24th, 2021, 12:35 pm

arjand wrote:
January 24th, 2021, 11:24 am
The nature of a perspective in general can explain the origin of the problem. The begin that is introduced by the observing mind is ignored as a factor. The resulting perspective is that of a totality. One starts from the observing mind into infinity and thereby introduces finitude because the perspective is a search for foundation — a search that can never stop until it reaches the one and absolute Principle or Ground of all ground.
Our tendency to 'chunk' or parcel off what we can understand in relationship, the peak of this is the isolation of variables in experiments, seems like it works great on lower levels but tends to cause more 'hidden' artifacts in our assumptions which are less of a problem at lower levels where things aren't abstract but it wreaks havoc on things like the social sciences and gets even worse with open-ended philosophy. It doesn't help either that as biological agents, on a fitness landscape, we really aren't built well for completely impartial/neutral judgment of a landscape for attempts at absolute ordering of salience and it's part of why it's an incredibly rare (even when cultivated) gift that some can approximate that well enough to get useful results.
arjand wrote:
January 24th, 2021, 11:24 am
When it concerns morality, a totality perspective can undermine what is essential for morality to be possible. Therefor, a belief that facts remain the same in time can have profound implications despite that the utilitarian value of science can be made evident.
It seems like that wish again that the universe would just 'hold still' and behave the same at every level of resolution. Morality really centers, in my estimation, on consciousness - whether suffering on one hand or cancelled opportunity for pleasure, growth, or the transcendental on another. Subjective experiences tend to be something sufficiently complex for that at our particular meso-layer of scale and almost any other kind of conscious form that people might suggest is out there is still a meso-layer phenomena unless it's pantheos and the nature of that would understandably be much different in both orientation and scope (albeit it might be part of a whole other meso-layer and have a parallel experience to our own).
arjand wrote:
January 24th, 2021, 11:24 am
When considering the importance of the issue, in light of the utilitarian value of science, one could ask: can the belief that facts remain the same in time serve as a guiding principle for life?
I'm going to say a couple things on this:
1) Taking seriously the notion that facts exist as autonomous verifiable things is critical and it's something that we should take as boiler-plate, even if they themselves often mutate over time.
2) Unfortunately the facts on their own will not do the thinking for us. They might help set up boundary conditions, such as what constitutes harms, public ills, or what adds to suffering without an equal or opposite good.

Something a little off topic - John Vervaeke was just on Tim Freke's 'What Is Life'. While I like a lot of Vervaeke's content admittedly some of the Awakening from the Meaning Crisis can be quite dry and academic, he and Tim did a really good job of unpacking his ideas in this particular episode and one of the things the were talking about in this is the importance of both bottom-up and top-down emergence as well as trying to figure out what we're supposed to do with our more 'spiritual' or relevance and meaning-oriented software as we get away more from the transcendent vs. mundane dichotomies and look at the whole universe (through the eyes of science) as a gradient of the same thing. It got me thinking about how we're trying to assess at least three vectors at the same time - bottom up, top-down, and temporally horizontal. The horizontal is probably the easiest thing for us to get our heads around because it's right in front of us and we can generally see it in motion in an intuitive ways, bottom-up and top-down emergence OTOH can be a bit more recondite and we also run into trouble even on the horizontal level if we try to think of these perpetually branching and flowering Markov chains and situations where, like growth of the human body, the information seems to be repeating numeric clicks of a sort that lead to divergent and convergent series, and seeing numbers like 'e' and 'phi' all over the place in nature seems to be in large part at least an artifact of that process. What at least get's me excited - listening to people like John I get the impression that there are people who are moving us into the 21st century (perhaps a bit beyond even) in terms of building framing for these issues that may very well be up to the task of making further progress on it.
arjand wrote:
January 24th, 2021, 11:24 am
Humans figuratively speaking started out of a cave and when weighing the potential for natural disaster against not making progress sufficiently fast could be in favor of the latter by definition. Turning a blind eye was in favor of human progress. At present times however, one could argue that humans should evolve and put intelligence before practice, and thus, that humans should re-consider whether a blind belief that facts remain the same in time is plausible as guiding principle for the future.
Not sure I followed that fully - did you mean the frailty of economic and social systems to economic disaster vs. redundancy of personal capacity for obtaining food? Clearly we're seeing a bit of that with Covid and what it's been doing to the infrastructures of globalism.

On facts remaining the same or not remaining the same - I guess it depends on what we're labeling as fact. It's a kitsch example but I think of Chris Rock talking about Islam's banning of pork products vs. modern refrigeration, the later solving the problem that the former prohibition was (possibly) intended to work around. Leaving aside whether it may have had more to do with sympathies and behaviors of pigs, to say that 'pork is high risk for trichinosis' is something that weathers the test of time better than 'pork is bad', and what might even weather the test of time better is to say 'trichinosis does x to the human body', because who knows - in the future pigs might not carry trichinosis. Thinking more about the complexity of this though - human genes might change to be immune to trichinosis and make it a so what, similarly trichinosis itself could mutate into something completely different. The dynamic nature of that though doesn't seem to do much to a given fixed point in time and what the causal relationships are (which means conclusions that ignore facts generally won't be durable).

I was going round with some people about Dawkin's latest article in The Spectator, about science vs. intuition, and some of the #ShutDownSTEM sorts of things which have had people worried. I think he holds up a particular polar extreme on this in the way that Ayn Rand did on libertarianism. For example if we completely cancel the vast amount of subconscious and unconscious influences that our lives have, and get rid of the reality of having a billion year old plus evolutionary firm-wear stack sure, we can be utterly logical creatures. In a way I can't help get a laugh though at what modern medicine is making of psilocybin and the effects, in particular, of mystical experiences on psychedelics coming to bear on cognitive health and well-being (blowing SSRI's out of the water). Not only is the outer universe largely untamable, the inner universe is only tamable as an alliance when we come to accept it on its own terms, and people's desire for ritual, deep connection, engagement with archetypal symbol, contact with spirits, etc., is part of that. Similarly Dawkins can have is roe with the findings of people like Jacques Vallee in the sense that yes - the physical landscape seems utterly reliable, monotonous, and mechanistic on the surface layer - until it blows us the raspberry in some way, which it does to people all the time.

I think this is where people just have to be incredibly flexible. On one hand have their BS-detectors very well tuned (not just to avoid getting scammed but to avoid losing years if not decades of their lives spinning their wheels), but at the same time getting too emotionally attached to any particular frame is dangerous - it's a great way to get left in the dustbin of history with the ideas one is clinging to.
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Re: Facts vs truths - dogmatic belief in uniformitarianism?

Post by arjand » January 24th, 2021, 2:09 pm

Scott wrote:
January 24th, 2021, 1:39 am
Great topic, @arjand! :D

I love the Nietzsche quote! I read Beyond Good & Evil a long time ago, maybe about 10-15 years ago. I very much liked the book, but I don't remember the specifics, and I certainly don't remember that particular quote. So thank you for sharing. If I remember correctly, I remember the book jumping around quite a bit, which wasn't a bad thing for me because in some ways it made the ideas in the book easier to digest, each piece a bite-sized piece of his philosophy.
There is a great audio-book available by reader Jeffrey Church, a professor of political science who is specialized in Nietzsche. His fun reading awoke more interest in Nietzsche's books for me:

https://librivox.org/the-genealogy-of-m ... nietzsche/
Scott wrote:
January 24th, 2021, 1:39 am
I agree with @Gertie on this particular point. I think the answer to the question, "Can facts intrinsically differ from truths" depends on how you define the word fact and how you define the word truth.

Do you mind providing a definition of what you mean in this topic by each of those words ('fact' and 'truth')?

I think that would help avoid any misunderstandings and unintentional fallacies of equivocation.
The following quote that I cited earlier, provides an example:
Comedian Ricky Gervais wrote:“If we took every science book, and every fact, and destroyed them all, in a thousand years they’d all be back, because all the same tests would [produce] the same results.”
There is a belief involved. At question in this topic is whether that belief is valid.
Scott wrote:
January 24th, 2021, 1:39 am
arjand wrote:
January 11th, 2021, 11:07 am
Is autonomous application of science justified without a dogmatic belief in uniformatarianism?
I am not sure what it means for a application of something to be justified. What do you mean by justified?

(On the topic of justification or justice, I wrote a short fiction novella titled, Justice, which I feel through fiction essentially makes the case that justice/justification is generally a nonsense idea that often leads to dangerous and destructive behavior, such as murder. Whether that applies here would depend on what you mean by the word justification.)
Justification is part of ethics and as such can undermine morality.

Philosopher Bertrand Russell was opposed ethical claims because, in his view, ethics results in violence. Ethics is essentially a fixative claim to good and bad that legitimizes violence against what is claimed to be "bad".

According to Bertrand Russell ethical philosophy offers little more than self-serving argument to justify violence. He developed a disgust of all ethical claims.

(2020) The politics of logic - Philosophy at war: nationalism and logical analysis
Russell told one colleague that the talk (On Scientific Method in Philosophy, Oxford) ‘was partly inspired by disgust at the universal outburst of “righteousness” in all nations since the war began. It seems the essence of virtue is persecution, and it has given me a disgust of all ethical notions.
...
In private, Russell referred to the essay as ‘Philosophers and Pigs’.

https://aeon.co/essays/philosophy-at-wa ... l-analysis

While it is clear that ethics can undermine morality, ethics also has an other end. It is what ultimately defines what it is to be human, and thus what it is to be "good". Ethics in effect for the human is its performance as a specie.

When considering justification from a philosophical perspective, in light of the general interest of humanity, one does not use justification as a value claim but as a logical demand in the face of reason. The usage of the term just is different.

If reason can make a case that a belief that facts remain the same in time is not plausible then one can argue that a practice that affects humanity in general that is based on such a belief, is not justified. The term justified is used here as a means to allow contention.

Scott wrote:
January 24th, 2021, 1:39 am
arjand wrote:
January 11th, 2021, 11:07 am
[*]Can empirical science be a guiding principle for life (human progress) [...]
My first thought is that presumably anything could be a guiding principal for a specific life-form, specific person, specific creature. What guides one person might not guide another, and what tends to guide one animal or creature will likely not be the same thing that guides another.
Yes, but when one considers the concept wisdom and its essentiality if the goal is for humans to prosper and survive, one could argue that humans should choose wisely when they have the capacity to do so.

One then becomes subject to reason and will intend to prevent to be subject to arbitrariness by questioning the guiding principle of human progress.
Scott wrote:
January 24th, 2021, 1:39 am
arjand wrote:
January 11th, 2021, 11:07 am
would it be valid to blindly follow the scientific method?
What do you mean by the word valid?

In any case, I could probably come up with countless complaints or worries about blindly following anything, but I assume whether any of those worries are relevant here depends on what is meant by the word valid.
Valid as in justified in the face of reason? Blindly points to the underlying belief that facts remain the same in time by which science assumes that it is legitimized to operate autonomously, i.e. 'without philosophy' (the question whether it is actually 'good' what is being done).
If life were to be good as it was, there would be no reason to exist.

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Re: Facts vs truths - dogmatic belief in uniformitarianism?

Post by Gertie » January 24th, 2021, 2:20 pm

Arjand



I agree, as I said, the only certain fact is that 'my' experiential states exist.
What would be the argumentative foundation for that idea? The claim is retro-perspective at most, not much different than any other empirical evidence for 'reality'.

Can the origin of consciousness be defined (valued)? If not, then the term 'exist' cannot apply and one cannot argue that the existence of ones own experiental states is a fact of which it can be said that it intrinsically differs from truths (when considered on a fundamental level).

I'd put it that this is a directly known fact which I can't be mistaken about, because the nature of experience is itself to be directly known. It's just the way it is, if you have conscious (as Nagel puts it ''what it is like'') experience, you can't help but know it while it's happening.

When you have a dreamless sleep, the apple on your bedside table is no longer known of to you (nothing is), until you wake up. But you can still assume it's a fact that the apple continued existing, even while you slept. I assume the apple tree in my garden still exists when I'm not observing it, and it grows out of sight. There might be apple trees growing no-one has seen and made truth claims about, but they might still factually exist. Once we escape solipsism and assume we live in a shared world, we can usefully talk about facts we can't actually observe, based on assumptions we make about facts we can observe.


Gertie wrote: ↑
Today, 7:19 am
But that radical scepticism is not useful when we are discussing facts about the inferred real world you and I share. I laid things out in a way which hopefully demonstrates that.
Facts clearly have a distinctive qualitative nature that is of utilitarian value with the success of science being evidence. However, can it be said that utilitarian value can be a guiding principle for life and human progress?

I don't know what you mean by ''facts having a ''qualiative nature''. The utilitarian value of having a shared model of the world we share is obvious. The scientific method builds on that by incorporating tests of peer review and repeatability in order to progress methodically by consensus. The utility proof is in the pudding. But all that our observations and theories can build is a model, because evolution tells us we are limited and flawed observers and thinkers, adapted for utility. So as regards truths and facts, science can only say This Model or Theory Holds... Until It Doesn't.


A Guiding Principle in life or progress is about more than facts and truths of course. Because conscious critters have a quality of life. We can't be fully described in 'objective' physicalist and measurable terms, the toolkit of science. We also have feelings, desires, goals, frustrations, etc. Life is meaningful, matters and has value to conscious critters. This is where Morality comes in, because it's our ability to experience a quality of life which makes it matter how we treat each other. That is the appropriate foundation for Oughts imo - the wellbeing of conscious creatures, as Harris pithily puts it.
The belief that facts are intrinsically different from truths, in specific that they remain the same in time, has far-reaching implications. It results in a sort of religion with as primary idea that the value of life is limited to what an individual (e.g. a company) can 'see' in it and that idea in turn is used as a guiding principle for human progress.
How so? I can say it's a fact that I'm currently typing a reply to you, for example. In a minute that won't be a fact. It's hard to follow you without agreeing definitions.
My concern is that the belief that facts remain the same in time, and the use of that idea as a guiding principle for human progress, logically results in a figurative stone that sinks in the ocean of time.

If the qualitative nature of facts depends on a belief and when that belief is not justified in time, when taken to the extreme, it can result in potentially fatal flaws in human evolution, especially when considering modern day risks such as exponential growth.

An example is synthetic biology and the genetic engineering of animals and plants for short term interests of a human perspective. Would the practice be justified without the belief that facts remain the same in time?

Is the value of a plant or animal limited to what a human perspective can 'see' in it?

The belief that facts are intrinsically different from truths has profound implications.

I'd say that once we accept that plants and animals exist in our shared world, how we treat them is then an issue of morality. If plants have no quality of life (can't experience 'what it is like' to be a tree or daffodil) they have no interests in the state of affairs - what happens to them is meaningless to them. Same with rocks and toasters. However conscious animal species do have a quality of life, and thus a stake in what happens to them, and so Ought to be treated with Moral consideration.


So I don't see this as an issue of Facts v Truth, rather of acknowledging the special qualiative (''what it is like'') nature of consciousness, which give conscious Subjects an interest in the state of affairs (ie why it matters what happens to us and how we treat other experiencing Subjects)
Gertie wrote: ↑
Today, 7:19 am
Presumably you're saying something different - that there is a definition of ''fact'' and of ''truth'' which applies in our (inferred) shared world model which works once we've accepted all that, which distinguishes fact and truth?
At question is not the distinguishability of facts compared with truths. At question is whether facts can intrinsically differ from truths when viewed on a fundamental level, i.e., if facts can be outside the scope of a perspective and not be dependent on truth conditions (a belief).
Give me your definitions of ''fact'' and ''truth'' and I'll try to answer more specifically, I think we're largely talking past each other.

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Re: Facts vs truths - dogmatic belief in uniformitarianism?

Post by Terrapin Station » January 26th, 2021, 11:29 am

arjand wrote:
January 11th, 2021, 11:07 am
[*]What is the basis for the idea that facts can be obtained that differ from truths?
"Obtain" is basically another term for "exist"--so we'd be asking the basis for the idea that facts can exist where facts are different than truths.

Facts are states of affairs/ways that things are.

Truth-value is a property of a proposition (on my view, namely a judgment about the relationship between a proposition and something else). Propositions, just in case anyone needs a reminder, are the meanings of declarative sentences. (They're not seen as identical to declarative sentences because the conventional idea is that you can have the same proposition in two different languages--but they're not the same sentence. In other words, "Snow is white" and "Schnee ist weiss" are (or at least can be) the same proposition--the meaning (can be) the same, but they're obviously not the same sentence.)

My view is obviously rooted in ontological realism.
[*]Is autonomous application of science justified without a dogmatic belief in uniformatarianism?
I don't know what this is asking, exactly, but justifications are subjective on my view.
[*]Can empirical science be a guiding principle for life (human progress), i.e. would it be valid to blindly follow the scientific method?
[/list]
The only science there can be of normatives or values is a descriptive science of those things. In other words, a study of what people happen to value, why they value it, etc. Science can't tell us what to value, what to do. There are no objective facts about such things. There are simply dispositions that individuals have when it comes to normatives and values.
Why would one be able to argue that the states of affairs i.e. "reality" is real or definitive? One could only use empirical evidence for such a claim and that implies that it is not known what causes reality to exist, by which it is to be implied that one cannot know if reality is real or definitive and thus it is not possible to claim that facts obtain when people (as an observer) exist or not.
There are a number of curious things here.

First, why would "what causes reality to exist" be necessary for knowing whether there is reality? (Keeping in mind that by "reality" here we're referring to the objective world.)

Second, I'm not sure how you're using "know." Some people seem to use "know" so that knowledge only obtains when there is certainty, and that seems to maybe be the case here because of the word "definitive." I don't agree with using "know/knowledge" that way, though. On my view, we have different options for belief in a case like this--ontological realism vs ontological idealism, for example, and the issue is simply the reasons that we consider good enough reasons to believe one option versus another.

FInally, even if we were using "know/knowledge" with a certainty connotation, it would certainly be possible to claim things in lieu of certainty, otherwise we'd be able to make claims about almost nothing.


The gist of my comments about this stuff aren't any sort of deference to science, by the way. It seems like you're maybe thinking that it is.

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Re: Facts vs truths - dogmatic belief in uniformitarianism?

Post by Terrapin Station » January 26th, 2021, 11:44 am

arjand wrote:
January 22nd, 2021, 5:23 am
For a complete perspective on the reason why the questions may be relevant . . .
My experience with this aspect is that a lot of (but certainly not all) scientists/mathematicians, etc. aren't very concerned with philosophy because they're focused on a utilitarian/instrumental approach to science/mathematics, and there's more than enough to learn/plenty to work on from that perspective to keep folks occupied for a lifetime if that's their disposition. Folks with this disposition want to learn the conventional wisdom of the disciplines they're interested in, and they want to get to work applying it and extending it (or modifying it if that turns out to be needed).

In other words, say that we're talking about someone pursuing astrophysics. They want to focus on learning the plethora of information they need to practically do astrophysics in a professional context, then they want to find employment where they can get to work making astrophysical observations. A big focus of philosophy tends to be critically examining/challenging assumptions, but doing that in an astrophysics context isn't going to help anyone learn the conventions of astrophysics or get to work making observations. And since the nature of philosophy lends itself to critically challenging the critical challenges of other philosophers, etc., the best we normally get for "big consensus conclusions" are various competing factions. So none of that helps or is much interest to someone focused on science/mathematics from a practical/utilitarian/instrumental perspective.

Of course, science can't divorce itself from philosophical content, but for the sort of people I'm talking about--and that's a lot of scientists/mathematicians, the only important thing is that science/mathematics as practiced at present works--we have things like computers and smart phones and microwave ovens and we've gone to the moon, etc. So they see no need to worry about philosophical underpinnings.

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Re: Facts vs truths - dogmatic belief in uniformitarianism?

Post by Steve3007 » January 27th, 2021, 8:05 am

Terrapin Station wrote:...Of course, science can't divorce itself from philosophical content, but for the sort of people I'm talking about--and that's a lot of scientists/mathematicians, the only important thing is that science/mathematics as practiced at present works--we have things like computers and smart phones and microwave ovens and we've gone to the moon, etc. So they see no need to worry about philosophical underpinnings.
I think the point where that subset of scientists and/or mathematicians (the purely practical/utilitarian/instrumentalist ones) cross paths with the philosophers of science is where the philosophical positions taken by those philosophers imply different practical positions. So the two groups can no longer continue in their separate parallel worlds but crash into each other. I'm trying to think of any examples of where that has definitely happened in any of the science-related discussions that have happened recently on this board. Surprisingly (maybe), it's hard to immediately and unambiguously think of one.

There have been discussions about things like "what's really going on" in experiments relating to quantum mechanics. But of course "what's really going on" is ontology, and practical/utilitarian/instrumentalist scientists aren't really interested in ontology and sometimes claim that QM demonstrates the question "what's really going on?" is meaningless. There have also been wider discussions about the general nature of reality, like the physicalist proposition that everything is matter or relationships between matter (or some better version of that phrasing). Maybe there are implications for those instrumentalists arising from that philosophical position which force them to either agree or disagree with it? It certainly felt as though there were when we last discussed it. But I can't immediately put my finger on what those implications might be.

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