Evidence: Raw sense data?

Troy, nice job on THIS BLOG ENTRY about whether or not to dismiss or evaluate a claim, and if evaluation is merited, then how many resources should be used and to what extent it should be investigated (if at all). You lay out a good approach. Rejecting out of hand illogical claims and non-verifiable anecdotal claims makes good sense. To go into a little more detail: You perspicuously point out, regarding your approach to dismissing or evaluating claims, that there must be “…some sort of evidence obtainable that will meaningfully demonstrate the truth or falsity of the claim.”

First, I submit we take another step back—the interest level of a claim is more important than its truth or falsity. Logicians tend to think that truth/falsity of a claim is paramount, but our experience in the world says otherwise.

Second, exactly what kind of evidence is required? In sensation-based empiricism (Hume’s work is the quintessential example), the only elements admissible as evidence are sense data. However, the sensationist theory of perception and its accompanying epistemology don’t permit causality or induction. Hume’s arguments are clear, cogent, and forceful on this score. However, we have to know that the same process happens today as happened a billion years ago when two hydrogen atoms combine with one oxygen atom (production of water), and on the sensationist epistemology, we can’t know that. Further, it’s more than just causality and induction which are in question. The status of the continuity of time, the status of mathematical objects, and the status of truth itself are also in question on the sensationist ontology (but never mind as there’s plenty of grist for the mill to simply focus on induction and causality!).

A.J. Ayer and others have simply thrown up their hands and say we just have to assume it’s rationally possible to conduct science in the way we’re doing it now, and can’t sit around and wait for the logical problems to be solved! The irrationality coming from such an otherwise amazing mind is—well—mind-blowing. Isn’t there a good REASON that logic dictates major problems on this score?!?!

Anyway, one answer is Whitehead’s theory of perception, which combines Hume’s sensationism with modern science’s view of the human nervous system and its visceral/kinesthetic modes of operation. Thus Whitehead’s theory of perception is holistic and doesn’t succumb to the logical problems of a purely sensationist/empirical theory of perception. Rather than the constituents of reality being hard material stuff which hits our sense organs and activates them in an externally-based sense, reality is actually internally related to itself and data is passed directly through it from moment to moment. As our brains and nervous systems interact with reality there’s a lot more going on than just photons hitting the body and causing (woops—there’s that logical snafu again) reactions on the skin, eardrum, etc.

But therein is the problem for the materialistic, atheistic, reductionistic, sensationistic ontology and accompanying epistemology: The Process ontology explains how real causality and real induction are possible and the exact same set of arguments also show how time, mathematical objects, and universals are real, and how the correspondence theory of truth makes complete sense. And they don’t want to hear about realism.

Talk about Bass-Ackwardness! The process philosophy and theology requires realism, while so-called objective, scientific empiricism has to deal in coherence and pragmatic theories of truth, and has to argue for ultimate relativism and anti-realism! Post-modern science has really gotten itself into a terrible snafu.

However, my guess is as science, especially neuroscience, gets deeper and deeper into the details of the operations of the brain, that the neuroscientists will be among the first to admit that spatiotemporal events which are actually internally related to each other are at the base of reality rather than material stuff. Once there’s scientific energy put in this direction, Whitehead and others will be re-discovered and their work hailed as visionary. (This is for another post, but this is the reason Heidegger, the phenomenologists, and the Existentialists probably won’t experience the same kind of re-discovery, because they didn’t take on science and accept science qua science like Whitehead did.) Aloha

Core Doctrine of Process Philosophy #1 (of 10)

Over 10 blog entries, I will set out the 10 Core Doctrines of process philosophy (of Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne), as given by the process philosopher and theologian David Griffin.

Core Doctrine #1:  Process integrates “…moral, aesthetic, and religious intuitions with the most general doctrines of the sciences into a self-consistent worldview [and considers this] as one of the central tasks of philosophy in our time.”  From: Griffin, David R.  “Reenchantment Without Supernaturalism” (p. 5)

Another way to say this is the integration of science and religion; to be able to put religion in a context that someone who takes science seriously may countenance, and to be able to put science in a context that someone with religious beliefs can countenance.

#2: (MOS) Breif Summary

Chapter 1 deals with Immanuel Kant.  It “…presents Kant’s philosophy as a foundation for understanding…Heidegger and Whitehead.” (MOS 2)  Smith then delineates his new way of reading Kant as a postmodern thinker, which we’ll get to when we look directly at chapter 1.

Chapter 2 sets out Heidegger’s project.  Heidegger rethinks the analysis of a knowing, substantial subject, as it has been taken for most of western history, and transforms it via an existential analysis of “Dasein.”  This summary of Heidegger I’m sure readers will find complete-but it is very compact (but this is Heidegger-there’s probably no way around this).

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#1: (MOS) Let’s Begin: Myths of the Self (MOS)

This series of posts is about Dr. Olav’s Smith’s famous (or should be famous) book: Myths of the Self: Narrative Identity and Postmodern Metaphysics (called MOS here).  (Click here for partial text at Google Books).  Dr. Smith is a lecturer at California State University, Chico.  The book is based on Smith’s doctoral dissertation under David Ray Griffin at The Center for Process Studies at Claremont in Los Angeles, CA.

William Desmond, Director of the International Philosophy Program at  KU Leuven says:  “This is a very intelligent and engaging essay in constructive postmodern metaphysics.  Olav Smith brings Whitehead into provocative and fruitful dialogue with the philosophies of Kant, Heidegger, and Ricoeur.  The diverse discussions are marked by many illuminating and surprising connections.”

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More Nothingness

Immanuel Kant

Dan Murren commented: “So “nothing” IS something, but does “nothing” continue to exist as soon as there is no one present to experience or conceive it?” The philosophical question he’s referring to is: “Does anything exist independently, apart from human experience?

Locke and other philosophers held that color, taste, smell, sounds, touch–don’t have an independent existence apart from human sensation. These “Secondary Qualities” do not inhere in the things themselves.  They reside, rather, in the person.

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The intro. to phil. class I’m teaching is going along well.  I guess I’ve taught it so many times that the lectures more or less come along naturally.  I think maybe I’m getting it simplified down, too. 

For Kant’s epist., e.g., they read the book (analytical style intro. book) and I had them discuss it and write a group summary (three students in each group), trying to show what Kant’s Copernican revolution was about.  They presented their findings–they sort of got what Kant is about.

After that, I more or less said in the lecture (which was fairly short) that the modern rationalists and empiricists (we went into detail about what they are last week and the week before) are trying to pin down the nature of ultimate reality in terms of knowledge–rationalists saying structures of the mind are more real while eschewing the senses, and empiricists saying sense data is more real while eschewing structures of the mind).  Kant dispenses with the whole issue by saying we can’t know what it’s really like (noumena).  I speculate that the five senses cut us off from reality rather than open reality up to us.  [I slipped a few times and said six senses, because I personally take feeling (specifically defined as a kind of intuitive feeling–akin to receiving guidance in Subud) as a sixth sense.] 

Trying to explain that we don’t know the nature of ultimate reality (a la Kant) is hard.  We don’t know that things happen in a temporal order, nor that one thing causes another.  More than this, we don’t know about the exitence or non-existence of any of the structures just mentioned because it would be completely apart from human experience–which makes little sense to us.  In terms of noumena, we don’t know what a “thing” is, we don’t know what a “happening” is, we don’t know about what relation time has to reality, or if the notion of “time” has anything to do with the way reality is…not that any of these structures do or don’t pertain to ultimate reality, but that we don’t know….. and because knowing is utterly tied up in the categories of understanding, if we could know, apart from human experience, we really wouldn’t know now would we?