If a tree fell and no one was around, would it make a sound?

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LWSleeth
 
Reply Wed 20 May, 2009 07:19 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;64081 wrote:
But that sound is a function of hearing is just what I am disputing. So that for you to repeat that, is pointless, and is question begging. As I have asked, why cannot there unheard sounds? We can infer that a tree made a sound when no one was present to hear the sound. We can use a tape recorder. We can, from far away, notice that when the tree fell, all of the birds flew away in terror. Most importantly we can recall that we heard a large thump when trees fell when there were people to hear it, and infer from that it made a large thump when people were not present to hear it. So I don't see that you have shown that there would be no sound if no one heard the sound. I agee, by the way, that unless there is someone to hear a sound, no sound will be heard. But that does not mean there will be no sound unless there is someone to hear it. You are confusing hearing a sound with there being a sound. When you do that, you are well on the road to Idealism. The confusion between the awareness of X, and the existence of X.


Okay, so if you understand my point, then why not investigate the origin of the word "sound"? For example: Online Etymology Dictionary

The etymology of the word clearly shows it linked to perception.

From this article:
Sound - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

. . . we see sound is "a travelling wave which is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard, or the sensation stimulated in organs of hearing by such vibrations."

Clearly linked to hearing.

Look here: If a tree falls in a forest - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

. . . to see the scientific explanation: "The scientific answer, perhaps originally intended, is that no, the tree does not make a "sound". It makes sound waves, that without an instrument such as an ear, do not convert to actual sound."

You have made a big issue of my tiny point, which was simply how the hard-core factual thinker might answer the question. He knows that technically, sound is a function of consciousness, and will refuse to discuss it any other way. Strictly speaking, there is no sound sans conscious experience. Period. There are waves of compression-decompression made by energy impacting a medium like the atmosphere or water, and that is not "sound" no matter how much you want to call it that. The fact that in common language we've projected the meaning of sound on to compression-decompression waves doesn't alter what sound really is (just like the sun doesn't actually "rise" even though everyone speaks of it that way).

I have debated philosophical idealism many times, so I certainly know what the real question is, and that it has nothing to do with the technical meaning of sound! The question asked, and long ago decided by clear thinkers, is that the occurrence of events is not linked to our experience of them -- only our knowledge of events is experience-dependent.

Your answer above seems to say I'm the one who has made a big deal of this, but your previous responses to me were not stated as though you understood my tiny, itsy-bitsy point about the actual meaning of the term sound . . .and that is the only reason I have kept trying to explain it different ways.
 
Ultracrepidarian
 
Reply Wed 20 May, 2009 10:19 pm
@LWSleeth,
LWSleeth,

I disagree that we sound adamantly insist sound means only the mental perception. The physical thing is not the sound-the-mental-perception, but sound-compression-decompression-waves. These two things are very different things, but it is not a fallacy or wrong to call them both by one word, sound. It is slightly ambiguous, but it wouldn't be the only word which can refer to different but related things.

You and I have basically agreed, except on that point. My point is that it is an issue of language. If you say a tape recorder did not capture the sound, then say it captured the sound wave. I have a problem with that. I might end up asking questions like, "Did you hear that sound wave?" I don't want people looking at me funny. I take that back.

To sum up my opinion -
The (improper) Q: If commotion, then sound?

Your answer is no? My answer is yes, because I don't make people say wave, physical or anything of the sort. I read the Q: If commotion, then either sound waves or sound perceptions? It is ambiguous, so you treat it that way instead of insisting that sound can only mean the mental perception.

Would you rather talk about Hume and Idealism?
He wasn't an idealist so far as I know.
He doubted whether or not trees made noises. He doubted causality.
But did he doubt whether or not trees existed as anything but ideas?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 21 May, 2009 01:14 am
@LWSleeth,
LWSleeth wrote:
Okay, so if you understand my point, then why not investigate the origin of the word "sound"? For example: Online Etymology Dictionary

The etymology of the word clearly shows it linked to perception.

From this article:
Sound - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

. . . we see sound is "a travelling wave which is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard, or the sensation stimulated in organs of hearing by such vibrations."

Clearly linked to hearing.

Look here: If a tree falls in a forest - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

. . . to see the scientific explanation: "The scientific answer, perhaps originally intended, is that no, the tree does not make a "sound". It makes sound waves, that without an instrument such as an ear, do not convert to actual sound."

You have made a big issue of my tiny point, which was simply how the hard-core factual thinker might answer the question. He knows that technically, sound is a function of consciousness, and will refuse to discuss it any other way. Strictly speaking, there is no sound sans conscious experience. Period. There are waves of compression-decompression made by energy impacting a medium like the atmosphere or water, and that is not "sound" no matter how much you want to call it that. The fact that in common language we've projected the meaning of sound on to compression-decompression waves doesn't alter what sound really is (just like the sun doesn't actually "rise" even though everyone speaks of it that way).

I have debated philosophical idealism many times, so I certainly know what the real question is, and that it has nothing to do with the technical meaning of sound! The question asked, and long ago decided by clear thinkers, is that the occurrence of events is not linked to our experience of them -- only our knowledge of events is experience-dependent.

Your answer above seems to say I'm the one who has made a big deal of this, but your previous responses to me were not stated as though you understood my tiny, itsy-bitsy point about the actual meaning of the term sound . . .and that is the only reason I have kept trying to explain it different ways.


The actual meaning of any word consists in how that word is used by fluent and educated speakers of the language. It has nothing to do with the etymology of the word, since the meanings of words change through time. And, as far as tge actual meaning of "sound" goes, it is used in such a way that there are unheard sounds, and such a way that we can have indirect knowledge that a sound has occurred. It is possible, of course, to say that the word should not be used in that way, and that can be disputed, of course. But there is, in my mind, no question that "sound" is (actually) used in the way I have said above.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Thu 21 May, 2009 05:27 am
@kennethamy,
Just as a side note here. I can't tell you how much I dislike this question; words fail me.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 21 May, 2009 05:45 am
@Khethil,
Khethil wrote:
Just as a side note here. I can't tell you how much I dislike this question; words fail me.


Why? What has this question ever done to you?
 
LWSleeth
 
Reply Thu 21 May, 2009 09:14 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;64132 wrote:
The actual meaning of any word consists in how that word is used by fluent and educated speakers of the language. It has nothing to do with the etymology of the word, since the meanings of words change through time. And, as far as tge actual meaning of "sound" goes, it is used in such a way that there are unheard sounds, and such a way that we can have indirect knowledge that a sound has occurred. It is possible, of course, to say that the word should not be used in that way, and that can be disputed, of course. But there is, in my mind, no question that "sound" is (actually) used in the way I have said above.


It isn't so that one can generalize that the etymology of a word has nothing to do with its meaning, some sort of root meaning can almost always be found there. I agree however that meanings change based on the common usage of a word. It's strange that you admit there might be a technical meaning of sound, yet somehow still seem to be arguing with me after I simply pointed out that technical meaning. :perplexed: Do you find it distressing to bring science into a philosophical discussion?

It isn't me you know who decided there are clear distinctions between the experience of sound and the mechanics that cause that consciousness event, and that each has a specific term. Of course I understand what the common usage is, I use the term "sound" that way myself. But in pointing it out for the long-decided, rather boring "tree falling in the woods" question, I was at least trying to bring something interesting to the discussion. IMHO, certain forms of radical idealism are nonsense.

So my comment about what sound really is seems right in line with exactly what Hume would have said.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 21 May, 2009 09:32 am
@LWSleeth,
LWSleeth wrote:
Do you find it distressing to bring science into a philosophical discussion?



No. But I am reluctant to let science be the arbiter of philosophical issues, too. It distresses me that science should inform me there are no unheard sounds, or that I am saying what is false when I say that the falling tree did make a (loud) sound when it hit the ground whether or not there was anyone to hear it.

I agree with you about Idealism. What especially distresses me is contemporary idealism which is now called, postmodernism. That has all the disadvantages of Idealism, but with none of it rigor.
 
LWSleeth
 
Reply Thu 21 May, 2009 10:15 am
@Ultracrepidarian,
Ultracrepidarian;64126 wrote:
LWSleeth,

I disagree that we sound adamantly insist sound means only the mental perception. The physical thing is not the sound-the-mental-perception, but sound-compression-decompression-waves. These two things are very different things, but it is not a fallacy or wrong to call them both by one word, sound. It is slightly ambiguous, but it wouldn't be the only word which can refer to different but related things.

You and I have basically agreed, except on that point. My point is that it is an issue of language. If you say a tape recorder did not capture the sound, then say it captured the sound wave. I have a problem with that. I might end up asking questions like, "Did you hear that sound wave?" I don't want people looking at me funny. I take that back.

To sum up my opinion -
The (improper) Q: If commotion, then sound?

Your answer is no? My answer is yes, because I don't make people say wave, physical or anything of the sort. I read the Q: If commotion, then either sound waves or sound perceptions? It is ambiguous, so you treat it that way instead of insisting that sound can only mean the mental perception.

Would you rather talk about Hume and Idealism?
He wasn't an idealist so far as I know.
He doubted whether or not trees made noises. He doubted causality.
But did he doubt whether or not trees existed as anything but ideas?


[SIZE="3"]Well, I already answered most of your post to Kennethamy. As I said, I was simply trying to bring the scientific perspective in since this "tree falling in the woods" question, as it's put, is so utterly silly. It really stemmed from (I believe) Berkeley's ideas on knowing. We can only know what we perceive, he said, and so for consciousness it only exists for us if we experience.

Now, some people took that further to mean some thing or event may not exist at all if it isn't perceived, and thus this silly argument began. But Berkeley himself raised no such issue. His position was that we cannot ever know an external object, but rather we experience a conscious analog the senses create in the mind. We can only experience and therefore know our own consciousness, not anything outside of it, but that doesn't mean nothing exists objectively outside of it; it's just that in terms of being conscious, nothing exists for any consciousness except what he experiences subjectively.

Also as I pointed out to Kennethamy, Hume might have answered as I did, since he was one of the fathers of empirical philosophy, saying "the correct method for knowing is experience and observation." He might also have pointed out that the question itself is anti-empirical and therefore nonsense; that is, how can we state a tree fell in the woods in the first place? If there has been no observation of that event, then, according to empirical principles, no statement regarding it falling or not can be made.

We might, for fun, consider the question in terms of Hume's "problem of induction" as well. In that problem, he points out rightly that we cannot know nature will continue to behave as it has in the past, and so our inferences from observations in the present are dependent on nature acting consistently in the future -- yet we cannot know if it will. For example, if a tree falls, and no one is present to observe it, nature in the future might change so that everyone, psychically feels a disturbance in the Force (as Obi-wan Kenobi would say). So our inference that we can only know if we are present to observe is only true for past events; we can never know if future reality will continue to behave as it has.[/SIZE]

---------- Post added at 10:20 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:15 AM ----------

kennethamy;64196 wrote:
I agree with you about Idealism. What especially distresses me is contemporary idealism which is now called, postmodernism. That has all the disadvantages of Idealism, but with none of it rigor.


[SIZE="3"]I should correct my overall negative attitude toward idealism because I only reject the form of it that insists there is no objective reality or "thing in itself" outside conscious experience.

I actually very much agree with the sort of idealism someone like Kant might espouse. As he said, "The assertion that we can never be certain whether all of our putative outer experience is not mere imagining is idealism." I like the perspective which never assumes anything permanently, but rather maintains tentative assumptions based on the history of reality's behavior.

Also, I know most of my perception is due to sensory stimulation. When I touch a rock, for example, I experience nerve stimulation, not the rock itself. No matter how hard I try, I can never experience external reality directly if I only rely on my senses. That separation from reality and possible fallibility of sense perception, along with the potential for future reality to change how it behaves, has convinced me to maintain a subtle tentativeness toward assumptions I've derived from sense-bound experience.[/SIZE]
 
Ultracrepidarian
 
Reply Thu 21 May, 2009 02:28 pm
@LWSleeth,
"Sound is a travelling wave which is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard, or the sensation stimulated in organs of hearing by such vibrations."

I believe you quoted this earlier for support that sound had to do with hearing. As you can see it says sound is a wave through matter or a mental sensation which occurs as a result of such a wave.

If tree falls, then sound? Yes.

I appreciate that you think science is support of your limiting of the meaning of the word sound to mental perceptions, but I must disagree.

---------- Post added at 04:05 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:28 PM ----------

"Also as I pointed out to Kennethamy, Hume might have answered as I did, since he was one of the fathers of empirical philosophy, saying "the correct method for knowing is experience and observation." He might also have pointed out that the question itself is anti-empirical and therefore nonsense; that is, how can we state a tree fell in the woods in the first place? If there has been no observation of that event, then, according to empirical principles, no statement regarding it falling or not can be made."

There is no reason to think that trees only fall over in our presence. Contrariwise, evidence supports that they do.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 21 May, 2009 03:08 pm
@LWSleeth,
LWSleeth wrote:
Well, I already answered most of your post to Kennethamy. As I said, I was simply trying to bring the scientific perspective in since this "tree falling in the woods" question, as it's put, is so utterly silly. It really stemmed from (I believe) Berkeley's ideas on knowing. We can only know what we perceive, he said, and so for consciousness it only exists for us if we experience.

Now, some people took that further to mean some thing or event may not exist at all if it isn't perceived, and thus this silly argument began. But Berkeley himself raised no such issue. His position was that we cannot ever know an external object, but rather we experience a conscious analog the senses create in the mind. We can only experience and therefore know our own consciousness, not anything outside of it, but that doesn't mean nothing exists objectively outside of it; it's just that in terms of being conscious, nothing exists for any consciousness except what he experiences subjectively.

Also as I pointed out to Kennethamy, Hume might have answered as I did, since he was one of the fathers of empirical philosophy, saying "the correct method for knowing is experience and observation." He might also have pointed out that the question itself is anti-empirical and therefore nonsense; that is, how can we state a tree fell in the woods in the first place? If there has been no observation of that event, then, according to empirical principles, no statement regarding it falling or not can be made.

We might, for fun, consider the question in terms of Hume's "problem of induction" as well. In that problem, he points out rightly that we cannot know nature will continue to behave as it has in the past, and so our inferences from observations in the present are dependent on nature acting consistently in the future -- yet we cannot know if it will. For example, if a tree falls, and no one is present to observe it, nature in the future might change so that everyone, psychically feels a disturbance in the Force (as Obi-wan Kenobi would say). So our inference that we can only know if we are present to observe is only true for past events; we can never know if future reality will continue to behave as it has.


---------- Post added at 10:20 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:15 AM ----------



I should correct my overall negative attitude toward idealism because I only reject the form of it that insists there is no objective reality or "thing in itself" outside conscious experience.

I actually very much agree with the sort of idealism someone like Kant might espouse. As he said, "The assertion that we can never be certain whether all of our putative outer experience is not mere imagining is idealism." I like the perspective which never assumes anything permanently, but rather maintains tentative assumptions based on the history of reality's behavior.

Also, I know most of my perception is due to sensory stimulation. When I touch a rock, for example, I experience nerve stimulation, not the rock itself. No matter how hard I try, I can never experience external reality directly if I only rely on my senses. That separation from reality and possible fallibility of sense perception, along with the potential for future reality to change how it behaves, has convinced me to maintain a subtle tentativeness toward assumptions I've derived from sense-bound experience.



I am really not familiar with the expression, "experience external reality", but if it means anything at all, it must mean what a person experiences when he touches a rock. If it does not mean that, then I am baffled as to what it would mean. That my senses are fallible does not mean that when I use them, I never know what they seem to tell me. What it means is that when I think I know I might be mistaken, not that I am. It is true that when I think I touch a rock, I might not be. But that does not mean that when I believe I am touching a rock, I am not doing so. After all, if I might be mistaken, might I not also not be mistaken? You seem to be suggesting that I am always mistaken.
 
LWSleeth
 
Reply Thu 21 May, 2009 05:23 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;64251 wrote:
I am really not familiar with the expression, "experience external reality", but if it means anything at all, it must mean what a person experiences when he touches a rock. If it does not mean that, then I am baffled as to what it would mean.


You can put yourself in a sensory deprivation situation, for example, and discover you don't really need your senses to experience. As a meditator, I can attest to the fact that it is quite possible to experience consciousness itself (i.e., without dependence on external stimulation).

But in order to experience what is "outside" of consciousness, we need the senses (unless one is psychic). The signal from touching a rock is sent via nerves to the brain, and whatever consciousness is, it then experiences nerve-brain transmissions. The rock itself is never touched by consciousness itself, so the senses are our path to the world outside consciousness.


kennethamy;64251 wrote:
That my senses are fallible does not mean that when I use them, I never know what they seem to tell me. What it means is that when I think I know I might be mistaken, not that I am. It is true that when I think I touch a rock, I might not be. But that does not mean that when I believe I am touching a rock, I am not doing so. After all, if I might be mistaken, might I not also not be mistaken? You seem to be suggesting that I am always mistaken.


No, I am not suggesting your senses always misinform you, or that your mind always misinterprets. First, I am saying all your experience of reality is subjective (a point well accepted by experts today), and so we really can never directly know objective reality. We assume, as we must (at least for normal activity), that our senses and mind are transmitting/interpreting correctly.

However, we don't know for certain we've perceived correctly; in fact, people mis-perceive all the time, which is why players disagree over whether a tennis ball was in or out, or whether you really saw that long, lost friend drive by . . . even witnesses of crimes mis-identify suspects at a frightening rate.

Once information is in the mind, that too is subject to distortion. We all know people who freak out at some particular type of comment or situation that others have no problem with. The mind can easily cause what is nearly hallucinations when it's upset enough.

Now a lot of people are content to live with their mind in a mess, and never doubting what they perceive or believe. But for the aspiring philosopher, in search of truth, it is careless to unquestioningly assume when contemplating important subjects. Hume's suggestion was to maintain an internal detachment, a freedom from commitment to any a priori belief so that one is more free to scrutinize both our perceptions and our interpretations (Edmund Husserl's phenomenology is a brilliant idea along these lines where one attempts to set aside all existence assumptions in order to view things with pure objectivity Edmund Husserl (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) )
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 24 May, 2009 09:40 am
@LWSleeth,
LWSleeth wrote:

However, we don't know for certain we've perceived correctly; in fact, people mis-perceive all the time, which is why players disagree over whether a tennis ball was in or out, or whether you really saw that long, lost friend drive by . . . even witnesses of crimes mis-identify suspects at a frightening rate.



Yes, I agree with that. We know very little for certain, if anything. Certainty means, it seems to me, the impossibility of error, or infallibility, and if we rely on our senses, and if, as we know (but not for certain!) that our senses sometimes are deceptive, we must conclude that we can know nothing much for certain, and perhaps, nothing at all, for certain. As the proverb says, "to err is human....". We are, of course, talking of human knowledge, and not, if there is such a thing, divine knowledge.

But even though we know nothing for certain, or infallibly, that does not mean that we do not know many things. I don't want to boast, but I know that Quito is the capital of Ecuador; that I was born a number of years ago; that I had parents, and that Mars is the fourth planet, and a lot more. As we all know (but not for certain) we know a great deal more than we knew 100 years ago, and I expect that we'll know a lot more, 10o years from now. (Not, of course, "know for certain") but that is not not to be expected.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Sun 24 May, 2009 01:19 pm
@gaia,
gaia wrote:
What would hume say regarding this answer?


I don't know what Hume would say, but I would say that the falling tree would make a sound, even though no being would be there to detect the sound. Sound is a traveling wave or vibration caused by pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas. The physics of sound would still be present regardless of whether or not a being was there to detect it. A being's detection of sound is caused by the ear. The ear is designed by natural selection so that animals are able to detect these waves and be more aware of their environment, which needless to say contributes to their survival.

Doesn't this thread belong in the philosophy of mind?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 25 May, 2009 08:06 am
@hue-man,
hue-man wrote:
I don't know what Hume would say, but I would say that the falling tree would make a sound, even though no being would be there to detect the sound. Sound is a traveling wave or vibration caused by pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas. The physics of sound would still be present regardless of whether or not a being was there to detect it. A being's detection of sound is caused by the ear. The ear is designed by natural selection so that animals are able to detect these waves and be more aware of their environment, which needless to say contributes to their survival.

Doesn't this thread belong in the philosophy of mind?


I think it involves general epistemological issues are direct and indirect knowledge.
 
LWSleeth
 
Reply Mon 25 May, 2009 12:36 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;64705 wrote:
As we all know (but not for certain) we know a great deal more than we knew 100 years ago, and I expect that we'll know a lot more, 10o years from now. (Not, of course, "know for certain") but that is not not to be expected.


[SIZE="3"]That's generally true, but it doesn't quite address Hume's issue with the certainty and induction. When you assume you'll know more 10 years from now, you also assume the universe and its laws will remain the same (i.e., so you can build on what you've already learned). It is of course a fairly safe assumption, but how certainly should we assume that?

Consider the changes some cosmologists have surmised took place at the beginning of our universe. First off was the singularity that affected the entire universe (such as it was), but now we have no such universal influence (i.e., black holes affect things only locally). A bit later a plasma soup, and then a quark soup, next baryons and then composite particles. inflation seems to have occurred early on. A few years back we discovered the rate of expansion of the universe is increasing . . . possibly at one point that wasn't the case. After the universe expands another x number of years, will the rules of the universe change again in some way?

Hume seems to have recognized the fallacy of assuming eternal constancy about situations that are subject to change. It really has nothing to do with the likelihood of a current universal constant changing; but rather, it has to do with maintaining a state of mind that parallels reality.

Reality may appear constant, but it isn't. So the accurate mind can never assume anything once and for all. That ever-so-slight caution towards assumptions can have great practical value. For me, I have changed my priority from striving to be a once-and-for-all-knower, to being a mirror that reflects reality however it may be in the moment.

I work to keep attachment out of my mind, attachment to reality being some way I wish it to be. I am convinced it is better to know reality, no matter what it is or isn't, than to sustain deluded beliefs and assumptions however noble, well-meaning, or comforting they might be.[/SIZE]
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 25 May, 2009 01:01 pm
@LWSleeth,
LWSleeth wrote:
That's generally true, but it doesn't quite address Hume's issue with the certainty and induction. When you assume you'll know more 10 years from now, you also assume the universe and its laws will remain the same (i.e., so you can build on what you've already learned). It is of course a fairly safe assumption, but how certainly should we assume that?

Consider the changes some cosmologists have surmised took place at the beginning of our universe. First off was the singularity that affected the entire universe (such as it was), but now we have no such universal influence (i.e., black holes affect things only locally). A bit later a plasma soup, and then a quark soup, next baryons and then composite particles. inflation seems to have occurred early on. A few years back we discovered the rate of expansion of the universe is increasing . . . possibly at one point that wasn't the case. After the universe expands another x number of years, will the rules of the universe change again in some way?

Hume seems to have recognized the fallacy of assuming eternal constancy about situations that are subject to change. It really has nothing to do with the likelihood of a current universal constant changing; but rather, it has to do with maintaining a state of mind that parallels reality.

Reality may appear constant, but it isn't. So the accurate mind can never assume anything once and for all. That ever-so-slight caution towards assumptions can have great practical value. For me, I have changed my priority from striving to be a once-and-for-all-knower, to being a mirror that reflects reality however it may be in the moment.

I work to keep attachment out of my mind, attachment to reality being some way I wish it to be. I am convinced it is better to know reality, no matter what it is or isn't, than to sustain deluded beliefs and assumptions however noble, well-meaning, or comforting they might be.


We know we know more now than 100 years ago, and that is one of the many things we know. But how could that be true unless there were such a thing as knowledge? So, it follows that there is knowledge. (Isn't that what we were discussing?)
 
LWSleeth
 
Reply Mon 25 May, 2009 02:22 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;64950 wrote:
We know we know more now than 100 years ago, and that is one of the many things we know. But how could that be true unless there were such a thing as knowledge? So, it follows that there is knowledge. (Isn't that what we were discussing?)


[SIZE="3"]Yes, but what we "know" is history . . . how things have been. What Hume addressed was not what we know about past events and how things operated during those events, but assuming with 100% certainty that we "know" the universe will behave in the future as it has behaved in the past.

What this has to do with epistemology is recognizing we never actually know anything for certain about how things will work in the future. Think about it just on a personal level, say how we assume things about people we know based on our observations of past behaviors. The problem of a priori assumptions is a huge problem to objective investigation, far bigger IMHO than any other factor.

Keep in mind there is more than one type of assumption, and I am only talking about one specific variety. For example, I am not talking about the type of assumption where we provisionally assume for the sake of investigation things are a certain way, or what we assume so we can practically function day to day like the ground will be there when we take a step (although my lifelong assumption about that changed drastically after moving to California and experiencing the big Oakland earthquake).

What I am talking about are assumptions on the nature of reality that are final, without the slightest openness to doubt or question. I think you know people who have assumed all sorts of things are forever or universally true; you can recognize them by a kind of rigidity or intolerance in their attitude.

You may also know of critically open-minded people, those perpetually in search of truth no matter where it leads them. They maintain a healthy doubt about what they know . . . not to the point it makes them pathologically tentative, but just a kind of humble agnosticism toward any final belief.

A favorite thinker of mine, Physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman put things as Hume would likely have appreciated, "Each piece, or part, of the whole of nature is always merely an approximation to the complete truth . . . therefore, things must be learned only to be unlearned again or, more likely, to be corrected."[/SIZE]
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 25 May, 2009 03:08 pm
@LWSleeth,
LWSleeth wrote:
Yes, but what we "know" is history . . . how things have been. What Hume addressed was not what we know about past events and how things operated during those events, but assuming with 100% certainty that we "know" the universe will behave in the future as it has behaved in the past.

What this has to do with epistemology is recognizing we never actually know anything for certain about how things will work in the future. Think about it just on a personal level, say how we assume things about people we know based on our observations of past behaviors. The problem of a priori assumptions is a huge problem to objective investigation, far bigger IMHO than any other factor.

Keep in mind there is more than one type of assumption, and I am only talking about one specific variety. For example, I am not talking about the type of assumption where we provisionally assume for the sake of investigation things are a certain way, or what we assume so we can practically function day to day like the ground will be there when we take a step (although my lifelong assumption about that changed drastically after moving to California and experiencing the big Oakland earthquake).

What I am talking about are assumptions on the nature of reality that are final, without the slightest openness to doubt or question. I think you know people who have assumed all sorts of things are forever or universally true; you can recognize them by a kind of rigidity or intolerance in their attitude.

You may also know of critically open-minded people, those perpetually in search of truth no matter where it leads them. They maintain a healthy doubt about what they know . . . not to the point it makes them pathologically tentative, but just a kind of humble agnosticism toward any final belief.

A favorite thinker of mine, Physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman put things as Hume would likely have appreciated, "Each piece, or part, of the whole of nature is always merely an approximation to the complete truth . . . therefore, things must be learned only to be unlearned again or, more likely, to be corrected."



I agree that we have less information about the future, and obviously the more distant the less information we have. But the past is much the same, only we have a lot more information about the recent past, and the comparatively distant past. But that is about the size of it. I don't believe there is anything intrinsic about the future. And, furthermore, I don't think that Hume really thought so. I think that Hume believed that the problem of induction concerned inference from the observed to the unobserved, and even to the unobservable, not in particular from the past to the future, which is just a special case of inference from the observed to the unobserved, and even the unobservable. The question for Hume was how to justify inference from what is observed to what we do not, or we cannot observe (like the future, at least, not at present). But it is also a problem for the past, and for the non-immediate present too. Hume has a special obsession with observation. He thought that although we might be justified in inferring from the observed to the unobserved as long as it was possible in principle to observe the unobserved, it was unjustified to make any inference from the observed to the unobservable. Thus, for example God. But here, he may have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. For he thought that theoretical entities of any kind were suspect, since they were unobservable even in principle. Therefore, he advocated a kind of pragmatic skepticism with regard to, notoriously, causation, and "external" entities.
 
LWSleeth
 
Reply Mon 25 May, 2009 03:49 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;64990 wrote:
I don't believe there is anything intrinsic about the future. And, furthermore, I don't think that Hume really thought so.


[SIZE="3"]From: David Hume - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


"The cornerstone of Hume's epistemology is the so-called Problem of Induction . . . Hume notices that we tend to believe that things behave in a regular manner; i.e., that patterns in the behaviour of objects will persist into the future, and throughout the unobserved present (this persistence of regularities is sometimes called the Principle of the Uniformity of Nature).

Hume's argument is that we cannot rationally justify the claim that nature will continue to be uniform, as justification comes in only two varieties, and both of these are inadequate. The two sorts are: (1) demonstrative reasoning, and (2) probable reasoning. With regard to (1), Hume argues that the uniformity principle cannot be demonstrated, as it is "consistent and conceivable" that nature might stop being regular. Turning to (2), Hume argues that we cannot hold that nature will continue to be uniform because it has been in the past, as this is using the very sort of reasoning (induction) that is under question: it would be circular reasoning. Thus no form of justification will rationally warrant our inductive inferences."
[/SIZE]
 
BrightNoon
 
Reply Mon 25 May, 2009 04:14 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
Hmm, that's strange. In the law courts, judges and juries accept as evidence tape recordings of (say) people plotting crimes. They don't say that what is heard on the tape recording is only a sound tht sounds like people talking about plotting crimes. You must have higher standards of evidence even than the law. So, when would you accept evidence of the sound made by the tree falling. I mean evidence other then directly hearing it fall?


We're not talking about the law, we're talking about a philosphical problem. Law and philosophy have very different standards of evidence, because they have different purposes and objectives. The objective of philosophy, as I understand it, is to find the truth, without doubt (it always fails of course, but that's the aim nonetheless, and that aim sets the standards, which are high); the objective of law is to get as close to truth as possible, so that society can function and the people feel there is justice. Yes, in a law court, the tape recorder would be plenty of evidence that the tree fell.

If the question is asked differently, if we ask whether or not the tape recorder is evidence that a certain action occured (a tree falling and moving air and impressing the ground), then I have the same answer in effect. I'm of the opinion that events don't happen except when and by whom they are experienced happening. I don't deny that there's an external world, independent of our experience of it, but that world is by defintion unknown to us. While events no doubt occur there, the specific criteria by which we define events is ours, from our perspective. The event that we are calling 'a tree falling' could be viewed in many ways from many perspectives. a mushroom under the tree might think of it as armagedon and the sky falling, and have no idea what a 'tree' is. The point is that while the tape recorder might convince us that the tree fell, and we might draw forth a mental image of a tree falling, we did not experience 'the tree falling'. Therefore, for us, the tree did not fall, though we might think it did.
 
 

 
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