[ExI] The mosque at Ground Zero.

Jebadiah Moore jebdm at jebdm.net
Tue Aug 17 05:34:13 UTC 2010

2010/8/16 samantha <sjatkins at mac.com>

>  Jebadiah Moore wrote:
> 2010/8/15 John Clark <jonkc at bellsouth.net>
>>   Then forget about good or bad, is relativism objectively true?
>>  only that objectivity doesn't exist.
>>  But is what you just said really true, objectively? If we can't talk
>> about good or evil or truth or falsehood then that would rather seriously
>> limit the scope of philosophy and we'd only have the contemptible "the story
>> of Adam and Eve and the talking snake is true for me" or "it's true for me
>> that 2+2=5". Jebadiah, do you really think that is the proper way to figure
>> out how the world works?
>  Depends what you mean by "objective".  Most people take things which are
> shown by logic to be "objectively" true, and I agree with this.  The problem
> is, you always have to start with some axioms, or you can't show anything.
>  And because we can't know anything directly--we have to rely on induction
> through our senses/experiences--we have no truly "known" axioms, and thus
> can't prove anything is true about our universe.
>   There is no other way of knowing possible except through some form of
> sensory apparatus processed by some form of processing and pattern
> extraction unit like a brain.  If anyone believes that there is I would be
> very keen to learn exactly how you think that would work or could come to
> be.    We only have what is as congruent with what we perceive and
> non-contradictory processing of that and the patterns derived from it and as
> scrupulously checked as we are able and willing.


> But to say that isn't "objective" makes no sense.  It is as objective as it
> is possible in reality for any intelligence to be.   There is nothing better
> to compare it to in a seemingly denigrating manner.

This is where I disagree.  "Objective" means "absolutely known and true,
independent of the observer".  There are objective facts, but we can't know
them objectively since--like you say--we have only one way of knowing,
"through some form of sensory apparatus processed by some form of processing
and pattern extraction unit like a brain".  What I'm saying is that there
are no things known within our universe about our universe objectively, even
though there are objective facts about our universe.

On the other hand, we can know logical facts given a set of axioms, and we
can posit axioms that seem to model our universe.  Yes, this is a really
awesome thing.  Much more so, in fact, than if we could somehow observe
facts about the universe directly and know that these were not somehow
biased.  Nonetheless, our observations our show us objective truths about
the universe, other than that we remember that we observed them, and so of
course logic based on axioms based on our possibly flawed observations
cannot be objective either.

I did not mean to state anything in a "denigrating manner".  Perhaps this
sheds some light on your own value system (and therefore probably biases),
that you assume "not objectively known facts" are bad?  An admiral
sentiment, but rather like saying that "non-steel food is bad".

>  So, we can prove things objectively, but we can't prove things about our
> universe objectively.
> That does not compute.  You are claiming that only pure logic based on
> axioms is "objective"?
> Yup.  Everything else is subject to bias, without us knowing if there is
bias.  The axioms we choose are non-objective as well, but if the axioms are
true then we do then know that are conclusions are true as well (presuming
we follow logic correctly).

Of course, my argument is rather by definition.  You could posit other forms
of "objective" (such as consensus), and then this whole discussion would be
different.  But I think that most people now, when they say objective, mean
what I've said it means.  Feel free to contest this.

Also, my claim that logically generated statements based on true axioms meet
my criteria of objectivity is itself not objective.  Nonetheless, I believe
it to be true, and I think you'll find few who contest it.  (Although some
might say that there are other ways of being objective; apparently you think
so.  I'd love to hear it.)

>  In fact, we can't prove that there is an objective universe at all,
> containing anything but our own mind (the "everything is in your head"
> scenario).
> That is a very limited definition of "objective" as it requires some
> godlike absolute knowledge that is impossible for any actual mind to ever
> ever have in order to have any objective knowledge about anything much
> beyond maths.   That is an absurd position.

Annoying, but not absurd.  What you're saying is that the definition of
immortal, "incapable of dying; existing forever" is absurd, because it is a
very limited and requires godlike absolute power that is impossible for any
actual mind to ever ever have.  The definition is what it is; if it yields
the empty set, it doesn't mean that the definition is wrong, just that it's
not much fun to talk about.  Of course you can have variants--such as the
sometimes transhumanist goal of immortality modulo destruction ("everything
dies when you blow it to bits").

(Perhaps immortality is a bad example and there is actually some way to
build an information processing yet indestructible substance.  But I doubt

I'm picking up the vibe that you are defining "objective" in a way that I am
not.  What's your definition?

Jebadiah Moore
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