How is it that We Can Trust Our Faculties?

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anonymous66
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Re: How is it that We Can Trust Our Faculties?

Post by anonymous66 » February 13th, 2020, 1:47 pm

@Steve3007

Imagine a critic of evolution saying something like "We can't know evolution is an accurate theory- after all we evolved on this planet in a way that selects for survival- not for creating accurate representations of reality- so we should doubt the accuracy of the theory of evolution."

As opposed to that sentiment- I take it that we humans have faculties such that we can create accurate representations of reality- and the theory of evolution is an example of that ability.

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Re: How is it that We Can Trust Our Faculties?

Post by Cats » February 13th, 2020, 2:09 pm

anonymous66 wrote:
February 13th, 2020, 10:42 am
Cats wrote:
February 13th, 2020, 3:22 am
I haven't read the book yet but I'm interested in it. I think it's healthy for scientific theories to be challenged now and then, and if it survives the testing then it only becomes stronger. The scientific community as much as the religious community can become possessed by their ideas.
What scientific theory do you imagine is being challenged?
..evolution? Did I miss something

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Re: How is it that We Can Trust Our Faculties?

Post by Terrapin Station » February 13th, 2020, 3:25 pm

anonymous66 wrote:
February 13th, 2020, 11:47 am
Terrapin Station wrote:
February 13th, 2020, 10:49 am


If you can't believe your faculties, then how would we have any access to information about the world that allows us to discover anything about evolution? The notion that evolution could tell us that we can't trust our faculties undermines the notion that we were able to discover anything about evolution in the first place.

No one is saying there are no optical illusions. Hence the "ceteris paribus" clause in my comment. However, we'd have zero grounds for saying that anything is an optical illusion if we can't trust our faculties to know what's really occurring contra the illusion. The mere fact that we can parse some things as an illusion contra what's really going on undermines the notion that we can't trust our faculties period.

Hence, there's no good reason to believe that we can't trust our faculties, ceteris paribus.
Let me try this.
1. Evolution is an accurate description of reality
2. Because of the nature of evolution- the organisms that survive are those that just have those qualities that ensure their survival. We have plenty of evidence that organisms are fallible. (if God exists and he is a designer, then he is terrible at his job).
3. We can trust our faculties.
4. The fact that both (a) evolution is true and (b) we can trust our faculties is a mystery that deserves an answer.

It seems to me that you deny premise 4.
It seems to me that you believe we ought to just trust our faculties and ignore the mystery of how it is that we have reliable faculties.
First, I think that (2) is sloppily stated. We know that perceptions can get things wrong, but we know that usually they're not wrong. And then beyond that, yeah, re (4), I don't think that it's a mystery how we get things right most of the time.

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Steve3007
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Re: How is it that We Can Trust Our Faculties?

Post by Steve3007 » February 13th, 2020, 4:05 pm

anonymous66 wrote:Imagine a critic of evolution saying something like "We can't know evolution is an accurate theory- after all we evolved on this planet in a way that selects for survival- not for creating accurate representations of reality- so we should doubt the accuracy of the theory of evolution."

As opposed to that sentiment- I take it that we humans have faculties such that we can create accurate representations of reality- and the theory of evolution is an example of that ability.
I presume this isn't meant to be relevant to what I said about the word "trust" in the previous post. So I'll treat it as a standalone comment.


Your imaginary critic of evolution seems to be saying: If evolution didn't select for minds that can understand evolution then those minds should doubt the accuracy of evolution. There seems to me an obvious self contradiction there: obviously any mind that wasn't selected by evolution to be able to understand evolution won't be capable of doubting it. We can see the absurdity by applying it to, say, beetles (or any other creature that is probably not remotely capable of considering the pros and cons of theories of Biology):

Beetles can't know evolution is an accurate theory because they evolved in a way that selects for survival - not for creating accurate representations of reality - so beetles should doubt the accuracy of the theory of evolution.


That seems to me to be the reason to oppose the sentiment. The presence or absence of creature who have evolved to be capable of understanding evolution has no bearing on whether evolution happens. It would be happening even if humans hadn't evolved.

---

It reminds me vaguely of something that the Biologist J.B.S. Haldane once said about the thought that our minds are properties of the matter of which our brains are made:
J.B.S. Haldane wrote:An inordinate fondness for beetles
No, sorry not that one. This one:
J.B.S. Haldane wrote:It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.

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Re: How is it that We Can Trust Our Faculties?

Post by Terrapin Station » February 13th, 2020, 4:20 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
February 13th, 2020, 4:05 pm

Beetles can't know evolution is an accurate theory because they evolved in a way that selects for survival - not for creating accurate representations of reality - so beetles should doubt the accuracy of the theory of evolution.
Re other animals' mental natures, I don't think we have any idea what they'd be like, what they would or wouldn't know, etc.

I think it makes sense to guesstimate that other animals with similar brains to us (including other humans) would probably have similar mental phenomena, but the more dissimilar brains are, the less we'd be able to make a reasonable guess what their mentality would be like.

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Re: How is it that We Can Trust Our Faculties?

Post by Steve3007 » February 13th, 2020, 4:31 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:Re other animals' mental natures, ...
No doubt true. But my point was to illustrate what I see as the self-contradiction in the statement by anonymous66's imaginary critic of evolution. "Beetle" could be replaced by "rock".

Rocks can't know evolution is an accurate theory because ... they're rocks - not capable of creating accurate representations of reality - so rocks should doubt the accuracy of the theory of evolution.

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Re: How is it that We Can Trust Our Faculties?

Post by Prof Bulani » February 14th, 2020, 3:30 am

Pattern-chaser wrote:
February 13th, 2020, 11:49 am
Prof Bulani wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 6:41 pm
Organisms that accurately perceive their external environment can more effectively navigate their environment and therefore survive. Organisms that fail to accurately perceive their environment don't survive. Evolution selects for organisms with accurate perception.
Evolution selects for organisms with the abilities necessary to survive. Accurate perception is not necessarily such an ability, although it might be.... You seem fond of drawing conclusions without justifying them first. 🤔
Give an example of a survival scenario in which accurate perception is not necessarily a trait strongly linked to survivability.
"The purpose of life is to survive and replicate" - Erik von Markovik

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Re: How is it that We Can Trust Our Faculties?

Post by Prof Bulani » February 14th, 2020, 3:33 am

anonymous66 wrote:
February 13th, 2020, 11:35 am
@Prof Bulani
It seems we disagree as to the nature and/or definition of evolution. I've never seen a description or definition of evolution that includes anything about "accurate perception".

We'll need to agree on the nature of evolution before we can continue.
We don't. Unless you disagree that natural selection is the process by which traits that make an organism more prone to survival are traits that get passed on genetically.
"The purpose of life is to survive and replicate" - Erik von Markovik

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Re: How is it that We Can Trust Our Faculties?

Post by Bluemist » February 14th, 2020, 6:42 am

But the theory of evolution only describes the statistical trends of the past. It does not tell us that we or any other being are a successful outcome of some speculative evolutionary process.
For all I know, all people could be gone next year due to viruses or an asteroid or a self-inflicted global war. The theory still continues with whatever is left.
If you don't believe in telekinesis then raise your right hand :wink:

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Re: How is it that We Can Trust Our Faculties?

Post by Steve3007 » February 14th, 2020, 6:54 am

Terrapin Station wrote:A simpler, kind of evergreen way to look at it is this: we have no grounds for saying that anything is an illusion if we don't have a means of determining that the illusion was mistaken because such and such was actually what was going on. So "everything is an illusion" can't work. There's no way to get there if you don't have some non-illusory information. The non-illusory information is necessary to determine that some specific thing is an illusion.

For example, if you have no way of determining that there's actually no water puddle in the middle of the baking-hot road ahead, then you have no grounds for saying the appearance of water in the road is an illusion. You need to have correct information--which means you need to be able to get at how things really are, in at least a limited arena, to enable saying that some perception or phenomenon is an illusion.
To put it in semantic terms: If we decided to adopt the view that everything we perceive with our senses is an illusion, then the word "illusion" is drained of its ability to distinguish between concepts. It's a bit like saying "everyone is tall".

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Re: How is it that We Can Trust Our Faculties?

Post by Terrapin Station » February 14th, 2020, 8:56 am

Steve3007 wrote:
February 14th, 2020, 6:54 am
Terrapin Station wrote:A simpler, kind of evergreen way to look at it is this: we have no grounds for saying that anything is an illusion if we don't have a means of determining that the illusion was mistaken because such and such was actually what was going on. So "everything is an illusion" can't work. There's no way to get there if you don't have some non-illusory information. The non-illusory information is necessary to determine that some specific thing is an illusion.

For example, if you have no way of determining that there's actually no water puddle in the middle of the baking-hot road ahead, then you have no grounds for saying the appearance of water in the road is an illusion. You need to have correct information--which means you need to be able to get at how things really are, in at least a limited arena, to enable saying that some perception or phenomenon is an illusion.
To put it in semantic terms: If we decided to adopt the view that everything we perceive with our senses is an illusion, then the word "illusion" is drained of its ability to distinguish between concepts. It's a bit like saying "everyone is tall".
Exactly.

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Re: How is it that We Can Trust Our Faculties?

Post by Bluemist » February 14th, 2020, 10:14 am

'Illusion' implies that there is something else that is not an illusion waiting to be discovered under the label 'reality'.

This is in contrast to natural naive trust in the belief that my personal experience can be projected onto others and further extended into a doctrine of common reality for all. Common reality then moves on to illegitimately include whichever popular current scientific facts may be convenient to add to a rationale that this reality is a reliable basis for reasoning about the world.
If you don't believe in telekinesis then raise your right hand :wink:

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Re: How is it that We Can Trust Our Faculties?

Post by Steve3007 » February 15th, 2020, 5:40 am

Bluemist wrote:'Illusion' implies that there is something else that is not an illusion waiting to be discovered under the label 'reality'.
Yes. If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, let's just call it a duck, not "the illusion of a duck". Otherwise we won't have a term to use when we see the illusion of a duck.
This is in contrast to natural naive trust in the belief that my personal experience can be projected onto others and further extended into a doctrine of common reality for all...
I don't see that as "naive trust". I see it as going with what has worked in the past. i.e. Induction. If I see a table, and I have various reasons (based on past and current experiences) to believe that it is not just a table of the mind - stemming from my heat oppressed brain - then I believe other people will also see that table. That is what I mean when I say "there is a table". i.e. when I make an objective proposition (a proposition about an object) rather than saying something odd like "I am having a table perception". That belief is not something that I would call "naive trust". It's just what works.
...Common reality then moves on to illegitimately include whichever popular current scientific facts may be convenient to add to a rationale that this reality is a reliable basis for reasoning about the world
What do you mean by the term "popular" here? In your view, what is it about the current theory on something that makes it current? Why, and in what sense, did it replace the previous theory? Under what circumstances might it, in its turn, be replaced?

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Re: How is it that We Can Trust Our Faculties?

Post by Belindi » February 15th, 2020, 6:05 am

Anonymous as OP wrote:
I'm committed to the idea that evolution is a reality, but how do we keep the reality of evolution from undermining our ability to know?
If you are "committed to the idea---- "like an American pragmatist ,and you may be an American pragmatist, you will do well to know the theory of evolution by natural selection is true pro tem.

If, on the other hand, you believe ideas permanently exist in some alternative reality then you are open to crises of faith.

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Re: How is it that We Can Trust Our Faculties?

Post by Terrapin Station » February 15th, 2020, 7:24 am

Steve3007 wrote:
February 15th, 2020, 5:40 am
If I see a table, and I have various reasons (based on past and current experiences) to believe that it is not just a table of the mind - stemming from my heat oppressed brain - then I believe other people will also see that table. That is what I mean when I say "there is a table". i.e. when I make an objective proposition (a proposition about an object) rather than saying something odd like "I am having a table perception".
I believe other people will say and do all sorts of odd things. Plenty of them won't see the table, plenty will interpret it differently, plenty will say something difficult just to be difficult, etc.--people will do all sorts of different things.

And I'd say that everything extant (well, at least aside from elementary oarticles) is an object, where every object is really matter in dynamic relations with other matter.

When we state something about our own minds we're stating something about an object.

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