[ExI] Bad Epistemology?

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Tue Jul 17 16:58:08 UTC 2007

On 7/16/07, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:
> 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.

Meaning "Yes, I was mindful or pre-accepting of this, and glad you
appreciate the issue"?

> 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".

Meaning you are already acutely aware of this distinction, so no need
to bring it up?

> Yeah.  Whatever.


>  Besides, epistemology
> is these days still controversial, but scientifically educated
> people seem all to be in agreement over ontology.

So it seems that you believe the distinction is not only vague, but
unproductive.  I think your belief supports your chronic blind-spot.

> > 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".

I do appreciate pan-critical rationalism, it's essentially the
scientific method applied to beliefs.  I suspect, however, that Max's
exposition of it would be somewhat different done now, in contrast
with what he wrote 13 years ago.

>  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.

This appears to be another of your straw-men. I have no confusion
about carburetors, mountains, streams, trees and animals, and have
never stated that anyone is or should be so confused.  My point is
that any observer's understanding is **fundamentally and essentially
probabilistic, not Aristotelian**.  It works just fine; you get truth,
without Truth.

> 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.

That's fine.  And via PCR you will eventually come to the point where
your model of reality can benefit from a more coherent understanding
of the nature of the observer.

> >  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.

I don't think I've concerned myself with your style or presentation; I
actually find those aspects to be somewhat entertaining and endearing.
 Can you provide an example?

With regard to your thinking, however, I do disparage your tendency
towards the use of straw-men, and your tendency to reframe a person's
points to facilitate your own argument.

I sometimes feel a bit frustrated with our discussions, but I find
that your online persona continues to present an interesting puzzle.

> > 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.

It's simply a concise (and nostalgically humorous) indicator of terms
or concepts which, while significant, appear to be transparent and
therefore unobserved by you.

> > 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."
> Okay.
> > "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?

Isn't this already addressed in (1) above?

Also I'm not sure what you mean by "good."  Do you mean effective?

> > "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.

Surely I have.  Duh.

> > 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?

"Just as many"?  Are you espousing Intellectual Relativism here?  ;-)

> Lee
> [1]  Now *that's* sarcasm!

Lee, you continue to puzzle me.  Thanks for that.

- Jef

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