[ExI] Bad Epistemology?

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Tue Jul 17 02:08:35 UTC 2007

Jef writes

> Lee, you began this thread by asking "Is my epistemology really
> screwed up at a fundamental level?", but you then proceeded to pose
> problems that appear to be entirely ontological[1], rather than
> epistemological[2]. It's as if you and I are speaking different
> languages; might you be conflating or juxtaposing the two?

Oh, yes, and thanks for bringing it up. Over the years I've found
it harder and harder to discuss ontology without bringing 
epistemology into it.  A number of times I'd say "ontology"
to people and almost get blank stares:  they'd bounce right
back and include my points in what they were calling
"epistemology".  Yeah.  Whatever.  Besides, epistemology
is these days still controversial, but scientifically educated
people seem all to be in agreement over ontology.

> Your response (Q1-3) highlights my point.  Yours are ontological
> questions, about incidentally epistemological observers.  You're
> asking what exists, without consideration of the more fundamental
> question of what can be known.

:-)   Well, some of us think that the inquiry must begin at the
ontological level:  we (realists?) believe ourselves to begin with
"the given", but *not* in an axiomatic way, but rather in a way
more reminiscent of PCR.  You should love it:  it's "what 
works".  We *know* what we're talking about when we
talk about carburetors (well, at least some of us!), and
when we're talking about mountains, streams, trees, and
animals.  So we *tentatively* (as good PCR types) first
look at the basic ontology of the world.  Objects seem to
be fundamental.  Only *later*, it seems, do we begin the
upon the amazing journey of wondering just who we are
to know about things in the world.

>  Indeed you deny the more fundamental
> question in your many posts, repeatedly falling back on "it's
> obvious", or "it's commonsense", and referring to identity without
> consideration of context, essential to any instance of meaning.

Oh, I'm a bad, bad boy.  You do so love to disparage my
style and my modes of presentation and even how I think.
Frankly, I'm more than a little tired of it.

> Even the most precise of identities, within mathematics,
> are sensible only within context -- "oh...you meant Euclidean
> geometry?"<fnord>importance of context<fnord>

You use that <fnord> crap a lot.  What are you getting at?
I did look it up.  I don't know why you spruce up your
presentation with it.

> To your specific questions:

Ah, yes.

> "1.  Do cameras or photographic plates count as observers?"
> Only to the extent that they are seen to express an internal model of
> their perceptions of the world, which is to say "no", or "hardly."


> "2.  How complex does a robot have to become before it is an observer?"
> To be seen as an observer is not a matter of degree of complexity.
> Insects and even lower life forms are legitimate observers of their
> umwelt, their perceived environment, despite their relatively limited
> expression and nearly negligible self-awareness.  We are all "robots."

It's not a matter of complexity (or capability, I assume)?  So why
isn't a photographic plate as good an observer as a heat sensor,
and why isn't a heat sensor as good as an amoeba, and so on?

> "3.  Does it make sense to speak of the universe before there
>       were observers?"
> Of course.  Speech about any object is speech about a remote object,
> regardless of whether the object is remote in space or time. All
> observation is indirect.
>> Thanks for the criticism,
>> Sincerely,
>> Lee
> Thanks for the sarcasm. ;-)
> Lee, I offered no criticism, which would have necessarily entailed
> points about something you produced.

Jef, "criticism" is *complimentary* in Pan Critical Rationalism.
It's to be appreciated!  I was NOT IN THE SLIGHTEST
BEING sarcastic.  I meant every word right there.  I meant
the "thank you" part, and I meant the "criticism".  Criticism
is good because it helps us strengthen our beliefs.  Good
beliefs---i.e. beliefs we can have confidence in---are those
that survive criticism.  But surely you have read some PCR.

> I offered only pointers to areas which might nurture certain
> gaps in your thinking.

Your kindness is overflowing. [1]   Has it ever occurred to
you that there might be just as many gaps in your thinking
as there are in others' thinking?

> For you to take that as criticism must mean that you think
> I'm criticizing you as a person, which is entirely absent
> from my intentions.

I understand.  It's clear when you're on my case on a personal
level, and it's clear when you're not.  No problem here.


[1]  Now *that's* sarcasm!

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list