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the sad clown

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About the sad clown

  • Rank
    Intellectual Derelict and Emotional Cripple
  • Birthday 06/17/1976

Contact Methods

  • MSN lindenbranch@live.com
  • Website URL http://lindenbranch.weblogs.us

Profile Information

  • Gender: Male
  • Location: United States
  • Real name: Isaac
  • Interests: Politics, Sociology, Science, Philosophy, History, Poetry
  • About me: I'm me, you're you, and that's that

the sad clown's Activity

  1. the sad clown added a post in a topic Birth of Science?   

    Why couldn't they be learned by rote, or be based on someones projections based on rote learning. As I said before, scientific learning is not the only method for gaining knowledge. You can also learn by trial and error. I hate to repeat myself, but I am simply not in a position to say that these accomplishments reflect knowledge gained through scientific means. Clearly it is applied knowledge, but it is opaque as far as how that knowledge was obtained.


    Again, I don't know that it was intense and scientific knowledge as opposed to thousands of years of trial and error that lead to the irrigation systems. And geometry is not science. It can be a tool of science, but it is analytic in nature, and does not require empirical observation.


    But I haven't put a birthdate on science, unless you are simply wanting to make some general point and are using your response to me to make it. It seems to me that we are simply disagreeing over what constitutes science. I believe there are other ways besides scientific for gaining knowledge. If this is true, then not every discovery or invention is necessarily an indication of scientifically gained knowledge.


    That is a good question. I offered an indication of what I thought should constitute science before, but I will reiterate it here:

    1. Naturalistic explanations for phenomena
    2. Empirical justification for the theory
    3. A methodical approach to the inquiry

    This is a fairly loose criteria, and I think it would accommodate a wide variety of practices, and not just modern science. As for whether your examples fit that criteria, I wouldn't know since the examples you are giving are applied knowledge. They very well could be examples of applied scientific knowledge, but if there are other sources of knowledge, then we cannot simply assume science when observing the application of knowledge.
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  2. the sad clown added a post in a topic Birth of Science?   

    Well, I didn't say they weren't doing science at that time, but I thought engineering was more about the application of knowledge than the acquisition of knowledge. Also, knowledge can be acquired through non-scientific means, so I am not sure successful engineering is sufficient to prove that science was operating in that society.
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  3. the sad clown added a post in a topic The Boundaries of Scientism   

    What is true is dependent on the criteria you set for truth. Did the pitcher throw a strike? Science cannot answer that question, only a reference to the rules of baseball will tell us the answer. Nor can science tell me if my wife is beautiful or not. There are all sorts of questions that whose truth is determined by referencing non-scientific systems and standards. So yes, I do think there is truth in science, a conditional proximal truth, but truth nevertheless. But the initial question wasn't about whether science can deliver truths, it was the justification of the system, and to say that it is true because it is true would seem to simply beg the question. To answer, especially for a system that is based on predictive theories and the testing of those theories is in fact utility, does it succeed in these predictions.


    I don't know if religion is true or not, and I try to avoid making such a claim. But I would question anyone who tries to argue for religion on utilitarian grounds by asking them how can they tell it is working? What are the standards for verifying that it works? Is there a way for me to experience its effects without already believing it to be true. If there isn't, this doesn't mean it isn't true, but I certainly won't be in a position to affirm its truth in the same way that science allows. Also, as with my previous example, in order to affirm the utility of religion, it isn't enough to say that it works, since the real question is works better than what. What am I comparing it to?
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  4. the sad clown added a post in a topic Birth of Science?   

    I would question whether these Babylonian astronomers were practicing science, not because of the subject matter, but that they were not really looking to find the truth about their theory (that the pattern of the stars effects social events), but were merely refining a belief that was divorced from observation by better tracking astronomical phenomena. If I thought that leprechauns with pots of gold could be caught during certain astronomical patterns, then I would probably try to refine my ability to predict astronomical events as well, but that would hardly be science.

    On the other hand, I do think we can talk about science in a legitimate fashion well before Bacon, and the above example, even if it isn't science, probably did lay the foundations for science in its methodical information gathering. But for science, I think an important element is the presence of a naturalistic theory of which the justification for its truth is empirical in nature. This combined with the methodism displayed above will probably get you science in whatever form it takes.
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  5. the sad clown added a post in a topic The Boundaries of Scientism   

    But this is true of any system, that it cannot justify itself (which would be circular anyway). But that doesn't mean you can't make an argument for the utility of astronomy over astrology or modern medicine versus humorism. Some systems work better than others.
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  6. the sad clown added a post in a topic The Moral Responsibility Quiz   

    Are you saying that the inevitability of death is an argument against freewill? I'm didn't think those two were connected.
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  7. the sad clown added a post in a topic The Moral Responsibility Quiz   

    A strawman of the argument I then proceeded to make, and which I would think any reasonable determinist/compatibilist would make.


    This sounds more like scientism than what I would understand to be a correct application of science. The very fact that you portray the opponent as proposing seemingly immutable laws, when in fact natural laws are nothing more than our best attempt at formulating successful models for empirical prediction, seems to indicate a less than rigorous thought process behind the claim.


    Well, the simple answer is that thinking one is in a deterministic world typically doesn't make one very happy. Not to say that it can't, but the amount of protestation would seem to indicate to me that it is not one of the more cherished ideas to have been proposed by philosophic thought. On a more serious note, the difference, if I am able to point to one, is that freewill is based on our folk psychological self-assessment with no controlled test. On the other hand, denying freewill is to do nothing more than apply inductive reasoning, on the basis that we observe what seems to be determinacy and indeterminacy, but nothing between these two, and in fact have a difficult time formulating something between these two. If this applies to nearly everything around us, and that the violation of that pattern is us, and that only based on our self-assessment, than it seems at least plausible to doubt that self assessment. As I said earlier, it is not a necessary conclusion, but a conditional one, based on observation of the world around us. It could very well be wrong, and anyone who proposes it ought to know that such a conclusion cannot be "immutable" or inevitable. Back to the difference though. The human brain is indeed the source of the freewill proposal, but I do not think it is the sole source of a deterministic proposal, since that would require it to generate all of its own sense data. This is not impossible, but it does seem unlikely, and if such an idea is advocated, then there is no point in arguing just about anything because there is nothing to know and we are all trapped (if there even is a we, since such a person is reduced to solipsism) in the world of our own mind.



    No, I don't think the loop, if there is one, works in quite that way. Being conditioned for causality is not the apparatus that makes us think we are free. It is merely a tool for dealing with the world, an attempt, if you like, to get a handle on the world by framing the discussion in terms that demand predictive models. As an evolutionary trait, I think it is probably one of the most successful ones developed by biological life on Earth. It doesn't demand freewill however, except that it is built around efficient success, and so does not demand greater accuracy or sophistication in the explanations it develops than would give it good returns on its intellectual investment. If an additional 2% predictive success requires doubling the mental effort to achieve, then such a model would not be inclined towards it. Folk psychology is just that sort of rough, yet efficient and successful, estimate of behavior. And given the lack of other models for most of human history and the relative success of this explanation, it makes sense that it would almost unhesitatingly be applied to oneself as well. As for how the brain can understand these things, we can understand all sorts of things that were previously taken to be de re, but are now understood to hide a complex confluence of multiple influencing factors. Consider, even if we find our brains incapable of picturing four dimensional space, we are still capable of understanding things about it, mathematical and conceptual models that give us at least some idea of what it might be like.


    Naive realism is an eminently useful way of looking at things. It is efficient in both its communication and calculations regarding the world around us, and where precision is not as important (as when I need you to hand me an eraser), it works better than most any other model I can think of. And I agree that no one should be saying, or even suggesting, that determinism is a slam-dunk. It seems the clearer choice to me, but this is based on contingent knowledge of the world and is falsifiable at any time.

    As to how one can hold it on a practical level, I can live with it realistically the same way that I live with naive realism. I am quite happy to operate, both mentally and linguistically, in a naive realist framework. It is the way my brain, and I assume most other people's brains, are inclined to see the world, and unless there is a pressing reason to drop it in favor of a more precise model, I see no reason why I should tax myself to perceive the world in this way. It is simply the easiest, most efficient, and simplest way to go about my business. My view of folk psychology and self-determinacy is much the same. Given how much of our society and personal interactions are based on it, a compelling reason for greater precision would have to be present for me to consider a different model. Without that, I have no reason, no "motivation" (got to love the irony there, eh?) for pressing the matter. The contradiction you noted is real, but only because the language being used is built around this model. It is the same sort of contradiction you see when someone says, "Unicorns do not exist". How can you say that sentence means anything if there is nothing being referred to (and there is nothing if Unicorns do not exist). It is a grammatical contradiction, not a logical one, and is demonstrated to be so once we see that a different sort of grammar can be used to express the same thing, only this time without the ontological commitment, "It is not the case that there is something that fits the description entailed by "Unicorns". But do you see also that the first is much more efficient, and is perfectly adequate so long as there is no confusion as to the nature of the expressions grammatical object.


    I'm not sure what you mean by science behind freewill.
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  8. the sad clown added a post in a topic The Boundaries of Scientism   

    I suppose I could try to offer an answer to this, although I don't think we are (necessarily) in disagreement. At least, I know for certain that we are in agreement in our mutual disdain for Scientism.


    I understand that this can be frustrating, to have an atheist challenge someone's belief in God, but then insist that it is upon them to prove that God exists, but what would an atheists proof look like? How would someone go about proving that something doesn't exist other than to point to their lack of experiencing that something. I suppose it would have to be some kind of a priori proof, but given that existence claims (both for and against) for things not logically contradictory usually hinge upon empirical investigation, it would be difficult for an atheist who doesn't think God is a logical impossibility to make any type of argument whatsoever. Their challenge to the theist, so to speak, is not that God doesn't exist, but that they haven't been able to discern any God and wish to see the theist provide the missing evidence for such a being. This is probably why it is typically less than helpful to make broad stereotypes since even with this issue we see two, very different, sorts of atheists. I can understand demanding proof of the former, but it isn't clear to me how one would make such a requirement of the latter.

    What I find interesting is that Scientism is an intellectual plague that can infect both, and I thoroughly agree with you that it needs to be challenged as nothing more than the assumption of a religious epistemic paradigm that demands a conception of truth that is objective almost to the point of being its own ontological reality (or is in fact its own ontological reality if it is identified with divinity itself). There could not be a worse approach to the scientific endeavor than one that simultaneously glorifies it (or at least a caricature of it) while stifling the conditional nature of its truths (from both an empirical standpoint as well as a perspectival one) and so leading to gross misapplications of it. Your example of methodologically driven denials of God or other elements of supernaturalism is a prime example of this, instead of a more principled agnosticism if one wished to look to science when examining a theistic assertion. Which is not to say that there is no room for science in making such an evaluation. I think that it can still fulfill a useful role so long as it is understood to not be definitive. There are religous and supernatural claims that can be empirically evaluated, so long as it isn't claimed that these supernatural events also erased all subsequent evidence of their occurance. At the very least, science can offer negative support (but not proof) for supernatural claims by not finding plausible naturalistic explanations.
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  9. the sad clown added a post in a topic The Moral Responsibility Quiz   

    I would hope that philosophy has not destroyed the distinction between being a child and an adult, but I do think that there can be serious reservations that free will is where that distinction rests.


    This seems to be a straw man argument. First, I don't think, or at least hope not, that anyone thinks determinism is a necessary conclusion, but is rather something arived at because our best efforts at investigating the matter have not turned up a means for accomodating free will. This is certainly a conditional belief, and one that ought to be open to revision. As for our experience, my best guess is that it is a happy fiction akin to the anthropomorphizing/deification of various elements of the human condition (death, aspects of nature, etc.). Both seem, in my opinion, to stem from a certain way that the human brain is structured to understand the world, i.e., in terms of simplified/localized causation. The application of this to humans is the formation of motivation, and our tendency to extend this analysis has led to both the anthropomorphization of the elements of our condition as well as a sort of reverse engineered speculation of our own actions being caused by motives, which seems like an adequate basis for forming a theory of free will agency.

    Not that I wish to dismiss agency or associated ideas with it. I think it is a useful way of looking at things, at least as useful as naive realism. But I don't think the problems with either of these views should be ignored either. Thus, my acceptance of the compatiblist position, for while I see no objective or empirical reason to hold free will, I think it has a long history of practical use and is generally useful for dealing with social interactions. The only reason I object to free will is that the discussion about free will and determinism seeks to obtain the truth behind the matter, and I have to choose to either deny our ability to peer behind that curtain or else avail myself to a meta-theory, such as science, that can parse folk psychology in the same way that scientific efforts have seemingly succeeded in interpreting other folk beliefs regarding the human condition.
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  10. the sad clown added a post in a topic Anxiety   

    We are different from inanimate objects, it is true, but not in how a role is defined. I think the difference might be in our ability to choose which relationships to emphasis. Which leads into your second question. No, I do not believe inanimate objects would have mind independent roles. I think a role must necessarily occur within a social context.
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  11. the sad clown added a post in a topic Anxiety   

    Well, this is what I was responding to. My suggestion was not that you become an inanimate object, but rather that the reason pencils and paper have a role (i.e., people) is the same reason you have a role. Your world includes these people and your activities are often grounded in the relationship between yourself and them. Which isn't to say that you cannot perform an action independent of interpersonal relationships, but if you are looking for purpose, it seems we have a ready made one in the people around us. As I said before, if confronted with this kind of anxiety (either in myself or another), I would suggest that the person needs to simply focus on the people they wish to benefit and their role is already defined.

    Perhaps my solution is inadequate, but if it is, it isn't because I am suggesting that you reduce yourself to an inanimate object.
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  12. the sad clown added a post in a topic Anxiety   

    I'm not entirely clear about what you mean by questioning ought/appear to be. But if I understand you correctly, it would seem like the answer to your problem of anxiety is to be more like a pencil or paper and to see the world as including the people around you. A world without people would render your pencil and paper just as meaningless as you feel, and a world with people is not meaningless since you have a number of roles based on your relationship with these people. You can be a brother, a son, a friend, a lover, a husband, a father, a teacher, etc. It seems to me that you need to simply focus on the people you wish to benefit and your role is already defined. It seems to me that anxiety, or at least the anxiety you are describing, comes precisely from trying to discover some objective meaning, apart from the people around us and the relationships that hold between us. But maybe I am misunderstanding you, as I indicated in my initial statement.
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  13. the sad clown added a post in a topic The opposite of consumerism   

    But it seems to me that a person can legitimately want the benefits of a centralized production system and not find the downsides you mentioned to be sufficiently onerous to reject it. I myself am a case in contradiction. I do all of my own computer and network maintenance at home, but at the same time, I let someone else change the oil for my vehilcle, even though I know if I really applied myself to it I could probably do it. The issue for me is whether I have interest in that area or not. I enjoy computers and other analytic activities, but typically am not as good at/less interested in more analog tasks (bar-b-queing immediately comes to mind). Then it comes down to a question of who is going to do the production for you, and for many, including myself, price is a very important factor, and unfortunately that often means buying from a centralized large corporation than from a local merchant due to economies of scale.
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  14. the sad clown added a post in a topic Do I belong here?   

    It was impressive.
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  15. the sad clown added a post in a topic The Moral Responsibility Quiz   

    I would probably end up being a (D) as well, although I am sympathetic to what you said about how it can "infuriate sensitive souls". I just don't see how we can get something like free agency other than for a person to be free from obvious external compulsions or internal psychosis. But this just is the compatibilist position, and so I fall into this view because of a lack of alternatives.
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